I have a confession. I’m a nerd. I geek out over the strangest things. I love research and learning new things. With the past couple of years’ Covid restrictions I have done most of my research and learning online. As y’all know, I follow several authors online. I love YouTube especially for learning from other authors, but I recently discovered I can find research information like steamships from late 1800s and early 1900s, what life was like in the Victorian era, and assorted household items look like when they explode or catch fire.
I also enjoy taking classes both in person and online on everything from writing craft to research details and even marketing. Okay, maybe I don’t exactly enjoy marketing but as an indie author, marketing is a necessary part of the game. Last Saturday I attended the Heart of Carolina Spring Conference with Molly Maddox and Lucy Lennox. I followed that program with a webinar on Goodreads by Alessandra Torres of Inkers Con. I feel I have been inundated with information, good, much needed information but maybe more than I can process at the moment.
One thing I learned while raising our sons is that we each absorb information in different ways and regurgitate that information through our own filters. As I review the recordings one more time, I know that I will have to choose one or two things to focus on and do my best to implement those lessons before I can attempt to use any of the other great knowledge. That’s why for me, I don’t mind listening to a lecture more than once, sometimes multiple times. I happily attend classes and programs I’ve attended before or are similar, because review helps renew or remind me of things I might have forgotten or become lax with.
Craftsmen, no matter if they are woodworkers or painters, seamstress or authors, we each continue to learn in order to stay current. When we stop growing and learning, we then begin to die. On that ominous note, I urge each of you and myself to learn something new and find the new nugget in the old.
Of course, I’m a nerd, I love to learn. I geek out over dress fashion changes from the 1800s and inventions of the Victorian era. I get all excited watching glass blowers design a vase or a blacksmith make a knife. I want to know how it’s done.
This week my gal-pals and I will be going to Carteret to listen to mystery author, Tom Kies and while we’re there, I’ll do a little research at the maritime museum. With two books in two different series in different genres and different time periods, this trip is more than just a fun adventure, it’s a necessity. But there will be laughs, good food, fun times and learning all combined. It’s so good to be able to go to in person events again.
I will be learning to Haiku with poet, author and bookstore owner, the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, Michelle Garner-Flye. Check out http://www.pamlicowriters.org
I hosted a Writer’s Block Meet Up on RWA’s virtual conference. It was a great, small meet up group that allowed us to discuss different subjects. Although the main focus was writer’s block, the discussion made me realize that there are a lot of things that can cause writer’s block.
How has Covid effected your writing? Are you in quarantine writing more or are you like me, working and feeling exhausted? My writing has suffered during the virus. I’m considered an essential worker. I manage a liquor store. People are working from home or are staying at home. But it wasn’t just the increase in sales but the worry and concern over what this virus could do to me or to my family. Working with the public, having extra responsibilities to keep us safe, fear of bringing it home, all of this made it difficult for me to write. I finished Janie’s Secrets during Covid, it was nearly a month later than I’d planned but I did finish it. Unfortunately, that put me behind on other things I wanted to write like the novella for the Heart of Carolina and The New Romance Café. Covid has just zapped me.
What do you think is the biggest cause of writer’s block? I rarely have trouble thinking of things to write. I have trouble finding time to write. This year has been difficult with the extra stress, work and grief. I have a large family, a home, a mother who depends on me, a husband who’d like a little attention occasionally, and then there is the marketing and promoting that also takes time.
The worst time I had with writer’s block was after we lost our home to fire followed by losing my dad the next year, then Hurricane Irene destroying my mother’s home, and she falling and breaking her hip. I had a difficult time getting back into the swing of writing. Chrome Pink took several years to get written, but writing it was what helped me out of my writer’s block. One of the first things I did to help with my own writer’s block was take online classes. I also attended a local writer’s conference. I began my own writer’s group. I pushed through the block and just started writing. I wrote less than 500 words a day at that time and not every day then. Making it a habit, as often as I can a daily habit, pushing myself to write more, competing in Book in a Week and NaNoWriMo has also helped fight through the writer’s block.
Do you have any hacks to help you combat writer’s block? Normal writer’s block, i.e. fatigue, stress, lack of time, I fight in a variety of ways.
I love to dance. Sometimes a little music and movement can shake something loose in the muse.
A walk. My town is the inspiration for my series, a walk around town puts me in touch with my muse. I often take photos which I use on social media, so my walk is a two-for, or three-for as it’s also good for me.
Playing with my grandchildren, two of my grands live next door and whenever they call for grandma, I can’t say no. I mean, who could say no to two adorable little boys?
Write something different.
Try poetry. Write a poem or song, try writing it from your character’s POV.
Write an interview with your characters. Ask them the hard questions.
Write an article, blog post, advertisement, or synopsis.
Write until you have a breakthrough.
Maybe you need to read over what you’ve written and see where you’ve gone off the rails.
Rethink, replot, or rewrite until you see your way out of your schlump.
Read a craft book to help you write better.
Read and relax.
Listen: this was suggested in our discussion this morning and I cannot believe I didn’t think of it because I do this.
Audio-dramas or books: listen to your favorite performances or authors and pay attention to how they write or put words together; or listening to craft books on writing.
YouTube videos or podcasts: there are several tutorials on the craft and business of writing. They can inspire you to write better or give you new ideas.
I’d love to hear how you combat writer’s block. Share your tricks and hacks.
There was a time I thought Harlequin Romances were passe`. I believed billionaire romances were not my style. Reese Ryan has defied all my beliefs. Y’all know I’m a fan. Even tropes and genres I thought I didn’t like Reese has showed me my error. The truth is a good story is a good story and that’s what Reese Ryan gives us again and again.
Secret Heir Seduction starts right off with the action. Darius Taylor-Pratt is a self-made man, he started his activewear company Thr3d from a dream and hard work. Learning he is the secret heir to a billionaire turns his world sideways. Learning who his father is only half the surprises he’ll face in the first few pages. It’s what I really love about this story, within a few pages we’ve learned who Darius is, some of his backstory and we’re thrown into his drama, and by chapter two we’ve met Audra, his former lover and boy oh boy do sparks fly. If that doesn’t make you want to read this book, then let me tell you they are one sexy couple in a town of sexy couples. Reese Ryan has peopled her story with secondary characters who add spice and diversity to the setting and story. We get a little taste of several other romances and family dramas going at the same time giving us a rounder view of the town of Royal.
This is a second chance love story. If you like hot, sexy, characters with deep emotional scars and strong ethics, then you’ll love Reese Ryan’s stories. Each book becomes my new favorite, but I think this one will be hard to beat.
The end of a decade. As we prepare to ring in the new year and the new decade, I find myself looking back over the past ten years. So much has happened in such a short time.
After winning the Ann Peach Award in 2009 and joining Romance Writers of America, I started truly thinking about being a published writer ending the last decade on a creative high.
In January 2010 we lost our home to fire. While this was mind-numbingly devastating it wasn’t the worst that could have happened. It may seem that this decade started with tragedy but with every bad blow we were also given a blessing.
The night after the fire I went with my daughter-in-law to the hospital, it was the last chance she’d have to tour the hospital before our grandson Harley was born. My son, and her husband (at the time) was stationed overseas and trying his best to get home before the birth of his son. We lost nearly everything in that fire, but we walked away with our lives and a few short weeks after, we gained a grandchild.
When I think of all we lost, it’s not the Christmas presents we haven’t replaced that fill me with regret but those items that can never be replaced: the horse whip that belonged to my husband’s grandfather from his time in the wild west show, or the quilt his maternal grandmother made, my baby sister’s baby shoes, my children’s baby books, photo albums and high school annuals.
But both sons who were living with us at the time, are still alive. The youngest whose room was in flames had to leap from his bed to the stairwell, became a firefighter. Our other son has always been someone we could call if we needed anything. The fire was devastating but many blessings came out of it.
We stayed a few months with my parents. It was stressful at the time. I wasn’t sleeping good. I was having nightmares and the added stress of trying to conform to someone else’s schedule made it more difficult. Adding to the stress was the fact that my daughter-in-law wasn’t happy living in such a rural environ with two small children. She was ready to get back to Savannah and her life and friends. I was thankful for the time with my family but there were days I was barely functioning.
Our community were a great asset to us. People brought us clothes, household goods, and money to help us during this time. Moving into our present home that spring was thanks in large part to the physical help of my sister-in-law and her family and to the financial help of our friends, family and community. With each blow there has been a blessing, most times the blessings have outweighed the trauma.
On New Year’s Day 2011, my dad was found dead in his bathroom. The EMTs believed he suffered an aneurism and died suddenly. His death was followed by the birth of our granddaughter Ava. My son calls the day of the funeral, he’s not going to be able to be a pallbearer, he’s on his way to the hospital with his wife. He tried to convince us that as soon as she had the baby, he’d come to the funeral, but I knew my daddy would prefer he stay with his wife and child.
In the spring of 2011, Mom, my youngest son, oldest grandson and myself went to Savannah to visit. We spent a week with my Army son and his family. We explored downtown, Tybee Island and went on a ghost walk. I want to go back again.
Late in the season, we had our first hurricane. It was the first since my daddy died and I insisted my mom come stay with us. It didn’t seem all that bad, it was down to a category one. Hurricane Irene destroyed my parent’s home with flood waters and devastated our community. We had several rescues the night of the hurricane, our niece and her family and a couple of friends. When mom and I went to check on her place I was shocked to see the damage. The tide waters had been pushed ashore through two high tides, flooding even the church which was on the highest piece of land in the community.
My sons came with a generator and began helping us sort through the salvage in Mom’s house. The fire was easier, there was nothing left to sift through. This loss was probably harder than any other because everyone was going through something at this time and there was no one to offer comfort. Everyone was overwhelmed and exhausted.
Just when we’re returning to some sort of normal, later that year, my mother, who was living with us at the time, fell and broke her hip. 2011 was not a very good year for us but we did get a new granddaughter.
2012 Vietnam Homecoming with my father-in-law and started writing articles for the Pamlico News. My first stories were interviews of Vietnam Veterans and their families. I was also able to follow my youngest son around the track for track and field and use my role as reporter to promote my community and special interest. Many of the stories I covered while writing for the paper inspired my fiction.
The next few years were a blur of babies, weddings, separations, divorces and graduations. Blake graduated from Pamlico High School. Dustin got his master’s degree from East Carolina University. Aries graduated from Pamlico Community College. My in-laws, Wayne and Verna’s celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary 2014
In the past ten years we’ve been blessed with Trinity whose big sister Alijah came along when her mom married into the family. Sophia, followed in close succession by two sisters, Sabrina and Carol to parents Chris and Shannon also married in this decade. Conner whose brother Cody and sister Hailey joined the family just ahead of him, along with their mom Brandi who married my soldier son, Jason, who is now a civilian. We have another Brandy, making three Brandies for one family (my niece Brandy informs me she was the first and our first baby girl), and a Sherry (spelled with an I) but then I do work at the ABC store. What does ten years look like? Well, coming into this decade we had five grandchildren, only one a granddaughter, and at the close of this decade we have 20 grandchildren, standing about half and half. The third Brandy in the family just gave birth to a handsome little boy, Jessie David and he was greeted by big sister Sylvia who is two and half years older but rules the roost. Our youngest son, Blake married Katelynn Scott and they have two boys Elijah and Kaysen.
I met Louise Penny at a book signing in Fearington Village when I went on a girls’ trip with Marni Graff and friends.
Became chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group in 2015.
2016 I had my first stories published in a book, the Pamlico Writers’ Anthology, “A Carolina Christmas,” and had my first book signing.
Published my first book in 2017, “Chrome Pink” and had my first solo book signing.
Went to my first Comicon in 2017. I even dressed up. We had a lot of fun.
In 2018 I published my second book, White Gold and in 2019, I’ve published two books, Titanium Blue and Evergreen Crystals. I’ve also had two novellas published with The New Romance Café anthologies, Love in Bloom and a historical in Kisses and Other Scandalous Pastimes.
Gave my first writer’s talks in 2019 and published my fourth book.
So much more has happened in the past ten years. We’ve lost good friends. Buried friends and husbands of friends, my great aunts and a few cousins. We’ve gained weight, lost weight, turned gray and turned loose. Some of us aren’t as mobile as we were before but those that are left keep marching on. As difficult as the first of this decade was, I still believe it’s been a good one. I miss my dad and friends who have passed on. I mourn them but life goes on and I don’t think they would want us to stop living.
As 2020 peers around the edge of 2019, I’m working on my next novel, Red Steel which is part of the Leeward Files series and a bridge for my new series, The Harrell Family Chronicles. I’ve also had a historical series on the back burner for years I want to start working on. It’s going to be a busy year but I’m looking forward to it. I plan to spend as much time as possible with grandchildren and family, writing and reading good books, and just enjoying each day. Remember we are not guaranteed tomorrow, the past is done, today is a gift that is why it is called the present. Have a happy new year.
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 love to cook but don’t always take the time to do so with a full-time job and trying to write. Usually on Sundays I’ll make something that will last a couple of days but this past Sunday I joined friends for a celebration of a dear friend’s birthday.
I’d taken out boneless, skinless chicken breasts but when we arrived home from the party our electricity was out and did not come back on until after eleven o’clock that night. I decided the chicken could wait until I got home from work.
