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Category: My Writing Experience

Life – Writing Your Own Story, Literally and Figuratively

Life – Writing Your Own Story, Literally and Figuratively

My Life – A Raging Tornado

Life, my life has been a roller coaster, of highs and lows, some so low, I thought that there would never, ever be another problem to contend with for the rest of my life. I’ve struggled to get pregnant, I’ve gotten pregnant easily. I had a difficult pregnancy, I’ve had an easy one. I carried twins, I’ve carried a single baby. I’ve given birth to three children, one born with a genetic disability that took her life at 11 months old; I have a child with such severe anxiety, that it has been a struggle for her and the family to live something normal, and now I deal with a transgender child.

As soon as I think I’m coming to the end of the roller coaster, just as it’s ready to pull into the station, I instead, and catapulted back to the first loop d’loop to start the journey again.

My Life – Yes, Sometimes I feel Sorry for Myself

I could have become an alcoholic, or a drug addict or harmed myself, but I didn’t. I thought for a while I was handling the lows, coming through them and surviving. What I was doing was merely surviving, allowing myself to merely be a victim of my circumstances. And yes, in that I felt sorry for myself. Sometimes it’s hard not to do that. After all that I’ve seen, all that I’ve lived through, after life battering me, throwing me from one situation to another, I realized, it’s okay to feel this way. Sometimes you have to let it go and simply feel for the loss of what you thought life would be. But what’s not okay, is wallowing for too long in the low.

My Life – At the Edge of the Abyss

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the 19 years of parenting. It’s okay to not be perfect. And it’s okay to put yourself first. I’ve stood at the edge of the Abyss with the universe pushing me, pressing me against the edge, laughing as I slip on the weakened earth beneath my feet. And as it pushing me toward the deep end, the my bottom, I’ve learned one last thing about myself. I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I shouted at the universe “NO! You can’t have me!”

Writing is what saved me from losing my mind, from letting the weight of the problems overwhelm me and victimize me. Twice this week I’ve heard myself saying or thinking, “We write our own story. ” Literally and figuratively that is. Granted life has a funny way of shoving us down certain paths, but what we do with these changes, is up to us. We write our own story.

My Life – My Passion is the Written Word

I write. It is my priority. It is my love and it is my passion. Someday I hope to do this as my living, not my “hobby” as I learn how to find a fan base big enough to allow me to live my dream. And what I’ve learned about that is, “You must never give up.” It’s that drive, that desire that has kept me grounded, that has made me a better mom, a better person. It builds my confidence, it makes me whole. It is what keeps me from falling off the roller coaster when it whips me around.

This is my life for better or for worse. And I’ve made my choice on how I write it. The glass will always be half full as long as you have the confidence in yourself to make it so.

See the glass as half full and find me at the following book fairs, Summer, 2017.

Printer’s Row Lit Fest

Ann Arbor Book Festival 2017

 

 

 

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

All it Takes is Confidence

Even social media is difficult for an introvert, who oftentimes lacks basic confidence. So what’s an inspiring author supposed to do when she needs to recruit strangers to help with a social media campaign?

You pretend you’re not shy, or an introvert and you fake yourself out, acting as though you really have no problem making conversation with totally random strangers.

But they weren’t so random, the locations were selected carefully. We wanted cool., comfortable, roomy enough to spread out our stuff; the camera equipment, the books, the giveaways, the props.

But I had to recruit, dig deep and walk up to the ones I wanted. The kids that looked like they might like an urban fantasy, who weren’t so engrossed in conversation it would be a complete intrusion.

And There Goes the Confidence

With a deep breath and a lot reserve, I introduced myself as if I owned it, as if I exuded confidence and asked for what I wanted. The first guy gracefully declined, he was meeting someone soon. I thanked him for his time and moved on.

It was a perfect location. a coffee shop. There were four of them, twenty something’s out on a Sunday afternoon. Some with backpacks and homework, all of them with their phones. I was surprised how willing they were to have their pictures taken. They graciously did as we asked as my friend and photographer Jim took their pictures.

In exchange, I gave them copies of book one, The Day of First Sun. I gave them some swag. They were nice and they seemed to enjoy the surprise in their day, something different, something unique.

Am I Really an Introvert?

The funny thing is, I always tell people I’m an introvert. Which I probably am, until I find myself in a perfectly comfortable situation. A happy place, where I do what I love, in a place where I’m passionate for what I do. Maybe all those times I thought I was shy and unable to do things is because I really didn’t find that thing I loved, or I forgot what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.

I seemed to have found my confidence, my strength. When I write, when I talk about my books, when I attend book fairs, those things I once thought were scary aren’t so much anymore. I’m drawn to the life of an author and I look forward to the experience that comes with it.

Come see me at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest on June 10th and 11th.

And for the first time I’ll be attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival on June 17th. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to share.

 

 

 

Creating News Events

Creating News Events

Creating News Events

As an independent author, I’m always searching for ways to create news events. Those events that bring my books to the public. I’ve sat at book fairs, and comic

cons. There were advertisements, and book catalogues. Who can forget the tweeting and sharing on social media? I can’t tell you how many marketing promos have led to free Kindle Fires for participating bloggers that I’ve given away. All in all, the results have been varied.

Now I’m looking for new ways to create news events that are different, fun and worthwhile.

Seize Those Opportunities

Opportunities come from anywhere, by simply retweeting and sharing an author’s book posts. Or aggressively advertising on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe a friend direct messaged an opportunity based on a shared interest. Or sometimes you just stumble across something interesting, different and new.

Where the idea is born doesn’t matter, as long as you seize the opportunities as they cross your path. You never know where it could lead.

So when you say yes to the news events as you find them, in time you share those websites and links with others to spread the news. Please, visit and share these sites and the great work these bloggers and reviewers do.

Bloggers Carry the Weight

Trisha Sugarek, Writer at Play: MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?   November was best selling author, Grace Burrowes and in December, Reed Farrel Coleman, contributing writer for Robert B. Parker series. January is Dinah Jefferies and February’s author is Sheryl Steines.

http://www.writeratplay.com/2017/02/17/interview-with-sci-fi-author-sheryl-steines/

http://www.writeratplay.com/2017/02/25/interview-with-author-sheryl-steines-part-2/

 

Midwest Book Review:  “Established in 1976, the Midwest Book Review is an organization committed to promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. The MBR publishes the following monthly book review magazines specifically designed for community and academic librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public:”

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/sbw/dec_16.htm#Fantasy/SciFi

 

ThreeifbySpace.net:  Need a Good Read? Books by Outlander Fans Fill the Bill

“We’re a reading bunch. I like big books, and I cannot lie… of course, we all love Diana’s books (or why else are we here!), but many of her fans are authors themselves. And since November is the month to turn yourself into an author – it’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month – it seemed appropriate to introduce you to some Outlander fans who have taken that big leap and put out their talent for you to enjoy. Here’s a good selection of books written by fellow Outlander fans that are available to purchase and read (some of the books are free for Kindle users!) – support your friends! This is, I’m sure, not a complete list – if you have a published (self or traditional) book, feel free to leave info in the comments! Click on book titles to learn more and buy?” by Erin Conrad  https://www.threeifbyspace.net/2016/11/need-good-read-books-outlander-fans-fill-bill/

 

 

 

 

Book Release, New Website, Oy the Changes

Book Release, New Website, Oy the Changes

A writer’s life.

It started with a rewrite.

It wasn’t working. It was no one’s fault, but what do you change when it feels like you’re mired in a sticky, muddy mess?

My first change was the book itself. It didn’t feel right, some plot lines hadn’t been resolved; something did feel quite right; it affected the writing of the next book. I must say the rewrite was better than I could have imagined. That sparked an entire series rethink, which spurred … well it led to an excitement, a new confidence. And now after seven years, I finally have a series that clicked on all cylinders. I couldn’t have imagined it had I planned it that way.

Now What?

I wanted to sell the new version of The Day of First Sun. I was nervous, scared…did I really make the right change? Was it good at all? I sold the book at Book Con, Chicago 2016. One week after the sale, I received a Facebook message from  a reader, telling me she loved the book and couldn’t wait for book two.

I was no longer afraid to sell the book and decided then and there, when something doesn’t work, it’s time to dismantle the thing and start again.

My Twitter handle, the Facebook Author Page, and even this website became more streamlined, I had SEO (search engine optimization) to contend with, you know? And it all came together just in time for Black Market to be released. I’ve waited years for February 6, 2017 to arrive because I finally had the next book in the series. I was finally ready, the change was here.

And I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

 

My Author Journey

My Author Journey

My journey begins today!

Thoughts from today:

It’s been one hell of a journey, these last 7 years. In that time, I’ve been up and I’ve been down while at the same time and I’ve been standing still. It was time to make some major changes. It started with the complete rewrite of book one and restructuring my entire series. I had the blog completely recreated and organized. My Twitter handle and Facebook author page changed. I turned it upside down.

It’s funny though, because the struggles from seven years ago are still the struggles I have seven years into the journey. The only thing that’s changed is; I’m far more knowledgeable and maybe a little more confident about what I want and where I want to go. And as book two is finally about to be released, I remember and reminisce, and really the journey is still the same.

So here’s my Throwback Thursday blog from 2011.

I can’t believe that it’s been a year, this month, since I published The Day of First Sun. In that time, I’ve cried, complained, written, edited, worked on the blog, cried, hated Twitter, loved Twitter, cried, threw my computer down in disgust. I’ve researched, questioned other writers, sat for hours under a cold breeze at Wizard World, all in the hopes of finding that one thing, the one spark that would get my book out there in the market, in front of the right person.

In the first 11 months, I did what I was told would work. I got a Facebook author page, a Twitter Account, Amazon author page, sent letters to independent books stores in hopes I could get a book signing. But in that time all I’ve managed to do is sell my book to my friends and family and maybe some strangers. 

It’s always time well spent, on an anniversary, to take a moment to reflect on the past year and learn something from it. I learned I suck at marketing and I’m rather computer/internet illiterate.

No I actually did learn something valuable. I learned my passion and my love, is the path I should take. It fosters confidence, which breeds more confidence and that opens you to possibilities. I’ve always looked at the book as my product, one that I need to get to market. In an effort to accomplish that, I attended my first book expo and that was my greatest lesson. I realized how much I didn’t know about publishing and that I had choices to make; I either stop pursuing this journey, stop spending money in hopes that something good will happen, or I stop straddling the fence, jump in with both feet and make the dream a reality.

 

 

What Do You Do at the Fork in the Road?

What Do You Do at the Fork in the Road?

black-market-3b1JK Rowling always knew she had something good. I know I have something worthwhile; a full and complete book series that weaves the story throughout each book, that will, in the end, culminate to a final resolution.

After re-writing The Day of First Sun twice, commissioning several different book covers, and restructuring the series, I can finally say, I have a good product that will entertain someone, if I can find the right someone.

And now it’s time to release Black Market.

So what to do with my next book? I have an opportunity to sign with a publisher, but hairs on the back of my neck caution me. I can sign with the publicist and venture down an entirely different marketing promotion than anything I’ve ever done before. But will it gain me anything?

It weighs heavy on me; the direction should I pursue as I flip 180 degrees and back again, staying awake all night in a debate with myself.

Mistakes in my past come back to haunt me; the premature re-release of The Day of First Sun, without a marketing plan, because I really had no idea what to do, early editing errors that ran me in circles through multiple drafts, my inability to outline as story and stick to it.

As I wait for the final design of the interior layout of Black Market, I worry, will book two succeed if book one was just thrown in the marketplace?

It’s a question many independent authors ask as we muddle through the ups and downs of publishing. If we do this will it get us closer to our dreams, but what if it doesn’t?

I mull over options, I take a long hard look at the world I created, the media I’ve made. I ponder and ask my fellow indi authors, what did you do? What path did you take? Was it worth it?

The Day of First Sun available on Amazon.com.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

What’s a pantser you ask?

I  didn’t embrace myself when I started to write. I assumed I was doing something wrong until I met other authors. As I quickly found out, there are two types of authors. One like JK Rowling who meticulously plans out the story. I’m sure if you’re a fan you’ve seen the notes and graphs of her outlines. She is what’s known as a plotter.

The other side of this is the writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and sits in front of the computer screen and just writes. That would be Stephen King, He approaches his stories as if he’s discovered an artifact and as he writes, he carefully unearths the story. This is called a pantser.

And that is me.

Doing it wrong – embrace myself.

For the longest time I thought I was doing it wrong. The crafting of the story I thought might go smoother, easier if I could plan it out. Unfortunately for me, planning always goes off the rails and I end up writing by the seat of my pants anyway.

After reading On Writing, by Stephen King, I realized other authors write like me and I stopped fretting and worrying, and finally embraced my style, learned to work with the quirks rather than fitting my style into someone else’s.

But is this a good way to write?

Hell yes! As I write, I become kinda like the reader. I might have a direction in which I’m heading, but the story is slowly revealed to me and that includes twists and surprises. There have been times that the story unfolds and I will stare at the computer screen and think, “What the hell? I wasn’t expecting that!”

I enjoy the surprises, not knowing exactly what’s coming up for my characters. Though I must say, it can take more draft before the story is crafted the way that I like. But it is so worth the extra time. And I enjoy the surprises now that I embrace my process.

Lessons

Lesson in the first: Embrace yourself. Why fight your true nature. Learn to work within your quirks.

Lesson in the second: Know your limitations and find a work around. I know it will take me more than two drafts before I have a well crafted story. It’s just the way it is. I couldn’t be happier with how The Wizard Hall Chronicles are shaping up. It wouldn’t have been this good if I planned it.

Lesson in the third: Embrace who you are. When I stopped worrying about doing it like other authors and really looked at how I worked, whether it’s writing as a pantser or writing best between 1 and 7 in the afternoon, I worked better not harder.

Lesson in the fourth: I’m not a bad story teller and I have a good product. Be proud of your work, put the effort in and people will notice. I’ve been fortunate to have found some amazing fans. Now if I can only clone them and find more like them, it’ll be gravy.

So here’s to the writers who plan and plot and those of us who sit down and write and let the story unfold. We are who we are however we get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

I’m writing my memoir, sort of. It’s not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It’s a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.

That’s not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I’ve been terrified of the water.

I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn’t see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.

I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can’t teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that’s not a waste of time.

As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.

“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”

“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”

“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”

I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.

The water doesn’t just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed.

This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.

Water terrifies.

Faking Confidence Leads to Real Confidence

Faking Confidence Leads to Real Confidence

Is confidence something we’re born with, or is it something we grow within ourselves when we are surrounded by a loving family, friends, society? Is it always with us or does it wane over time or experiences? I think about that as I examine my life, my choices, my career.

At seven, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Everything I did was leading me to that career. I wrote in my spare time, I became and English major, worked as a technical writing intern. I worked as a technical writer when I graduated.

Regardless of what I had done over the course of my life, I always stayed close to writing. It was what I was told I was good at since I was young, it was what I enjoyed the most and it gave me confidence. Some of the best jobs I had involved writing, whether it was business letters, technical manuals or user guides, there was a pride that came with learning a job and translating that for others to learn from. So when did the confidence wane and leave?

Bad jobs, fractured relationships, the death of a child, there are so many things that eat away at confidence, that leave a black cloud over your head, that suck the light and life away.

A series of bad events, of loss, left me paralyzed. And yet when the confidence was at its lowest, I decided to put myself out there, expose myself and write again. I needed to be reminded that I wanted to write a book and when I was, I did. To do that requires honesty and being open with the world in hopes that you find your audience.

You throw yourself out there when you publish your book whether you have a publisher or you self-publish. You read the reviews and you meet other authors and bloggers who can help you attract readers. Its raw and scary, terrifying and sometimes your read a review that is hard to stomach and you can’t speak for a week.

But there’s something in my makeup that when the confidence is lacking, propels me forward and keeps me writing. It’s a manufactured confidence, when I believe that I’m strong enough to keep writing, marketing and planning for that dream future.

Confidence is a tricky thing. It can be strong or it can be weak. We can be slaves to it or we can overpower it. I’ve never overpowered mine at least not until recently. I no longer wanted to watch other accomplish what I could only dream about. I wanted more. Even when the confidence leaves, I’ve learned to fake it. Negative self-talk can break you and positive self-talk even if you have to pretend for a while is better than none at all.

Because somewhere along the way I realized that I can do whatever I set out to do, I just have to believe in myself. Even if I have to fake it once and awhile.

Never Tell a Writer to Stop

Never Tell a Writer to Stop

I’m tired. I took a full-time job to pay for the marketing to try to sell my books. I come home, take care of the children, the bills, groceries, dishes and take care of the other commitments that come with living in the real world. It makes me no different from other moms. I’m not claiming I am. And this isn’t about how my life may or may not suck.

It’s about my second job. The one I’ve been working at for the last four years. The one I’m not getting paid for, the one that takes me away from friends, commitments, children, relaxing. Again, it’s not a mom thing. I’ve been an unpaid mom for sixteen years. No, this is about the dream, the job I really want.

When people ask how I’m doing, I mostly say I’m okay, unless I’m really tired, really stressed and really needing a good writing session. And frankly I don’t complain much about it because most people tell me, maybe if I’m that stressed, I should put the books away for a little while.

I’m tired of explaining myself to everyone. It’s not a simple proposition to put the book down. It’s like cutting off a limb. It’s a part of me. When I’m not writing, it gnaws at me, crawls through my skin reminding me that there’s something else I’d rather be doing. I almost waited too long to begin my journey and if I put it away for even just a week, I may out of habit never pick it up again. I can’t do that.

Even as my world can sometimes crash around me as I struggle to get the laundry done, the groceries bought, the children taken care of, have a social life, I desperately reach for something to hold on to so that I don’t drown in my daily life. My life saver is writing. When you want something badly enough and you can’t shake it, you keep at it even when everything else is in danger of falling to pieces. It’s my life line.

Never tell an aspiring writer to put it away for a little while. We have a story to tell, an emotion to release, a message to say. If we put it away for even a little while, it burns a hole in us and we’re no longer being true to ourselves. .

One day maybe the non-writer will understand.

 

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