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.
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.
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
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
Nathan Black from Greenville, North Carolina, ECU graduate in English, has worked for various magazines and publications. Writes works of poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories. Focuses on self-discovery, self-love, religion in the modern world, inspiration, conquering adversities, hatred of pop music, love of pop culture, spiritual awakenings, and love of Sunday mornings. Lives with his wife, Christina and their two cats, Zoey and Yeti.
Sherri: Nathan, it’s good to have you at my virtual café. I read that you are a slam poet. I have had the opportunity to experience slam poetry and it is fantastic. Tell us how you got into it and what slam poetry is.
Nathan: Slam poetry like poetry itself is hard to describe with any solid definitions. Like good art, you know it when you see it, or in this case, hear it. With any art form there are movements amongst the community of Slam poets that give some distinctions to it. The use of cadence, its qualities as a speech more than verse, more akin to free verse, possibly even divorced from what most would consider a poem all together and instead can sound like a rant or prose poetry. There is a very common connection to social justice issues and soci-economic woes. I suppose because I am entrenched in these subjects that is what led me to poetry to begin with. The call of poetry was magnetic for me and so I sought out what it meant for me and what I could gain from it. I went to ECU for English with a concentration in creative writing and so while I was there, I found the spoken word group, Word of Mouth (WOM). It was through them that I got into the challenge and love of writing slam poetry. Even though I will write in this style, I do write prose and more traditional poems as well, but I have found the performance aspect of slam poetry the most engaging and the shot of life that poetry needs in our modern day. Much like rap, I find the most commonality between rhyming verse of hip-hop and slam poetry above all other styles.
Sherri: You are a poet, an author and a screenwriter, that’s a lot of hats and takes different talents. What is the biggest challenge when switching genres and what does each offer the other? What have you learned from one genre that you use in the others?
Nathan: That is a big question. Each of these styles offers different things. Different ways of expression but it boils down to what you are trying to express and how do you feel that message will be best expressed? Sometimes the dialogue of conversation can bring it about in a screenplay. Sometimes the full development of story and mood through a novel is the most grand way. But sometimes a few lines of well placed verse are all you need. And sometimes you write hundreds of pages just to get to that one sentence that sums it all up. There are many ways to get that and as a writer I have tried to search as many as I could without forgetting what it was, I was trying to say to begin with.
Sherri: You have a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, what do you believe has been the best thing you learned in college and what have you had to un-learn as a published author and poet that you were taught in school?
Nathan: ECU and Pitt Community College gave me everything in a way. Yes, I did the work but these school gave me the ground to take off from. It gave me the experience to express myself openingly. The teachers guided without restricting me, but at the same time they pointed out what needed to be improved and what I could do better in, and I really think we all need someone like that. Creative writing isn’t a concrete direction but a lifetime of development and a continuous revision that never ends. There are no right or wrong answers, only the product that either yields something or brings something that could be redone. There are no mistakes. I love that. I can think of no other school of learning that can give this kind of confidence, but that is my experience and my mindset. For someone else this might be completely different. But my years at university gave me everything, from confidence to perspective, to insight on the craft, to clarity of purpose, to enhanced empathy. It didn’t help me learn how to navigate the literary world or how to publish a hundred percent, but it did give suggestions and that has been useful. I don’t think there was anything I needed to unlearn from this period because it really only gave me a chance to learn myself and I wouldn’t want to undo that.
Sherri: Are you traditionally published, small press or independently published? What do you feel are the pros and cons in each?
Nathan: I am self-published, although I have been published in magazines and small presses. There are benefits to both. One: having traditional publishing means you don’t have to worry about the hard parts which I believe are advertising and promoting. Two: the writing part is the blissful work that comes with the job. The marketing, finance, and promoting part can make you feel like a hack and a second-rate Barnum and Bailey, but when it pays off it really feels like a win. I can’t fault self-publishing for that, but it is nice when someone does the heavy lifting for you. Because I have been playing music in bands around Greenville for more than ten years, a college town, I’ve grown accustomed to being in front of crowds and putting myself out there so it’s not such a struggle for me but promoting always seems like such a feat when you first get started. I love it all the same.
Born in 1984 in Augusta, Georgia, Nathan Black was born in a military hospital at Dwight David Eisenhower Medical Center before he and his parents moved to Indiana where his parents joined a Christian learning academy. They moved to Greenville 1987 where Nathan would be raised. Here he went to JH Rose High School, Pitt Community College, and eventually ECU where he got his degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. In that time he wrote articles for Mixer, G-Vegas Magazine (WhereUParty), REBEL, and ENC Community Magazine. While at ECU he joined Word of Mouth (WOM) as one of their slam poets and competed around the state winning contests with the group against UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, and other schools. He has written three books of poetry, Where The Breeze (2016), The Frozen Garden (2017), and The Things We Have Lost (2022). Apart from this, he has written a stage play, Weathermen, a small book of short stories, Portals (2018), and a novel, Sparrow’s Fall (2019). In this time he has made it a centerpiece of his life and has involved himself in other writing circles and poetry groups across the state. Nathan continues to write and perform to this day. His new novel The Knight of Red and White is set to be released in early winter 2022.
BIO: Sarah Maury Swan is the author of three novels, the last two of which she is selling at the upcoming Authors’ Sunday. She is pleased the say she has written stories for the Next Chapter Literary Magazine since its inception in January 2020. At the moment, she is working on a chapter book entitled SPACE JUNK, a young adult novel entitled BAD HAIR DAY, her first ever grown-up’s cozy mystery entitled SERENDIPITY’S CONUNDRUM, and a short story entitled FAIRY’S TOOTHBRUSHES. She lives in Fairfield Harbour with her handsome devil and their cat.
Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Café, she might look like a sweet little old lady but she’s a dynamo. She is hosting 34 other authors, myself included at an Authors’ Event at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th. Sarah, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Sarah: Aw shucks, Sherri. You’re definitely a dynamo yourself considering how you took over the reins of Pamlico Writers so seamlessly. And thanks for the delicious cup of herbal tea; the virtual scones were perfect.
Sherri: Well chai tea is one of my favorites. I think you are amazing. You didn’t grow up with computers like today’s kids but you’re fearless about trying new things. Congratulations on your website and blog.
Sarah: That’s because you’re not close enough to hear how much and how often I yell at my computer.
Sherri: I’ve yelled at mine a few times too. I’m very grateful for grandchildren who fix whatever problem I’ve created. How did you and the handsome devil end up in eastern North Carolina?
Sarah: We had a lovely horse farm up in Maryland, but we had to put down three horses, 2 dogs and a cat in the 22 years we were there. The three horses were in the last 5 years we were there. Dale was ready to retire from the consulting business he’d started 30 years earlier, but we both knew he’d never quit if we stayed in Maryland. We had friends who had moved to New Bern, which made the area even more enticing. We’ve loved it ever since we moved here in December of 2010. Of course, not having to deal with blizzards also made this area more inviting.
Sherri: You’re very active in the local writing community, just like organizing this event. What groups do you belong and what else do you do?
Sarah: I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, HTTPS://SCBWI.org; North Carolina Writers Network, HTTPS://NCWN.org; Carteret Writers, which I was the president from 2012 to 2014, HTTPS://CarteretWriters.org; HTTPS://PamlicoWritersGroup.com, and locally, I belong to 3 critiques groups: Seascribes, where I work on my Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, plus short stories, etc; Kitchen on Trent critique group where I concentrate on short stories and my first ever “grown-ups” novel; and Bogue Group, which is my children’s’ books/stories critique group. Because of COVID, I’ve become fairly proficient on running the groups via Zoom. When I’m not writing, I try to do “retired persons” kinds of stuff like going out to lunch and having my weekly manicure. I read a lot and play some computer games, and I ride my tricycle which I named Gertrude. By the way, Veronica Krug, who is also going to be at the Authors’ Sunday event, is a member of Seascribes as well.
Sherri: Oh, my word, you’re as busy as I am.
On your blog you mentioned you review books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (www.CLCD.com), what is the CLCD and how did you get involved in this?
Sarah: CLCD was founded early in this century to review children’s books for various publishing houses and sending the reviews to libraries and schools. I started reviewing for the company in 2006. At the beginning the books had to be traditionally published, but nowadays self-published/indie books are being considered. I got a 5-star review through the organization for my novel Earthquakes. I did a happy dance then. It’s a very good way to learn what is accepted by publishers and what book buyers are looking for.
