Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is here! Happy Book Birthday!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is finally here! Her book birthday is today!

Five years ago if you had told me I’d be publishing a children’s picture book with an author friend, Pat Wahler, I would have said you were crazy.

But at that time, a little seed was planted by my husband who made the comment that Midnight, our black cat, looked like a one-eyed cat with a feather in her hat, the way her tail plumed above her like a periscope when she pranced about the house.

“That’s a really great book title,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to scribble that down and pin it to my bulletin board in my office.”

He said, “Why thank you for thinking that.” Of course, I chuckled.

Every day as I walked past that bulletin board, I stared at the piece of white paper written with the book title written in blue colored pencil.”

Two years passed.

Suddenly, one morning I awoke from a dream I had about Midnight. I quickly grabbed my notepad, thoughts pouring out easily, and wrote an entire story in fifteen minutes. The ending and certain parts of the storyline needed tweaking, so I called my author friend Pat Wahler to collaborate on the story to make it perfect.

After querying agents and publishers, we received a response from a small indie publisher in St. Louis (Amphorae), who seemed interested. They mentioned how they loved the message of courage, confidence, and overcoming disabilities. Would we be willing to making a few changes, and resend the manuscript back to them for review? We agreed. That was three years ago.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. There were at least six edits (maybe more) on this children’s book of approximately 450 words. All the while, we were hoping for a certain illustrator to come into the picture — Janelle Dimmett. We loved her style and use of color.

After Janelle was hired to illustrate, it was then up to her to interpret our story. Janelle also went through many illustration updates to coincide with the book’s message.

Fast  forward to today.

I am so proud of this book and the message of “it’s okay to be who I am, just the way I am.”

With the help of Midnight’s best friend, a three-legged white rat named Starlight, and a bunch of bird buddies, she gains the confidence and courage to realize she was already okay, just the way she was.

So welcome Midnight to the world.  Happy book birthday!

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Midnight, 18 years old, (pictured above) was extremely impressed she was the inspiration for this story!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is available on Amazon, and can be requested at your bookstores and libraries.

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Author Spotlight – Meet C. Hope Clark

I first heard Hope speak at the Missouri Writer’s Guild conference a few years ago. I loved the fact that she always smiled, and consistently wove positivity in her talks.

When I discovered Hope and I were featured authors at a booksigning at Columbia, South Carolina’s Irmo Branch Library in March, I suggested our husbands meet over dinner the evening prior to the event.

After three hours of lively conversation on writing, vacations, dogs, and various topics, we almost  closed down the restaurant. Looking around at nearby tables, we didn’t recognize any of the original patrons when first seated. We decided to leave the waitress a NICE tip.

Hope graciously accepted my invitation to do “An Author Spotlight” Q&A. So without, further ado, I give you C. Hope Clark!

Q: When did you realize you wanted to write for a living? And do you prefer speaking engagements to writing?

Funny, but I can recall making the mental shift from working for a living to the concept of writing for one when I had lunch with a co-worker and he asked why I did not write for me. My work was routinely craved by management when I worked for the Federal government, and I entered my boss’s office many a time to ask “how do you want to spin this?” Should’ve known I wrote fiction all the way back then. But after three years of playing at it part-time, I realized that writing was what I wanted to do, with a passion I’d never had for anything else, so I took an early retirement at age 46 and never looked back. I’m a strong advocate of moving forward and never looking back.

I prefer writing, without a doubt. However, it’s the speaking that gives me that medicinal vitamin shot in the arm, making me see clearly why I write. I adore speaking to fans, audience and students alike, and their thrill and passion seep into me all over again such that I go home rejuvenated to write again. We have to go out and touch the world to understand how it all works.

Q: What compels you to write about the rural Carolinas, mystery, and weaving an agricultural bent into your books?

My degree is in agriculture. My grandfather was a cotton farmer, and I adored my summers on the farm. I love to garden and can’t stand urban for very long. Nature nurtures me. That and I wanted the world to see more of SC than Charleston, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. We are strong people with deep roots and a desire to preserve what is ours, the good and the bad. We don’t write off history, we learn  from it, and I want Carolina Slade to be a representative of this state. And of course, what better way to do that than via a mystery that draws a reader into the setting, into the characters’ lives, to make them guess and solve a puzzle, and ultimately realize that the setting was as much as part of the story as the protagonist and the clues. These books are my way of expressing love for where I live, and for its people.

Q: What do you want readers take away from your books?

A strong sense of place. A wish to be like the protagonist, or at least have enjoyed walking in her shoes. An appreciation for people and understanding that some people are worth fighting for regardless what rules have to be broken. Honor is everything.

Q: What advice do you have for new writers?

Write daily. Read daily. I know it sounds oversimplified, but it’s a practice few new writers are willing to follow, and without this ingrained habit, the writing doesn’t happen.

Q: And finally, I’ve asked this question before of authors – 

As Anne Lamott once said in “bird by bird’, it is important to have a moral position no matter what you do in life. What is your moral position?

Honesty. I believe in people until they prove me wrong.

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C. Hope Clark expresses her love of her South through her Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her next Edisto book, Edisto Jinx, is due out fall 2015, with the sequel Echoes of Edisto due out summer 2016. Hope speaks nationally to book clubs, conferences and writers groups, and also serves as editor of the writer’s resource FundsforWriters.com, selected on Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 15 years. She lives on the bank of Lake Murray in central SC when she isn’t strolling secluded Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com

Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,

Sheree

New Publication – Sunset Beach – North Carolina’s Hidden Gem

DSCN0255 the pier copyrSo elated this morning!  Received an email from my editor at AAA Carolina Go Magazine, Angela Vogel Daley. My feature story about Sunset Beach, North Carolina was just published.

The sun, the sand, the sea, the Kindred Spirit Bench, the people, and the food all drew me in.  I was hooked!

Here’s my feature article titled “Sunset Beach – North Carolina’s Hidden Gem”.

Hope you like it! Click on the page, and then click on the magnifying glass to read the article.

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2013 in review – Sheree’s Top Five Blog Posts

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nurturing Paws receives “Recommended” rating from US Review of Books

     Just received this email from my editor at Whispering Angel Books.  My essay, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” is in the book, along with works from two local authors — Faye Adams and Linda O’Connell.
Hi Nurturing Paws Contributors,
     The US Review of Books recently reviewed Nurturing Paws and gave it a “Recommended” rating.  Please pass along the good news to your friends, family and followers!  If you choose to quote this review, please attribute it to The US Review of Books.
Take care,
Lynn Johnston

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Author Spotlight – Mary Horner – “Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing”

Our guest author today is Mary Horner, author of “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing”.

Those leaving a comment on my blog about Mary’s interview will be entered in a book giveaway of  “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing.”  I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday March 13.

Not only is Mary a talented writer and teacher, she is also a wonderful friend.  So without further hesitation – Mary Horner.

Question – I understand you’re an award winning journalist who teaches communications at St. Charles Community College in St. Peters, and St. Louis Community College in Wildwood, Missouri. What compelled you to become a teacher?

I was a writer first, but I believe that most writers are teachers by the nature of the work. It seemed like a natural progression, and teaching has helped me understand the importance of knowing your audience, and that there are many different perspectives. What I consider a simple statement may have different meanings to different people. I try to be as clear as possible, but it’s always a challenge. Teaching has helped me learn how to defend my decisions and work, and keeps me on my toes. There’s nothing like immediate reactions.

Question – When did you first fall in love with writing?

In the sixth grade, when I won first place in an essay contest sponsored by the St. Charles City-County Library District titled “What the library means to me.” My (better-at-math) friend won second place, so it gave me a sense that writing was a valuable skill. I attended the awards ceremony and had to read it out loud to a group that went beyond my classmates, including grown-ups and everything! Heady stuff for a sixth grader!

Question – What inspired you to write Strengthen Your Non-fiction Writing? What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I actually started writing it as advice to a friend who needed to write an article, and I kept thinking of more and more information! I think that’s why it has a casual, friendly tone that makes it easy to read. I wanted it be the opposite of the books that make writing sound harder than it has to be.

What I’d like them to take away from the book the idea that although I believe writing is both an art and a craft, there are many ways to improve your writing using simple techniques. I wanted this to be a resource that readers could use immediately to solve some of their writing dilemmas.

Question – What advice do you have for new writers?

Never give up. Your writing has value in ways you may not yet realize.

Question – Mary, we all know you’re a wonderful teacher and a published author, but what great novel do you have in the works?

I’m working on a book I wrote several years ago about a young woman’s fight to save a historic mansion. The story as I’ve written it seems disjointed, so I’m trying to make it the protagonist’s story without going off on tangents. I have a tendency to tell everyone’s back story.

Question – And finally, as Anne Lamott once said in her book “bird’ by bird” (I ask this in all my authors interviews), it’s important to have a moral position in life.  What is your moral position?

There is no “they.” There’s only “us.”

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Wow! Great interview Mary. Thank you for sharing.

You can learn more about Mary on her blog writRteachR where she discusses all things editorial, including writing, publishing, authors and books. Also, follow the publishing process for “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing,” a new book by Mary Horner.

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The winner of the book giveaway “Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing” is Kim.

Kim I’ll be emailing you to confirm your win.

Mary will need your physical address to mail the book.

Congratulations and thanks for commenting!

Author Spotlight – Five Questions – Sandra Carrington-Smith

Hi friends,

Hopefully I am starting a new trend on blog – author inteviews.  Sandra Carrington-Smith agreed to be the first!  Sandra’s dedication and perseverance as a writer is inspiring.

Please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post, or follow my blog.  While you’re here, check out the other posts and pages on inspirational messages of travel, nature, friends and family.

Okay, Sandra, let’s get started!

Question –   In your opinion, what does it take to be a good writer?

I believe there are several factors that play into becoming a good writer. For one thing, you must enjoy writing for the sheer sake of it, and whether you think that you will have one reader or a million, the quality of the books you produce must be exceptional. It is also important to develop a tough skin and remain open to constructive criticism, but it is equally vital to understand that you can’t please everybody. Finally, your passion must bleed through your words, so you should focus on writing around topics that you would choose for your own reading pleasure.

Question –  As Anne Lamott once said in “bird by bird’, it is important to have a moral position no matter what you do in life. What is your moral position?

My moral position is a simple one…I apply the Golden Rule to everything I do in life. Writing and networking are no exception.

Question –  Take us through Sandra’s day of self-discipline as a writer.

My days are pretty standard, since aside from writing, I am also raising children and running a household. I usually network and do a little marketing first thing in the morning, before the children wake up or after they leave for school. The rest of the day is almost completely absorbed by mundane tasks, but as soon as everyone goes to bed, that’s when I put on my writing cap and dive into my stories. The timing is flexible and depending on the kids’ schedules. During the summer, when they are out of school, I write all night and sleep in the next morning. When they are in school, I go to bed earlier, but then use the time when they are gone to write. On average, I write about three or four hours every day.

Question  –  Any quick tips for new writers?

An easy one: Don’t give up! Ever. If writing is your passion, there is a door, somewhere, that will lead you to the right place. The business of writing has changed a lot, and new writers have a plethora of new tools at their disposal they can use to get their work out there.

Question  – When did you first fall in love with writing?

My love for the written word goes all the way back to my teenage years, when I first started writing poetry. When I moved to a different country, I thought I had left all that behind, since I didn’t think I would ever write in a foreign language. Thankfully, time proved me wrong, the language barriers were overcome, and my old love for writing surfaced anew.

Thanks Sandra for a great interview!

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Sandra Carrington-Smith is an Italian-born author who relocated to the United States in the late 80’s after marrying a US soldier who was serving overseas.

Although writing was Sandra’s deepest passion since childhood, her dream of becoming a published author had to be placed on hold for several years. Moving to a new country provided several challenges, the biggest one being the language barrier she encountered when she first arrived.

In order to become fully integrated, Sandra tapped into her love for reading, and over time her vocabulary grew extensively.

She gave birth to three children and devoted most of her time to raising a family. By the time she was in her late 30’s, Sandra decided to revisit her old passion for writing, and penned a novel of paranormal suspense, The Book of Obeah, followed by a self-improvement book, Housekeeping for the Soul: A Practical Guide to Restoring Your Inner Sanctuary. Both titles were sold to the same publisher and released in 2010, and The Book of Obeah went on to win an international book award.

Currently, Sandra is working on two new novels: The Rosaries (the sequel of The Book of Obeah) and Shadows of a Tuscan Moon. Killer in Sight (A Tom Lackey Mystery) was released in June 2012. Sandra Carrington-Smith lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, children and three cats.