Welcome Back Michelle Garren-Flye, author, poet and owner of The Next Chapter Books and Art Store.
Bio: Michelle Garren-Flye is the owner of The Next Chapter Books & Art, editor of The Next Chapter Literary Magazine, a multi-published author of romance, children’s books and poetry. In 2021 she was named the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. Her recent poetry projects include Learning Curve (December 2023), Hypercreativity: Poems, and 100 Warm Days of Haiku, all part of her Poetry Diaries series. Michelle’s other works include UnSong, Far and wee, and HourGlass, an adult comic book based on her poetry.
Sherri: Welcome back to Creekside Café, Michelle. Michelle is the owner of The Next Chapter Books & Art store in New Bern, North Carolina where I have my books for sale. She is also the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, where, as the Chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group I was able to see her growth and her competition.
It’s good to have you back. You have accomplished so much since we last spoke, your poetry project and literary magazine, what else have you been up to?
Michelle: Hi Sherri, and thank you so much for having me here. I love any chance to talk about poetry and my store. I’ve mainly been working on poetry projects, expanding the reach of the bookstore and the literary magazine. As far as poetry goes, I’ve now published five books, four of which are illustrated, and a graphic novel based on my poetry. I’m having fun learning and experimenting with different forms of poetry, too. My next project, which should be out later this month, is called Learning Curve, and it’s 50 illustrated villanelles, which was a totally new form for me when I started.
Sherri: Because you have so many projects going on I’m going to ask this question in three parts. What are your plans for the store, your writing and the magazine?
Michelle: Well, the store is of course my main focus. I want the store to be a sort of hub for the literary arts community in Eastern North Carolina. I also welcome other arts like visual and musical. The literary magazine is sort of a way for me to reach out and show people visiting our area what a wonderful area this is artistically. That’s why I want to include all types of art in it from photography and paintings to poetry, essays and short stories. As for my writing, I plan to continue writing poetry and experimenting with different forms. So far I’ve learned a lot about haiku (in 100 Warm Days of Haiku), sonnets (in Far & wee) and villanelles (in Learning Curve). I want to continue challenging myself.
Sherri: You are a seasoned author with several published books and one of the hardest things about being a self-published author is marketing, what are your top three things for getting the word out about your books?
Michelle: The best thing you can do is be available for people to meet. So my store, mainly, for me. I’m really excited about the Authors’ Sunday Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers’ Market on November 20, too. I’m seldom able to participate in festivals like this one because they’re always on Saturdays and I’m at the store. Other than that, I’d say social media, particularly Instagram. But you’ve got to be willing to push these boundaries, too. Record a short reading or otherwise talk to potential readers online. I think TikTok is going to become really important, and I haven’t quite gotten brave enough to try that one. And third, update your blog regularly. Which you are definitely better at than I am!
Sherri: Of all the endeavors you’ve attempted, what was the hardest or most difficult to accomplish? What is the one you are most passionate about?
Michelle: This is a tough one. I think it’s my bookstore for both of those. I want it to be a successful business that will support itself and me, and that’s a tough ask of a bookstore. But I am passionate about preserving it. That bookstore has become a part of me, and as uncertain as this world is, I’m going to do my best to make sure it continues.
Sherri: As a mother, business owner, author and your work with the community, how do you juggle everything? What is your one self-care must have that helps you keep your sanity? (I know, you’re a writer, sanity is not guaranteed.)
Michelle: Sanity most definitely is NOT guaranteed. The one thing I decided about a year and a half ago was that as important as the store is for me, I would put my children first. Their schedules, their needs, their well-being has to come first. So I keep what I call “mom hours”. I keep fairly regular hours (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to allow for picking my daughter up from school during the week, 10-3 on Saturdays), but it’s not always the hours people want me to be open. I hear a lot of “You’re never open”, but I can’t help that. Until the store reaches a certain point, it will not pay me to hire anyone else, and if I’m worrying about my kids, I can’t put my whole heart into running the store. So, to take care of myself and them, I have to keep my priorities straight. I also take a lot of warm baths.
Sherri: Other than your children, what has been your proudest moment? You’ve accomplished so much in a short amount of time. Choosing one thing might be difficult.
Michelle: Wow, that is hard. I am proud of being the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, of course. I am proud of all my books and my store. Every literary magazine I put out seems to be better than the last. I think, though, that what I am most proud of is that I continue to learn what I don’t know. In poetry, publishing, bookselling, running a business, even being a mom, there’s so much I don’t know yet, but I’m still capable and willing to learn.
Sherri: What would you tell a young or not so young writer who is thinking about giving up?
Michelle: Don’t bother. If you’re a real writer, you’re not going to be able to give up writing. It may never pay your bills, and you’ll probably always have to have a “real” job, but writing isn’t something a writer can give up.
Sherri: Thank you Michelle for being with us again. It is always a pleasure visiting with you. If y’all enjoyed our interview, you can find Michelle at The Next Chapter Books & Art at 320 South Front Street in New Bern. She is also one of the featured authors at the Book Festival Sunday, November 20th, at the New Bern Farmers Market 421 South Front Street, New Bern, NC.
Nathan Black from Greenville, North Carolina, ECU graduate in English, has worked for various magazines and publications. Writes works of poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories. Focuses on self-discovery, self-love, religion in the modern world, inspiration, conquering adversities, hatred of pop music, love of pop culture, spiritual awakenings, and love of Sunday mornings. Lives with his wife, Christina and their two cats, Zoey and Yeti.
Sherri: Nathan, it’s good to have you at my virtual café. I read that you are a slam poet. I have had the opportunity to experience slam poetry and it is fantastic. Tell us how you got into it and what slam poetry is.
Nathan: Slam poetry like poetry itself is hard to describe with any solid definitions. Like good art, you know it when you see it, or in this case, hear it. With any art form there are movements amongst the community of Slam poets that give some distinctions to it. The use of cadence, its qualities as a speech more than verse, more akin to free verse, possibly even divorced from what most would consider a poem all together and instead can sound like a rant or prose poetry. There is a very common connection to social justice issues and soci-economic woes. I suppose because I am entrenched in these subjects that is what led me to poetry to begin with. The call of poetry was magnetic for me and so I sought out what it meant for me and what I could gain from it. I went to ECU for English with a concentration in creative writing and so while I was there, I found the spoken word group, Word of Mouth (WOM). It was through them that I got into the challenge and love of writing slam poetry. Even though I will write in this style, I do write prose and more traditional poems as well, but I have found the performance aspect of slam poetry the most engaging and the shot of life that poetry needs in our modern day. Much like rap, I find the most commonality between rhyming verse of hip-hop and slam poetry above all other styles.