It’s not always easy deciding what to fix for supper with no grocery store in town. I can purchase canned and frozen and some packaged stuff locally but to have fresh food, I have to journey to the next town. I hate to go shopping after work but sometimes I have no choice. My recipes depend on staples I keep on hand or can pick up locally or buy ahead of time and store or freeze.
Cajun Chicken and Rice
lard (I used real pork lard but you can use vegetable shortning)
Put a couple of tablespoons of lard in a large pot, heat.
Season flour & cover chicken with flour. (I find it works best to do one breast at a time, removing the browned chicken, and drain, adding in more lard as needed. I only add a tablespoon each time.)
After the chicken is cooked, set it aside. Cook sausage in same grease, set it aside and make a rue with a couple of tablespoons of the seasoned flour in the leftover grease. Brown the flour, add in canned tomatoes, water, bring to a boil, lower heat after it begins to thicken, return chicken and sausage to the pot, simmer.
Serve over white rice.
This would be great with Jalapeno cornbread. Hmm, I think I might make some this week.
Dead of Winter by Wendy
Corsi Staub, read by Melanie Ewbank
Bella Jordan never planned to be
an amateur sleuth. She was just a widow trying to survive being a single
parent. Raising her seven-year old son, Max and trying to do whatever she can
to see he gets a happy Christmas, Bella doesn’t have time for the dead body
that has washed up from the lake.
The Valley View Inn and Lily Dale
have become their home, and despite or maybe because of the weird things that
happen there, Bella’s sharp wit and logic are often at war with the mystical
and magical side of her community. A sceptic, Bella really doesn’t believe in
visions or talks with the dead, even though a magical cat brought she and her
son to Lily Dale, and they have offered the mother and son their protection,
Bella refuses to allow herself to trust her other sight.
A scream in the night and a body
on the shore have Bella rethinking her ability to be logical.
When Max’s friend, Jiffy goes
missing, Bella believes it is linked to the murderer.
Magic and logic team up to help
locate the missing boy, catch a murderer and retrieve priceless artifacts.
This is a delightful story of
love, hope and possibilities mingled with mystery. If you like a good cozy
mystery with a little twist, check out Wendy Corsi Staub’s Lily Dale Mystery
As chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group, and more recently of our conference steering committee, I have been forced to do things that are uncomfortable, like public speaking. I know y’all think because I’m a big mouth broad I shouldn’t be sweating and fearing I’ll pass out just because my audience is ten times what I am comfortable with. I still get knock-kneed and tongue-tied whenever I have to stand up on stage and speak into a microphone, but I have learned to power through it. Practice and prayer helps!
This year I volunteered to teach a workshop. Why did I do that? Yeah, I asked myself the same question. It goes back to high school and Ms. Glenoria Jennette, basically she said, embrace your dreams even if it scares you, especially if it scares you. As I have gotten older, her advice has continued to guide me. I can cower in fear or spread my wings and take a chance. Yes, I might fail, I might fall but I will never know unless I try and keep trying. Thanks Ms. Glen, I’m still trying.
I shared my workshop with an awesome group of friends and strangers who each had something to contribute. I believe interaction makes a program more interesting and the presenter can learn from the attendees.
In my program “Be Prepared,” I talked of mistakes I’d made, programs and classes I’d taken, and how I’d adapted what I learned. I was a little terrified to have our keynote speaker, Katharine Ashe join my class. I’m a huge fan of hers and a bit awestruck, but she was a wonderful asset. I actually used her work to help make a few of my points.
Recently, I was a contributor to an international romance anthology, Love in Bloom. As part of this fabulous group I have learned so many new things that I was able to add to my program. Each experience I’ve had, each person who shares their journey adds another bit of information that helps me be a better writer or bookseller.
In today’s publishing world, whether traditional or indie, authors find they must wear several hats: promoter, publisher, and bookseller, marketer and designer. Authors are business people who must learn every aspect of their craft, as well as the business of writing in order to succeed. I am thankful for the workshops I have attended that have given me the tools to help me succeed. I hope my workshop gave someone else a little piece of that puzzle.
This year’s Pamlico Writers’ Conference had a few newbies, besides myself, Adrienne Dunning, Paloma Capanna and Tammera Cooper gave their first writers’ presentations. Paloma and Tammera were familiar with giving presentations due to their careers, Adrienne gave a 15- minute talk to a small group during our Carnival of Books, but for me, this was truly a first.
Thanks to everyone who helped me and encouraged me. I am blessed to have you as part of my tribe.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss