Success is just a leap of faith into the abyss and surviving the fall.
I’ve been struggling lately with feelings of failure. My sales haven’t been great, and I’ve been wondering about whether I’m spinning my wheels and wasting my time. What is the meaning of success? Everyone categorizes success in different ways, for some it is accolades from their peers, awards, notoriety, for others it is about the money, the lifestyle, and still others it is the level of achievement, a goal reached.
Like most small business owners, I’d like to make more sales and as an author, I’d like to build more fans. I’d like more people to read my books and fall in love with them. Somedays it seems no matter how hard I work I’m just not making it. But then something amazing happens and I feel renewed, like I have a reason to keep believing. What does it mean to me to succeed? What is my idea success? Yes, I want to sell more books, become a well-known author, be able to pay my bills with my writing career but is that really what success is? Is that all there is? How do I define success?
As we begin the new year, I am doing some real soul searching about what my future holds. What does success mean to mean? Contentment, happiness, peace… I’ve achieved that. I’m happy with my life. Maybe not every minute of every day but mostly I am happy and content, with my family and friends, and even my work. I feel good about what I’m doing. I’m doing what I love. It’s not always easy to juggle my writing career with my “real” job, other obligations, family, and friends, but mostly I manage. Some days I’m tired. I’ve stretched myself a little too far, but I know if I want this, I have to push myself.
Each year I try to add something else to my resume. I try to write new books, have my books available on new retailer sites and be visible on new social media platforms. I try to learn new things and even have new experiences. Some years, especially during Covid, those experiences might be limited to online, other times, I might be able to attend a writing conference in another state. Whatever new adventure I choose, it is usually something that will advance my career or at least help me learn. While I might not be able to quit my day-job just yet, each step, even some of the negative ones, have helped me on my journey to success.
No one can define success for you. Each of us have to decide what it means for us. While I might want to win the lottery and be independently wealthy, that won’t make me successful. Success for me can only come when I feel I’ve done my best and I’m happy with the outcome and selling lots of books wouldn’t hurt either.
True success is a life well-lived, and a heart well-loved. (I think that is slightly misquoted from Tuck Everlasting).
Wishing you all a happy and successful New Year. Just remember to be HAPPY!
You can find my ebooks at your favorite ebook retailer or right here at my own online store.
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
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.
As an indie author it is sometimes difficult to take a leap of faith and spend money on ourselves and our careers, especially when we have a limited budget. We tell ourselves it’s a dream or hobby and it’s difficult to believe it’ll ever be anything more.
I put off taking Sarra’s class for a couple of years because I was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, that spending the money would be a waste of time. That I would never be a success. But learning to believe in myself, is one of the greatest gifts I received from taking Sarra’s classes. Sarra’s Publish and Thrive gave me the tools I needed to build my career and I learned to trust myself with my publishing future.
A brand new round of Publish and Thrive is coming up, starting on July 30th. I know y’all have heard me talk about my adoration for Sarra Cannon and her program. Sarra is a “Feel Good” person. Even on her YouTube channel you see her shining spirit. She does her best to lift up her students and followers. Sometimes I listen to her videos on repeat just to lift my mood.
As a Publish and Thrive student alumni Sarra’s classes are available to me for a lifetime. I can re-take the program whenever she offers it, even when she makes changes like this year. There is so much to learn and do as an indie author, it’s not just about writing a great novel. Sarra helps her students navigate the immense challenges of planning, publishing and marketing our books. She is available for questions and we often learn from each other during the question and answer sessions, and the Facebook group.
Sarra is rerecording the lessons and adding some new features. I can hardly wait to see what she has planned for us. While I am more of a pantser than an outliner, but thanks to Sarra’s programs I’ve learned to plan both my stories and my jobs to be done.
PUBLISH AND THRIVE:
$399 Pay in Full
$75/ month for 6 months
$38/month for 12 months
THRIVING AUTHOR BUNDLE:
$499 Pay in Full
$90/month for 6 months
$45/month for 12 months
The course begins with a live kick off call on Saturday, July 30th at 2PM Eastern.
The course has been extended to 6 weeks, so our final live Q&A will take place September 10th.
HB90 will start that following Sunday on September 11th.
Today I’d like to welcome romance writer, Stasia Mars to Creekside Café. Welcome Stasia.
The café is my fantasy coffee shop/bar. What can I get you to drink? I’m usually a coffee drinker but North Carolina is once again experiencing a heat wave, so I think I’ll have a lemonade with a little something-something to give it a little kick. I really like my bourbon.
