Monday, October 31, 2016


Greetings Lit Loves!

Well, let me just say that I have completed author questionnaires and conducted phone interviews for several local newspapers recently and my tech guru husband handily pulled off a fascinating photo shoot of me for my publicity portfolio right in the clubhouse of our apartment complex!!  And what is all this hoopla for you might be asking?  Well, I, a non-famous yet sophisticated North Carolinian with a Midwestern accent just independently published my first book called Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.   I know, I know, what in the heebie-jeebies did I ever want to do a thing like that for at a time like this?  I thought I could add to the memoir genre as a writer from North Carolina who doesn't sugarcoat real life experiences and also forthrightly communicate some important life lessons other readers might find valuable as well.

It's like this:  I didn't grow up in a rich suburb and I very proudly claim to be from a small town.  I grew up with a set of parents who kept crayons, markers, pencils, pens, chalk, and all sorts of books right at my fingertips.  In elementary school, you could not pull me away from Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, or any book featuring Pippi Longstocking as the main character.  Upon arrival to middle school, low and behold I started reading O. Henry (pen name for William Sydney Porter).  O. Henry is from Greensboro, N.C. and he wrote short stories about people who were just average everyday Joes and Janes; many of his characters were extremely down on their luck.  I also discovered Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.  To be honest, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe never interested me; however, I absolutely loved Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  And I am most definitely not a Star Trek or Star Wars fan.  In high school, I thought Shakespeare was okay once I figured out what he was trying to say in his gussied up formal English.  Chaucer was definitely more my cup of tea.  Poetry was so short and open to interpretation I found myself sometimes taking my literature book, rereading a poem, and thinking, "Just plainly say what you mean already"!  I did find The Scarlet Letter quite fascinating and Edgar Allan Poe frankly just gave me the creeps.  Fortunately, I had started writing my own essays, thesis and research papers, and fairy tales by then so I became much more interested in fine-tuning my own writing style.

In college, I flew through most of my English classes.  I then decided to major in Middle Grades Education and specialize in Communications (aka Language Arts) and Social Studies (aka History).  And I did go on to explore the world of Education as a teacher's assistant and then a Middle Grades Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.  My first year of teaching was one hysterical scream after another and you will have to read Brave Soul Rising to discover why.  I survived my first year at an inner-city, middle school and then remained there another year as well.  I then taught in a private school which was a total 180 from teaching in a public, inner-city school.  All was right with the world there as I was mostly teaching grammar, literature, and writing.  Then the school administrators decided to assign me to teach a math class which was a quite foolish thing to do especially when I hated math, had no certification or degree in math, and in college thought any form of math should be banished from my degree curriculum.  Yes, that was a fun year.  And no, I did not choose to return to teaching following my year teaching in private school as my husband and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia for his work.   Learning to drive strategically in Georgia is an education in and of itself, let me tell you.  I did spend time tutoring some college students and editing thesis papers.  Due to the fact that I had by then been diagnosed with Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma, Meniere's Disease, and some unknown underlying autoimmune disorder requiring oral chemotherapy treatment, I took some time away from any form of teaching or tutoring.  When I read the memoir entitled Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, a fire was lit and I developed a passion for memoirs written not by celebrities but by everyday, regular people who had some extraordinary life experiences and lessons to share.  And that's when I also knew that I most likely had found my next potential venture in life:  writing, especially in the memoir category.

So for five years I wrote about pertinent and unusual life experiences I procured from my own existence and tried to communicate some seriously important life lessons.  I was determined to publish in the traditional manner at first which meant securing a literary agent and hopefully, a book deal with a big or small publishing house.  No dice.  It just didn't happen.  At the five year mark, I had written four manuscripts and decided upon my father's death to just take the bull by the horns and independently publish my first book via Amazon Publishing.  When I received the final version of the book, I literally sat in the floor of the living room and cried.  My dad had urged me once to take the new independent path to publication if necessary because it's not like New York and literary agents have the market cornered on the entire publishing process anymore.  On vacation with my mom and brother that same summer, my brother said, "You know, there are a lot of books that began as self-published works; it's a possibility, don't you think?" 

So there you have it.  I drafted the manuscript of Brave Soul Rising, hired a book cover designer who made my concept of the front and back cover come to fruition, and my husband assisted in the ebook version of Brave Soul Rising.  Now, I write about some tough issues.  My first marriage was at an incredibly young, naive age and was riddled with domestic violence.  I chose to leave that unhealthy relationship.  I put graduate school on hold and took a position as a receptionist/assistant in corporate America only to discover women can be and are treated in an often offensive manner there too.  I kept the faith and finally landed my first teaching position which is probably what ultimately saved me from giving up on life completely.  It certainly taught me the value of two key traits:  tenacity and perseverance.  And that is exactly what you will read about in my book, Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  I write under the pen name, Grace Sutherlin.  And you will find my book available for order in paperback or ebook version online at Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.  If you have a local independent bookstore and you request my book to be ordered, most stores will order it for you. I will go on record saying that many independent bookstores will not carry the actual book on their shelves because I published through Amazon Publishing.  I'm enjoying this revolutionary approach to publishing and will be keeping at it for some time to come.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cubs Need Revamp Before Game 2 Of World Series

Dear Lit Loves,

Hi.  Well, I don't normally blog about sports or baseball, but I am telling you the Chicago Cubs have got to revamp before game two of the World Series.  First, in my opinion it was a mistake to leave Jason Heyward out of the roster and place Chris Coghlan on the roster to take his place.  Why?  Here's the thing:  Coghlan didn't have the gumption or the power to put the bat on the ball in game one.  I'm serious.  Coghlan is six foot tall and 195 pounds.  Heyward is younger by 4 years, he stands
six foot five inches, has a hell of a swing reach, and is just downright more intimidating to a pitcher.  Case closed.  Second, the only Chicago Cub player I saw playing with a zest to win in game one of the World Series was David Ross, the catcher.  He is a veteran catcher and they don't make em' like that anymore.  Next, I thought it was just like grasping for straws to place Kyle Schwarber on the roster since he hasn't been at the plate since sometime in April according to the game announcers.  He did get a double, but there was no one behind him on the roster strong enough to put the bat on the ball to bring Schwarber home for a run.  And personally, I think Schwarber looked a bit rusty in terms of his swing. 

When it comes to a pitcher like Corey Kluber, you have got to be able to rattle the cage.  Get guys on base, start stealing bases, make him think about more than just the batter at the plate, and thus, throw him off his game.  Furthermore, Cleveland did all the things I mentioned above to the pitcher Lester and subsequently, Lester was shouting at the umpire instead of remaining calm and focused.  And one last thing, all the players for the Chicago Cubs need to play like you will eat dirt and spit nails to win the World Series.  Complacency and a flat demeanor lets the Cleveland Indians know that you aren't willing to leave it all on the field for this World Series Championship and that's ultimately what each Cub player has to do in order to win against the Cleveland Indians and win the World Series.

And Fox Sports, thank you for utilizing John Smoltz to assist in calling the game. Down in the South we say someone like Smoltz knows how to get it done and get it done properly too I might add.   

Just sayin' folks.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

The First Three Months Of Life As A Self-Published Author

Dear Literary Comrades,

Greetings!  I must say that my life has been a bit frantic once I opted to self-publish my first book entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  Frankly, there have been moments of pure glory and times of deep despair.  It has been a lot like life itself which is often one hellish and screamingly fun roller coaster ride.

Initially, I saw my first sales figures one month after self-publishing via CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle and thought maybe I should just throw in the towel right then and there.  To my great delight, sales started picking up for my paperback and ebook once I hit two months post publication.  I was doing my own publicity and found that to be entertaining, exhausting, and frustrating.  First, I began by hosting a book giveaway on the literary site known as Goodreads.  Wow.  I had 616 entrants and gave away five books so that at least got my name out there in the publishing world.  Whew.  Next, I began contacting libraries and independent bookstores across the state of North Carolina and the entire Southeast.  Big Cheer when I was invited to speak and present my book at a beautiful library in Calabash, N.C.!  Thank you to each and every person who attended.  As a former teacher, it was good to once again experience the thrill of a captive audience.  Next, I received an invitation from my hometown library in Kernersville, N.C. to speak and present my book.  Kudos!!  And then I quickly encountered some independent bookstores that adamantly dislike Amazon and CreateSpace.  Seriously, a good fifty to seventy percent of bookstores will only place a self-published book on display if you sign a consignment agreement with a 60/40 split and that's after you complete an application for the bookstore owners to determine if your book is of high enough quality to warrant being on the shelves in the store.  And at one store they even wanted me to pay an application fee!  Wow.  I took a step back and a deep breath.  Then more deep breaths.  First, I wondered if the independent bookstore owners realize I think their policy violates the U.S. Antitrust Law which ensures consumers fair competition in an open-market economy?  Next I started feeling like a second class citizen in a third world country.  And yes, I will report that I truly felt that I was experiencing discrimination because I opted to publish via Amazon and its affiliates. I think bookstore policies like the ones I have seen are fertile ground eventually for a class-action lawsuit as I fully realize I'm not the only one to self-publish via Amazon.  Have any of these folks heard the saying, "Don't poke the beast"?  Or how about the one that goes, "If you can't beat them, join them"?? 

Next, I began to connect with other authors via the website known as Goodreads.  I particularly wanted to make connections with other first time memoir authors.  And I also thought, well, why not see if some of my favorite famous or bestselling authors have a profile on the site and attempt to connect with them as well.  I was elated when first time memoir authors wanted to connect with me on Goodreads!  Hey!  There are people out there just like me who are trying to get a foot in the ever revolving publishing door!  Thanks be to Mother Mary!  And then it happened.  I opened my email box one day and discovered that one of my favorite authors had actually connected with me on the Goodreads teeth almost hit the floor.  I sat there stunned surely for at least five minutes.  Two weeks later another famous favorite author of mine also connected with me via Goodreads.  Some people I know have each and every one of this author's books sitting on shelves in their home.  My dad loved this particular author, too.  So since I recently lost my dad to cancer, this connection was especially meaningful to me.  I had to text and call my teaching mentor, my brother, my mom, and my husband after this author connected with me.  Talk about the wind lifting your sails.  And man, did that connection come at an especially good moment.  Finally, a famous female author, who writes such amazing thrillers that I cannot be alone when reading one of her books, reached out to connect with me and I attempted cartwheels through my apartment foyer!  Fortunately, I didn't break anything or pull a muscle either.  Thank God there are bestselling, famous authors who still connect and are willing to extend a hand to a small, non-famous self-published author.  Bless you.

Where am I in the process now?  Still attempting to get the word out about my book; contemplating offering another book giveaway, and trying to get the attention of my small hometown newspaper so they might actually do a little ditty about my book.  Thus far the newspaper editor to whom I sent my book publicity kit says she never received it and would try to locate it and speak with the publisher of the newspaper about my story.  I let some time pass.  The editor never got back to me.  I tried emailing her once again only to receive a cursory reply email stating she nor anyone else at the paper had received my book publicity material and she forwarded my email to the paper's lifestyle editor.  This was not exactly the type of response I was hoping for seeing as I grew up in that little small town, graduated from a high school in that small town, attended and graduated college in a nearby medium-size town, and my mother has lived for forty-three years in that small town and still lives there to this day.  Oh well.  I think my book would have resonated with many readers in my hometown.  It's about a small town girl who marries way too young, realizes quite quickly that her marriage is riddled with domestic violence and she opts to leave the marriage and take life by the horns and make her own way in the world. Making her own way in the world meant taking a low-level job in corporate America with its own insanity and then finally getting to use her degree to teach in a volatile, inner-city middle school where no one thinks she will last more than five minutes.  Guess what?  She lasted more than five minutes in a chaotic and oftentimes violent school environment.  Actually, she went from being a timid, wind-swept daisy to a hardy steel magnolia.  And her story isn't finished yet.

Till next time,