Posted in quarterly goals, Thoughts

My Pep Talk to Myself

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,

Janie’s Secret is also in a Cover of the Month contest on All Author,  I’d appreciate your vote.

Janie’s Secrets is also in a Book Tour on Instagram and Facebook, through September 6th. I’d appreciate your support.

I still need to learn more about Publisher’s Rocket but I’m tackling it in small bites.

One other thing I accomplished this month I’ve been wanting to do for a while was to combine the first three books of the Leeward Files into one book. It’s only on sale for a little while longer.

I haven’t even planned what I’m going to try to accomplish in September but we’re going to do some great things: #1 write Roxy’s Betrayal. I’ll figure out the rest but that’s the most important.

I hope my whine, rant, pep talk has helped someone else. The truth is some days this is my dream job and other days it’s a nightmare. Sometimes it’s all on the same day.

Posted in quarterly goals, Recipes, Thoughts

The Fruit is Sweeter After the Climb

My mom, my grandmother and my aunt…three strong women!

I keep trying to tell myself that I’ve only been a published author for three years and like any infant I must learn to crawl before I can run. It is difficult not to compare myself to other writers. Like the baby demanding it’s bottle, I want it now. I want to make the sales, to get my name out there, to get a movie deal and retire, but the fruit is sweeter after the climb.

Remembering things my grandmother told me has always given me strength and courage to persevere. She didn’t have an easy life. As a farmer’s wife, a share-cropper’s wife, she knew the hard scrabble of getting by, doing without and learning to make things herself. From her blackberry jam that was both tart and sweet with the taste of summer to selling ladies’ products out of her car down backroads all over eastern North Carolina, my grandmother knew if she wanted a better life, she had to do it herself. My grandfather worked hard. He paid the bills, but anything extra came from what my grandmother could do.

My grandmother led the way for my mother and me. She taught us that we could dream our dreams and make them come true, but no one was going to hand them to us. We had to work for them. I’m proud to come from a long line of hardworking women.

It is sometimes difficult for me to toot my own horn. I grew up believing a true southern lady (which I’ve never been able to be) was humble and quiet. Most people who know me as an adult know I’m a loudmouth with a wicked laugh and sense of humor equal to that of a teenaged boy. But I wasn’t always so vocal. It has taken me years to find my voice. It is often difficult to promote my own books and believe in myself.

Raising six boys taught me to be a little stronger, a little braver, a bit bolder but it has only been in the past few years that I’ve come to believe I might have something worth saying.

When you are promoting your books, you have to first promote yourself. It’s been scary but in the past few months I’ve started a newsletter increasing my readership from the seven original subscribers to 97 in the past four months. I’ve joined a few groups: AllAuthor and Bookfunnel and using their platforms began doing promos for my books. I’ve also bought a couple of ads from Bargain Booksy and joined a couple of free online groups on social media to help promote myself and my books. It’s a lot of work and sometimes a lot of money but I’m hoping that it’ll pay off. I can see steady traffic and that’s a good sign. As my dad would say “scared money don’t make money.” I’m trying to be brave and I’m thankful to all of you who have supported my efforts.

I now have six books out and I’m working on number seven. I’m hoping to finish a novella for an upcoming anthology.

The pandemic has made public appearances difficult. I’d just taken books around to the Brown Library, Riverwalk Art Gallery and The Next Chapter Books and Art Store when the pandemic first hit. I had a book signing at The Next Chapter but there was little traffic in the store that morning. I’m hoping to go back once Janie’s Secrets finally arrives. Covid-19 has messed up a lot of people’s plans but we’re still making progress slowly but surely.

As July ends and August begins, I can’t help but think about grandma’s blackberry jam. It was a lot of hot work to make a few jars but that first taste of sweet, tart jam reminded you that it was worth the effort. Looking at the past 30 days sales and subscribers it may not seem like a lot to someone with thousands of followers but I’m celebrating. Each sale, each new reader, each new subscriber is a blessing and a positive step forward.

Thank you to all of you who repost my promos and try to help me sell my books. Thank you to all of you who leave reviews. Your efforts make a huge difference and I cannot thank you enough. Wishing you all a happy August.

seven books sold in D2D last month may not sound like much but I’d only sold 1 the previous month

Grandma’s Blackberry Jam with my own twist

4 cups blackberries raw

1 cup sugar, white granulated

2 tablespoons Cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mash blackberries in saucepan with potato masher. Stir in sugar until becomes juicy. Take out a little juice and mix with cornstarch in a small bowl, return to blackberries and sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir often until thickened. Approximately 15 minutes. Stir in spices and lemon juice. Remove from heat and let cool. Put into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold. Fill jars to save.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, road trip

On the Porch with Ruth Akright

I’m here at my creek side café with the wonderful Ruth Akright. It was wonderful to meet you in person. I enjoyed the writers retreat in Murfreesboro. It was a fantastic reprieve from the hurricane.

Your house, the Murfree-Williams House is such a delight. I love old homes, the history, the stories, the architecture. When did you buy and restore the Murfree-Williams House?

Ruth: We purchased the house in 1985 from the Murfreesbroro Historical Association.

Do you have any before pictures?

Ruth: Here are some of the Murfree-Williams House.

Sherri: How did you get started restoring or resurrecting old houses?

Ruth: I have always been interested in old houses.  Worked with my father who was a painter and carpenter from a very early age.  One of my high school class mates reminded me that I dragged her through every old empty house in the county when we were growing up.

Sherri: You told us about the different parts of the house and where they came from. My bedroom was the old dentist office?

Ruth: The dentist office was constructed around the turn of the 20th century as the dentist office for the town.  We know that it was constructed later than the porch since there is a second slanted floor under the existing floor. While we were working on the house in the early days of purchase, a wonderful elderly Southern gent used to come by on Saturdays.  He was always dressed in his three-piece suit, had on his hat and carried a beautiful cane.  He told us about having his teeth worked on in that room. The dentist had a foot-pedal operated drill.

Sherri: You were telling me about the master bedroom. Refresh my memory about the Indian School/master bedroom. The old Indian School was pulled up behind the house and added onto it?

Ruth: The Indian school operated on this site until 1796 so that portion of the house is 18th century origin. We discovered that the beams inside the walls are about a foot wide and 5 or so inches thick with slots in them.  Perhaps, they came from one of the ships that called into the river port of Murfreesboro.

Sherri: You also have a design background, which is obvious in the charm of the house. Tell us about your education and experience as a designer.

Ruth: I have an associate degree in interior design.  Worked for the premier design firm in Norfolk/Virginia Beach for ten years.  Afterward, I ran my own design studio and still have design clients that I work with. It seemed like every time a client came into the studio that owned an old house, they gravitated to me.  I have worked on historical properties in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Franklin, Elisabeth City, Smithfield, Edenton, West Point, two houses in Pennsylvania, etc. 

Sherri: You’ve written two books, as well as scripted and filmed a documentary? Tell us the details of these.

Ruth: The documentary was for the town of Ahoskie and is available on YouTube.  I crafted an article that is included in the Local Legends project at the Library of Congress as part of their celebration when they reopened after restoration. One of my books was an Arcadia Images Across America volume on the small town of Eustis, in Florida where I grew up.  The other is a limited-edition biography of Judge Donald J. Drake. Sr. Judge Drake was a long-time friend who had lived an incredible life including being at the Battle of Midway and serving as one of the defense lawyers for the USS Pueblo crew. 

Sherri: Do you have any other creative plans?

Ruth: I am working with a colleague in Titusville, Florida to create a Heritage Village.  It will contain several old houses and commercial buildings that are dismantled and in storage. The plan is to work with the local high school to have them take on the reconstruction of at least one of the buildings as a class project.  There will also be a replica of an early Seminole Indian house. We plan to have this be an immersion experience for visitors where they will come to learn early local crafts such as blacksmithing, hearth or open fire cooking, history of clothing, etc. They will stay in the restored buildings.  The buildings will not have running water, electric, heat or ac.  They will be exactly as they would have been in the 19th century.  I am so excited to be involved in this project.

Sherri: You have some wonder inspirational and motivational ideas that I took to heart. I think our readers will benefit from your words of wisdom.

Ruth: Can’t imagine what you think I said that was inspirational. Give me a clue.

Sherri: You were telling us about your pep talk with yourself and your morning pages. I thought they were inspiring and would be an inspiration to others.

Ruth: Oh, okay, I go on a nice walk early in the mornings in my neighborhood. It is a great time to get my day laid out in my head, listen to the birds, enjoy everyone’s yards and solve the world’s problems. (Okay maybe not but I have some ideas how it could be accomplished.) As I walk, I have a mantra I say to myself—I am a successful published author; I am a successful lecturer and speaker; I am a successful historian and preservationist, and so on. The secret here is the word “successful.”

Sherri: You have to believe in your own success to achieve it.

Ruth: Exactly, you have to believe these things about yourself. I also say to the universe—I am clear, calm, confident, creative, capable, energetic, focused, happy, healthy, grateful, grateful, grateful, strong, successful and talented.

Sherri: And the morning pages?

Ruth: Some mornings, not all of them, I get up and the first thing I do-after feeding the critters of course, is I write what Julia Cameron calls “morning pages.”

I attended a lecture by Julia many years ago and this is the one take away I had from her talk on her book “The Artists Way.” The pages have to be in longhand and three pages. You write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to make sense or be grammatically correct. It’s a way of getting all the junk out of your mind and it clears the way for creativity for the rest of your day.

Sherri: And no one has to see the pages?

Ruth: No, and you never have to look at them. It is a great exercise. You should try it.

Sherri: I’m not a morning person, I’m not sure if I can write anything coherent or not first thing in the morning.

You have some great plans for the Murfree-Williams House. Share your hopes for this property.

Ruth: I included a copy of the flyer I put together, I think that tells the story of what my hopes and dreams are for the house

Sherri: The other ladies and I had such a lovely time at the writers’ retreat. Only four of us stayed the weekend but there is capability for ten and Ruth and I were talking, with some planning, you could probably house a few more. There is also another house just a few miles away that could also be rented and used for larger groups.

The presenters each seemed to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and what Ruth planned as an hour program turned into two and three-hour discussions.

If you are looking for a nice, quiet place for a residency, retreat or even a vacation, check out the Murfree-Williams House.