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
If you can touch one life, make a difference for one person then you have led a successful life. I am just one author who has benefited from following Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathing YouTube channel. I fell in love with her honesty, her openness and her willingness to share the bad as well as the good parts of being a published author. As an indie author, we have to be our own boss, manage our own business, do everything from plan the stories to marketing our books and making sure all the bills get paid. It can be overwhelming. That’s why I am so glad Sarra offers her Publish and Thrive Course. As an alumni, I can take the course for free anytime she offers it. The next round begins Monday, February 7th and I’m going to be front and center. Sarra has some new things she wants to share and I am so excited.
I understand that $399 is a huge investment. Sarra allows students to break the payments down in a couple of ways, $75 a month for 6 months or $38 a month for 12. If you can’t afford to take Publish and Thrive at this time, believe me, I understand. I’ve raised six sons and had to do some creative bookkeeping to make ends meet. Check out Sarra’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/7vMuLBV-TIU
I have been following Sarra’s YouTube channel for several years. It wasn’t until I met her in person at a Heart of Carolina Writers’ Conference that I got brave enough to take a chance on myself. That is what this investment is, it’s about believing in yourself, your craft and doing whatever you can to be the best you can be. I am so thankful for this program and for the chance to take a refresher. There is so much I need to learn, re-learn, be reminded of, and I’ll be honest with working full time, sometimes I have to make a choice on what I’m focusing on this time. Each time I feel like I’ve gain another piece of the puzzle.
This year has been filled with many ups and downs. While some of you have been forced into quarantine and sought to fill your time with delicious books, I and many others were considered essential employees. For those of us blessed or forced to remain on the job, we’ve had to deal with more regulations and responsibilities. While my job isn’t an important one like being on the frontline nursing the sick, it is still considered essential and I try to do it with respect and grace. Working with the public I filled a role that many people felt was a necessity. For me, the biggest service I felt I could give to my friends and neighbors was a kind word and a caring heart. I have to admit that this year has been exhausting. Between the politics and the virus, family tragedies and dramas, extra responsibilities and expectations at work and in the public, I have been a bit overwhelmed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt the weight of this year.
While we bid good riddance to this year with its many awful moments, I want to take this time to also reflect on the things that were wonderful and special about this year. I have two new grandbabies, twin boys who are healthy and after losing a grandson in May of this year, that is extremely important. I have a new and improved relationship with two of my sons and their families.
I have never been one to put myself out there, but due to Covid19 and having to do more online, I have started volunteering. I attended the RWA (Romance Writers of America) National conference and even hosted an online chat room. I have been able to attend the Heart of Carolina RWA meetings regularly and I’ve even accepted a position of leadership with the group. Our local writers’ group, the Pamlico Writers is still struggling to stay afloat during this time. Only a small handful of members attend the monthly Zoom meetings.
This year has been a struggle for so many. I know that I and my family have been blessed. My father-in-law has been the only one to truly suffer from the virus. He spent two weeks in the hospital but is thankfully well. Most of the family has kept working in one capacity or another. There have been a few struggles, some days it seems it is two steps forward and three back but with the grace of God and the help of family and friends, we are managing.
I know for many this year has been so much worse. Many have been trapped in their homes due to health concerns and regulations. Many have lost jobs, struggled financially, lost businesses and homes. Many have buried loved ones. Our schools and small businesses have felt the greatest burden, trying to navigate a new world with new needs. Living in rural America where we are half-quarantined already has given us a bit of freedom people in larger communities haven’t had.
This year has been stressful on many levels. I only published two of the three books I’d planned. I’m hoping 2021 will be a more productive year. I have devoted more time to marketing and learning about marketing. I’ve come to realize that there are only so many hours in a day and I can only do so much within those bounds. If you haven’t taken Sarra Cannon’s HB90 course and you are a small business owner, especially an indie author, I suggest you take it the next time she offers it. It helps you understand how much time you really have and how to use it. I would also suggest her YouTube channel Heartbreathings, and her Publish and Thrive course. Sarra’s YouTube channel helped me through much of this year. Her uplifting spirit and honest approach to problems made me feel as if I too could be a best-selling author.
I’m ending this blog with some highlights from my year on my website and will follow it soon with my 2020 book list and highlights from my Creekside Café Author interviews.
I’d like to welcome the awesome M. Lorrox to my Creekside Café. M. Lorrox and I are both members of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and I’m thrilled to have him at my virtual café.
M. Lorrox: Hi Sherri, I’m happy to be joining you, thanks so much for inviting me!
Sherri: If I ever win the lottery, I’ll build a café near the water where I can hang out with friends and talk about books when I’m not writing or reading. We’ve both been busy lately but if you’re like me you are seldom without a book. What are you reading right now?
M. Lorrox: Oooh, I’d take a lottery prize and start a cafe too, but it would be a half cafe, half rare-books library. I might call it Dusty’s Tomes or something, just for fun. I actually just started reading Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s wild and has elements of horror and romance–the two genres I write.
Sherri: I had to chuckle when I read your bio, raised in a barn in rural upstate New York. My father-in-law was raised on a dairy farm just outside Albany. He told me he got here as quickly as he could. He arrived with the Marines. How did you end up in North Carolina?
M. Lorrox: Hey, small world! Another New York ex-pat. I first ventured to DC, where I was a producer for a while and then a professor. My brothers ended up moving to the Triangle, and I visited a lot. I loved it down here, and after a few years, I was able to make the move.
Sherri: You are preparing to launch your first romance novel, but this isn’t your first writing career. According to your bio you wrote your first book in junior high. Although you didn’t publish that book, you have published other books. What made you decide to switch genres? Are you excited about your new venture?
M. Lorrox: I’m super excited! My first books were action & adventure stories with vampires and zombies…a real mashup. I decided to write romance, because I wanted to see more progressive heroes and heroines in love stories—people like me. I wanted to read about sex-positive people having great relationships, and I didn’t want any of them to be millionaires or shapeshifters, so I decided to write the stories myself.
Sherri: Tell us about your upcoming book. When does it go live?
M. Lorrox:Trashy Romance – Curbside Pickup is the stand-alone first novel in the Trashy Romance series of scorching, blue-collar, sex-positive, LGBTQ+ inclusive love stories. It’s about a high school economics teacher and the garbageman who services her neighborhood… It includes a pansexual character, some very hot scenes, and a teeny bit of domination and submission. But it’s a romance, not erotica. There’s ‘loads of love’ in it, tons of emotion, and because it’s an M. Lorrox novel, there’s also some suspense and action elements!
Sherri: I love your website. You’ve done a fabulous job with it. I’m so excited for you and your new author platform, https://mlorrox.com . As authors, especially indie authors, our social media is a huge part of our identity. Your website shows you humor, intelligence and passion, it is very well done.
M. Lorrox: I really appreciate it! I have an MFA and was an artist before anything else. I’ve always loved web design, and I’m glad that I can use some of my visual arts skills in my writing career.
Sherri: You studied and taught Kung Fu? As a child of the seventies I grew up watching David Carradine and the show Kung Fu. I love the beauty and choreography of martial arts and the religious teachings. As an adult I’ve learned the falseness of television but with a Cambodian daughter-in-law who was raised with Buddhist parents, she has taught me more about the religion. Do you practice Buddhism? Do you still study martial arts?
M. Lorrox: I started learning Kung Fu in college, and it was a great fit. After a few years training, I started to teach for that school. It introduced me to Ch’an Buddhism, which is kinda like a Chinese precursor to Zen Buddhism, and from there, yes, I continued to learn about Buddhism. I don’t practice Kung Fu regularly anymore, but I do practice the forms now and then. More recently, I found myself teaching the kids of my friends some self-defense techniques, and it’s been quite rewarding to see them benefit from the ancient skills. Buddhism is important to me too, and I highly recommend that people unfamiliar with its deeper principles to read about it.