Sherri: You are a poet, an author and a screenwriter, that’s a lot of hats and takes different talents. What is the biggest challenge when switching genres and what does each offer the other? What have you learned from one genre that you use in the others?
Nathan: That is a big question. Each of these styles offers different things. Different ways of expression but it boils down to what you are trying to express and how do you feel that message will be best expressed? Sometimes the dialogue of conversation can bring it about in a screenplay. Sometimes the full development of story and mood through a novel is the most grand way. But sometimes a few lines of well placed verse are all you need. And sometimes you write hundreds of pages just to get to that one sentence that sums it all up. There are many ways to get that and as a writer I have tried to search as many as I could without forgetting what it was, I was trying to say to begin with.
Sherri: You have a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, what do you believe has been the best thing you learned in college and what have you had to un-learn as a published author and poet that you were taught in school?
Nathan: ECU and Pitt Community College gave me everything in a way. Yes, I did the work but these school gave me the ground to take off from. It gave me the experience to express myself openingly. The teachers guided without restricting me, but at the same time they pointed out what needed to be improved and what I could do better in, and I really think we all need someone like that. Creative writing isn’t a concrete direction but a lifetime of development and a continuous revision that never ends. There are no right or wrong answers, only the product that either yields something or brings something that could be redone. There are no mistakes. I love that. I can think of no other school of learning that can give this kind of confidence, but that is my experience and my mindset. For someone else this might be completely different. But my years at university gave me everything, from confidence to perspective, to insight on the craft, to clarity of purpose, to enhanced empathy. It didn’t help me learn how to navigate the literary world or how to publish a hundred percent, but it did give suggestions and that has been useful. I don’t think there was anything I needed to unlearn from this period because it really only gave me a chance to learn myself and I wouldn’t want to undo that.
Sherri: Are you traditionally published, small press or independently published? What do you feel are the pros and cons in each?
Nathan: I am self-published, although I have been published in magazines and small presses. There are benefits to both. One: having traditional publishing means you don’t have to worry about the hard parts which I believe are advertising and promoting. Two: the writing part is the blissful work that comes with the job. The marketing, finance, and promoting part can make you feel like a hack and a second-rate Barnum and Bailey, but when it pays off it really feels like a win. I can’t fault self-publishing for that, but it is nice when someone does the heavy lifting for you. Because I have been playing music in bands around Greenville for more than ten years, a college town, I’ve grown accustomed to being in front of crowds and putting myself out there so it’s not such a struggle for me but promoting always seems like such a feat when you first get started. I love it all the same.
Born in 1984 in Augusta, Georgia, Nathan Black was born in a military hospital at Dwight David Eisenhower Medical Center before he and his parents moved to Indiana where his parents joined a Christian learning academy. They moved to Greenville 1987 where Nathan would be raised. Here he went to JH Rose High School, Pitt Community College, and eventually ECU where he got his degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. In that time he wrote articles for Mixer, G-Vegas Magazine (WhereUParty), REBEL, and ENC Community Magazine. While at ECU he joined Word of Mouth (WOM) as one of their slam poets and competed around the state winning contests with the group against UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, and other schools. He has written three books of poetry, Where The Breeze (2016), The Frozen Garden (2017), and The Things We Have Lost (2022). Apart from this, he has written a stage play, Weathermen, a small book of short stories, Portals (2018), and a novel, Sparrow’s Fall (2019). In this time he has made it a centerpiece of his life and has involved himself in other writing circles and poetry groups across the state. Nathan continues to write and perform to this day. His new novel The Knight of Red and White is set to be released in early winter 2022.
October is associated with Halloween, a time of wearing masks and costumes. Most of us wear many costumes throughout our lives from uniforms to conforming to societies’ expectations of acceptable fashion. But for many of us Halloween is a time of unleashing our true selves, we can for one day be honest about who we hide from the world the rest of the 364 days of the year.
I spoke with a young woman this week about her poetry book, Speak. We talked about speaking our truth and unmasking ourselves. At twenty-four this lovely young woman knows who she is and has revealed her true self to her friends and family. I was in awe of her strength and courage as at fifty-eight I still feel as if I hide behind a mask of acceptability. Would people accept the real me, do I even know who that is. When I spoke with Lashanya ‘Shan’ Dudley and she shared her poetry, I saw the beauty in the raw, honesty of her words.
While I am not a poet myself, I am in awe of those who can touch your soul with their words. Shan has the talent to reach into the darkest depths and bring the truth into the light. She takes off the mask that has imprisoned her and reveals her true beauty. She gives voice to those who have been kept silent. Her words whisper a song and shout a charge to be heard over the din of peer pressure.
Good poetry should make you feel and make you think. Talking to Shan, she said “if you feel uncomfortable when you read my poetry, you should because I felt uncomfortable when I wrote it.” After she left, I couldn’t get her poems out of my mind. I did feel uncomfortable reading the poem, but I also felt sad and angry. As I ponder her words and how she put them together, I see there was also love and hope amid the anger and pain. This may have been Shan’s first collection of poetry, but I do not think it will be her last. She has a lot to say, and her words will touch you with their truth.
Speak is a collection of truth, raw, ugly, beautiful and soul-deep.
Today, I’d like to welcome guest blogger, Tyler Wittkofsky. Tyler is no stranger. He’s been on my blog several times with author interviews and promoting his books. If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen some of Tyler’s posts. He is an advocate for mental health. Tyler is open about his own diagnosis and shares his struggles with the development of his fictional characters. Tyler proves that we all deserve to be the hero in our own story. I hope you enjoy Tyler’s blog.
What It’s Like Writing with Mental Illness
I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for nearly ten years now. In that ten years, I have seen the way that mental health impacts people and have experienced the ups and downs of mental illness. When I first received my diagnosis, I was ashamed of who I was. I hid it from people. Every aspect of my life was impacted by this diagnosis, I just had never noticed it before because I simply didn’t know.
When I started writing poetry in 2012, it stemmed from my mental illness. I needed an outlet to write down my feelings to free my troubled soul. I wrote poetry to describe how I was feeling and release the emotion that would build up within me. Some of it was dark, some of it was happy, all of it was mental illness personified.
My mental illness served as my muse in that respect, giving me a source of inspiration and raw emotion to fuel my writing. I found that who I was deep down was the person I would grow to love. Despite the mental illness diagnosis, I had hope again because of my writing. I never thought about publishing it though, because it was still a secret I was ashamed of.
Fast forward a few years and my mental health was the worst it had ever been. I was drowning in life’s tides and couldn’t escape the incessant ebb and flow of the waves. Still, I hid my diagnosis from everyone except those closest to me. I was still ashamed of it.
Then one day, a book idea came to me. My first novel came about out of a desire to help others feel like they aren’t alone in life. I had spent so many years hiding my secret from everyone that when I finally started opening up to people, it made me question why I hadn’t sooner. I had this desire to write my story and help other people like me not feel alone.
