Who Are You? And Why Does that Matter?

Each of us is the same as the other, but each of us is also different. The differences may make us shy or may embolden us. How we deal with our sameness and our differences is what makes us unique.

If you have strong desires and an independent spirit, it’s hard to follow the rules. And you can be ridiculed for it, even if you aren’t shy.

A Pinch of Magic

Michelle Harrison

Three sisters live in a place called Crowstone which has three small islands just off its coast. On one end of the area is a misty, moisty marsh which perhaps harbors sprites and other scary beings. The townspeople are frightened of the area, but Betty, the middle sister, wants to go on adventures including going across the marsh. The girls have been told they will die if they leave the confines of Crowstone, but Betty thinks it’s malarky. That it’s just stories Granny tells to keep the girls in check. Granny tells them of the curse they live under and gives them each a magical object. Betty thinks that if they combine their magic, they can break the curse and be free to roam wherever they wish. Not as easy as it might seem she discovers, especially when they accidentally set free an evil convict from the island prison. The story is told in an endearing style, though the writer and editors could have paid a bit closer attention to correct grammar. Betty and her sisters Felicity and Charlie, using their native wits and bravery, overcome many obstacles and end up in a better place than they could have imagined. Teachers can use the book to inspire discussion of overcoming difficult problems.

BIBLIO: 2020, Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 9780358193319

ISBN: 9780358272921

The second book has an excellent story arc of how we deal with parents and their dreams and how they differ from yours. How you can still love someone even if you don’t agree with the person’s ideas.


Natalia Sylvester

Mariana Ruiz’s life has turned into an ongoing drama in which she no longer has any privacy. Anything she says or does comes out in the national news because her father is running for president in the national primaries. He and Mami spend all of their time—at    least it seems that way to fifteen-year-old Mari—writing speeches and traveling on the campaign trail. Mari and her younger brother, Ricky, are made to participate in local Miami events and it’s wearing on her. She feels she lost her parents and their support. That she and Ricky don’t really matter anymore except as campaign photo-op props. But then she discovers Papi’s biggest contributor is a less than scrupulous real estate developer who is polluting the water and destroying neighborhoods. Not only that Papi helped make it possible when he passed legislation as a state senator that allowed sewage to be dumped into the aquifer. Now Mariana has to come to grips with the fact that her father is not who she thought he was. With the help of friends, she gets involved in a student movement demanding that water pollution stop and that big developers are called to account for the damage they’ve done. She grows during the story, learning that she can speak out and that she can challenge her father. This is quite a compelling story with a great deal of relevance in modern American life. Teachers can have a field day choosing topics with which to encourage their students to think for themselves. Plus, the reader gets to learn some Spanish along the way.

BIBLIO: 2020, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978035124351

ISBN: 978035830806

Shyness in children is an ongoing problem. The main character is the previous story is shy, but learns to blossom. In a different way, the main character in next story learns to overcome her shyness.


Helge Torvund

Illustrated by Mari Kandstad Johnsen

Translated by Jeanie Shaterian and Thilo Reinhard

Tyra is shy and doesn’t know how to communicate with others, but begins to blossom when she gets a kitten. Though she may not be able in interact with other people, she can talk to her new cat. And she can interact with the world when playing her piano. She names the cat Vivaldi. At school, Tyra doesn’t play with other children and doesn’t participate in her class so her classmates whisper behind her back and tease her. With the help of Vivaldi, Tyra begins to come out of her shell. This lovely story is told in poetic form and should be read in a gentle, quiet voice that will comfort children and make them understand that lots of people are shy. And that lots of people feel as they do. The illustrations are simplistic in a way, but fit the style of the story quite well.

BIBLIO: 2019 (orig. 2011,) New York Review of Books, Ages 4 to 7, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68137-374-4

Here’s hoping you all have a jolly and loving holiday, whether it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, or the meaning of Hanuka or just warmth of having family and friends around. And here’s hoping for a good new year, with a more inclusive and cooperative world. See you in 2020. Sarah

A New History Book From Oakley Dean Baldwin!

The next author to be saluted in our Eastern North Carolina Facebook Group is a fellow with a delightful name. The name itself has a history, I’m sure. Dean writes history about people and things that are connected to his family. So who cares, you might wonder. You will because he is related to people of note in the United States. One book is about ancestors of his who were part of the Hatfield/McCoy bloody feud.

But this book is about his family’s connection to Native Americans. Check it out.

Coming Soon in Print and now available digitally!

I have not been posting in the past few months because I’ve been busy writing books and organizing events. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. My latest book is a collection of short stories that were chosen for inclusion in the Next Chapter Literary Magazine for the past three years. But I also have been writing other stories and taking care of my sick husband, who is now as close to thriving as a 83-year-old can be after suffering from sepsis pneumonia last November.

The title of the book is Little Bits: A Collection of Short Stories, and it is now available through Smashwords and other ebook publishers.

So now that I’ve accomplished that, I’ll be back to writing about the books I’ve read and reviewed because, yes, I’m still doing that. Some of the books I’ve read most recently are by the authors who participate in the Authors’ Sunday events I’ve been organizing at the New Bern Farmers’ Market. So look for an eclectic group of reviews.

Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Sarah

Herding Literary Cats

Herding Literary Cats

In the early summer, of 2022, Julie McKeon, organizer of the New Bern, NC, farmers market where I sometimes sell my books, asked me if I would organize an “Authors Sunday.” The idea was to give local authors an opportunity to market their books without competing with vendors selling meats or veggies or plants or honey, or other crafts. Foolish person that I am, I said, “Sure, Happy to do it!” How hard could that be?

