I have just returned from family vacation. We went to see my second grandson’s graduate from high school. It was a lovely time but as a writer, I could help making notes of possible story ideas, character traits and jobs, settings, and more. Do you find yourself seeing the world around you in different ways? Does a new environment or a new adventure inspire new ideas?
I think if you are creative, whether you are an artist, writer or entrepreneur, you see new things and get inspired.
I asked my grandchildren about a story idea for a reunion short story I’m writing, and they came up with an awesome idea: a reunion concert tour. I’ve been playing with a couple of ideas. The kids suggested a love triangle where the person chose the wrong person and wants a second chance with the right one. I’ve written a few hundred words but it’s not gelling yet.
I’d like to explore a character who works for the aquarium. What kind of education would they need? How did they apply and get the job? What are their duties and job titles? What goes on behind the scenes?
Southport inspires many story ideas from a new business starting up in a tourist town. I can see a restaurant owner befriending an artist who is opening their first business. Maybe he allows her to display her artwork in his restaurant and makes sweets for her to sell at her shop. He could introduce her to some seasoned business owners who help her and maybe one who wants to see her fail because she has her sights on the restaurant owner.
The rental house we stayed at was really nice. It also inspired a few ideas. Perhaps the vacationer and the owner have been emailing back and forth in preparation of her vacation, and they develop a sort of friendship. When they meet in person, it becomes more but because she is only visiting a short while, they think it isn’t feasible to start a romance.
Do you get inspired on vacation? Did you find something interesting on vacation you wanted to do at your own house? Did your vacation inspire a new poem, painting or even a new outfit? I’d love to hear what inspired you and how you used it.
People often ask me where my story ideas come from. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember the exact moment something came to me or what inspired it. Much of what I write comes from life, my life or the lives of friends and family. I also get inspiration from the news, television, movies, other books, a picture or even a misunderstanding.
Recently I watched a movie called Tall Girl and I was reading a book called Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills and I was thinking about my dad. My dad was a long-time baseball and softball lover. He lived for ball games. An athlete himself, he played ball growing up and when we came back to North Carolina to live, he started playing and coaching summer league softball. He even helped coach the school team with his long-time friend and fellow athlete.
Even though Beauty and the Baller was about a football player and Tall Girl was about a high school talent contest, they both had elements I related to: body image, peer pressure, other people’s opinions of us, our insecurities and baggage… How much of our adult lives are affected by things that happened to us in childhood or as teenagers? This kicked off memories of summer league ball and being the coach’s daughter. Wanting to play but not being very good, I dealt with my own insecurities. I still have a love of the game, but I’ve never had a talent for sports.
I’ve been thinking of doing a story about baseball players for years in honor of my dad but these inspired me to go in another direction. I’d like to work on a series, The Women of Summer League about women some in their mid-twenties and some older who play ball and what being part of the team and playing means to them. I want to add in a romance and I’ve been toying with the idea of suspense, I had an idea for a murder but I’m not sure if I’m going to go that route. Y’all know me, I love a good murder and if I get to blow things up, that’s even more fun.
It will take me a little time to do the research for these stories and I have one series to finish and another I’m already working on, so I’m planning to work on gathering ideas and that’s where you guys come in. I’m looking for people, mostly women but men are welcome to share their stories as well, about your experiences playing summer league softball. I’ve worked up a questionnaire but will probably have follow up questions. If you are interested in sharing your stories, I’d love to hear them.
I prefer first-hand account research whenever possible but I will also read biographies, and watch documentaries about other women athletes, not necessarily from softball. If you choose to share your stories, know that I will fictionalize them and they may not look the same when I’m done. The character who ends up with your story might be the victim or villain in the story. If you are not comfortable with that, thank you but it’s best not to share. I would not want anyone’s feelings to be hurt.
Just a little background on my process. Chrome Pink, Rae Lynne Grimes started out with a description of my husband for a writing class, and she morphed into a half-Hispanic female with a bad attitude. The motorcycle she restored was inspired by the bike my husband and his boss were restoring that had belonged to the boss’s nephew-in-law who’d passed away from cancer. The breast cancer theme came from my friend’s mother being diagnosed with breast cancer and the work my sister-in-law was doing with Relay for Life.
My sister-in-law was one of the people who inspired my character, Dana Windley in White Gold. Our fossil festival and pageant were another inspiration for that story, combined with North Carolina’s ranking in human trafficking.