Sherri: You’re a horsewoman, is that correct? You mention on your blog that you and the handsome devil had a small horse farm in Maryland. Was your book Emily’s Ride to Courage inspired by true events? https://books2read.com/u/mvX0D2
Sarah: I wrote Emily’s Ride to Courage because we had to put a 9-year-old horse down. That’s very young and he was a sweet horse. Putting any animals down is sad, but horses are big and don’t necessarily go down easily. So, I’m in the house grieving and Grandpa’s voice pipes up in my saying, “Won’t have me no white-hoofed horse. White hooves is weak.” I said to him: “I don’t write for grown-ups, Grandpa,” and made-up Emily. The horse had to be a blood bay because the handsome devil always wanted a bay and we never had one.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you first decide to publish?
Sarah: I come from a long line of writers/readers and started telling stories when I was not even a teenager. My career jobs all had to do with writing one way or another, but I didn’t actively try to get published until I was in my late 60s. My first successes were with magazine like Country, Country Extra and also their cookbooks, and the “Fun For Kids” magazines.
Sherri: Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Sarah: I eventually went the self-publishing route because I’m too old to wait around for traditional publishing to publish my books. Emily’s Ride to Courage was the first novel I finished but the second one I published. I sent to Dutton first because I had friendship with one of publishers there. He liked it so well he sent up through all the editors there and they sent it to the marketers who said, “Good book, but we already have a horse book series in the works.” Now if you’re going to get a rejection, that’s not a bad way to get one, so I sent it to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there said, “I like the story line and I like your writing, but I’m not connecting with Emily.” I rewrote it in first person and again it went all the way up to the marketers who rejected it because they already had a horse book in the works. Sigh. But at least I knew I had a good story on my hand. Then I wrote the book I published first, Terror’s Identity, which is, at the moment, only available as an e-book through Amazon. Then I published Emily and now I’ve published Earthquakes.
Sherri: I was reading the information for your first novel, Terror’s Identity, it sounds like an interesting read. I had hoped to get a print copy when we meet for our Authors’ Sunday, but I’ll have to settle for eBook. Tell us how you came up with this idea for this book, your research and any other details you’d like to share.
Sarah: Terror came to me after 9-11 when people were being so nasty to any Muslim they come across. So, I wrote the story to make the point that not all Muslims are terrorists. I was very lucky to a have Secret Service agent living behind us and he was quite helpful in learning the way they run things. I wanted the main character to have a lot changes in his life, so I started him in Lake Forest, Illinois, because it’s quite ritzy, and then sent him to Dundalk, Maryland, which most decidedly not ritzy.
Terror’s Identity, Sixteen-year old Aidan Knox’s life turns upside down when he, his sister and his mother enter a witness protection program and begin a dangerous new life because of his father’s work investigating a terrorist organization operating in the U.S. How will he remember the details of his new life with a new name and a made-up past? And will he be able to settle into a new school and all that entails? Whom can he trust, and can he keep his mother and sister safe?
Sherri: It takes a lot to be a published author these days, especially having to wear all of the hats from writer, editor, formatter, publisher, marketer, and promoter. What is your key to keeping your sanity in this business?
Sarah: What? Me sane? I’m glad I have a lot of computer savvy friends who are willing to enlighten me. I also use publishing houses like Sable, Amazon and Jera because they will do a final edit for me. Of those, I liked Sable and Jera. Amazon is quite fond of squeezing as many nickels and dimes out of you as they possibly can. Sable doesn’t have the marketing arm that the last publisher I used has. Jera has connection with IngramSparks/LightningSource which has a page in national/international publishing magazines.
Sherri: I have to ask, what is the weirdest pet you’ve ever owned. We had ferrets and they were unique and stinky, but they had funny personalities. We had a dog we nick-named Houndini because he wouldn’t stay in a pen or on a lead. He got out of his collar, a harness, and even escaped from the local pound when he was picked up for not having his collar.
Sarah: A quirky animal we had was my dressage horse that I had trained from the time he was 4 months old. But he was lots of fun to ride and ended up his life as a therapeutic riding horse. You should have a photo of him there. I took our Tennessee Walking Horse, Rippy, to a clinic one time because I didn’t know much about the breed and what to do with it. Everybody fell in love with him. Turns out you can do just about anything you want to with them, especially jumping. Our dogs were always characters and loving, including our last dog who was a spectacular bird hunting German Shorthaired Pointer named Jake. Now we have a calico cat named Pandie because she was born in August of 2020. Guess why she’s named Pandie.
Sherri: I love World War 2 stories. Your story, Earthquakes sounds like a thriller. Do you like scary stories? Have you ever been in an earthquake?
Sarah: I hate earthquakes. They scare the livin’ bejeezus out of me, but I do like scary stories. I wrote this one in part because it has elements of my mother’s life and my life because I was born in May of 1941. My mother graduated from M.I.T in 1934 with a degree in Physical Chemistry, and then married my father whom she had met through her brother Bill at West Point. After Daddy was shipped to the Philippines the day after I was born, we moved from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Los Angeles, California. When war broke out my mother went to work for Lockheed and became their first female Tool & Dye designer. She became a “Rosie the Riveter” and was used in all kinds of roles to promote the “War Effort.” After the war she was fired for no other reason than she was a woman taking a man’s job. She was told the men would need to support their families and she should go back to being a housewife. Her question was, “I’m a widow with four children to raise. Who’s going to support us?” Fortunately, she had friends in the Washington, DC area who were instrumental in getting the Cancer Chemotherapy project started at the National Institutes of Health. So, off the Maryland we went. That’s the state I consider my home state.
It’s hard enough dealing with the effects of World War II sending his father and grandfather to the Pacific theater, but now seventeen-year-old Jonathon Thomas has to deal with real and imaginary earthquakes. To make matters worse his school principal has warned him and his schoolmates of potential spies in the neighborhood. How’s he supposed to recognize a spy? And why are his neighbors being murdered? And why are people sneaking into his house to search for something? The only comfort Jonathon finds is when he talks with his girlfriend, Jennifer Murphy. What’s he going to do when he’s banned from leaving his home? Will his recurring nightmare of being swallowed up when an earthquake splits the ground open under his feet turn into reality?
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Maury Swan join us at the New Bern Famers Market, Sunday, November 20th 1-4 pm for Authors’ Sunday with 35 local authors.
Well, I have done it again. I have allowed myself to get so busy that I am running around chasing my tail. You would think after taking the HB 90 Bootcamp and following Sarra Cannon’s Heartbreathing YouTube channel that I would understand the perils of burning myself out, but I guess for me it seems to be feast or famine. For a few months I lollygag around taking my time doing everything by the book or procrastinating (which is probably closer to the truth). Then I decide I want to do this NOW! So, I leap in with both feet or way too often, headfirst and before you know it, I’m drowning in all the things I have to do. On top of that, I’m a control freak. I’m trying to be better about delegating. I know I don’t have to do everything myself. I have other people willing to do what I ask (if I’ll ask), and I just have to trust them to do their part.
As an indie author or small businessowner, many of you understand being hands on. When we are first starting out, we know we are the only ones who can do the jobs because we can’t afford to pay anyone else. So, we write the books and find the Beta readers, find the editors, design our covers or seek those who can design them for us, find proofreaders, publish to all the sites, keep up with sales, market the books, social media, and write more books. And all of those little things that crop up that we don’t expect or know about until they demand our attention.
As an indie author and the chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group and VP of Communications for the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers I often feel like I’m juggling puppies. I can’t let one fall but maybe I just need someone to hold this one for a minute. This is where Sarra’s HB 90 Bootcamp has helped me the most. There are only 24 hours in a day, and only 7 days in a week. If I have goals that need to be met within each month, and overall goals for each quarter, I can divide them up into tasks. Breaking these goals into manageable tasks that can be completed to help me reach that bigger goal doesn’t seem as overwhelming as I’ve got to do THIS!
We can’t always plan for obstacles that derail our plans. Life happens. This month was supposed to be a very busy month but because my part-time helper and work-husband has to have surgery plans had to be changed. A little scrambling and we found a way to make most of what was on my schedule for September work and the rest just has to fall by the wayside. It cannot be helped.
