Whew, September is almost over, and October is scratching at the window. I am enjoying the cooler weather and the change of the décor to autumnal colors. Fall is my favorite time of year. It is a time for bon fires, family, NaNoWriMo and holidays.
For those of you who want to write, November is a great time to get started. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and people from all over the world come together to support each other and write. I have won a couple of NaNoWriMos completing a fifty-thousand-word manuscript in less than 30 days. It takes discipline and determination. Are you up to it? Well, if you want to write 50 in 30 days, then you need to start planning in October. Here’s how I plan to use October to plan my writing for November.
As a pantser or discovery writer I don’t do outlines. So how do I plan?
Each book is different, but I start by fast drafting. Now some people would say this is the same as an outline and maybe it is, but my brain thinks of it in a different way. I quickly tell myself the story from beginning to end without any details or POV just a vague of idea of where I want to go with the story.
Then I start layering in details. I start with POV, I might write everything from one person’s point of view but then decide I need another perspective, another person’s insight into what is happening that the main character doesn’t know about. I have one lead character, but one or two, sometimes three supporting point of view characters. You can do more but the more you do, the more planning it requires.
A stand-alone story doesn’t require as much planning as a series in some ways, continuity is a factor in series. I need to make sure that what I said about a character in book one, is still relevant in book two, etc. unless there is a reason for the change.
If you have more than one genre in the story like my historical romantic mystery, I have a layer for the history (I usually do this last with lots of fact checking), romance is a layer as is the mystery portion. In my Applegate mystery there is also the family dynamics so that is another layer. For Winnie and Harry, their romance is still just a yearning unfulfilled so while I will bring them together and pull them apart, another layer, I also want to keep their emotions charged.
The purpose of planning ahead isn’t to take away the spontaneity of being a discovery writer but to have an idea of where to go next. Another idea that was given to me by my mentor, cozy mystery author M K Graff, was to make a note at the end of the writing day of where you want to go the next time you write. This is a great to help you get started especially if it’s going to be a couple of days before you have the chance to return to your manuscript.
Mystery author Kate Parker suggested putting ideas on a whiteboard (or other, I used a corkboard or wall) write down a list of ideas you want to go into the story as you use those ideas take them off the board. (I put mine on sticky notes so I could move them to the used pile but also remember to plan for the event or show the results of it.)
You don’t have to be really structured with your planning. You can brainstorm ideas and put them on notecards, shuffle them around and see what comes up. Find a planning method that fits your personality and the personality of your book. Each book is different, and some require more planning than others. Don’t be afraid to try something new or return to an old idea. For some authors, outlining, planning character sheets, knowing everything that is going to happen in their book before they write it is a necessary part of their process and then there are others who sit down at the computer and just pull something from the ether and write. Whatever method you choose, I have found that for me personally, having a little bit of a plan helps but too much structure takes all the joy out of discovering the story.
I hope this helps. What are some of the ways you get ready for NaNoWriMo?
As a writer we spend a lot of time alone with our keyboards. I recently had the chance to attend a festival and while my goal was to sell books, what I received was even more valuable. First, the connections I made prior to the festival by doing promotions for myself and other participants by reposting and engaging with the other attendees helped me to be seen on other Facebook pages while sharing my page with others. Part of promoting ourselves requires us to reach out to others and share our space. In my case, the Fish and Farm Festival was a local event which I wanted to promote not just because I was going to be there, but because of the work these folks have been doing to help restore our town.
The second thing I received was the chance to get to know my fellow Pamlico Writers’ group member, friend, and the lady who has taken on the task of event programming, Mandy Monath. When we’re at a meeting or event there are the demands and expectations of other people and as leaders of PWG it is up to us to made sure everything is done, having a few minutes to talk candidly and get to know each other was a real boon. We were able to share personal information as well as make plans for upcoming events. Taking a few minutes to really get to know your fellow authors, group members, and even readers is a luxury few of us take time to enjoy.
Thirdly, meeting readers and writers and being able to help them discover something they need or would enjoy even if it’s not your book. Having a writer-friend come out just to buy your book and be able to introduce her to your other writer-friend. Sharing information and learning from each other, taking the time to listen as well as impart.
Over the years of engaging with other writers I’ve discovered that everyone has something to share and no matter where we are on the scale we need to stop and listen because things are changing too quickly to believe that even as an experienced author we have all the answers. I have learned as much from a new writers as I have from a seasoned author.
My advice, such as it is, if you have the opportunity to attend an event make the most of it and remember selling books is only a small part of what it’s about. Being an author, especially an indie author is about building a strong foundation–make connections and friends, get your name out there–these are all important parts of the process. Like building a house, we first have to dig down and place footers, pour a foundation, we need to start strong in order to build a viable author career.
I will be at the Fish and Farm Festival in Aurora Saturday, September 9th. Come by and visit if you’re in town and if you want, you can buy a book. Remy’s Dilemma, the final book in the Harrell Family Chronicles is available along with all of my backlist. Come on out and join the fun. Food vendors, crafters, musicians, games, tractor pull and more. I had so much fun last year. I can’t wait.
After the festival, books will be available at the Blue Crab in Aurora, The Next Chapter Books in New Bern, and as soon as I can get there, the Riverwalk Gallery in Washington. If you want a signed copy of any of my books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, $16 per book in continental United States.
If you prefer ebooks, my Harrell Family Chronicles are on sale for $1.99 each, don’t miss your chance to get them for this low price. (Regular price $3.99 each)
Do you like Horror Movies?
Carnival of Darkness starts Friday, September 22nd at Raised in a Barn Farm, and continues through Saturday at the historic Turnage Theater where the Haunted Pamlico will be showing submissions to their Carnival of Darkness film competition. With hundreds of film entries from all around the world, live action entertainment, awards and attractions, the Carnival of Darkness starts the haunting season with a true carnival experience. If you love spooky and things that go bump in the night, you won’t want to miss this event!
In honor of my friends at Haunted Pamlico I’m giving away a free ticket to the Carnival of Darkness weekend to one lucky winner, a $25 value. To get your name in the drawing, all you have to do is post a review of any of my books and email me a link to the review(s). The review has to be current 2023. It can be on Amazon, Goodreads or Bookbub. Each review will get another chance to win.
The drawing will be Wednesday, September 20th. The winner’s name will be given and they will be able to pick up their ticket at the event. Good Luck!
Setting is more than just a place. Often where a story is set is more important than even when it takes place. A romance set in New Orleans would be very different from one set in New York City. When we think about horror it is often in a small rural setting but when it’s done in a suburban setting or in a city, it takes on a different feel.
I love any story set in Louisiana or North Carolina because I’ve lived in both places. I also love to read a lot of westerns both modern and historical because of my travels. Feeling a connection to the places I read about is part of the fun, but I also love to read about the highlands of Scotland and Regency or Victorian England even though I’ve never been there.
Part of what I love about reading and writing about different places is becoming immersed in the setting. Victorian London fog evokes danger and mystery. A stone castle alone on a windswept mountain can give you the feeling of strength and solitude, or if viewed during a storm, fear and uncertainty.
Setting combined with weather, time period (era), season and the emotions of the point of view character can influence the reader’s feelings. If a determined optimist arrives during a terrible storm to a cold, ancient stone castle, they might be glad to be out of the storm and notice all the faded beauty and majesty of the castle, thankful for a fire in a hearth to chase away the chill. On the other hand, a grumpy, pessimist might see the same castle with its cold stone and faded glory as another burden to bear. Someone who is a bit melodramatic and fearful might view it all with a sense of foreboding and fear.
To give the reader the most accurate version of what you wish them to know and feel about the setting, be sure to have one of your point of view characters react to it that way. If you wish to surprise your reader or mislead them, do just the opposite. Remember in jaws, the characters are all reacting to a day at the beach. They are mostly happy, excited, having fun…until disaster strikes.
With hurricane Idalia just making her way past North Carolina, I wonder how writers might portray this event differently depending on their experience. Here we had little more than a tropical storm but down in Florida the experience was a bit different. Using natural disasters in a story, severe weather, even terrible events, can add another layer of drama, fear, and even depth to the setting, time period and even the characters’ growth. How a character reacts to these things can tell us a little more about them.
How do you feel about setting, weather and events in your stories? Do you like to read about them? Do you write about them?
A Carefree Novel series by Leslie Ray I knew I’d made a huge mistake before I ever finished the first book in this series. I’d only bought first two books and I was devouring them. Thankfully, the third novel was only an email away.
I haven’t taken much time to read until lately. I’ve been so busy with work, writing and life. Getting older sucks. But one thing I’ve learned is I have to take time for myself. I can’t continue to push myself without risking my health. Taking time to read, watch a movie with my husband or hang out with friends and family are a great way to keep the doctors away. Finding great books to read isn’t difficult when you know so many authors but finding the books that resonate with you is a bit more of a challenge. I have a confession, I’m a moody reader. I read eclectically but I have to be in the right mood to read certain books and genres.
The Carefree series hit all the right spots but warning you’ll have to read these books with a fresh pack of tissues close at hand.
Carefree, South Carolina is a peaceful small town, or it was before Julia Hawthorne arrived. Julia didn’t know about the house her father left her in his will, but it might just be the haven she needs. Healing from one heartache after another, Julia plans to restart her life and Carefree’s slower pace is just the ticket. Unless she ends up with a ticket or in lock up… after a few run-ins with Carefree’s police chief she’s not so sure that her new life is going to start out behind bars.
Miles Scott, the Carefree Chief of Police is in for a roller coaster ride as Julia leads him on a whirlwind chase. Returning home after years in the military, Miles hasn’t let people get too close, including his big noisy family, but he has an instant attraction to Julia Hawthorn. Can two broken people heal each other? Secrets from their pasts collide and their fears have them running away, will they take a chance on love or is their fear greater than their attraction.
Kat Henley is the big, shouldered broad who owns the local diner Kat Got Your Tongue. She’s not a person who lets anyone else tell her what to do. Kat is happiest tending everyone else’s business, but she doesn’t like to have the tables turned. Preparing for her twin’s wedding, she has an unexpected surprise that changes everything. Ashamed of choices she made in her past, will she continue to let it control her or is she brave enough to face the future?
Officer Marshall Brooks is Miles’ best friend and a fixture in the Scott family. He’s been in love with Kat since they were kids. New challenges and old fears threaten their future as he tries to convince Kat to take a chance on them. Will he give up on the woman he’s loved nearly his whole life? This was an awesome sequel to Exposure. The feel of the town of Carefree and the secondary characters adds so much richness to this story. I could see Carefree as a series. I can’t wait to read the last book in the series, Division.
Lost & Found Love A Mountain Meadow Homecomings novel by Laura Browning
I’ve read a lot of books and every once in a while you find one that really touches your soul. That’s what this book did to me. When I first picked up this book, I thought it’d be just a sweet love story but it’s more than that. It does have a couple of triggers. It deals with child abuse and prejudice, as well as some extreme emotional issues, but Laura Browing does it with a deft had. She is skilled at making the reader feel, pointing her finger at injustice without making it preachy, even though the male love interest is a preacher. Discovering the male protagonist was a preacher nearly turned me off. So many stories make the preacher the bad guy or so good your teeth hurt. This did neither. He was a good guy, but he was a real person complete with flaws and desires. Ms. Browning’s portrayal of Pastor Joe was so well done, I wanted him to be my pastor. He, in fact reminded me of my favorite minister who unashamedly loved his wife and let his love show in an honest and open fashion I’d never known with other ministers. The twists and turns in the relationship between Tabby and Joe is as complex as the mountain roads that inspired the setting. Add in family drama, church and community jealousy and gossip, and secrets from the past and you have a fantastic series ready to pull you in for another glimpse. I will definitely go back and read the books prior to Lost & Found Love and read any others in this series. Prepare to have your heart broken and put back together.
Why is it so difficult to find the right toothbrush?
I was brushing my teeth this morning and I was aggravated that I didn’t have the same kind of toothbrush I’d bought before. I don’t remember what kind I had but I liked it. This one is only big enough to do one tooth at a time. That’s great if you only have one tooth left, but I’m still in possession of most of my pearly whites. I don’t want to spend hours brushing one tooth at a time.
Why do they make finding the right toothbrush so difficult? I went shopping for a new toothbrush not long ago. There were thousands of them, and I couldn’t pick out the one kind I liked from the multitude. I’m sorry but half of them look like the kind I like and the other half I know I hate and I leave not buying any of them. The one I’m using was actually given to me in my Christmas stuff or maybe it came from the dentist, either way, it was free and it was time to retire the other one. I mean, it was losing more bristles every time I brushed. I was having to pick fibers out of my teeth with a pick. That was fun.
I like a soft brush. I brush my teeth at least twice a day and I have sensitive teeth and gums, so I don’t want a wire brush scraping across sensitive flesh and precious enamel. Heck, I’m trying to keep my teeth not erode them away faster. Who would need a hard toothbrush? What are they scraping off that they have to have something hard enough to scar the flesh and rip groves in their dentures? What have they been eating? Maybe they should change their diet? I don’t know. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.
It is believed the Chinese invented the first natural bristle toothbrush in the 1400s using pigs’ hair and bone or bamboo for the handles. Europeans adopted this design but decided horsehair and wood was a better choice. At least it was Kosher. Before you start freaking out over the ancient toothbrushes, think about the toothpastes used. The Ancients used a variety of things to whiten their teeth and freshen breath but not all of them are things I’d want to put in my mouth. Egyptians were thought to use ground ox hooves’ ashes, burnt eggshells, and pumice…I bet those teeth didn’t last long. The Chinese used ginseng, mints and salts, I might be able to handle that, but the Greeks and Romans had a paste of crushed bones, oyster shells, charcoal and tree bark…yum. Our modern toothpaste is often filled with sugar, and I have to wonder if the better tasting stuff isn’t sending us back to the dentist. Is that a conspiracy? Maybe I should save my bones and eggshells and make my own? Just one of my random thoughts…sometimes it’s not safe to be inside my head.
So whether you use a hard or soft bristle brush, nylon fibers or natural, and whatever your choice of tooth polish, I hope this gave you a reason to smile.
When the steam engine first appeared on the scene it was met with both excitement and trepidation. The steam engine opened up new places, new opportunities, offered new and different jobs, but it also took away from existing jobs. The mail, once delivered by Pony Express could now arrive more quickly and safely by the railroad. Packages, cargo and travelers could also arrive via steam powered trains opening up the need for more coal mines and miners. The sewing machine made it faster to create dresses and suits at home. It even allowed ready-made clothes to be more accessible. But the seamstress and tailors who sewed by hand either had to learn to use the new machines, if they could afford it or compete for the fancy, detail work only handwork could do. Each generation faces challenges in the name of progress from the invention of the automobile and electric lights, to talking films replacing the silent movies, to frozen foods making meat and produce available around the world all year long. Not all of the changes have been bad, some have created new jobs, allowed farmers to sell more product, opened new opportunities.
But with every change there have been challenges and naysayers. The most recent change in our world is AI, artificial intelligence. Now, I’m not a computer geek. I don’t have the latest gadgets, but just like the air fryer and microwave, I appreciate anything that makes my life easier. I believe AI such as Chat GBT has its place. For me, AI is a tool to help me with those things I have trouble doing myself, like marketing. I feed it my ideas and it spits out something usually not something I can use, so I give it more information. The more I tell it, the better it does in giving me what I’m looking for. After a few tries I usually get something that sounds close to what I want. I might take ten suggestions from Chat and kick out two or three to start with, combine two or three deleting anything over the top, and by editing and piecing together come up with something that will work for a blurb, description, or tagline. As far as writing a story, I can’t see using AI to write because that is what I love to do. To give my ideas to Chat and let it do the writing, takes all the fun out of it. But if I’m looking for something that happened at a certain point in history, or fashion information, or even foreign names, this would be a tool I think would save me some time.
How do you feel about AI? Have you tried it? While I still feel we need to be careful about using AI in an ethical manor, I believe it is here to stay. Like the SAG-AFRA strikes in Hollywood, I support the authors and artist who wish to get paid for the use of their works in the creating of AI. I also believe that any whose works were used who choose to not be a part of it should be allowed to have their works and influence pulled from AI’s learning. I am sure that is not easily done and if the bots can search the web on their own (I’m not sure if that’s possible), they can find it and learn it without our knowledge. We need a new way of copyrighting our work and protecting the original creators. It’s a conundrum progress versus ethics, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the outcome doesn’t justify the means.
If you are interested in learning more about AI and Writing, check out the Heart of Carolina’s online program coming Saturday, August 12th from 1-3 pm via Zoom with author, Elizabeth Ann West.
This workshop is designed to provide authors with a comprehensive understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential applications in the realm of creative writing. Led by renowned indie author and AI enthusiast Elizabeth Ann West, this workshop will equip participants with basic knowledge and tools to leverage AI as a valuable assistant in their writing journey.During the workshop, participants will delve into the fundamental concepts of AI and explore its capabilities in aiding various aspects of the writing process. Through a combination of a presentation and an interactive Q&A discussion, attendees will gain practical insights into harnessing AI technologies to enhance their creativity, productivity, and storytelling prowess.General Topics Covered:
Introduction to AI: Understanding the basic principles and terminology of Artificial Intelligence.
AI in Writing: Exploring the intersection of AI and creative writing and how it can benefit authors.
Natural Language Processing (NLP): Explaining the concept of NLP and its relevance to AI-based writing applications.
Text Generation Models: Exploring state-of-the-art language models such as GPT-3 and its applications in generating story ideas, character development, and dialogue.
Ethical Considerations: Discuss the ethical implications of using AI in writing and understand the limitations of AI-generated content.
Incorporating AI into Workflow: Practical tips and strategies for seamlessly integrating AI tools into an author’s writing process and workflow.
By the end of the workshop, participants will have an excellent beginner’s understanding of AI, its applications in the field of writing, and how to effectively utilize AI tools as assistants in their own creative endeavors. Join Elizabeth Ann West for this enlightening workshop and unlock the potential of AI in transforming your writing journey. This event is online only. A handout will be provided, and a recording will be available for one week. Chapter members: Free. No registration required. Nonmembers: $12.50. Register: https://hcrw-2023-08.eventbrite.com
Speaker bio: Elizabeth Ann West is an author of over 20 novels and novellas and CEO of Future Fiction Academy. She has used generative AI as part of her writing process since November of 2021, helped create the prompting structure for Sudo write’s Story Engine, and now works as an AI Author educator, advocate, prompt engineer, and consultant to AI software startups. Her chief concern is making sure AI is not only something big publishers have access to and understand how to harness, but that every writer has access to these incredible advancements on technologies we’ve been using for over a decade in other applications. Plus, it’s so much fun to play with, she loses sleep over it regularly. She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Leadership Studies, of all things, so she is a firm believer that if she can figure out the technology, she can help others, too.
Sorry I’ve been absent lately. I have been trying to finish the last book in the Harrell Family Chronicles series, Remy’s Dilemma.
This book should have been out before now but sometimes life gets in the way. No excuses but I do think it will be worth the wait. I hope you agree.
Dive into the town of Leeward one more time and get your goodies at Goodie Galore Bakery. Roxanne and her business partner, Kendra have opened their bakery and are making a sweet impact on the town.
Get you grub at Hole in the Sky Pub where the beer is out of this world. Ethan quit college to brew beer but don’t worry, who needs a fourth degree.
Janie and Mike are finally tying the knot if their wedding doesn’t go up in flames.
If Sothy doesn’t run away, she might make a success of her new craft store.
Remington Harrell is the oldest of the Harrell siblings and the one expected to fix everything. Whether it’s a friend accused of murder or saving the local phosphate plant there’s nothing he can’t do, except relationships. After his last girlfriend threatened to kill his sister and sell her child on the black market, he’s been a little apprehensive about dating. With cyber-attacks on the phosphate plant escalating along with threats to the employees, Remy worries his family and friends will be the next targets. When he realizes the threat comes from someone in Sothy’s past. They must team up to stop the cyber-attacks. But if Sothy isn’t willing to share her secrets, can Remy trust her with his heart?
We just celebrated our wedding anniversary, thirty-two years. We didn’t do anything special since we both had to work but I can’t help but remember our wedding. Since we’d both been married before and we had five children between us, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on our wedding. I did a lot of the wedding décor and preparations myself. Looking back, I can see how brides turn into Bridezillas. All the craziness beforehand with trying to remake my dress and make my bouquets. When things went wrong, they went very wrong. Desperate and crazy, I called my maid of honor, and we went shopping for a sundress. What is the saying, when the going gets tough the tough go shopping!
We both wore white sundresses and my two flower girls had flowered dresses on white background. The guys wore black pants and white shirts, except my groom, he wore gray. The ceremony was near perfection. It was pretty close to my dream wedding. We were married outside at my aunt’s home on the river. My father-in-law built us a trellis and we decorated it with flowers. We had a pig picking for our reception. Our brother-in-law cooked the pig. Altogether we probably didn’t spend a thousand dollars including the cake and the food. I’d say it was closer to five hundred.
Because of my own simple wedding, it’s difficult for me to even imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding. I’ve watched movie weddings and soap opera weddings, I’ve even watched the royal weddings, but it always seems like such a waste. These kinds of weddings are the fantasy weddings so many little girls dream about but so few can afford. What is it about weddings we love or hate?
I’m writing a bonus story for my newsletter with a wedding. As a reader, what part of the wedding do you want to know the details? I love the dress description, but I also want to know the groom’s expression when he sees his bride coming down the aisle.
So, what would you want to see or read about in a short wedding story? The walk down the aisle with her father or maybe the teasing of friends or siblings? I always loved watching the first dance with the bride and groom, or the bride’s dance with her father. Perhaps you love to see the couple cut the cake and feed each other, or maybe you just like to eat the cake.
Share your wedding photos or tell me your favorite part of a wedding.
It’s hot and going to get hotter as summer has finally hit eastern North Carolina with a hot and humid vengeance. Though I had to work yesterday, our community celebrated Fossil Festival. The festival is usually held the weekend of Memorial Day but due to high winds it was postponed to this weekend. I missed it, again. I took off the weekend of Memorial Day to finally have a chance to enjoy the festival again but things did not work out well. Do you enjoy going to summer festivals? We have several local festivals and I used to try to go to a couple each year but with work and age, I’ve gone to less and less of them. My son made sure I got to enjoy one part of the festival, he brought me a funnel cake. Do you love fair and festival food? What do you look forward to getting when you go to a festival or fair?
One festival I remember going to had ice cold watermelon you could buy by the slice. It was so cold and sweet and refreshing after a day of wandering through booths and playing games. What is one of your favorite summertime treats? Do you eat salt on your watermelon?
When I lived in Louisiana, I went to a strawberry festival and had a daiquiri right on the street. That wouldn’t have happened back in North Carolina, at least not then. I love a frozen drink in the summer whether it’s a slushy from the convenience store or a frozen tropical adult beverage, summertime is just made for frozen drinks. Do you have a favorite frozen drink?
