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.
Happy Birthday to me. My birthday is on it’s way. I remember as a kid always anticipating my birthday. I would start six months away adding half a year to my age. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve not been as anxious to add those extra years. But shouldn’t we celebrate even more so the years we’ve been given. A dear friend just celebrated 95 years and I cannot even imagine all that she has seen. Each birthday is a blessing. While our culture may celebrate youth, I think there is a lot more to be gained from age. I believe that each of us can benefit from the other. I believe youth needs the wisdom and the connection to our history that comes from those who are older, but older people need the young to remind us of what it was to be young. Being around young people keeps us current, relevant and vital.
As I celebrate this new birthday, I am grateful for this year that I have had with its ups and downs. I can honestly say 55 was filled with more good than bad even though some of the bad things were terrible, like the loss of my young grandson and dealing with this virus, the unrest in our country and the continued racial inequality, but even through all of those tragedies have been shining moments of joy, love and friendship. Each of you have made this year better and I hope in some small way, I have made things better for you.
I look forward to 56 with excitement and joy. I know I won’t be celebrating like I have in years past, but I am grateful for the love and support of my family, friends and you guys, my community of readers, followers and friends. It means so much to have you here supporting my dream. I wanted to be published before my 50th birthday. I didn’t quite make it but this year, I turn 56 with 6 books, so that’s almost as good, right? I hoping to have a couple more books before the end of the year, but life doesn’t always go as planned. I’m working on Roxy’s story and already have details of Trent’s story planned. I just have to decide if I’m going to make Remy wait a while for his story. Too many ideas and plans I’ve got to get busy. Thank you for celebrating with me.
Celebrating my birthday with a book signing at The Next Chapter Book and Art Store in New Bern, North Carolina. It will actually be the day after, Saturday, July 25th, 10-12 noon. Come check out Michelle’s little store with the big heart and maybe buy one of my books. I hope to see you there.
January 2020 started with a lot of promise and hope. I am still trying to hang onto that feeling. It is not easy during this time of Covid-19 to keep up that optimistic spirit. Like many of you, I am still working and though there are safety measures in place, I don’t have a lot of faith in them. It is nearly impossible to protect ourselves 100% from the virus if we are out in the public, but are we, or am I making myself crazy worrying about something that may never be a problem for me or won’t be that bad if it is. I am trying to be cautious and smart but I’m also just trying to live each day. I have allowed myself to get overwhelmed and overwrought, it is time to take back control. Today, I’m celebrating each new milestone I have made in my writerly journey. So, join with me and celebrate your journey too. Tell me what this quarter has brought you. What did you do? Big or small, it is important to celebrate each day and each accomplishment.
One of the greatest things I did this quarter was take Sarra Cannon’s Publish and Thrive Course. I wish I had taken it sooner. This was an awesome program for indie authors. Even after publishing five books, there is still so much I needed to learn. After her Publish and Thrive Course, I decided to take her HB90 Bootcamp. Now this program isn’t just for authors, it is for anyone trying to get organized, but it does have a strong focus on authors because Sarra is an author too. She only offers these programs a couple of times a year but once you sign up for the program you can sit in whenever she is giving the course. She sends updates to her previous students and she gives free video lessons on YouTube or you can check out her website http://www.sarracannon.com. I know, I sound like an ad for Sarra Cannon and perhaps I am. Sarra is such an uplifting person, listening to her YouTube videos has been a great help to me during this pandemic scare. If you are looking for a great YA story, check out her The Witch’s Key videos, she has been doing live all month.
In Sarra’s Publish and Thrive Course she suggested authors have a newsletter to stay connected to their readers. As we have recently seen Facebook and Amazon do little to help us reach our readers and keep them informed. I started out with three people receiving my newsletter. My first official newsletter for April had 15 (two of those myself), and I have now increased it to 22 real followers. Nine of those in the last month. Thank you for supporting my efforts and I hope you like the new short story I wrote just for you.
While I have been struggling to write the new story (not because I don’t know what happens but because I am exhausted and just have no energy to write), I am happy to share some of Mike and Janie’s back story. It was fun to go back in time and write about how their romance started and tanked. I plan to use some of this in the novel but for those of you who signed up for the newsletter, you have all of the details.
Another part of the struggle is I have three stories planned and as a pantser I’m having to plan or plot my stories because it is too much to do in my head. I want to weave these three together and it feels like I am trying to unknot a necklace chain with low light. I know how to untangle it if I could just get a hold of it. I do have about 20K of this new novel written, that is probably a third of it. So, I am hopeful I can finish it this month. I just need to focus.
There is so much to learn when you are an indie author. After five books I still feel I do not know how to market or promote myself and my books well. I am constantly searching for ideas that will work and not cost a fortune. Those of you who repost my book promos and post reviews on my Facebook page, Amazon, Bookbubs or Goodreads, thank you. Your efforts do more to help me than anything I can pay for. I still believe that word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising there is. Thank you for supporting my dream.
Many of you saw where I won The Heart of Carolina RWA’s Christine Hyatt Service Award. When I opened my box and read the letter, I cried. The award is for my work as moderator or as I call it, host of the Book in a Week challenge. This is a monthly writing challenge where participants set their own writing goals and we try to encourage each other to achieve it. We are mostly a group of women, with an occasional brave man joining us. We share our triumphs and our challenges. While I try to be cheerful and encouraging, I know there are times I drop the ball. When I do, there is someone else who takes up the slack. I couldn’t do this every month without the rest of the group. Some months there are only a few of us and others we fill the board, but many who aren’t even participating still take the time to cheer the rest onward. Being a part of this group has allowed me to reach my own writing goals.
Before I end this celebration, I want to thank the handsome firefighters and EMTs who recently bought my book, Red Steel. The book was a love story to the men and women who volunteer. I admire our local fire and rescue station. They were there for my family when we lost our home to fire and when my father died. They are true heroes. When one of the young firefighters sent me back a message that he loved the book and wanted to read the rest of the series, I felt I had accomplished my goals. I’m celebrating today, not a million sales. I may only have a hundred or so, but that’s okay, because I love writing the books and you like reading them, so I’m calling it a win.
Thank you all for celebrating with me as we close this quarter. I may not have reached all my goals but that’s okay, I still have plenty to be happy about. I hope you do too.
If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter please do, you do not want to miss Mike and Janie’s teen romance. If you have read my stories and you like them, please don’t forget to write a review, it makes a HUGE difference.
nears, I become increasingly aware of all I have to be thankful for. Somethings
are huge and often become just the background of my life. I don’t want to
become complacent and forget what I have. I am blessed. I live in a country
where I am free to speak my mind, worship the way I believe and have friends
who have differences that both influence and inspire me.
I am thankful
to God for the life I have. I am not rich the way some people might measure riches,
but I have something so precious it cannot be bought with gold. The love and
support of family and friends. We recently welcomed a new grandson, he is
number twenty in the line-up. As I held him in my arms, I came to realize that
no matter what number they are, they are all number one in my heart. Whether
they were born into the family or came as part of a package deal, they are my
grandchildren and I am so thankful to have so many blessings.
As an only child, I was lonely and often had to find ways to entertain myself, I believe that is a big reason why I started writing. When I married my husband, my sexy mechanic, he expanded my family to become our family of six sons. His outgoing mother and sister taught me what it means to be part of a large extended family. My own parents were quiet and a bit shy, preferring to keep to themselves mostly.
parents died when I was very young, but his sister stepped in to be a surrogate
grandmother to me and later to my children. She did her best to keep the family
together and help us know our extended family. She was a vibrant woman who had
a big influence on me as a person. I hope she is proud of the woman I have
parents, especially her mother, was the youngest of four and yet, in many ways
she was the glue the kept us all together. I adored my grandmother though we
did not always agree. She was a strong woman with a strong, loving spirit and I
hope that I’m a little like her.
Each of my
sons have given me something precious. They have influenced my thoughts and my
writing. They have given me strength and courage. While I know that I have
often failed them, I hope they know how much I love and respect each of them.
They have taught me to stand up and be brave. Even if you are terrified, do what
you know is right. Don’t let someone who says you cannot do have power over
what you believe. Don’t give up. Anything worth having takes time, you cannot
rush it. Pick your battles, fight the ones that truly matter and don’t let the
others steal your joy. Be your own advocate. Believe in yourself even when
others do not. Find something to celebrate every day.
As you all
prepare to celebrate the holidays, no matter how you celebrate, take a moment
to count your blessings. You might find you have more than you ever realized.
I’m not sure what I expected this
week during the first week of NaNoWriMo. My only other experience with NaNo in
2015 was more harrowing. As an inexperienced writer who usually only made five-hundred
words per day, trying to triple my output to make my NaNo goal wasn’t easy. I
had to really push myself to write every day. It felt like a job, a burden and
when I finished, just before Thanksgiving that year, I was too exhausted to
even celebrate. This year is so much easier. As a more experienced writer who
writes nearly every day and averaging about two-thousand words a day, the difference
between this NaNo and the first are quite surprising.
I almost didn’t participate in NaNo
this year. After the mental and physical exhaustion of my first experience, I
wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through that again. The first NaNo was to
prove to myself I could write on a schedule and produce work. This NaNo I don’t
feel I have to prove anything. It is just for fun and to get the rough draft of
my next book done. I hope that through this NaNo, I can meet other writers,
share stories, be a part of the community of writers. I hope to offer support
and encouragement and learn new tricks and ideas about writing and publishing.
I have talked a lot about listening
to YouTube videos, reading blogs and listening to webinars on writing. As a
pantser, I have tried to find ways to prep my stories that don’t include the
soul-sucking outlines and planning guides many of the plotters seem to enjoy.
