Author Sunday, Interview with Sarah by Sherri Lupton Hollister
I am so excited to be a part of Sarah Maury Swan’s author friends’ group. We are getting ready for our next Author Sunday, October 29th at the New Bern Farmers Market 1 to 4 pm.
If you have been around New Bern, you may have seen a little lady on a trike or one of those rolling walkers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is your average little old lady. Sarah Maury Swan is timeless. She is an adventurous soul from her days in the Peace Corps to raising horses, Sarah doesn’t balk at any challenge. I want to be her when I grow up.
Sarah, how many of these Author Sundays have you put together at the New Bern Farmers Market so far?
Sarah: This is my third.
How did you come up with the idea for this local author event?
Sarah: Julie McKeon, who runs the New Bern Farmers’ Market asked me if I would organize a semi-annual “Authors’ Sunday” similar to the one that was held years ago before the market was open every Saturday. Seemed like a good idea to me.
Sunday, October 29th we’re expecting close to forty authors from all over eastern North Carolina. How did you meet all of these authors?
Sarah: Some I knew through local events, but most of them I met thanks to Michelle Garren Flye and her store, Next Chapter Books and Art. When I mentioned the possibility of doing this, she sent out the notice to the authors who sell their books at her store. But I also sent out notices to Carteret Writers, Pamlico Writers and North Carolina Writers Network. We limited the area to eastern Carolina writers as those who live anywhere on the Eastern Raleigh edge. It’s been fun to get to know so many talented people in this area.
You’ve been writing for a number of years, but you’ve only been published a few, tell us a little of your journey to being a published author and why you chose to be indie published.
Sarah: I come from a long line of writers and book readers. So, any chance I had to write, I did. But I didn’t start writing for publication until I was in my sixties. I’m pleased to say I almost immediately got published in magazines. And when I submitted my middle-grade novel, Emily’s Ride to Courage, to the Dutton imprint of what is now part of Penguin/Putnam, the editor I sent it to liked it well enough to send it along the chain of editors until it reached the marketers who said they wouldn’t buy it because they already had a horse series in the works. So I sent it down to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there wrote back to me saying she liked my writing and the premise of the story, but didn’t connect with my main character, Emily. She asked me to rewrite the book and send it her again. Well, when an editor says that, by gum you rewrite the story. The second time I submitted everybody says it was a good book, but the marketers said they had another horse book in the works. I put Emily aside and wrote Terror’s Identity, which I published through Sable Books. By that time, I was in my mid seventies and decided I didn’t have the time to wait around for my books to be published through trade publishers.
What is your latest book about?
Sarah: Little Bits: A collection of short stories is a collection of short stories that had previously been published in Michelle Garren Flyes’ Next Chapter Literary Magazine. It came out this past summer. My latest novel, Earthquakes, came out just in time for COVID-19 to shut the world down.
What are you working on next?
Sarah: My first ever early reader book, Space Junk, is at my editor’s and I am finishing up another young adult novel, Bad Hair Day, about a sixteen-year-old girl who learns that her idea of having things go wrong is nothing compared to what her cousin’s bad hair day means. I am also in the beginning stages of writing a murder mystery, Serendipity’s Conundrum. Since the main character is a 82-year-old woman who rides a purple tricycle named Gertrude, the story is more a cozy mystery than Sherri’s spicy mysteries.
We will have a couple of food trucks and coupons for a local restaurant and Next Chapter Books, so come on out and choose a few books for yourself, family and friends, grab a bite to eat and support local businesses.
Sipping Sunshine Lemonade and Tea Truck will be there, along with The Burger Bus a new addition to the food truck scene from Swansboro that is US Veteran owned.
We will have live readings throughout the day by various authors.
Sarah will also be speaking at the Pamlico Writers luncheon, Tuesday, October 31st, 11 am to 1 pm at the China Bay Buffet Restaurant Chocowinity, NC. You won’t want to miss either of these events.
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
BIO: Sarah Maury Swan is the author of three novels, the last two of which she is selling at the upcoming Authors’ Sunday. She is pleased the say she has written stories for the Next Chapter Literary Magazine since its inception in January 2020. At the moment, she is working on a chapter book entitled SPACE JUNK, a young adult novel entitled BAD HAIR DAY, her first ever grown-up’s cozy mystery entitled SERENDIPITY’S CONUNDRUM, and a short story entitled FAIRY’S TOOTHBRUSHES. She lives in Fairfield Harbour with her handsome devil and their cat.
Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Café, she might look like a sweet little old lady but she’s a dynamo. She is hosting 34 other authors, myself included at an Authors’ Event at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th. Sarah, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Sarah: Aw shucks, Sherri. You’re definitely a dynamo yourself considering how you took over the reins of Pamlico Writers so seamlessly. And thanks for the delicious cup of herbal tea; the virtual scones were perfect.
Sherri: Well chai tea is one of my favorites. I think you are amazing. You didn’t grow up with computers like today’s kids but you’re fearless about trying new things. Congratulations on your website and blog.
Sarah: That’s because you’re not close enough to hear how much and how often I yell at my computer.
Sherri: I’ve yelled at mine a few times too. I’m very grateful for grandchildren who fix whatever problem I’ve created. How did you and the handsome devil end up in eastern North Carolina?
Sarah: We had a lovely horse farm up in Maryland, but we had to put down three horses, 2 dogs and a cat in the 22 years we were there. The three horses were in the last 5 years we were there. Dale was ready to retire from the consulting business he’d started 30 years earlier, but we both knew he’d never quit if we stayed in Maryland. We had friends who had moved to New Bern, which made the area even more enticing. We’ve loved it ever since we moved here in December of 2010. Of course, not having to deal with blizzards also made this area more inviting.
Sherri: You’re very active in the local writing community, just like organizing this event. What groups do you belong and what else do you do?
Sarah: I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, HTTPS://SCBWI.org; North Carolina Writers Network, HTTPS://NCWN.org; Carteret Writers, which I was the president from 2012 to 2014, HTTPS://CarteretWriters.org; HTTPS://PamlicoWritersGroup.com, and locally, I belong to 3 critiques groups: Seascribes, where I work on my Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, plus short stories, etc; Kitchen on Trent critique group where I concentrate on short stories and my first ever “grown-ups” novel; and Bogue Group, which is my children’s’ books/stories critique group. Because of COVID, I’ve become fairly proficient on running the groups via Zoom. When I’m not writing, I try to do “retired persons” kinds of stuff like going out to lunch and having my weekly manicure. I read a lot and play some computer games, and I ride my tricycle which I named Gertrude. By the way, Veronica Krug, who is also going to be at the Authors’ Sunday event, is a member of Seascribes as well.
Sherri: Oh, my word, you’re as busy as I am.
On your blog you mentioned you review books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (www.CLCD.com), what is the CLCD and how did you get involved in this?
Sarah: CLCD was founded early in this century to review children’s books for various publishing houses and sending the reviews to libraries and schools. I started reviewing for the company in 2006. At the beginning the books had to be traditionally published, but nowadays self-published/indie books are being considered. I got a 5-star review through the organization for my novel Earthquakes. I did a happy dance then. It’s a very good way to learn what is accepted by publishers and what book buyers are looking for.
Sherri: You’re a horsewoman, is that correct? You mention on your blog that you and the handsome devil had a small horse farm in Maryland. Was your book Emily’s Ride to Courage inspired by true events? https://books2read.com/u/mvX0D2
Sarah: I wrote Emily’s Ride to Courage because we had to put a 9-year-old horse down. That’s very young and he was a sweet horse. Putting any animals down is sad, but horses are big and don’t necessarily go down easily. So, I’m in the house grieving and Grandpa’s voice pipes up in my saying, “Won’t have me no white-hoofed horse. White hooves is weak.” I said to him: “I don’t write for grown-ups, Grandpa,” and made-up Emily. The horse had to be a blood bay because the handsome devil always wanted a bay and we never had one.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you first decide to publish?
Sarah: I come from a long line of writers/readers and started telling stories when I was not even a teenager. My career jobs all had to do with writing one way or another, but I didn’t actively try to get published until I was in my late 60s. My first successes were with magazine like Country, Country Extra and also their cookbooks, and the “Fun For Kids” magazines.
Sherri: Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Sarah: I eventually went the self-publishing route because I’m too old to wait around for traditional publishing to publish my books. Emily’s Ride to Courage was the first novel I finished but the second one I published. I sent to Dutton first because I had friendship with one of publishers there. He liked it so well he sent up through all the editors there and they sent it to the marketers who said, “Good book, but we already have a horse book series in the works.” Now if you’re going to get a rejection, that’s not a bad way to get one, so I sent it to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there said, “I like the story line and I like your writing, but I’m not connecting with Emily.” I rewrote it in first person and again it went all the way up to the marketers who rejected it because they already had a horse book in the works. Sigh. But at least I knew I had a good story on my hand. Then I wrote the book I published first, Terror’s Identity, which is, at the moment, only available as an e-book through Amazon. Then I published Emily and now I’ve published Earthquakes.