When I was a kid we used to make Pepsi floats. When I’d go to wedding or baby showers they had sherbert punch with ginger ale and pineapple juice. I loved that stuff. When I married my husband, we started drinking root beer floats. I still love a good ice cream or sherbert float, milk shake or a blizzard. Do you have a favorite?
The trick to making a really good ice cream float is to put a little soda in your glass before you add your ice cream or sherbert. Float your ice cream on top of your soda, add a little more soda and another scoop of ice cream, repeat until glass is almost full. Top with soda and whipped cream. I think I need to run to the store for ice cream.
Daquiris are best when made from fresh fruit but put your fruit in the freezer for a couple of hours, add fruit into blender until nearly full, add two to three shots of rum, make a lime sugar water with juice from one lime, 1/4 cup of sugar (or less) add two cups of warm water to dilute sugar. If fruit isn’t completely frozen add ice and less water.
Sherri: Nieya Glen is a non-binary author who writes for the love of beauty and hope. They are the neurodivergent mother of two children, who assure them they don’t know enough about their mother to help write this bio. Nieya has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a lifetime of experience as an actual human. They are from San Diego, California and currently long to go back there.
Nieya: Thank you for inviting me.
Sherri: Nieya Glen is the author of Journey Through Eden, a dystopian novel with a strong female protagonist.
Nieya, tell us about Evelyn Morrison, the main character in your novel. How did you create her? Is she in any part you?
Nieya: A large part of myself is in Evelyn. Her awkwardness and insecurities are very much based on my own, and a lot of her attitudes are very similar to mine when I was younger. She formed a lot from my own past. I created her, in part, to honor the me that used to be and the growth that I’ve experienced. She holds a lot of beliefs and perspectives that I grew up with, but no longer hold.
Sherri: Where did the idea for Journey Through Eden come from? Was there one spark or many that ignited the idea?
Nieya: Actually, the idea was born from insomnia. When I have trouble sleeping, I try to create little stories in my mind to help fall asleep. I tend to think in pictures – still images like a single shot from a movie. One night an image came to my mind of a group of people waking up in a forest with no idea how they got there. Most nights I don’t remember the things I think about while I’m trying to sleep by the time I wake up, but this one image stuck. It kept coming back night after night, and I found myself asking questions about it. Are they alone? Where were they before? How would they react to this situation? And the story built from there. It percolated for several weeks before I even sat down to outline.
Sherri: Is Journey Through Eden your first published work?
Nieya: It is. I plan to write more books in this series.
Sherri: How was your experience working with Tea with Coffee Media?
Nieya: Tea with Coffee Media has been wonderful to me. I’ve been struggling with some other life issues and they’ve been very supportive and understanding. They have all been very enthusiastic about my work.
Sherri: What do you wish you’d known before publishing this book?
Nieya: I had tried to write for a long time before I wrote this book. I kept hitting a wall with everything and I finally realized that I was trying to write what I thought would sell. When I let myself write what was in my heart rather than worrying about what other people might like I was able to really immerse myself in the world that I had created. Being boxed in like that really killed my creativity. Some people can write by formula and create really popular franchises, but I think most of us just need to write for ourselves. I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I had known that sooner.
Sherri: What advice would you give a writer who is just starting out?
Nieya: Experiment with your process. As a teenager, I would come up with these vague ideas that sounded awesome, but when I sat down to write I had no direction and everything just went nowhere. I had to learn how to plan my stories just enough to give them structure, but not so much that it kept me from exploring the world I had created. Every writer has a different process that works for them, and most of us have had at least one person try to tell us how we should write. Absorb the advice, try it out, but if it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t mean you can’t write. You just might need to try a different approach. And also, whatever process you use, be prepared to edit. A lot.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
Nieya: I have been working on a few essays for some outside projects in addition to the sequel to Journey Through Eden.
Sherri: Thank you Nieya for taking the time to talk to me. We enjoyed having you here at my Creekside Café.
If you enjoyed this interview with Nieya Glen then check out their book link and social media links below. Thank you for joining us at Creekside Café. If you are an author who wishes to be interviewed, you can contact me at email@example.com.
If the entire civilized world suddenly disappeared, how would you survive?
Evelyn Morrison, a social outcast, is thrown into this same scenario when a quake changes the way things were Before. Evelyn must learn to survive as our earliest ancestors did: with cunning, strength, ingenuity, and – most difficult of all for Evelyn – complete faith in oneself and one’s group.
With the coming of winter, increased tensions and a sense that the wild earth is about to swallow them. In this harsh new world, will Evelyn find the strength to believe in herself? Or will her long-time rival, Taylor, be able to bully her into submission?
She has to learn quickly because mother nature doesn’t provide do-overs.
I have just returned from family vacation. We went to see my second grandson’s graduate from high school. It was a lovely time but as a writer, I could help making notes of possible story ideas, character traits and jobs, settings, and more. Do you find yourself seeing the world around you in different ways? Does a new environment or a new adventure inspire new ideas?
I think if you are creative, whether you are an artist, writer or entrepreneur, you see new things and get inspired.
I asked my grandchildren about a story idea for a reunion short story I’m writing, and they came up with an awesome idea: a reunion concert tour. I’ve been playing with a couple of ideas. The kids suggested a love triangle where the person chose the wrong person and wants a second chance with the right one. I’ve written a few hundred words but it’s not gelling yet.
I’d like to explore a character who works for the aquarium. What kind of education would they need? How did they apply and get the job? What are their duties and job titles? What goes on behind the scenes?
Southport inspires many story ideas from a new business starting up in a tourist town. I can see a restaurant owner befriending an artist who is opening their first business. Maybe he allows her to display her artwork in his restaurant and makes sweets for her to sell at her shop. He could introduce her to some seasoned business owners who help her and maybe one who wants to see her fail because she has her sights on the restaurant owner.
The rental house we stayed at was really nice. It also inspired a few ideas. Perhaps the vacationer and the owner have been emailing back and forth in preparation of her vacation, and they develop a sort of friendship. When they meet in person, it becomes more but because she is only visiting a short while, they think it isn’t feasible to start a romance.
Do you get inspired on vacation? Did you find something interesting on vacation you wanted to do at your own house? Did your vacation inspire a new poem, painting or even a new outfit? I’d love to hear what inspired you and how you used it.
Jed suggested taking 5 minutes to answer these questions:
1. What am I going to write today?
2. How does this move the plot?
3. How does this develop my character?
4. Why would this be someone’s favorite scene?
Other authors suggest writing a brief sketch of the scene before you write it. Answer questions like:
1. What does this scene do?
2. Is this information used in another scene?
3. Do I need this scene to make the story work?
My mentor Marni Graff ends her day by writing a note about what she plans for the next scene.
I start my writing day with a scene I’ve imagined in my head. If I can’t get on the computer to write, I will handwrite the scene in a notebook or on my phone.
If I am not sure where this scene will go in the story I might put it in a separate file and add it in when I reach that section.
You do not have to write in a linear fashion. You can start in the middle and sprawl out in both directions or start with the ending and work your way back up to the beginning. The latter works well for mysteries.
Stopping for the day in the middle of the chapter makes picking up where you left off easier.
I don’t outline but fast drafting is similar. You tell yourself the story in the fastest way possible. I do it in simple bullet points. After I have it down I go back in and start adding details.
If you want to know more about my method come join me at The Next Chapter Books and Art store 320 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC Saturday, June 17th, 3-5 pm. Cost is $20 and you must pre-register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to write faster you must first turn off your inner critic. It is difficult to write and edit at the same time. Turn off your editor and just create. Enjoy the process. Be free! Write as if no one is going to read it. Pour everything you think and feel into it with no censor.
You might surprise yourself. You might even frighten yourself. It’s good to be a little bit afraid. Fear shows passion. If you are not a little afraid then what risk have you taken?
Writing in 10-15 minute increments is another way to write faster. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. How many words did you write? Try it for fifteen or twenty minutes. Is your average word count better or worse? Some people write better for longer periods but others do more during the shorter times. I do a variety of times taking breaks in between to keep fresh.
Join writing sprints with fellow writers and enjoy the community of writing with others. There are online events and even in person ones. If you can’t find a group, start one.
Join Me at Next Chapter Books and Art Store in New Bern, North Carolina. I will be teaching a class on Fast Drafting Your Novel: The Process of Layering Your Writing.
The art or technique of layering your story is nothing new and neither is fast drafting. There are several versions of both premises. There is even a version of layering that helps with self-editing. So how is my version unique and why should you attend my presentation at Next Chapter Books and Art Store Saturday, June 17th, 3 pm? https://thenextchapternc.com/home/whats-happening/
In trying to find the magic trick that would help me write faster and create more books I have taken several classes, read many books and watched an abundance of videos on writing techniques. Most of them were geared towards plotters. I cringe at the thought of plotting. I have tried to outline and plan my stories. If my brain doesn’t freeze and I actually manage to plan out an outline, I don’t stick to it. It’s a waste of time. Time I could be using to write more books. BUT planning your books helps with the writing process. How can I plan my stories and still be a pantser (or as some people prefer, a discovery writer).
Many of you have heard the story of my first NaNoWriMo. I knew I needed to do something different in order to write fifty-thousand words in a month. My friends Kate Parker and Hannah Meredith gave me a couple of ideas for planning my novel. Kate had a large whiteboard in her house that she used to write plot ideas and when she used the idea, she would check it off. Hannah suggested I do something similar using sticky notes. Author Sarra Cannon uses colorful sticky notes and note cards to plan her books, assigning different colors to each character. While the sticky notes worked well for NaNoWriMo but they aren’t convenient if you don’t write in an office.
I developed my version of fast drafting when I realized I was overwriting and had to cut a lot of my story to make the novel read better. The editing was difficult. The process was even more time-consuming than the original writing. I wanted to be able to write at least two books a year with time to write other projects. I began playing around with different writing styles with different degrees of preparation and success.
Everyone writes differently. Finding your own unique style of prewriting and planning is as important as finding your own writing style. The layering plays a huge role in my fast drafting. While writing faster happens organically with practice, with layering the writing is cleaner and thus getting to the finished product is quicker. If you are interested in learning more, join me and Michelle Flye at The Next Chapter Books and Art Store Saturday, June 17th, 3 pm until 5 pm. You must preregister.
For many of us who write fiction, at least I know this is true of myself and some of my writing friends, we broach subjects with our fiction that might not be easily discussed in real life. I can write about a character’s difficulties following her rape from her self-medicating to her pushing others away, but only a therapist or close friend could discuss this touchy subject with a real person. Showing a character going through something so heartbreaking and difficult allows the reader and writer to empathize.
With fiction we can allow a reader and even the writers ourselves to live for a bit in the skin of a person who is hurting so we might better understand those around us who are also hurting. I’m not saying all fiction is therapy or designed to enlighten. Fiction is first and foremost written to entertain, but within our entertainment if we can also learn something or experience something, that is an added bonus.
When I think about some of the books that have touched my soul and left their mark. I’m reminded that not everyone reads the same way I do. Some people simply read a book and move on, but others absorb a book until it becomes a part of them. John Hart’s book The Last Child left me feeling raw and vulnerable. It was one of those books that even years after reading it, I still remember parts of the story, and the main character, thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon.
Have you ever read a book that affected you strongly? I’d love to hear about it. Share some of your favorites or most memorable books and I’ll share some of mine.
The Truth about Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries
Welcome BT Harris to my daydream. If I ever get rich, I’d like to have a readers and writers café on the waterfront of my hometown where I can drink coffee or something stronger and talk about books and writing all day long.
What is one of your dreams if you get rich?
BT: One day I hope to start my own nonprofit charity organization called Igor’s Children, which will help mentally ill minors get the treatment they need, including medicine and doctor referrals.
Sherri: That’s a lovely dream and one that is definitely needed.
You recently published your second novel, what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea for Beyond Olympus?
BT: The idea came from a very intense and vivid dream. I fell asleep over exhausted, and I was listening to Buddhistic chants and hums. I dreamt I was flying through space and eventually became a star. I woke up and wrote down the contents of the dream and started writing a story the next day.
BT: A graphic novel sounds like an interesting idea, but we will wait to see how well the book is received.
Sherri: Your main character Kristina is an astronomer and Buddhist. What else can you tell us about her? Why is she being entrusted with such cosmic importance?
BT: Kristina is the first human since Buddha himself that had this remarkable potential for growth. Others have tried to learn from Umun (our Sun) but failed to prove themselves completely. These failed students, as we know them, are the ancient gods.
Sherri: I read on your social media that you are also a poet. Which came first, poetry or prose?
BT: I started with both. Most of my early stories are in poetic stanzas. My first book was actually completed thanks to a massive epic poem I wrote to guide me.
Sherri: Do you think poetry helps you write better fiction? I’m always amazed by the way a poet can say so much with so few words.
BT: Oh, certainly. I would not be surprised if there are many smaller forms of writing that writers can practice their skills while trying to finish their first draft.
Sherri: What is it you love about writing fantasy? Do you enjoy creating worlds, unique characters or using magic, or is it something else?
BT: Moreso, the escape into a world where even I have difficulty navigating. A character will speak to me saying that this is over our heads. ‘You mean this is far too much fun for the both of us, let’s bring some enemies in.’
Sherri: It is said that all artists are a bit broken because only the imperfect can create something that will touch your heart. Writing became a way of expressing myself that I wasn’t able to do in real life. Has your writing helped you as well?
BT: No one is completely whole and no one is perfect. Some of us feel on a deeper scale, but who better to quote than Socrates when he said, “The real philosophers are those who love to see the truth.” If I was to broaden his statement to the emotional understanding. If we learn to recognize what we feel inside of us, and how appreciative we are of those who see as much, our hearts can be touched in a remarkable way. Sometimes I am afraid to admit the more I develop a character, they become one of those people I learn to appreciate.
Sherri: When I published my first book, I was terrified and sometimes, I am still afraid, but I make myself do it anyway. Were you afraid to publish your new book? How did you overcome your fears?
BT: I was not afraid to publish. I was afraid of what may come afterwards. There is no overcoming fear, no matter how strong you feel. By accepting the fear, you carry it with less weight.
Sherri: How was it working with Tea with Coffee Media? What was your favorite part of working with TCM? What was your least favorite part? How was it different than when you self-published by in 2015?
BT: TCM was the best experience I had when it came to publishing. My favorite is sharing the responsibility of the book than feeling smothered by all the control through self-publishing.
Sherri: What advice would you give a young author on the verge of publishing their first novel?
BT: Never, never, never, quit. Take a break if you need one. Enjoy life if you think you should grasp it. Just don’t quit.
Sherri: Thank you, BT for sharing your author journey. Best wishes for your writing and the success of Beyond Olympus. If you enjoyed this interview, you can find BT’s book links and social media links below.
In the fifties guys like The Fonz and Elvis wore their hair in a pompadour or ducktail, or maybe a jelly roll, others chose the flat top or crew cut. Hair differentiated the cool cats from the squares. Ladies styled their locks in the poodle, the pixie, the curly bob or the really risqué might spray their hair into a bouffant. The more hairspray the wilder the girl.
By the sixties had the girls wearing their hair in everything from Afros to Pixie cuts, to the flip, but if you wanted a reputation, the Beehive would do the trick. Must have been something about that hairspray. The guys were still sporting the pompadour, but hair styles were becoming more varied with the long geometrical hairstyle, men’s bob, short curly, side part, long hair straight or curly, slicked back, combed over, or big Afro. Then came the long-layered look and the iconic Mop Top, and we can’t forget the mullet. The Afro and the Mop Top like the Beehive and the Pompadour made a statement and was often the target, especially for the older generation, for derision and ridicule. What is it about our hair that makes people so angry?
The seventies brought a lot of similarities with both men and women’s hair styles from curly perms for both, to long-layered shags, dread locks, mullets, wedges, and long straight hair. Facial hair became more popular. Dread locks became society’s target of attack.
Eighties became more styled and the use of styling products more prominent. There was a return to the older styles like the fifties but with it came a new set of prejudices, and it continues.
Hair styles, tattoos, piercings, make-up, and dress are all ways we express ourselves, show our culture and our personalities, our interests, passions and affiliations.
I have always felt that hair styles were a great way for people to express themselves. It was usually less expensive and if they didn’t like it, they could shave it off or let it grow out. When my kids were young, I’d let them choose their hair style and as they got older even let them dye their hair. I remember someone accusing me of child abuse because I allowed them to get mohawks, something they’d all begged for. I waited until the last week of school figuring they could let it grow out over the summer if they didn’t like it. They had rat tails, braids, long hair and shaved heads. One even had his hair dyed in several different colors at once much to the horror and dismay of his prom date.
As they have grown older some have grown beards, dyed or bleached their hair, worn it long or cut high and tight, some have piercings, some have tats, their styles show who they are, their personalities, and what they feel is important.
Many of us conform to society’s expectations or more accurately to the expectations of our employers. I wear hated polo shirts with my company’s logo. I’m not allowed to wear shorts or leggings to work. They also frown on wild hair colors or excessive jewelry. I show my personality with accessories, colorful scarves, hair bands, jewelry and even colorful pants. I love color. I love ethnic clothes and have gotten strange looks when I showed up at church wearing my handmade African caftan or Mexican embroidered dress. I even hate to wear white underclothes. Clothes should make you happy not just cover your bits and parts. They show your personality. I don’t expect everyone to like what I like but I also don’t feel I need to apologize for letting the real me out once in a while.
A very nice man came into my store followed by another man who was joking with him about his curly hair. Now I knew the first man’s hair was a wig but evidently the other man did not. He kept going on and on about the man’s Toni, as in a Toni perm. When the first man left, the other commented that he didn’t understand why the man, a black man had to have his hair like that. Everyone knew he was black. He didn’t have to wear his hair like that. I really didn’t understand why it mattered to him. The black man was nothing but kind and pleasant, so why did his hair bother him so much? It was then I realized the joking wasn’t done in jest but was poking fun, and my heart ached that I might have hurt that kind man by going along with the joking.
“I like it,” I told the other man.
“What? You like his hair?” The man asked.
“Yep, I do,” I said, my voice stronger.
“Then why don’t you have your hair like that?”
I just smiled and explained, “My hair won’t stay like that not without a lot of product, and I don’t like to wear a lot of stuff in my hair.”
He left still commenting about that man’s hair.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand why what someone else does to their hair or body should matter to me. I don’t have to like it but if it isn’t affecting me, why should I care?
I had an aunt who liked to wear big, gaudy costume jewelry, it looked good on her. She also wore bright colors and enjoyed her clothes. A cousin wore a lot of makeup, and I remembered thinking it was artistic and pretty, but I’d never be able to do that. Others have styles I don’t care for or wouldn’t want for myself, like the really long fancy nails or the elaborate braids. I think they are pretty but I couldn’t wear them myself.
Why do we judge people who look different than us? Why not celebrate our differences? Whether it’s a beautiful young girl made up to look like a vampire or a handsome young man who prefers to dress colorfully with a bit of feminine flare or someone of a different ethnicity who embraces their culture, why not accept that we are all unique and part of the beauty of the world instead of expecting everyone to look, dress and act the same.
What are your thoughts? What fashion do you love or hate?
Spring is in the air and summer is right around the corner, at least it is in eastern North Carolina. With the warmer weather comes new opportunities. I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Carteret Writers Conference Quadrennial Celebration. They celebrated 40 years of service to the writing community. It was a joy to be a part of the celebration and to attend this awesome event.
A new book released on April 19th, an international anthology in which I am one of sixteen authors with novellas published by The New Romance Café Writers Group. The anthology is Rock My World, a collection of rockstar romances in various romance subgenres and heat levels.
Sunday, April 30th, from 1 to 4 pm, I will be one of forty local authors at the New Bern Farmers Market for an Author Event. There will be books, prizes, music, and food. If you are a book lover or need a gift for someone who is, this is the place to be. The books and authors vary from children’s books to genre fiction to non-fiction. There is literally something for everyone.
Tuesday, May 2nd, I will be speaking at the Aurora-Richland Senior’s Club. This is my home turf and I’m looking forward to sharing stories with my neighbors, many of whom inspired my fiction.
As you can see, I am once again burning the candle at both ends. Juggling writing, working, family and extracurricular activities isn’t always easy and if I’m honest, I don’t always do it well. Getting out and being with other authors, writers and readers fills my well and helps me cope with those days when life is weighting me down. But finding the balance between what I want to do and what I need to do, versus what I have time to do, isn’t always easy.
I learned a hard lesson recently. As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t do it all and I have to set limitations on myself and my time. UGH! I let myself get burned out and became susceptible to sickness. If we don’t take time to rest our bodies will do it for us, sometimes by forcing us to spend a week in the hospital. I’m reminded of the poem, “I could not stop for death, so he kindly stopped for me…” Well, thankfully, it wasn’t death that stopped for me, but pushing myself beyond my limits could have ended very badly had I not listened to the S.O.S. my body was sending out.
With this warmer weather and the incentive to get out and do more, I’d like to also say, take time to rest and relax. Renew your mind and spirit. Remember that a sportscar performs better when it has been tuned, fueled, and maintained. Our bodies need the same consideration. So, tune up your body with rest, fun, and things that make you feel good. Fuel your body not just with good food but with good friends, and things that inspire you. We can’t keep giving if we don’t have anything left to give. Maintain your mental health as well as your physical health by listening to what your mind and body needs. Don’t ignore the warning signs that tell you when you are reaching burn out. Take time to walk in the sunshine, sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing, or ride out to the waterfront and listen to the waves lap against the dock. Whatever restores your soul, take time to do it.
What do horror stories and romance have in common? My husband is an avid horror movie buff and he reads sci-fi and medical thrillers, but he also likes to watch romance movies and those reunion clips on YouTube. You know the ones where a military person is reunited with their child, spouse or other family member. It always makes me cry.
I have never loved horror movies. I like vampires and werewolves, and some horror/thriller movies. I enjoy reading some of the darker books with some horror elements but I don’t consider myself a true horror fan. I have worked in haunted houses and I’ve marched in parades dressed as a clown, yet find it difficult to go into a haunted house and clowns can be a bit creepy.
While I was doing research for this blog, I was curious about what scientist and psychologist say about our love for horror. As a romance author, I have heard speakers talk about the affects of romance novels on readers. Stories can make people more empathetic, understanding, open-minded and there is a feminism to modern romance stories. Yes, readers still want the happy ever after of old but we see women who choose careers over having a family, we see their love-interest being supportive of their goals and willing to make sacrifices to help them achieve them. There are still some traditional romances where the couple marries and have a family, but they aren’t the only option. What surprised me when I was doing the research was that horror fans are also thought to be more empathetic and intuitive. While it’s true, some movies can feed aggressive behavior, such as movies where there is a lot of fighting, and the theme is might is always right. For the most part, as the master Stephen King explains, horror itself is a sort of safety valve, a symbolic cantharis for our cruel and aggressive behavior.