It’s a great idea, so I was thrilled to organize it. Julie and I agreed that sometime in mid-fall would be perfect. We could attract local residents to start their holiday shopping without the distraction of all the big shopping events hoopla, still close enough to the holidays to inspire people to start shopping for books for the readers in their lives. New Bern has a lot of retired folks who worked somewhere else but like the feel of the lively small town where one can eat at a variety of restaurants, or drink at bars with local beers.

And in the area we delineated as meaning local, we invited authors from an hour or so north to the same distance south and the same distance east and west. Since I’m involved in several writing groups in the state, I had a lot of people who could spread the word.

One of my sources is Michelle Garren Flye, who owns Next Chapter Books and Art, right in the heart of downtown New Bern. Primarily she sells books by local authors, so she was the first person to contact. “Great idea,” was her response. “I’ll let all my local authors know to contact you.” And that she did.

But I also sent out word to authors I know in the area. Several of whom are from my various critique groups.

I also sent out word to larger writers’ organizations in our area, starting with Carteret Writers: https://carteretwriters.org. Then I notified Sherri Hollister, the current president of Pamlico Writers, located in Washington, NC, https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10161518673200176&set=p.10161518673200176 I also notified the North Carolina Writers Network to spread the word. https://www.ncwriters.org

Once I had people signing up, I started planning how to set up the space making a chart or two, which is not my fort, but I did manage to set them up. If you’re good at manipulating things like spreadsheets, go for it. Instead, I set up an alphabetical list of authors with notations about the genre, number of books, etc. Originally, I had organized the authors into groups depending on the genre. For instance, eight of us were selling just children’s books or mysteries or fantasy. So, my plan was to group them together. In the end, and this is where the cat herding image comes in, people just set up their tables where they wanted to. My plan had been to leave the middle of the room empty of booksellers but to have an area at each end for people to gather and chat or munch on food from the vendors. Then we’d have an area for people to listen to an author read aloud or be interviewed by the media people who came to cover our event.

Unfortunately, the weather was quite chilly, and not as many people showed up as we would have liked. So, if we do another fall event, it will be earlier than late November. Perhaps mid-October.

All and all, the event was deemed a success, or at least enough of a success that most people are willing to do it again.

Lessons that I have learned are:

  1. Make sure to have as many of the participants help out with marketing. Several of the authors were quite clever in making promotional posters, which is essential.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to organize the event. For instance, I contacted the participants in early December how they felt about the event and whether they’d be interested in doing it again. Most of the responses were positive.
  3. Keep in contact frequently with the participants at least twice a month before in the time before the event.
  4. Give yourself plenty of time.
  5. Advertise your event every way you can, even if it means going from store to store in your downtown area and talking up the event everywhere you go, including your doctors’ offices or hairdresser/barber shop.
  6. Another way to advertise is to have authors with blogs interview other authors. Then repost those interviews through other bloggers. For instance, here is my re-blog of Sherri L. Hollister’s interview with Phil Bowie. (As an aside, this is a good way to promote your latest publication.) https://sarahsbookreflections.com/2022/11/18/interesting-writer-phil-bowie/
  7. A lot of towns have lost their print newsletters, but many have some sort of advertising paper that comes once or twice a month. Plus, local communities might have an online messaging entity where you can post notices.
  8. Remember that you can’t be the shy and retiring type if you want to sell your books or organize an event like this. But don’t be alarmed because most participants are so thrilled that you are putting this together; they’ll be happy to help.
  9. I didn’t plan for it, but it might be a good idea to have a visitor log set up at the front for customers to sign in on their way in or out.
  10. Make sure the facility has the heating/cooling system working properly.
  11. Make sure someone who runs the facility knows how to run the audio system, or arrange to have one of the authors bring sound equipment available.
  12. Make sure you have two or three vendors with weather-appropriate food and drink available.
  13.  Be creative where you do your marketing. Maybe you can even set something up on your Author’s Amazon page. Be sure to market using your website, Facebook page, and anywhere else you can think of. Good luck.

Feel free to contact me at sarahmaury71@gmail.com if you have questions. I’ll do my darndest to answer them.

Interesting Writer, Phil Bowie

Sherri Lupton Hollister’s Creekside Cafe visitor today is an interesting man and writer who will pull you into his story with quiet ease. He seems introspective by nature, but once you get to know him it’s quite apparent he’s mainly just being observant. The first novel of his I read had a photo of a rattlesnake on the cover, so I asked him how he came to find the photo. He said he and a buddy were up in the Great Smokies when they came across the snake dead on the road, but not too badly smooshed by whatever had killed it. Phil took his trusty camera, posed the snake, and took the picture. Voila!, his next book cover. The book, Diamondback, was as compelling as the cover. Enjoy Sherri’s interview, and we hope to see some of you at our Authors Sunday event in 3 days. We’ll be at the New Bern Farmers Market, 421 S. Front Street from 1 to 4, with the heat on and hot coffee, cider, and possibly hot chocolate to go with your hot dogs. Aside from visiting with Phil, be sure to browse through the books presented by our other 35 or so authors.