Sherri: I was reading the information for your first novel, Terror’s Identity, it sounds like an interesting read. I had hoped to get a print copy when we meet for our Authors’ Sunday, but I’ll have to settle for eBook. Tell us how you came up with this idea for this book, your research and any other details you’d like to share.
Sarah: Terror came to me after 9-11 when people were being so nasty to any Muslim they come across. So, I wrote the story to make the point that not all Muslims are terrorists. I was very lucky to a have Secret Service agent living behind us and he was quite helpful in learning the way they run things. I wanted the main character to have a lot changes in his life, so I started him in Lake Forest, Illinois, because it’s quite ritzy, and then sent him to Dundalk, Maryland, which most decidedly not ritzy.
Terror’s Identity, Sixteen-year old Aidan Knox’s life turns upside down when he, his sister and his mother enter a witness protection program and begin a dangerous new life because of his father’s work investigating a terrorist organization operating in the U.S. How will he remember the details of his new life with a new name and a made-up past? And will he be able to settle into a new school and all that entails? Whom can he trust, and can he keep his mother and sister safe?
Sherri: It takes a lot to be a published author these days, especially having to wear all of the hats from writer, editor, formatter, publisher, marketer, and promoter. What is your key to keeping your sanity in this business?
Sarah: What? Me sane? I’m glad I have a lot of computer savvy friends who are willing to enlighten me. I also use publishing houses like Sable, Amazon and Jera because they will do a final edit for me. Of those, I liked Sable and Jera. Amazon is quite fond of squeezing as many nickels and dimes out of you as they possibly can. Sable doesn’t have the marketing arm that the last publisher I used has. Jera has connection with IngramSparks/LightningSource which has a page in national/international publishing magazines.
Sherri: I have to ask, what is the weirdest pet you’ve ever owned. We had ferrets and they were unique and stinky, but they had funny personalities. We had a dog we nick-named Houndini because he wouldn’t stay in a pen or on a lead. He got out of his collar, a harness, and even escaped from the local pound when he was picked up for not having his collar.
Sarah: A quirky animal we had was my dressage horse that I had trained from the time he was 4 months old. But he was lots of fun to ride and ended up his life as a therapeutic riding horse. You should have a photo of him there. I took our Tennessee Walking Horse, Rippy, to a clinic one time because I didn’t know much about the breed and what to do with it. Everybody fell in love with him. Turns out you can do just about anything you want to with them, especially jumping. Our dogs were always characters and loving, including our last dog who was a spectacular bird hunting German Shorthaired Pointer named Jake. Now we have a calico cat named Pandie because she was born in August of 2020. Guess why she’s named Pandie.
Sherri: I love World War 2 stories. Your story, Earthquakes sounds like a thriller. Do you like scary stories? Have you ever been in an earthquake?
Sarah: I hate earthquakes. They scare the livin’ bejeezus out of me, but I do like scary stories. I wrote this one in part because it has elements of my mother’s life and my life because I was born in May of 1941. My mother graduated from M.I.T in 1934 with a degree in Physical Chemistry, and then married my father whom she had met through her brother Bill at West Point. After Daddy was shipped to the Philippines the day after I was born, we moved from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Los Angeles, California. When war broke out my mother went to work for Lockheed and became their first female Tool & Dye designer. She became a “Rosie the Riveter” and was used in all kinds of roles to promote the “War Effort.” After the war she was fired for no other reason than she was a woman taking a man’s job. She was told the men would need to support their families and she should go back to being a housewife. Her question was, “I’m a widow with four children to raise. Who’s going to support us?” Fortunately, she had friends in the Washington, DC area who were instrumental in getting the Cancer Chemotherapy project started at the National Institutes of Health. So, off the Maryland we went. That’s the state I consider my home state.
It’s hard enough dealing with the effects of World War II sending his father and grandfather to the Pacific theater, but now seventeen-year-old Jonathon Thomas has to deal with real and imaginary earthquakes. To make matters worse his school principal has warned him and his schoolmates of potential spies in the neighborhood. How’s he supposed to recognize a spy? And why are his neighbors being murdered? And why are people sneaking into his house to search for something? The only comfort Jonathon finds is when he talks with his girlfriend, Jennifer Murphy. What’s he going to do when he’s banned from leaving his home? Will his recurring nightmare of being swallowed up when an earthquake splits the ground open under his feet turn into reality?
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Maury Swan join us at the New Bern Famers Market, Sunday, November 20th 1-4 pm for Authors’ Sunday with 35 local authors.
I have a confession. I’m a nerd. I geek out over the strangest things. I love research and learning new things. With the past couple of years’ Covid restrictions I have done most of my research and learning online. As y’all know, I follow several authors online. I love YouTube especially for learning from other authors, but I recently discovered I can find research information like steamships from late 1800s and early 1900s, what life was like in the Victorian era, and assorted household items look like when they explode or catch fire.
I also enjoy taking classes both in person and online on everything from writing craft to research details and even marketing. Okay, maybe I don’t exactly enjoy marketing but as an indie author, marketing is a necessary part of the game. Last Saturday I attended the Heart of Carolina Spring Conference with Molly Maddox and Lucy Lennox. I followed that program with a webinar on Goodreads by Alessandra Torres of Inkers Con. I feel I have been inundated with information, good, much needed information but maybe more than I can process at the moment.
One thing I learned while raising our sons is that we each absorb information in different ways and regurgitate that information through our own filters. As I review the recordings one more time, I know that I will have to choose one or two things to focus on and do my best to implement those lessons before I can attempt to use any of the other great knowledge. That’s why for me, I don’t mind listening to a lecture more than once, sometimes multiple times. I happily attend classes and programs I’ve attended before or are similar, because review helps renew or remind me of things I might have forgotten or become lax with.
Craftsmen, no matter if they are woodworkers or painters, seamstress or authors, we each continue to learn in order to stay current. When we stop growing and learning, we then begin to die. On that ominous note, I urge each of you and myself to learn something new and find the new nugget in the old.
Of course, I’m a nerd, I love to learn. I geek out over dress fashion changes from the 1800s and inventions of the Victorian era. I get all excited watching glass blowers design a vase or a blacksmith make a knife. I want to know how it’s done.
This week my gal-pals and I will be going to Carteret to listen to mystery author, Tom Kies and while we’re there, I’ll do a little research at the maritime museum. With two books in two different series in different genres and different time periods, this trip is more than just a fun adventure, it’s a necessity. But there will be laughs, good food, fun times and learning all combined. It’s so good to be able to go to in person events again.
I will be learning to Haiku with poet, author and bookstore owner, the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, Michelle Garner-Flye. Check out http://www.pamlicowriters.org
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.
It’s almost Christmas and those of you who know me, know it’s been a rough few months. My mom fell and thankfully did not break anything, but she’s still had a rough recovery. At the same time, we lost a beloved friend and extended family member, and then the holidays struck. Oh, and did I mention two of my children were moving at the same time? Yeah, it was chaos but now things are returning to what passes for normal in the Hollister household which is somewhere between chaos and catatonia.
It took two weeks to decorate my tree, I am almost finished with Christmas buying and I’ve gotten a good start on wrapping. I’ve been moving things around to finish decorating and I hope I have all the Christmas cards sent out. At this point I can guarantee nothing, but I have food to cook and a place the kids can hang their hammocks. I’m hoping to finish cleaning and decorating this weekend so I can enjoy my family coming in for the holidays and my mom coming home. That in itself is a reason to celebrate.
As you can imagine a lot of stuff has fallen by the wayside during this time. I did manage to get out both my holiday ebooks and create the print copies in time for Christmas, but I’ve been a bit slack about promoting them. I’ve also been lax in my duties with Heart of Carolina and Pamlico Writers, I’m so thankful for both of these groups and for the members who have graciously taken up the slack during this difficult time. I know that without these guys I wouldn’t be a published author. They and my mentor MK Graff, who hosted the North Carolina Writer’s Read for many years were instrumental in teaching me and giving me the courage to follow my dreams. My husband, best friend and my sister-in-law have been the ones to physically push and drag me to events and out into the spotlight. As this year ends, there are so many people to thank for making this year bearable and wonderful: my husband, family, friends, my writers’ groups, my Beta readers, my self-promo groups, the nurses at mom’s nursing home, her friends and family, and so many more. Even the people I work with, and my customers have been a great source of inspiration and courage during these rough months as well as a joy during the fun months. Thank you all for caring! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
A conversation with my mom, an inspirational quote and a memory on Facebook had me thinking of a new blog post I wanted to write.