Sherri: You’re a motorcycle guy, crotch rocket or cruiser? We’re a motorcycle family. My husband is a mechanic. He restored an old Honda for me. I prefer a small bike, but he keeps trying to get me on a cruiser. Do you still ride?
M. Lorrox: Actually, I ride a naked adventure bike, which I like to think is the best kind of adventure, AND motorcycle! Ha! I used to ride a Honda Shadow though, a cruiser. It’s wonderful to feel the road beneath you, and although I don’t ride much on trails or gravel, my bike lets me, and it feels extra badass whenever I do! I ride pretty often, mostly on twisties or around town, but I always ride as safely as possible. Car and truck drivers: watch for us motorcyclists and don’t F-around on your phone while driving! Thanks. 🙂
Sherri: Your books are described as pan-sexual and non-monogamous, for an old-fashioned woman like myself, it is difficult to think of them as romance. How is the romance genre changing and how are we as members of RWA trying to be inclusive and accepting of more diverse romances? How do we interpret romance? Is it the traditional “Happy ever after” or “Happy for now” scenario or are we opening doors to something else? How do we reach the old-timers like me and open their eyes to other possibilities of what is romance?
M. Lorrox: Well, what is a romance story? Where people fall in love, right? There’s historical romance, gay romance, regency, inspirational, etc. These are just different settings that the romances take place in, or different themes, or different orientations of the people. Pan-sexuality is an orientation (for those unfamiliar with it, the big difference (to me), is that it rejects the notion of binary gender in bisexuality). Non-monogamy, I’d say, is a relationship style or choice. But they’re humans falling in love, and LOVE IS LOVE!
I think the romance genre is changing with more stories being published that reflect or highlight these alternative lifestyles. How to be more inclusive of these kinds of romances? Read them! Fall in love with the characters, even if they may not be attracted to the same gender of people, or if they choose to practice a style of relationship that’s different to you. Besides connecting with an interesting character with views different from the reader’s, the reader can experience a different kind of emotion as the characters face different kinds of challenges. Just like more traditional romances, the emotional journey of the characters is the most important. I think we should interpret romance genre stories as love stories, and so I don’t see why a story about person X or Y or Z or Q falling in love with _____ can’t be romance genre.
Sherri: As a member of RWA and Heart of Carolina we felt the impact of the recent upheaval and both of us along with many others debated leaving the organization. I know my reading habits are not as inclusive as perhaps they should be. When I read for pleasure, I want to read what I like but in the hope of educating myself and becoming more understanding of other authors and their needs, I’d like to widen my reading pallet. How do we go about finding authors of differing viewpoints, ethnicities and ableness in order to read and show our support?
M. Lorrox: First off, you’re doing it right now by asking questions and opening a door. There are plenty of people that want to walk through, but it’s so much easier if someone on the inside opens that door for them, especially in a historically not-inclusive situation. I’ll thank you again for inviting me on, because you’re doing the work that RWA aims to do!
I’ve got a great suggestion on how to explore these new kinds of stories, and it’s not just ‘read them,’ although that’s certainly key. That book I mentioned, Gideon the Ninth, was a huge success, and I’d be surprised if most readers hadn’t either seen the cover or read a blurb about it. It topped the charts, reaching #1 in various LGBT romance categories on amazon, but it was also a top seller in a number of other categories. By browsing the top seller lists, or Amazon or Goodreads, you’ll be exposed to books that other people are loving. While there’s no subcategory for non-monogamy or pansex yet, LGBT subcategories will suffice to give you lots of options for what kinds of inclusive stories other readers are loving–and that you might too! Bloggers who cover queer media are also a good resource for learning more about the community and its creatives.
The ARC is available until 11/15/2020. Links to it are on the site, and I’d love to have you, and any of your readers, read it!
Sherri: Thank you M. Lorrox for taking the time to talk with me and readers. Time is getting away from us quickly, if you enjoyed our chat follow M. Lorrox on social media you can find his links below and stay tuned for his upcoming book, Trashy Romance-Curbside Pickup by M. Lorrox due out November 15, 2020! Thank you M. Lorrox for stopping by my Creekside Café, I think it’s time for a drink. Name your poison.
M. Lorrox: I’ll have a kombucha cut with seltzer, please!
The emotional ups and downs of being an author don’t always follow the pattern of our books’ success and failure. Too often, it is the low that comes after a super high, only to plummet back to reality.
As I look back at the month of August and what I’ve accomplished and haven’t accomplished, I find myself fighting melancholy. Why? A two-star review on Goodreads for Janie’s Secrets, not making the finals in Kindle Book Review Awards for Red Steel, feeling like I don’t have the time to do everything I need to do or want to do. I worked very hard to write a novella for the Heart of Carolina’s upcoming anthology only to realize I didn’t have time to finish it. Failure is crushing even when it is self-inflicted failure.
But I should be doing somersaults after all I have accomplished this month. Chrome Pink made it into the Amazon Top 100 Kindle Free Books. It finished #34 on Sunday, August 30th after a Free Booksy Ad. It also reached #3 in Romantic Suspense and #4 in Suspense. Over 2000 books were down loaded on Sunday and that doesn’t even count the books I sold or the ones down loaded on other sites. I should be sailing in the clouds but I allowed a bad review, not even a really bad review but a 2-star rating, crush me. Why? Because I’m human. I can tell you I’m tired, I put my heart into my stories, they’re like my children, I want people to like me/them. The truth is not everyone is going to like my stories. Not everyone is going to like me.
I’m not alone in my emotional roller coaster, many authors, especially indie authors feel the same way I do. Author Sarra Cannon, whom I follow on YouTube with her Heart Breathing Channel and whose courses, Publish and Thrive and her HB90 changed my life, speaks of mental health and well-being in her videos. We often put too much on our plates and expect to be able to perform well, but like the juggler with his chainsaws that last addition can be catastrophic.
In Sarra’s HB90 course she talks of planning quarterly, 90-day increments and even breaking those down into monthly expectations. Sitting down with a planner, thinking of what I have to do, want to do and need to do. How much time things will take and how much time I will actually have to devote to the tasks amid life, work and family. Allowing time to sleep, eat and maybe even cuddle with my husband.
I really have no reason to feel down. I know much of what I’m feeling stems from fear, exhaustion and coming off the high of other successes. For those of you who fear this might be a whining session and wish to tune out, it’s not, this is my pep talk to myself and to anyone else who is happy when they see one sale a day or are thrilled when their free book gets 100 downloads. I keep telling myself I’ve only been published three years. I have six books, seven if you count my trilogy of the first three books I just released, plus I have novellas in several anthologies. I’ve come a long way in a short time. Even though I’ve been writing for over forty years, I’ve only started writing to publish in the past fifteen years with a couple of years off after losing our house and my father. We had a couple of really rough years.
So, what do I have to whine about? Nothing. I should be celebrating. I have had over 300 new subscribers to my newsletter, that is both exciting and terrifying. I thought, how can I keep these people interested? What hoops will I have to jump through to keep them? But then I thought of the ones who have been with me all along the way. My steadfast friends who read everything I write good and bad, who offer opinions and assistance, and I realized, I just need to be real. I just need to be me. Yes, I’ll lose some people but that’s okay. Some will come for the free book, some will stay a while and go, others will be here for the duration. I just need to be the best me I can be for that is all I can be. That’s all any of us can be.
I know putting my books out into the world for other people to read means some won’t like it, but some will. Channeling Sarra Cannon again, I’m going to write from my place of joy. I’m going to write the books that I feel compelled to write and hope they will appeal to readers. It is time to get back to work on Roxy’s Secret.
For those of you who received my newsletter, I sent the first few pages of the novella I was writing for the Heart of Carolina anthology. I didn’t get to finish it and I’m starting to think it might be a full-length novel. I think I might try a stand-alone novel once Roxy is wrapped up. Maybe I can tie it into my other stories. I’ll have to think about it.
My goals for August: Promote Janie’s Secrets, I’m still working on it. Start Roxy’s Betrayal, I’ve started but I’ve not made the progress I’d hoped. Increase Newsletter subscriptions, okay this has tripled thanks to Bookfunnel. Janie is free in a Bookfunnel promo this month, https://books.bookfunnel.com/weloveromancegiveaway/ao2jdazxop.
Today I’d like to welcome fellow Heart of Carolina RWA member, Seralynn Lewis to my virtual café. It’s good to have you here.
Seralynn: Thank you, it’s an honor to be here.
Sherri: Your novel, Cassie’s Secrets is your debut novel? Are you traditionally published or Indie? Tell us about your journey to publishing your novel.
Seralynn: Yes, Cassie’s Secrets is my debut novel. I will be self-publishing the book with a release date of September 1, 2020. The journey to publication has been uphill, downhill with crazy twists and turns along the way. Originally, I wanted to traditionally publish and after attending my first major convention in 2018, an agent requested the manuscript and I thought my goal to publication was secured. But after working with the agent for over a year, I realized the process of publishing traditionally would take an extraordinarily long time and I was unprepared to wait that long. My agent and I eventually parted ways and I began my journey to learn what I could about self-publishing and couldn’t be happier.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing? When did you decide to be a published author?
Seralynn: Years ago, when my daughters were toddlers, I got the bright idea that I would write a novel. I was addicted to reading romances and thought I could write one. So, with a notebook and pen, I wrote my first novel. It was so long ago that I used my mom’s old electric typewriter to type the manuscript. In those days, a writer could send their manuscripts to a publisher without the benefit of an agent. Sadly, the novel was rejected. But it wasn’t surprising since I had no formal training as a writer. In fact, the letter I received from the publisher said, “Take some creative writing classes and get a better typewriter ribbon.” I was crushed because I knew I’d never be able to take classes. That manuscript sat on a shelf and after quite a number of moves, I couldn’t bear to look at it and I pitched it. Life happened and I was a single mom for almost twenty years until I married my current husband. He encouraged me to take the classes and I did. It’s a long-awaited dream. This book, Cassie’s Secrets, began as one scene I had to write for my first creative writing class and it morphed in the full-blown novel it is today.
Sherri: Cassie’s Secrets is the first in a series set in the town of Worthy? Is this an imaginary town? Tell us about your town? The inspiration? This is also an inspirational romance, why is it important for you to write romance with a religious (Christian) theme?
Seralynn: Worthy is an imaginary town located about forty miles south of Columbus, Ohio. I chose the area because of what happens in book #2. When I wrote my proposal for the agent, I knew I had to have three ideas for the series I was planning and I wanted the book to be set in Ohio, since I was born and raised in Ohio. But I needed it to be a small town. The novel is an inspirational romance. It’s important for me to write this novel because there are messages I want to readers to have and who may need encouragement in their lives. The message is key. In Cassie’s Secrets, the message is about forgiveness. We all need it and we all should give it.
Sherri: You have won several writing awards. Tell me what it means to be a Serious Writer, inc Writer of the Year finalist?
Seralynn: I was incredibly excited to be one of twelve people to be a finalist for this award. The winner has not yet been announced due to the pandemic. There will be one winner, of course, but there will also be second to fifth place winners as well. I had forgotten I entered the contest only to be told by another writer friend who also placed that I had placed as a semi-finalist. Then we had to wait an inordinate amount of time to find out the finalists. We’re on tenterhooks waiting. The contest entry was for book #2 of the series.
Sherri: What do you hope readers will take away from reading your books?
Seralynn: I hope the readers will enjoy the story and learn there is hope. Hope in everyday life and in everyday people.
Sherri: What writing project are you working on now?
Seralynn: I’m in the process of editing book #2 of the series, Mia’s Irishman, which will be released sometime in November 2020. I’m also currently writing book #3 of the series.