Titanium Blue and my couple were inspired by married life and it’s difficulties, my son who’d served two tours in Afghanistan, my father-in-law a Viet Nam veteran and my friend who’d lost his leg in an accident.
Red Steel was inspired by my youngest son who was a volunteer firefighter and first responder. His relationship with his wife, a photographer and my research into drones and explosives.
Every story I write has a little bit of my life and a lot of fiction. I never know what is going to start a story. Inspiration is everywhere and I believe sometimes we just have to reach out and claim it. You and I might both have similar inspiration but we’ll interpret it differently. The filter of our own life experiences, personalities and talent changes how the story is told. It can change again when we choose which character is telling the story.
What inspires you?
If you’d like to be part of my research for the softball themed series here is a link to the questionnaire. Thank you.
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
I put my writing career on hold for so many years while I wrestled growing boys into independent men. Now, it’s my turn and it’s not as easy as I’d hoped. No one is banging down the doors to get to my books or to demand my autograph. Although I did have a fantastic audience today, I didn’t read my own stories, because they were second graders, and my books aren’t designed for young minds.
Today I joined other illustrious members of our community to go read at our local school for Read Across America. One of my good friends, Ms. Christy, the second-grade teacher, and my neighbor asked if I’d read to her class. She told them I was a famous author. Well, the famous part is stretching it, but everyone is famous in a small town. The children were wonderful and a boon to my flagging ego. They were delighted to learn their teacher was one of the inspirations for my character, Dana the heroine in White Gold. After reading Dr. Suess’ Daisy-Head Maysie and making paper flowers, the kids asked for my autograph and a couple wanted me to come back and read one of my books. I told them I had a short story I’d written for my grandchildren that I could bring. I think that’s what I’ll do.
What a marvelous treat. I was a little afraid, to tell the truth. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to read to young children, even my grandchildren, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to connect. It started out as a favor for a friend, a thing to do to support my community but it became more. Today made me realize how much this community and the people in it inspire me.
As I told her class, Christy along with my sister-in-law Denise and my good friend, Mary, all combined to help me create the character, Dana.
Dana Windley who later becomes mayor of Leeward, is a community leader. She is an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a volunteer for the school and her community. She also does charity work raising money for things like breast cancer and her local firefighters and paramedics squads. Dana would be the one you would see at the school reading to the children, planning events for the community and doing all in her power to support her town, her friends, and her family.
The Leeward Files and The Harrell Family Chronicles are about REAL people, living in a small town just like where I come from. The town of Leeward is struggling to rebuild after several devasting blows. My home has suffered hurricanes, the loss of businesses and our high school, it is a town that was dying but we are doing our best to revive it. Just like the characters in my stories, there are very real people working to see that the town of Aurora, not only survives, but once again thrives. These people, this town, this community of supporters are the inspiration for my stories and what keep me writing.
I have told this story before to sell books but my telling it now has another purpose, to honor a friend. Adrienne Dunning was a fantastic, funny and feisty woman who lived up to her hair color. She died in a tragic accident the morning of July 5th. We’d just started making plans to return to Murfreesboro for a second writers’ retreat.
It was nearly two years ago, my friend, Adrienne Dunning and I were going to a writers’ retreat in Murfreesboro. I had known Adrienne for several years through the Pamlico Writers’s Group and our work on the writers conference. We’d become closer as we worked more closely together on projects for the Pamlico Writers. Like me, Adrienne had a lot of ideas and together we were looking forward to making them happen. We were still getting to know each other on a personal level, but we liked and respected each other’s work and writing so had made plans to attend several events together or meet up at a couple. The first was our trip to Murfreesboro.
Adrienne drove, and she and I shared stories about ourselves on our trip. I’d left my husband home with no electricity after a hurricane. He had told me to go, no need for me to cancel my plans since everything else was okay. Adrienne pointed out familiar places as she’d grown up in the area. She took me on a quick driving tour of the college and down town before bringing me up to the renovated house where I’d be staying. Adrienne would stay with her parents since they lived nearby and come in for the meals and meetings.
The event’s coordinator and owner of the house, Ruth Akright, had serval authors and a illustrator who would come in to do presentations. While I truly enjoyed the events and meeting the other authors, it was our impromptu discussions about writing that made the weekend the most memorable for me.
I was struggling to write my fourth book feeling frustrated that I just couldn’t get it right. I wanted a true romance without all the murder and explosions. Adrienne pointed out that I was struggling because I was trying to force the story. That instead of trying to make it be a romance, just write it. And if I had to blow things up or murder a few people, well just go with it. I’d already written three romantic suspense stories, evidently that’s what I enjoyed writing.