From WebMD blog “Why We Love Scary Movies” by Richard Sine, his interview with Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center of Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison states, “most people like to experience pleasant emotions.” We fall in love alongside the characters in a romance, experience their journey to their happy ending and are left feeling as if we’ve just fallen in love.
Professor Glen Sparks believes horror movies may be similar to our ancient rite of passage rituals. Young men especially feel the need to pit themselves against something bigger, meaner, and prove themselves. In watching a scary movie, the fear is real. Our bodies haven’t learned to filter out what is on screen and what is real danger. We react as if we are the ones hunted by the monster; our heartbeats increase, our palms sweat, skin temperature drops, muscles tense, and our blood pressure spikes.
Psychologist Glenn D. Walters identified three factors that feed the attraction to horror entertainment: 1) Tension-by including elements of mystery, suspense, gore, terror, and shock it ramps up the tension. 2) Relevance-including elements viewers identify with which plays on the psychology of fear, the most universal, the fear of death, the unknown, or cultural relevance. 3) Unrealism-having all of these “real” elements coupled with the knowledge that it is not real and probably won’t ever happen, allows the viewer to experience the fear, test their mettle within a safe environment.
Stories were originally told as a form of education. Don’t go too far from the cave or you’ll be eaten by dinosaurs. Don’t go into the woods or you’ll be attacked by wolves. Our first stories were horror stories told to keep us safe and warn of dangers.
Going into a haunted house or watching a scary movie allows us to conquer our fears. For many, horror and other violent entertainment is a way to deal with actual fears and real violence. Just as a person might learn how they wish to be treated by a lover from a romance book or movie, they can also learn to cope with evil from watching or reading horror. Fiction, no matter the genre has a way of telling us what other options are available to us. It can open our eyes to possibilities. While I don’t expect to meet a Duke and live in a mansion, having a husband who treats me as his priority and he mine, is a big part of what romance taught me. Being brave enough to face down demons from hell with only a bottle of holy water and a crucifix, well, maybe not so much. I think I’d prefer to be armed with a flamethrower at least. But whether you are a fan of horror or romance, sci-fi or action-adventure, I hope you will open your eyes and heart to people, their differences and similarities. Most of us, no matter where we come from, the color of our skin or our religion, we’re just trying to survive, find love and enjoy a few moments of peace and happiness.
WebMD-Why We Love Scary Movies by Richard Sine
Washington Post-Why We Like Scary Things by Richard Sima
Why I love Ethnic Movies and Books, I love learning about different cultures and discovering our similarities as well as what makes us unique.
I was watching Wedding Season last night. It is a charming television movie about two Indian families. One family wants their daughter to marry and find happiness. She works hard but has closed herself off to love after a bad relationship. Her sister is getting ready to marry a white guy who is trying too hard to embrace the Indian culture. He loves her so much. He wants to show her family he is worthy of her but in the process is making her a little crazy. The second family, the good son has disappointed his father by dropping out of college, the father won’t listen to the young man when he tries to talk to him about his life and his work. The old man assumes he’s a bum and won’t be able to find a wife by telling the truth, so he makes up a profile for his son. The mother of workaholic daughter makes up a profile for her, and the two are coerced into meeting.
Now many of us would say, why don’t they just refuse. Why don’t they contact the ap and have their profile taken down? What compels them to do this crazy thing for their parent? Is their culture so different than our own?
Growing up in the south, I can relate to the Asian and Indian culture of the importance of family. My parents were loners and tried to avoid a lot of family events but even they understood the importance of family. If my dad’s sister requested his presence at an event, or my mom’s mother, then they would attend, perhaps grudgingly, but they’d attend. You do a lot of things because of family expectations, go to a preferred school, join certain clubs, make career choices… If my parents arranged for me to meet someone, I’d feel compelled to at least show up and meet the guy.
One of my daughters-in-law is Cambodian. She and my son had two weddings in order to appease her parents and also have the wedding they wanted. They had a traditional Cambodian wedding which lasted three days (it would have lasted a week if my son had been Asian too), and then they had a Christian/civil ceremony a few weeks later.
As I watch these movies or read books with strong matriarchal or patriarchal societies I can relate to a degree because there is a certain amount of pressure to please our parents and grandparents especially if you have a close family. Add in the struggles many of these families have had just getting to America and building their lives here, some having left home with little or nothing, possibly not even knowing the language, and you can see how the community becomes an extended family.
My daughter-in-law’s family were refugees. They were prepared to go to France. Her father was a teacher. He spoke French. But when things fell through and they were unable to go to France, they came instead to America where they were not prepared, did not know the language, and the hardships they faced put a strain on their family. The Asian community helped them find work, places to live and even helped them acclimate to life in America.
In rural North Carolina, I grew up with a sense of community and that community was part of my extended family. I grew up as a neighborhood kid. I was part of the community and they were a part of teaching and training me. As I write my stories, I bring family and community into my setting and characters. Like many of the ethnic stories I read and watch, I feel a kinship because here in our small town we are invested in each other’s lives.
Reading books and watching movies that entertain us and give us a little taste of what someone else has gone through, and suddenly the world becomes a little smaller, strangers become neighbors, and our differences don’t seem so foreign because they are the uniqueness of a friend or the peculiarities of a neighbor, so they are not as frightening as those of a stranger, nor a foreign as someone living half a world away.
Recently I was asked if there was an author whom I admired and why. Well, there are several authors who have inspired me. Many who have personally helped me with my writing and my publishing career. But one author I’ve yet to meet, Jayne Ann Krentz is on my bucket list. JAK has inspired me not just because of her success but also because of her failures. When her sci-fi romances didn’t sell under the penname Jayne Castle, Jayne tried another penname and began writing historical romances. When they didn’t sell, she tried writing contemporary romances. Suddenly all of her books under three different pennames started selling and she became an overnight success with several years’ experience. I say that as a joke, because when we find a new author and think wow, they’ve made it. We don’t always see the years and hard work it took to get there. Now, Ms. Krentz is traditionally published so her story is a bit different than others who have gone the indie route, though I see her and others using the indie methods of marketing to be proactive especially since Covid.
As an indie author we have to wear many hats. We have to be creator, planner and marketer, as well as seller. If you are a creative, whether you are a crafter or a builder, a mechanic or painter, if you are your own boss, you have to wear many hats. It takes different personalities to handle each aspect of the business of being an entrepreneur. For most of us, we would like to just be the creators. We like to make things and that is where we excel. To set up a business plan and figure out how to sell your wares isn’t the same mindset or personality as the person who created the work. You have to put on a new hat and think differently. For many of us we have to train ourselves to do this.
How do you learn to be a businessperson? For an indie author and publisher, we are learning two sometimes three businesses. We want to write the best possible stories, so we learn the craft and business of writing. We want to sell those stories, so we have to learn to market them. If you are looking for a business loan you need to be able to show what your expected growth is. There are several resources but there are also scammers. Who do you trust? This is why I joined RWA: Romance Writers of America and my local chapter, The Heart of Carolina. It’s what I hope to give to my writer’s group in Washington, the Pamlico Writers’ Group and it’s the resource I am so thankful I receive from ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors.
I will be speaking at the Carteret Writers’ Conference in April on Why ALLi and I’ll be giving a brief talk March 28th to the Pamlico Writers’ Group via Zoom on ALLi as a practice run. If you are interested in learning more about what ALLi has to offer or joining Pamlico Writers’ Group or attending the Carteret Writers’ 40th Anniversary Conference, I have provided links below.
It’s women’s history month and as a lover of history and a woman, I feel that we should be learning more about the great things women have contributed to our history. Truthfully, I feel learning about the great people and events, as well as some of the horrors of history that have effected women, people of color, and native peoples is important to truly understanding our past.
There are so many historical female figures who have been both heroines and villains. Some have been truly good or evil, but others it depends on which side of the tale you are on. In The Great Courses program by Joyce E. Salisbury, Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400, I discovered women I’d never before heard of and some I had but knew very little about. Have you heard of the Trung sisters of Vietnam who fought the Hun, or the martyr Perpetua? Zenobia and Boudicca are famous for fighting the Romans. Aisha, wife of Muhammad was instrumental in shaping the Muslim religion. Women, sisters, wives, daughters, dancers, queens, and nuns have changed the world around them. Some for the good, developing mathematics, science, and the first novel, others, well, some were conspirators, spies and murders. Women in history, just like modern women, are capable of good and bad things.
As a romance writer I am inspired by these historical women. Like these women who didn’t back down from a challenge, I want my characters to be tough and strong. Maybe because I never felt very tough or strong myself. All through history we find women who went against society, challenged society and even used society’s expectations to make changes. But if you’ve read my books, you know that my female characters are also inspired by women I know. They are the bad girl with the big heart who has survived a difficult life, the woman whom the whole town depends on to get things done, or the good girl who does what she is supposed to do but yearns to be just a little bit bad.
There are people who believe romance books are passe, that they aren’t about feminism. But if you read modern romance, you see that the story isn’t about waiting for the hero or stronger character to come and rescue the heroine or weaker character. It is about finding that one person who brings out the best in you, encourages you to be strong, and is willing to sacrifice to help you achieve your dreams. Anyone who says this isn’t realistic, well, I’m sorry, but I can name several who have found that one person who’ll do whatever they can for their partner to help them achieve their dreams or goals. My own husband has helped me achieve mine.
In Chrome Pink, Rae has always been strong else she would not have survived all the bad things that happened to her. Her friends and her grandfather were her support system but until she met Logan, she didn’t realize her own strength and worth.
Dana and Jenna both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Dana in White Gold is the busiest woman in Leeward but cannot find a man who can keep up with her until Agent Jake Monroe returns to Leeward. Jenna’s strength comes from her sense family and her kind heart. When her estranged husband returns, she can’t send him away.
Tracy is a ballbuster. In Red Steel, we see she is tough and strong, but her attitude hides a vulnerable heart. She’s afraid to trust Billy but can’t deny her desire for him. Together they overcome each other’s weakness to find their strength.
In the Harrell Family Chronicles, Willow and Liz don’t feel strong. They each suffer from their own weakness yet they’ve overcome obstacles and with the love of their husbands discover their strength.
Janie, of Janie’s Secret is a good girl. She hides herself behind that image afraid to allow herself to be wild for fear of what might happen. One of her secrets is her feelings for Chief of Police Mike Mackenzie.
Roxy is the bad sister. In Roxy’s Betrayal, she is a bit more vulnerable than she acts. She comes across as a user but she does bad things in order to help. When she meets Jorge Claudio, she wants to be better.
Maddie and Melodie, sisters in Christmas Inn at Teach’s Island and Trent’s Melody, overcome past hurts to give love a second chance. Maddie is the tougher, older sister who has trust issues. With Cole Harrell, Maddie feels safe enough to be vulnerable. Meanwhile, Melodie is determined to ignore her feelings for Trent but as she learns his vulnerability, she discovers her own strength.
In my historical cozy mystery, half Lakota wild west performer, Winnie Applegate has always had to be strong. Motherless and young, she is vulnerable in her desire to be loved and accepted. When her family is threatened, she leaps to protect them and uncover the mysteries.
I have been doing a lot of research on cybersecurity lately for my new book. Researching all the possible weak points a person has in their lives where a cyber attack might take place. From our personal computers with our banking and medical information to our vehicles and even our smart houses. We depend on computers for so much of our daily lives that if someone wanted to disturb us or worse, kill us, they have all the information right at their fingertips.
Most of us grumble over two part security to get into our emails and onto an app but if you’ve ever had a breech in security, you understand more the importance of these methods. Most of us experience minor discomfort when something happens. Our credit card company calls and informs us there has been an illegal purchase on our card and we respond. They handle the problem. We might have to do without the use of the card for a few days while they send us a new one. Then there’s the trouble of setting our payments if we had any auto payments or had the card attached to any bills. But what if the goal was to discredit you or kill you?
All over the internet, especially in my writers’ groups they’ve been talking about AI, artificial intelligence. I’m sure you’ve heard of some of the latest apps that have come out where you can make a picture by feeding the app a few words and asking it to do it in a certain style. There is also AI used for audio. I have several audiobooks done by Google Play. The recent controversy has been with the human narrators for audiobooks versus Apple’s AI generated narrations. Using other people’s work, voice, style to train artificial intelligence to do the work in the style of someone famous. What is to stop someone from using AI to write a book in the style of Steven King, having an AI generated narrator to record it in the voice of Morgan Freeman, and design a video trailer like that of George Lucas. Most reputable authors and artists wouldn’t think of plagiarizing something from another artist but then there are those who are not as concerned about right and wrong or who gets hurts by twisting the rules. AI for most of us is a great tool. For me, it was an affordable way to get my books into audio. Something I can’t as yet afford to do with a human narrator. It’s on my list of things to do when money allows.
But as I’ve been researching cyberattacks and hearing about AI my brain combined the two. Already were seeing how AI can be used to make it look like someone has been somewhere they haven’t…this would be great for an alibi. How would you prove they weren’t really there? Or could they be two places at once? AI could make it look like they were. AI can manipulate photos, video, voice recordings, writing, and what else? How could a criminal use this information to rob a bank? Steal someone’s identity? Frame someone for murder? What other ways do you think AI can be used for good or evil? I’d love to hear your ideas. How do you feel about using AI to create book covers, books, blurbs, movies, etc.
A short, sweet and steamy, Valentine romance. What do you do when you hate Valentine’s but your best friend needs you to capture her special day? Well, you pull up your cowgirl boots and head to Colorado to photograph the reenactment of their proposal. Instead of hiding out and ignoring Valentines as she’d planned, Ali stumbles across the Eros of her dreams and is swept up in a local and family (Max’s family) romantic comedy that has grandma conspiring with the local angel to get her favorite grandson a bride before the next Valentine’s Day.
Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills
What do you do when your worst one-night stand turns out to be your new neighbor and the only job you can find makes him your boss. The good news is, he doesn’t remember you. Yay! This romantic comedy is packed with family drama, self-image, coming home, second chances, choices, football and romance. This is a fake it until you make it kind of romance. When the town of Blue Belle goes overboard trying to keep the new coach, former NFL star Ronan Smith happy by throwing all the pretty women his way. Ronan turns to Nova, his surly neighbor to act as his fake girlfriend, but is true rom-com style, this farce is sure to fail. The question is: who wins in the end. I loved this story and was surprised by how much. This is definitely one to read again. I will be looking for more books by this author.
You Only Die Twice by Brynn Kelly
This was a fun and fantastic romantic comedy with a little suspense thriller thrown in for good measure. What happens when the spy novel you co-wrote with a dying friend turns out to be true? What if your book boyfriend turns up at the school where you teach and sweeps you off your feet? Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened but whew, he’s definitely better than the book.
Sleep No More The Lost Night Files, Book 1 by Jayne Ann Krentz
The beginning of another great suspense series by JAK. Pallas and Ambrose seem to be suffering from a similar incident, an incident that changed their lives and made them feel they were going crazy. Lucky for Pallas, she was not alone when she experienced her lost night. Can she help Ambrose discover the truth before they become victims of the sleep institute.
JAK weaves our real fears with the possibilities and comes up with an edge of your seat suspense story, adds in a bit of romance, friendship and a few unique characters and I just can’t put the book down. Breathlessly waiting for the next in the series.
The Kidnapped Christmas Bride by Jane Porter
Jane Porter is a new author for me but I’m glad I’ve discovered her. This story wasn’t quiet what I expected but it definitely delivered all the feels. Trey Sheenan just wants a little time with his son after five years in prison but his fiancé McKenna Douglas is getting ready to marry another man. When TJ decides he’s going with his dad, McKenna can’t let him go without her. What happens next is a slow reveal of past hurts, unforgotten love, and the promise of a future together if Trey doesn’t end up back in prison for kidnapping a bride on her wedding day. This was a lovely story of discovery, love, family and the magic of Christmas.
The Upside Down Christmas by Kate Forster
Marlo’s life in Sydney is turned upside down when her part-time lover suddenly starts ghosting her and she finds out what her friends really thought about him. With Christmas looming, she is determined to avoid the holiday, but her flatmate Alex has other plans. His gentle coaxing and terrible Dad jokes, not to mention his washboard abs soon have Marlo thinking of Alex as more than a friend. Christmas doesn’t seem so bad when you have someone to share it with.
A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone
This steamy little rom-com was a lot of fun and definitely not your normal holiday story. What happens when you cast a plus-sized adult film star and a bad boy former boy band member in a family-friendly Christmas movie? What could possibly go wrong? This was a laugh out loud and sometimes cry out loud adventure in romance. Bee Hobbs and Nolan Shaw are each other’s biggest fans and can’t fight their attraction for each other, but they both have too much to lose to risk it all for a fling. But what if it’s not just a fling? This has all the feels wrapped up in leather and stays.
The Christmas Contest by Scarlet Wilson
Obsessed with all things Christmas, Ben and Lara are pushed into a radio station Christmas contest with a prize of $10,000. Both have great causes they want to win the money for but when the two of them fall in love, they could lose it all. This was a light-hearted holiday romance worth the read.
Along Came Holly by Codi Hall
A grumpy-sunshine holiday romance. Holly is all about Christmas but her neighbor, Declan is a true Grinch. When she hires him to set up her display for the festival of lights, they get to know each other and find they’re just right for each other. Family, small town and Christmas, what’s not to love.
The Plight Before Christmas by Kate Stewart
What happens when your brother brings your ex to your family’s big, holiday get together? There’s not enough alcohol to numb the feelings that surface when Whitney and Eli have to spend the week together, especially when he’s not as bad as she remembered. Can they learn to forgive the past or are they destined to repeat it? This was a fantastic romance filled with fun and family drama.
The Package by K. Bromberg
Everything goes wrong for Jules and then she finds herself stuck in an elevator with a handsome stranger. When their packages get switched, the mix up turns out to be the best part of her Christmas when the handsome stranger arranges for her to return the package and makes her Christmas wishes come true.
Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter
Taking a job at Christmas as a temporary housekeeper to keep from facing Christmas without her family, Harley is thrown into the middle of the Sheenan’s family drama. This story has all the feels. I sobbed, laughed and fell in love with these characters. You have to read this one with a box of tissues and a bag of chocolate.
A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
Three dates before Christmas is all Gretchen has to survive and she’ll get what she wants, control of her wealthy family’s charity. She could do so much good with the Winthrop money. All that’s standing in her way is country music star Colton Wheeler. He’ll agree to be the face of their family’s whiskey brand but the price might be too high for both of them.
With the help of the Bromance Club these two won’t stand a chance against romance.
Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals by Joyce E. Salisbury Great Courses
An eclectic view of inspiring women from different parts of the world and different times in history. A great source for research.
Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore
Manipulated into marriage by financier Lucian Blackstone, whose past and business practices strike fear into the hearts of Britain’s peerage, Hattie Greenfield, banking heiress is willing to go toe to toe with him to get her way.
A sudden trip to Scotland allows Hattie to see the real man she married. As her opinion of her husband softens, she knows she’s in danger of losing her heart.
Can this mismatched couple overcome their difference to find their happy ever after?
This was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I loved it.
People often ask me where my story ideas come from. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember the exact moment something came to me or what inspired it. Much of what I write comes from life, my life or the lives of friends and family. I also get inspiration from the news, television, movies, other books, a picture or even a misunderstanding.
Recently I watched a movie called Tall Girl and I was reading a book called Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills and I was thinking about my dad. My dad was a long-time baseball and softball lover. He lived for ball games. An athlete himself, he played ball growing up and when we came back to North Carolina to live, he started playing and coaching summer league softball. He even helped coach the school team with his long-time friend and fellow athlete.
Even though Beauty and the Baller was about a football player and Tall Girl was about a high school talent contest, they both had elements I related to: body image, peer pressure, other people’s opinions of us, our insecurities and baggage… How much of our adult lives are affected by things that happened to us in childhood or as teenagers? This kicked off memories of summer league ball and being the coach’s daughter. Wanting to play but not being very good, I dealt with my own insecurities. I still have a love of the game, but I’ve never had a talent for sports.
I’ve been thinking of doing a story about baseball players for years in honor of my dad but these inspired me to go in another direction. I’d like to work on a series, The Women of Summer League about women some in their mid-twenties and some older who play ball and what being part of the team and playing means to them. I want to add in a romance and I’ve been toying with the idea of suspense, I had an idea for a murder but I’m not sure if I’m going to go that route. Y’all know me, I love a good murder and if I get to blow things up, that’s even more fun.
It will take me a little time to do the research for these stories and I have one series to finish and another I’m already working on, so I’m planning to work on gathering ideas and that’s where you guys come in. I’m looking for people, mostly women but men are welcome to share their stories as well, about your experiences playing summer league softball. I’ve worked up a questionnaire but will probably have follow up questions. If you are interested in sharing your stories, I’d love to hear them.
I prefer first-hand account research whenever possible but I will also read biographies, and watch documentaries about other women athletes, not necessarily from softball. If you choose to share your stories, know that I will fictionalize them and they may not look the same when I’m done. The character who ends up with your story might be the victim or villain in the story. If you are not comfortable with that, thank you but it’s best not to share. I would not want anyone’s feelings to be hurt.
Just a little background on my process. Chrome Pink, Rae Lynne Grimes started out with a description of my husband for a writing class, and she morphed into a half-Hispanic female with a bad attitude. The motorcycle she restored was inspired by the bike my husband and his boss were restoring that had belonged to the boss’s nephew-in-law who’d passed away from cancer. The breast cancer theme came from my friend’s mother being diagnosed with breast cancer and the work my sister-in-law was doing with Relay for Life.
My sister-in-law was one of the people who inspired my character, Dana Windley in White Gold. Our fossil festival and pageant were another inspiration for that story, combined with North Carolina’s ranking in human trafficking.
Titanium Blue and my couple were inspired by married life and it’s difficulties, my son who’d served two tours in Afghanistan, my father-in-law a Viet Nam veteran and my friend who’d lost his leg in an accident.
Red Steel was inspired by my youngest son who was a volunteer firefighter and first responder. His relationship with his wife, a photographer and my research into drones and explosives.
Every story I write has a little bit of my life and a lot of fiction. I never know what is going to start a story. Inspiration is everywhere and I believe sometimes we just have to reach out and claim it. You and I might both have similar inspiration but we’ll interpret it differently. The filter of our own life experiences, personalities and talent changes how the story is told. It can change again when we choose which character is telling the story.
What inspires you?
If you’d like to be part of my research for the softball themed series here is a link to the questionnaire. Thank you.
The County Compass will be featuring a brief interview with me Thursday, January 19th. To celebrate, I’ve put together a little behind the story information and I’ve placed all of my eBooks on sale for 99 cents through Tuesday, January 24th at all eBook retailers and on my website.
I started out writing historical romantic fiction. I even sent off a couple of manuscripts, pieces of manuscripts and hundreds of query letters to agents and publishers long before doing it by email was a thing. But then tragedy struck and we lost our home to a house fire that pretty much wiped us out. My husband got us all out with our lives. I still have flashbacks of that night.
After losing all of my research books, my big computer and files, my husband and friends encouraged me to get back to writing. I took an online class about creating characters. The instructor said describe someone. I chose my husband. The next day, she told us to change their gender, ethnicity, keep some of their traits but expand others. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write again but with the love and support of my family, friends and writers’ groups, Rae Lynne was created.
My town, Aurora was the inspiration for the fictional town of Leeward. I decided on a fictional town in order to have a little more creative freedom, but locals recognize places like the Depot Café as Wayside, the Hardhat Lounge and of course, the fossil museum and library.
Chrome Pink was inspired by several things that happened at nearly the same time. I’d created the character Rae Lynne but she was just a paper doll, I didn’t have the rest of her story, but my husband and his boss were restoring a motorcycle in memory of a nephew who’d passed away. At the same time my friend’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my sister-in-law was always volunteering me for something or other that had to do with Relay-for-Life or other projects. Then I met one of my sons’ friends, a lovely half-Hispanic lady who was very kind but she was tattooed and pierced. When I asked about the tats and piercings, my son simply said, she’d had a rough life. From there, I found Rae Lynne and had my theme for Chrome Pink. https://books2read.com/u/4jaeBk
Reading that North Carolina was ranked 9th in human trafficking and growing up listening to seafood trucks running in the middle of the night got my imagination playing in the dark. What if they weren’t really carrying seafood, or not just seafood?
The Leeward Files was supposed to be a three-book series about three best friends: Rae Lynne-Chrome Pink, Dana Windley-White Gold, and Jenna McKenzie Roberts-Titanium Blue who uncover the town of Leeward’s darkest secrets while finding their strengths and falling in love.
White Gold’s Dana Windley is a force to be reckoned with. She is one of the ladies all small towns need who gets jobs done whether it’s volunteering to coach a youth ball team or organize the local beauty pageant. My sister-in-law loves this book best because she knows she’s one great ladies who inspired the main character. Dana is a plus-size multiracial woman who carves out a place for herself and becomes a hero all little girls can look up to. https://books2read.com/u/brYpjA
Titanium Blue has Jenna McKenzie and her estranged husband Tar Roberts struggling to get on with their lives after separating. This was the first book my son, Jason and his wife, Brandi helped me with. Since they were both in the Army their insight helped me make my character Tar, who was an Afghanistan vet who lost his leg and was dealing with PTSD more real. Jason served two tours in Afghanistan but thankfully returned home and is now retired from the Army. https://books2read.com/u/bzWOrq
After writing the first three books I wasn’t ready to leave the town of Leeward. Evergreen Crystals was supposed to be my first true romance with Rae’s wedding, but I can’t write anything without a murder and blowing something up. “Holidays, weddings and babies are happy occasions until someone ends up dead.” Or in Rae Lynne’s case, arrested. https://books2read.com/u/b68OqE
Red Steel is the final book in The Leeward Files series, my youngest son, a volunteer firefighter and his wife, a photographer, helped me with this book, and were the inspiration for the young couple Billy Grimes and Tracy Harrell. This is the final book is also the spin-off for The Harrell Family Chronicles. https://books2read.com/u/3yEKXB
The Harrell Family Chronicles came about from a dream my husband and I had as a young married couple of owning our own camp. I grew up in the community of South Creek which was at one time known as Stanton-Harrell thus the name, the Harrell Family Chronicles. The Harrell family turned part of a failing farm into a family campground. The middle brother, Charlie and his wife, Liz have seven children and they run the family campgrounds. Charlie’s older brother John runs the farm and his younger brother, Robert is a hunting and fishing guide.
The first book in the series was actually written third when I realized Red Steel couldn’t be the last of The Leeward Files and the first in The Harrell Family Chronicles. Willow’s Retreat deals with estranged married couple John and Willow, the oldest of the Harrell brothers and his wife, Dr. Willow Rider. The difficulty I had in writing this book was how can two people be married for thirty years and not know each other. With my husband’s help I tried to show the relationship and the couple’s choice to stay or go, and how they found their happy ending. Using my research into therapy animals, PTSD and trauma, I tried to craft a story that was both romantic and suspenseful with the deeper story of family. https://books2read.com/u/mgEra7
All of my stories have family as part of the theme whether it is the family we’re born with or one we create. Even though my stories are fiction, I feel it is important to portray honest relationships. Red Steel and Willow’s Retreat also show the family that comes about through shared experiences, such as being part of the local volunteer firefighters.
Janie’s Secrets is about mistakes and second chances. Janie hides behind the safety of her life as a small-town librarian, she even lives at home. She’s afraid to take chances. Afraid of getting hurt and making mistakes. But life is about risk, and if we aren’t taking a risks are we really living? This is a second chance romance. https://books2read.com/u/bpDq79
Roxy’s Betrayal was a lot of fun to write. Where Janie was the good girl in the family who never did anything wrong, well, Roxy was just the opposite. She was known for her bad girl antics and it takes something truly serious to make her forget about herself and put someone else first. But even trying to do the right thing, a bad girl’s got to do a little bad along the way…and boy does she have fun doing it. She falls for the wrong guy who just might be her Mr. Right and together, they save the day. But even being the hero of the story might not be enough to salvage her relationship with her family. She had to betray them to save them. Will they understand? https://books2read.com/u/boD5Na
Christmas Inn at Teach’s Island slipped away from Leeward but not too far. After a visit to Bath, I decided I needed to write a story with it as my backdrop, so I created Teach’s Island ( a combo of Indian Island and Bath). Hurricane Irene devastated this area and took several years to recuperate from. People who don’t live in areas affected by hurricanes don’t understand the devastation. I thought this Christmas romance was a good way to show the rebuilding of the small community and making my bad guy the hurricane instead of a person was good for a change. I also used this novella to set up the next book. https://books2read.com/u/47Ong8
Trent’s Melody was partially written several years ago but I couldn’t get it right. I think the timing was wrong. Using some of the previously written material, I managed to recreate the idea and make a few changes. Trent is Tracy’s twin brother. He’s as different from her as chalk from cheese but I had to dig deep to understand why. This story revealed itself to me like an onion peeling layers away to reveal something new each time. Of all the books I’ve written Trent’s story touched my heart in ways I never expected. For one, it helped me understand one of my sons better. I had a couple of contests, one a song writing contest where my writer friend, K B Davenport sent an awesome song that fit so well within the story. If you love music competition shows like The Voice and home improvement shows like Rock the Block, you’ll enjoy this story. https://books2read.com/u/bz1vK2
I am working on Remy’s Dilemma the last in The Harrell Family Chronicles (for now). I won’t completely leave this world but the next book will be a new point of entry for the series and I’d like to lighten things up, do a little romantic comedy. I don’t know if I can write a book without murdering someone and blowing things up, but I will try. Maybe…
My historical novel, The Americans are Coming, is a cozy mystery. This is more family friendly but I still managed to blow a few things up and kill a couple of people. I can’t help it, it’s an addiction. When seventeen-year-old, wild west show performer Winnie Applegate’s brother Riley is accused of causing the death of a fellow performer, Winnie seeks to prove him innocent. Instead, she uncovers a murder and a family secret that could put her brother and father at risk. What does a mysterious benefactor, an invitation to England and a family secret have to do with murder and sabotage? Winnie along with the young man she plans to marry, and a female Pinkerton agent will uncover the truth of who is really trying to sabotage Colonel Bill Dexter’s Wild West Extravaganza even if it kills them. https://books2read.com/u/b6zzRW
Success is just a leap of faith into the abyss and surviving the fall.
I’ve been struggling lately with feelings of failure. My sales haven’t been great, and I’ve been wondering about whether I’m spinning my wheels and wasting my time. What is the meaning of success? Everyone categorizes success in different ways, for some it is accolades from their peers, awards, notoriety, for others it is about the money, the lifestyle, and still others it is the level of achievement, a goal reached.
Like most small business owners, I’d like to make more sales and as an author, I’d like to build more fans. I’d like more people to read my books and fall in love with them. Somedays it seems no matter how hard I work I’m just not making it. But then something amazing happens and I feel renewed, like I have a reason to keep believing. What does it mean to me to succeed? What is my idea success? Yes, I want to sell more books, become a well-known author, be able to pay my bills with my writing career but is that really what success is? Is that all there is? How do I define success?
As we begin the new year, I am doing some real soul searching about what my future holds. What does success mean to mean? Contentment, happiness, peace… I’ve achieved that. I’m happy with my life. Maybe not every minute of every day but mostly I am happy and content, with my family and friends, and even my work. I feel good about what I’m doing. I’m doing what I love. It’s not always easy to juggle my writing career with my “real” job, other obligations, family, and friends, but mostly I manage. Some days I’m tired. I’ve stretched myself a little too far, but I know if I want this, I have to push myself.
Each year I try to add something else to my resume. I try to write new books, have my books available on new retailer sites and be visible on new social media platforms. I try to learn new things and even have new experiences. Some years, especially during Covid, those experiences might be limited to online, other times, I might be able to attend a writing conference in another state. Whatever new adventure I choose, it is usually something that will advance my career or at least help me learn. While I might not be able to quit my day-job just yet, each step, even some of the negative ones, have helped me on my journey to success.
No one can define success for you. Each of us have to decide what it means for us. While I might want to win the lottery and be independently wealthy, that won’t make me successful. Success for me can only come when I feel I’ve done my best and I’m happy with the outcome and selling lots of books wouldn’t hurt either.
True success is a life well-lived, and a heart well-loved. (I think that is slightly misquoted from Tuck Everlasting).
Wishing you all a happy and successful New Year. Just remember to be HAPPY!
You can find my ebooks at your favorite ebook retailer or right here at my own online store.
“Mom! Mackenzie’s in my room again!” Toby shouted dropping his school bag. “Aw, no. Give it!” He reached for the card his little sister was chewing. “Not my Pokemon card!”
The little girl wiggled away with her prize, shouting, “No!”
“It’s ruined. You ruin everything. I wish you’d never been born.”
“Tobias Anthony Roberts!” His mother shouted stomping down the hallway. “She’s just a baby. When did you become so intolerant?”
“Since she started getting into my room and destroying all my stuff. Mom, you have to keep her out. It’s not fair,” he whined.
His mother glared. “Fair. If you’d clean up your room, she wouldn’t get to your things…”
Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Toby shouted, “No!” He leaped over the unmade bed and tangled in the blankets and discarded clothes.
The two-year-old tipped the platform holding his Star Wars model and pulled it down on her. The death star shifted as she dropped it to the floor. Toby watched in horror as all of his and his dad’s hard work was destroyed. It was the last thing they’d had time to do together before hurricane Mackenzie started terrorizing the family. Now no one had time to spend with him, it was always about the baby. He glared at his mother. “Are you happy now? She’s ruined everything!”
“Can’t you see she’s hurt?”
“She did it to herself. If she’d just left it alone…”
“She’s a baby…”
“She’s a baby! That’s all I’ve heard since she was born. She’s a baby Toby let her play with your toys. She’s a baby Toby we don’t care about you anymore. Well, I didn’t ask for a baby.”
“No? You’re asking for a grounding. Clean your room. I’ll see if your sister needs to go to the hospital.”
Toby looked and realized Mackenzie was bleeding near her eye. Guilt silenced him. He watched as his mother carried the crying baby from the room. The stew of feelings left angry and upset. He shoved stuff under his bed and into his closet, dragging the covers onto his bed and tossing the clothes into the hamper.
He picked up the Pokemon card. It was ruined. Everything was ruined. He gathered up the pieces to the model tears blurring his vision. He couldn’t go play with his friends because he had to help out with his little sister. He’d had to quit basketball because no one had time to take him to practice. It just wasn’t fair. Things were much better when it was just him and his mom. Even when his mom was working a lot, Uncle Mike or his grandparents would do stuff with him. Now Uncle Mike had his own daughter, and she was older and didn’t want to play with him. Grandma and Grandpa were more interested in playing with Mackenzie, or doing stuff with Mikayla their other granddaughter, than spending time with him. They all forgot about him.
Peeking out his bedroom door, Toby wasn’t checking on his bratty sister, he just wanted to see how much trouble he was in.
“I think he needs to be grounded,” his mother was saying.
He winced and backed into the room, peering through the crack in the door.
His parents were cuddled with Mackenzie on the couch making googlie eyes at each other. That’s all they wanted to do anymore. Boring. He rolled his eyes. Mackenzie was sucking on a popsicle, her eye puffed up like a hot marshmallow.
“Give him another chance, Jenna. Mackenzie is a handful, and he is only a little boy.” His father kissed Mackenzie’s head, examining her swollen eye.
“Fine, he can go on the hayride, but he needs to change his attitude.”
The rec department hosted an annual hayride. Toby was excited. This would be the first year he was old enough to ride in the back of the truck. “Comme on Mom, we’re going to be late.” They were putting on their coats and she’d gone to gather blankets but returned with only one for him. She handed it to him. “Won’t y’all need a blanket?”
“We’re going to be riding in the cab of the truck,” his mother said as she checked his sister’s shiner. There was a nasty gash where she’d cut her eyebrow and a bruise around her eye.
Toby looked away still angry and guilty over the incident. “I thought we were all going to ride on the back of the truck together?”
“I’m sorry Buddy,” his dad said. “Getting up and down from the back of the truck is rough on me and with your mom and Mackenzie, it’s just easier for us to ride in the cab. I offered to drive, but you can still ride on the back.”
Toby nodded, sucking in his tears as he walked away. He could ride on the back of the truck alone, like he was no longer part of the family. He bet they wouldn’t even notice if he ran away.
With his parents busy packing Mackenzie’s diaper bag, Toby went to his room and packed his backpack. Hiding it under his blanket as they head headed out to the school. He stood alone as everyone loaded on the hayride, his family up front in the cab, he in the back with strangers. Okay, not strangers but not his family either. He huddled alone in the corner, his arms wrapped around his backpack. They stopped at the senior citizens center, and everyone got out and started singing Christmas carols. They all scrambled back in and drove down to the apartments where the old people lived. Then they went out to the country. On one of the dirt lanes, they walked from house to house singing. When no one was looking, Toby took his bag and his blanket and hid in the woods. He waited until the taillights from the truck disappeared before setting out down the dark dirt road.
It was cold, Toby wasn’t sure how far he’d walked but he was tired. He saw a fire glow in the distance and crept closer. An old man was hovering over the fire.
“Don’t just stand there freezing, come warm yourself by the fire.” The old man smiled, his round cheeks and laughing eyes reminded Toby of his grandpa and maybe Santa Claus. He took a seat on a log as far away from the old man as he could but still be by the fire. “Cautious, that’s good,” the old man said and offered Toby some hot chocolate. Toby knew not to accept food and drink from strangers, so he pulled out his own and with the help of the old man, made a mug. He told the old man he was running away. That things were so much better when he and his mom were on their own. “Change can be difficult, young man, but was it truly so wonderful before?” The old man’s voice held a soft, hypnotic note.
Toby yawned and his eyes drifted shut. The dream reminded him of the movie he’d seen, The Christmas Carol.
Hovering above he watched his mom as she tried to scrape together enough money to buy him Christmas gifts. She was exhausted and fell asleep after supper cuddled with him on the couch watching TV. In another scene he saw his mother clutching a photo of his dad, Tar, to her chest and crying herself to sleep. On her days off she barely had the energy to get out of bed. He wiped a tear.
“Better before, huh?” The old man’s voice whispered through his dream.
Toby was flying and abruptly the scene was of his dad, Tar, holding a gun in his hand. Toby stared at the gun, the bottle of pills and his father’s artificial leg and tears streaming down his cheeks as understanding filled him with shame. The phone rang. Tar looked at the number and shook his head. “You’ll be better off without me. You both will.” It rang again. “What kind of father can I be like this? What kind of husband?” It rang a third time and Tar set down the gun and answered the phone.
Toby took a deep breath and whispered a prayer.
Toby awoke cold and alone. The old man was gone, and the fire was dying. Shaking with shame and remorse, he kicked dirt on the embers and waited until the fire was out. He tried to figure out which way would take him home. The night was heavy with darkness and silence. Suddenly the silent night exploded with the sound of branches shattering. The ground shook, and there was a deafening roar, something big and scary was crashing through the woods. His heart raced as fear threatened to choke him. Grabbing his backpack, Toby ran. The shadow of the beast overtook him, and he screamed. Falling into the light dusting of snow he fell into another dream…
The street was decorated for the holidays. The tinny sound of Christmas bells filled the air. People with their heads down staring at their phones, rushed past oblivious. Carolers on the corner were singing and trying to collect for the poor, but few stopped or even acknowledged them.
An old man in a wheelchair leaned forward holding up an aged poster and in a ragged voice asked, “Have you seen this boy?”
The young woman pushing his chair, whispered, “Dad, Toby wouldn’t be a boy, now. It’s been thirty years.”
The old man looked tired, defeated. “We can’t stop looking for him. Your mother would want us to keep trying.”
“Dad, Toby doesn’t want to be found. I’m sorry.”
Nodding his gray head, the man said, “This will be my last Christmas. I’m sorry Mackenzie, it’s not been much of a life for you.”
She kissed his cheek as her tears fell. “I loved him too, dad. I wish we could have found him before mama…” She pushed the wheelchair down the street.
Toby called after them, but they couldn’t hear him. He tried to run to them, but it was as if he were smoke drifting away on a breeze.
Toby rolled over and blinked, there was no monster. He was alive. Leaping from the cold ground he ran the sky lightening to daylight as home came into view. Through the window he watched his mom and dad wrapping presents. “I never want Toby to do without, not like I did,” his father said.
“All he really wants is time with you.” His mother stood and stretched. “And for Mackenzie to stay out of his stuff.” She shook her head. “She’s really embraced the terrible twos.”
“I feel as if I’ve failed him.” Tar stood, groaning as he adjusted his prosthetic leg. He wrapped his arms around his wife. “If I were able to do more…”
“No,” Toby burst through the front door and ran to his father. “No, dad. You’re the best.” He clung to him.
“Toby, did you skip school?”
Toby shook his head and hugged his mother. “I’m sorry mama. I’ll do better at helping with Mackenzie and cleaning my room.”
“Toby?” She returned his hug.
“We need to get ready for the hayride,” Tar said. “Toby and I will ride on the back. Are you going to ride with us?”
Jenna nodded. “Yeah, mom and dad said they’d watch Mackenzie.”
They looked at the clock with its digital readout that gave the time and date.
Toby frowned. It was the day before. Had it all been a dream?
Holiday movies and stories, and seasonal baking competitions, these are a few more of my favorite things.
When I put away the Thanksgiving leftovers and start pulling out the Christmas decorations, I get in the spirit of the season by watching holiday movies, reading, or listening to Christmas stories, or turning on Christmas music. Over the years my favorites have changed but there are a few that will always put me in a holiday mood and they’re probably not everyone’s idea of a classic. 1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2) While You Were Sleeping 3) Last Holiday 4) How The Grinch Stole Christmas 5) Santa Clause 6) Frosty, The Snowman 7) The Little Drummer Boy 8) Holiday Inn 9) Stage Door Canteen 10) Jingle All The Way 11) Miracle on 34th Street 12) The Christmas Carol 13) Hallmark Movies Collectively
This year I might have to add The Noel Diary, it had all the feels and was a little more than the traditional holiday movie.
I love Christmas and Hannukah stories. I prefer romantic comedies to lift my flagging holiday spirits, but occasionally I’ll choose a story with deeper emotions, action or maybe even a mystery. Over the years I have downloaded several holiday audiobooks, ebooks and even bought a few in print. Anthologies are another of my favorites during the holidays. Who has time to read a full-size novel when you have to buy Christmas gifts, write and send cards, bake, go to parties, decorate, and whatever else the holidays bring. 1) Christmas Revels Anthologies (regency) by Kate Parker, Hannah Meredith & friends 2) ‘Twas the Night After Christmas (regency) by Sabrina Jeffries 3) Kissing Under the Mistletoe (historical) by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey and Anna Bennett,
This year I added a few new favorites. 1) Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter, be prepared to cry, 2) A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams, a fun story with the Bromance series characters, 3) It Happened One Winter by Christi Caldwell, not exactly a Christmas story but close enough and filled with romance, winter, kids, and hope, 4) Mansplainer by Avery Flynn, Book 3 finishes at Christmas but the whole series is leading up to Christmas and the last gift their grandmother left, 5) Highland Games by Evie Alexander, a funny twist on a Highland romance.
I love baking competitions but especially the holiday ones where everything is decorated with the spirit of the season. I also love to watch the holiday cookie challenge and the gingerbread competitions. The holidays are about warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. I love to bake cookies during the holidays. My favorite cookies are oatmeal raisin (or cranberry), ginger snaps, and cinnamon Snickerdoodle cookies. What are your favorite cookies? Do you like to bake or just eat?
I love the holidays from Halloween to Valentine’s Day this time of year is just so full of wonder and joy. I don’t remember ever decorating for Halloween or Thanksgiving when I was a kid, but Christmas the whole house got a makeover. From the doilies on the tables, the candles, and of course the tree, everything was dressed up for Christmas.
When my own children came along, we decorated with handmade ornaments. I often did a themed Christmas with all the decorations matching that year’s theme from a Native American Christmas tree where I cut my fingers carving tiny fetishes, to a Toys Christmas tree where we even hung some of the kids’ toys on the tree.
As the boys got older, they cared less and less about decorating the tree with me. It’s one of the saddest things decorating a Christmas tree by yourself. I love the movies where families get together to decorate but I guess I didn’t instill that love in my kids. Was I too much a perfectionist? I constantly move ornaments when I think they don’t look just right even when I place them on the tree myself. Did I hurt feelings or are they just not that interested? Whatever the reason, more and more I found myself decorating alone. I’ve learned to make the most of it. Put on a Christmas audiobook, usually a romance, and fix myself a drink whether it’s an adult beverage or something tamer, this year it was an iced Chai tea latte made with cinnamon creamer. The trick to making an iced Chai tea latte is getting the tea strong enough to withstand the ice and of course letting it cool.
My tree is not as themed as it once was. It is mostly red and white with a lot of penguins. Why I like penguins I’m not sure, but they make me smile. I also have a couple of Minions. They make me smile too. I have a few homemade ornaments from friends and family. Ornaments I’ve bought from the craft fair and special ornaments I’ve collected over the years or received as gifts. Having lost all of our old ornaments in the house fire, it’s bittersweet to remember those ornaments. My son’s college ornament, my other son’s Army ornament, ornaments to represent each of the children, some with photos, ornaments made by loving hands of those no longer with us, none of the ornaments were expensive but they were priceless. I am thankful for the memories and the love that went into them.
One of my favorite memories and one that makes my heart swell every year is when my husband hangs my Christmas lights. He’s not big on decorating for the holidays but he knows how much I love it and he does that for me. Coming home from work and seeing the snowflake lights on my porch and occasionally he’ll put out other yard decorations, it fills me with the spirit of Christmas like nothing else can.
What are some of your favorite holidays or celebrations? Do you have a favorite part? Do you decorate? Share some of your favorite things.
I wrote Chrome Pink when I was in a bit of dark place in my life, we’d just lost our home to fire. This book is about survival, hope and the love of friends, family and that one person who understands and accepts you…this is romance and life. We all know that person who makes bad choices but we don’t always know why. Learning the reasons someone deals with their pain in an unhealthy manner is often the beginning of understanding ourselves. Rae once made the mistake of trusting the wrong person and it nearly cost her life. Now, determined to be strong, she first has to trust herself before she can rely on others and allow herself to be vulnerable. She has a tough exterior but a soft heart. Chrome Pink is Free through all ebook retailers. Get your copy today.
Dana is glamourous and a bit dramatic, she loves the theater and being in the middle of things. She is the woman you call if you want something done. She juggles her own business with several part-time jobs, plus volunteers. She is based on several women I know who keep our small town moving. When Dana realizes her two missing pageant contestants are being forced into soliciting, she is determined to save them. Dana learns to accept herself, her family’s past and realizes she is more than enough. Any man would be lucky to have her and Jake agrees.
Estranged after losing his leg in Afghanistan, Tar must make a few changes and sacrifices to win his family back. When their son Toby goes missing from a neighbor’s party, it threatens to tear them apart once again. Is their love strong enough to survive the loss of their son? Will they lose everything this time around? Jenna and Tar’s story came about after my son’s tour of Afghanistan. He and his wife helped me with this story and it was so nice to have that collaboration.
My attempt at a true romance complete with weddings, babies and the holidays but… I really like to kill people and blow things up! This is not your typical holiday romance, not unless you consider Die Hard a holiday romance.
I finally gave into my dark side and really had fun with this. With the help of my youngest son and his wife, firefighters and first responders, I was able to flesh out this story and really heat things up. Tracy and Billy are on opposites sides of the arson, she’s a reporter and he’s a firefighter, what could go wrong? But a few things manage to go right…I do believe in happy endings even if I have to blow things up and kill people to make it happen.
What inspires me? The short answer is everything. If we’re having a conversation and I suddenly get a weird expression on my face either you’ve said something to piss me off or inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere. Chrome Pink, my first published novel started with the motorcycle. My husband helped restore the bike for his boss that belonged to his niece’s husband who’d died of cancer. That coupled with my friend’s mother battling breast cancer started the idea. The character of Rae Lynne was my husband who I described during a writing class on characters when after the first day she said to change their sex or ethnicity but keep certain parts. I kept his attitude and mechanical ability. The story then evolved from news articles about sex trafficking and a song on the radio. Inspiration was everywhere and I just had to filter it out.
Getting inspired or feeding the muse is more about showing up ready to listen or opening yourself up to be inspired. Steven King says he doesn’t wait for inspiration he teaches it to show up every morning. Those who wait for inspiration before they write aren’t writers, King calls them waiters. No offense to Mr. King but training your muse to show up each morning takes time and dedication. It is also a luxury some of us don’t have with a 9 to 5 job or worse, a job where we work shifts and have to reinvent our muse every few weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great way for new and like me, slightly used authors to find a few minutes to dedicate to writing. The idea is to teach our muse to show up whenever we sit down to write.
NaNoWriMo is a great commitment because there are prizes at the end that make reaching the goal more appealing. It gives us an added incentive to write daily. For me, my first NaNoWriMo was to prove I could write to a deadline. Each subsequent NaNos I’ve done more for fun but also to remind myself to show up. To be a serious writer with plans of being published means you have to make it a priority and you have to make sacrifices. NaNoWriMo helps teach us how to do that. Inspiration plus perspiration creates success.
And we return to inspiration. How do we find inspiration for the next chapter, the blank page, a new character? For those of us who are pantsers it might be a lot of staring at the screen wondering what to write next but there are tricks of the trade you can develop with a little experience and experimentation. While I don’t like to outline, a list of ideas or sticky notes with scene suggestions can help with your inspiration is flagging. Skipping to the part you do know or for me, if I’m having trouble with a character’s point of view or understanding them, I’ll write a short story about their backstory. This is something you can later use on your blog or newsletter. Nothing has to be wasted.
NaNo is about showing up and writing, that is the main objective. NaNo and other writing challenges like Book in a Week teach us to make writing a priority. Maybe we can’t juggle everything between work, family and other obligations but you can choose to write instead of playing games on your phone or scrolling through cat photos on social media. Fatigue, sickness, a troubled mind, other obligations, all of these things can dampen our inspiration so developing a plan for when you have a few minutes you can dedicate to writing will allow you to bring the inspiration with you. As King and others have said, we have to train our muse to show up when we want to write. Here are some cool things I’ve heard about or tried:
Writing on my phone (Michael LaRonn). There are apps you can download but I just write in my pages. This is great when you’re at the doctor’s office or even in line at Walmart. Write a few lines of your story, an idea for a character or a snippet of dialogue so it’s not forgotten and time isn’t wasted.
Sticky notes (Kate Parker and Sarah Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes you can even have plot twists or turning points and even setting each in a different color, write them in one-liners just to give you an idea of where to go next.
Index cards (Sarra Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes this is a great way to keep track of what you want to happen in the book without a firm outline.
Journaling: keep a writing journal for inspiration, ideas, characters, etc. You can do this for each story or as a general idea book.
I take ideas from other authors and writing coaches I’ve taken classes from or spoken to and found ways to make them work for me. As a pantser I don’t want to do a lot of prewriting, but one technique Marni Graff taught me was stop in the middle of a chapter or scene and make notes about what comes next before closing the computer, so you know how to start without having to go back and read what you wrote previously. This will help you save time.
Another suggestion especially for mystery writers and this could also work for romance authors and suspense writers, write your ending first and work your way back to the beginning. I admit, this isn’t something that works for me though I fast draft to the end and often know the ending I’m planning as I start the book but as I write it may change or alter slightly.
So, what inspires me? Everything inspires me: other writers, talking about writing and books, watching something on television, having a conversation, going places, doing things, the news, research, the list goes on. If you are open to inspiration, it will be there, waiting for you. It’s up to you to invite it in. What inspires you?
For our last meeting the Pamlico Writers decided to share short stories with a Thanksgiving theme. I decided to do a little experimental writing. When our Writers Read group used to get together in Belhaven, hosted by Marni Graff, there was an amazing young writer there who wrote a story in second person. Blythe was only a teenager at the time but her talent was astounding and her story has stayed with me. Now my little experiment is nowhere as good as what she wrote but I am proud that I attempted something so very different, I hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving.
Just a little post script: this is more like Christmas morning but since I was writing it for Thanksgiving I took creative license. I am thankful for the little kindnesses my family shows me and this is almost a true story.
You awaken to the aroma of coffee brewing and muffled voices. Staggering from your bed you bump into the chest at the foot of the bed and stumble towards the bathroom. After relieving your swollen bladder, brushing your teeth, and taming the wild fluff on your head you follow your nose to fresh brewed coffee.
Your oldest son turns from his task at the stove and apologizes, “Sorry mom, we didn’t mean to wake you. We were trying to be quiet.”
“I smelled coffee.”
Smiling, your middle son hands you a cup and turns to his older brother and says, “I told you she’d be awake as soon as she smelled the coffee.”
The oldest grandson squeezes past with a couple of dozen eggs.
“Did you have to wait for the hens to lay them?”
“Yep,” he replies with a grin and does a reverse squeeze out of the kitchen and out of his uncle’s reach. He gives you a brief hug as he exits.
The scent of roasting garlic mingles with the sweet smell of cinnamon and brown sugar. Wrinkling your nose, you ask, “What’s with the garlic? I thought you were making French toast casserole?”
“I am. Ryan wanted to get a head start on lunch.”
Number 2 grandson lifts his head at his name. The headphones give him an alien profile and allowed him to be oblivious to the previous drama. “Hey grandma.”
“Hey, whatcha making?”
“Garlic butter.” He returns to his task squeezing roasted garlic from its skin and blending it with melted butter, olive oil, and chopped basil.
“Why don’t you sit down with your coffee until breakfast is ready,” the oldest son suggests. “We’ve got this.”
Feeling pampered and knowing you’ll spend most of the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving meal, you smile and nod and shuffle off to your recliner to take advantage of the reprieve.
I have been selected as an Ambassador for ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors)
Some of you may have noticed a new addition to my banners and cover photos. I am so proud and excited to announce that I have been selected as an ambassador for ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors). ALLi is an advocate for the equitable treatment of the independent author. Their campaigns operate and advise globally creative industry professionals, literacy programs and cultural organizations, the strive to influence and inspire government bodies and decision makers in seven core territories: Australia, Canada and the Commonwealth, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.
As an ALLi ambassador the goal is to be a good local source of information about ALLi’s work: their campaigns, membership, efforts on behalf of the industry, and to let authors know about their great resources both free and paid. While ALLi wants to THINK and work globally, they wish to ACT locally. Using the knowledge, resources and experience of its members, ALLi can reach independent authors on their own turf and assist in their market.
While there is still much I do not know, I am constantly learning and seeking information. That is where ALLi comes in. I started following Michael LaRonn, JoAnna Penn and Orna Ross via YouTube and podcast before becoming a member of ALLi. If you have heard these names then you know they are large part of the ALLi family and their efforts on behalf of independent authors has made a big difference in our acceptance by readers and retailers, our education as entrepreneurs, and they given us an advocate for the protection of our rights. If you haven’t heard of them, check them out, and others.
If you are an independent author or an organization that represents independent authors, then ALLi might be the options for you. Have you checked into being a member? I am a fairly new member to ALLi but I have been contemplating joining for several years. With my work with the Pamlico Writers’ Group and the Romance Writers of America especially, my local chapter, the Heart of Carolina, I felt that belonging to one more writers’ group might be too much. I am already the chairperson for the Pamlico Writers and VP of communications for HCRW, but I realized there are still things I need to know. As a leader, I need to be on top of what was happening in the industry and while I could read things after the fact, being part of the Alliance of Independent Authors allows me to have an inside view of what is happening. ALLi has a list of approved businesses who other authors have worked with and the have a watch dog desk to keep authors aware of predators.
Education is the key to any successful business. My husband is a mechanic and each year he has to learn about the new cars. It is important to have reliable resources. I hope to use ALLi to better help my local writers’ groups and to use my local writers’ organizations to help ALLi better serve authors in our community, to broaden their understanding of what is happening here, and to help them make the decisions that will affect changes that will allow more authors to support themselves with their craft.
If you are interested in being a member of ALLi, or are thinking about it, here are their four branches of work:
ALLi’s mission is to foster excellence and ethics in self-publishing.
We empower authors through community and collaboration—author forums, contract advice, sample agreements, contacts and networking, literary agency representation, and a member care desk.
We advise, through our Self-Publishing Advice Center—blog, podcasts, emails, magazine, guidebooks.
We monitor the self-publishing sector—watchdog desk and approved partner program.
We campaign and advocate for independent authors throughout the publishing and creative industries globally.
Discounts on self-publishing services
Approved partner directory and database of services e.g. editors
Free guidebooks, member magazine and resources
Sample contracts & agreements and a contract review service
Dedicated literary agent & rights services
Private member forums—ask questions and receive helpful advice
Bio: A lifelong freelancer, Phil Bowie earned his chops selling 300 articles and short stories to magazines. One article, about deaf Hollywood stunt woman Kitty O’neal, came out in The Saturday Evening Post and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, reaching 26 million readers in 23 languages. Several of his short stories have won awards, including a first-place contest winner, “The Cat From Hell,” a yarn begun by Stephen King.
Phil began writing novels in the 2,000s. His debut, GUNS, about the world black-market weapons trade, earned Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival among 400 entries, and was endorsed by Lee Child, number one NY Times international best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series. (One hundred million copies sold to date.) Three more novels in Phil’s suspense series have followed: Diamondback, about a lost Great Smokies Cherokee gold mine, KLLRS, featuring a deadly outlaw motorcycle gang, and Deathsman, set against the illegal synthetic drugs trade.
Phil also has two stand-alone thrillers: Killing Ground, about African elephant poaching, and Dawn Light, starring a yacht delivery captain and his rebellious teenage mentee aboard a boat carrying a lethal secret in her belly.
Phil has been a pilot with his own Cessna, a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain, a draftsman, co-owner of a graphics business, a fiddler, an inventor, and a motorcycle rider. He lives with his partner, Naomi, and their cat, McKenzie, in a cottage he restored on a shore of the Neuse River.
Sherri: Welcome Phil, it’s great to have you on my virtual café. I wish it was a real place we could hang out and have a drink, talk books and writing but maybe someday that will happen. It sounds like you have had a fun and interesting life so far and I’m excited to learn more. In your bio you said you were a lifelong freelancer; did you make your living as a writer? How did you get started writing? Have you always written? Was there a point in your life when you said, this is what I’m going to do or did you just kind of fall into it?
Phil: Thanks for having me, Sherri. I like your café atmosphere.
It’s been a somewhat checkered life, some would say, but yes, fun and most interesting. I went to a rural high school in the Berkshire village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. There were only 22 in my class, so we got spoiled. My English teacher, Lulu Smith, I guess saw a spark in me and offered lots of encouragement. My mother, Edith, an excellent newspaper reporter who once interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, instilled in me the power and beauty of the language. At Clemson, I was fortunate to have a tough creative writing professor we called Flunking Felder, who got my first short story published in the college literary magazine, and I’ve been writing on and off since, most often as a sideline to a variety of bills-paying jobs.
Sherri: In your article about Kitty O’Neil, did you get to interview her? What is your process for writing articles and how does that differ from writing novels?
Phil: I’d long been interested in the World Land Speed Record, so in the late seventies, when I heard of an upcoming record attempt at Bonneville in a three-wheeled rocket vehicle, I raided my meager savings, grabbed my photo gear, and, on pure speculation, drove a borrowed tin-can Fiat 2,400 miles to cover it. I was the only journalist there, because historically most attempts had failed, and nobody else was going to cover it until it looked like a record might actually be broken as the hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car built up speed in ever-faster trial runs over several days. Kitty was going for the female record and stunt man Hall Needham (who wrote the Smokey and the Bandit script), a buddy of actor Burt Reynolds, was driving for the male record.
Although she was deaf, Kitty had already been an Olympic diver and a motorcycle racer and had set several records like water skiing at 104 miles per hour. She’d stunted as Wonder Woman and in several other movies. She was part Cherokee, beautiful, and fearless, the first woman admitted into the Hollywood Stunts Unlimited organization. I interviewed and photographed her at length and wrote a piece for the Post, which was reprinted in Reader’s Digest. I like to think I gave her career a modest boost. No record was set during that attempt for technical reasons, but she did later set the female record at five hundred and twelve miles an hour on a dry lakebed in Oregon. They eventually did a movie about her called Silent Victory. She’s gone now, but it’s no coincidence that the love interest in my suspense series is beautiful, part Cherokee, and named Kitty.
All riveting fiction and non-fiction is based on conflict, and the more intense the conflict, the more interesting the story, real or imagined, will be, so the basic approach for either articles or stories has always been similar for me. I mostly look for subjects with an unusual aspect of adventure or danger or human endeavor against odds. In articles, I’ve covered everything from angling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, to a jet-powered show truck called Shockwave (which I took a 200 mph ride in at Cherry Point) to bottlenose porpoise communication research, to the last builder of wooden Chesapeake Bay sailing Skipjacks, to Dolly Parton and her Dollywood, to how to pilot a plane for skydiving. Short stories have varied widely in a variety of magazines, and a while back I put out a collection of 17 of them called Dagger and other tales.
Sherri: Your debut novel, GUNS, was endorsed by Lee Child? Now that’s impressive. Did you get the opportunity to meet Mr. Child? Do you feel his endorsement has helped your sales? How can an author set themselves up for such an endorsement or other opportunities that would aid in their marketing?
Phil: Yes, the Lee Child endorsement was a nice boost. He’d been an idol of mine, so I sent the raw manuscript to him through his agent. Lee read it, liked it, and got back to me. On their dime, my then-publisher, Medallion, sent me to the Sleuthfest conference in Fort Lauderdale to meet him. He was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the 500 attendees. Like his protagonist, Jack Reacher, Lee is a big guy, six-five. He came up to me and shook my hand, which made my year. That night, we sat out by the Hilton pool talking about life and writing into the small hours.
I’d advise any budding writer to try for best-seller author endorsements through their publishers or literary agents. Nothing to lose by trying. I’ve garnered endorsements from best-sellers Ridley Pearson and Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) using the same approach. The top gun authors I’ve met at conferences like Killer Nashville and Bouchercon in Baltimore have been gracious and friendly. At that same Sleuthfest, for example, I had breakfast with the prolific and enchanting best-seller Heather Graham and her pleasant daughter.
Sherri: Do you read the reviews of your books, if so, do you learn from them, or do they affect your attitude? As creatives, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from our work. On days I feel objective I can read my reviews and say, okay, I need to work on this, or I can see why they said that and it’s fine, it’s how I do things, but there are other days when they can be a boost or a devastation depending on the review.
Phil: Reviews from respected sources like Publishers Weekly, newspapers, magazines, and some of the online bloggers and critics are well worth soliciting, and they’ve certainly helped me by giving me a boost and occasionally by stinging me. A Publishers Weekly review of GUNS, for example, did both. While praising the book warmly overall, the reviewer berated me for including pages of lyrical material that did not advance the plot, so I hung my head and revised an updated version of the novel to tighten it up.
You’re always going to hear from those few who roam the Net putting everything and everybody down while never accomplishing much of anything themselves, so you can’t ever let those people get you down. You’re less likely to hear from those readers who’ve liked your work (except through respectable royalty figures), though it’s always nice to get an email or a website note from somebody who does like your stuff. I admit to keeping a file of those and it’s thick enough to be of some comfort on a dark winter night when doubts assail.
I’ve always just tried to concentrate on researching and writing the absolute best I can, and that seems to have paid off okay over the years.
Sherri: From some of your reviews one of the comments was your political bias showing in your stories, especially GUNS. We as writers often have a difficult time taking our own voice out of the story and letting the characters’ point of view shine. Do your characters represent or echo your own voice, or do they vary in their opinions? When choosing the characters, themes and topics for your novels, how much of real life enters into your work? What influences or inspires your stories?
Phil: You’re right that we should be invisible to readers. The story is always paramount, and the trick is to immerse readers in it thoroughly while staying behind the scenes, much like a movie director.
I suppose some of my political feelings have bled into my fiction at times, but it’s never a good idea to let that happen, because no matter what your views are, you’re going to make enemies.
I do firmly believe it’s important to write what you know, thus much of my work is themed on some conflict or other I’ve been somehow involved in or am at least familiar with, and I’ve drawn on my own sometimes crazy experiences—piloting, parachuting, riding motorcycles, and so on—to lend realism to plots and characters. The protagonist in my suspense series and in one of my stand-alone novels is a pilot, for example. An elderly couple in the series is based largely on my maternal stonemason grandfather (one of my enduring idols) and his good wife, and readers seem to especially like the couple. Other characters in any novel or short story may begin as ethereal figures, but they soon become as real to me as anybody I’ve known, and they can only perform on my stage as who and what I’ve molded them to be.
I also use story settings that I’ve either spent a lot of time in, like the Great Smokies, or that I’ve researched extensively enough to give me confidence, as in the novel about African elephant poaching.
Sherri: When you are writing, do you plan or plot your books ahead of time or do you just sit down and write? What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it? Where do your ideas come from?
Phil: Each short story or novel begins with a theme that I think has enough inherent conflict to build an engaging story on. GUNS, for example, is about the black-market trade in weapons. I had a friend who’d spent a career in naval intelligence, and he helped fill me in on that.
For a novel, I’ll spend weeks just digging and jotting the occasional plot idea. Copies of all my research materials go into a dedicated file box for easy reference. I’ll sketch out a rough plot longhand on a legal pad (old habit), and then launch into the story on the computer with some intense and vivid scene meant mostly to hook the reader. Then I’ll just forge on, letting my characters guide me. If I get stuck along the way, I’ll often take a long walk, which seems to break up the logjam. I rewrite and revise a lot as I go.
This is a tough, solitary business, as I’m sure you know. Weeks and months of sitting behind the screen trying to fill those blank pages with a hundred-thousand-word story that will engage and reach out and touch a reader. It’s at once a long, long slog and a wonderous and rewarding experience. I’m hopelessly hooked on it.
Sherri: I saw your publisher was listed as Bowker. Are you independently published or is this a small publishing company? What has publishing been like from the first book to the most recent? How have things changed? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Phil: That’s an Amazon glitch I need to fix. Bowker was only the provider of that book’s bar code.
Over the years, much of my article and short story writing has been on pure speculation. I’d write something and then try to sell it. Early on, my work was rejected a lot, but accepted and paid for just enough to keep me plowing onward while learning and honing the craft. That led to working on assignment for several magazines at much better pay and without the marketing hassle.
If I had it to do over, I think I’d have a lot more confidence in myself and would be more aggressive.
Writing has changed in many ways since I began decades ago. I once had to research laboriously through libraries, write on a typewriter, and take photos on several kinds of expensive film with a whole heavy bag full of gear, never knowing what exactly I had until the transparencies came back from the lab. It’s so much easier now to research, write, edit, and correspond on a computer, and my digital Canon camera is amazing.
The advent of the Net, of course, has changed the whole business profoundly. Back in the day, editors filtered submissions, only buying and publishing those books they figured would earn their way. Now millions of books get published on Amazon, and it’s easy for your work to get buried in that constant avalanche. A whole generation of readers expect to get Kindle books dirt cheap or even free. Many out there are lost in Smartphoneland and don’t read books at all.
I sold my first three novels to Medallion Press under traditional advance/royalty contracts. They treated me well, but lack of distribution became an issue, so I finally asked for all rights back, added a fourth novel to the series, and self-published as Proud Eagle Publishing, which comprises me, my best friend, editor, incisive critic, and life companion, Naomi (who is also part Cherokee) and our cat, McKenzie. I write and edit, rewrite, create my own covers, put everything up on Amazon myself, promote myself, and sell through a number of indy stores I’ve set up. The six novels have sold more than 150,000 copies to date in print and Kindle, so people seem to like them.
As long as they do, I’ll keep on writing.
Sherri: Phil, it’s been a pleasure having you at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed our interview you can learn more about Phil from his links below, order his books or come out to our Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm and meet him there. Remember, books make great holiday gifts, and they can even help you survive them. We hope to see you there.
Do you love a little mystery? In honor of Agatha Christie these mystery authors have submitted their books as part of this awesome giveaway. Just click on the link and follow us to for a chance to win! One reader will win 30+ books, a $350 value.
Natalie Singletary is a local author from eastern North Carolina. Aside from writing, she also enjoys multiple other art forms, including stitch work, mixed media, and making handmade and printed journals. She has a love for dance and theatre, always looking for a reason to perform with the silent jukebox in her head. She is published in Down in the Dirt magazine and Scarlet Leaf Review as well as several self-published books in both print and eBook. Natalie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University.
Sherri: Welcome Natalie to my virtual café. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll open a coffee shop on the river where we can sip drinks and talk about books and writing, but until then, I can only dream. As a kid my friend and I played a game while walking down country roads, she’d say something that made me think of a song and I’d start singing and then I’d say something, and she’d start singing. We sang everywhere we went. We even put on shows for our neighbors. You mentioned in your bio the jukebox in your head, do you have a soundtrack for your life? How about for your books?
Natalie: Thank you for having me, and I hope that I can help you in some way move closer to your dream of owning your coffee shop. Its funny that you mention a soundtrack of my life. I actually used to write down my soundtrack every couple of months. Now I have access to streaming services to make playlists. I prefer independent artists and music and have recently been caught up in a band called Nightshift.
I do have a playlist for the Diamond Trilogy posted on my Spotify. I believe there’s a link to it on my website. The book itself started out as a jukebox musical and I replaced the songs with poetry and small blurbs. The chapter titles in the book are actually the titles of the original jukebox songs.
Sherri: Do you make a living with your art? I am always envious of anyone who can do something they love and support themselves. I’m still hopeful that my writing will be part of my retirement plan.
Natalie: I currently do not make a living on my art, but it is a goal within the next 6 months to be a full time author and business owner.
Sherri: I was looking at your website and I saw your essay on vulnerability. Sharing your truth has to be one of the most difficult things you will have to do other than survive. When I see someone like you stand up and take charge of their lives after dealing with trauma, I am inspired. Your daily courage to face each day gives hope to others who are struggling with similar stories. Is the theme of your work about your survival and hope?
Natalie: It is. Even The Diamond Trilogy was a coping mechanism, as well as Dirty Laundry. I wanted to get rid of The Diamond Trilogy, burn the physical copies and delete the typed version, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I didn’t know why. Then, within two weeks, five people in my circle(s) passed away. The Trilogy hits on a good number of hard subjects, including suicide and overdoses, and I knew that it could be a segway to help others to find help.
Sherri: As chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group, one of the things I tell new members is that sharing our work is like standing in the Walmart parking lot naked, yelling “Look at me!” It’s not easy to share our work with others. Especially as a self-published author we have to promote ourselves. What is the most difficult thing for you about self-promotion?
Natalie: Talking about myself, lol. Thankfully, my sister loves talking about me and that helps. She’s my biggest cheerleader, for sure. I’ve been working on getting better with letting people and socials know that I do have art out there and that it is available to be purchased.
Sherri: Your covers are interesting and unique; do you create your own covers? I do my own covers and often have to rethink my ideas to match my genres. Do you have any suggestions for creating eye- catching covers?
Natalie: I appreciate you. I did create them, though Remnants is the first one I drew by hand and put on a cover. The others I actually used Canva.com for most of my covers, outside of The Diamond Trilogy. A good friend of mine took a photo for the Trilogy in my old apartment.
Canva.com is a free service that has plenty of resources to create great backgrounds, invites, and covers. I came across it during my time at Full Sail and I absolutely love it! I would definitely recommend it! they have templates or you can start from scratch, and while they do have elements that you can pay for, there is plenty to use that is free.
Sherri: What was the hardest thing you faced when you first published your books? What would you tell a new writer preparing to publish for the first time?
Natalie: I initially started with a vanity press, and quickly discovered that I didn’t go about it the correct way and ended up canceling my contract. Vanity presses aren’t evil by any means. Many of them are a great investment, as they offer a good number of services that take a lot off of the authors’ plates, including editing and advertising. For myself, I wasn’t the best with my finances at the time, and decided to go about it solo. It was a lot more work, but I didn’t mind, as I did like having control over the editing and the story.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
Natalie: I’m currently working on my first novel, Gemini, the first in a three book series. It is a fantasy about two sisters who were cursed by their parents to be slaves to the sun and the moon. I also just finished up a writing Inktober, a new dual poetry/journal that will be available at the beginning of 2023.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview, you can meet Natalie at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20 th at our upcoming Book Festival.
Natalie: Thank you so much for having me, Ms. Sherri!
The Diamond Trilogy – https://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Trilogy-Dramatic- Mini/dp/B0B3JD37DT/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3STJGKOLGZXT2&keywords=Natalie+Singletar y&qid=1667752443&sprefix=natalie+singletary%2Caps%2C156&sr=8-3
Join Us Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm at the New Bern Farmers Market
Thanks to the efforts of author Sarah Maury Swan, she has brought together an eclectic group of authors and poets for a one-day only sale at the New Bern Farmers Market, 421 South Front Street, New Bern, NC. Sarah was featured on my Creekside Cafe author interviews.
I met Sarah many years ago at a Pamlico Writers’ Conference and later we attended a Carteret Writers’ Meeting together. Sarah is a vibrant woman with so much passion for life and writing that just being around her is inspiring. While many people would make excuses not to do things, Sarah looks for ways to get them accomplished. If she doesn’t know how, she calls on her friends and she has a lot of them which is evident by the number of people who have signed up for this event.
Bill, or W. C. Furney is one of Sarah’s posse, he might even be the sheriff of this motley crew. It is thanks to his efforts that we have the poster with all of our covers. I have used his work to make a few of my own, thanks Bill for helping to promote this event. I am looking forward to a drink with Bill and a chance to pick his brain.
The list of authors attending the Sunday Author Event is astounding. We have authors who are award winning like Sarah and Eileen Lettick, Leslie Tall Manning and Michelle Garren Flye, we have professors, researchers, therapists, poets, leaders in the local arts, and more. Whether you are looking for non-fiction, poetry or genre fiction, something for yourself, your spouse, grandma or your children, we have something for everyone. Come check out our books and get a signed copy for the holidays. I will even have gift wrapping available.
If you are unable to attend the New Bern Farmers Market Authors’ Event, you can still connect with these authors and buy their books through these links.
Welcome Back Michelle Garren-Flye, author, poet and owner of The Next Chapter Books and Art Store.
Bio: Michelle Garren-Flye is the owner of The Next Chapter Books & Art, editor of The Next Chapter Literary Magazine, a multi-published author of romance, children’s books and poetry. In 2021 she was named the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. Her recent poetry projects include Learning Curve (December 2023), Hypercreativity: Poems, and 100 Warm Days of Haiku, all part of her Poetry Diaries series. Michelle’s other works include UnSong, Far and wee, and HourGlass, an adult comic book based on her poetry.
Sherri: Welcome back to Creekside Café, Michelle. Michelle is the owner of The Next Chapter Books & Art store in New Bern, North Carolina where I have my books for sale. She is also the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, where, as the Chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group I was able to see her growth and her competition.
It’s good to have you back. You have accomplished so much since we last spoke, your poetry project and literary magazine, what else have you been up to?
Michelle: Hi Sherri, and thank you so much for having me here. I love any chance to talk about poetry and my store. I’ve mainly been working on poetry projects, expanding the reach of the bookstore and the literary magazine. As far as poetry goes, I’ve now published five books, four of which are illustrated, and a graphic novel based on my poetry. I’m having fun learning and experimenting with different forms of poetry, too. My next project, which should be out later this month, is called Learning Curve, and it’s 50 illustrated villanelles, which was a totally new form for me when I started.
Sherri: Because you have so many projects going on I’m going to ask this question in three parts. What are your plans for the store, your writing and the magazine?
Michelle: Well, the store is of course my main focus. I want the store to be a sort of hub for the literary arts community in Eastern North Carolina. I also welcome other arts like visual and musical. The literary magazine is sort of a way for me to reach out and show people visiting our area what a wonderful area this is artistically. That’s why I want to include all types of art in it from photography and paintings to poetry, essays and short stories. As for my writing, I plan to continue writing poetry and experimenting with different forms. So far I’ve learned a lot about haiku (in 100 Warm Days of Haiku), sonnets (in Far & wee) and villanelles (in Learning Curve). I want to continue challenging myself.
Sherri: You are a seasoned author with several published books and one of the hardest things about being a self-published author is marketing, what are your top three things for getting the word out about your books?
Michelle: The best thing you can do is be available for people to meet. So my store, mainly, for me. I’m really excited about the Authors’ Sunday Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers’ Market on November 20, too. I’m seldom able to participate in festivals like this one because they’re always on Saturdays and I’m at the store. Other than that, I’d say social media, particularly Instagram. But you’ve got to be willing to push these boundaries, too. Record a short reading or otherwise talk to potential readers online. I think TikTok is going to become really important, and I haven’t quite gotten brave enough to try that one. And third, update your blog regularly. Which you are definitely better at than I am!
Sherri: Of all the endeavors you’ve attempted, what was the hardest or most difficult to accomplish? What is the one you are most passionate about?
Michelle: This is a tough one. I think it’s my bookstore for both of those. I want it to be a successful business that will support itself and me, and that’s a tough ask of a bookstore. But I am passionate about preserving it. That bookstore has become a part of me, and as uncertain as this world is, I’m going to do my best to make sure it continues.
Sherri: As a mother, business owner, author and your work with the community, how do you juggle everything? What is your one self-care must have that helps you keep your sanity? (I know, you’re a writer, sanity is not guaranteed.)
Michelle: Sanity most definitely is NOT guaranteed. The one thing I decided about a year and a half ago was that as important as the store is for me, I would put my children first. Their schedules, their needs, their well-being has to come first. So I keep what I call “mom hours”. I keep fairly regular hours (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to allow for picking my daughter up from school during the week, 10-3 on Saturdays), but it’s not always the hours people want me to be open. I hear a lot of “You’re never open”, but I can’t help that. Until the store reaches a certain point, it will not pay me to hire anyone else, and if I’m worrying about my kids, I can’t put my whole heart into running the store. So, to take care of myself and them, I have to keep my priorities straight. I also take a lot of warm baths.
Sherri: Other than your children, what has been your proudest moment? You’ve accomplished so much in a short amount of time. Choosing one thing might be difficult.
Michelle: Wow, that is hard. I am proud of being the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, of course. I am proud of all my books and my store. Every literary magazine I put out seems to be better than the last. I think, though, that what I am most proud of is that I continue to learn what I don’t know. In poetry, publishing, bookselling, running a business, even being a mom, there’s so much I don’t know yet, but I’m still capable and willing to learn.
Sherri: What would you tell a young or not so young writer who is thinking about giving up?
Michelle: Don’t bother. If you’re a real writer, you’re not going to be able to give up writing. It may never pay your bills, and you’ll probably always have to have a “real” job, but writing isn’t something a writer can give up.
Sherri: Thank you Michelle for being with us again. It is always a pleasure visiting with you. If y’all enjoyed our interview, you can find Michelle at The Next Chapter Books & Art at 320 South Front Street in New Bern. She is also one of the featured authors at the Book Festival Sunday, November 20th, at the New Bern Farmers Market 421 South Front Street, New Bern, NC.
Bio: Sev Tok emigrated to the US from Istanbul, Turkey. Sev moved to the Inner Banks of North Carolina in 2017 and had a life-altering experience the second night she arrived. She came face-to-face with Greys who burned two red X marks into her back. This was not her first contact, join us for the rest of her amazing story.
Sherri: Welcome to Creekside Café, Sev, it’s incredible to have you here. Your experience must have been terrifying.
Sev: Thank you for inviting me to Creekside Cafe. I am grateful for your interest and for the opportunity to share my true story. I am a life-long Experiencer – my first conscious memories of ET Contact are from age 10. I hid my ET Contact for decades out of fear – fear from admitting it and fear from others’ responses. The ET Contact that happened the second night I moved to Arapahoe, NC, sent me into an existential crisis and it was the beginning of my healing and acceptance.
Sherri: I watch the UFO stories and documentaries on television and Unexplained History, and a few of the science fiction stories but I’ve never met anyone who has had an actual alien experience. What does Hollywood and these documentaries get right and what do they get wrong?
Sev: The biggest issue with the media right now is the fear factor. Hollywood and other media platforms play up the fear that our society thrives on. We are a fearful society, proven by the themes of movies, books, etc that are bestsellers. Initially, Experiencers are often fearful of their ET Contact, but usually there is a shift from fear to love. As the Experiencer processes their event(s), it becomes clear their perspective is what colors the experience as bad. Once, the perspective changes, the Experiencer sees how the ET Contact is beneficial, and supportive of their desire to consciously and spiritually expand. ET Contact does not happen by accident. There is good reason someone saw a craft or a non-human being – it is to benefit them.
Sherri: What do you think they want from us? What are they trying to do? Why are they here?
Sev: ET Contact is part of the consciousness awakening happening on our planet right now. Through ET Contact, we learn about telepathy, astral travel, time/space portals, our multidimensional nature, and Oneness. All of this information and experience changes the individual and helps them recognize their own multidimensionality and purpose for being. Living consciously as a multidimensional being allows you to incorporate inter-dimensional knowledge which expands awareness and helps being Human a little easier.
Sherri: What do you hope people will get from your book?
Sev: We are not alone in the cosmos. There are beautiful, kind, intelligent Beings who are coming to help us. And if you are an Experiencer, please don’t hide anymore. You don’t have to write a book or do global interviews or be on TV, but it is important to “come out” to yourself. Hiding your ET Contact only hurts you. Personal ET Contact is an important part of a person’s reality. When we hide from ourselves, we are not living authentically. And we all know that living authentically is how we find peace, activate our purpose for being, manifest quicker, and benefit Earth and all on it.
Sherri: Do you believe Aliens walk among us passing as human? Are they our ancestors or possibly what we will become?
Sev: I do believe that we all have ET DNA. After all, we have stardust in us. We are part of the galactic world. So, essentially, we are all Hybrids. Some of us have more ET DNA activated than others. I have met many people who claim they have seen Hybrids – humans with some physical characteristics that are non-human – on Earth. I have seen Hybrid babies in strange settings, but I cannot say I have personally seen a Hybrid walking amongst us. I do think Beings from other planets and dimensions are part of our ancestral story.
Sherri: How much of modern technology and even our own DNA has Extraterrestrials contributed to?
Sev: Much. And it is not being publicly acknowledged. I have met Experiencers who have been shown advanced technology. It is not crazy to think our governments, aerospace, and huge corporations have not benefitted from this advanced technology. We have all benefitted from it. If you watch Star Trek, you will understand!
Sherri: Do you think there will ever be a time when the majority will accept the existence of Extraterrestrials?
Sev: Yes, without a doubt.
Sherri: Are you working on anything new? What is your latest project?
Sev: I am in talks with a Producer for a Netflix TV Show, I have been asked to be a Guest Speaker at the McMenamins UFO Festival in Oregon in May 2023, I will be speaking at the MUFON International Symposium 2023 (I was the Master of Ceremonies 2022), and I am speaking at Havelock ComiCon on Nov 19 2022. There are other projects, conferences in the works. I am always giving global interviews and I have begun my second book.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sev Tok you can meet her in person at the New Bern Farmers Market, Book Festival, Sunday, November 20th, 1 to 4 pm.
Sev Tok is a Speaker, Author, Transformational Coach, Ufologist, and Experiencer Advocate.
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, she emigrated to the US as a little girl, not knowing English as she started first grade, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Loyola University.
Sev conducts Soul Sessions, with clients around the world. The Sessions offer inter-dimensional guidance to activate one’s life-purpose, uncover inhibitive mental beliefs, illuminate best career paths, and understand how one’s personal frequency designs reality. The Sessions describe the quality of one’s quantum matrix, or aura, and how to re-design one’s aura optimizing manifestation to create peace, success, and harmony. Please visit www.planetsev.com for more information.
Sev moved to the Inner Banks of North Carolina in 2017 and had a life-altering experience the second night she arrived. She came face-to-face with Greys who burned two red X marks into her back. Sev’s ET Contact started at age 10, but she kept it hidden until she moved to the Inner Banks. She “came out” in 2018 as a Speaker at AlienCon and through her book, You Have The Right To Talk To Aliens, endorsed by renowned UFO Researcher, Kathleen Marden. She is currently working on her next book.
Sev is featured in the Canadian TV docuseries, Encounter: UFO – Physical Contact. Currently, Sev is in talks with producers of a Netflix series. She has been interviewed around the world, and speaks at international conferences. She was the Master of Ceremonies at MUFON’s International Symposium 2022 and is MUFON’s (Mutual UFO Network) Assistant State Director for North Carolina, a Field Investigator, and on the Executive Committee of the Experiencer Resource Team. North Carolina is usually in the Top 10 most UFO sightings in the country.
A planet and star system is named after her in the STAR WARS Galactic System! You can find the Sev Tok Star System and Planet in Wookieepedia. You may have heard her planet mentioned in the newest episode of Star Wars: Andor!
Sev lives in the town of Oriental, on the Inner Banks of North Carolina and is available for speaking engagements, TV/Documentaries, and consulting. To contact Sev: planetsev.com
Bio: I retired from Craven Community College in 2009 and am a newbie to the author scene. Plan to bring two items to the event: my dad’s memoirs and my doctoral thesis of 1982, just published.
Sherri: Welcome to my virtual café. If I ever win the lottery or become the heir of some unknown wealthy relative, I plan to open a coffee shop by the river but until then, I go down the wildlife ramp and dream. Have you always loved books?
Murdina: Hi Sherri, so happy to meet you. Have enjoyed the interviews you have done with the “lucky 35” of this November event as well as the interview KB did of you. You’ve said “do what scares you.” Love that. My own mantra, if I were to verbalize it, would be: every wrong road is a good road if it leads you home…
Yes, I have always loved books though, oddly, I cannot remember anyone actually reading to me in my childhood. At about ten I fell in love with horses which led to all those books with titles like The Black Stallion, The Black Stallion Returns, The Son of Black Stallion, The Island Stallion etcetera. Next for me came Ivanhoe, then The Count of Monte Cristo and ultimately, the discovery of my two great adolescent heroes, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens. Remember the sorrow I felt when I realized I had read all of Austin’s novels and, at fourteen, the tears running down my cheeks as I read “it is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better place I go to than I have ever known…”
Sherri: How did you come to publish your father’s story? What is the story behind the story, Blackhouse God’s House?
Murdina: My father was a complete mystery to me. When he came home from work he would talk at dinner about biblical characters, David a favorite of his and historical figures like Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox, current folks like Roosevelt and Churchill. But he spoke very little about himself or his past in Scotland.
So, when my sister Christine died in 2011, I inherited his papers. My brother-in-law Jim mailed me 2 big “If it fits it ships” boxes containing about 2,000 manuscript pages. Some of them I called sermons for himself. Others were commentaries on famous people he just wanted to write about, like John Barrymore. But the bulk of his writings were about the people of his village, Skigersta, in the Isle of Lewis.
I found the papers fascinating on two levels: they revealed a father I never knew and they gave me glimpses into a world that no longer exists. The world he left behind I found both exotic and familiar and discovered where my father had been living for 60 years since his immigration in 1924. He was right there in his own blackhouse at 7 Skigersta, surrounded by his mother, brother and three doting sisters, listening to the marvelous tales spun by his brilliant neighbor, the bard, enjoying the warmth of the peat fire, the babble of gaelic on every lip, the feeling of utter contentment – and the sounds of laughter.
Sherri: Your father grew up in rural Scotland? Have you ever visited? Do you still have family there?
Murdina: My father, born in 1903, grew up in a village of 300 souls in the northern part of Lewis, the youngest of five children. He seems to have been a very observant child and one from an early age who was able to appreciate the rugged beauty of his surroundings. He also appreciated the various types of human life on display in his village as seen in one of his titles: “Of worthies, wags, wits and oddballs.”
The blackhouse that Angus lived in was made of stone and topped with a thatched roof (museum pieces now). There was a peat fire in the center, sleeping quarters at one end and 3 cows at the other. He went to school until age 14 and was happy to depart the scene after that despite a visit from the minister pleading for him to go on. Tellingly, he describes his school days under the heading “My Own Dark Ages”. Let’s see, his education began when at 5 his teacher threw him out a window. But I digress…
Like many in the village, his father was a fisherman-farmer and Angus would no doubt have followed in his footsteps had not life intervened in the form of World War I and post war unemployment, poverty and civil unrest. The British government found a way to relieve the pressures of this situation by offering free passage to Canada in exchange for two years of labor on Canadian farms. Dad was a part of this diaspora in 1924. The next year he found his way to New York City to work for a Skigersta neighbor who had made good in the New World, D. B. Mackay, shoetree manufacturer. His adopted daughter, Effie, was his secretary and chauffeur. She and Angus were married in 1936 with brother Norman coming along in 1942, me in 1944 and sister Christine in 1947.
It has been one of the unexpected pleasures of my life to have visited Lewis 3 times and to have discovered first and second cousins, to have met both mother’s folks and dad’s folks, people from different parts of the island and from different denominations. What lovely people – and so welcoming to me and my friends.
In 2012 when I travelled with dad’s ashes, my first cousin John Murdo, his wife Mary, 2nd cousin Isabel and brother Donald came from one side of the island to the other to meet me in a howling rainstorm! Boy, was I so grateful we had not had to navigate from our B&B to them! We swapped photos and stories. I went to church in Stornoway with my cousin Alex’s widow, Catherine. She loaned me a “bonnet”, as you can’t go without one.
At the Ness Historical Society, I met dad’s sister Margaret’s family where Catherine’s daughter, Margaret Anne, put her newborn son in my arms for a photo. What a whirlwind. Loved the group photo. [Shakespearean aside: I said to my friend Catherine, I didn’t even have time to comb my hair before they shot the photo. She replied: “It wouldn’t have made any difference…” Comforted by the fact all my relatives had uncontrollable curly hair too!]
Sherri: What kind of research and how long did it take you to write this book?
Murdina: My dad’s life story was set against a backdrop of very big events on the island of Lewis, events such as World War I, the purchase of the island by Lord Leverhulme, the sinking of the Iolair, mass emigration in the 1920s and denominational discord. In addition, about 8% of the texts were written in gaelic without an English translation, so I needed a translator. Fortunately, I found one in Annie MacSween of the Ness Historical Society.
With respect to World War I, I knew very little, but what was important here was how the war impacted the island. It is said that the island suffered the greatest proportional loss of life during the war of any district in Scotland. Angus has several fascinating stories here. He tells of the mailman delivering the news of the war on a quiet Sunday bicycling through Skigersta while blowing a whistle(!) to draw attention and another tale of his dad and six others dodging a German sub while out fishing. Grief is everywhere of course -both individual and communal – as islanders dealt with the loss of loved ones.
Who knew you could “buy” an island? The soap magnate, Lord Leverhulme [Bodach an t-Siabainn (the soap man)] did just that in 1918 and had great plans for Lewis’ development. Societal unrest toppled his plans and he left in deep disappointment. So, poverty and unemployment did not find their savior here.
The sinking of the Iolair is a story I knew from my parents. Mom wanted one of her three children to write a book about it. We didn’t. John MacLeod did [When I Heard the Bell]. On January 1, 1919 the Iolair struck the ‘Beasts of Holm’ in Stornoway harbor and 205 Lewisman returning from war in France perished. The Stornoway Gazette led with the story the next day with “Grief Unutterable” – as perfect a designation for the reality in this close bound community as words could come. Dad translated the first gaelic version of the tragedy, portions of which are included in the book.
Denominational discord is what most closely affected my father’s life growing up in the first part of the 20th century. Most of Skigersta belonged to an offshoot of the Free Church of Scotland called The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The split had taken place in 1898 and divided the 23 villages that constituted the province of Ness in northern Lewis. Almost all of Ness rejected the new group, using both shunning and verbal hostility as their main expressions of disapproval. This is the backdrop of a number of my father’s stories: students slinging stones and insults, teachers being abusive physically with a strap as well as verbally, doctors refusing to visit sick and dying patients. A dismal tale but one that is behind the island now.
My father clearly wanted, in his sketches, to honor the courage and faith of his parents and neighbors in sticking to their principles, whatever the cost. And although I am not of my father’s denomination, I too, in promoting Blackhouse God’s House celebrate and honor those people long dead now – for their faith, their love and their communal solidarity in hard times.
In answer to your question, Sherri, about how long it took to write the book, the answer is – way too long! I was not under any deadline, so I rather poked around with it for 8 years. Not sorry, really. In retirement I was enjoying the luxury of leisure – only a word in the dictionary for most of my life.
My translator and I settled into a snail’s pace. I’d send her a list of 15 gaelic words and phrases. Two months later she would send back answers for 7 or 8 of them, which I would incorporate into the text and then construct a new list and send it on. After a couple of years, I grew tired of no answers in some cases and resorted to filling in the gaps myself with my gaelic dictionary and Google.
I took a year and a half of baby gaelic at Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye, with Zoom classes every Monday morning at 5:00 am. (What was I thinking? What was I trying to prove? At my age?) Didn’t take. Did ok with the written word but I would need way more than an hour a week of hearing the language to get any good at speaking it. So, for purists out there, whatever is a mangled gaelic translation, send me the corrections!
Sherri: Your second book is from your master’s thesis? It is the religious history of London Calvinistic Baptists, why is understanding our religious history important to Christians today?
Murdina: Sherri, thank you for asking! The book [London Calvinistic Baptists 1689-1727: Tensions within a Dissenting Community under Toleration] is my Oxford doctoral thesis, submitted in 1982. It contains a Forward by Larry Kreitzer of Regent’s Park College, Oxford and a Reflection by the Author by me. Dr. Kreitzer has kindly updated the footnotes – all 400 pages of them, bless him!
Of course, it is a delight for me to see the thesis in print. It still has historical value because: (1) it is based on original manuscript sources (2) it tells a story that has not been told before based on such sources (3) it contributes to the narrative of English Baptist history and (4) it contributes to the history of the Christian church.
By the time William and Mary brought the Glorious Revolution to England in 1689, Baptists and other Dissenters from the Church of England could look forward to relief from persecution. The worst, dark days were over, days when pastors were torn down from their pulpits and thrown into prison where they died of disease and neglect. Under William, being a Dissenter was no longer illegal. In their new lives they would be second class citizens, to be sure, deprived of opportunities for public service and education, but no longer subject to prison for their faith.
The thesis traces the fortunes of one group of Baptists, Calvinistic Baptists, in the capital in the period 1689-1727. It asks, and seeks to answer, why they did not organize themselves in a way that was traditional for them since the early 17th century, i.e. through associations.
Attempts to organize in that way were made in London but were sabotaged by internal tensions, first over the issue of hymn singing and later over the issue of open or close communion. London ministers lined up on one side of these issues or the other and participated in a furious pamphlet war that sapped the life out of efforts to get them to cooperate in associational life. What the London Calvinistic Baptists ended up doing was to organize exactly as the Presbyterians and Congregationalists did, in ministerial fraternities, which led to a process I call the ‘ministerialization” of corporate life.
That, in a nutshell, is the thesis.
Sherri: What do you hope people will take away from your books? Why are these books important?
Murdina: For my dad’s memoirs, I hope the reader is able to celebrate, with my father, the variety of human personalities he has shared with us, personalities set in a particular time and place – Scotland, early 20th century. He certainly gives us a nice bunch of beloved oddballs, quirky people like the pastor who was afraid of chickens or the man who gave flour to his cow (it died) or the husband-and-wife team battling over how to pile the peat in front of their house. He gives us the devout, like pastor Duncan Macbeth, praying on his knees for the men at sea in a thunderstorm, wearing out his slippers, his own mother a magnet for ministers, his sister Annie washing the feet of the elderly who had walked 8 miles over the moor, barefoot, to communion.
He serves us up tales of his neighbor Norman Morrison who was brilliant in everything he did – sailor, poet, a leader of men, a charismatic personality and so much larger than the little island he lived in. Norman makes me think of the brilliantly colored fish who swim deep in the oceans, fish that have only recently been seen because now we have the technology to do so. Who sees them, to admire their beauty? Only God does.
Who sees the spiritual beauty of these people in this forgotten speck in the world, this little village, this little Lewis, this little piece of Scotland? My father “saw” them and they responded back by “seeing” him and giving him as an eternal reward his identity, his place, his contentment, his home.
Regarding my thesis, I would hope that those who have an interest in history – in English history, in Baptist history, in Calvinist history or in Christian church history – will find something of interest in the commonalities here amidst the particularities of 18th century London. For Baptists in 1689 their worst days were behind them, yet they fell to squabbling among themselves, both sides quoting from the same sacred book. What might they have accomplished working together?
Sherri: You are a historian, what would you love to explore historically, either for research or perhaps, you would love to time travel back to that time period?
Murdina: Well, I started a project in 2010 that brought me to the National Archives in Madrid. I was researching the life of Maria de Bohorquez, a woman who was burned at the stake in Sevilla in the 16th century. She was one of a cluster of Protestants, mostly priests and nuns, who met to explore the thinking of Martin Luther. She was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who did not reject her but allowed her to get a wonderful education. She knew Greek and Latin. All I knew of her is that when imprisoned, they sent a cadre of people to argue with her in her cell, and night after night, she argued back, quoting scripture. Quite impressive a defense, apparently. I was so much hoping to find transcripts of these conversations in the archives, but after 30 days I ran out of time and money and had to go home. Still would love to explore her life, among other things because I taught Spanish and the language, at least, would be one less hurdle.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
Murdina: I am working on a devotional book based on the writings of John Bunyan. My idea is to select twelve of his writings, one for each month, and to provide, for each day, a selection from that work, then some relevant scripture passages, and last, a commentary. Have started with Pilgrim’s Progress and the month of December.
My idea is not to write a scholarly work, for which I have no experience, but to write a devotional as I learn about the world of Bunyan scholarship. Only 350 years’ worth out there, I know, but I am having a ball with the literature so far.
Sherri: If someone wanted to write a memoir or biography for a family member or ancestor, where would you suggest they begin?
Murdina: Don’t think I can speak to that with any great expertise except to say that the best place to start is probably the staff at your local library, who can walk you through online sources, explaining the peculiarities of each.
In my case, since my father was from Ness, I started with the Ness Historical Society. Through this contact I met a kinswoman who has been working on ancestral ties in Lewis for 40 years, Ann Thomson. Here I found my gaelic translator. Consulted with Bill Lawson of Seallam in southern Harris and paid for him to do a family search. Did family research in libraries in Glasgow and Edinburgh in person, but they have online services. Explored ship passenger lists for dad’s name. Every road, even one that leads nowhere specific, has to be seen as part of the journey that will lead “home.”
Sherri: What is your advice for anyone who wishes to publish their first book?
Murdina: I asked a relative for advice and he gave me the name of his publisher. That did not work out. Second suggestion was a source in Stornoway that also did not work out. So just googled “Christian publishers” and got the name Christian Faith Publishing. On my third try, then, I found a publisher. Paid a fee for their editorial assistance and they worked with me for nine months. There were some frustrations along the way, but all in all I am happy with them. Particularly happy with the cover of Blackhouse God’s House.
Sherri, thank you so much for this opportunity to meet at your Creekside Café and to have the chance to talk about all this stuff! What a joy it will be to meet you in person as well as all the other authors on November 20.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Murdina MacDonald come meet her in person at the Author Sunday Book Festival, November 20th, 1 to 4 pm at the New Bern Farmers Market, 421 South Front Street, New Bern, NC.
My facebook page is under Murdina D. MacDonald and my Instagram username is: blackhouse_godshouse.
Jo Anna Dressler Kloster is a veteran elementary teacher, an author, a volunteer with the River Bend Community Organic Garden, and a Humane Policy Volunteer Leader with the Humane Society of the United States.
Her middle-grade novel, LILY UNLEASHED, is a coming-of-age story. It focuses on an underdog whose love inspires one girl to speak up for this puppy mill rescue and all the other dogs locked in puppy mill cages.
Ms. Kloster attends animal welfare events with her educational table and her book to inform others on how to end the puppy-mill-to-pet-store-pipeline.
Her message: Adopt don’t shop for puppies at pet stores. Wonderful dogs await you at your local shelters, rescues, and with reputable breeders.
Sherri: Welcome Jo Anna. It is so nice to have you visit my virtual café. As a dog owner, I know this book is a labor of love. Why don’t you share what inspired this book?
Jo Anna: My family had just adopted a small white puppy mill rescue dog. We had no idea what a puppy mill was. I started reading about them online and was appalled. During this time, Cagney started exhibiting behaviors I was reading that many puppy mill survivors have. So, during writer’s workshop, as I modeled the writing process for my students, I started writing about a topic I was working with every day: Cagney’s behaviors. All the while this tiny Maltese quickly became my shadow and my Velcro boy. He never left my side. And over time Cagney became my heart dog. I have never been so loved by another living creature. My husband is okay with this, too.
Well, the more I read about the inhumane treatment of dogs at puppy mills, being locked in cages 24/7, the more I fell in love with this little dog that endured such cruel treatment. Never being touched, never leaving his cage, never playing or walking on grass. His experience of living in such harsh conditions inspired me to write a book to teach kids why you don’t want to buy pet store puppies because it condemns their parents to lives locked in cages pumping out litter after litter.
Sherri: Your book is written for a younger audience, but it is a message that everyone needs to hear. Why did you choose to write a middle-grade story?
Jo Anna: Funny you should ask. My goal was to simply write a good story. And then I realized how much kids want to make a difference and feel they have the power to be the change they want to see in the world. I could not find a book that talked about the problem of pet store puppies and the inhumane treatment of puppy mills. So I decided to write one, and make it a middle-grade novel. Though, I’ve had as many adults read Lily Unleashed and felt they learned a lot. It certainly kept their attention. So I guess I achieved my goal.
Sherri: What can a fictional story do that preaching the truth cannot? Why is this the best medium to get your message out?
Jo Anna: That’s a great question. In this fictional story, I am able to flesh out the problem and a solution wrapped in characters that, hopefully, face challenges to overcome that the reader can identify with. This fictional story allows me to add more drama and problems that will grab the reader.
Sherri: What was the hardest thing you faced when publishing this story?
Jo Anna: I’d say the hardest things was not sounding too preachy. I had to step into the shoes of a twelve year old again. And it was actually fun. Getting lost in that world. But I had to ask myself all along this story…how would 12 year old Lily say this? Or how would Renzo handle that situation?
Sherri: Do you have plans to write another story? What are you working on now?
Jo Anna: I am thinking about writing a sequel – on another issue about animal welfare. Possibly the problem of people not spaying or neutering their pets and how that contributes to overcrowding at animal shelters. Or possibly the topic of factory farming and the treatment of pigs, chickens, and dairy cows and how they are treated.
Sherri: Jo Anna, thank you for writing this story and joining us at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed this interview and would like to get Jo Anna’s book and talk to her in person, you can find her at the Book Festival, Sunday, November 20th, 1 to 4 pm at the New Bern Farmers Market.
Bio: Veronica Krug, an active member of Carteret Writers, North Carolina Writer’s Network and Seascribes has lived and worked in Eastern NC for the past seven years. She has four self-published titles as well as a calendar showcasing her work as a sand artist on the beach of Emerald Isle. Originally from Akron, Ohio, Veronica taught Middle School art and reading for over 25 years and was a director of recreation for ten years before that.
Sherri: Welcome Veronica to my virtual café. My dream is to one day have a place where I can meet and greet authors, drink coffee or tea and be surrounded by books and the river. As chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group, I have had a lot of interaction with members of the Carteret Writers, we are sister groups I feel and support each other. I wish I could attend more events. Maybe when I retire. You are a retired Middle School teacher, are your books written for that age group?
Veronica: Two are for eighth graders and up; Good Beasts Bad Creatures, and The Siren and the Crow. Mainly because there are some scary parts in them. A bit of gore as well, but I know middle schoolers dig that kind of thing. They showcase North Carolina folklore and are educational without being pushy about it.
Sherri: You mentioned your calendar of your sand art, I look forward to seeing it at the book festival. How did you get into doing sand art? Do you photograph it? Are you also a photographer? What other art projects do you enjoy, and have you considered writing about them or using them for a calendar?
Veronica: Well! Being an artist, I saw a huge canvas of sand in front of me at low tide. A California artist, Andre Amador, inspired me and thought I’d try it. He uses a rake. When I tried that on our beach, it looked terrible. My husband had a PVC pipe he used for holding his fishing pole up. The end of it looked like a pencil, and bam…beach art. It’s really a Zen thing for me when I’m doing it. I never dreamed so many folks would like it so much. I incorporate my love of writing into my photos by inserting a quote; and no, I am not a professional photographer. I have been a watercolorist for over 40 years and mainly work on them when I take a break from writing.
Sherri: Tell us a little bit about your novels and the characters. This is a fantasy series based on North Carolina folklore. I love folklore and often enjoy reading young adult fiction.
Veronica: Both of my low fantasy novels include a group of four friends, Kayla, Jerry, Sarah, and Nick, who have a mystery to solve. The first, Good Beasts Bad Creatures, focuses on Kayla, Jerry, and Grimalkin; a panther who escapes a farm and is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro. The Beast of Bladenboro was a creature who terrorized the town in the 50s.
The second story, The Siren and the Crow, features Nick and a dog named Shep. They camp by the French Broad River in Asheville. Nick is kidnapped and his friends must solve a murder before he becomes the next victim. In the process, Nick discovers his heritage. The story is based on the siren, Tzelica, who pulls men to their deaths…but she is not the murderer.
Sherri: You are published through Lulu. I have seen their advertisements but I’m unfamiliar with the company. What was your publishing experience with them like?
Veronica: Good. I believe it’s the best way to publish for little money. It’s a print on demand company, but it only takes 10 days to receive your book after ordering. It’s a learning process at first, and they have switched book cover design to Canva. But, after some practice, Canva is really good. eBooks are pretty easy. They take any word document, but for paperbacks, you must save your word to a PDF. The only charge is to purchase a book at cost to make sure the layout and print is correct. I learned about it at Carteret Community College before Covid hit. I would imagine the class will return. It is really worth it.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you decide to publish your first novel?
Veronica: I’ve always loved writing, and had many articles published in magazine and won competitions. My favorite was an all-expense paid trip to New York City for me and a friend. The contest was to write about a special friend. Man, did we have fun. We even had a driver whenever we wanted. We just called down for him. I didn’t get serious about writing a novel until about 15 years ago when my students told me I should write about Lorenzo DiMedici. His story really intrigued my middle schoolers. Back then, there wasn’t much about him, and I had to go to the Library of Congress to get any real information. When Assassin’s Creed came out, my students were so excited, because they knew all about the DiMedicis. I wrote A Magnificent Man first as a screenplay and actually won an award for it, but nothing happened, so I wrote the book. I finished it in 2017 and had retired by then. So much about him is out now.
Sherri: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Veronica: I loved Stephen King so much so that when I was in college, the professors compared my style to his. I also love Erma Bombeck’s humor. I used to go straight to her columns in the paper. She was relatable. Now, I enjoy Fredrick Backman books; my favorite being A Man Called Ovi, which will soon be a movie called, A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. He has humor mixed with the challenges of getting older. His work inspired me to write my newest title, Toasted Marshmallows. It’s about a summer camp for senior citizens, and a bear named Rizzy. I’m in the process of editing and looking for an agent. This is totally adult humor. A break from my YA tomes.
Sherri: What advice would you give to beginning authors?
Veronica: Keep at it. It helps to join a group suffering the same as you. LOL Also it helps to remember it takes time. Expect to make several edits of your stories before you can put them out there. Listen to helpful critiques. Thank you, Sherri, for talking to me. I enjoyed answering your great questions.
Sherri: If you enjoyed my interview with Veronica Krug, you can meet her in person at the New Bern Farmers Market Author Sunday Book Festival, November 20th, from 1 to 4 pm. Books make excellent holiday gifts or escapes from the chaos of the season.
If you are unable to buy Veronica’s books at the festival you can purchase them online, the links are below.
The novels I am featuring at the fair are Good Beasts Bad Creatures and The Siren and the Crow. Both Young Adult mystery thrillers take place in North Carolina based on folklore in the state. In Good Beasts, it is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro; and in The Siren and the Crow, the story is based on Tzelica, the siren of the French Broad River in Western NC. Both novels feature the same group of friends, their efforts to survive these creatures, and solve a murder mystery at the same time. The paperbacks are a special festival price of $15. each.
You can purchase Veronica’s books on Lulu.com and through her website, www.krugbooks.com.
“The pacing in Veronica’s stories are impressive, and it keeps them moving forward at a strong clip.” -International Screenwriters Association
Bio: Cheryl is the founder of Mane Source Counseling and one of the founders of Horses and HEALTH Inc. Before getting her Master’s in counseling, Cheryl was a professional horse trainer, instructor, and intercollegiate coach for 20+ years.
During her Master’s studies at Bridgewater State University, Cheryl started working with a mentor in Equine Assisted Counseling. After moving to North Carolina, she obtained her PhD from East Carolina University and started Mane Source.
Sherri: Welcome Dr. Cheryl Meola, I needed to use you as a resource when I was writing my book Willow’s Retreat. In it, my main character Dr. Willow Rider-Harrell starts a therapeutic ranch with horses as well as other animals trained for therapy. I was surprised when I was doing my research just how many animals make great therapy pets. Is Mane Source Counseling mental health, physical therapy or do you do both?
Dr. Cheryl: Hi, Sherri! I would have loved to collaborate on that, it is my favorite subject!! Animals do so much more than make great therapy pets, they naturally help us connect more with our true selves and allow us a safe space for healing to occur. We do mental health, wellness, and coaching. We are moving toward wellness and coaching as it is a more strengths-based approach to growth, rather than everyone coming in needing to have a diagnosis to obtain services.
Sherri: What is the main focus of your counseling, or does it vary? Do you work with children, vets or those suffering from disabilities?
Dr. Cheryl: In my business, Mane Source Counseling and Coaching, we work with all ages but primarily adults to help them access ways to grow through challenges. Our services are for all levels of wellness, with the except of those who are very acute and need 24/hour care. We also run a non-profit, Horses and HEALTH (Healing Equals Active Learning Through Horses) that specifically offers services to Veterans and their families/caregivers at no cost to them.
Sherri: What is it about working with and just being around animals, especially horses that has a healing effect on most people?
Dr. Cheryl: Horses (or equines as I like to say, since we also have a mini Donkey) have natural aspects that cause them to be very therapeutic for us to spend time around. They are a partnership-based relational prey animal who helps assess our strengths and areas for growth very quickly, to make sure we are a good fit for the herd. They provide us with so much feedback on the way we show up in the world and how our presence affects others. They also give us the chance to mutually grow, as our partnership with them has benefits to both parties.
Sherri: I know I can speak for my many pet owners, especially dog owners. I come home from work tired and ill and my Hazel, a blue pit that is small for her breed, she’s only about 50 pounds, greets me and forces me to love her. After a few minutes with her, I feel better. Does this work with all animals?
Dr. Cheryl: I would guess, yes, however, that’s outside of my scope of knowledge. Animals do not have the same societal standards to live up to and therefore love us/care to be around us for who we are, not what we are, how much we weigh, or what color our skin appears to them. They do, however, discern our moods and intentions, which helps us stay attuned to our inner self more than being around most people.
Sherri: Tell us a little about your book. Who did you write it for?
Dr. Cheryl: So this book, Anxiety: the Joule Thief started as a collection of activities I often incorporated into the therapeutic process with clients. Many of my clients, from high school students to college, to working professionals (nurses, teachers, surgeons, accountants) all suffer from some form of discomfort caused by stress. Some may have a diagnosable Anxiety Disorder, and others are overwhelmed in other ways. As the activities flowed onto the paper, I realized there was an order and connection between what we were doing, and that these could help more people than just the clients who showed up to the office.
Sherri: What answers can someone get from reading your book?
Dr. Cheryl: Great question. The first thing we try to accomplish in this book is to figure out what in your life is SUCKING your energy, and where do you WISH that energy was going. We look at values, obligations, being mindfully present, and ways to understand our energy input and output in the world.
Sherri: What does a person need to do to be one of your clients/patients?
Dr. Cheryl: Most people find us through our website, manesourcecounseling.com. We now have over 10 clinicians with multiple specialties working at the practice in 3 locations, although we only have equine assisted therapy currently in our Ayden location. Just shoot us an email and we respond to everyone who has a question!
Sherri: Do you have another writing project in the works? What are you working on now?
Dr. Cheryl: I have a book in production with Elsevier Publishing called Integrating Horses into Healing, which is a comprehensive guide to ethically incorporating equines into therapy and coaching practices. I’m very excited for the final product to be out in 2023!!
Sherri: If you enjoyed my interview with Dr. Cheryl Meola, come meet her and the other authors at The New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th, from 1 to 4 pm or check out Dr. Cheryl’s information below.
Thank you so much for your time, Sherri, it was lovely to touch base with another author and I look forward to meeting you in person November 20th!!!
Cheryl is the founder of Mane Source Counseling and one of the founders of Horses and HEALTH Inc. Her love of being around horses started very young when she used to catch rides on ponies at her aunt’s farm. At 10, her grandmother Elsie bought her a horse of her own. She worked off her horse’s expenses by cleaning stalls, feeding horses, and teaching lessons all the way through college. Before getting her Master’s in counseling, Cheryl was a professional horse trainer, instructor, and intercollegiate coach for 20+ years.
During her Master’s studies at Bridgewater State University, Cheryl started working with a mentor in Equine Assisted Counseling. After moving to North Carolina, she obtained her PhD from East Carolina University and started Mane Source.
She also facilitates Wellness Coaching for Stress Reduction, Supervision and Consultation for counselors, and continuing education workshops at the farm.
Cheryl is the author of Anxiety~The Joule Thief: How to Take Back Control of Your Life, a guide to prioritizing our energy use and moving from fear-based stress responses to empowered responses. Check out her website for free resources on managing your energy and stress reduction.
A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.
Sherri: Welcome to my virtual café, Bill. You have had an interesting life so far, from a tank commander to reporter to a Public Health Communicator, and now a novelist. I won’t ask you about the latest health issue, I know it can be a pretty divisive discussion and we’re not in that business now. As writers, we hope to bring people together through our stories. What is it about a story that can reach a person when all the facts cannot?
Bill: Wow! That’s a three-beer conversation. We could spend hours kicking that idea around and still leave many rocks unturned. (How’s that for mixing metaphors?) My stab at a short answer is this; facts can be blunt objects with which people hit each other over the head. The facts themselves may be impersonal, but the feelings, attitudes and beliefs of the person wielding them are usually very apparent. While it may be fun hitting people over the head with facts, doing so isn’t conducive to changing opinions. In truth, it makes people resistant to them.
Well-written stories can introduce facts and ideas slowly. They can be attached to sympathetic characters with whom readers can identify and care about. If done correctly and unobtrusively, the actual “facts” in question can be debated, dissected and a defended without ever having stated what the “facts” are. George Orwell was a master at this.
Sherri: As you know prepping for this interview, I stalked your website and social media looking for just the right questions to ask but we don’t have that kind of time. Unfortunately, I have thirty-four authors to promote before our Author Event, but I’d love to buy you a drink and pick your brain.
Bill: NOW we’re talking!
Sherri: But for now, let’s just hit the highlights.
On your website, you mentioned four writers as the fab four, who in your opinion are the masters of the craft. I agree with the first two, King and Flynn. Even though I’m not a horror/thriller fan, there is much we can learn from authors who are not in our genre. For me, my King-ism is to have a little something that shocks the reader. It has to fit the story, but maybe not the genre. In Chrome Pink, my first novel, I have a scene my romance writer friends said made them throw-up in their mouths. They thought I should take it out. I didn’t because it had a reaction. What do you feel these authors have done to influence your writing?
Bill: I think the answer to this question is covered somewhat in the Fab Four author profiles featured on my webpage. Each author offers a different influence. So, here, let me address them as a group. What is the common denominator that, in my mind, sets them apart? Well, you touched on it. In a word…mastery. “Mastery” is a term that’s not used very often these days. Webster defines it as:
2a : possession or display of great skill or technique b : skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject
I became familiar with the concept during my youth when I was first introduced to Hemingway and later when I was heavy into martial arts. To be brief, being in the presence of a master or being exposed to a master’s work is a – if you have the humility to recognize your shortcomings and inadequacies – very humbling experience. It’s a moment of truth, self-realization and gut-checking. As people with egos, it’s hard to look at your own work in comparison and admit…I suck at this. But, if you were raised right and were gifted with a never-quit attitude, it is life-changing. The four authors I’ve featured – Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Cheri Priest, and Mary Beth Keane – are masters in four very disparate types of writing. You don’t have to be a fan of their genres to recognize their greatness. I have been writing for more than forty years now, and compared to the mastery of these four writers I still feel like Grasshopper kneeling at the feet of Master Po.
Sherri: I laughed when I read why you wanted to meet Gillian Flynn. “Because she has so much talent I want to be nearby when some of it spills out. Also, because I’m the type of guy who jumps out of airplanes, rides motorcycles, and runs around the room holding scissors – I love danger.” Does your writing reflect your love of danger?
Bill: Interesting question. My line about loving danger was meant to help illustrate Flynn’s penchant for writing really dark psychological stories. I don’t think I love danger any more than the next Type A personality. But I do love adventure, which can sometimes put you in dangerous situations. My writing borrows heavily from life and death situations and brushes with mortality I’ve experienced. When I write about cannons firing in Black Hearts White Bones, I know how to describe it because I’ve lived it. I know what it feels like to hold a sword in your hand and face an opponent who is equally armed. Like some of the scenes in Aphrodite’s Whisper, I know what it’s like when an aircraft goes into freefall, and you don’t know if you will live or die. And like in both of those novels, I know what the sound of a bullet whizzing by your head actually sounds like.
Sherri: Writing is an adventure all its own, but publishing can be quite daunting. What do you wish you’d known before beginning this journey? What advice would you offer newbies getting ready to publish their first book?
Bill: God bless you, Sherri. You just introduced another three-beer conversation. Perhaps you should start a variation of the Algonquin Roundtable so we can entertain these fascinating questions at length…over adult beverages.
The answer to the first part of your question is…I wish I had understood what a crap shoot traditional publishing is. There are SO many variables and there is nothing on the novice writer’s side…unless you know somebody. Even then, you still need talent. Well, most of the time. I’ve seen some really awful stuff published over the years and I’ll never understand why such tripe gets published while other great stories don’t. One thing I’ve learned as an independent is that there are many wonderful writers out there who weren’t traditionally published. A lot of them will be at the Farmers Market authors event you are promoting.
Which leads to the second part of your question. First, read Stephen King’s A Memoir of the Craft of Writing. Skip the memoir part if you don’t care about King, but his essays on HOW to write are invaluable. There are other such books out there, but none I know of were authored by a writer as successful as King. So…
I would also suggest starting small. Try to write short stories for traditional and web-based magazines and forums. Hone your skills and create a following. This will help whether you break into traditional publishing or independent publishing. I didn’t do this. I wish I had.
Third, learn marketing and social media. These days, even traditional publishers expect authors to drive marketing. I despise this aspect of modern-day publishing, but that’s the environment we now live in. Remember, the best thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. And the worst thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. It leads to writers actually giving their books away in the hope of some day being able to sell books to loyal followers. Nobody should ask me for advice on how to do this. I suck at it. But there are many resources available, both legit and parasitical…if you know what I mean. Caveat emptor. One good place to start is Reedsy’s How to Market a Book.
Sherri: Your stories are all in different genres, is there anything that links the stories? Do they have a similar theme or premise?
Bill: You’re the first person to ask me this question. Thank you. The answer may surprise you. The common thread between all my novels is love. Now, it’s not always evident who loves who or who loves what, but my characters and stories are driven by humanity’s most enduring emotion…love. I invite everyone to read my novels and try to identify how I’ve woven the concept of ever-lasting love into my characters and which ones, but you’ll have to buy me a beer to find out if you’re right.
Sherri: Aphrodite’s Whisper you mentioned took twenty years to come to fruition. Why such a long time? Was it based on a true story? You mention in your blog that it is similar to Cold Mountain and Legends of the Fall, these stories straddle the fence between genre fiction and literary. They focus on the character’ journey. Are all of your stories a deep dive into the character?
Bill: Well, it took five years to write Aphrodite’s Whisper because I was working and raising two boys at the time. Also, I spent about three hours conducting research for every hour or writing. And the writing was done late at night after putting the boys to bed and on weekends and holidays. I spent the next 15 years alternating between submitting to literary agents and conducting re-writes. I re-wrote the novel at least three times and I was able to connect with two agents. But we could never quite get it over the hump and picked up by a publisher. By the time I finished Black Hearts White Bones – another five-year endeavor – the evolution of independent publishing had reached the point where it made sense to skip the traditional route – especially given my age – and self-publish. After Black Hearts was published, I spent the next year re-writing AW yet again and finally published it.
Was it based on a true story? Yes and no. I actually have an Author’s Notes section at the end of AW where I discuss which aspects of the story are history and which are fiction. Unlike BHWB, the main characters in AW, are totally fictional. BHWB is based on two very real female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
And yes, all my stories are, in my opinion, character driven. Despite the abundance of adventure, suspense, and mystery, the main characters in my novels reign supreme. Even Ivy Moon. Hell, especially Ivy Moon. I’d like to believe this is part of what makes my stories unique and enjoyable. The characters are three dimensional and relatable. And the stories are never exactly what the readers expect based on the genres they fall in. In short, they are unpredictable.
Sherri: As a fellow historical fiction author, I understand the work that goes into writing an accurate portrayal of both era and character. I was a bit intimidated to tackle my recent novel, The Americans are Coming and have been working on it for several years, doing research and taking classes that would help make it a better story. While all fiction requires a little research, we don’t always use everything we learn. What is the most important thing to get right when writing a historical? What is the line in the sand for you as a reader, as well as a writer?
Bill: Love, love, love this question! As with Aphrodite’s Whisper, I conducted about three hours of research for every hour spent writing Black Hearts White Bones. The amazing part is – which may scare the hell out of any budding historical fiction writers out there – I didn’t use but five or ten percent of the information in the actual stories. Dumping a bunch of mundane historical facts on readers heads is not the way to write historical fiction. Such information must be woven into the narrative in a way that the reader won’t stumble over it. As you allude to, it’s a fine line. And I think the key to finding that line is to be an avid reader. If you become adept at recognizing when the line is crossed in a book you are reading, you should be able to apply that awareness to your writing.
But aspiring historical fiction writers don’t despair! All that time conducting research isn’t wasted. While you may not use most of the knowledge you gain learning about the history of swords or the use and crafting of rush candles, all of that information will give you a better sense of time and place in which your characters exist. THIS is the difference between a good story and great writing…in my humble opinion.
Sherri: Your story, Casey and the Bear mirrors an incident in my own writing. Casey is my sister-in-law’s great-nephew. At the time he went missing, I was writing a similar scene in my third novel, Titanium Blue. I felt so guilty for writing that scene even though I’d planned it months before Casey went missing. My sis, who is one of my Beta readers was aware of it and helped me through the guilt. Like you, I believe animals, whether wild or domestic, often come to the rescue of those in need. I heard about your story shortly after Casey’s rescue, it’s nice to put a name to the story and to read it for myself. I’d love to include it in this interview with links to your website.
Bill: That is truly flattering. Yes, by all means, it was meant to be shared. Casey’s story is amazing, and I hope I did him justice. We will probably never know if he was actually befriended by a bear, but the boy he was when the incident happened believed it, and that’s good enough for me. https://www.billfurney.com/under-construction
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Bill Furney, come out to the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th for our Author Event.
If a girl cries of loneliness and there’s no one alive to hear…can she still survive?
I just released, Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
Readers who love post-apocalypse stories will appreciate the unique perspective author W.C. Furney brings to the genre. Taking place almost entirely in Craven County, Ivy Moon – Last Girl on Earth is a Young Adult, post-apocalyptic tale of a girl’s survival and self-discovery. The story begins when the young teen who suffers a head injury emerges from a sailboat that ran aground during a hurricane. The trauma of discovering she is amnesic is soon dwarfed by the realization she is totally alone. Gradually, her expectation that people will return to the community they evacuated is replaced with the startling truth that everyone is gone. Vanished from the face of the earth. Hindered by a selective memory that affords only brief glimpses of her past, Ivy and her new friend Tonka – a West Highland White Terrier – set off on a quest to find other people. She soon discovers that surviving a post-apocalyptic world isn’t what the adventure books and movies make it out to be.
Before agreeing to perform the audio version of Ivy Moon, voice over actress Shey Greyson (Rose Walker in Audible’s production of The Sandman) read the manuscript to determine whether she connected with the main character and the story. Her response?
“Connect with it? I’m obsessed with it!”
A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
After graduating high school in Virginia Beach, Va, William served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander and later attended college at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Armed with degrees in public relations and advertising he honed his skills by becoming a reporter and columnist with a small newspaper in eastern North Carolina. Afterward, he became a director of public relations for private industry and the director of communication for several government agencies. He established two public affairs offices where none previously existed; one for the State Health Director’s Office and the other in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response – the state agency created in 2001 to oversee preparedness efforts associated with biological attacks and pandemic outbreaks. He became one of the first five people in the country to become a Certified Communicator in Public Health.
As a public health communication expert, he coordinated or participated in the media/public information responses to health crises involving AIDS, anthrax, SARS, E-coli, Pfiesteria, Brucelosis, Legionnaires’ disease, SIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Small Pox, West Nile Virus and numerous hurricanes. He also collaborated with the CDC Office of Communication on several health issues and was a certified trainer of their Emergency Risk Communication Program. He was a member and president of the National Public Health Information Coalition – twice.
Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.
Who’s ready to SHOP? If you’re like me, the holidays are rushing towards us and I need to get busy buying Christmas gifts. I am proud to join Kindle Book Review as they offer their annual Black Friday Giveaway awarding one lucky reader with a $500 Amazon shopping spree just in time for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. This could be a game changer for one lucky reader, and we hope it’s you! But don’t forget to support the authors presenting this giveaway.
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I love to do research. I can’t help it. it Is one of my guilty pleasures. I’m a nerd. Always have been. In school when we’d get the chance to go to the library to do research, I’d get so caught up in the search I sometimes forgot what I was searching for. Finding new things along the way is part of the joy of doing the research. The problems are going off in another direction than the one you intended or getting so lost in the research you forget about the writing, and the biggie, wanting to put everything you discovered into your story. I mean, when you find out really cool things it’s difficult not to include them in your story. BUT… while it might be interesting and maybe even important to know that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show had a second female sharpshooter or that he hired over one hundred Sioux to work in his show even while there were still Indian Wars going on, all of this information is important and helps me as a writer understand my story’s time period and politics, how much of it is really necessary for the story itself.
It has taken me years to feel confident, and I say that with a laugh because I’m not really confident that I’ve reached the point where I know what I’m doing, but I’ve taken the classes and done the research and tried to immerse myself into the time period. Developing the character, the atmosphere and the series is important. I hope that when you read The Americans are Coming that you experience life in a traveling show, (I researched the history of the circus in America, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and travel in the 1890s), that you get a feel for Winnie’s life as a performer and a member of the show family, I hope you enjoy piecing together the clues and puzzling out the mystery, but I above it all, I hope you read the story and not see the work that has gone into it only the entertainment that it offers.
For a list of the books, YouTube videos and blogs I used to research this book, here are the ones I’ve compiled so far, and they are by no means the full list. I also have references from people such as HCRW president: Cyn Hayden who gave me information on steamer ships, my granddaughter: Hailey Miesse and her mother, Brandi Lupton who aided me with my horse research, my husband David who helped with many miscellaneous questions (he’s a great research assistant), and my local librarians: Denise Toler and Robina Norman who answer weird and bizarre questions at odd times during the day (and sometimes at night).
Buffalo Bill’s America by Louis S. Warren
Wild Women by Autumn Stephens
A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Life by Elspeth
Gangway! Sea Language Comes Ashore by Joanna Carver Colcord
The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales The Great Courses by Professor Patrick N. Allitt, Emory University
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900 by Candy Moulton
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901 by Kristine Hughes
Eyewitness Visual Dictionary The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing
Reader’s Digest America’s Forgotten History
Battle for the Big Top by Les Standiford
Unmentionable by Therese Oneill
The Hidden History of Holidays by Hannah Harvey
The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets
The Life and Times of Prince Albert by Patrick Allitt
The American West: History, Myth and Legend by Patrick Allitt
Bio: Nicole Kerr is an award-winning health and wellness expert. For the past 30 years, Nicole has worked in all sectors of society, including in government (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), non-proﬁt (American Cancer Society), military (United States Air Force Medical Operations), academia (University of Hawaii), healthcare institutions/hospitals (Adventist Health Castle and Queens Medical Center), corporate settings (Sea Ties, LLC), and private consultation. Nicole’s warm, engaging presentations have earned her a place in front of national and international audiences. Throughout her career, she has focused on supporting people from every walk of life to make realistic, meaningful, happy choices for lifelong health and well-being. She has appeared on CNN, PBS, CBS, ABC, the Food Channel, and a host of other TV and radio shows to share her unique perspective on wellness, lifestyle, and nutrition. As a 19-year-old cadet at the US Air Force Academy, Nicole went through a transformative NDE. Her memory of the crash came back 20 years later, and it has taken Nicole almost another two decades to align her soul, spirit, mind, and body, proving healing is certainly a non-linear process. Her pursuit of improving her own health led her to inspire others to reach the overlooked domains of emotional, energetic, and spiritual well-being.
Sherri: It is awesome to welcome Nicole Kerr to my virtual café. Nicole, I’ve been reading information about you and your book, and I have to say you represent what I believe about writing. For me, writing was an outlet for a broken heart and later a way of dealing with trauma. I chose fiction but you have chosen to share your journey.
Nicole: Hi Sherri, delighted to be with you and thank you for the compliment! Mine is non-fiction and I chose to share it (mind you it took 13 years to write and publish) because I felt it was the best vehicle to share the clear message I was given by Spirit of, “Do not be afraid of death,” out into the world. In the process I realized it was a way of healing for me.
Sherri: What was the most difficult thing about the writing and especially the publishing process when you decided to turn your journal into a book?
Nicole: I came from a science background and had written for peer-reviewed scientific publications which is a completely different style/way of writing. I had to learn how to write from my heart, that took hundreds of writing prompts and working with a writing coach. Regarding publishing, I decided to self-publish so I could own the rights to my book and release it when I wanted. I found the right group (by word of mouth) and so pleased with their help. I still had to go through yet another round of editing to take the book from good to great.
Sherri: Why do you think we are so afraid of death? I have had a lot of death in my life and while I’m not ready to die, I can’t say I’m truly afraid to die. I’m more afraid of being in pain or missing out on things. I’m also afraid of losing my mom, she’s my last parent. So, what is it about death that is so terrifying for most people?
Nicole: I feel it is the great unknown. In almost every book written death is cloaked in a veil of gloom and doom. Death has a cloud of depression and negativity around it throughout our culture and society. Also given certain religious beliefs about death (going to “hell”), etc. imprinted at a very young age at some unconscious level you may still believe that.
Sherri: How well has this book been received? What are people saying about your book?
Nicole: I am overwhelmed at the heartfelt comments I have received. I am in so much gratitude that my book is having the effect I intended. It went to #1 new best NDE book and is in the top 100 of all NDE books. I have sold over 500 copies in 2 months and am officially a best-selling author.
“No wonder it took the author 13 years to write this book, because she managed to condense three different things into one very readable combination…the story of her NDE (near-death experience); a dramatically candid confession that reads like a personal diary; and an overview of trauma.”
“As a cardiologist who watches people die quickly and slowly on a daily basis, I have never felt so connected to the patient experience and whole-heartedly have this author to thank for this. As she brings us through her journey, she teaches us the lessons that she needed to learn and explains why they were/still are important today. She has brought me closer to patients but also closer to God, a seemingly impossible task, she does it all.”
Sherri: What is the goal of your book? What do you hope the reader feels when they finish reading it?
Nicole: May this book help you with your fears about death. May this book also support you through the loss of loved ones. Above all may my book inspire you to live fully, truly loving yourself unconditionally! I hope my words can in some small way help you find inside yourself what you have always been seeking.
Sherri: Do you have any plans to write anything else?
Nicole: I had previously co-written a book on nutrition, as I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, called Eating the Rainbow without Lies, Hype or Calculus (revised 2005). In You Are Deathless I am extremely vulnerable and honest. I am not sure of next steps just enjoying the present and so grateful I got this baby birthed and out in the world. Enjoying doing podcasts at the moment as well!
Sherri: Do you have any advice for those who wish to share their experiences?
Nicole: Be authentic. Be persistent. Join a writing group if you need support. If you have a limited income spend the money on editing. Get to the root of the issue if you are procrastinating. Love yourself no matter what happens!
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Nicole Kerr be sure to visit her at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th, 2022, 1 to 4 pm, for our Authors’ Event. If you are not able to attend in person, you can purchase Nicole’s book through the above vendors.
You Are Deathless
If death is an end, then I know for certain there is nothing final about it.
When Nicole Kerr hit the ground, she thought: I am going to die, yet death is not supposed to happen this way. I am just 19 years old. I still have things to do, places to go, deadlines to meet, so I cannot be dead. I don’t have time to be dead. Still, I think I am. This must be death. Rays of brilliant white light flood me from all sides. Streams of light cocoon me, wrapping every part of my being in a chrysalis of soothing waves. Instead of the pain of impact, I feel rocked and held. This is bliss. No fear.
“You are Deathless reaches far beyond those who have had NDEs to people who are having near-life experiences. Guilt, shame, what ifs, shoulds, and traumas all leave us barely living and disconnected to Source. Nicole creates lessons in her chapters that leave readers smoothly transitioning between her present voice, her memory of how her accident unfolded, and the invitations of each subsequent trauma that allowed her to develop another resource for survival. Her courageous disconnection from situations and people who caused repetitive emotional pain, her development of gratitude and peace that continues to grow, and her allowing of healing (instead of forcing) is a great example that fully living is possible after trauma.” ~ Dr. Megan Weigel – Author of Monday Mantras with Megan and Nurse Practitioner
“When we pick up a non-fiction book it is often to learn something about ourselves or something about someone else. You Are Deathless brings together both by unfolding as one woman’s journey of growth triggered by a single traumatic event. Yet the seeds were planted from her childhood experiences. We don’t all have that single pivot point in our lives, and yet the process of reaching adulthood with strong physical, emotional, and spiritual health, requires many of these same steps. Understanding our past, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, taking the time to invest in our community/family, and continuing to learn more about our physical and emotional health. This book provides both a story of incredible strength and a guide for our own continued learning. Thank you, Nicole.” ~ Sharon Owen – Captain (Retired USAF)
Published August 15th, 2022
In the book You Are Deathless, Nicole Kerr shares her journey about awakening to herself and the transforming work of aligning her soul, spirit, mind, and body. Through her own death, Nicole was forced to shed ascribed identities, such as being a people-pleaser, to instead develop an authentic, loving relationship with herself and God.
Her story proves that we can put to death the punishing, angry God that man created. This allows the beautiful God of love and acceptance whom she encountered in her own death to emerge and accompany us in day-to-day life.
Nicole beautifully presents how her NDE was actually an STE: A Spiritually Transformative Experience. This aligns with the ten most common NDE lessons (Source: IANDS 2020 Annual Report), the first of which is We do not die. Nicole has persevered through enormous suffering and pain to create the life she now loves.
Nicole has seen what awaits you at the end of this life because she’s been there, and she can assure you that it’s a new beginning more beautiful than you can now comprehend. A good death begins today, and with it, a great life. Through Nicole’s death experience, you can learn how to live your life to the fullest. You can engage in your own metamorphosis without having to die like Nicole did.