It’s May, the month for celebrating moms, and I am thrilled to have a coffee loving mom with me for this special coffee chat! Rachel Cabalse and I met through social media when we teamed up for a fun coffee-themed book giveaway. Since then, Rachel and I have been cheering each other on from across the country as we spread the word about our debut books. Grab your favorite mug; fill it with something delicious, and join Rachel and me as we talk about coffee, motherhood, and enjoying the writing journey.
Me: Describe your relationship with coffee. What is your go-to beverage? What about if you are relaxing? (haha!)
Rachel: My relationship with coffee is an ongoing love affair. We have grown together over the years – from being a child who just enjoyed the aroma as her parents brewed a pot every morning, to a young adult who used it solely for the caffeine element, to a budding entrepreneur who opened a kid-friendly coffee shop (Java Mama) back in 2013, and now full- circle as the parent whose children learned to pull a perfect double shot of espresso during the distance learning days of 2020 lockdown. My go-to coffee is usually black, unsweetened cold brew – or if I’m feeling frisky a cafe au lait. I don’t comprehend the last question. 😉
Me: When do you feel like a good mom?
Rachel: Very rarely. I am always worrying if I’m not enough, or at other times too much. But maybe if I have to pinpoint those moments, it’s probably when I hear my kids giggle. Or, when I see them help each other out. Those moments where I am fully present, away from my phone or work, and could just focus on them are probably when I feel good enough.
Me: What has been most surprising to you about motherhood?
Rachel: How much I learn from them. My kids have taught me to be patient and compassionate. Above all, they have made me a better listener which doesn’t come naturally to me. They see the world so pure; and, as they discover and ask questions, I gain new insight to things I would have never even wondered about before.
Me: Ask your kids to describe you. What did they say?
Rachel: 9- yr- old – “Kind, hard-worker, a never give up kind of person…yah like that.”
5 -yr -old – “She is so much fun and likes to play with me. I love her because she’s the best mom ever.”
Awww…thank you for making me do that exercise. I’m feeling a little teary-eyed now – let’s go back to question 2. My new answer is right now.
Me: When did you first feel like a writer? When did you first refer to yourself publicly as a writer?
Rachel: I didn’t actually refer to myself publicly as a writer until my book was published and available for purchase. That was November 3rd, 2020. Honestly, I’m not certain I even feel like a writer now!
Me: What was the first thing you ever wrote/published? How did you feel?
Rachel: The first thing I ever wrote was probably my Senior Honors Thesis on a study I did back in 2004. It was titled, “IM Online: Instant Messaging Use Among College Students.” Looking back now, especially knowing how much computer-mediated communication and social media has taken over our livelihood, it feels exciting to know I wrote about it nearly 20 years ago. My mentor actually utilized my findings and got published in the Communication Research Reports shortly after I graduated. It makes me feel accomplished, but not quite finished.
Me: How did your current project move from idea to actual, tangible book?
Rachel: Lockdown 2020. With all of the extra time on my hands, and with the kids getting older, I wanted to complete the book while they could still relate and appreciate the story. I had been sitting on the manuscript for nearly 4 years (after Java Mama closed) – so if there was a time for this to become tangible, it was now.
Me: Who is your book for?
Rachel: My family and all the Java Mamas.
Me: What do you want to work on next?
Rachel: My book, This Mommy Needs Some Coffee, was such a heart story for my love of coffee and my kids (who I love a little more as Melissa Face puts it!) that it’s hard to even think about another project. If anything, it’d have to be something as enjoyable for the parents AND kiddos like this one was. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy this next stage of life with my “babies!”
Trisha Faye and I have never met in person, but we connected years ago when she was editing an anthology, and I sent her a submission. Since then, we have floated in and out of the same writing circles, and this month we both have stories in the same Chicken Soup for the Soul collection! Grab a delicious drink, make yourself comfortable, and join us as we chat about story inspiration, justifying purchases, and much more!
Me: What are your earliest memories of being a writer?
Trisha: Let’s not talk about my earliest memories of being a writer. It wasn’t pretty. I remember an early college creative writing class. I don’t recall what I wrote about, but I entered class with my first story, and it got ripped to shreds! Young college students are not always the kindest with their critiques – at least these weren’t. And I was very bashful and had very thin skin. I never returned to that class.
It was probably about twenty years later before story nuggets began pestering my brain. But I still didn’t feel confident. So, I settled. I started a little newsletter about herbs – growing them, using them in the kitchen, and crafting with them. I think the nonfiction element of the topic made it safer for me. I didn’t feel like I was venturing out into dangerous waters.
About 12 years ago, I moved to Texas. And the stories kept prodding me. Since they wouldn’t leave me alone, I decided that I’d better start following that writing muse and see where the journey took me. I ended up submitting some articles to our small local newspaper. As each one was accepted, my confidence slowly grew. I joined a local writer’s group. And with the practice, and the monthly feedback and critique (in a much friendlier manner than the early class experience) my skin gradually thickened and I kept writing and growing.
Me: Tell us a little about your writing routine and your workspace. What is essential for you?
Trisha: I don’t have a regular routine because I also have a part- time job, with hours that vary from week to week. So, I juggle writing around that. Early morning, before I head to work, I use some of that time to interact on Facebook or work on planning. I find that I write better in the morning – but not too early. I need that first hour or so to clear the cobwebs, so it works best to use that for tasks that I don’t need all the circuits working in unison.
Since I don’t work on the weekends, I try to use those two days to accomplish a lot. Sometimes I’m successful; sometimes I’m not. I think one thing I’ve learned over the past few years (with a lot of reminders about it from a dear friend!) is to be easier on myself and not beat myself up if I don’t accomplish everything I set forth to do. Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else.
One thing that is essential for me is semi-quiet and peace. It doesn’t need to be absolutely silent, but when others in the household are blaring a TV all day long (I’m not mentioning any names!), it disrupts my thoughts. Once we cleared out a room for my ‘office’, so I wasn’t working in the main part of the house, my writing focus improved, and I became better at chipping away at all the projects I wanted to work on.
Me: What is the most unusual topic you’ve written about?
Trisha: I have a collection of journals that I’ve created. Three journals have been out for a while: My Historic Home Journal, My Museum Journal and My Family Heirloom Journal. Two others just became available last week: My Gratitude Journal and My Blessings Journal. But probably the most unusual topic I’ve written about will be in two others scheduled for this fall – My Cemetery Journal and Cemetery I Spy.
Yes, I’m the oddball in the family – the one that loves to spend time in old cemeteries, whether I have family members there or not. Luckily, here in Texas I fell in with a group of friends who also love to explore these remnants of our past. I’ve had an idea for a few cemetery books in relation to this, but I have a feeling that they may find themselves on the ‘B List’ of books that I don’t ever seem to find the time to work on. We’ll see. Time will tell on that topic.
Me: What is it like to publish an anthology? Any unusual experiences working with other writers?
Trisha: I’ve published four anthologies: In Celebration of Mothers, In Celebration of Sisters, Mothers of Angels and Mothers of Angels 2. That experience has been most interesting. What I’ve enjoyed most about it is meeting so many other phenomenal authors. I’ve been blessed and many have become treasured friends. You and I met through the Sisters anthology, with your story, A Sibling Thing, about your sister that you lost due to a car accident.
The Mothers of Angels anthologies are stories about losing children, in honor of my stepson that we lost to cancer at 23 years old. Those two books hold my heart, as it goes out to all the people who shared their pain and heartache with us in their stories.
Me: You have a story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book that will be out later this month. Can you give us some hints about your story?
Trisha: Yes, I’m in the Be You volume that is releasing April 6. My story is ‘Seventeen Words’. It’s about how a phrase entered my life and ended up shaping many of my actions.
“Let go of anything inauthentic and all activities that do not mirror your brightest intentions for yourself.”
In my story, I talk about how this phrase entered my life and how it came to mean so much to me. I started using these seventeen words as a magnifying glass for what I wanted. Those words changed so much in my life. It ended the five virtual farms I had going at the time – Farmville, Farmtown, and I don’t recall all the names. But I sat on the computer so many hours of the day, farming, farming, farming – while a whole yard in back sat dormant and ignored. These words forced me to look at my life and examine so many aspects, measuring them against this yardstick of authenticity.
Me: What do you like about Chicken Soup and other story collections?
Trisha: As a reader I enjoy the Chicken Soup collections because they have such a variety of stories in each volume. Plus, they’re short enough that you can sit and read a few stories, and then sit the book down and continue on with other tasks, not needing large segments of time to read.
As a writer, I like the topics that they have. In my venture to get more acceptances (I’m still far, far, far behind how many stories you’ve had accepted by them!), it keeps my mind spinning to think of ideas to write about, and it keeps me striving to improve my writing.
Me: What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Trisha: What I’ve been having a lot of fun with is writing historical fiction short stories based on items from the past. I’ve gathered items from different antique stores, such as books with the flyleaf inscribed by the owner of one hundred years ago. Or I have a collection of letters written by a soldier in World War 2 to his then girlfriend, who he ended up marrying until their deaths many years later. Sometimes it’s a photograph, or an embroidered dish towel and I simply think of who might have owned this, or who might have sat and lovingly stitched the dish towel or quilt square. And then I spin a tale about who I think might have been connected to this piece from the past, and what might have happened. And the story grows from there.
Or, am I simply trying to justify all the wondrous items that I purchase in antique stores and flea markets? Possibly.
Me: What do you enjoy outside of writing?
Trisha: Oh – so many ways to spend the days. I never get bored. There are grandchildren to visit (that I haven’t seen since Covid entered our lives). At home there’s the yard and the masses of flowers to tend to. I’ve given up on vegetables since moving to Texas. They just haven’t cooperated with me here. There’s crafting – stitchery, weaving, glass fusing, papermaking, soapmaking, so many things I enjoy creating. Although the past few years I think I’ve crafted more with words than fibers.
Me: Tell us about some upcoming projects or a piece you are currently writing.
Trisha: I’m excited about a Christmas book I’m planning for 2021. I’m still researching and developing the characters I want to use to tell the story. I should begin writing it by the end of the month. It’s a story that I ran across while researching a short story that was set in Iowa. In Algona, Iowa, during World War 2, there was a POW camp there that housed several thousand German soldiers.
Several of the German POW’s created a nativity scene their first Christmas there and held a special Christmas Eve service, singing to God in their native tongue. The camp commander asked them to make a larger nativity scene for the next year. Four POWs worked all year on it. The war ended before they were quite done with it, so they stayed several months longer to finish it up. When it was completed, Christmas 1945, there was a special service, and they left the nativity scene to the town of Algona. All these years later, the nativity scene is still there and still viewed every year. Last year, 2020, was the first year that the display wasn’t open to the public because of Covid.
Me: What else would you like readers to know about you? What is the best way for them to find your work?
Trisha: I often joke that I was born on the cusp of Gemini/Cancer. My heart loves and nurtures with a true Cancer spirit. But my writing – my writing is pure flighty Gemini. Sometimes I wish I had one interest and passion and all my writing efforts went into that. But, alas, I don’t. There are so many things I like to dabble in with my writing. A little inspirational, a little bit for children, a lot about pieces from the past, a dab of this, and a smattering of that.
I am so happy to be chatting with Heather Weidner this month. Heather writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series set in Virginia. Her new cozy series with vintage trailers and tiny houses, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, launches in October 2021.
Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries.
She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime – Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Fill your mug with something delicious and join us as we chat about productive writing schedules, character inspiration, and research questions that you probably shouldn’t Google.
Me: When did you first feel like a writer? When did you first refer to yourself as one?
Heather:I really felt like a writer when the first anthology arrived with my name and picture on it. That’s also probably when I first thought of myself as a published author. I’ve been writing since elementary school; I’ve always enjoyed writing.
Me: What was the first article or essay you published?
Heather: I had technical manuals and articles published for the day gig, but the first big article (with my byline) was a Christmas story published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. About the same time, I sold some clues to a trivia game, and that had a byline, too.
Me: Describe your writing schedule.
Heather: I am a binge writer. I know that I am more productive if I write every day, but life often gets in the way. I try to do some writing (or revising/book marketing) every day. I decided when the work-from-home mandate went into effect because of the pandemic, I would use my commute time to write. It has been a productive year. I finished two novels, started a third, finished two short stories, and finished a novella. I also get up at five every morning.
Me: What are some items you must have in your work space?
Heather: My dogs. They are the fuzzy muses. We have two Jack Russell Terriers (Disney and Riley). They help me plot murder, and they listen as I work out dialogue. I also have to have chocolate, Dr. Pepper, and iced coffee.
Me: What do you enjoy about being a member of different writing groups?
Heather: I love my writing groups. Writing is mostly a solitary effort. My writer friends are so generous with their time, energy, and encouragement. It is so helpful to know that you’re not alone.
Me: You have written many mysteries. What is your inspiration for those? Have you ever faced a real-life mystery? Unusual or unexplainable situation?
Heather: I’m a CK (Cop’s Kid). I thought everyone talked about murder and mayhem at the dinner table. I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case. My dad is a retired police captain, but he’s still my best resource. There are just some things you don’t want to Google. “Hey, Dad, what does a meth lab smell like? How long would a body stay submerged?” I have loved Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew since childhood, so I’ve always been on the lookout for mysteries. When I was four, I uncovered reindeer tracks in the snow on our front porch. (Sadly, the culprit was the German Shepherd next door, and not Santa’s crew.) I work in IT (software testing and governance). Software testing is rife with mysteries that have to be solved daily.
Me: I love your character Delanie. Is she based on anyone you know in real life?
Heather: Most of my characters are based on traits or characteristics from multiple sources. Delanie’s a sassy PI who runs toward danger. She does things that I would never think to do in real-life. I like to imagine her as a grown-up Nancy Drew. (All of my sleuths are redheads because I write what I know.)
Me: What is the best advice about writing you have ever received?
Heather: Don’t give up. If you want to be a published author, you need to persevere. Writing is work, and you have to put the time in to build your skills and your audience.
Me: What is the nicest/coolest thing a reader has ever said to you?
Heather: “I read your book in one night. When does the next one come out?”
Me: What are you currently working on?
Heather: I have a three-book deal for my latest cozy mystery. It’s set in a vintage trailer park near Charlottesville. The resort also has tiny houses. Jules Keene, the owner, turned a traditional campground into an upscale resort for the glamping craze. This launches in October. I’m working on the fourth Delanie mystery and an idea for a new cozy set at the beach. I have a new Mutt Mystery (dog-themed) novella coming out this year, and I’m working on a short story project with a bunch of cool authors called Mystery by the Glass.
Me: What is the best way for readers to connect with you and find your work?
Heather: My books are available at your favorite book store or retailer. My website is http://heatherweidner.com. Hop over to my website and blog and drop me a message. I’d love to hear from you.
Purchase a Delanie Fitzgerald mystery here
Order your copy of I Love You More Than Coffeehere.
In recent months, Zibby Owens, creator and host of the award-winning podcast MomsDon’t Have Time to Read Books, has offered book recommendations on Good MorningAmerica and had her upcoming anthology included in Town & Country’s list of 28 Must-Read Books of Winter 2021. Zibby is a fan of strong voices and excellent writing, and she is an advocate for busy moms everywhere. She recently created Moms Don’t Have Time To Lose Weight – a podcast and private support group on Instagram for women who simply want to feel better about their bodies.
I am so happy to have spent a little time chatting with Zibby this month about the power of a good book, what she would do with an extra hour each day, and her upcoming anthology that will be raising money for a cause so close to her heart. Fill your mug with something yummy, and find time to read our interview!
Me: Are you a regular coffee drinker? What is your favorite beverage? Zibby: YES. Three cups a day. Hard to admit it because in my head I only drink two a day, but I almost always make an exception for that third cup, so…. I prefer k-cup produced coffee at home to store-bought, although I typically drink Starbucks Breakfast Blend. Coffee is my favorite beverage. By far!
Me: You’ve been called a book influencer and a top literary podcast host, among many other impressive titles. Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Zibby: I’m most proud of being able to help 60+ amazing authors create original works during the pandemic. While I released them on my website at the time, I’m now getting them out into the world in anthology form in Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology. I’m also proud of the fact that I could interview Alicia Keys without being so star-struck that I clammed up!
Me: Describe an early childhood experience or relationship with a book that influenced your love of reading. Zibby: I remember finishing Charlotte’s Web, hiding in my bathroom after my parents had put me to bed, and crying. I didn’t realize how much books could make me feel until that moment (at age 8!), and I haven’t stopped craving that connection since.
Me: Moms barely have time to go to the bathroom, much less find long stretches of time for uninterrupted reading. When do you make time to read? How do you prioritize yourself and other activities you enjoy? Zibby: Who says my reading time isn’t interrupted?!?! I’m interrupted constantly! But I just have to get back to it. I don’t lounge on the sofa mid-day reading. It’s more that I’m pacing outside the kids’ rooms while they protest bedtime each night for about an hour with a book in hand, reading as I walk in circles, or I’m listening to an audiobook in the car driving them somewhere, or I read at my desk while they’re in school. I also treat myself to a book before bed every night once they finally fall asleep. And, I’m divorced and remarried, so every other weekend I have a lot more time to myself to read.
Me: If you were gifted an extra hour of free time at the end of each day, how would you spend it? Zibby: Replying to more emails. I hate when they pile up, and I wake up to an overflowing inbox. But if I’d gotten everything done (ha!)…. I’d spend it cuddled up next to my husband watching a movie or TV show. I can’t even remember the last time we did that!
Me: Why is the anthology important to you? What would you like readers to know about it? Zibby: First of all, I’m donating all the proceeds to the Susan Felice Owens Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Research, so I’m trying to get the word out to get us all a vaccine option. My mother-in-law passed away from COVID last summer in a horrific six-week battle with it, and I want to spare other families from going through that. Also, it’s a work I’m really proud of. The words of these authors will help other readers out there connect, feel less alone, and, perhaps like the young me crying in my bathroom, feel emotions that sustain them. It’s a deeply personal work that exemplifies why I do everything I do: to connect readers to authors, to help the right person find the right story for them at the right time, and to help busy people –like moms! — fit more reading into their lives.
Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology will be available February 12, 2021. Order your copy here.
Purchase I Love You More Than Coffee by Melissa Face here.
Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Hancock, founder of Legacy Roasting in Hopewell, VA. My children and I visited his store on Library Street that is housed in a 1920s historic brick building. We learned a little about the roasting process, held raw coffee beans, and purchased several bags of coffee to take home. I was an instant fan of both coffee (The Wonder City Blend is my favorite) and owner.
For my first coffee chat of the year, I am thrilled to be talking with Larry about entrepreneurship, parenting, and building community. Larry has a lot brewing in 2021 – both personally and professionally – and he’s ready to spill the beans!
Me: So, you own a coffee roasting company, but are you a regular coffee drinker? What are some of your favorite beverages?
Larry: I’m more of a social coffee drinker as opposed to a functional one. Instead of needing a cup of coffee every morning (to get through the day), I’m more likely to drink coffee when I’m hanging out with others or when I’m doing coffee drop-offs. Ultimately, I love how coffee brings people together, whether I’m meeting friends or supporting the local shops we work with. I judge a product by tasting attributes. Coffee is a subjective beverage, however, so the presentation by the barista also plays a part. My go-to beverage is a cortado when I can stop and drink coffee, a pour-over when I have plenty of time to sit and relax, and a mocha when I’m on the go.
Me: How did you start your business? What were the early days like when you first opened?
Larry: Legacy Roasting Company was started in February 2014 in my parents’ garage. My dad found that a Chevy windshield wiper motor turned at the right RPM to turn a metal drum over the grill flame. We primarily sold to friends and family and at the farmers market. It was a great way to test the brand and meet folks in our community.
Me: What are some of your professional goals?
Larry: My goal is to continue a community-minded business model. A company called Zingermans in Ann Arbor, Michigan influenced how I view business. Basically what I learned about making an impact in your community is: 1. Listen to the needs of your community and 2. Build opportunities for it. Legacy Roasting hopes to move to a job development model where people can come in and start as an internship to learn job skills and then from there they could stay employed at Legacy Roasting, or we could help them start their own business. Going into 2021, I would like to build a real estate side to the business to allow more affordable housing to the tri cities area.
Me: What is the most stressful part about parenting? What are you enjoying about raising children?
Larry: Since living as an entrepreneur includes wearing all the different hats, the most stressful part is always making sure I can be the best dad possible. I want my kids to know I love them. I’m fortunate to have a loving wife and family who support me, so it does make it easier. I just always want to make sure I understand my “why” in everything I do. What I enjoy most about parenting is it has deepened my wife’s and my relationship. We’ve learned to communicate better. I also enjoy how my daughter has taught me to find wonder in what seems like the simple things in life. Now that we have one daughter and identical twin girls on the way, I’m really regretting our current house choice – we only have one shower! All jokes aside, I think the biggest thing I didn’t realize is by having a kid, your “why” in life changes dramatically. My need for personal time has shifted to “I want to make sure my kid is loved and cherished, and I would do anything for her to know she is loved”.
Me: What would you like your “Legacy” to be?
Larry: “Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:8. I would want my legacy not to be about what I created, but be measured by the positive impact that can be felt in a community (fewer individuals who are homeless, more jobs, less crime, etc.). Time is our most valuable asset, and how we spend it counts. We should be willing to freely give it in the areas that matter most.
Me: How can customers learn more about Legacy?
Larry: Customers can order online, or follow our journey by going to legacyroasting.com. We offer local delivery, shipping across the US, and coffee subscription programs.