Being true to yourself… true to your passions. Adrienne loved romance and Scotland, combining the two and finally checking Scotland off her bucket list was what she dreamed of! She enjoyed sharing her books with her readers but helping other writers was another passion.
I will miss Adrienne as a friend, fellow writer and her dedication to the Pamlico Writers’ Group. To her parents, family and friends I add my condolences. To her readers and fans her light was extinguished too soon. To those of us who were just getting to know the wonderful, talented woman, the loss is greater for the regrets, we believed we had more time.
This is my third NaNoWriMo event. For those of you who don’t know what NaNo is, it is National Novel Writing Month challenge. The month of November celebrates the novel. Writers from all over the world get together via the internet and local groups, to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. (If you are a writer and you’ve not heard of NaNoWriMo go to https://nanowrimo.org and check out their website.)
In order to make the fifty thousand-word goal, writers need to compose 1667 words per day. After the first week of NaNo I have only 6013 which only averages out to 859 words per day, about half of my projected goal.
My first year of doing NaNo I wrote Titanium Blue before Thanksgiving. I tried NaNo, the first time, to prove I could do it. As a new writer who dreamed of being traditionally published, I needed to know I could produce work within a limited time frame. Since choosing to become an indie author, it is even more important to write, edit and publish quickly. My goal has been to publish at least three books a year. Since publishing my first novel, Chrome Pink, three years ago, I’ve published six books and I’m working on number 7. I’ve not quite reached my 3-book goal but two and half isn’t too bad.
For many of us this year has been exceptionally difficult. Red Steel came out just as the world was shutting down and Janie’s Secrets came out in the middle of the pandemic, I’m not sure if it was depression or just pure exhaustion that has made writing more difficult the past few months. Even though I might be failing at NaNo, I’m writing regularly and seeing results.
To my fellow writers who are doing NaNo whether you are on goal or not, you are winning because you are working. Each step forward is closer to the finish line.
My sister-in-law’s favorite book of mine is White Gold. Perhaps it is because I dedicated the book to her or because many of the readers who know her thought it was written about her. For those of you who do not know my sister-in-law, she is the person you call if you want something done. She has had her own business and worked as many as five jobs at one time and still is willing to volunteer for church, community or charities she believed in, as well as help family and friends. She embodies the character of Dana Windley, the heroine of White Gold.
Dana Windley has just opened her dating club, Cupid’s Zone, a combination computer and face-to-face dating club. She is in charge of the festival fundraiser beauty pageant. When two of her contestants go missing, she discovers they are being prostituted and she is determined to rescue them. With the help of North Carolina SBI agent Jake Monroe and her friends, they uncover a sex trafficking ring operating in their small town. Can they save the girls before they are sold to the highest bidder?
In honor of my sister-in-law I’m doing a special giveaway to celebrate her birthday. To receive a signed copy of White Gold, a hand-crocheted scarf donated by my aunt and tiara, post a photo, meme or GIF and use the hashtag The Leeward Files (#theleewardfiles) on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you post a photo of a strong woman who inspires you, I’ll add your name in twice. Let’s flood social media with strong, wonderful women!
The drawing takes place December 7th. Good luck and thank you for helping get the word out about my series.
Citizens of Henry Adams, Kansas are in the midst of a mayoral election. Trent July has been mayor for the past four years since Bernadine Brown purchased the town online and brought about much change for the small, historically black town built by freedmen. They are once again fighting those who would betray their trust and steal their homes and land. In this awesome, Blessings tale, Beverly Jenkins shows us that might does not make right, and often it is the humble and meek who bring about change and who are the true heroes of the day.
I loved this story with it’s mix of older and younger characters. Ms. Jenkins gives us romance, intrigue, suspense, friendship, and inspiration. In Henry Adams we see what a small town could be like if everyone works together for the greater good. She also shows us the mistakes we make as humans, are failings and shortcomings but how we can overcome these to be better and stronger. Her positive female characters with their strength and courage
As I listened to this story, I dreamed of what I could do in my own small town if only I had the money and opportunity. Like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I too have a dream of saving my hometown and making it a place where all children, all people live together in harmony.
Ms. Jenkins gives us a map of what it could be like if we could create our town and give its inhabitants safe places to live, share and seek solace. Henry Adams, Kansas is as close to paradise as we on earth can hope for and I’d love to live there.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss