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Rising Stars: Meet Cyndie Zahner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cyndie (CJ) Zahner.

Hi Cyndie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
You might say, I had a storybook start to a new career. On a bad day in 2015, I picked up my purse at my old job (of twenty years) and walked out the door, never to return. Now, I am the author of five published books and a pending memoir.

At the time, I quit my job, my only sibling, eleven years my senior, was in a nursing home suffering from early-onset dementia. His wife was in a different facility stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s. When something like that happens in your family, you reevaluate your life. Ask what’s important.

As a child, I was alone and fell in love with reading and writing. Over the years, no matter which way my path wound, a bend in the road would bring me back to writing. Before college, I worked a part-time retail job alongside four women who had English degrees. I had no desire to go to school for four years and end up as a sales clerk, so I changed my major to accounting.

I worked as an accountant, computer programmer, credit counselor, and eventual grant writer. I hammered out instruction pamphlets, credit articles, grants, and anything else that need be written. I also began freelancing for local magazines and newspapers on a variety of articles from women’s health to the paranormal.

I lived in the city where I was born, Erie, Pennsylvania, until 2020 when my husband, Jeff, and I moved our main residence to the Raleigh area, so we could be close to our youngest daughter. During summer and fall, we still spend time at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, vacationing. As a writer, I can be nomadic.

Jeff and I travel extensively, hiking the National Parks with friends, exploring unique libraries and book stores in hide-away places, or visiting our other two children (and grandchildren) who live outside Raleigh. I always have at least two books with me, one I’m reading and another I’m writing.

I’ve written three thrillers, The Suicide Gene (2018), Dream Wide Awake (2018), and Project Dream (2019), while in Pennsylvania and California. Then added North Carolina to the mix for my chic-lit novels, Friends Who Move Couches (2020), and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House (2021).

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Writing books is a tough business. Honestly? I earned a greater hourly fee for writing for magazines and newspapers. I hate to discourage anyone from writing a novel. If that’s their dream, I say go for it. Just know, you are going to work seven days a week for years.

Unless you’re lucky and quickly discovered (which happens seldom) or have a large platform already, you must learn the marketing business too. I work anywhere from an hour a day on vacation to over fourteen hours a day on blustery, stay-inside winter days.

And for Indie authors, a bigger challenge is you have few people to answer your questions. You learn on the fly.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I write novels under a pen name, CJ Zahner.

My first novel was published by a small press company, The Wild Rose Press (TWRP). I will be forever grateful to them for helping me begin my journey. I declined to publish my second with them for many reasons, none of which has to do with TWRP. I’m now best known for my “Dream Series” thrillers which I published on my own. My chick-lit “Awkward Mom” series is also gaining ground.

My highest praised book by far, however, is Dream Wide Awake. What sets me apart is, first, the Dream Series is a cross-genre. It’s normal crime fiction with a sixth-sense element. Second, this series was inspired by true premonitions I’ve had in my lifetime. One, my premonition of 9/11, I’ve been interviewed much for. (Read more or hear interviews at

What I am most proud of is, that recently, I jumped from writing fiction to nonfiction. I wrote my memoir about a drug my mother took while pregnant with me called Diethylstilbesterol or DES.

DES was prescribed to women from 1938 until its banning by the FDA in 1971. It was touted as preventing miscarriage but was later found to cause cancer in mothers and a myriad of side effects in the babies in utero who grew to be adults, including but not limited to cancer, abnormalities, infertility, miscarriage, and neurological disorders such as the increased risk of schizophrenia, severe depression, and suicidal tendencies. Those babies are now referred to as DES babies.

I am a DES baby. I’m currently seeking an agent to represent my memoir, The House that Loved. It is important in that many descendants aren’t aware their mothers, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers took this drug, yet some have experienced the trickle-down side effects. It is a story that must be told. (See for more information on DES).

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
If, like me, you didn’t major in writing at a college, watch for free online classes. Take as many as you can find. Join author groups and search Facebook for writing clubs.

Inquire if your local library hosts classes or writers’ sessions. And most importantly, read, read, and read. I advise not writing a book unless you read a book a week. Having said all this, it’s a hard beginning. You feel like you have no one to ask questions to.

If you’re feeling alone and have a question, I’m glad to answer. Email me at with VoyageRaleigh Question in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. Until then, read on!


  • Dream Wide Awake: $3.99 e-book, $13.99 paperback, FREE for Kindle Unlimited users.
  • Project Dream: $2.99 e-book, $13.99 paperback, FREE for Kindle Unlimited users.
  • Friends Who Move Couches: $3.99 e-book, $13.99 paperback, FREE for Kindle Unlimited users.
  • Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House: $2.99 e-book, $13.99 paperback, FREE for Kindle Unlimited users.
  • The Suicide Gene: $5.99 e-book, $17.99 paperback.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jessie Grieshober and Jeffrey Zahner

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1 Comment

  1. Terri Moore

    April 18, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    Congratulations, Cyndie, on being featured in Voyage Raleigh. I loved your Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House books. I’m interested in the Dream series since I’ve had a premonition from time to time. I love your writing style and I’m looking forward to reading more of them.

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