Site logo imageS L Hollister, author

Welcome Phil Bowie to Creekside Cafe

Sherri Nov 16 Bio: A lifelong freelancer, Phil Bowie earned his chops selling 300 articles and short stories to magazines. One article, about deaf Hollywood stunt woman Kitty O’neal, came out in The Saturday Evening Post and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, reaching 26 million readers in 23 languages. Several of his short stories have won awards, including a first-place contest winner, “The Cat From Hell,” a yarn begun by Stephen King.    Phil began writing novels in the 2,000s. His debut, GUNS, about the world black-market weapons trade, earned Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival among 400 entries, and was endorsed by Lee Child, number one NY Times international best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series. (One hundred million copies sold to date.) Three more novels in Phil’s suspense series have followed: Diamondback, about a lost Great Smokies Cherokee gold mine, KLLRS, featuring a deadly outlaw motorcycle gang, and Deathsman, set against the illegal synthetic drugs trade.    Phil also has two stand-alone thrillers: Killing Ground, about African elephant poaching, and Dawn Light, starring a yacht delivery captain and his rebellious teenage mentee aboard a boat carrying a lethal secret in her belly.    Phil has been a pilot with his own Cessna, a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain, a draftsman, co-owner of a graphics business, a fiddler, an inventor, and a motorcycle rider. He lives with his partner, Naomi, and their cat, McKenzie, in a cottage he restored on a shore of the Neuse River.

Sherri: Welcome Phil, it’s great to have you on my virtual café. I wish it was a real place we could hang out and have a drink, talk books and writing but maybe someday that will happen. It sounds like you have had a fun and interesting life so far and I’m excited to learn more. In your bio you said you were a lifelong freelancer; did you make your living as a writer? How did you get started writing? Have you always written? Was there a point in your life when you said, this is what I’m going to do or did you just kind of fall into it?

Phil: Thanks for having me, Sherri. I like your café atmosphere.       It’s been a somewhat checkered life, some would say, but yes, fun and most interesting. I went to a rural high school in the Berkshire village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. There were only 22 in my class, so we got spoiled. My English teacher, Lulu Smith, I guess saw a spark in me and offered lots of encouragement. My mother, Edith, an excellent newspaper reporter who once interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, instilled in me the power and beauty of the language. At Clemson, I was fortunate to have a tough creative writing professor we called Flunking Felder, who got my first short story published in the college literary magazine, and I’ve been writing on and off since, most often as a sideline to a variety of bills-paying jobs.

Sherri: In your article about Kitty O’Neil, did you get to interview her? What is your process for writing articles and how does that differ from writing novels?

Phil: I’d long been interested in the World Land Speed Record, so in the late seventies, when I heard of an upcoming record attempt at Bonneville in a three-wheeled rocket vehicle, I raided my meager savings, grabbed my photo gear, and, on pure speculation, drove a borrowed tin-can Fiat 2,400 miles to cover it. I was the only journalist there, because historically most attempts had failed, and nobody else was going to cover it until it looked like a record might actually be broken as the hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car built up speed in ever-faster trial runs over several days. Kitty was going for the female record and stunt man Hall Needham (who wrote the Smokey and the Bandit script), a buddy of actor Burt Reynolds, was driving for the male record.     Although she was deaf, Kitty had already been an Olympic diver and a motorcycle racer and had set several records like water skiing at 104 miles per hour. She’d stunted as Wonder Woman and in several other movies. She was part Cherokee, beautiful, and fearless, the first woman admitted into the Hollywood Stunts Unlimited organization. I interviewed and photographed her at length and wrote a piece for the Post, which was reprinted in Reader’s Digest. I like to think I gave her career a modest boost. No record was set during that attempt for technical reasons, but she did later set the female record at five hundred and twelve miles an hour on a dry lakebed in Oregon. They eventually did a movie about her called Silent Victory. She’s gone now, but it’s no coincidence that the love interest in my suspense series is beautiful, part Cherokee, and named Kitty.    
All riveting fiction and non-fiction is based on conflict, and the more intense the conflict, the more interesting the story, real or imagined, will be, so the basic approach for either articles or stories has always been similar for me. I mostly look for subjects with an unusual aspect of adventure or danger or human endeavor against odds. In articles, I’ve covered everything from angling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, to a jet-powered show truck called Shockwave (which I took a 200 mph ride in at Cherry Point) to bottlenose porpoise communication research, to the last builder of wooden Chesapeake Bay sailing Skipjacks, to Dolly Parton and her Dollywood, to how to pilot a plane for skydiving. Short stories have varied widely in a variety of magazines, and a while back I put out a collection of 17 of them called Dagger and other tales.  

 Sherri: Your debut novel, GUNS, was endorsed by Lee Child? Now that’s impressive. Did you get the opportunity to meet Mr. Child? Do you feel his endorsement has helped your sales? How can an author set themselves up for such an endorsement or other opportunities that would aid in their marketing?

Phil: Yes, the Lee Child endorsement was a nice boost. He’d been an idol of mine, so I sent the raw manuscript to him through his agent. Lee read it, liked it, and got back to me. On their dime, my then-publisher, Medallion, sent me to the Sleuthfest conference in Fort Lauderdale to meet him. He was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the 500 attendees. Like his protagonist, Jack Reacher, Lee is a big guy, six-five. He came up to me and shook my hand, which made my year. That night, we sat out by the Hilton pool talking about life and writing into the small hours.     I’d advise any budding writer to try for best-seller author endorsements through their publishers or literary agents. Nothing to lose by trying. I’ve garnered endorsements from best-sellers Ridley Pearson and Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) using the same approach. The top gun authors I’ve met at conferences like Killer Nashville and Bouchercon in Baltimore have been gracious and friendly. At that same Sleuthfest, for example, I had breakfast with the prolific and enchanting best-seller Heather Graham and her pleasant daughter.