Truthfully, I thought I would enjoy that process as well and was surprised at
how imprisoning it felt for me. BUT, but, I have learned that I can use
plotting tools in my own way. A few years ago, I came to realize that my first
draft was my outline. As a pantser, my process is different than a plotter’s,
because I just sit down to write plotting and planning going back and adding
necessary information and events to support my current idea as I draft. When I
read back through my rough draft, I move things, delete, add, ask questions.
Sometimes in the rough draft if I don’t know an answer, I might leave a
question or suggestion and keep writing.
Before starting NaNo I tried
writing an outline but in truth it was a quick draft of my story ideas, with a
few questions, scene ideas and character notes. As I’m writing and I’m looking
at the outline. I use about half of what I have, add a lot more, rearrange some
and delete a few things. I am surprised at how much I did do in the outline.
So as I reflect on this first week
of NaNoWriMo, I feel good about my progress. I don’t feel stressed, though I do
have to push to find time to write daily. With writing as my second career, I still
have to work my day job, take care of my husband, myself and the house.
Thankfully my kids are grown, and my husband is fairly low maintenance. I have
connected with other writers and hope to attend a write-in this week.
My advice to other NaNo participants.
Do not make yourself crazy. Don’t let the fact that you only have 500, 5000, whatever
your word count is, make you feel bad in anyway. This program isn’t designed to
make you feel less than someone else or better than. It is not about killing yourself
to get your wordcount. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to CELEBRATE our love of
writing and to make it a priority. If you want to be a published author, you
have to have dedication. NaNo can teach you that. If you are struggling to
finish a project, NaNo can encourage you to finish. If you just want to prove
to yourself that you can have a career as a writer, then NaNo is a great
exercise for the real world. Make NaNo be the experience, the exercise (or exorcise)
you need it to be.
Words of Encouragement: Let your
words flow, tell the story that is inside of you, someone needs to read it.
Believe that you can do it and you will. Don’t try to make it pretty, just
write it, you can work on pretty later. You cannot fix a blank page, but you
can edit a bad page. Half the writing is in the editing.
With the fourth of July fireworks behind us, there is still more to celebrate. July is my anniversary and birthday month! I lieu of gifts for me, I’d like to do something for you guys.
It’s time for me to properly thank my loyal fans and I hope, find fresh eyes to read my books! I have joined up with The Kindle Book Review for their Welcome to the July Giveaway Extravaganza! Together, we are offering $500 in Amazon cash and prizes to three lucky readers from July 1st – 29th.
I’m not sure how I ended up writing a feminist novel. My main character, Rae Lynne Grimes, is a woman who can drive and repair anything from trucks to boats. She is a tough girl with a bad attitude. She is a fighter and a survivor. On the surface, she is as different from me as chrome is to pink.
While writing Chrome Pink, I didn’t think about the oddity of a female tow truck driver, nor did I think it strange that she was able to restore a motorcycle. My husband has often talked of his friend who worked alongside her father as a girl, and has now surpassed him in mechanical abilities. He spoke of women football players and race car drivers, and he pushed me to pursue my dreams, never setting limitations because of gender.
Rae embodies the strength of the women who have influenced my life. She is vulnerable and strong, street smart and naïve, she is an enigma, and she is all woman. I wanted a powerful personality, a character who could deal with life’s crap and give it right back.
I tease and tell people Rae is my husband in drag. That is only the first part of how she was created. I was taking a class online, the instructor told us to describe someone we know well. I described my husband. Afterwards, she told us to make changes: gender, race, religion, etc. and that became the skeleton for my character. Rae does have traits similar to my husband but she has evolved into a woman who has powered past her own weaknesses to do what has to be done.
I often thought my mother was weak. My dad didn’t even want her driving alone at night. When we visited her parents in the neighboring county, (pre-cell phone era), her father or brother would follow her home. After she started attending night classes at the local community college, I rode with her to keep her from traveling alone at night (that’s how I first met my husband but that’s another story). Dad was very protective of mom and I have taken on that role in his absence but she isn’t not as fragile as she sometimes appears. As an adult, I have come to know more of the story of my mother’s life that I was unaware of, like Rae Lynne, she has had to deal with pain and suffering, loss and fear, and as she has told me, she just did what she had to do to get to the other side.
Saying I’m not a feminist is like saying, I’m not a woman. It’s not that I think all women should run for congress nor should all women stay home and take care of the children. Today, we have more choices. I think, we as women, no, we as humans, have to find our own path, whether that is soaring to the moon or running to the grocery store. We are only limited by our own choices.
What I want my characters to say to my readers is simple, be you. It takes each of us to make the world work, celebrate what makes you special and unique. The world would not be the same without you.
Seeing my novel on Amazon for the first time was like seeing your child after a long trip. I’m so excited and a bit overwhelmed.
In celebration I’d like to host a drawing. I will give away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. All you have to do to win is post a review of my new book, Chrome Pink by S L Hollister. You can post it on Amazon, Bookbub or Goodreads, then copy it and send it to me via email at email@example.com. I will have one of grandchildren pull a name from bowl and contact the winner. We will draw the winner on December 26th.
Thank you for celebrating with me the launch of my first novel!
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss