Newbie author self-publishing checklist

This is the third post in my educational series, Self-Publishing 101. Perhaps one of the most overwhelming issues in publishing a book is where to start. Most don’t know what questions to ask because they don’t know enough to ask. Hopefully my lessons will help you find your way.

And please if you have any questions, you’re welcome to leave a comment.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I believe Joanna Penn, a highly successful self-published author, has the perfect recipe for a successful writing career. Each book you write, publish and market, will offer a new set of lessons, and one of the things Joanna stresses is sharing your knowledge with others. You can find Joanna’s links in my Self-Publishing 101 Links lesson.

One of Joanna’s helpful posts was a self-publishing checklist for new authors. I believe this is a good place to start as our brains seem to comprehend lists better than standard paragraphs. I’ve taken some of her suggestions and modified them for print books plus added my own suggestions.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with flowcharts. That would be the perfect format for a newbie author in learning how to write and publish a book. There are many twist and turns depending on the phase of the book and the format such as with or without photos, print, ebook or both. The list below tries to use the same flow chart concept, give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

1. Determine your style of book: fiction or non-fiction.

2. Finalize the genre.

3. Print or ebook, or both.

4. Once the title is finalized, apply for an ISBN number (if you use Amazon CreateSpace, or many of the printer services, they will do it for you). But there is only once source that provides the ISBN number and that is Bowker. You will also need a bar code and Bowker does that as well.

5. Schedule time for a graphic designer for your cover (they book up fast, so just block some time). As a side note, if you use Amazon CreateSpace or other all-in-one publishing services, this graphic design is included or provided with an additional fee.

5. Not a bad idea to schedule time for editors as well, or anyone that needs to work/read/review/format/print your book when finished. Let them know you are working on a book and an estimated finish date. Then keep in touch as you go along. I’m learning that now working on my third and fourth book. Especially if the estimated published date is going to be in the last quarter. September and October is a very busy time for designer and editors.

6. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to begin scheduling your book signings and speaking presentations now as well. I’ve learned from the past that many places book up to six months ahead of time, and some authors book them way in advance before they even have their title.

7. When you have finalized the scope of the book, give the info to your graphic designer so they can begin formulating some book cover proofs. You don’t want the book to be finished and edited then wait a month for the book cover design. This can be done while your writing the book. I wrote a draft of my book description and sent some photos I liked to my designer so she could be working on it while I finished the book. It’s important they understand the scope and backdrop of the book as they base everything from fonts to color on your book content.

8. Finalize a rough draft of the book.

9. Send to editors, beta readers (friends, family or people who like to critique books).

10. Make their suggested changes and finalize the manuscript. Again give yourself time as there will be many edits and rewrites.

11. Write the following pages: copyright, acknowledgement, introduction, author page, bibliography if needed (usually non-fiction), appendix if the book contains verbiage that needs defining (mainly non-fiction). In re to the copyright page, it’s okay to use copyright pages from other books as a guide, or I’m sure there’s something online.

12. Make sure the author page has all your marketing (Call to Action) info: email, website, social media, signup link for your newsletter. Write the back book blurb or promo used for the cover jacket if it’s a hard back book.

13. Now send the completed manuscript to what’s called a proof-reader for typos and syntax (punctuation).

14. Do the edits from the proof reader. Read the entire book out loud several times.

15. After you have completed all the edits, it’s time to hand over the final copy to your graphic designer for complete book/font/cover design (used for print and ebook, be sure to get the file when finished in both pdf and jpeg. Some printers may even want CMYK). Remember if you are using Amazon CreateSpace or other printing services, graphic design is available.

16. You will need a website under your name to sell and promote your book as well as your blog. The website should be self-hosted and under your name. is fairly easy to learn and one of the most commonly used.

17. Okay, now your book is finished, and you are ready to send to your printer or ebook formatter. I highly reccommend my contacts for both quality and price if you are doing everything separately. Their contact info is listed on my Self Publishing 101 Links.

18. I’ll be doing another post on all the products and services Amazon provides for the self-publishing author. Again, another decision box for that virtual flow chart. If you want to do both print and ebook, Amazon CreateSpace can do that for you. They are not the publisher, just a service that prints and/or promotes your book. There’s actually a menu of services. You have the option of print on demand for buyers, the option to buy your own books that you can use at book signings or speaking presentations, and also a calculation that will tell you your royalty payments on both print and ebook.

19. You will need to set up an Amazon author account and read several of their tutorials. And then there’s Goodreads. I’ll go into the different marketing programs and options in another post as it will only clutter this post for now.

20. Lulu is another printing/ebook program, along with many others. There are also online posts from people who compare the pros and cons from both Amazon and Lulu. Smashwords is another program that can publish and distribute your ebook to multiple outlets. You can click on the link for more details.

That’s it for another lesson for self-publishing newbie authors. Would love to hear some input. If you have any suggestions or questions please add your comments below.

Happy Writing…

Small Town Churches

When I first began my historic church column, I fell in love with the people, history and that unique presence that lives inside these heavenly havens. I’ll never forget my first assignment hauling all kinds of gear including my recorder, camera bag, tripod and notebook. It was the beginning of a new calling, a passion that continues to grow.

As I sat down to write that first article, I studied the photographs and listened closely to the recording. The words began to flow devoted to the language of art, architecture and the generations who built these lordly monuments.

I returned with several copies of the magazine and they were overwhelmed with appreciation. One prominent member of the church took me to the side, holding the magazine close to her chest, she said, “Ms. Burst you have found your ministry, God has given you a gift.”

That was 12 years ago and I have honored that ministry with a long list of articles and two books. I continue my quest to share more of Louisiana churches in my Louisiana’s Sacred Places series of books. I’m currently researching churches for my next book due out 2016. If you would like to recommend a church, please leave a comment below.

Until then, enjoy this post as I share some of my favorite churches across the Louisiana back roads and towns along the way.

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St Martin de Tours church, St. Martinville, LA


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St Martin de Tours church altar, St. Martinville, LA


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Our Lady of Peace Meditation Chapel, Columbia, LA.


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Our Lady of Peace Meditation Chapel interior, Columbia, LA

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Old country church on backroads of Pointe Coupee Parish, LA


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United Methodist nave, Jackson, LA


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United Methodist upstairs pew window, Jackson, LA


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Lourdes chapel, Lacombe, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St Francis Church, River Road near New Roads, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St Francis Church interior, River Road near New Roads, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St. Stephens, Innis, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St. Stephens interior, Innis, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website


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Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans. Autographed books available via this website


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Christ Episcopal Church pews, Covington, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans. Autographed books available via this website


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Trinity Lutheran, Abita Springs, LA


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Trinity Lutheran church altar, Abita Springs, LA


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Clinton Baptist church, Clinton, LA


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Covington Presbyterian Church, Covington, LA


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Church on the bayou, Gibson, LA


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Interior of church on the bayou, Gibson, LA


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Natchitoches Hwy 119 church, LA


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Mount Olivet Episcopal Church, Algiers, New Orleans, LA


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Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church, Morgan City, LA

Louisiana cemeteries that leave you dying for more…

Louisiana enjoys a melange of cultures and customs blurring the lines between the sacred and the profane. It is here you will find Louisiana’s cities of the dead, tombs shrouded with weeping oaks and the Creole tradition of lighting the graves. Each with its own personality, from the ornate to the Gothic, these photos are a fitting tribute to a soulful state that celebrates death with the same joyous zeal as they celebrate life. New Orleans cemeteries are available for tours and most country cemeteries are open from dawn to dusk.

Unlike other sites, these pictures are part of my ongoing work in documenting the beauty of Louisiana’s historic cemeteries. I’m a Louisiana local, a professional writer and photographer, and all the photos are originals and copyrighted.*

1. St. Louis No. 1, New Orleans

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 Just outside the French Quarter, ghastly but poignant neighbors share common grounds with New Orleans trailblazers, politicians, and Voodoo queens.

2. St. Louis No. 3, New Orleans

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       Here amid an oncoming cool front, storm clouds funnel a soft glow across a row of tombs inside St. Louis No. 3 cemetery

3. St. Roch Cemetery, New Orleans

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People still believe in the miracles of St. Roch which is evidenced inside a small room on the right-hand side of the St. Roch chapel altar.  In what appears to be a ghastly torture chamber is in fact a collage of heart-felt stories that give thanks to St. Roch for healing minds, bodies and souls.

4. Holt Cemetery, New Orleans

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Not far from City Park, tucked away behind a college parking lot, Holt Cemetery is New Orleans’ only underground graveyard.

5. Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery, New Orleans

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One of the more prominent cemeteries in New Orleans, Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery is known for its elaborate stained glass windows.

6. Night of the Dead, Lacombe Cemeteries

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The lighting of the cemeteries, an All Saints Day tradition shard by Creole families, descended from Early Native American, African American and French settlers.

7. Covington Cemetery

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Resurrection vines crawl across the sprawling oak branches paying tribute to the pioneers and heroes who founded and built the historic town of Covington.

8. Madisonville Cemetery, Madisonville

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A courageous group of locals have restored this 200-plus-year cemetery along the banks of the Techfuncte River in Madisonville. There are many stories of hauntings including a mother looking for her children after the entire family drown when their car plunged into the river.

9. Grace Church, St. Francisville

st F wide treesShadows of the past come alive inside a ghoulish art exhibit shrouded by weeping strands of moss and poetic epitaphs of beloved children, prominent aristocrats and fallen war heroes.

10. Jewish Cemetery, Hwy 10 near Clinton

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Past the stoic wrought iron fence under a deep perimeter of towering pines and oaks, marble and granite monuments lay claim to many Jewish souls. Among them, were early cotton merchants that helped build Clinton’s commercial and cultural life in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

11. Clinton Confederate Cemetery, Clinton

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The town of Clinton in East Feliciana Parish owns a rich history of cemeteries and home to Confederate heroes inside the Clifton Confederate Cemetery.

12. Port Hudson National Cemetery, Zachary

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The Port Hudson Cemetery is a national cemetery that began as a resting place for both Union and Confederate soldiers that died during the siege of Port Hudson. Burials began in 1863, and today the cemetery is at capacity home to 13,000 former members of the US Military and their spouses.

13. St. Stephens Episcopal Church Cemetery, Innis 

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Located behind St. Stephens Church, built in a Gothic Revival architecture, both the church and cemetery were consecrated in 1859. The grounds is located along HWY 418 a country road skirting the Mississippi River where every turn is a history lesson.

14. St. Francis Chapel cemetery, New Roads

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St. Francis was the first church in the region and began the move to Christianity in 1728, the church was built ten years later.

15. Holy Rosary Cemetery, Larose

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Don’t be turned away by rainy days when shooting cemeteries, this beauty was found after taking a u-turn looking for another cemetery. Right after parking, the rain stopped and nature provided a fitting reflection for the eternal abodes.

16. Southdown Cemetery, Houma

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Both a sobering and eloquent display, Southdown Cemetery is home to children’s graves filled with their favorite toys. This picture was taken against a brutal sky from a wicked line of thunderstorms. Not a drop fell during the photo shoot, perhaps the children loved the attention and willed away the encroaching storms.

17. St. Mary Cemetery, Raceland

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Raised brick tombs of this design were built for families accommodating 2-12 burials above the ground. Most brick tombs were plastered, but in this case it appears the tombs are struggling with decay. The dates are in the 1870s.

18. Young Family Cemetery, Zachary

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Along a winding country road, the Young Family Cemetery was first used to bury the children of James Young with land donated in 1874. The grounds were thick with chestnuts and filled with squirrels scampering across the tombstones.

 19. Morgan City Cemetery, Morgan City

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The Morgan City Cemetery is a stunning example of different cultures that have come together in the after-life. It is also home to the gravesite of Ada Bonner Leboeuf, the first woman to hang in Louisiana in 1929, a crime even today is still being researched. Could her spirit still be lingering among the weeping moss?

20. Old Jackson Cemetery, Jackson

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 In the historic town of Jackson, Louisiana, the Old Jackson Cemetery is home to Confederate War heroes. The cemetery is open for viewing from dawn to dusk and the town is filled with many nationally recognized historic buildings and churches.

*The prose and many of the pictures in this post are from my book Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo. Print and ebook are available on Amazon or order autographed copies via this website.

The Power of Storytelling

Ten Primary Points of Speaking Presentations

I’ve noted before I’m a non-fiction writer concentrating more on creative nonfiction. A key part in writing, whether fiction or non fiction, is storytelling. That same skill set can follow through from your writing to your presentations.

I’m fortunate because I’m a photographer and use photography prominently in my writing, throughout my books and part of my speaking events. Therefore I have visuals to assist me in engaging my audience and increasing sales.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been in the position of equipment failures with no visual assistance. It is there that true speaking skills and capitalizing on your surroundings comes into play.

In this blog I will address the power of storytelling, some do’s and don’ts, and working with and without visual presentations.

1. Don’t read from a sheet of paper.  Reading is boring, the brain becomes numb and you lose eye contact with your audience. There needs to be inflection in your voice, drama, excitement, laughter, sadness, all the emotions you see in a good movie or play. Just as your books build a plot so does storytelling.

2. Take note of Q&A sessions. After my talks some people have come up and asked me if I took acting lessons or was an actress at some point in my life. That was a true sign I was doing something right. Use props, a chair, move around, and above all, be animated. Some of the questions also provide clues in the key ingredients of your story.

3. Presentation software. I use Prezi rather than Powerpoint. I find it has a deeper dimension, more artistic and more active. Use some text to break portions of the photo gallery in your Prezi presentations. If you do use Powerpoint be sure to include visuals.

4. Preventing speaking boredom. I like to follow the chapters of my book as it helps establish a momentum. However, to prevent speaker boredom, that is doing the same presentation over and over, pick a different theme with your storytelling. One of my most successful presentations was changing the focus to “Writing With Visuals” in that I gave a story of how each chapter developed, the backstory of my photo shoots and researching the data.

5. Shy in speaking. If you believe you are an introvert or not a speaker, remember this, all writers are storytellers and like writing it requires practice and education. Study other talented storytellers, watch podcasts or TedX talks on storytelling. You could also imagine you are telling the story to a friend or a small group of your fans.

6. Knowing when to promote. As I mentioned before it’s important to build the plot, the story, engaging the audience, developing that “What’s going to come up next?” moment. That’s when their mind is absolutely open and you can feed the core of your message. One of the mistakes authors make is too much promotion, especially in social media. It’s all about building your audience and fan base.

7. Bring passion to the stage. Writing is the loneliest job in the world, living in monkish isolation and taking incredible risks. Writers long for the magic, that spark that fills the page and that ripple effect in reaching others. Telling your story out loud is emotional literacy at its best. Harness the essence of your book, your subject and bring the passion to the stage.

8. Know your audience. As I mentioned in my intro sometimes the worst situations can bring the most creative results. I was invited by a friends-of-the-library group to do a luncheon speaking presentation. It was set in a church lunchroom in a rural Louisiana town that I featured in my book. Looking out the window, across the street was a prominent museum and cemetery that also graced the pages of my book. This was a group of avid readers, proud of their town and perhaps dreams of becoming writers. I kept that in mind while telling my stories. When I learned their TV was 20 years old and not compatible with my computer, I opened the talk with an apology that my Mac computer was being a snob and said, “Please, you want me to hook up with this?!” They laughed and I proceeded to tell them how surreal the day had become pointing out the window to the town’s beautiful landmarks that inspired me. I continued to share my love for their town, and how a wrong turn on a road trip introduced me to their tiny paradise. They were smiling, laughing and clapping on and off with every story told. I sold the most books ever that day speaking in one of the smallest towns.

9. How was the book born? Another story that audience’s generally enjoy is the story in how the book was born, the trials and tribulations, tales of depression to complete euphoria. In my first book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans, there is a chapter about a self-taught architect that built 30 Roman Catholic churches and schools. He never received any recognition. I briefly mentioned his name in a magazine article and my editor made a mistake when editing and left in a question, “Who is he?” Long story short, a family member called to speak with me and I became their own personal storyteller, but no place to tell the story. After repeated failures to get it published in magazines, I decided to dedicate an entire chapter to this architect and his family. It took nearly 10 years. The book is now owned by some prominent American Bishops, Cardinals in the Vatican, and Pope Francis himself. When I told this story to that small group, there was a unified gasp and a round of applause. I wasn’t grandstanding, I was just sharing a heartfelt story.

10. Heartfelt Stories. Heart, speaking from your heart in both writing and speaking presentations is probably one of the hardest and most gratifying. In the TEDxDrigo video listed below, Susan Conley speaks from her heart and invites others to do the same. From her own personal despair to championing her dreams, she is a master in the art of storytelling and reaching others. She begins with her childhood and how her incessant daydreaming helped her write. As a teenager it was discovering the lyrics of music and their poetic tales of woe and celebrations, and the story continues into adulthood and journaling the dark side of post-cancer blues. She builds her story by examining the power of a story, the inner life, the hope, fear and passion, creating connectivity at the simplest level.

Perhaps the perfect ending to this storytelling lesson is to watch this emotional journey of telling the story.





Charming Charleston

Charming Charleston

Historic churches and cemeteries around every corner

By Deborah Burst

Looking out my 12-story corner suite in the heart of downtown Charleston, a perfect rainbow stretches from the bay to the sea forming a halo above this sacred city. It was truly a magical moment and a sign of things to come with churches and cemeteries around every corner.

Much like New Orleans, Charleston is a walking town, and offers a complimentary trolley car that tours the downtown district. Another plus is the historic Francis Marion Hotel conveniently located downtown with panoramic views of the city. The historic décor fits perfectly with your stay and everyone from the bellhops to the concierge, are all eager to please. Be sure to get a trolley guide with the churches, historic homes and museums mapped out with locations and names.

Our first stop was the Circular Congregational Church, one of the oldest continuously worshipping congregations in the south. Located at the corner of Meeting and Queen Street, our stroll along the sidewalk came to an abrupt stop. Worn headstones stand at attention just beyond the black fencing bordering the sidewalk. I look up and stare in awe, like a castle from medieval times the church rises from a garden of tombstones shaded by oak, cedar and palm trees. Stout squirrels scurry about perching themselves on top of faded stones stained with years of wear. It’s a forever home for a faithful congregation, one that began in 1681, and the oldest burial ground in the city with graves from the 18th century. The oldest is a brick grave structure from 1685 that holds the Simonds family on the south side of the property.

As I examine the intricate detail, my senses are heightened with the sweet aroma of blooming ligustrum and the damp air growing stronger with an encroaching storm. It is here inside this gothic graveyard that the dead continue their story. The funerary architecture brings to life the religious and artistic history of a young and struggling colony. Slates of the Peronneau family offer a storyboard of death in colonial America, from the skull and crossbones to the skull with wings, then portrait busts from primitive to classical. According to the church’s website, the cemetery has endured many hardships with a fire, earthquake, vandalism and even a cannonball from the British during Sunday services in 1780. Recently restored by the Historic Charleston Foundation, it is a stunning portrait of southern art.

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A telling video on their website paints an eloquent story of a strong-willed congregation that loaned the Continental Congress 17,000 pounds toward the revolution and freedom of America. In 1804 the circular church was built to accommodate its 2,000 members including black & white, slave and free. Today’s church grew from the ashes of a fire in 1861 and welcomes people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds promoting racial progress, gender equality, economic justice, environmental stewardship and support for public education.

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Inside the church arched beams flow from the curved ceiling in a web across the sanctuary. The curved pews gather around a simplistic altar dressed in solid wood and a Celtic cross. Narrow stained glass windows follow the curved walls while the organ resides in the loft. It is a masterpiece, perhaps the only highly decorated piece in the entire church. The brass pipes are painted with olive and cinnamon colored designs encased by amber wood. It is an exceptional tracker organ built for a church in Boston in 1890 then moved and restored in 1987.

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As we exited the church, a deafening clap of thunder greeted our journey back to the hotel. The heavens seemed to christen us in our most sacred discovery. I caressed my camera under a small umbrella while my husband and I scurried from one shop to another for temporary shelter.

Our salvation was Nick’s BBQ restaurant, the original Nicks as they have franchised across the south. We toasted our trail with local craft beer and pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches. As we walked back to the hotel, the sky began to clear and then the rainbow. It was a sign, a sign of redemption, and the beginning of many more tales of Charleston churches and cemeteries.

Side bar

Francis Marion Hotel, 843-722-0600,

Circular Congregational Church, 843-577-6400,

Charleston Visitor Center, 800-774-0006,

Nick’s Original BBQ restaurant, 843-577-0406,

Deborah will continue her journey sharing the beauty of Charleston’s sacred places in the next several issues of Louisiana Road Trips. Learn more about Deb’s latest projects and her current book, “Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo,” in this month’s author highlight. Order print and eBook via Amazon or signed copies from

Skip’s Lonely Road to Heaven


Just weeks before my brother died of AIDS in 1987, he went to DC to protest more money for AIDS research. That trip shortened his life dramatically. I’ll never forget that day with tears streaming down his face he said, “In 20 years AIDS won’t be a death sentence, and we won’t be second class citizens…why can’t I just live another 20 years.” My dearest Skip, your day has come!

This is the article that was my/our family’s “coming out.” It was published in the Louisiana Weekly newspaper in the spring of 2003. A minority publication distributed throughout New Orleans. It was a front-page story.

Lonely Road to Heaven

My only brother, Skip, died of AIDS in November, 1987. Just one week after his 29th birthday.

For more than 20 years I have harbored this secret guarding my brother’s reputation. He received his death sentence in May 1986, and the disease gradually stripped him of any semblance of dignity. But he was not alone. This disease scarred our entire family. The secrecy, lies, discrimination and torturous accusations surrounding it consumed our lives. The social death owned by AIDS plagued us all.

Skip’s funeral was a testament to society’s web of lies and deceit. The funeral hall was crammed with well-wishers and casual acquaintances. Most were curious busybodies all clambering to witness the funeral of someone with AIDS. They kept telling my family, “He’s so good-looking, I didn’t realize how attractive he was.” It was a moment of truth for most; Skip was a real person, not a “monster.” Where were these people when he was sick, when he needed them the most? Nowhere. Because back then he was a monster, a social outcast to be quarantined.

Many families of AIDS victims lie about the real cause of their loved one’s premature death. The social stigma of the disease prevents the natural cycle of grieving. We are silenced by our fear of being lectured: “It was their reckless lifestyle that killed them.”

Hiding the truth and fear of discovery pulverized our daily routine. Skip feared losing his job; my youngest sister feared being expelled from school and I feared the hospital wouldn’t let him hold my newborn baby.

It was as if we dismissed my brother’s entire existence. We could never brag about Skip’s incredible courage in fighting social injustices. I later wondered if our vow of secrecy proliferated the spread of the disease. Perhaps if more of us revealed the truth, I think then, we could help dispel the stigma of AIDS.

After 25 years of the AIDS epidemic, society continues to brand its victims as having a deviant lifestyle. I drive by a church billboard on a busy interstate that lays testament to the Christian belief that God has delivered a plague of punishment to AIDS victims. The message is huge: “AIDS–Judgment Has Come.”

At the same time my brother was wrestling with his tragic life, our family was stumbling to find peace. I was struggling with a complicated pregnancy. My mother was still reeling from my father’s death and could not bear the thought of losing her son. She was both physically and mentally broken.

Vivacious and amiable, Skip enjoyed a wide circle of friends and never surrendered to the disease. A lover of life, he never missed an opportunity to party on his favorite holidays, Mardi Gras and Halloween.

The New Orleans/AIDS Task Force provided an immeasurable level of support to my brother and my family. They developed a peer support program where an AIDS patient was assigned a special confidant, a benefactor who guided him through the maze of medical, legal and social demands.

Skip’s buddy was a savior and devoted friend. He and many others cultivated an entourage of professionals and friends to assist Skip in dealing with everyday life. The Lazarus House, a facility providing temporary housing for HIV/AIDS victims, was also a godsend to those who no longer had families that supported them. But many battles were still lost. Skip’s fight to attain disability benefits cast a stiffening blow to his confidence in the American government.

Skip, a pale shell of a man in the throes of AIDS, hired an attorney to help present his case to the Social Security Administration. The government refused his request for disability, forcing my brother to beg for help. My mother exhausted her savings, and friends continued to feed and nurse Skip through his illness. Three years after his death, my mother would receive approval of social security funds.

Now is the time to regroup and put away our prejudices and misconceptions. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals must unite to quell the chaos. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot reminds everyone that we are no longer dealing with the gay white male disease from the 80s. In a November 2002 report by the UN and World Health Organization, 42 million people are living with HIV and half of them are heterosexual women. Worldwide, there are 14,000 new infections daily and 6,000 of them are among people between the ages of 15-24 years. AIDS is everyone’s disease; it knows no gender or bias to race and ethnic origin.

We all must continue the crusade my brother and his comrades brought to the White House on October 12, 1987.

On that day, gays all over America converged in Washington to demonstrate and protest discrimination against homosexuals and to demand the federal government appropriate more funds to fight the AIDS virus. With an impassioned fervor, my brother, racked with the disease, marched from the White House to the Capitol.

The march received national attention and my brother’s voice was finally heard in an article published in the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Hiding his thinned-down physique with a Members Only jacket and baggy khakis, Skip found a renewed sense of urgency. He had one last mission, one mark to leave.

It was his last party, his last hurrah; it was his time to shine. “This is very exhausting for me,” he said. “But I’m going to stick through to the end to prove a point.”

Self Publishing 101 links

Many first time authors seeking to get published have often asked where to begin. As I continue to post blogs on this subject, I thought it wise to post a page of just links. This will help you get started on the education process. Like any endeavor, there’s a learning curve and the internet and author family has lots to share.

Listed below are some of my favorite links.

Links and resources:

Resources in writing, self-publishing, marketing and entrepreneurial tasks

Joanna Penn also has several books available including How to Market a Book, which I have read, Public Speaking, Business for Authors, and Career Change. Tutorials: How to Publish a Book 101, 7 Worst Mistakes Indie Authors and How to Fix Them. 

Joanna Penn,

Video book trailers


Indie Editor, Todd Barselow

Todd’s Indie press is Auspicious Apparatus Press, he accepts manuscript submissions from all over the world,


On Demand Print options

Amazon Create Space,

Lulu self-publishing,

Graphic Designer

Myra Beckman
creative director
Beckman Design

Bulk Print

Four Colour Print Group

Bekah Rhoads

Four Colour Print Group

Louisville, KY 40206

Phone: 502-640-5552


Contact to transfer your word document to a EPUB format (many eBook stores), MOBI/KF8 format (for Amazon), and a special EPUB for Smashwords.

Paul Salvette

Managing Director

BB eBooks


Creating Books through blogs

Nina Amir


Highly recommend local small press for first book. In Louisiana, River Road Press is a good choice.

Scott Campbell, Publisher

River Road Press LLC

Top Ten Signs You’re a Writer

With the advent of social media and the virtual community, I have been approached several times on what is the definition of a writer. Or more adeptly put the question, “Read this, am I a worthy writer?”

A sensible question, exactly what determines your destiny as a writer? We certainly don’t begin writing as a toddler, and although there are other artistic endeavors that do show an early propensity of talent such as art, music, dancing or even singing, writing is not one of them.

So what are the indications that you are a good writer?

Here’s my list, and please make note, they are not all inclusive. I have seen complete opposite personalities in famous writers. Some may only own one of what I consider the qualifications of a talented writer.

1. You are a storyteller, most likely were born that way, and the story often grows as it’s repeated.

2. You are blessed/cursed with a mind that never stops. Something as simple as a relaxing shower can soon morph into a bloodbath of drama as your body relaxes and your mind takes control.

3. You have trouble sleeping. The characters or writing won’t stop, it’s as if you have multiple personalities.

4. You have a notepad on your night stand and take notes after waking from vivid dreams.

5. Driving is never a dull moment as the scenery begins to tell a story. Before you know it, your mind is reciting the prose, setting the scene in words.

6. You are constantly reinventing descriptive nouns and action verbs and you have a list of descriptive nouns and action verbs.

7. When out in public every sound, smell and casual conversation conjures a story.

8. While watching movies or television, you listen to the dialog more intently. You become more aware of the screenwriters than special effects.

9. You love to read and feel lost without a stack of books haunting you on the night stand, bookcase, office floor, etc.

10. You get so lost in the zone of writing, you forget to eat. Or you love to eat while lost in the zone of writing. Eating and drinking help fuel the writing.

Self-publishing tips

Hello my fellow aspiring authors,

First let me give you a quick background. I’m a freelance writer/author/photographer, and this is my second career after I freed myself from the bondage of corporate Hell. I returned to college when my children were in high school and finished my degree from Tulane University in New Orleans with a BA in Media Arts. That was 2003, and now 12 years later I have a good 1,000 articles published with twice as many photographs gracing the pages of local, regional and national pubs.

Two years ago when the magazine market began to shrink I turned to books releasing my first book Hallowed Halls of New Orleans: Churches, Cathedrals and Sanctuaries in 2013. It was published by History Press, an appropriate publishing house for a book that was born from a historic church column and ten years of research and photographs. However, my corporate career taught me I should only dedicate my resources to projects that yield profit. Working with a publishing house does have some benefits but marketing and sales isn’t one of them. I had to resolve that part of the equation on my own.

That brings me to my reason for this new series of blog posts. On January 8 2014, I sat teary eyed in the pews of Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue in New Orleans. My mentor, Mary Fitzpatrick, a renowned preservationist, astute cultural activist, and editor of Preservation in Print magazine, died suddenly at the age of 64 on New Years Eve 2013 while visiting family in Hendersonville, NC. I was devastated!

Mary saw a budding writer in me, and in my senior year at Tulane she published my first article in the December 2002 issue of Preservation in Print. She continued to support me and sing my praises over the next decade. It was there studying the stained glass windows in a church filled with faithful mourners, my doubts in publishing were answered. Yes Mary’s spirit, karma, whatever it was, reached to me, in an astounding, “What are you waiting for?”

In October 2014 I published my first book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo dedicated to the memory of Mary Fitzpatrick. It was both a nightmare and a dream come true. My book’s acknowledgement shares the laborious journey, from computer and internet crashes to firing my initial printer, I learned from my mistakes. I still have much more to learn, but like anything else, your knowledge grows with experience and in this case, book sales. The more books you sell, the more followers you gain, and the more your marketing strategy changes. Add to that the growing number of promotional tools, and it can be overwhelming.

This blog will be the beginning of a series of self-publishing tips dedicated to the first-time publisher, and with time I will transition to more advanced posts as I progress in this evolving craft of publishing.


Start educating yourself, reading books, following newsletters, signing up for free webcasts. Will your book be fiction or non-fiction. In determining your subject matter research the existing market. Go to the big box stores, what are on the shelves of your genre. Remember your book needs to be unique with a strong marketing base. Develop a timeline of your writing, both short and long range including an estimated publishing date. Document it in your planner or whatever you use to stay on track.


Will it be print, eBook or both? There are several options on print including the less costly On Demand Print used by Amazon Create Space and many other self-publishing websites. Bulk print gives you the opportunity to earn a higher royalty but there’s warehousing the books and moving the books to and from marketing events. Highly recommend not printing over 1,000 books when you are a first-time author. Some writers believe in publishing eBooks first earning enough money to print the books in bulk.

To get you started, I’ve listed some links below that I follow as valued resources in writing, self-publishing, marketing and entrepreneurial tasks.

I also provide a full speaking presentation designed for first time authors and/or self publishers in an online format. Great resource for conferences, book clubs, writing groups, libraries or book stores. Email me for more information or contact me via Facebook, 

Joanna Penn,

Joanna Penn also has several books available including How to Market a Book, which I have read, Public Speaking, Business for Authors, and Career Change. Tutorials: How to Publish a Book 101, 7 Worst Mistakes Indie Authors Make and How to Fix Them, Self-publishing checklist for new authors

Creating Books through blogs

Nina Amir

I’ll be back next week with another lesson in self-publishing. Meanwhile check out my photo galleries of both books and book descriptions. My books are available through Amazon with signed copies offered in sales direct from my website.

Happy Writing…






A Chance Encounter in NYC

So often the story behind the story is never told, and sometimes the backstory trumps the actual article. Serendipity, persistence, maybe N’Awlins voodoo…but if you ask Hoda Kotb, she believes it was pure karma. It all began when my daughter, Julie, and I traveled to New York City for the first time. Read more