Sherri: Do you read the reviews of your books, if so, do you learn from them, or do they affect your attitude? As creatives, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from our work. On days I feel objective I can read my reviews and say, okay, I need to work on this, or I can see why they said that and it’s fine, it’s how I do things, but there are other days when they can be a boost or a devastation depending on the review.

Phil: Reviews from respected sources like Publishers Weekly, newspapers, magazines, and some of the online bloggers and critics are well worth soliciting, and they’ve certainly helped me by giving me a boost and occasionally by stinging me. A Publishers Weekly review of GUNS, for example, did both. While praising the book warmly overall, the reviewer berated me for including pages of lyrical material that did not advance the plot, so I hung my head and revised an updated version of the novel to tighten it up.     You’re always going to hear from those few who roam the Net putting everything and everybody down while never accomplishing much of anything themselves, so you can’t ever let those people get you down. You’re less likely to hear from those readers who’ve liked your work (except through respectable royalty figures), though it’s always nice to get an email or a website note from somebody who does like your stuff. I admit to keeping a file of those and it’s thick enough to be of some comfort on a dark winter night when doubts assail.     I’ve always just tried to concentrate on researching and writing the absolute best I can, and that seems to have paid off okay over the years.

Sherri: From some of your reviews one of the comments was your political bias showing in your stories, especially GUNS. We as writers often have a difficult time taking our own voice out of the story and letting the characters’ point of view shine. Do your characters represent or echo your own voice, or do they vary in their opinions? When choosing the characters, themes and topics for your novels, how much of real life enters into your work? What influences or inspires your stories?

Phil: You’re right that we should be invisible to readers. The story is always paramount, and the trick is to immerse readers in it thoroughly while staying behind the scenes, much like a movie director.     I suppose some of my political feelings have bled into my fiction at times, but it’s never a good idea to let that happen, because no matter what your views are, you’re going to make enemies.  I do firmly believe it’s important to write what you know, thus much of my work is themed on some conflict or other I’ve been somehow involved in or am at least familiar with, and I’ve drawn on my own sometimes crazy experiences—piloting, parachuting, riding motorcycles, and so on—to lend realism to plots and characters. The protagonist in my suspense series and in one of my stand-alone novels is a pilot, for example. An elderly couple in the series is based largely on my maternal stonemason grandfather (one of my enduring idols) and his good wife, and readers seem to especially like the couple. Other characters in any novel or short story may begin as ethereal figures, but they soon become as real to me as anybody I’ve known, and they can only perform on my stage as who and what I’ve molded them to be.     I also use story settings that I’ve either spent a lot of time in, like the Great Smokies, or that I’ve researched extensively enough to give me confidence, as in the novel about African elephant poaching.  

Sherri: When you are writing, do you plan or plot your books ahead of time or do you just sit down and write? What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it? Where do your ideas come from?

Phil: Each short story or novel begins with a theme that I think has enough inherent conflict to build an engaging story on. GUNS, for example, is about the black-market trade in weapons. I had a friend who’d spent a career in naval intelligence, and he helped fill me in on that.     For a novel, I’ll spend weeks just digging and jotting the occasional plot idea. Copies of all my research materials go into a dedicated file box for easy reference. I’ll sketch out a rough plot longhand on a legal pad (old habit), and then launch into the story on the computer with some intense and vivid scene meant mostly to hook the reader. Then I’ll just forge on, letting my characters guide me. If I get stuck along the way, I’ll often take a long walk, which seems to break up the logjam. I rewrite and revise a lot as I go.     This is a tough, solitary business, as I’m sure you know. Weeks and months of sitting behind the screen trying to fill those blank pages with a hundred-thousand-word story that will engage and reach out and touch a reader. It’s at once a long, long slog and a wonderous and rewarding experience. I’m hopelessly hooked on it.

Sherri: I saw your publisher was listed as Bowker. Are you independently published or is this a small publishing company? What has publishing been like from the first book to the most recent? How have things changed? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?

Phil: That’s an Amazon glitch I need to fix. Bowker was only the provider of that book’s bar code.     Over the years, much of my article and short story writing has been on pure speculation. I’d write something and then try to sell it. Early on, my work was rejected a lot, but accepted and paid for just enough to keep me plowing onward while learning and honing the craft. That led to working on assignment for several magazines at much better pay and without the marketing hassle.     If I had it to do over, I think I’d have a lot more confidence in myself and would be more aggressive.     Writing has changed in many ways since I began decades ago. I once had to research laboriously through libraries, write on a typewriter, and take photos on several kinds of expensive film with a whole heavy bag full of gear, never knowing what exactly I had until the transparencies came back from the lab. It’s so much easier now to research, write, edit, and correspond on a computer, and my digital Canon camera is amazing.     The advent of the Net, of course, has changed the whole business profoundly. Back in the day, editors filtered submissions, only buying and publishing those books they figured would earn their way. Now millions of books get published on Amazon, and it’s easy for your work to get buried in that constant avalanche. A whole generation of readers expect to get Kindle books dirt cheap or even free. Many out there are lost in Smartphoneland and don’t read books at all.     I sold my first three novels to Medallion Press under traditional advance/royalty contracts. They treated me well, but lack of distribution became an issue, so I finally asked for all rights back, added a fourth novel to the series, and self-published as Proud Eagle Publishing, which comprises me, my best friend, editor, incisive critic, and life companion, Naomi (who is also part Cherokee) and our cat, McKenzie. I write and edit, rewrite, create my own covers, put everything up on Amazon myself, promote myself, and sell through a number of indy stores I’ve set up. The six novels have sold more than 150,000 copies to date in print and Kindle, so people seem to like them.     As long as they do, I’ll keep on writing.

Sherri: Phil, it’s been a pleasure having you at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed our interview you can learn more about Phil from his links below, order his books or come out to our Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm and meet him there. Remember, books make great holiday gifts, and they can even help you survive them. We hope to see you there.Visit him at www.philbowie.com    He’ll be signing all six of his novels at Author Sunday.                                                         * * *Website:  www.philbowie.comFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/phil.bowie.1Buy links (in the order of publication):GUNS:  https://www.amazon.com/Guns-John-Hardin-Phil-Bowie/dp/1514256290DIAMONDBACK:  https://www.amazon.com/Diamondback-John-Hardin-Phil-Bowie/dp/1514347172KLLRS:  https://www.amazon.com/Kllrs-John-Hardin-Phil-Bowie/dp/1514354713DEATHSMAN:  https://www.amazon.com/Deathsman-John-Hardin-Phil-Bowie/dp/1514397609KILLING GROUND:  https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Ground-Phil-Bowie/dp/1079131795DAWN LIGHT:  https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Light-Phil-Bowie/dp/B09XZMDXWQ

Still Time for More Interviews with Authors Attending the New Bern Market’s Authors’ Sunday on November 20th from 1-4 p.m.

Michelle Garren Flye has been such a boon to our local creatives since she took over the Next Chapter Books & Art store at 320 S. Front Street. Her first project was to start a literary magazine which is now taking entries for the sixth issue. The theme for this one is Gifts. The main focus of the store under Michelle’s helm is to promote local authors, artists, and musicians, but she still has some used books for sale. Guarding the store is the adorable yellow-eyed marmalade cat named Derby. She is happy the authors’ event is on a Sunday because otherwise she would not be able to participate. Here is Sherri Lupton Hollister’s interview of the lovely Michelle.

Site logo imageS L Hollister, author

Welcome Back to Creekside Cafe

Sherri Nov 11 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 UnSongFar 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.Website:http://michellegflye.comhttp://thenextchapternc.comInstagram:@michellegflye@thenextchapterbooksandartnbFacebook:https://www.facebook.com/michellegarrenflye

It’s Mind-Boggling Interesting and Varied Writers There Are in Coastal North Carolina.

Welcome to Creekside Cafe, Jo Anna Kloster

Sherri Nov 9 Jo Anna Dressler Kloster is a veteran elementary teacher, an author, a volunteer with the River Bend Community Organic Garden, and a Humane Policy Volunteer Leader with the Humane Society of the United States. Her middle-grade novel, LILY UNLEASHED, is a coming-of-age story.  It focuses on an underdog whose love inspires one girl to speak up for this puppy mill rescue and all the other dogs locked in puppy mill cages. Ms. Kloster attends animal welfare events with her educational table and her book to inform others on how to end the puppy-mill-to-pet-store-pipeline. Her message: Adopt don’t shop for puppies at pet stores. Wonderful dogs await you at your local shelters, rescues, and with reputable breeders.
Sherri: Welcome Jo Anna. It is so nice to have you visit my virtual café. As a dog owner, I know this book is a labor of love. Why don’t you share what inspired this book?

Jo Anna: My family had just adopted a small white puppy mill rescue dog.  We had no idea what a puppy mill was.  I started reading about them online and was appalled.  During this time, Cagney started exhibiting behaviors I was reading that many puppy mill survivors have.  So, during writer’s workshop, as I modeled the writing process for my students, I started writing about a topic I was working with every day: Cagney’s behaviors.  All the while this tiny Maltese quickly became my shadow and my Velcro boy.  He never left my side.  And over time Cagney became my heart dog.  I have never been so loved by another living creature.  My husband is okay with this, too. Well, the more I read about the inhumane treatment of dogs at puppy mills, being locked in cages 24/7, the more I fell in love with this little dog that endured such cruel treatment. Never being touched, never leaving his cage, never playing or walking on grass.  His experience of living in such harsh conditions inspired me to write a book to teach kids why you don’t want to buy pet store puppies because it condemns their parents to lives locked in cages pumping out litter after litter.

Sherri: Your book is written for a younger audience, but it is a message that everyone needs to hear. Why did you choose to write a middle-grade story?

Jo Anna:  Funny you should ask.  My goal was to simply write a good story.  And then I realized how much kids want to make a difference and feel they have the power to be the change they want to see in the world.  I could not find a book that talked about the problem of pet store puppies and the inhumane treatment of puppy mills. So I decided to write one, and make it a middle-grade novel.  Though, I’ve had as many adults read Lily Unleashed and felt they learned a lot.  It certainly kept their attention. So I guess I achieved my goal. Sherri: What can a fictional story do that preaching the truth cannot? Why is this the best medium to get your message out?Jo Anna: That’s a great question.  In this fictional story, I am able to flesh out the problem and a solution wrapped in characters that, hopefully, face challenges to overcome that the reader can identify with.  This fictional story allows me to add more drama and problems that will grab the reader.

Sherri: What was the hardest thing you faced when publishing this story?

Jo Anna:  I’d say the hardest thing was not sounding too preachy.  I had to step into the shoes of a twelve-year-old again.  And it was actually fun.  Getting lost in that world. But I had to ask myself all along this story…how would 12-year-old Lily say this? Or how would Renzo handle that situation?

Sherri: Do you have plans to write another story? What are you working on now?

Jo Anna: I am thinking about writing a sequel – on another issue about animal welfare.  Possibly the problem of people not spaying or neutering their pets and how that contributes to overcrowding at animal shelters.  Or possibly the topic of factory farming and the treatment of pigs, chickens, and dairy cows and how they are treated. 

Sherri: Jo Anna, thank you for writing this story and joining us at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed this interview and would like to get Jo Anna’s book and talk to her in person, you can find her at the Book Festival, Sunday, November 20th, 1 to 4 pm at the New Bern Farmers Market.

More info can be found below about her work:Website: emptycagespress.comFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmptyCagesPresshttps://www.instagram.com/joannakloster/
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The Clever and Creative Veronica Krug

Veronica has a ready smile that will impel you to smile back. She also has a great sense of humor, as does her husband. They have a small green parrot named Virdi which Roger taught to say “Kiss My Ass” when he comes in the room. As one would imagine, her house is full of artwork. Here is her interview with the equally delightful Sherri Lupton Hollister.

Welcome Veronica Krug to Creekside Café

Bio: Veronica Krug, an active member of Carteret Writers, North Carolina Writer’s Network and Seascribes has lived and worked in Eastern NC for the past seven years. She has four self-published titles as well as a calendar showcasing her work as a sand artist on the beach of Emerald Isle. Originally from Akron, Ohio, Veronica taught Middle School art and reading for 

over 25 years and was a director of recreation for ten years before that. 

Sherri: Welcome Veronica to my virtual café. My dream is to one day have a place where I can meet and greet authors, drink coffee or tea and be surrounded by books and the river. As chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group, I have had a lot of interaction with members of the Carteret Writers, we are sister groups I feel and support each other. I wish I could attend more events. Maybe when I retire. You are a retired Middle School teacher, are your books written for that age group?

Veronica: 2 are for eighth graders and up; Good Beasts Bad Creatures, and The Siren and the Crow. Mainly because there are some scary parts in them. A bit of gore as well, but I know middle schoolers dig that kind of thing. They showcase North Carolina folklore and are educational without being pushy about it.

Sherri: You mentioned your calendar of your sand art, I look forward to seeing it at the book festival. How did you get into doing sand art? Do you photograph it? Are you also a photographer? What other art projects do you enjoy, and have you considered writing about them or using them for a calendar?

Veronica: Well! Being an artist, I saw a huge canvas of sand in front of me at low tide. A California artist, Andre Amador, inspired me and thought I’d try it. He uses a rake. When I tried that on our beach, it looked terrible. My husband had a PVC pipe he used for holding his fishing pole up. The end of it looked like a pencil, and bam…beach art. It’s really a Zen thing for me when I’m doing it. I never dreamed so many folks would like it so much. I incorporate my love of writing into my photos by inserting a quote; and no, I am not a professional photographer. I have been a watercolorist for over 40 years and mainly work on them when I take a break from writing.

Sherri: Tell us a little bit about your novels and the characters. This is a fantasy series based on North Carolina folklore. I love folklore and often enjoy reading young adult fiction.

Veronica: Both of my low fantasy novels include a group of four friends, Kayla, Jerry, Sarah, and Nick, who have a mystery to solve. The first, Good Beasts Bad Creatures, focuses on Kayla, Jerry, and Grimalkin; a panther who escapes a farm and is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro. The Beast of Bladenboro was a creature who terrorized the town in the 50s.

     The second story, The Siren and the Crow, features Nick and a dog named Shep. They camp by the French Broad River in Asheville. Nick is kidnapped and his friends must solve a murder before he becomes the next victim. In the process, Nick discovers his heritage. The story is based on the siren, Tzelica, who pulls men to their deaths…but she is not the murderer.

Sherri: You are published through Lulu. I have seen their advertisements but I’m unfamiliar with the company. What was your publishing experience with them like?

Veronica: Good. I believe it’s the best way to publish for little money. It’s a print on demand company, but it only takes 10 days to receive your book after ordering. It’s a learning process at first, and they have switched book cover design to Canva. But, after some practice, Canva is really good. eBooks are pretty easy. They take any word document, but for paperbacks, you must save your word to a PDF. The only charge is to purchase a book at cost to make sure the layout and print is correct. I learned about it at Carteret Community College before Covid hit. I would imagine the class will return. It is really worth it.

Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you decide to publish your first novel?

Veronica: I’ve always loved writing, and had many articles published in magazine and won competitions. My favorite was an all-expense paid trip to New York City for me and a friend. The contest was to write about a special friend. Man, did we have fun. We even had a driver whenever we wanted. We just called down for him. I didn’t get serious about writing a novel until about 15 years ago when my students told me I should write about Lorenzo DiMedici. His story really intrigued my middle schoolers. Back then, there wasn’t much about him, and I had to go to the Library of Congress to get any real information. When Assassin’s Creed came out, my students were so excited, because they knew all about the DiMedicis. I wrote A Magnificent Man first as a screenplay and actually won an award for it, but nothing happened, so I wrote the book. I finished it in 2017 and had retired by then. So much about him is out now.

Sherri: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Veronica: I loved Stephen King so much so that when I was in college, the professors compared my style to his. I also love Erma Bombeck’s humor. I used to go straight to her columns in the paper. She was relatable. Now, I enjoy Fredrick Backman books; my favorite being A Man Called Ovi, which will soon be a movie called, A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. He has humor mixed with the challenges of getting older. His work inspired me to write my newest title, Toasted Marshmallows. It’s about a summer camp for senior citizens, and a bear named Rizzy. I’m in the process of editing and looking for an agent. This is totally adult humor. A break from my YA tomes.

Sherri: What advice would you give to beginning authors?

Veronica: Keep at it. It helps to join a group suffering the same as you. LOL Also it helps to remember it takes time. Expect to make several edits of your stories before you can put them out there. Listen to helpful critiques. Thank you, Sherri, for talking to me. I enjoyed answering your great questions.

Sherri: If you enjoyed my interview with Veronica Krug, you can meet her in person at the New Bern Farmers Market Author Sunday Book Festival, November 20th, from 1 to 4 pm. Books make excellent holiday gifts or escapes from the chaos of the season.

If you are unable to buy Veronica’s books at the festival you can purchase them online, the links are below.

The novels I am featuring at the fair are Good Beasts Bad Creatures and The Siren and the Crow. Both Young Adult mystery thrillers take place in North Carolina based on folklore in the state. In Good Beasts, it is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro; and in The Siren and the Crow, the story is based on Tzelica, the siren of the French Broad River in Western NC. Both novels feature the same group of friends, their efforts to survive these creatures, and solve a murder mystery at the same time. The paperbacks are a special festival price of $15. each. 

You can purchase Veronica’s books on Lulu.com and through her website, www.krugbooks.com.

“The pacing in Veronica’s stories are impressive, and it keeps them moving forward at a strong clip.” -International Screenwriters Association

And Yet Another Interesting Author to Meet on Authors Sunday

I am so looking forward to meeting all the interesting authors who are participating in our Authors Sunday event November 20th at the New Bern Farmers Market, 421 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC. In her series of interviews with various participating authors, Sherri Lupton Hollister, has interviewed many bright and interesting authors, but Dr. Cheryl Meola’s interview is very close to my heart. One of the horses my handsome devil and I had on our farm in Maryland spent the last 6 years of his life as a therapy horse. Gemini helped a lot of people during that period, but the proudest success he had was engaging a severely autistic boy so much that they successfully competed in a Maryland Special Olympics event without even having a handler in the ring with them.

Here is Dr. Cheryl’s interview with Sherri. Look forward to seeing a lot of you at our event on November 20th.

Come Meet the Fascinating Author Bill Furney

On Sunday, November 20, we are having a special event from 1 to 4 p.m. at the New Bern Farmer’s Market , 421 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC. One of the authors is the well-read, interesting author Bill Furney. Another attending author, Sherri Lupton.Hollister, did an outstanding interview with Bill and I hope they’ll invite me to their beer drinking event some time in the future. Here is the link to her blog interview.

The Splendiferous Sherri Lupton Hollister

Meet the Incomparable Sherri Lupton Hollister

Sherri is a warm and welcoming person in addition to weaving quite a tale of mystery and romance in her books. The books are set in the Washington, North Carolina, area, which gives her a lot of creative room to describe the waters of the area, in addition to the small towns and the people who inhabit them. But who is she other than that?

Hey Sherri, I’m looking forward to seeing you and your books at our upcoming Authors’ Sunday, which is being held at the New Bern Farmers Market, 421 S. Front Street in the charming little city of New Bern. She and I are just two of the thirty-five authors who will be there. Along with most of the authors who will be there we also sell our books at Next Chapter Books and Art at 320 S. Front Street, New Bern.

Sarah: First off, Sherri, tell us what you and your family are up to. Did you grow up around here? Is this where you and your handsome devil met? How many children/grandchildren do you have? I know you have at least one granddaughter who is as passionate about horses as I am. What is she doing with her riding at the moment. And what are the other members of your family up to?

Sherri: My handsome devil is a mechanic and he’s always busy between being president of our local Lion’s Club and his work with the Boy Scouts, we meet for lunch just to have a few minutes together. We both went to school here in Beaufort County. My parents are from this side of the river though my mother actually grew up in Pamlico County. The handsome mechanic and I met at Pamlico Community College when his dad and my mom were taking night classes. I thought he was cute until his sister told me I was three years older. We didn’t get together until many years later. Together we raised six sons and as of last count we have twenty-two grandchildren. A couple of our sons are trying to catch up with us.

Hailey, my horsewoman granddaughter is doing really well with her horse shows. Dressage, western, farm horse competition (they didn’t do as well with it but still had fun) and western dressage. She even got my son to compete this year and he’s never ridden a horse before. He and his wife are Army veterans and they participated in honor of disabled vets.

When Hailey and her family were here this summer, I asked her about the best horse for my story, The Americans are Coming. I wanted a smaller horse for my trick rider main character. She suggested an Appaloosa. When I researched them, I thought they would be the perfect horse for my character.  

Sarah: Native American tribes especially liked colorful horses such as Pintos and Nez Perce, a.k.a. Nimi’ipuu tribe developed the Appaloosa. They are sweet horses.

Sarah: I know you’re the chairperson of the Pamlico Writers Group, but what other organizations you belong to. And we can look forward to another conference from PWG? They are always so good and interesting and inspiring.

Sherri: I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, vice president of communications for the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, and I’ve been hosting a monthly writing challenge called Book in a Week with them for several years. I am also a member of the Kiss of Death RWA chapter. I recently joined Alli (Alliance of Independent Authors). They are an international group for self-published authors.

I would love to have another PWG conference, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen any time soon. We’ve buried three very important members of our group and since Covid, we’re rebuilding our group. I’d like to start with an in-person workshop and build up to the conference. Know anyone who wants to volunteer?

Sarah: Tell us a bit of how you came to be a writer and especially a writer of mystery and romance.

Sherri: I’ve written since I was a little girl. My first story was a romance written in red ink. I started out as a historical romance writer. After we lost our house to fire and all of my research books were gone, I turned to contemporary romantic suspense. I blame my sons and my husband for turning me to suspense and mystery. I was such a nice person and they corrupted me. All of my books have at least one murder, and something usually blows up. I can’t help it. I still love romance, but stuff has got to happen. I’m afraid I’m having way too much fun creating murder and mayhem.

Sarah: What is the title of your next book? And what it is about. What inspired you to write this story?

Sherri: The Americans are Coming releases November 3rd. It is a cozy mystery. I shocked everyone by toning things down, no sex on the page and very little foul language. The main character, Winnie Applegate and her family own and perform in a wild west show. When an accident happens resulting in the death of another performer, Winnie is determined to prove her brother’s innocence. With the help of a lady Pinkerton agent and the man Winnie plans to marry, they discover it was murder, and her father was the real target.

Sarah: Most writers find themselves pushed aside by their characters while writing a book. I know that has happened to me and a writer friend of mine had one of her characters push my friend aside and say, “No, no, I’m not the villain, I’ve been misinformed.” Have you ever had such a thing happen to you?”

Sherri: All the time. I think when you listen to the characters you get a more realistic take on who they are and what needs to happen in the story. I am a pantser or discovery writer, so I might know where I’m going but the journey is an adventure. Occasionally, I have to rein in my characters, so they don’t go too far off script but for the most part, I let them take the lead. (There are two types of writers, or so I’ve been told. The Outliners (methodical types) planner everything out first on paper and then write their stories. We pansters have an idea about what the story is about and then sit down to write what comes off our fingers onto the page.)

Sarah: When you decide to take a break from writing, organizing, being a family member, etc., what do you do? I like to read or ride my tricycle or play my computer games, but I expect your much more energetic than that. Does your husband inspire you in your writing? How?

Sherri: Ha, break, is there such a thing? I have a group of friends whom I meet for breakfast once a week and we plan day trips. My husband and I love to watch movies together and I, of course, love to read. I am also on my town’s planning committee and I enjoy painting and crafting.

Sarah: Including front cover photos, and the back cover blurbs, please give us a list of the books you’re bringing to the market. For those who would like to buy a copy or two, but can’t come to our event, please give us the links to where else we can buy your books.

Sherri: I have 11 books now. One completed series—The Leeward Files, one nearly complete—The Harrell Family Chronicles and my new series—An Applegate Mystery.

The Leeward Files: Three friends return to the town of Leeward and uncover a dark secret that threatens their lives and those they care about. Can they stop the past from destroying their future? A dark, small town romantic suspense series. A pink motorcycle, a dating club, reunited lovers, second chances, and revenge. Everything heats up in the town of Leeward when one victim takes the law into their own hands.

Chrome Pink https://books2read.com/u/mY8nlY

White Gold https://books2read.com/u/mZE7ll

Titanium Blue https://books2read.com/u/mVA1lP

Evergreen Crystals https://books2read.com/u/m0EAd0

Red Steel https://books2read.com/u/3RzylG

The Harrell Family Chronicles: The Harrell Brothers: one married young, one married well, one married a psychopath straight from hell. Welcome to The Harrell Family Chronicles where three brothers, their families and friends battle those determined to take over the rudderless sex trafficking cartel that has bullied their town for decades. Old family secrets entwine with ghosts of the past to threaten the family and the town, with new threats popping up where they least expect.
The Harrell family might fight among themselves but when one of them is threatened they will come together to battle all foes.
The new generation of Harrell adults will meet the threats head on. They won’t hide from the past. They will take strength from each other and open themselves for love.
The Harrell Family Chronicles is filled with suspense, family drama and romance set in the small town of Leeward, North Carolina and the Harrell Family Campgrounds.

Willow’s Retreat https://books2read.com/u/mlX9G7

Janie’s Secrets https://books2read.com/u/3J62lv

Roxy’s Betrayal https://books2read.com/u/bxJAPd

Christmas Inn at Teach’s Island (novella) https://books2read.com/u/boyeN1

Trent’s Melody https://books2read.com/u/md1EAy

An Applegate Mystery:

The Americans are Coming https://books2read.com/u/3nX1yo

Seventeen-year-old Winona aka Winnie Applegate is a trick rider and archer in Colonel Bill Dexter’s Wild West Extravaganza traveling show. Her first act was throwing knives with her younger brother, Riley, who likes to invent things. He especially likes things that go boom.
When a mysterious benefactor offers to bring their show to England, a series of sabotages turns deadly, and Riley becomes a suspect. To protect her brother, Winnie teams up with a lady Pinkerton agent and Harry McDonald, the young man she believes she is destined to marry.
Secrets and sins come to light as it becomes apparent it isn’t just the show they are trying to stop. Someone doesn’t want the Applegates to reach England.
The Americans are Coming is An Applegate Mystery, the first in a new Victorian Era Mystery Series.
Winnie is more comfortable throwing knives than knowing which fork to use. She prefers boots and britches to ballgowns and dancing slippers. Will England be prepared for the arrival of the Applegate family?

Sarah: It will be good see you on November 20th

Sherri: Thank you for hosting us and planning this event. I can’t wait. It’s going to be so much fun!

Sarah: I look forward to buying a copy of The Americans Are Coming!