Sherri: Why did you choose to write romance?
Seralynn: I chose to write romance because I love to read romance. From the time my children were babies, romances enthralled me and I’m a voracious romance reader. So many titles and not enough time to read them all! I enjoy most all sub-genres with a few exceptions.
Seralynn: I wanted to be able to touch women’s hearts by writing about faith, life and romance. Those three categories just about covers any topic I can think of. The Faith part of the blog is where I choose Bible verses and write about how they impact our lives today. The Life part of the blog is mostly day-to-day things from birthdays to holidays. And the romance part of the blog deals with romance and the adventures my husband and I had while living in Germany and visiting castles.
Sherri: In Cassie’s Secrets you have a match maker as well as a little suspense. What are your favorite genres or authors to read?
Seralynn: There are so many fantastic romance writers out there, it’s very difficult to choose even one. I have two favorite genres I like to read aside from contemporary romances and they are historical Scottish romances and Western romances. But I’ll read Amish, Regency, Sweet & Clean, Medical and other sub-genres with the exception of a few.
Sherri: What advice would you like to give to other writers who’d like to pursue publishing their work?
Seralynn: The best advice I can give is to write the best story you can, then learn to self-edit.
Sherri: Thank you Seralynn for visiting with me here at my Creekside Café. I wish you lots of luck with your new novel.
If you liked this interview with Seralynn Lewis then follow her on social media and check out her debut novel, Cassie’s Secrets.
Here’s the back cover copy of the book:
When there’s a second chance for love and you have secrets, are you able to share them to gain the love of your life?
Single mom, Cassie Verano, and her two young daughters move to small-town Worthy, Ohio to be near her brother and his family. After years of secretly writing best-selling novels, she longs to raise her daughters without her ex-husband’s family’s controlling interference and live in peace. Her daughters befriend two girls who are cared for by their aunt who urges Cassie to meet her brother. It’s the last thing she needs or wants.
Widowed business owner, Steve Nardelli, wants nothing more than to complete his huge Australian deal and expand his deceased father’s electronics firm to secure his family’s future. But his sister’s matchmaking antics over the past two years frustrates him. His disastrous marriage caused him to distrust women and he can’t seem to make his sister understand he doesn’t want or need any entanglements.
Despite Steve’s misgivings about Cassie’s secrets, when his sister disappears, he enlists Cassie to help care for his daughters. When Cassie has an odd dream, Steve blames her for his sister’s disappearance. Can Steve and Cassie overcome their mutual distrust and expose their secrets to one another to have a second chance at true love?
Cassie’s Secrets is a second chance Women of Worthy romance.
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.
North Carolina is known as the writingest state. There are a large number of authors from the mountains to the sea. As the chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group and a member of the Heart of Carolina the local Romance Writers of America, I have met some fantastic writers from self-published authors, those published with small or independent publishing houses and traditionally published authors.
I was surprised by how many Harlequin authors live and work in North Carolina. One, who I met at a HCRW conference just before she published her first book, Jo McNally has recently returned to her home state of New York. Her Harlequin Super Romance books are set in upstate New York and have a hometown feel that reminds me of North Carolina. Jo may have been influenced by her years living in eastern North Carolina.
At another HCRW conference, I met Karen Booth known for her millionaire romances which she writes for Harlequin Desire. Karen is a Midwesterner transplanted to North Carolina. She loves big cities, strong women and breathless kisses intertwined with a bit of family drama.
Reese Ryan is another author for Harlequin Desire. While she too is a transplant to North Carolina, this Chicago lady has embraced her southern home with several of her books. Her Pleasure Cove series is set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and several of her other books mention North Carolina. Reese Ryan is known for her strong, dynamic characters. She gave a presentation for the Pamlico Writers’ Group on characters that was one of the best I’ve attended.
Do you read North Carolina authors? Do you like to read about places you are familiar with? I plan to search for more North Carolina authors and share with you a few of fantastic stories I find. If you have a few favorites, feel free to share your North Carolina authors with me.