I think one of the hardest things for an indie author or an entrepreneur who is still working a “real” job is we have to carve out time for our passion. We have to use our precious little time for everything from writing the stories (or crafting the beer or painting or whatever you’re doing) to publishing to marketing to making ourselves known on social media. All of this when all we really want to do is that thing that gives us joy, our passion. But to turn that passion into a dream of success and that dream into reality, we have to do the other work. Yuk. But we still only have 24 hours and 7 days. We still have to sleep, spend time with family and friends, take care of bills, run errands, go to the doctor, etc. and if we work 8 hours, how much time do we really have to pursue our dream? That is what Sarra’s HB 90 Bootcamp has helped me see. We have to take a realistic look at how much time we really have to work with and how to make the most of it.
Join us September 11th through 17th for this round of bootcamp. Sarra will have a live kick off on September 11th at 3 pm via Facebook or YouTube. Enrollment will close at noon on September 11th.
Sarra has broken the payment plan down into three choices: Pay in full (best deal) $199, a 3-month plan of $75 per month over 3 months, or a 6-month plan at $38 a month for 6 months.
As an alumnus, I get to take the course again for free. Pay once, and then take a refresher anytime she offers it, but you’ll also have your notebook and lessons you’ve learned to help you when, like me, you fall back into bad habits.
I probably sound like a broken record when I talk about Sarra Cannon and her Heartbreathing YouTube Channel. What Sarra does for indie authors is unequaled. Other author channels teach the fundamentals of being an indie author or of writing a novel. But Sarra gives us tools to help deal with some of the more difficult subjects facing an indie author. Namely burnout. Authors, especially indie authors and possibly new traditionally published authors, tend to overextend themselves. We are often overwhelmed by all the things we believe we must do to be successful.
Sarra’s HB90 Bootcamp taught me to plan for the life I wanted. Her method breaks things down in 90-day goals. I would suggest this course for anyone who is a small business person or entrepreneur. I don’t use everything she taught me in the exact same way she taught it, I have adapted Sarra’s method to fit my life. That is another thing I love about Sarra. She realizes all of us have our way of viewing the world and we have to take what works for us from her method, and fit those ideas into our crazy lives.
Sticky notes and journals are my friend. Making lists, breaking things down into smaller, bite-sized pieces or more accurately into achievable tasks to reach the overall goal. Sarra also insists on adding mental health breaks and physical breaks into our plans. Planning to succeed means being happy, healthy as well as making money. I believe the happy and healthy falls by the wayside in our race to sell books.
One of the reasons I am affiliate for Sarra’s HB90 Course is because I believe in it. I believe in her. I have a tendency to believe I can do everything but there are only 24-hours in a day and I need to sleep sometime. After taking the HB90 the first time, oh, as an alumni I can take the class anytime it’s offered and continue to have access to the information even if she makes changes in the material or videos.
Course Information: Enrollment is open now! Feel free to share!
Course Dates: September 11-17th with the live kick off call on the 11th at 3PM EST via Facebook or YouTube
Course Price: Students have a choice pay in full at $199 (best deal), 3-month plan of $75 a month for 3 months or a 6-month plan at $38 a month for 6 months.
Yes, I get a small commission if you use my affiliate link but even if I didn’t I would still promote this course. If you’re not sure about taking Sarra’s HB90 Bootcamp then check out her YouTube Channel. It’s a great way to get to know Sarra and decide whether she’s a good fit for you. I find her uplifting and real, she makes me think and fills me with hope for my future success.
I tried something new. While listening to a Draft2Digital YouTube video with Google Play’s Ryan Dingler, I learned that Google Play offers to create free audiobooks for authors using AI (artificial intelligence). I have always wanted to get my books on audio but it is so expensive and I did not feel that my sales were to a place that I could leap out and pay a couple thousand dollars to have an audiobook made.
When I heard about Google Play’s offer, I uploaded my books to Google Play and began looking or rather, listening for the right voice. Now it doesn’t sound exactly natural but it’s not bad. I played with it, speeding up the reading until it felt comfortable to my ear. I’m giving away 1000 copies of Chrome Pink audiobook and hope to receive some feedback. Should I upload all my books to Google Play’s AI audio? Free code to try Chrome Pink Audio Q5B0LUDH80TD7 https://play.google.com/redeem?code=Q5B0LUDH80TD7
For anyone who is an indie author, whether you publish with Draft2Digital or not, I suggest you check out their blog and their YouTube videos. They are a great source of information. And if you’re not publishing with D2D, why not? They make life so much easier.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss