Lost & Found Love A Mountain Meadow Homecomings novel by Laura Browning
I’ve read a lot of books and every once in a while you find one that really touches your soul. That’s what this book did to me. When I first picked up this book, I thought it’d be just a sweet love story but it’s more than that. It does have a couple of triggers. It deals with child abuse and prejudice, as well as some extreme emotional issues, but Laura Browing does it with a deft had. She is skilled at making the reader feel, pointing her finger at injustice without making it preachy, even though the male love interest is a preacher. Discovering the male protagonist was a preacher nearly turned me off. So many stories make the preacher the bad guy or so good your teeth hurt. This did neither. He was a good guy, but he was a real person complete with flaws and desires. Ms. Browning’s portrayal of Pastor Joe was so well done, I wanted him to be my pastor. He, in fact reminded me of my favorite minister who unashamedly loved his wife and let his love show in an honest and open fashion I’d never known with other ministers. The twists and turns in the relationship between Tabby and Joe is as complex as the mountain roads that inspired the setting. Add in family drama, church and community jealousy and gossip, and secrets from the past and you have a fantastic series ready to pull you in for another glimpse. I will definitely go back and read the books prior to Lost & Found Love and read any others in this series. Prepare to have your heart broken and put back together.
Sherri: Nieya Glen is a non-binary author who writes for the love of beauty and hope. They are the neurodivergent mother of two children, who assure them they don’t know enough about their mother to help write this bio. Nieya has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a lifetime of experience as an actual human. They are from San Diego, California and currently long to go back there.
Nieya: Thank you for inviting me.
Sherri: Nieya Glen is the author of Journey Through Eden, a dystopian novel with a strong female protagonist.
Nieya, tell us about Evelyn Morrison, the main character in your novel. How did you create her? Is she in any part you?
Nieya: A large part of myself is in Evelyn. Her awkwardness and insecurities are very much based on my own, and a lot of her attitudes are very similar to mine when I was younger. She formed a lot from my own past. I created her, in part, to honor the me that used to be and the growth that I’ve experienced. She holds a lot of beliefs and perspectives that I grew up with, but no longer hold.
Sherri: Where did the idea for Journey Through Eden come from? Was there one spark or many that ignited the idea?
Nieya: Actually, the idea was born from insomnia. When I have trouble sleeping, I try to create little stories in my mind to help fall asleep. I tend to think in pictures – still images like a single shot from a movie. One night an image came to my mind of a group of people waking up in a forest with no idea how they got there. Most nights I don’t remember the things I think about while I’m trying to sleep by the time I wake up, but this one image stuck. It kept coming back night after night, and I found myself asking questions about it. Are they alone? Where were they before? How would they react to this situation? And the story built from there. It percolated for several weeks before I even sat down to outline.
Sherri: Is Journey Through Eden your first published work?
Nieya: It is. I plan to write more books in this series.
Sherri: How was your experience working with Tea with Coffee Media?
Nieya: Tea with Coffee Media has been wonderful to me. I’ve been struggling with some other life issues and they’ve been very supportive and understanding. They have all been very enthusiastic about my work.
Sherri: What do you wish you’d known before publishing this book?
Nieya: I had tried to write for a long time before I wrote this book. I kept hitting a wall with everything and I finally realized that I was trying to write what I thought would sell. When I let myself write what was in my heart rather than worrying about what other people might like I was able to really immerse myself in the world that I had created. Being boxed in like that really killed my creativity. Some people can write by formula and create really popular franchises, but I think most of us just need to write for ourselves. I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I had known that sooner.
Sherri: What advice would you give a writer who is just starting out?
Nieya: Experiment with your process. As a teenager, I would come up with these vague ideas that sounded awesome, but when I sat down to write I had no direction and everything just went nowhere. I had to learn how to plan my stories just enough to give them structure, but not so much that it kept me from exploring the world I had created. Every writer has a different process that works for them, and most of us have had at least one person try to tell us how we should write. Absorb the advice, try it out, but if it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t mean you can’t write. You just might need to try a different approach. And also, whatever process you use, be prepared to edit. A lot.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
Nieya: I have been working on a few essays for some outside projects in addition to the sequel to Journey Through Eden.
Sherri: Thank you Nieya for taking the time to talk to me. We enjoyed having you here at my Creekside Café.
If you enjoyed this interview with Nieya Glen then check out their book link and social media links below. Thank you for joining us at Creekside Café. If you are an author who wishes to be interviewed, you can contact me at email@example.com.