In lieu of new author interviews during the weeks leading to Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank the authors who first gave me a chance to interview them for my Creekside Cafe. Donna Steele was my first interview and I’d like to take a moment to honor her kindness and friendship as well as update her interview. Those of you who read the original interview, thank you, I hope you enjoy the new additions. To those who missed it, this is how it all began.
Interview with contemporary romance author, Donna Steele, Women strong enough for love is the theme of her stories.
Happy Martin Luther King’s day. It’s cool on
the river in January and today is downright cold. But it’s a beautiful, sunny day.
When the sun is shining in through the windows of the café and a there’s a fire
burning in the old wood heater, we can grab a big mug of something warm, and visit
with a good friend, everything is cozy.
My guest today is Donna Steele. We’re sipping
hot Russian tea with a little extra ginger. I love ginger. It’s really warming.
Great for a day like today. What a great idea Donna. We are here in my virtual
café looking out at South Creek.
Donna Steele is the author of twenty-five
books from Sci-fi romance to contemporary. We are both members of the Romance
Writers of America and the local branch, Heart of Carolina. Welcome to
Donna: It’s nice to be here.
Sherri: I have to say, I’m impressed. How did
you manage to write twenty-five books?
Donna: Lots of Sundrop. That’s my caffeine of
choice. I’ve been writing for over ten years. I started with fanfiction. I’ve
been published for seven. I’m now retired and I can devote more time to my writing.
I wake up around 6 am, start writing about 7:30. I try to write until noon. If
the words are flowing it might go a little longer but usually the juice seems
to cut off about then.
Sherri: I read your book Cancun
Memories and recently started your newest book, Don’t Look
Back, The Conall Clan series, I love your characters. You have a great way
with dialogue. Where did you learn to write such great dialogue?
Donna: I love writing dialogue. Stephen King
is one of my favorite authors. His dialogue reads like people are really
talking. When I’m reading one of his books, I even dream about them. I think he
has been the biggest influence on my writing. His characters are definitely three
Sherri: Stephen King is one of your favorite
authors? Who else do you like to read?
Donna: I read any fiction—sci-fi has always
been my go-to, then paranormal. I prefer contemporary to historical, but now
authors are giving those women strength. Sherri Tepper, Larry Niven, Sherrilyn
Kenyon, and I’m getting so many more by reading local authors in HCRW.
I’ve started reading more variety. If you could suggest one book to a reader,
what would it be?
Donna: Gibbon’s Decline and Fall by Sherri
Tepper should be required reading for every woman.
from the description of Gibbons – A wave of fundamentalism is sweeping across the globe as the
millennium approaches, and a power-hungry presidential candidate sees his
ticket to success in making an example out of a teenage girl who abandoned her
infant in a Dumpster.
She’s an incredible
Sherri: Your own characters, especially the
females are strong women. Often, they are stronger than they realize. Your
newest book is the first in a shape shifter series. It’s a bit of suspense,
romance and paranormal. Tell us about it.
Donna: Megan Sullivan is trying desperately to
escape her stalker. When Detective Wesley Conall suggest she move, at least
temporarily, to Sweetwater, North Carolina to disappear, it sounds like a
Lou Conall, Sheriff in Sweetwater, is less than
enthused when his cousin foists a victim on him, but he can’t say no to a woman
or child that needs protecting. This one shouldn’t be that much of a bother and
no way could her stalker track her to this location.
At least that’s what he think until he meet
Sherri: I have to laugh because you start it
off with a bang. Poor Lou doesn’t see her coming.
Of your twenty-five books, you are both
traditionally published and indie published. What do you think is the hardest
thing about publishing a book?
Donna: I’m a Hybrid author. I was with Rebel Ink
until they closed, now I’m with Soul Mate Publishing and Indie. The hardest
thing about publishing a book is advertising it once it’s finished. There’s so
much competition it’s hard to get people to see yours in the crowd.
So true. So where can readers find your books?