Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Looking for Jamie Fraser

By Marilyn Baron

My daughter and I went on a TAUCK tour, labeled A Week in Scotland, this past summer. I was already in love with Jamie Fraser, hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Then I fell in love with Scotland. My daughter was interested in seeing the country. I was looking for Jamie Fraser. After talking with many of the women on the tour, from millennials to women of a certain age, it turns out we were all after the same thing. Jamie Fraser.

Did we really think we would find him? Yes, I think we did. When I suggested to my traveling companions that, maybe we would see Claire, they said, “Who cares?”

I came closest to a sighting three times.

Once, in Inverness, gateway to the Highlands, when I tried to go through the stones at the ancient burial site at Clava Cairns. I placed my hands on a center stone and hoped to be whisked away. But, alas, I had left my good jewelry at home and anyone who’s read Outlander knows you can’t travel through time without a jewel. What made me think I could do it? Maybe the visit to Glenturret Distillery the day before where we had lunch and a whisky tasting. 

Second, at Culloden House, a majestic Palladian mansion, where we tasted Highland hospitality with Afternoon Tea, a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly homemade scones served with whipped cream & jam, macaroons, Chocolate Tiffin, a selection of pastries,  Ham & Cheese Panier and a Provençale Tart. Originally a Jacobean Castle, where in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie requisitioned the building as his headquarters prior to the tragic battle of 1746 that divided families and clans. It is now a hotel. I asked the receptionist if she’d ever seen Diana Gabaldon and she said, yes, that the author stays in one of the 28 charming bedrooms when she’s in town and as a matter of fact, had just been there two weeks before we arrived. Missed her by that much!

And the author’s (and Jamie’s) presence was everywhere when we visited the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre. Diana Gabaldon had an impressive display in the gift shop. I bought my daughter a copy of Outlander to try to get her hooked on the series. 

Third, a young French man, who was traveling with his mother and aunt on the tour, was so enthralled with Scottish tradition, he turned into a highlander, literally, complete with kilt and bagpipes. I have a picture of him with my daughter. He’s not Jamie, but he would do in a pinch.

Though I tried everything—I even ate haggis—alas, I never saw Jamie.

I have written historical fiction and I plan to set my next book in Scotland because of the natural beauty and allure of the place, probably on peaceful Loch Lomond, inspired by its breathtaking views from my window at Cameron House, where the sun never seemed to set.

My hat is off to any author, like Diana Gabaldon, who can create a character as memorable as Jamie. Such an author can build worlds in a trendsetting genre and make a fictional character come alive.

That’s my goal and I imagine the goal of many writers. So, we plod on, at our computers, doing our research, making our magic. And maybe one day, we will find Jamie, in one of our own characters or people will travel to distant lands in search of the character of our own creation.
Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres, from humorous coming-of-middle age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel With Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal//Fantasy Romance and most recently was The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones. Her latest novel, The Alibi, a romantic suspense, is her 13th novel with The Wild Rose Press (her 21st work of fiction), and was released September 13, 2017. She’s published five humorous, paranormal short stories with TWB Press and self-published two books and a musical with her sister, Sharon Goldman. AmazonEncore republished her book Sixth Sense in September 2015. She serves on the Roswell Reads Steering Committee and was selected as a featured author in the 2015 and 2016 Atlanta Authors Series. She’s a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and winner of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. Marilyn graduated with a BS in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. She worked in Public Relations for AT&T in Atlanta for 13 years before starting her own PR firm. To find out more about Marilyn’s books, please visit her Web site at Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads: and Amazon Author Page.                                  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What's Your Type?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One font meets another font in Rome. He asks, "Are you a Roman too?"
"No," says the other, "but I am an Italic."

If that joke made sense to you, you've come to the right place. You're a font-savvy writer who probably pays attention to the typeface you use, and you prefer some over others.  You don't have to have a font obsession like TV's Brick Heck (The Middle) to recognize that some typestyles work better than others, and a lot depends on the project.

For most of our writing, the default fonts do the trick just fine. Arial or Times New Roman are familiar friends and easy on the eyes.  But there are times when you want something that isn't so ordinary, say, for a book cover or an author website.

For the sake of simplicity, let's narrow down all fonts to one of three types: Serif, Sans Serif, and Decorative

Serif fonts like Times New Roman contain hooks, feet and other embellishments. Studies have shown that Serif is the easiest type of font to read, which is why almost every book from the beginning of time has used it. This classic font is ideal for long stretches of copy.

Sans Serif, minus all the ornamentation, is simpler, and some consider it a bit more modern. It has a clean look that advertisers and signage of all kinds have relied on for decades. The Sans Serif font Helvetica is so popular that it was the subject of a 2007 documentary.

Decorative fonts have personality and, used sparingly, are good at establishing a mood. They are only used for titles and headlines, never for body text. A little goes a long way, and if there is too much of it, the eye fatigues quickly.

A look at the covers on this week's New York Times Best Sellers list shows no preference for either Serif or Sans Serif fonts. Both are used almost equally for titles and author identification.  Decorative fonts are much rarer, appearing less than 10% of the time. In almost every case, the background or foreground art gets center stage, while the text is merely complementary.

These two book covers are quick examples of how font choice can make or break a design. The tasteful one on the left can be read even from a distance using bold text and good color contrast, and its tall font is a good match for the tall shape of a book. You could say it hits the bulls-eye.

Where do I begin with the one on the right? First of all, it's a decorative font that wasn't designed to be in all caps, nor do the two ornate fonts play nice together on the same cover. Along with leaving hardly any border on one side, the font is barely discernable against the busy background.

In the end, it's all about communication.  Feel free to experiment with style to get attention, but only take it as far as you need to.  You'll never want to sacrifice clarity for creativity.

Monday, October 16, 2017


By Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

I was associated with traditional publishers since 2010 when my first novel, Code Blue, was released. I’d had a good relationship with them, but—like many other authors—the contracts I was given were for a limited number of books each time. There was no lifetime guarantee, but with all the awards and honors my writing received, I wasn’t worried. But perhaps I should have been.

I’d signed (after a long period of nail-biting) with a new publishing house run by experienced and respected people. We were all excited about it, but when my publication date was pushed back a couple of times I began to worry a bit. That unease was validated when I received news from the publisher that there were problems with their financing. My agent negotiated a reversion of rights for the novel the publisher held, but where did I go from here? After several other publishers declined to give me an offer, I reached the conclusion I’d been avoiding: I’d go with self-publication.

Actually, I’d dipped my toe—er, my pen—into these waters earlier, publishing three novellas using agent-assisted publication. And for this novel I used the lessons I’d learned. For the novellas, as well as the novel I was about to release, I made certain that the cover design was a good one. How? I didn’t try to do it myself, but paid a professional. The same with editing, even though I’d read all the books on self-editing and gone through the manuscript several times. Another pair of eyes, especially a good one, never hurt. And, because I was still new at this “indie” thing, I turned to agent-assisted publication for this endeavor.

The agency furnished a coordinator (one with whom I’d worked on publication of my novellas), and she helped walk me through the process. She assisted in pricing the book. She answered my questions and even had some suggestions along the way. And I tried to learn from the experience.

I didn’t have a publisher’s marketing department behind me, but every author will agree that the best way to advertise is to write good books and have readers look forward to your next one. I lined up a few blog appearances, recruited a dozen or so people to help get the word out after I sent them a print copy of the book, and let things take their course. So far, the results have been good.

Would I use a traditional publisher in the future if I am offered a contract, or am I an “indie” (actually a hybrid) author for the foreseeable future? Only time will tell. But this experience has shown me yet another means of getting my novels to readers. And for that I am grateful.
Richard L. Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mysteries with heart.” He is the author of one non-fiction book (TheTender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse), three novellas, and eleven published novels, the latest of which is Cardiac EventHis novels have been a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel, finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, as well as winner of the Selah Award and the 2017 Christian Retailers Best.

Friday, October 13, 2017

When a Plot Comes Together … or Follow That Character!

I’m an outliner or planster, really.  I have to know where I’m headed or I stall out. Then as I write the scene, I let the characters take over. Occasionally—okay often they highjack my plan and take off in another direction. It usually works, but today something happened that took me by surprise.

My main character suddenly decided to follow a minor character into a cafĂ©. There, a conversation led to a surprise announcement. Actually, it surprised both of us. I wondered for a bit whether I could actually keep this. Was I letting her off the hook for conflict? Making it too easy for her? Then I remembered a coming plot point … the black moment and this fit into the lead up to that perfectly. Wow.

Then the next conversation she has needed a bit of action around it, so they weren’t talking heads. That action led to a new plot point that fit. Her earlier conversation and its announcement played into this new one so perfectly, it was as if I’d planned it. Wow again.

That’s when I saw how this new direction would bring about another plot point that need to happen, one I hadn’t yet known how to make natural and not contrived. This new direction fits in so perfectly, it’s almost as if it had been meticulously plotted. Amazing.

If this keeps up, I may have to put my characters’ names down as co-authors.

But if I’ve learned one thing over the course of writing 10 novels, it’s to follow your characters. The outline can always bring them back in line if it doesn’t work, but more often than not, it works because it’s organic to the character.
While a floppy straw hat is her favorite, award-winning author Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), CEO of a Community Theatre, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find her on her AneMulligan  @AneMulligan website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tom Petty, The Swamp and Branding

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

The world mourned last week,  news spread that Tom Petty had suffered a fatal heart attack. His fans on social media linked thousands of their favorite Petty songs and were constantly being uploaded and shared. He was one of those rare musicians who everyone wanted to work with, a talent and nice guy. Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers received keys to their hometown of Gainesville, Florida in September 2006. 

Erick Smith is the University of Florida’s urban forester. He confirms in an article there is a Tom Petty tree on campus. 
Although Tom Petty never attended the University, he worked on the grounds crew at the University of Florida. During his time there, Petty planted a tree that is now known as the Tom Petty Tree. It is an Ogeechee Lime Tree. While watching the game, the TV announcers remarked how Petty's tree was in the shadow of the university's football stadium, The Swamp.

Numerous tributes to Tom Petty have occurred since his death.. On Saturday at the Florida-LSU game in The Swamp between the third and fourth quarter, the stadium speakers played Petty's, “I Won’t Back Down" with the 90,000 fans singing in tribute to Petty. 

University of Florida graduate, Steve Spurrier returned as football coach in 1990. Spurrier wanted UF fans to have pride and passion in their football team. The stadium started as Florida Field, built in 1929 out of a marshy depression. Before construction, the area had to be drained due to an underground spring that was capped. There was such a big hole in the ground, the stadium actually was built from the the ground down. The top row of seats in the stadium (Row 32) was the same height as the surrounding area. The rest of the stadium was below ground level. In 1992, Spurrier nicknamed and gave the football stadium a new brand name. As Spurrier explained “The Swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. We feel like this is an appropriate nickname for our stadium.”

Spurrier, like Petty, knew that branding is important for any product. Whether it's the world of collegiate football or world-renown rock and roll branding is everything toward your success.. As writers, we need to plan on planting trees (our books) with deep roots in the muck of a swamp (our publisher, either self published or traditionally published) so readers can  identify readily our books with us as authors to create our brand. 

Where to start? Create your own author motto. It's really a PMS, no not that PMS it's a Personal Mission Statement. It is your branding tagline. Readers will know what you and your books are about and help you create a loyal fan base.

What is the brand you have created for yourself as an author?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Today’s Publishing Marketplace – Relationships Matter

By Elizabeth M. Garrett

Today’s marketplace differs drastically from the publishing landscape of ten years ago. Traditional publishers are accepting fewer books, royalty checks continue to shrink, and the accessibility of independent publishing and self-publishing continues to drive a competitive environment.

Plus, with the powerful emergence of social media marketing, your success as an author largely depends on your willingness and ability to engage with readers, both online and in person. Just like you’re more prone to purchase from a known source you can trust, potential readers follow suit.

In their book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, branding experts Al Ries and Laura Ries recommend any new marketing program start by generating publicity and then shift to advertising after the public relations objectives have been achieved.

I know it’s hard for many of us to embrace our role in book promotions. For the average author, it’s a lot more fun to just write. But clearly, if you want to properly position yourself in the marketplace, a powerful public relations plan incorporated in with your marketing will provide you with maximum results, especially for the independent-published and self-published authors. Even if you’re traditionally published, there’s an increasing demand to be engaged with your audience.

With all the focus on building your author platform, brand, and marketing, I think we often forget the power of relationships. According to a recent online article by Forbes magazine, word of mouth among family and friends drives more purchases than any other marketing form.

To be effective, your public relations plan has to include both traditional communication channels and social media venues, which require a lot of personal, dynamic interactions.

If your time is limited like mine, you have to streamline whatever you do and stay focused. We often think we’ll save time by just doing and not planning. When launching a book you’ve endlessly labored over, however, a strong public relations plan can go a long way in establishing and building rapport with your target audience.

Think of it as your map or personal tour guide, which will help you reach your destination. A good, strong plan maps out how you will reach your goals and take care of what it is you need to accomplish.

If you’re not a planner, it may seem unnecessary, but in the long run a plan can save a lot of time by keeping you on track, plus help generate the visibility your work deserves.
Elizabeth M. Garrett fulfills her God-given purpose by writing, editing, and serving as a public relations coach through her business, Polish Point Editing. With thirty years of experience in public relations and editing, she has just completed writing the “Masterclass in Public Relations for Authors” available through Her creative works, both fiction and non-fiction, have been published in three collections, with another one on the way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Sometimes we writers have a difficult time writing the content to market our books to our audience. 
Not knowing what our audience needs to hear and or read in our marketing content means we are just throwing words out into the market hoping somehow people will won’t to read what we’ve written. That approach is kind of like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.

Writing a particular genre means we need to market to an audience that likes to read that genre. The genre an author writes in determines most of the time who they gear their marketing to. In other words, you marketing content will be focused on your particular audience.

Example: If you write cozy mysteries you don’t market to thriller audiences.

If you’ve been writing for a while you have probably heard from some of the people who read your books, what they liked about the books. They tell you what grabbed their attention, and what it meant to them. You can see a lot of this on reviews you get. These things are clues. You can build those into your marketing content and it gives you the key words you need to touch your audience, a better understanding of who your audience is, how to approach them,  and interest them enough into buying your book.

If you are on social media one of the things authors can do is ask questions. For instance you could ask your followers this question, which will lead to more questions. Do you like romantic comedy novels? What do you like about them? If you don’t like them can you tell me why? What would need to change where you would enjoy reading romantic comedy? Do you read books on your computer, eBooks or do you like to buy the printed copy?

The more questions you can get people to answer the more information you gain to help you in your marketing and in identifying your audience better. As people we like to interact with others, if we didn’t, there wouldn’t be many people on Facebook or the other social Medias.

You can do the same thing with your blog. The more information you gather the better your marketing efforts will pay off.