If the entire civilized world suddenly disappeared, how would you survive?
Evelyn Morrison, a social outcast, is thrown into this same scenario when a quake changes the way things were Before. Evelyn must learn to survive as our earliest ancestors did: with cunning, strength, ingenuity, and – most difficult of all for Evelyn – complete faith in oneself and one’s group.
With the coming of winter, increased tensions and a sense that the wild earth is about to swallow them. In this harsh new world, will Evelyn find the strength to believe in herself? Or will her long-time rival, Taylor, be able to bully her into submission?
She has to learn quickly because mother nature doesn’t provide do-overs.
Welcome BT Harris to my daydream. If I ever get rich, I’d like to have a readers and writers café on the waterfront of my hometown where I can drink coffee or something stronger and talk about books and writing all day long.
What is one of your dreams if you get rich?
BT: One day I hope to start my own nonprofit charity organization called Igor’s Children, which will help mentally ill minors get the treatment they need, including medicine and doctor referrals.
Sherri: That’s a lovely dream and one that is definitely needed.
You recently published your second novel, what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea for Beyond Olympus?
BT: The idea came from a very intense and vivid dream. I fell asleep over exhausted, and I was listening to Buddhistic chants and hums. I dreamt I was flying through space and eventually became a star. I woke up and wrote down the contents of the dream and started writing a story the next day.
BT: A graphic novel sounds like an interesting idea, but we will wait to see how well the book is received.
Sherri: Your main character Kristina is an astronomer and Buddhist. What else can you tell us about her? Why is she being entrusted with such cosmic importance?
BT: Kristina is the first human since Buddha himself that had this remarkable potential for growth. Others have tried to learn from Umun (our Sun) but failed to prove themselves completely. These failed students, as we know them, are the ancient gods.
Sherri: I read on your social media that you are also a poet. Which came first, poetry or prose?
BT: I started with both. Most of my early stories are in poetic stanzas. My first book was actually completed thanks to a massive epic poem I wrote to guide me.
Sherri: Do you think poetry helps you write better fiction? I’m always amazed by the way a poet can say so much with so few words.
BT: Oh, certainly. I would not be surprised if there are many smaller forms of writing that writers can practice their skills while trying to finish their first draft.
Sherri: What is it you love about writing fantasy? Do you enjoy creating worlds, unique characters or using magic, or is it something else?
BT: Moreso, the escape into a world where even I have difficulty navigating. A character will speak to me saying that this is over our heads. ‘You mean this is far too much fun for the both of us, let’s bring some enemies in.’
Sherri: It is said that all artists are a bit broken because only the imperfect can create something that will touch your heart. Writing became a way of expressing myself that I wasn’t able to do in real life. Has your writing helped you as well?
BT: No one is completely whole and no one is perfect. Some of us feel on a deeper scale, but who better to quote than Socrates when he said, “The real philosophers are those who love to see the truth.” If I was to broaden his statement to the emotional understanding. If we learn to recognize what we feel inside of us, and how appreciative we are of those who see as much, our hearts can be touched in a remarkable way. Sometimes I am afraid to admit the more I develop a character, they become one of those people I learn to appreciate.
Sherri: When I published my first book, I was terrified and sometimes, I am still afraid, but I make myself do it anyway. Were you afraid to publish your new book? How did you overcome your fears?
BT: I was not afraid to publish. I was afraid of what may come afterwards. There is no overcoming fear, no matter how strong you feel. By accepting the fear, you carry it with less weight.
Sherri: How was it working with Tea with Coffee Media? What was your favorite part of working with TCM? What was your least favorite part? How was it different than when you self-published by in 2015?
BT: TCM was the best experience I had when it came to publishing. My favorite is sharing the responsibility of the book than feeling smothered by all the control through self-publishing.
Sherri: What advice would you give a young author on the verge of publishing their first novel?
BT: Never, never, never, quit. Take a break if you need one. Enjoy life if you think you should grasp it. Just don’t quit.
Sherri: Thank you, BT for sharing your author journey. Best wishes for your writing and the success of Beyond Olympus. If you enjoyed this interview, you can find BT’s book links and social media links below.
It’s women’s history month and as a lover of history and a woman, I feel that we should be learning more about the great things women have contributed to our history. Truthfully, I feel learning about the great people and events, as well as some of the horrors of history that have effected women, people of color, and native peoples is important to truly understanding our past.
There are so many historical female figures who have been both heroines and villains. Some have been truly good or evil, but others it depends on which side of the tale you are on. In The Great Courses program by Joyce E. Salisbury, Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400, I discovered women I’d never before heard of and some I had but knew very little about. Have you heard of the Trung sisters of Vietnam who fought the Hun, or the martyr Perpetua? Zenobia and Boudicca are famous for fighting the Romans. Aisha, wife of Muhammad was instrumental in shaping the Muslim religion. Women, sisters, wives, daughters, dancers, queens, and nuns have changed the world around them. Some for the good, developing mathematics, science, and the first novel, others, well, some were conspirators, spies and murders. Women in history, just like modern women, are capable of good and bad things.
As a romance writer I am inspired by these historical women. Like these women who didn’t back down from a challenge, I want my characters to be tough and strong. Maybe because I never felt very tough or strong myself. All through history we find women who went against society, challenged society and even used society’s expectations to make changes. But if you’ve read my books, you know that my female characters are also inspired by women I know. They are the bad girl with the big heart who has survived a difficult life, the woman whom the whole town depends on to get things done, or the good girl who does what she is supposed to do but yearns to be just a little bit bad.
There are people who believe romance books are passe, that they aren’t about feminism. But if you read modern romance, you see that the story isn’t about waiting for the hero or stronger character to come and rescue the heroine or weaker character. It is about finding that one person who brings out the best in you, encourages you to be strong, and is willing to sacrifice to help you achieve your dreams. Anyone who says this isn’t realistic, well, I’m sorry, but I can name several who have found that one person who’ll do whatever they can for their partner to help them achieve their dreams or goals. My own husband has helped me achieve mine.
In Chrome Pink, Rae has always been strong else she would not have survived all the bad things that happened to her. Her friends and her grandfather were her support system but until she met Logan, she didn’t realize her own strength and worth.
Dana and Jenna both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Dana in White Gold is the busiest woman in Leeward but cannot find a man who can keep up with her until Agent Jake Monroe returns to Leeward. Jenna’s strength comes from her sense family and her kind heart. When her estranged husband returns, she can’t send him away.
Tracy is a ballbuster. In Red Steel, we see she is tough and strong, but her attitude hides a vulnerable heart. She’s afraid to trust Billy but can’t deny her desire for him. Together they overcome each other’s weakness to find their strength.
In the Harrell Family Chronicles, Willow and Liz don’t feel strong. They each suffer from their own weakness yet they’ve overcome obstacles and with the love of their husbands discover their strength.
Janie, of Janie’s Secret is a good girl. She hides herself behind that image afraid to allow herself to be wild for fear of what might happen. One of her secrets is her feelings for Chief of Police Mike Mackenzie.
Roxy is the bad sister. In Roxy’s Betrayal, she is a bit more vulnerable than she acts. She comes across as a user but she does bad things in order to help. When she meets Jorge Claudio, she wants to be better.
Maddie and Melodie, sisters in Christmas Inn at Teach’s Island and Trent’s Melody, overcome past hurts to give love a second chance. Maddie is the tougher, older sister who has trust issues. With Cole Harrell, Maddie feels safe enough to be vulnerable. Meanwhile, Melodie is determined to ignore her feelings for Trent but as she learns his vulnerability, she discovers her own strength.
In my historical cozy mystery, half Lakota wild west performer, Winnie Applegate has always had to be strong. Motherless and young, she is vulnerable in her desire to be loved and accepted. When her family is threatened, she leaps to protect them and uncover the mysteries.
The County Compass will be featuring a brief interview with me Thursday, January 19th. To celebrate, I’ve put together a little behind the story information and I’ve placed all of my eBooks on sale for 99 cents through Tuesday, January 24th at all eBook retailers and on my website.
I started out writing historical romantic fiction. I even sent off a couple of manuscripts, pieces of manuscripts and hundreds of query letters to agents and publishers long before doing it by email was a thing. But then tragedy struck and we lost our home to a house fire that pretty much wiped us out. My husband got us all out with our lives. I still have flashbacks of that night.
After losing all of my research books, my big computer and files, my husband and friends encouraged me to get back to writing. I took an online class about creating characters. The instructor said describe someone. I chose my husband. The next day, she told us to change their gender, ethnicity, keep some of their traits but expand others. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write again but with the love and support of my family, friends and writers’ groups, Rae Lynne was created.
My town, Aurora was the inspiration for the fictional town of Leeward. I decided on a fictional town in order to have a little more creative freedom, but locals recognize places like the Depot Café as Wayside, the Hardhat Lounge and of course, the fossil museum and library.
Chrome Pink was inspired by several things that happened at nearly the same time. I’d created the character Rae Lynne but she was just a paper doll, I didn’t have the rest of her story, but my husband and his boss were restoring a motorcycle in memory of a nephew who’d passed away. At the same time my friend’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my sister-in-law was always volunteering me for something or other that had to do with Relay-for-Life or other projects. Then I met one of my sons’ friends, a lovely half-Hispanic lady who was very kind but she was tattooed and pierced. When I asked about the tats and piercings, my son simply said, she’d had a rough life. From there, I found Rae Lynne and had my theme for Chrome Pink. https://books2read.com/u/4jaeBk
Reading that North Carolina was ranked 9th in human trafficking and growing up listening to seafood trucks running in the middle of the night got my imagination playing in the dark. What if they weren’t really carrying seafood, or not just seafood?
The Leeward Files was supposed to be a three-book series about three best friends: Rae Lynne-Chrome Pink, Dana Windley-White Gold, and Jenna McKenzie Roberts-Titanium Blue who uncover the town of Leeward’s darkest secrets while finding their strengths and falling in love.
White Gold’s Dana Windley is a force to be reckoned with. She is one of the ladies all small towns need who gets jobs done whether it’s volunteering to coach a youth ball team or organize the local beauty pageant. My sister-in-law loves this book best because she knows she’s one great ladies who inspired the main character. Dana is a plus-size multiracial woman who carves out a place for herself and becomes a hero all little girls can look up to. https://books2read.com/u/brYpjA
Titanium Blue has Jenna McKenzie and her estranged husband Tar Roberts struggling to get on with their lives after separating. This was the first book my son, Jason and his wife, Brandi helped me with. Since they were both in the Army their insight helped me make my character Tar, who was an Afghanistan vet who lost his leg and was dealing with PTSD more real. Jason served two tours in Afghanistan but thankfully returned home and is now retired from the Army. https://books2read.com/u/bzWOrq
After writing the first three books I wasn’t ready to leave the town of Leeward. Evergreen Crystals was supposed to be my first true romance with Rae’s wedding, but I can’t write anything without a murder and blowing something up. “Holidays, weddings and babies are happy occasions until someone ends up dead.” Or in Rae Lynne’s case, arrested. https://books2read.com/u/b68OqE
Red Steel is the final book in The Leeward Files series, my youngest son, a volunteer firefighter and his wife, a photographer, helped me with this book, and were the inspiration for the young couple Billy Grimes and Tracy Harrell. This is the final book is also the spin-off for The Harrell Family Chronicles. https://books2read.com/u/3yEKXB
The Harrell Family Chronicles came about from a dream my husband and I had as a young married couple of owning our own camp. I grew up in the community of South Creek which was at one time known as Stanton-Harrell thus the name, the Harrell Family Chronicles. The Harrell family turned part of a failing farm into a family campground. The middle brother, Charlie and his wife, Liz have seven children and they run the family campgrounds. Charlie’s older brother John runs the farm and his younger brother, Robert is a hunting and fishing guide.
The first book in the series was actually written third when I realized Red Steel couldn’t be the last of The Leeward Files and the first in The Harrell Family Chronicles. Willow’s Retreat deals with estranged married couple John and Willow, the oldest of the Harrell brothers and his wife, Dr. Willow Rider. The difficulty I had in writing this book was how can two people be married for thirty years and not know each other. With my husband’s help I tried to show the relationship and the couple’s choice to stay or go, and how they found their happy ending. Using my research into therapy animals, PTSD and trauma, I tried to craft a story that was both romantic and suspenseful with the deeper story of family. https://books2read.com/u/mgEra7
All of my stories have family as part of the theme whether it is the family we’re born with or one we create. Even though my stories are fiction, I feel it is important to portray honest relationships. Red Steel and Willow’s Retreat also show the family that comes about through shared experiences, such as being part of the local volunteer firefighters.
Janie’s Secrets is about mistakes and second chances. Janie hides behind the safety of her life as a small-town librarian, she even lives at home. She’s afraid to take chances. Afraid of getting hurt and making mistakes. But life is about risk, and if we aren’t taking a risks are we really living? This is a second chance romance. https://books2read.com/u/bpDq79
Roxy’s Betrayal was a lot of fun to write. Where Janie was the good girl in the family who never did anything wrong, well, Roxy was just the opposite. She was known for her bad girl antics and it takes something truly serious to make her forget about herself and put someone else first. But even trying to do the right thing, a bad girl’s got to do a little bad along the way…and boy does she have fun doing it. She falls for the wrong guy who just might be her Mr. Right and together, they save the day. But even being the hero of the story might not be enough to salvage her relationship with her family. She had to betray them to save them. Will they understand? https://books2read.com/u/boD5Na
Christmas Inn at Teach’s Island slipped away from Leeward but not too far. After a visit to Bath, I decided I needed to write a story with it as my backdrop, so I created Teach’s Island ( a combo of Indian Island and Bath). Hurricane Irene devastated this area and took several years to recuperate from. People who don’t live in areas affected by hurricanes don’t understand the devastation. I thought this Christmas romance was a good way to show the rebuilding of the small community and making my bad guy the hurricane instead of a person was good for a change. I also used this novella to set up the next book. https://books2read.com/u/47Ong8
Trent’s Melody was partially written several years ago but I couldn’t get it right. I think the timing was wrong. Using some of the previously written material, I managed to recreate the idea and make a few changes. Trent is Tracy’s twin brother. He’s as different from her as chalk from cheese but I had to dig deep to understand why. This story revealed itself to me like an onion peeling layers away to reveal something new each time. Of all the books I’ve written Trent’s story touched my heart in ways I never expected. For one, it helped me understand one of my sons better. I had a couple of contests, one a song writing contest where my writer friend, K B Davenport sent an awesome song that fit so well within the story. If you love music competition shows like The Voice and home improvement shows like Rock the Block, you’ll enjoy this story. https://books2read.com/u/bz1vK2
I am working on Remy’s Dilemma the last in The Harrell Family Chronicles (for now). I won’t completely leave this world but the next book will be a new point of entry for the series and I’d like to lighten things up, do a little romantic comedy. I don’t know if I can write a book without murdering someone and blowing things up, but I will try. Maybe…
My historical novel, The Americans are Coming, is a cozy mystery. This is more family friendly but I still managed to blow a few things up and kill a couple of people. I can’t help it, it’s an addiction. When seventeen-year-old, wild west show performer Winnie Applegate’s brother Riley is accused of causing the death of a fellow performer, Winnie seeks to prove him innocent. Instead, she uncovers a murder and a family secret that could put her brother and father at risk. What does a mysterious benefactor, an invitation to England and a family secret have to do with murder and sabotage? Winnie along with the young man she plans to marry, and a female Pinkerton agent will uncover the truth of who is really trying to sabotage Colonel Bill Dexter’s Wild West Extravaganza even if it kills them. https://books2read.com/u/b6zzRW
I wrote Chrome Pink when I was in a bit of dark place in my life, we’d just lost our home to fire. This book is about survival, hope and the love of friends, family and that one person who understands and accepts you…this is romance and life. We all know that person who makes bad choices but we don’t always know why. Learning the reasons someone deals with their pain in an unhealthy manner is often the beginning of understanding ourselves. Rae once made the mistake of trusting the wrong person and it nearly cost her life. Now, determined to be strong, she first has to trust herself before she can rely on others and allow herself to be vulnerable. She has a tough exterior but a soft heart. Chrome Pink is Free through all ebook retailers. Get your copy today.
Dana is glamourous and a bit dramatic, she loves the theater and being in the middle of things. She is the woman you call if you want something done. She juggles her own business with several part-time jobs, plus volunteers. She is based on several women I know who keep our small town moving. When Dana realizes her two missing pageant contestants are being forced into soliciting, she is determined to save them. Dana learns to accept herself, her family’s past and realizes she is more than enough. Any man would be lucky to have her and Jake agrees.
Estranged after losing his leg in Afghanistan, Tar must make a few changes and sacrifices to win his family back. When their son Toby goes missing from a neighbor’s party, it threatens to tear them apart once again. Is their love strong enough to survive the loss of their son? Will they lose everything this time around? Jenna and Tar’s story came about after my son’s tour of Afghanistan. He and his wife helped me with this story and it was so nice to have that collaboration.
My attempt at a true romance complete with weddings, babies and the holidays but… I really like to kill people and blow things up! This is not your typical holiday romance, not unless you consider Die Hard a holiday romance.
I finally gave into my dark side and really had fun with this. With the help of my youngest son and his wife, firefighters and first responders, I was able to flesh out this story and really heat things up. Tracy and Billy are on opposites sides of the arson, she’s a reporter and he’s a firefighter, what could go wrong? But a few things manage to go right…I do believe in happy endings even if I have to blow things up and kill people to make it happen.
What inspires me? The short answer is everything. If we’re having a conversation and I suddenly get a weird expression on my face either you’ve said something to piss me off or inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere. Chrome Pink, my first published novel started with the motorcycle. My husband helped restore the bike for his boss that belonged to his niece’s husband who’d died of cancer. That coupled with my friend’s mother battling breast cancer started the idea. The character of Rae Lynne was my husband who I described during a writing class on characters when after the first day she said to change their sex or ethnicity but keep certain parts. I kept his attitude and mechanical ability. The story then evolved from news articles about sex trafficking and a song on the radio. Inspiration was everywhere and I just had to filter it out.
Getting inspired or feeding the muse is more about showing up ready to listen or opening yourself up to be inspired. Steven King says he doesn’t wait for inspiration he teaches it to show up every morning. Those who wait for inspiration before they write aren’t writers, King calls them waiters. No offense to Mr. King but training your muse to show up each morning takes time and dedication. It is also a luxury some of us don’t have with a 9 to 5 job or worse, a job where we work shifts and have to reinvent our muse every few weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great way for new and like me, slightly used authors to find a few minutes to dedicate to writing. The idea is to teach our muse to show up whenever we sit down to write.
NaNoWriMo is a great commitment because there are prizes at the end that make reaching the goal more appealing. It gives us an added incentive to write daily. For me, my first NaNoWriMo was to prove I could write to a deadline. Each subsequent NaNos I’ve done more for fun but also to remind myself to show up. To be a serious writer with plans of being published means you have to make it a priority and you have to make sacrifices. NaNoWriMo helps teach us how to do that. Inspiration plus perspiration creates success.
And we return to inspiration. How do we find inspiration for the next chapter, the blank page, a new character? For those of us who are pantsers it might be a lot of staring at the screen wondering what to write next but there are tricks of the trade you can develop with a little experience and experimentation. While I don’t like to outline, a list of ideas or sticky notes with scene suggestions can help with your inspiration is flagging. Skipping to the part you do know or for me, if I’m having trouble with a character’s point of view or understanding them, I’ll write a short story about their backstory. This is something you can later use on your blog or newsletter. Nothing has to be wasted.
NaNo is about showing up and writing, that is the main objective. NaNo and other writing challenges like Book in a Week teach us to make writing a priority. Maybe we can’t juggle everything between work, family and other obligations but you can choose to write instead of playing games on your phone or scrolling through cat photos on social media. Fatigue, sickness, a troubled mind, other obligations, all of these things can dampen our inspiration so developing a plan for when you have a few minutes you can dedicate to writing will allow you to bring the inspiration with you. As King and others have said, we have to train our muse to show up when we want to write. Here are some cool things I’ve heard about or tried:
Writing on my phone (Michael LaRonn). There are apps you can download but I just write in my pages. This is great when you’re at the doctor’s office or even in line at Walmart. Write a few lines of your story, an idea for a character or a snippet of dialogue so it’s not forgotten and time isn’t wasted.
Sticky notes (Kate Parker and Sarah Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes you can even have plot twists or turning points and even setting each in a different color, write them in one-liners just to give you an idea of where to go next.
Index cards (Sarra Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes this is a great way to keep track of what you want to happen in the book without a firm outline.
Journaling: keep a writing journal for inspiration, ideas, characters, etc. You can do this for each story or as a general idea book.
I take ideas from other authors and writing coaches I’ve taken classes from or spoken to and found ways to make them work for me. As a pantser I don’t want to do a lot of prewriting, but one technique Marni Graff taught me was stop in the middle of a chapter or scene and make notes about what comes next before closing the computer, so you know how to start without having to go back and read what you wrote previously. This will help you save time.
Another suggestion especially for mystery writers and this could also work for romance authors and suspense writers, write your ending first and work your way back to the beginning. I admit, this isn’t something that works for me though I fast draft to the end and often know the ending I’m planning as I start the book but as I write it may change or alter slightly.
So, what inspires me? Everything inspires me: other writers, talking about writing and books, watching something on television, having a conversation, going places, doing things, the news, research, the list goes on. If you are open to inspiration, it will be there, waiting for you. It’s up to you to invite it in. What inspires you?
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.