I used my mental illness and experiences as my muse to write that story. I crafted a new adult fiction story that followed a young man with mental illness, showing the harsh realities of living with mental illness. My goal was to raise awareness and help people understand what it was like to live with a mental illness and help those with mental illness have the courage to reach out to those closest to them.
Then came time to let people actually read my work. My anxiety kicked in and my heart beat out of my chest. Every time I thought about someone reading it, I would hyperventilate. It felt like the air was sucked out of my chest and replaced with a void that sucked away every bit of my confidence.
When I sent it to friends and family, I started to avoid them. I didn’t want to hear their feedback because I was afraid of hearing the truth. I secluded myself and delved into a pit of darkness. The thing was, though, these people were the same ones I wrote about in my story.
They all loved it and that sent me into a spiral of mania. I was on top of the world. I put together everything I needed to publish the story and was throwing money at it to help keep it afloat, because I didn’t care about money anymore. Desire to be published filled my heart. I was happy and on a mission that I would accomplish.
It’s a never-ending cycle though, because once I published it my manic spree was over. The depression and anxiety of bipolar swarmed through my mind. I was so terrified of letting the world read my work, especially about a topic so sensitive.
I feared what future employers would think of me if they knew I cared so much about mental health. What would my current job think? Would my other friends who didn’t know about my diagnosis judge me?
Then came the people who told me thank you for writing the story. That put me on the top of the world. It wasn’t a manic type of joy, but one of pure ecstasy. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I discovered what my truest passion was.
Writing my story pulled me out of the darkness. When I heard the stories of others, it helped me understand Iwasn’t alone in my struggles. I made it my mission to raise awareness for mental health through my writing after that. Giving people that kind of hope is what I want to accomplish with my stories.
Tyler Wittkofsky is a multi-genre author, podcaster, mental health blogger, and award-winning marketing and communications professional from the southern coast of North Carolina where he currently resides with his wife Grace and dogs Dutch and Belle.
Tyler blogs his mental health journey on www.TylerWittkofsky.com. He is the co-host on the Back Porch Parley podcast where he discusses society and modern trends in an attempt to bring civility back to discussion.
Welcome to my Creekside Café author and poet, M. E. Aster. Do you go by Elijah? I have a grandson named Elijah we call Eli. Welcome to my virtual café.
M.E.: Hi you can definitely call me Elijah or Eli. I also go by my Mandy in my day to day life but as an author I’m better known as Elijah so either works for me.
Sherri: Do you prefer to be known as a transgender author or do you askew labels? Are labels important?
M.E.: It is not something I scream to the world although I am proud to be a transgender author. I don’t hide it either but I also don’t want people to think “oh he’s trans so I’ll read his books.” I want my books to stand on their own and not have my gender affect them.
My books tell the stories of my characters, not me, so I don’t think what I identify as is important to know if you want to do is read my stories. In my author bios I prefer to use they/them pronouns so my story can exist without my gender or label affecting it.
But as for your second question I do think labels are important to a lot of people. I struggled with them for a long time since I don’t pass as a traditional male and I’ve occasionally been made to feel that I can’t claim I’m trans since I’m not on testosterone and I don’t plan to have any body altering surgeries. As I’ve gotten older and more confident in myself I’ve found the courage to come out as male (at least online) and I love being a voice for non-traditional trans people but I more so share that part of me with those that reach out to me on social media.
I’m also not out to my real life friends and family yet and I’ve started sharing the fact that I write with them recently, hence why I’ve changed my publishing name from Elijah Aster to M.E. Aster. I live in a very conservative town and letting every know I’m trans would affect me at my job which I don’t want. When I started publishing I never thought anyone would find out in my day to day life, but now things have changed and I am adapting to that the best that I can.
Sherri: In the world of Indie publishing we’re learning that there are categories and genres, and sometimes our work doesn’t quiet fit in the traditional labels. I read Three Halves to a Whole, it’s a lovely, tragic story, but I’m not sure if I’d label it romance or coming of age or LBGT. There is no one genre that completely defines it. I often feel that way about my own work too. So how do you categorize your work?
M.E.: That’s a very tough question because I have struggled with the same thing. When I first wrote it and sent it to beta readers they classified it as “new adult” but that in itself seems to be a niche label as well that I didn’t feel fully fit my story. Lately when people ask, I say I write lgbtq+ fiction with romantic themes. Most of my books have romantic undertones and they always feature some sort of lgbtq+ charcter but that isn’t necessary the whole plot. So as lengthy as that description is that is the best I have come up with so far.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? You write poetry too? I have your poetry book, but I’ve not yet read it.
M.E.: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. The first stories I remember writing were mini stories based on dreams I had that I would scribble down in a journal when I was as young as five. As I grew older, my love of writing never went away. English was always my favorite class and I constantly took creative writing classes to improve my skills. When I was fourteen I started writing a fantasy novel (my favorite genre at the time). I finished it two years later but being young and unsure if it was any good I let it fall into the background as life took me other places.
I stopped writing for a time during my college years. I got discouraged with my passion and thought it was pointless for a while. I tried to focus on my career and writing became a forgotten hobby. Then I got sick for a time and was bedridden on and off for years. I read so much during that period of my life that I found myself missing writing and the escape it would give me.
I found myself experimenting with fanfiction when the urge to write returned to me but I had no inspiration for original characters. My fanfics got a decent amount of attention and seeing people enjoy my works had my desire to publish original fiction stories returning full force. So two years ago I took a risk and published Three Halves of a Whole, which isn’t my best work, but it was finished and I wanted to see if self-publishing was for me after querying numerous publishers came back with a string of constant rejections. Now I plan to continue publishing until the day I die. Writing is my true love and I can’t see a day where I don’t want to keep doing it.
In regards to my poetry, it’s something I used to do as a personal release. I struggle with anxiety and depression and sometimes getting my words onto paper helps me more than any medication could. That is how I started writing poetry, it was cathartic. My published poetry book fairytales features the loss of a relationship that was very important to me. It was a tough time in my life and I wrote so much poetry about that person that I decided to publish it. The act of putting my pain out in the world actually helped me heal and I’m so glad I did it. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish another poetry book again but I am so proud of the one I have out and baring that part of myself to the world was very freeing.
Sherri: What is the one thing you feel you’ve learned on this publishing journey? What do you wish you’d known before you started?
M.E. Wow just one thing – I feel like I’ve learned so much. The main thing I think I didn’t think was as important as I do now is formatting. I don’t have a lot of extra funds and I did all the formatting and editing myself. It took me ages and tons of research, but I found that it made a big difference when I actually published it.
I was lucky to have friends that had self-published with KDP before I had and warned me to do my homework and learn how it worked before jumping in and publishing. That is one of the reasons I chose to publish THOAH first. I do love that story but it wasn’t my best work and in my mind I felt that if I messed it up at least it wouldn’t be one of my best works and I could learn from my mistakes.
Also editing is such a huge deal. I know everyone harps on that but it’s true. I wonderful story can come across as subpar if it isn’t properly edited. I can’t afford a professional editor so I send it to as many people as I can and read and listen to it aloud numerous times before I publish it in the hopes of catching as many mistakes as possible.
Sherri: Has your writing changed since you became published?
M.E.: This is another difficult question to answer because I only have two books published and my first book wasn’t truly indicative of my current writing style as I’ve mentioned before. I don’t think my writing has changed too much but little things have shifted. I’ve learned how to show better, and I try to stay away from adverbs more than I used to. I think the biggest change is that I’ve taken to writing in present tense instead of past tense. I find it helps me get into the story better in most cases and it is a lot of fun to write.
Sherri: What do you hope a reader gets from your stories and poems?
M.E.: All I’ve ever wanted is for one person to enjoy my stories, to have them mean something to them, and I have more than achieved that goal. I try to write relatable characters that struggle through things either I went through or someone I know has been through. I want to show my readers that they aren’t alone – even if it’s only a fictional character in a book that they can relate to, someone out there is with them.
I can’t even begin to explain how much reading and books in general have improved my life, and I’m so happy to have my books exist out there in the world and to maybe be that safe space for others that so many stories were for me.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
M.E.: My current novel I’m working on is called Take His Place. It’s a story featuring a journalist named James who is stuck in a dead end relationship that is going nowhere. He finds himself falling for a stripper named Logan that he meets at his best friend’s bachelor party. James tries to forget about him but he keeps turning up where he least expects him. James isn’t a cheater, but he can’t deny that Logan makes him happier than his boyfriend ever has.
It’s basically a fluffy romance filled with some sensitive topics like poverty and an emotionally abusive relationship. I think a lot of people can find something to enjoy and relate to in it and I’m excited to share this book with the world since I think it’s much better written than anything I’ve ever published before.
Sherri: What are your writing and publishing goals for future?
M.E.: Now that I have found self-publishing I have tons of plans to release most of the stories I’ve written, which is too many to count. After Take His Place is published, I plan to release a collection of short stories that I’ve written over the past few years. I also have an angel/demon love story I want to touch up and try to publish as well but that one needs a lot of work before it will be ready to see the light of day.
Sherri: What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time?
M.E.: Don’t give up on your writing.
There were so many times I stopped writing because people told me “you’ll never make it as an author” and I believed them even though that has always been my dream. I even changed my major from English to computer programming because my friends and even my mentors managed to convince me that I would never do anything but teach with that degree. I am so glad I eventually found my way back to writing but sometimes I wonder if I had never given up on myself in the first place if I would have ten published books right now instead of just two. I try not to dwell on the past but that is one thing I wish I could impart to my younger self.
Sherri: What do you feel is your greatest achievement so far?
M.E.: I know this sounds sort of silly but I think having Halo Scot read and review my book has been the best part of publishing so far. I love Halo so much as both an author and a person and to have them not only read but enjoy my book meant the world to me!
Sherri: What is the hardest part of being an author, especially an indie author?
M.E. For me personally it is marketing. I am a writer, not a salesperson, and I find pushing my book and getting it out there to the public is the hardest thing for me to do. I have tried tons of people’s advice regarding ads and review programs with little luck. At the end of the day, my best tactic has been making connections on twitter. Even so my book sales have been low but even one sale makes me happy when I realize my story is out there in the world.
Sherri: If you were giving a Keynote address to a group of young writers, what would you tell them?
M.E.: I think at the end of the day my main message would be write what you want to write. Tell your story. So many authors have these rules for writing or worry so much about what is popular or what will sell, but I believe if you truly love your book and you are willing to put the time and effort into it to polish it then you should do it.
Fear and doubt deter so many of us, myself included, but I wish I had taken the plunge and started publishing earlier. Maybe someone will read this and decide to publish their story instead of wait. I wish even one person had told me that when I was struggling with my desire to write.
Sherri: Thank you for stopping by my Creekside Café. If y’all liked my talk with M.E. Aster, check out his links below and follow him on social media. Come see us again real soon.
Welcome Tyler is so good to have you here at my virtual café. It is hard to believe we met in a Twitter group but live only a few hours up the coast from each other.
Tyler: Thank you for having me Sherri. I’ve met a lot of great people who live relatively close to me. It’s been a pleasant surprise to connect with so many like minded people.
Sherri: My oldest son lives in South Port. We drive through Leland on the way to visit him. It’s a beautiful section of North Carolina but then, I think North Carolina is one of the prettiest states in the Union but I’ve not yet visited them all. I have a few more trips to make.
Tyler: I love North Carolina. The beach, the mountains, lakes, and valleys, it’s all beautiful and almost picture perfect.
Sherri: When did you first become a writer? Is this something you’ve always enjoyed?
Tyler: I probably started writing stories from about 6 or 7. My grandmother was an English teacher and high school principal, so she worked with me a lot from an early age.
Sherri: Tell us about your grandmother’s influence. What did she tell you that still stays with you today?
Tyler: She loved working with me, reading my stories, helping me to craft new stories and she still does. Her love and care, the bond we built, was what influenced me to love writing. I loved her, and in turn I loved writing.
Sherri: In your book “(Not) Alone,” your character, Henry seems to have it all but just below the surface he is hiding the truth. He is dealing with mental illness, like many who suffer from bipolar disorder and other mental diseases, he can only hide it for so long before the truth comes out. This is a very touchy subject and one that is quite personal. How did you come to write “(Not) Alone?” Are you a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist?
Tyler: No, this story is based on a true story. Henry is based on me. The stories from each chapter are based on different events that happened in my life. The characters are all based on real people in my life who have helped me along my journey and struggle with mental illness. I wanted to try and connect with people.
Sherri: What do you hope people will discover when they read “(Not) Alone?”
Tyler: I want to help people with mental illness realize they aren’t alone and help people who love someone with a mental illness better be able to help their loved one. Most importantly though, I want to start a conversation about Mental Health. It’s so stigmatized now, and people are afraid to talk about it, but it’s conversations we need to have. I also have a clothing store on TeeSpring dedicated to mental health clothing. Most of the proceeds go to a local mental health nonprofit.
Sherri: Your other book is a poetry collection, were you first a poet and then a storyteller or have you always pursued both?
Tyler: My poetry collection is also a journey of my mental illness, but before I was diagnosed. I wrote those before I ever even had the thought about “(Not) Alone” but was scared to publish them until after the reception I got from “(Not) Alone”. But even from a young age, I wrote poetry more than story telling.
Sherri: What advice would you give to a new author just starting out?
Tyler: Dont be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to beat yourself up and struggle with your own writing, but lean on friends, family, a community like on Twitter, just anybody who values you and let them help guide you along the journey.
Sherri: What do you wish you’d known before publishing your first book?
Tyler: How hard it would be to promote it. I’m in the world of public relations and communications and have a degree in marketing, and It’s still like a second job promoting your book, finding ways to get the word out, etc. but once word does get out, it gets out.
Sherri: Are you working on a new book or other writing project?
Tyler: I’m working on two books right now, one is based on my grandma and her story of being the first female principal in a rural county. The other is a romance series based on mine and my fiancée’s relationship. I’m also writing as Minotauros for the “Legends of the Veil” blog, a supernatural multi-author blog that follows some really cool legends as we create new journeys for them. It’s really fun because the stories really coincide with one another, so it makes you connect to each character and want to follow each one of their blogs.
Sherri: Tyler, thank you for joining me at my virtual café, perhaps someday we’ll meet in person. If you all enjoyed my conversation with Tyler check out his books and follow him on social media, his links are below.
Welcome Natalie, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Natalie: Thank you Sherri, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Sherri: Natalie and I met through our Twitter group Shameless Self-Promo. I am so glad I got involved with this group. I have met some wonderful people.
Natalie: It has been a very supportive community, and I’m glad I found it.
Sherri: You are an author, poet, and priestess. Do these three connect?
Natalie: In my mind they do. I am a sea priestess by training and with that came a dedication to verse and poetry. But because of my novels, I’ve had to put the poetry on the back burner. I have been able to work some poems into my stories, generally by weaving into the tale by way of a spell, all my stories have magic in them some how.
Sherri: When did you first discover your love of writing?
Natalie: I first started writing poetry in high school, the stories were a bit later. Even though I enjoyed writing stories, I could never finish them A poem was quick (for me anyway), and it was done. I found I liked that, the immediate release from getting that which was in my head, out. When I got into college, the first time around, I started having recurring dreams, very specific, very repetitive dreams. I was forced to start writing them down. Most of the ones from that period (2005-2008) are lost, but a couple from my time in university (2008-2015) survived and I am working on finishing them. That in and of itself is exhilarating. Coming back to a project, realizing what I was trying to convey, and then having the voices return to get me to finish the project.
Sherri: When did you first become a published author?
Natalie: My first book, Love and Pain in Zion, was published on December 13, 2019 on Amazon.
Sherri: Are you indie published or traditionally published? What obstacles did you face when you first began your career as a published author?
Natalie: I’m independently published, through Amazon KDP. My main obstacle is marketing, honestly, I’m not very good at putting myself out there. Just publishing has been a nerve-wracking experience for me. But I’m trying, and I’m getting a few sales here and there. Having a couple more books up certainly helps.
Sherri: What are some of the things you’ve learned along the journey that you wish to tell others who are hoping to become published?
Natalie: Don’t stop. Don’t think you can’t do it. Because you can. Keep pushing forward, because the only person who is truly stopping you from doing what you want, is you.
Sherri: How do you juggle real life with your writing, publishing, and promoting?
Natalie: I haven’t, really. I wrote while I was in class, or working. Not so much that it distracted me from finishing my work or school work, but I wrote whenever I could. And now, with three books up on Amazon, I’m really working on the promotion and marketing aspects. I’ve been a little lucky. My job contract ended while we are in quarantine/lockdown, so I’ve been able to devote more time to my writing and promotion. But it has still affected my family life, I haven’t been as engaged in helping my stepson with his schoolwork, and it’s straining our relationship.
Sherri: Do you have any writing/business tips or tricks that have helped you that you’d be willing to share?
Natalie: Keep a book or a journal with you to scribble down ideas, because I’ve been out someplace and had an amazing idea for how to connect two plot points, and nothing to scribble on. And yes, I know that all phones have a notepad, I never seem to remember that. Then I lose the connection and must struggle later to recall it. Also, no idea is too silly. It may not fit with one story, but it may start off a separate one.
Sherri: Share with us one of your favorite moments as a writer/author.
Natalie: When my first book was officially published, I cried a little. Also, when I received the first author copy of “Love and Pain in Zion!”
My second favourite memory, was when my friend told me that he bought the eBook of Apotheosis, but then stopped reading it when he found out there was a paperback, and ordered the paperback. He put reading it on hold until the physical book came in.
Sherri: If you could turn back time, what would you do differently?
Natalie: I’d focus on finishing my stories earlier, get them published sooner, and focus more heavily on promotion and marketing. I think that if I had devoted more active time to my writing, I’d have more finished, and may be a little more along than I am.
Sherri: What do you have in the works now?
Natalie: The next one to finish, hopefully, is The Domed City (working title), is currently up on Wattpad, along with my other works in progress. I don’t see the end to it though, but I am enjoying the ride that Jillian is taking me on. Also, I would very much like to work on my poetry some more.
If you enjoyed our chat, follow Natalie on social media and check out her books. Her links are below:
Welcome to Creekside Café Cendrine Marrouat. I have to comment here that your poetry journal, Auroras and Blossoms feels a little kismet as I’m from Aurora, North Carolina. Life is strange and so are most people I know, but welcome to my virtual café.
Cendrine: We were probably meant to meet. 😉
I would say that life is very interesting.
Thank you for having me! I appreciate the opportunity.
Sherri: I guess you know all about strange, from reading your promo on your book “Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails” I had to chuckle at just the name.
Cendrine: The first part of the title comes from the name of an old blog that I created years ago to highlight the spam I received. I mostly featured terrible pitches from self-proclaimed marketing gurus. The few people who read it found the concept hilarious.
Sherri: I cringed wondering if one of my bad pitches might have shown up in your book, but I think I’m good, maybe. We’ll talk later.
Tell me, how does a serious poet and photographer end up writing a comedy book about spammy emails?
Cendrine: I don’t show names, so you wouldn’t know. ah ah ah
I am a very private person. I do not share much of life on social media. But my friends know that I love a good laugh. Actually, I laugh every day.
So, why a humor book about spammy emails? Because I could. When I used to be a social media coach in the 2010s, thousands of emails landed in my inbox every week. Most of them were terrible pitches from different people.
At first, I felt really annoyed and had a few heated discussions with the culprits, who almost never realized the errors of their ways. Then, I chose to look at spam as entertainment. My focus shifted and I ended up saving it in a specific folder. Every evening, I ended my day smiling (and sometimes laughing) thanks to spam!
Sherri: As I was reading your promo on your blog, I was struck but the fact that an author of more than twenty books would have doubts about writing. Could you tell us about your doubts and how you pushed through to create this book?
Cendrine: I have never doubted my writing abilities. In the case of Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails, the problem was that I had never delved into comedy before. I had no clue how my sense of humor would be received by readers.
But then, I remembered that I had had a first time with poetry, photography, social media, and theatre too. So, self-doubt didn’t last long.
Sherri: You also talk about the cover on your blog, I believe you call it “cheesy.” I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or not, but I like it. It catches the eye and makes me want to pick it up and see what it is about.
Cendrine: Thank you! And please, don’t be embarrassed. I called the cover “cheesy” and designed it that way on purpose. Spam is cheesy in itself. Look at the font some spammers use!
In my mind, spam is the same thing as the badly designed websites of the 1990s-early 2000s…
Sherri: According to your biography, you are a French-born Canadian photographer, poet, author, and the co-founder of FPoint Collective and Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, tell us first about where you are from and then more about your other works.
Cendrine: I was born and raised in Toulouse, France, and moved to Canada in 2003.
In 17 years, I have worked in many fields: translation, language instruction, social media coaching and training, content creation and curation, photography, poetry, theatre, art reviews, blogging, and journalism. I am the author of 25 books in different genres.
I am the creator of the Sixku (poetry form) and the Reminigram (photography genre). As a photographer, I specialize in nature, closeup, and black-and-white images. I also teach French to adults and occasionally advise clients on social media strategy.
I am always very busy, but in a good way. I have achieved a lot in almost two decades, which often prompts people to think that I am older than I actually am. lol
Sherri: What or who do you think has been the greatest influence on your work?
Cendrine: Life and Kahlil Gibran. I love sharing the lessons I have learnt.
Sherri: Looking through your list of titles I’m in awe of the work you have created. The time and effort it must have taken to do all of the research and data gathering is staggering. Which book was the most difficult to write? Do you have a favorite book?
Cendrine: Thank you for the compliment!
Actually, the only major research I did was for my play titled In the Silence of Words. As a former English major, I studied theatre (and Shakespeare). But, as far as writing a play was concerned, I was a complete newbie. So, I spent several months educating myself. I read guides and researched names.
I also wanted to make my story as realistic as possible. As such, I studied the importance of movement.
No book has been really challenging. Unlike many authors, I don’t pressure myself into reaching a specific number of words. I don’t have deadlines. I just write at least ten minutes every day.
After 25 books, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. For the sake of this interview, let’s just say that Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails is the one for now.
Sherri: Cendrine, it has been delightful to have you here at my Creekside Café, I hope one day we can meet in person. Thank you for stopping by and thanks to our readers for dropping in and having a drink with us. If you enjoyed our interview, check out Cendrine’s books and social media links below.
Until next time, y’all have a great day.
Cendrine: Thank you again very much, Sherri! I hope we meet in person someday too!
Sherri: I’m chatting today with Nina Romano, whom I know as @ninsthewriter from Twitter.
You know what they say about seven degrees of separation, well, we have a mutual friend, award-winning cozy mystery author, M. K. Graff. Since meeting Nina through Twitter, I have wanted to host her on my website. I am so excited to finally be able to welcome to my Creekside Café, the award-winning poet and author, Nina Romano. It is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Nina: I’m delighted to have
this lovely opportunity, Sherri, of speaking to you on a subject dear to my
Sherri: I’m sitting here in awe and unsure how I want to begin. There’s so much I want to ask you. I love following you on Twitter, you are so uplifting. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll start with the basics. Have you always written?
Nina: First, let me thank
you for that compliment. I always say: it’s the nature of the beast to try to
be supportive and helpful. The simple answer to your question is yes, I’ve
always written.The longer answer is that I always wrote poetry since I was a
young girl and I always wanted to write fiction.
Sherri: The alphabet after your name is a bit intimidating. If I’d not had the chance to get to know what a gracious person you are and your willingness to help new writers, I would hesitate to ask you to join me on the porch of my cafe. You hold several degrees and have traveled around the world. How have these influenced your writing?
Nina: I like your phraseology
of “alphabet” after my name. To tell the truth, I’m pretty amazed myself when I
look back and see I hold four degrees, two of those are Master’s and one is an
MFA in Creative Writing. The degrees gave me my love of teaching and my
enthusiasm for the written word, but also the skills for critical reading and
the ability to critique and revise writing.
Travel, on the other hand, is a complete education—when I think of it
that way, I’ve accrued quite a few more degrees for every country, state,
island, and place visited. What I mean is travelling exposes you to
everything—geography, history, languages, religion, currencies, food, drink,
morals, dress codes, mores, social etiquette, and behavior. Travel has
certainly influenced my writing because I love history and various cultures. I
write mostly historical novels, and narrative poetry. My short stories tend to
be quite international. They say write what you know, but what is meant by that
also encompasses writing what you can know by studying and learning—acquired
Sherri: In reading your bio, I see you have had quite a bit published: collections of poetry and short stories, and novels. You’ve had individual poems, stories, reviews, memoir reminiscences, and other pieces of creative nonfiction published in magazines, journals and anthologies. It is truly impressive, tell our readers about some of your work.
Nina: That, dear Sherri, is
a loaded question. I’ll try to simplify it as much as I can. Before I began having
my novels accepted for publication, I always submitted some kind of writing for
possible publication in a literary print or online magazine or journal. A
fellow grad student and dear friend, Leonard Nash, a wonderful short story
writer and professor, told me many moons ago, to always have from twelve to
twenty pieces circulating if you want to publish. I did just that—every Friday,
for months, even years, I sent out publishable material. I started to garner
publications that I added to my CV and author’s bio, which is exactly what you
need in almost every aspect of writing—most especially for query letters to
agents, editors, and publishers.
What happens if you’re rejected is you simply repackage the piece or
poem, revise, retouch it and resend it to some other editor or publication.
Why? Because it’s all so subjective and you need to seek out the right editor
or publisher for whatever it is you’re writing. In the meantime, of course, you
keep writing, keep trying to buoy yourself if the rejections come hurtling at
you too many at a time! If you get any
kind of a personal note that sounds a bit hopeful despite a rejection, you pay
attention to it. You can answer direct questions, but you never, and I mean
NEVER, write back to defend your writing on a submitted piece. That shows a
complete lack of professionalism. You merely say, Thanks, and move on.
Examples of some relatively positive rejections:
This piece isn’t for us. Solid writing, but do
you have an essay on mental health?
Your writing exhibits a lovely lyrical voice,
but for this magazine we’re looking for
something more cutting-edge.
is well-written, but you used first person POV, and we’re looking for only
can you rewrite it?
These poems don’t work for us. Have any others you’d be interested in
When you acquire enough published pieces, you begin putting together collections of poems, short stories, essays, novel excerpts, or whatever—in hopes of getting a larger segment of your writing in the form of a book or novel out into the public arena.
Sherri: Your Wayfarer Series is the first that caught my eye. The Secret Language of Women, was the first in that trilogy? From the Wayfarer Series to The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley they seem quite different but what do you feel a reader will take away from both?
Nina: They are all
different—diverse cultures, countries, eras. However, they’re all historical. I
do deep, investigative research so that everything about the time period and
era I’m setting the novel in is as factual as possible. I think readers
appreciate the systematic inquiry
process I employ. I also try very hard to “cover my tracks” in that I like to
blend and incorporate the research material so it fits the work and remains
almost seamless. This isn’t an easy task, I can guarantee it!
Sherri: On Twitter, I look forward to your writing advice. You were an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University, you’ve been on panel discussions, given talks and presentations at book fairs, in seminars and in workshops. You’ve spoken at several events, and given readings, signings, and “meet and greets” in bookstores. What bits of advice would you give to writers on the verge of publishing?
Nina: I appreciate you
saying that you like my tweets on writing advice. Of late, I’ve been doing less
and less of them, having been criticized and even blocked by people who disagree
with my writing tips, prompts or advice!
To answer your question about writers on the verge of publishing, there
are several crucial things to consider.
Editing is king! Never submit anything that isn’t a complete and
polished work. Have your manuscript edited by people who write well and have a
history of publication, people who know what they’re talking about when
critiquing, and people whose opinions you value and trust.
Rewrite, revise and tighten everything as much as possible before
Delete extraneous words from dialogue, repetitious words, and any material
that may be exquisitely wrought but isn’t appropriate to the work. This is that
hated expression: “Kill your darlings!”
Use a spell check, but be careful and cross-check words with a
dictionary and a thesaurus.
Read your work out loud.
Find and use trusted beta readers.
Write a synopsis for the novel in the style of the novel is written in.
Question the validity of every chapter in the novel. What is its
purpose? How does it serve the story? Does it propel the action forward?
For short fiction, keep it compact—here compression is vital! Evaluate
the plot, story flow, character motivation, cause and effect, and denouement.
Be able to say in a sentence or two what the novel is about—this is
known as the “elevator pitch.” Be able to speak about your novel in an
intelligent, cohesive, concise way.
Practice reading or reciting aloud. Time yourself. Learn to look up and
out at the audience. If you’re reading fiction and you have different
characters in the scene, change the tone of voice and inflection for your
various characters! Read as slowly and distinctly as possible. Use beats and
pauses for poetry.
I could go on and on, but these points are among the important ones.
Sherri: I agree with everything you’ve said but especially the “elevator pitch” and reading your work aloud.
I’m a bit of a foodie, I love the recipes you post on Twitter, do you have one you’d like to share as we move into cooler weather. I know, here in the south, cooler weather is a relative term, but not as sweltering sounds a bit unwieldy.
Nina: Three dishes come to mind. The first one is Pasta Piselli—a soupy pasta dish made with olive oil, onions, peas and tiny elbow, ditalini, or broken up spaghetti or linguine pasta. Additions can be any of these: tiny meatballs, mushrooms, bacon, ham, or fresh tomatoes! Use grated parmigiana or skip it. I serve it with either a fresh Ciabatta loaf, or toasted Tuscan bread.
Lentils—vegetarian style: In Italy I used to get the lentils from the island of Ventotene—one of the Pontine Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Now I use green, orange or almost any kind of lentils—I like Goya’s product. Add: olive oil, carrots, celery, zucchini, sweet potato, a golden potato, mushrooms, leeks, onions, garlic—any or all of these! If you eat meat, you can add cooked, sliced Italian pork sausage, or leftover pieces of lamb, beef steak or filet mignon. For some inexplicable reason, when I use lamb, I add a piece of very dark chocolate, which I call black like as a sinner’s soul!
Caldo Gallego (Galician white bean soup made with a nice chunk of prosciutto on the bone,
(I guess you could use a ham hock—I’ve never done that, but oh well—experiment!)
Add to the cooked beans: turnips, Yukon gold potatoes, and Swiss chard in that order. No salt, no pepper, no oil, no butter! It’s plenty rich!
Sherri: Are you
traditionally published, indie or hybrid?
Nina: All of my books have
been traditionally published by small, independent publishers.
Sherri: What are some of the
struggles you have faced as an author?
Nina: Time to write is a big
issue currently—my husband and I travel a great deal.
Finding beta readers I know and trust is difficult. I have one
incredibly generous personal editor, Jane Brownley, who is always willing to
read for me, and thank heavens she’s a veracious reader although she’s not a
I struggle if I have to interrupt the flow of the writing because I
feel I don’t know enough about a particular subject or thing. I stop writing to
do more research. This can go on for days!
Sherri: What do you wish
you’d known when you first started writing/publishing?
Nina: I should have trusted
myself enough to have started younger.
Sherri: What is your next
Nina: My present WIP is one
I began years ago and gave up on because it’s not my genre and it’s extremely
challenging, although it is historical. Maybe this time I’ll finish it. The
current stage of the manuscript is chaotic to say the very least. It’s set in
the Soviet Union in 1956, after Stalin.
To conclude this lovely “chat”, please let me say a word about the in-depth quality of your interview—I’m so pleased you took the time to read my author’s bio and personal information about me before asking these profound questions. Thank you so much, Sherri. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Sherri: It has been an honor to have you visit Creekside Cafe. I hope someday we can meet in person.
(To learn more about Nina check out her biography and links below.)
Nina Romano earned a B. S. from
Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University, a B. A. in English, and an
M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Florida International University. She is a
world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty
years where many of her poems and stories are set, and is fluent in
Italian and Spanish. Romano has taught English and Literature as an adjunct
professor at St. Thomas University, and has interned for poets Marie Howe,
Denise Duhamel, and C. K. Williams at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
Romano has facilitated poetry and creative writing workshops
at the Ft. Lauderdale Main Library, the Sanibel Island Writers Conference,
Bridle Path Press Baltimore, Lopez Island Library, Florida Gulf Coast
University, Rosemary Beach Writers Conference, the Outreach Program of Palm
Beach Poetry Festival, and Summit County Library.
Romano has presented several times at the Miami Book Fair International
with her fiction and also with her poetry collections which include: Cooking Lessons from Rock Press,
submitted for a Pulitzer Prize, Coffeehouse Meditations from Kitsune Books, She
Wouldn’t Sing at My Wedding from Bridle Path Press, Faraway Confections,
from Aldrich Press, and Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows from Red
Dashboard, LLC. She has also had two poetry chapbooks published: Prayer in a Summer of Grace and Time’s Mirrored Illusion, both from
Flutter Press, and a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, from Bridle Path Press.
She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in
Poetry. She has co-authored Writing
in a Changing World.
Her short fiction, memoir and poetry appear in numerous
reviews and literary journals. Excerpts from her novel, The Secret Language
of Women, appear in Dimsum: Asia’s Literary Journal, Southern Women’s
Review and Driftwood.
published the Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner Publishing. All three of the
historical novels of the series were finalists in book contest awards, and Book
1, The Secret Language of Women, set in China, won the Independent
Publisher 2016 IPPY Gold Medal. The other two novels are Lemon Blossoms,
set in Sicily, and In America, set in New York.
Two short stories:
“A Risky Christmas Affair” and “Dreaming of a Christmas Kiss,” have recently
been released as E-books, and the latter, along with two Christmas poems, has
been included in a Christmas anthology, Annie Acorn’s Christmas Treasury
Her latest novel, The
Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance released in 2019.
Currently, she is at work on a novel set in Russia.
When Darby McPhee falls in
love with Cayo Bradley, a wild cowboy from a nearby ranch, her world is ripped
apart. Caught in a lifeless existence of caring for her father and brothers
since her mother’s death, Darby does little else but work. But a death-bed
promise to her mother to get her education now stands in the way of her heart’s
desire to belong to the rough-and-tumble Cayo Bradley.
Darby is Cayo’s redemption
from a horrific act in his past that torments him. After being captured as a
young boy by the Jicarilla Apache, he now tries to settle back into white
society—but how can he? If he loses Darby, he loses everything.
Darby is determined to keep
her promise to her mother, but will Cayo wait for her? In this stunning tale of
love and loss, Darby comes to understand that no matter what happens, she will
always be THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAYO BRADLEY…
Blurbs from authors on book:
Romano’s story sizzles with
the tension of lovers—one struggling to blend Apache ways and white, the other
torn between East and West—searching for a way to join two lives going in
— Ruth Hull
Chatlien, Blood Moon, and The
Ambitious Madame Bonaparte
The Girl Who Loved Cayo
Bradley, a superbly crafted romantic
page-turner, is a deftly spun tale of ill-starred sweethearts in the American
West. Darby, a charming farm girl, and Cayo, Apache raised, a secretive man
with a disturbing past. Sparks ignite, burning intensely despite cruel circumstances
to separate them—an expertly woven story with witty dialogue, fast-paced plot,
and stunning, enchanting prose!
— Michelle Cox, award-winning author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.
The Secret Language of Women
Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Awards (Gold Medal,
Set in China in the late
1800’s, The Secret Language of Women tells the story of
star-crossed lovers, Zhou Bin Lian, a Eurasian healer, and Giacomo Scimenti, an
Italian sailor, driven apart by the Boxer Rebellion.
When Lian is seventeen years
old, she accompanies her Swiss father, Dr. Gianluca Brasolin, fluent in
Italian, to tend the Italian ambassador, at the Summer Palace of Empress
Dowager, where she meets and falls in love with Giacomo.
Through voyage and adventure,
their love intensifies, but soon is severed by Lian’s dutiful promise as the
wife to another. Forbidden from pursuing her chosen profession as a healer, and
despised because she does not have bound feet, she is forced to work in a
cloisonné factory while her in-laws raise her daughter, Ya Chen. It is in
Nushu, the women’s secret writing, that she chronicles her life and her hopes
for the future.
Rebelling against the life forced upon her, she empowers
herself to act out against the injustice and becomes the master of her own
destiny. But her quest for freedom comes at a costly price: The life of someone
close to her, lost in a raging typhoon, a grueling journey to the Yun-kang
Caves, and a desperate search for beauty and love in the midst of brutality.
with history, The Secret Language of Women offers a beautiful
and harrowing landscape of love found, lost, and hunted for – at all costs and
with dire consequences. Like the bound feet, so idealized in her novel,
Romano’s characters are broken and reformed into both the beautiful and the grotesque.
Haunting.” ― Barbara Wood, New York Times bestselling author
“The Secret Language of Women is a powerful and enchanting
read. A brilliantly well-written tale that takes readers on one woman’s
journey. For fans of Romeo and Juliet fans this is a must read […] I loved
reading Nina Romano’s stunning piece, and I recommend it to readers world
wide.” –– San Francisco
“This is a beautiful story of hope and love stronger than any adversity.
Very special historical fiction that is highly recommended!” –– Historical
“A stunning look at China at the turn of the twentieth century, this is a
love story that crosses boundaries both cultural and geographic.”—Foreword Reviews
“The Secret Language of Women is visionary, ambitious, and
lyrically written. One comes to the end of it feeling as though she has
traveled through a time machine, into a world so different, so vivid and real
as to linger in the mind long after turning the last page.” –– Wraparound
Book Description of The Secret Language of Women
first book in the Wayfarer series from award-winning writer Nina Romano is a
love story set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with
superstition, history, and exotic customs. The story explores the universal
themes of love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of
tragedy, enduring love brings hope.
A love story―set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with
superstition, history, and exotic customs―that explores the universal themes of
love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of tragedy,
enduring love brings hope.
2016 Finalist for Romance, Foreword INDIE
Domenico is born in a blossoming lemon grove, a prophetic fusion of sweet bloom
and bitter fruit on an island governed by volcanoes and earthquakes.
the continuation of Nina Romano’s epic Wayfarer Trilogy, an early childhood
accident propels Angelica to battle trials in a world where proof of virginity
is paramount. She suﬀ ers the trauma of her aunt’s death in childbirth and is
catapulted on a voyage towards the nunnery to seek refuge from a fear of
intimacy. Fate intervenes on the Feast of Cruciﬁxion when Giacomo Scimenti
enters the family shop, and Angelica feels herself rent by lightning the
instant they come face to face.
Lemon Blossoms is the story of Angelica’s struggle in pursuit of feminine identity and heritage while coping with the intricacies of loss, love, and yearning.
Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards Finalist
Beautiful, headstrong Marcella Scimenti has the affection of a
handsome neighborhood boy, the love of her large Italian family, and serious
dreams of singing in Hollywood. But the course of true love―nor the journey to
finding one’s true self―never did run smooth.
In America follows the story of Marcella, the daughter of the
characters at the center of Nina Romano’s continent-spanning Wayfarer Trilogy,
as she comes of age in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in the late 1920s.
In the trilogy’s heartwarming conclusion, Marcella must learn to
balance new friendships, promising suitors, and life as a modern working girl
with the expectations of her tradition-bound family, all against the backdrop
of a looming economic depression and a changing world. Along the way, she
unearths a devastating family secret that shakes her to her core and tests the
boundaries of her love, loyalty, and faith.