How many of us have a dream we are afraid to pursue? I know I did. If not for the push of my best friend and my husband, I would not have made the first steps to being a writer. My writer friends, mentor and Beta readers have given me the tools, confidence and encouragement that have helped me become a published author. For years, fear of failure, of not believing I was good enough, kept me from even trying. It was only after my best friend read some of my work and liked it that I felt confident enough to start thinking seriously about pursuing the dream I’ve had since I was a young girl.
I believe fear cripples many dreamers. Fear and an unkind word or thoughtless criticism can shackle a budding creative. I was reading a Guide Post my mother gave me and the section on positive outlooks called “The Up Side” inspired me. One of the quote really struck home. “Stop telling yourself you need to be fearless. You don’t, You simply need to be courageous,” by author and motivational speaker, Valorie Burton in the May 2021 Guideposts.
How many of us feel we’ve waited too long to make our dreams come true? My mom had a box of stuff she was going to use “someday.” She talked about traveling, visiting friends and relatives, going to interesting places… someday. It was always someday. When she lost her home to flooding during Hurricane Irene, her box of special things was destroyed. Later that same year, Mom fell and broke her hip. Now with the onset of severe arthritis, she has difficulty walking and her hopes of traveling and visiting interesting places has become limited. Someday never comes. If you want to do something, then you have to make a plan and as Nike says, “Just Do It!”
“If Not Now, Then When?” is a slogan I’ve heard recently, it’s very à propos. Putting off our dreams until we have more money, we have more time, the kids are grown, whatever your excuse, the truth is, it is fear that binds us and keeps us from reaching for our dreams. But, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. If you are waiting for everything to be just right you will never even get started. If you truly want this dream to come true, you need to make it a goal. Make a plan. Set things into motion. Save up for that special trip. Start working on that novel. If you need a push, find a group that will support your plans. My best friend and local librarian talked me into sending a story to a writer’s competition in Carteret County. I attended their awards ceremony and met an author from a writer’s group closer to home. Afterwards I joined the Pamlico Writer’s Group.
I have been a member of the Pamlico Writer’s Group off and on for about twenty years. My son Jason even attended a meeting or two with me when he was a teenager. It took me a long time to find confidence in my talent. I’m not sure if I’ve yet discovered my true voice. Each book helps me to discover more about myself and my writing. I’m still learning. I waited a long time to get published and still feel I have a long way to go to reach those who have influenced my stories but I’m working towards my dream, my goal of being an award-winning author. What are you doing to make your dreams come true?
We’ve been talking about writing fight scenes the past couple of weeks. Last night I gave my presentation for the Pamlico Writers’ Group via Zoom.
Writers don’t have the luxury of film and music scores to set up their battle. It is up to us to take the reader on an emotional journey with us as we embark on our “battle.” Whether it’s a full blown battle scene like Star Wars or a scene where you are trying to get a toddler to bed, there are several degrees to each battle scene.
The Battle from a distance or preparing for battle. Imagine being on a convoy ship going into your first battle. The commander is watching the battle from a monitor aboard ship. The soldier beside you is a seasoned warrior, battle scarred and old before his time, he is praying. You were excited about your first fight until you see the warriors hands shake.
In my story Red Steel I have several small battles. In the first one, Melanie is going to confront her ex-boyfriend, the leader of a biker gang.
Chapter 1: Melanie, Into the Fire
New Year’s Eve
Melanie gripped the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. Panic turned to dread as the realization of what had happened to Jonas finally hit her. She pressed the gas. The little clunker sputtered as she sped towards her ex-boyfriend’s farm. “Boyfriend,” she snorted. Tears blurring her vision. She’d met the biker outside Jacksonville, Florida at the hole she’d been working. He’d been handsome and kind. He’d seemed like the perfect knight to rescue her from her life of waiting tables and giving guys blow jobs in the backseat of their cars for extra money just so she could have enough money to pay bills and feed her kid. Out of the frying pan into the fire as her grandma would say. She should have stayed with Jonas’ daddy. He wasn’t that bad. He was controlling and he’d hit her but…
Her head connected with the roof of the car as she hit another pothole. She cursed the long winding dirt lane that passed for a road. This one was big enough to bury a dog, a very big dog. She prayed she didn’t mess up the car before she reached Midas. Cursing, she swerved around another pothole and swiped at the blinding tears. “That sorry son-of-a-bitch has a lot to answer for.” The pistol in her purse shifted as she jerked the wheel to avoid another pothole. She grabbed the purse to keep it from sliding out. This road was not designed to be taken at top speed, but Melanie had no time to lose. She’d wasted too many precious hours already. Her stomach lurched as fear threatened to consume her. The phone call with her ex-husband kept playing in her mind. “How could you lose our son?” She couldn’t allow her fears to freeze her into inactivity. Guilt, fear, dread mingled with the exhaust of the ragged little car. She would not be ill. She would have answers tonight or someone was going to die. A shiver ran up her spine. She knew by confronting Midas at his farm, she would probably be the one to die but she hoped she wasn’t alone.
Finally, she pulled into the yard. A line of motorcycles stood in front of one of the old barns. The bikers had converted several of the outbuildings into barracks. One served as a brothel. Melanie shuddered knowing she’d barely escaped that fate. Winston, before he’d become Midas, hadn’t been that bad. It was only after he’d joined the bikers and started working his way up that he’d truly became an asshole.
Only a half dozen or so bikes were out at the barn. That was good news, maybe she could survive this night. She wondered where the rest of the bikers were. It was unusual that they all weren’t celebrating the holiday together. She didn’t have time to worry about biker politics as she sped into the clearing that served as parking for the mildewed, old doublewide. Stopping the car inches from the front porch, she threw the shifter in park and pocketed the keys. Snatching her purse from the seat, she started towards the porch only to have her way blocked by Midas’ second in command, Nick Golden. She would find it funny that a man who called himself Midas would have an enforcer called Golden, but she suspected that there was a link between the two, and at the moment, the only thing Melanie had time to think about was her son. Pulling the pistol from her purse she pointed it at Nick’s chest. “I got business with Midas. If you try to stop me, I will shoot you.”
Nick put his hands in the air and called out, “Midas, company. Mel’s here.” He grinned at her showing surprisingly white teeth. “And she’s pissed.” He stepped out of her way and nodded for her to proceed him into the trailer.
Shouts, laughter and fireworks came from the field beside the house. The bikers were drunk, but she had no illusions, if she threatened their boss, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. Melanie’s heart sank, she didn’t regret dying to avenge her son, she only wished she could have seen him one last time. If I’m not getting out of here alive, I’ll take as many of them with me as I can. Even if someone heard a gunshot, they’d just think it was part of the New Year’s celebration.
A young blond had her head in Winston’s crotch, giving him a blow job. Mel rolled her eyes and dropped her gun into her purse. She walked over and kicked the girl in the foot. “Leave.”
The girl looked up, her dark eyes startled. She couldn’t be more than fourteen. Melanie’s stomach heaved. The child hesitated. Midas pushed her away. “Go on, we’ll finish this later.” He didn’t bother to put his dick in his pants. He watched the young girl go and asked. “You planning to take her place. You always were better at giving head.” He leaned back in the well-worn recliner.
“Fuck you Midas, where’s my son?” Melanie tried not to let her fear show.
He shrugged. “How should I know?”
“I just got off the phone with my ex, he’s been deployed for the past ten months. He’s not seen or heard from Jonas. So where is my son?”
Midas, real name, Winston Jarvis, righted his clothes and stood. “I told you Mel, I don’t know. I sold the kid…”
The crack reverberated surprising them both. Melanie didn’t remember moving, only the sting in her hand and the imprint on Midas’ face gave proof that she’d slapped him. With a shuddering breath she demanded, “When? When did you sell him?”
Rubbing the side of his face, Midas shrugged. “Right after you went to the hospital.”
Tears filled her eyes. “You bastard.”
“Yeah, what else was I going to do with a kid? I’m not into boys.”
Melanie pulled the pistol from her purse. “Who did you sell him to?”
“Put your toy gun away Mel, you know I have bigger guns and more of them.” He nodded behind her, but she refused to look.
Keeping the pistol trained on Midas she demanded, “Who has my son?”
He laughed. “Well see, that’s the thing, we don’t know. My buyer got misdirected and the person who bought him, well, they still owe me money…”
She felt the air shift behind her and pulled the trigger.
“I can’t believe you let her bring a fucking gun in here,” she heard Midas scream as the butt of a gun connected with the side of her head. The pain in her head exploded in a blinding light, then everything went dark.
While this scene wasn’t a big battle, it was life changing for Melanie. In truth she should have died and perhaps she wanted to commit suicide believing she’d never see her son again but she planned to take Midas down with her.
Your Point of View character is the most important element in telling/showing this scene because it is through her eyes that we see and FEEL the battle.
Whether it is an epic battle or a smaller fight, the character should be changed. If it was an all out war, more than just the character should have suffered change, the place it happened should be scarred, the economy affected, people sick and dying, shortages on food and medicine. If this was a personal battle, who else suffered? Did anyone gain anything?
I hope you are enjoying my writing tips on fight scenes. I’d love to hear some of yours. I’m always looking to learn more.
Happy Writing y’all!
If you enjoyed this excerpt from RED STEEL, it is on sale for 99 cents through Amazon and other ebook retailers.
I’d like to welcome the awesome M. Lorrox to my Creekside Café. M. Lorrox and I are both members of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and I’m thrilled to have him at my virtual café.
M. Lorrox: Hi Sherri, I’m happy to be joining you, thanks so much for inviting me!
Sherri: If I ever win the lottery, I’ll build a café near the water where I can hang out with friends and talk about books when I’m not writing or reading. We’ve both been busy lately but if you’re like me you are seldom without a book. What are you reading right now?
M. Lorrox: Oooh, I’d take a lottery prize and start a cafe too, but it would be a half cafe, half rare-books library. I might call it Dusty’s Tomes or something, just for fun. I actually just started reading Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s wild and has elements of horror and romance–the two genres I write.
Sherri: I had to chuckle when I read your bio, raised in a barn in rural upstate New York. My father-in-law was raised on a dairy farm just outside Albany. He told me he got here as quickly as he could. He arrived with the Marines. How did you end up in North Carolina?
M. Lorrox: Hey, small world! Another New York ex-pat. I first ventured to DC, where I was a producer for a while and then a professor. My brothers ended up moving to the Triangle, and I visited a lot. I loved it down here, and after a few years, I was able to make the move.
Sherri: You are preparing to launch your first romance novel, but this isn’t your first writing career. According to your bio you wrote your first book in junior high. Although you didn’t publish that book, you have published other books. What made you decide to switch genres? Are you excited about your new venture?
M. Lorrox: I’m super excited! My first books were action & adventure stories with vampires and zombies…a real mashup. I decided to write romance, because I wanted to see more progressive heroes and heroines in love stories—people like me. I wanted to read about sex-positive people having great relationships, and I didn’t want any of them to be millionaires or shapeshifters, so I decided to write the stories myself.
Sherri: Tell us about your upcoming book. When does it go live?
M. Lorrox:Trashy Romance – Curbside Pickup is the stand-alone first novel in the Trashy Romance series of scorching, blue-collar, sex-positive, LGBTQ+ inclusive love stories. It’s about a high school economics teacher and the garbageman who services her neighborhood… It includes a pansexual character, some very hot scenes, and a teeny bit of domination and submission. But it’s a romance, not erotica. There’s ‘loads of love’ in it, tons of emotion, and because it’s an M. Lorrox novel, there’s also some suspense and action elements!
Sherri: I love your website. You’ve done a fabulous job with it. I’m so excited for you and your new author platform, https://mlorrox.com . As authors, especially indie authors, our social media is a huge part of our identity. Your website shows you humor, intelligence and passion, it is very well done.
M. Lorrox: I really appreciate it! I have an MFA and was an artist before anything else. I’ve always loved web design, and I’m glad that I can use some of my visual arts skills in my writing career.
Sherri: You studied and taught Kung Fu? As a child of the seventies I grew up watching David Carradine and the show Kung Fu. I love the beauty and choreography of martial arts and the religious teachings. As an adult I’ve learned the falseness of television but with a Cambodian daughter-in-law who was raised with Buddhist parents, she has taught me more about the religion. Do you practice Buddhism? Do you still study martial arts?
M. Lorrox: I started learning Kung Fu in college, and it was a great fit. After a few years training, I started to teach for that school. It introduced me to Ch’an Buddhism, which is kinda like a Chinese precursor to Zen Buddhism, and from there, yes, I continued to learn about Buddhism. I don’t practice Kung Fu regularly anymore, but I do practice the forms now and then. More recently, I found myself teaching the kids of my friends some self-defense techniques, and it’s been quite rewarding to see them benefit from the ancient skills. Buddhism is important to me too, and I highly recommend that people unfamiliar with its deeper principles to read about it.
Sherri: You’re a motorcycle guy, crotch rocket or cruiser? We’re a motorcycle family. My husband is a mechanic. He restored an old Honda for me. I prefer a small bike, but he keeps trying to get me on a cruiser. Do you still ride?
M. Lorrox: Actually, I ride a naked adventure bike, which I like to think is the best kind of adventure, AND motorcycle! Ha! I used to ride a Honda Shadow though, a cruiser. It’s wonderful to feel the road beneath you, and although I don’t ride much on trails or gravel, my bike lets me, and it feels extra badass whenever I do! I ride pretty often, mostly on twisties or around town, but I always ride as safely as possible. Car and truck drivers: watch for us motorcyclists and don’t F-around on your phone while driving! Thanks. 🙂
Sherri: Your books are described as pan-sexual and non-monogamous, for an old-fashioned woman like myself, it is difficult to think of them as romance. How is the romance genre changing and how are we as members of RWA trying to be inclusive and accepting of more diverse romances? How do we interpret romance? Is it the traditional “Happy ever after” or “Happy for now” scenario or are we opening doors to something else? How do we reach the old-timers like me and open their eyes to other possibilities of what is romance?
M. Lorrox: Well, what is a romance story? Where people fall in love, right? There’s historical romance, gay romance, regency, inspirational, etc. These are just different settings that the romances take place in, or different themes, or different orientations of the people. Pan-sexuality is an orientation (for those unfamiliar with it, the big difference (to me), is that it rejects the notion of binary gender in bisexuality). Non-monogamy, I’d say, is a relationship style or choice. But they’re humans falling in love, and LOVE IS LOVE!
I think the romance genre is changing with more stories being published that reflect or highlight these alternative lifestyles. How to be more inclusive of these kinds of romances? Read them! Fall in love with the characters, even if they may not be attracted to the same gender of people, or if they choose to practice a style of relationship that’s different to you. Besides connecting with an interesting character with views different from the reader’s, the reader can experience a different kind of emotion as the characters face different kinds of challenges. Just like more traditional romances, the emotional journey of the characters is the most important. I think we should interpret romance genre stories as love stories, and so I don’t see why a story about person X or Y or Z or Q falling in love with _____ can’t be romance genre.
Sherri: As a member of RWA and Heart of Carolina we felt the impact of the recent upheaval and both of us along with many others debated leaving the organization. I know my reading habits are not as inclusive as perhaps they should be. When I read for pleasure, I want to read what I like but in the hope of educating myself and becoming more understanding of other authors and their needs, I’d like to widen my reading pallet. How do we go about finding authors of differing viewpoints, ethnicities and ableness in order to read and show our support?
M. Lorrox: First off, you’re doing it right now by asking questions and opening a door. There are plenty of people that want to walk through, but it’s so much easier if someone on the inside opens that door for them, especially in a historically not-inclusive situation. I’ll thank you again for inviting me on, because you’re doing the work that RWA aims to do!
I’ve got a great suggestion on how to explore these new kinds of stories, and it’s not just ‘read them,’ although that’s certainly key. That book I mentioned, Gideon the Ninth, was a huge success, and I’d be surprised if most readers hadn’t either seen the cover or read a blurb about it. It topped the charts, reaching #1 in various LGBT romance categories on amazon, but it was also a top seller in a number of other categories. By browsing the top seller lists, or Amazon or Goodreads, you’ll be exposed to books that other people are loving. While there’s no subcategory for non-monogamy or pansex yet, LGBT subcategories will suffice to give you lots of options for what kinds of inclusive stories other readers are loving–and that you might too! Bloggers who cover queer media are also a good resource for learning more about the community and its creatives.
The ARC is available until 11/15/2020. Links to it are on the site, and I’d love to have you, and any of your readers, read it!
Sherri: Thank you M. Lorrox for taking the time to talk with me and readers. Time is getting away from us quickly, if you enjoyed our chat follow M. Lorrox on social media you can find his links below and stay tuned for his upcoming book, Trashy Romance-Curbside Pickup by M. Lorrox due out November 15, 2020! Thank you M. Lorrox for stopping by my Creekside Café, I think it’s time for a drink. Name your poison.
M. Lorrox: I’ll have a kombucha cut with seltzer, please!