Stasia: Thank you so much for having me, Sherri! We too have been having a bit of a heat wave here in Maryland. I love coffee as well, but right now I would love a good spicy margarita. Huge fan of tequila.
Sherri: I can’t drink tequila it makes my face go numb. I figure my brain can’t be far behind. It’s good to have you here even if it’s only through the magic of the internet.
Stasia and I are part of a Facebook group for authors, and I invited her to visit me here at my author café.
You are from right up the coast from me. I live on the Innerbanks of eastern North Carolina.
Stasia: Yes, east coast living! I too live pretty close to the water. It’s a place called Kent Island along the Chesapeake Bay and Chester River in Maryland. The bay is right at the end of my street where you can see the Bay Bridge. We’ve been living here for four years and absolutely love it.
Sherri: It sounds lovely.
You’re a stay-at-home mom with three children and several rescue pets. Are any of the children in school? When do you find time to write? I remember when my boys were at home, and it was a juggle between ball, scouts, school and church to find a few minutes to myself. How do you manage it all?
Stasia: Right now, my kids are seven, five, and three. Violet will be going into second grade, Simone will be going to kindergarten, and Quinn will be going into Pre-K part time. So still not all of them will be in school full-time next year, but close! It is quite a struggle to find time for myself and for my writing. I just have to let some things go like laundry and dishes to get some time in, but I am fortunate enough to have a very supportive husband. He helps where and when he can.
Sherri: It’s great to have your husband’s support. Mine always made sure I had a few minutes for myself and encouraged me to write. I forget that not everyone has that luxury. We are blessed.
You have a steamy series, Men of the Mafia. Tell us about your series. What kind of mafia? Are they all part of the same gang?
Stasia:My Men of the Mafia series are books that can each be read as a standalone or in any order. All of the men are from different families and places, but some of them do interact with one another in their books. Some of the ladies even become close friends!
Sherri: What is the appeal of the mafia and these dangerous men?
Stasia: These men are what you would call alphaholes. They’re pure alphas and can be quite brute, but they would do anything for their women. Like…kill. And even be killed. They have the power and money to do anything and give them anything. And when they love, they love hard and for life.
Sherri: How many books in your series? Do you have a favorite book, character or couple? What makes them a fav?
Stasia: As of right now, it will be six books in the series. I started out with Irma and Alejo’s story because they are a personal favorite of mine. I love Irma and her fierceness and how she came from nothing. She struggled to take care of herself most of her life and had never needed anyone. Alejo had the luxury of growing up with a loving family. His father was a mob boss but knew the balance of being a boss and a father. The chemistry between the two is undeniable. This book has a lot of action as well which in my opinion makes it so much more adventurous and fun to read.
Sherri: What comes next? Have you plans for a new series or more of the mafia?
Stasia: After the second book in the Men of the Mafia comes out, I plan to work on releasing the first book to my next series which will be the Women of the Mafia. Showcasing women who come born and bred to one day rule. This will not be a spin-off. It will feature brand new characters.
Sherri: Who do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors or who are you currently reading?
Stasia: I love Sam Mariano. Do you have that one book that you still think about even years after reading it? That’s what she did for me with her Moretti Family series. It’s what started my love of mafia romance. She also introduced me to dark romance, and I haven’t looked back since. I owe a lot to her writing and inspiring me. Currently I am reading Black Beard by Angus Konstam. A book I found on clearance and decided to take a short break from reading romance and read about some legendary pirates.
Sherri: Ah, Black Beard is legendary here in North Carolina. If you need any other reference material, I have a list.
Did you self-publish, or did you go the traditional route?
Stasia: I decided to go with self-publishing because I was too anxious to get my books out. I have over twenty books written, and I don’t always do well with waiting around for something to happen.
Sherri: I always wanted to be traditionally published but now that I’ve self-published I can’t relinquish control.
What do you wish you’d known prior to publishing? What will you do differently with your next book?
Stasia: I plan to self-publish my next book, but I am also working on a query letter to send out to literary agents in hopes of going the traditional publishing route. If I would have known how hard it was to self-publish, I think I would have found some patience within myself to wait on finding an agent.
Sherri: Self-publishing is a lot of work. What would you tell someone who is just beginning to write seriously?
Stasia: To not give up. Ever. If writing is your passion, go for it. It’s okay if it takes you years to complete a novel. You completed a novel which most people cannot say. Join social media groups and don’t be afraid to reach out asking for advice. And you don’t need to publish your work to consider yourself a writer.
Sherri: What is your dream for your writing career?
Stasia: To make a career out of it. To be able to make enough money so that my husband can do what he loves as well. I am so blessed to have a supportive husband that is helping me follow my dreams and I would love to do the same for him someday. Also, I would love to be able to help other aspiring authors. To be that successful author that others look up to. I would love to be influential enough to help other authors become more successful.
Sherri: Tell us 10 fun facts about you. What makes you unique?
Stasia: Hmm…ten fun facts. Okay, here it goes.
If I had an entrance song it would be Enter Sandman by Metallica.
I don’t eat the ends of my food and usually pick the corners off. It ends up looking like a rodent got a hold of my food (what my husband likes to say).
Along with my three rescue dogs and one rescue kitten, I have two rescue rats.
I am five feet tall.
My favorite animal is an armadillo.
I like making different covers for my laptop with fun stickers from Etsy.
My favorite writing tool is my rocketbooks! I can write as much down and make as many notes as I want without wasting paper.
I love shopping for clothes and shoes on Ebay.
I have a camper which I absolutely love taking on camping trips with my husband, my children, and my dogs which happens to also be my favorite atmosphere to write in.
And last but not least, my husband is going to be on HGTV with his brother renovating a beach house in Kitty Hawk, NC!
Sherri: Okay, I think I’m in love! My last book, Trent’s Melody has a renovation as part of the romance. My favorite thing to do with my kids was camping (we tent camped) and I love Kitty Hawk and Hatteras. I used to live in Texas, so I adore armadillos. I think we’d get along great!
When a reader finishes your books, what do you want them to say or feel?
Stasia: I want them to want more! I don’t want readers to just love my stories, I want them to enjoy my writing in general. I’ve had a few readers reach out to me on social media telling me how much they enjoyed my book, and it was such a great feeling. I cannot wait to be someone’s favorite author someday!
Sherri: What is the overall theme of your books?
Stasia: So, right now I am focused on the mafia books I have written. It’s honestly the most fun for me to write because they’re untouchable. They pretty much have the power to do whatever they want. They do not abide by the law and have little morals. But eventually you will see more from me and the wide range of romance that I write. Most of it teeters on the line of dark romance, and some are undoubtedly dark. But overall, romantic!
Sherri: Thank you, Stasia for joining me at my virtual café. If I ever win the lottery, I’d like to do this for real. I am so glad you stopped by, and I do look forward to hearing from you again.
If you can touch one life, make a difference for one person then you have led a successful life. I am just one author who has benefited from following Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathing YouTube channel. I fell in love with her honesty, her openness and her willingness to share the bad as well as the good parts of being a published author. As an indie author, we have to be our own boss, manage our own business, do everything from plan the stories to marketing our books and making sure all the bills get paid. It can be overwhelming. That’s why I am so glad Sarra offers her Publish and Thrive Course. As an alumni, I can take the course for free anytime she offers it. The next round begins Monday, February 7th and I’m going to be front and center. Sarra has some new things she wants to share and I am so excited.
I understand that $399 is a huge investment. Sarra allows students to break the payments down in a couple of ways, $75 a month for 6 months or $38 a month for 12. If you can’t afford to take Publish and Thrive at this time, believe me, I understand. I’ve raised six sons and had to do some creative bookkeeping to make ends meet. Check out Sarra’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/7vMuLBV-TIU
I have been following Sarra’s YouTube channel for several years. It wasn’t until I met her in person at a Heart of Carolina Writers’ Conference that I got brave enough to take a chance on myself. That is what this investment is, it’s about believing in yourself, your craft and doing whatever you can to be the best you can be. I am so thankful for this program and for the chance to take a refresher. There is so much I need to learn, re-learn, be reminded of, and I’ll be honest with working full time, sometimes I have to make a choice on what I’m focusing on this time. Each time I feel like I’ve gain another piece of the puzzle.
Today I’d like to welcome fellow Heart of Carolina RWA member, Seralynn Lewis to my virtual café. It’s good to have you here.
Seralynn: Thank you, it’s an honor to be here.
Sherri: Your novel, Cassie’s Secrets is your debut novel? Are you traditionally published or Indie? Tell us about your journey to publishing your novel.
Seralynn: Yes, Cassie’s Secrets is my debut novel. I will be self-publishing the book with a release date of September 1, 2020. The journey to publication has been uphill, downhill with crazy twists and turns along the way. Originally, I wanted to traditionally publish and after attending my first major convention in 2018, an agent requested the manuscript and I thought my goal to publication was secured. But after working with the agent for over a year, I realized the process of publishing traditionally would take an extraordinarily long time and I was unprepared to wait that long. My agent and I eventually parted ways and I began my journey to learn what I could about self-publishing and couldn’t be happier.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing? When did you decide to be a published author?
Seralynn: Years ago, when my daughters were toddlers, I got the bright idea that I would write a novel. I was addicted to reading romances and thought I could write one. So, with a notebook and pen, I wrote my first novel. It was so long ago that I used my mom’s old electric typewriter to type the manuscript. In those days, a writer could send their manuscripts to a publisher without the benefit of an agent. Sadly, the novel was rejected. But it wasn’t surprising since I had no formal training as a writer. In fact, the letter I received from the publisher said, “Take some creative writing classes and get a better typewriter ribbon.” I was crushed because I knew I’d never be able to take classes. That manuscript sat on a shelf and after quite a number of moves, I couldn’t bear to look at it and I pitched it. Life happened and I was a single mom for almost twenty years until I married my current husband. He encouraged me to take the classes and I did. It’s a long-awaited dream. This book, Cassie’s Secrets, began as one scene I had to write for my first creative writing class and it morphed in the full-blown novel it is today.
Sherri: Cassie’s Secrets is the first in a series set in the town of Worthy? Is this an imaginary town? Tell us about your town? The inspiration? This is also an inspirational romance, why is it important for you to write romance with a religious (Christian) theme?
Seralynn: Worthy is an imaginary town located about forty miles south of Columbus, Ohio. I chose the area because of what happens in book #2. When I wrote my proposal for the agent, I knew I had to have three ideas for the series I was planning and I wanted the book to be set in Ohio, since I was born and raised in Ohio. But I needed it to be a small town. The novel is an inspirational romance. It’s important for me to write this novel because there are messages I want to readers to have and who may need encouragement in their lives. The message is key. In Cassie’s Secrets, the message is about forgiveness. We all need it and we all should give it.
Sherri: You have won several writing awards. Tell me what it means to be a Serious Writer, inc Writer of the Year finalist?
Seralynn: I was incredibly excited to be one of twelve people to be a finalist for this award. The winner has not yet been announced due to the pandemic. There will be one winner, of course, but there will also be second to fifth place winners as well. I had forgotten I entered the contest only to be told by another writer friend who also placed that I had placed as a semi-finalist. Then we had to wait an inordinate amount of time to find out the finalists. We’re on tenterhooks waiting. The contest entry was for book #2 of the series.
Sherri: What do you hope readers will take away from reading your books?
Seralynn: I hope the readers will enjoy the story and learn there is hope. Hope in everyday life and in everyday people.
Sherri: What writing project are you working on now?
Seralynn: I’m in the process of editing book #2 of the series, Mia’s Irishman, which will be released sometime in November 2020. I’m also currently writing book #3 of the series.
Sherri: Why did you choose to write romance?
Seralynn: I chose to write romance because I love to read romance. From the time my children were babies, romances enthralled me and I’m a voracious romance reader. So many titles and not enough time to read them all! I enjoy most all sub-genres with a few exceptions.
Seralynn: I wanted to be able to touch women’s hearts by writing about faith, life and romance. Those three categories just about covers any topic I can think of. The Faith part of the blog is where I choose Bible verses and write about how they impact our lives today. The Life part of the blog is mostly day-to-day things from birthdays to holidays. And the romance part of the blog deals with romance and the adventures my husband and I had while living in Germany and visiting castles.
Sherri: In Cassie’s Secrets you have a match maker as well as a little suspense. What are your favorite genres or authors to read?
Seralynn: There are so many fantastic romance writers out there, it’s very difficult to choose even one. I have two favorite genres I like to read aside from contemporary romances and they are historical Scottish romances and Western romances. But I’ll read Amish, Regency, Sweet & Clean, Medical and other sub-genres with the exception of a few.
Sherri: What advice would you like to give to other writers who’d like to pursue publishing their work?
Seralynn: The best advice I can give is to write the best story you can, then learn to self-edit.
Sherri: Thank you Seralynn for visiting with me here at my Creekside Café. I wish you lots of luck with your new novel.
If you liked this interview with Seralynn Lewis then follow her on social media and check out her debut novel, Cassie’s Secrets.
Here’s the back cover copy of the book:
When there’s a second chance for love and you have secrets, are you able to share them to gain the love of your life?
Single mom, Cassie Verano, and her two young daughters move to small-town Worthy, Ohio to be near her brother and his family. After years of secretly writing best-selling novels, she longs to raise her daughters without her ex-husband’s family’s controlling interference and live in peace. Her daughters befriend two girls who are cared for by their aunt who urges Cassie to meet her brother. It’s the last thing she needs or wants.
Widowed business owner, Steve Nardelli, wants nothing more than to complete his huge Australian deal and expand his deceased father’s electronics firm to secure his family’s future. But his sister’s matchmaking antics over the past two years frustrates him. His disastrous marriage caused him to distrust women and he can’t seem to make his sister understand he doesn’t want or need any entanglements.
Despite Steve’s misgivings about Cassie’s secrets, when his sister disappears, he enlists Cassie to help care for his daughters. When Cassie has an odd dream, Steve blames her for his sister’s disappearance. Can Steve and Cassie overcome their mutual distrust and expose their secrets to one another to have a second chance at true love?
Cassie’s Secrets is a second chance Women of Worthy romance.
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.
How many mistakes have I made on my journey to becoming a published author?
Hmm, there are too many to name, but I will start with a few lingering ones that will hopefully help someone else when they are looking to get published.
My first mistake was FEAR!
I was afraid of trying to get published. I was scared to let others read my work. I feared I wasn’t good enough. When it came to self-publishing, I was apprehensive about spending money, of taking chances, of failing. I was intimidated by everything.
Confession: I am still afraid. It’s okay to be afraid, but if you allow fear to keep you from doing what you love, you will never do anything. Like the heroes we love to read about and watch, remember we don’t have to be fearless, in fact, people love to cheer for the underdog. Think Rocky! So, swallow your fears and do the scary thing anyway. Be the hero in your own story!
Let me start with FEAR ONE: Not good enough.
Well, this was and is true. I’m not as good as I’d like to be, but I am getting better. Practice makes perfect, or at least makes improvements. Like anything else we do, there are people who like my books and others who do not. That’s okay, it is important to remember that we cannot please everyone, and we should not try. The first person we have to please is ourselves. Do you love what you are doing? If you have a passion for it, whether it is writing, painting, or music, whatever it is, your love and joy will show in your effort.
Grammar mistakes are the bane of my writing! I’m working on relearning all the lessons Mrs. Simpson tried to teach me in high school English class. Thank goodness for all of the editing programs available online nowadays and for friends and family members who are great at proofreading and catching my mistakes.
I have talked with other writers and have been surprised to learn that many of my favorite writers say they doubt their work or their ability. They often fear they will not be as good with the next book. Fear is a very real thing and it can be crippling. I repeat, no matter if you are a writer or a dancer, an artist or a musician, when you put your talent out there for others to critique, it is scary. Some will love you and others will not. The person you have to convince is yourself. Believe in your talent. Fall in love with what you are doing. Let your joy shine through your work and others will feel it too.
#2: Fear of failing. Has anyone in history ever done anything without fear of failure? Failure is a very real part of life. The truth is sometimes you are going to fail but the only sure-fire way to not fail is to not do anything and that in itself is failure. I have never attempted anything important without fear of failure from going out for cheerleading, attending to college, to parenthood and getting married, to writing and publishing. If it means something to you, then yes, there is going to be fear. If you are not at least a little afraid then you’re not risking enough. With great success come great risks. You cannot win if you are not willing to put it all on the line. This is true whether you are talking relationships, athletics or art, if you don’t put your whole heart into it, you will not reap the rewards. When the risks are greater, the success is sweeter.
#3: Afraid of taking chances and spending money. I’m sure there are other authors, perhaps even other creatives, who feel the same way I do… afraid to spend money especially before you start really making money. I’ve always been conservative. While uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing is free, there are other costs that a self-published author has to take on themselves. I was talking to my youngest daughter-in-law recently, I’ve mentioned that she is a photographer, like me, she worries about spending money for her craft/business. We know that there are somethings that we have to put the money into, for a photographer it’s the camera, lens, perhaps some classes. For a writer, it’s a computer, maybe editing, cover design, marketing, and classes. I recently broke down and invested in a class I’ve wanted to take for a couple of years. It’s scary to invest the money not knowing if it will be worth it but as my daddy used to say, “Scared money don’t make money.” Sometimes you have to conquer your fears and take a chance on yourself.
What I’m trying to tell you is what I’m telling myself, believe in yourself and take a chance. Don’t let your fears keep you from making your dreams come true.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss