So, I’m trying something new… I will release story drabbles of the books I am working on. (Full chapters will be available on my Patreon account ahead of each book’s release, but more on that later). These story drabbles are bite-sized chunks of my stories; the goal is to capture something interesting between characters, develop imagery, explore dialogue, etc.
Ariel dreaded family reunions. They were full of empty promises and fake smiles.
But at least the food was good…
Still, she couldn’t stand the loud music or the people. Her older sister, Metoyer, was a pastor’s wife and had an affinity for being a hostess; so Ariel let her handle the bulk of the entertaining. There was only so long she could stomach her high-minded relatives. They’d swoop in at the last minute with little to no warning. Then they’d monopolize what ever space they were offered well past their welcome.
Slamming doors and leaving trash strewn about instead of inside their intended target, the majority of her family members were human tornadoes. They brought chaos and left destruction in their wake. Ariel only played nice out of respect for her mother.
The family reunion had forced her patience to its limit faster than usual. In the next half hour, she’d make her exit before her filter loosened, and her thoughts became verbalized. No need to call anyone a self-centered peon when simply leaving the premises would do.
Cassidy: Welcome, Jami Christine! Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book, The Transcendent.
Jami: Hi, Cassidy! Thank you so much for this opportunity! I’m from a small town in Southern Illinois, and it’s been a dream of mine since early grade school to write a novel. I’ve always loved creative writing as well as other arts, such as painting and music. I am 34, have been a massage therapist for 11 years, and currently own a wellness center. I am also in school for life coaching and hypnotherapy.
The Transcendent is about a young girl who can leave her body to assist souls to the Other Side if they’re dying alone. The ability runs in her family, but there’s a bit of a family mystery and drama around it. It gets more exciting when she finds out she’s able to bring a soul back to their body and “cheat death.”
Cassidy: I’ve just started reading, The Transcendent, and I must say I’m enjoying the supernatural and mystery aspects of the story. *smiles*
What inspired you to write your book?
Jami: My Granny passed away in 2013, and I had the honor of being present, along with other family members, when she crossed. Nana is the one character who is really modeled after someone, and that’s my Granny (everyone else is either completely fictional or a blend of different elements of myself or important people in my life). After she passed, I thought about how beautiful it was that her loved ones got to be with her for her passing, which led me to wonder what happens when people die alone. That’s how I came up with Lessie, whose gift is to solve that problem, so nobody ever really has to die alone.
Of course there’s more to the story than that – I’ve been at “rock bottom,” or “the dark night of the soul” as some call it, and I’ve done quite a bit of work on myself to rise up from those ashes. I incorporated elements of my own healing journey into the mental and emotional healing process my character goes through after coming back from the dead (and the aftermath of a disfiguring accident), and Lessie’s mental and emotional growth as she comes to accept the many challenging layers of her gift.
Cassidy: I can certainly relate, and I’m sure our readers can as well. Genuine, soul-searching stories are a work of heart. I’m sure your book will resonate with people who have the opportunity to read it.
On that note, is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?
Jami: There are quite a few messages in this story, and actually I had a hard time labeling it “Young Adult” because I feel that even though the main characters are all in their late teens, there are messages of growth and healing that can speak to all ages. Self acceptance is a big message, for Lessie (whose gift is also a curse as she randomly spaces out during high school and gets unmercifully picked on for it) as well as the character who cheats death, and many other minor characters who have their own journeys of growth.
Another main message is that of the Phoenix, burning to ash and then rising from those ashes. Many of my characters portray their own phoenix story of major setbacks, life changes and challenges, and what seems like their own personal destruction. In actuality, those events all lead to journeys of healing and growth, resulting in them becoming better, stronger, wiser versions of themselves. The message I hope readers receive is to take a look at their own challenges in life and find a way to see the blessing in them – how those challenges led them to grow to become better people.
Cassidy: I love the theme of the Phoenix, and it’s personification of rebirth. It is often a theme in my own works, so it is quite dear to me. *smiles* Personal growth and transformation make for strong character development; I’m glad to hear you focus heavily on it.
If you had to briefly describe your book, what five words would you use?
Jami: I have so many words, how do I narrow them down to five? I actually had one of my beta readers help give suggestions for how to describe it! How about intriguing, thought-provoking, emotional, spiritual (not in the religious way but in the soul-searching, soul purpose sort of way), and metaphysical.
Cassidy: Hmmm, in a sense, they are interconnected. My first thought when you said metaphysical took me back to the words, intriguing and emotional.
I’m sure our readers are also intrigued at this point. Would you mind sharing a highlight from the book with us, please?
Jami: I think one of my favorite non-spoilers is when Lessie learns about astral travel; she’s a natural at it. She’s suddenly able to project her spirit/energy/consciousness (whatever you want to call it) anywhere in the world, and it adds to the adventure and excitement of her gift (and it’s one of a few exciting abilities unlocked during the story!)
Cassidy: Lessie discovering her powers is endearing, and I’m excited to hear I’ll find out about other twists and turns in her adventure as I read.
What part of the book or character was the most fun to write? Which part was the hardest?
Jami: Hands down, the character Lessie brings back from the dead was the most fun. This character became my catharsis for a lot of unturned stones in my own healing journey, and I got to process a lot of emotions without having to relive my physical experiences. This person’s soul evolution was so much fun for me to create and write about, and I hope they inspire the reader on their own soul journey.
The hardest part was probably some of the more minor details of character and setting development, filling in the back story and building the elements that give the reader an emotional connection to the characters.
Cassidy: The energy expended to maintain detailed story telling and character development requires tons of focus. How do you combat writer’s block in such cases? Do you have any advice for other writers?
Jami: I usually beat writer’s block by sitting back and taking a look at what’s got me blocked. Am I bored? Am I disengaged? Am I unsure of what’s supposed to happen next? I make note of this, usually typing out questions to myself for me to answer later (either in the comments in the margins or highlighted in the text), and I skip over to a part that’s more exciting to write. I’ll usually see dialogues or events play out like a movie in my head, and then I get excited to capture that in writing. I record those more exciting elements and save them for when I’m ready to tie them into the overall story, and usually that helps fill in the blanks between major events, making those parts easier to write. My advice for other writers is to ask themselves the same questions when writer’s block hits, and maybe have a little Q&A journaling session with themselves. I feel like writing is not just a creative outlet, but an opportunity for personal growth. Make the most of that!
Cassidy: Those tips are going to be helpful to others, especially in terms of personal growth.
Now that we’ve discussed the storytelling side of writing, let’s get down to the dreaded marketing side. *laughs* I jest, of course, but marketing is something most writers either love or loathe.
What marketing techniques have you used to sell your book and which ones have been most successful?
Jami: Honestly, I’m new here! I’m learning as I go. I originally wrote this book for the reasons I shared earlier – creative outlet and emotional catharsis – but it was also an escape from the world. I finished writing it in 2017, and suddenly my life exploded with all kinds of adventures – I opened my wellness center, got a divorce, and went back to school. The Covid shut-down was a blessing in disguise for me, slowing me down enough to realize this was my chance to finally get all my hard work in print. I took advantage of the new freetime to do some final editing and researching, hired a designer through the publishing company I went through (IngramSpark), and she created the cover and interior and gave me step-by-step instructions on how to get it in print. I’m doing things a bit backwards, which is releasing the book BEFORE having a good marketing strategy. But word of mouth has worked well in my local area, and making connections on social media has been beneficial as well (which is how I’m here in this interview!).
Cassidy: And I’m glad we made the connection. *smiles* Covid has caused many creatives to change how they interact and engage with their audiences. I am impressed by the ingenuity I’ve seen.
After self-publishing your first book from start to finish, do you have any other projects in the works?
Jami: Of course I want to see where a few of my characters wind up after this story, so I’m writing another novel that is both a stand-alone story as well as a sequel, following the life of a few secondary characters from The Transcendent. I’m also still in school for life coaching and hypnotherapy, running my business as a massage therapist, and now homeschooling my two sons. I’ve got a lot going on!
Cassidy: And that’s a fact! I pray all the best in your literary and business endeavors. I hope we can collaborate again soon. I also want to thank you for your time.
Please share your social media and book contact information, so we can support your work and share it with others.
Hi all! As promised here is the news… Today I’m officially announcing across all of my social media platforms that I’ve converted my business to a small, indie publishing company. It will still include book coaching, editing, and editorial book reviewing services. But now there’s the option for authors to publish through my business as well. 😊
If anyone is interested or knows anyone looking for an indie publisher, please feel free to reach out or share. Here is the direct link: https://cassidyalee.com/services/
The accepted submission genres are diverse, and my company is not the usual “a la carte” small publisher. 😁
Cassidy: Welcome, Jenny! Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book, Christmas Caralyn.
Jenny: Hi, everyone. I am a sweet romance writer from Utah, an avid licorice eater, and a clog dancer. Christmas Caralyn will be my eighth published book and is a Christmas Carol retelling with a splash of romance.
Cassidy: Congratulations on publishing your eighth book! That is no small feat. What inspired you to write Christmas Caralyn?
Jenny: Christmas time is a special time of the year, and I love the original Christmas movies you watch every year. Christmas Carol is one of my favorites, so I wanted to try my own spin on the story and add a touch of romance.
Cassidy: New perspectives are always needed. *smile* Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?
Jenny: Caralyn can’t move past the death of her mother, which has turned her into a bit of a Scrooge. So this story is powerful in the fact that it shows how love heals broken hearts and teaches you to live in the present to honor those who have passed on. Despite the serious tone of the book, it does have sweet, fun moments.
Cassidy: Ah, I see. In that vein, what five words best describe your book?
Jenny: Romance, Holiday, Christmas, Healing, Moving on (okay that’s two 😉
Cassidy: *laughs* That’s okay. Moving on is certainly a theme connected to the holidays.
Would you mind sharing a highlight from the book?
Jenny: Because this book lightly follows the original story, Caralyn is visited by her mother who has passed, and one person, Bobby, an imagined ghost with a mission is sent to do her mom’s bidding. Bobby shows her memories from the past, present, and future throughout the month of December where she also learns her feelings for the real Bobby in the present.
Cassidy: Which character or part of the book was the most fun to write? Which part was the hardest?
Jenny: Kissing scenes are always my favorite. Kissing scenes are tricky. You can’t do them too soon or take too long to let them have their first kiss, but they run a mistletoe farm near LA, and conveniently, I use its presence in the story. And since I write clean romance, determining how much is too much and how much is not enough is also important.
Cassidy: Good point. Balance is key.
Let’s switch gears a bit. For the readers who are fellow writers, would you mind telling us how you combat writer’s block? And do you have any advice for other writers?
Jenny: I run accountability groups on Facebook where writers check in every night. I started doing this almost a year and a half ago because I myself hadn’t written or published in two years and felt upset I couldn’t find the motivation. It has helped so much to have partners to check in with every night and every week to share goals.
Cassidy: I concur. Accountability partners help a great deal. I often get random text messages with the questions, “Are you writing?!” It usually kicks me into motion. *laughs*
Now, with eight books in publication, I’m sure readers would like to know what marketing techniques you used to sell your book and which ones have been most successful?
Jenny: I am still working on this. You get what you put in, and I haven’t been able to do this so far. I make enough to pay for my editing jobs, my covers, and any software I need to write. But I am always learning new and better ways to market myself.
Cassidy: Juggling writing, marketing, and running accountability groups… I’m sure your schedule is packed.
Are you working on any new projects?
Jenny: Phew, I am working on a lot. I have the last book in my Fake Engagement collection, Something Blue, coming out in January. I have a reader magnet that complements book 3 in the collection and needs to be revised and edited. I am publishing a medical romance in October with my mom, and I have a Valentine’s book, which will hopefully be out by February. There are a few other projects that are written, but I am not sure what to do with them yet. So, those are the only big, planned pieces.
Cassidy: Seems like you have a lot coming down the pike. I’m sure your readers are anxiously waiting. *smiles*
I noticed you referred to yourself as a sweet romance writer. What motivated your decision to write clean romance?
Jenny: Honestly, this one is a big one for me. I was sexually abused when I was younger, and I have lots of triggers, especially when I read. And so, one of the reasons I chose to write clean romance is to show how beautiful and fulfilling a relationship and love can be without all of the physical aspects. There is a place for those kinds of things with a spouse or significant other, and I would rather see them in my own relationship and not through the eyes of another person.
Cassidy: Thank you so much for your transparency and openness. I’m sure readers will be able to glean from what you shared.
I would like to thank you again for your time. Please share your social media and book contact information with us. We would like to support your work and reshare your information where we can.
Jenny: Of course! Here are ways readers can contact me:
Danielle Lee is a licensed professional counselor supervisor and the owner of Solutions Focused Consulting. She has worked in MHRs since receiving her Master’s in 2013 from Southeastern Louisiana University. She received her LPC in August 2015 and become a LPC-S in August 2018. Ms. Lee is currently working on her Ph D in Counselor Education and Supervision with a concentration in Consultation at Walden University.
In previous positions, she has served as a Wraparound Facilitator and Mental Health Professional (MHP), providing individual and family counseling service to clients in their homes, in schools, and surrounding communities. As a Clinical Manager, she provided clinical supervision and training to non-licensed staff. As a Utilization Manager, she reviewed outpatient behavioral health requests from providers credentialed with Managed Care Organizations. Ms. Lee has experience opening satellite offices of already established MHRs.
In addition, she has developed training manuals and facilitated several mandated trainings. She has been through several credentialing processes such as CARF and Louisiana MCOs, along with surveys conducted by MCOs to ensure the agencies were up to standards.
Solutions Focused Consulting is a multifaceted agency, which offers a variety of mental health services. It offers Telehealth sessions for clients in the states of Louisiana and Texas. More importantly, Solutions Focused Consulting aims to ensure its clients mental health needs are being met.
Solutions Focused Consulting currently offers services for agencies that are in need of additional Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) support as well.
The following is provided:
Behavioral Health Assessments
Outpatient Treatment Request/Authorizations for CPST and/or PSR
Reviewing and Approving Client Notes
Cassidy: Welcome, Danielle! I’m glad to have you as my first guest feature interview. (For readers who may not be familiar, Danielle is my younger sister).
I’ll pretend I don’t know the answer to most of these questions. *smile* Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a brief explanation of your business, Solution Focused Consulting.
Danielle: Hello, My name is Danielle Lee. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Louisiana and Texas. I own Solution Focused Consulting. It is a virtual private practice that provides mental health counseling in Louisiana and Texas.
Cassidy: Having a virtual practice is definitely wise at this time. Would you tell our readers more about your services, please?
Danielle: As a virtual practice, clients can receive counseling from the comfort of their homes. Unlike a traditional office, where you have to make time to drive to the office and wait for your counselor, virtual sessions can be as easy as stopping your task, picking up your phone or laptop and starting your session. I offer individual sessions to a variety of individuals. I offer a non-judgmental, empathic, unconditionally positive atmosphere for all clients. I want them to feel empowered to tackle all of life’s challenges. I specialize in anxiety, coping skills, depression, people of color, women’s issues, and work/life balance.
Cassidy: Your consulting firm sounds quite diverse. Who or what inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?
Danielle: My parents were definitely big factors in why I pursued my own business. They had two rental homes we had the opportunity of renovating. While I was sad it took up my play/free time, I understood it was the legacy they wanted to pass down. They set the example for me moving forward. But more recently, I recognized I was helping others to grow their businesses and had nothing to show for it. I dedicated blood, sweat, and tears into others’ dreams. After deep reflection, I realized I had the skills and knowledge to pour into myself. I wanted something to show for all my hard work and dedication.
Cassidy: I completely agree. Building other peoples’ businesses was arduous, so I’m sure you’re happy to run your own. Throughout the process of constructing your business, what would you say are the best and worse parts of being an entrepreneur?
Danielle: One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is the flexibility. I am able to work when I want to without having a boss dictating my day. I came from some very toxic work environments and suffered from burnout. I struggled with my work/life balance during the times of having a 9-to-5 job. I know that it is not for me. Now, I have the best coworkers, my fur babies Lily and Keke at my side.
On the other hand, the worst part is not knowing how your income is going to look from week to week. Counseling is a fee for service. I only get paid when I have clients. If I have a series of no-shows, I generate no income. It can be scary at times but having my savings and decreasing my spending has been helpful.
Cassidy: Without a doubt, week-to-week can be a real nail bitter. Now I know there are many *smile*, but please list some of your greatest achievements or perhaps ones you are most proud of.
Danielle: One of my greatest achievements is starting my business. I technically have been open since 2016 passively. Then I realized I needed to step out on faith and go into business full-time.
Another great achievement of mine is getting accepted into my PhD program at Walden University. I am working on getting my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. I still have a few more terms to go, but I am close to the finish line.
Lastly, purchasing my own home. I purchased my home in June 2015. It was something I was so proud of myself for working up the courage to do. It was a hard process, but I made it to the other side.
Cassidy: You seem to have been very dedicated to your vision. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs struggling to balance their life and business?
Danielle: One thing I will tell other business owners is to make sure you are scheduling self-care into your schedule. I know it is easier said than done, but it is essential for maintaining the work/life balance. I teach my clients daily how their quality of life is directly impacted because of not taking care of themselves. Also, most people forget counseling is self-care, too. So if you are struggling with anxiety and depression, seeking a therapist can greatly improve your self-care.
Cassidy: Along the way, what marketing techniques have you used to sell your services? Which ones have been most successful?
Danielle: I’m still learning about the marketing side of things. I have been trying to increase my presence on social media by posting more content and joining Facebook groups that are about entrepreneurship. One site that has been helpful in marketing has been Psychology Today. I get more hits on that profile than any other site. There is an array of mental health professionals people can choose from when looking for help.
Cassidy: While you build your clientele, are you working on any new projects?
Danielle: Currently, I’m working on developing a course to assist other licensed mental health professionals in opening their own private practice. Also, I’m working on a journal prompt workbook. It will focus on self-discovery and self-care. If you haven’t noticed I’m a huge advocate of self-care. *laughs* I would love to make a set of self-care prompts as well. Still playing around with the idea.
Cassidy: With that in mind, where do you see your business in 3 years?
Danielle: I want to still be in business and thriving. I would love to see my business expanding as a group private practice and having other licensed mental health professionals join my team. I would like to offer CEU’s and other trainings to professionals, so they can continue to grow their skills.
Cassidy: I’m sure many will profit from the wealth of information and support you provide. I just want to thank you for taking the time out to speak to us. Please share your social media and business contact information with our readers, so they can get in touch or share your resources.