Monday, December 22, 2014

The Writing Process


By Reed Farrel Coleman


As an adjunct instructor at Hofstra University, a founding member of Mystery Writers of America University, and as someone who has been at this for almost three decades, I have seen just about every pitfall and trap waiting out there to stop a writer in his or her tracks. Writers new to the game are particularly susceptible to the myriad dangers because each step along the way is a new step and they lack the experience to know how to deal with the obstacles thrown in their paths. But I’ve found that the most insidious obstacles to new writers making progress are the ones they create for themselves.

My best piece of advice for writers, especially those just getting their feet wet, is to fall in love with the act of writing and not with what you have written. New writers tend to hold on to their words and work product too fiercely. They hold their work too precious to touch. Editing and criticism are important pieces of the writing puzzle. To ignore them or to be too easily wounded serves neither yourself nor your writing well.

I often warn my classes that if they’re getting into writing because they expect to be flown around in private jets or to have bouquets of roses thrown at their feet that they might consider other lines of endeavor. The world of writing and publishing is a tough one and the financial rewards for most of us who follow the calling are slim. There’s really only one reason to commit yourself to this life and that’s because you feel compelled to do it. The paradox, of course, is that you have to learn not to care too much about what you’ve written. I once told an editor that I have my work and I have my children and I never confuse them.

The only way I have survived long enough in this business to publish eighteen novels, three novellas, two dozen short stories, numerous essays, and poetry was to learn to love the physical act of writing. I had to learn that it was the working that mattered to me more than any particular piece of the work. And that leads me to the second piece of advice: There is no such thing as wasted writing. New writers have to realize that all of their writing, even the bad stuff, has value. You can’t wish yourself to be better. You have to work to be better. And you have to do it every single day.

If you commit yourself to writing every day, even for fifteen minutes, and you stick to that for a few months, you will be amazed at how it becomes part of you. You will find that the very act of writing becomes self-reinforcing. This, in turn, will help you understand that it is the working that matters most. It will help you become more accepting of criticism and make editing easier to deal with. All of this will help you sustain your career and improve your chances of publication.        

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Reed Farrel Coleman’s love of storytelling originated on the streets of Brooklyn and was nurtured by his teachers, friends, and family. A New York Times bestseller called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the “noir poet laureate” in the Huffington Post, Reed is the author of novels, including the acclaimed Moe Prager series, short stories, and poetry. Reed is a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories—Best Novel, Best Paperback Original, Best Short Story—and a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. A former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct instructor of English at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University. Brooklyn born and raised, he now lives with his family–including cats Cleo and Knish–in Suffolk County on Long Island. His latest book is, The Hollow Girl. He can be found at Website: http://reedcoleman.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReedFColeman

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Southern Storytelling


By T. I. Lowe


I’m a serial storyteller and I can’t help myself. There’s probably a twelve-step program to help me out, but I want no part in it. Stories have long coursed through my southern veins, nagging me to create a world for them to thrive in. Those suckers just pop up in my head and I just have to share them. Really. I have to! I admit I’m completely addicted to doing so too. My fingers itch and my heart beckons until I give in and set the story free. My southern roots entwine meticulously throughout my stories with y’allain’t, and dang sneaking in when I’m not paying any attention. I adore taking my readers out to the cornfield for a game of hide-and-seek or down the humble country river to wrangle up some fish for frying. I can probably even talk you into taking a leisurely stroll down a cool dirt road barefooted while the crickets serenade us and the lightening bugs illuminate our paths at dusk.

Stories go way beyond a dance of southern words and settings though. Oh, yes. My words may sound simple, but simple they are not. Readers want someone to hate, someone to fall in love with, someone to mourn, and someone to root for to the very end. Readers need a story that’s going to lead them on an unpredictable roller coaster of emotions, both good and bad.

My stories want nothing more than to deliver all of this while being packaged in a charming southern setting full of twang. There are endless subjects that plead for us to explore and to provide a brave voice. Whether it’s abuse in its various detrimental forms, self-doubts that plague relentlessly, or tragedies that creep in and turn our worlds upside down before tearing it apart.

So, yes, I’m addicted to my southern stories and want nothing more than to give them the chance to ease their way into the readers’ heart and to open their eyes to a whole new world.
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T.I. Lowe is a southern belle that resides on a small farm hidden in the boonies near coastal South Carolina. Most days you can easily find T.I. in her kitchen, whipping up homemade treats for her babies and neighbors or glued to her computer keyboard. Her first novel is Lula's Cafe. She enjoys drifting away in the fictitious world of the latest novel while bathing in the warm southern sunshine with a glass of iced tea in hand. T.I.'s second novel in the Coming Home Again Series, Goodbyes and Second Chances. Information and Excerpts are available on her website: tilowe.com



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Make 2015 the Best Year Yet


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


Oh yes, I am aware we have yet to celebrate Christmas and the New Year but we must realize we are at the point to begin preparing for 2015. Each year brings us a clean slate to begin again. 2015 will bring us a chance to continue or redirect our plan and its individual goals. But to do so we must first take stock of what we accomplished in 2014 and now is a great time to do that.

In order to do so let’s look back and see what were your key accomplishments in 2014. Had you listed them as a goal to reach in 2014 or were they something that came from your reaching for another goal. Many times our greatest accomplishments are opportunities that came to us while reaching out for another goal. As you set your goals and work toward their end be aware of such opportunities that come your way. So first take some time and list your key accomplishments in 2014.

This next step may be a little harder. Being honest with yourself, critique your accomplishments for the year. Did you do well? Did you accomplish all you wanted to do? Could you have done better? If you could have done better be specific. What is it you could have done? Take time and write this down.

Now let’s go to the next question. What did you do in your life in 2014 that changed your life completely? I am sure there is something that you did, or a decision that you made that has changed your life completely. Write it down and think on this. How has it changed you or possibly those around you?

Now for 2015 what is the one thing that you could do that would change your life dramatically. It may be a simple thing like finding a few minutes a day to do some additional writing. It may be finishing a project that has been put on the back burner. It may be something to do with your family and the time you spend with them. Only you know what this may be. You know what accomplishing this one thing will mean to you and how dramatically you will be affected. Write that down and later consider it when setting your plan and goals for 2015.

In all this you must ask yourself, “What is really important to me?” It is of no avail to us to work toward making 2015 the best year yet if we are going in a direction that isn’t important to us. What really matters in your life? Make sure this is a large part of your direction. Of course there are minor things that must happen in order for the major things in our lives to occur. Take care of those on your way to the important task. They should all be connected.

So now we must ask, “What are your goals for 2015?” You should have at least 5 but no more than 10 major goals. Keeping the number small will allow for those unforeseen opportunities that may come along while accomplishing your predetermined goals. Be open and aware of these precious gems and take full advantage of them. They could lead you to your greatest accomplishment in 2015.

As you begin working toward your goals in 2015 keep in mind and ask yourself along the way, “What is my #1 priority right now” Then ask yourself, “Will what I am doing right now help me accomplish my goals for this upcoming year?” This will keep you on point. Follow these simple directions add a very positive attitude and 2015 should be your Best Year Yet!     
     
      

  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Letter to a New Writer:


By Carole Bellacera


Dear New Writer:

I know the depth of your passion, that you want to publish a novel more than you want to keep breathing. That it is everything to you. I understand that because I felt the same desperation. I had stories inside me that were bursting to spring to life, and they did spring to life. But it wasn’t enough.

A writer needs readers, and just having written them without them being read meant, they were unfinished. But what if I told you that you’re expending your energy in the wrong direction? That being published isn’t what makes you a writer?

You are a writer the minute you put pen to paper or type words on a blank computer screen. You are creating something that didn’t exist before. Do you understand what a miracle that is? You are giving birth to a creation. That is what makes you a writer.

So, my advice to you is to write. And continue to write. Then write some more. It’s not all about publication, and contracts, and sales numbers, and prizes and fame.

It’s about writing—because you love it, because you have a passion for it, because you cannot not write.

You are a writer. Believe it, and believe in yourself. And if publication comes, don’t take yourself too seriously. Success comes and success goes. In the end, it’s not about being published; it’s about creating. You have given birth, so be proud of your newborn.

You never know…that baby could end up in the museum someday
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Carole Bellacera is the author of eight novels of women’s fiction.  Her first novel, "Border Crossings", a hardcover published by Forge Books in May of 1999, was a 2000 RITA Award nominee for Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Book, a nominee for the 2000 Virginia Literary Award in Fiction. It was also a 2000 finalist in the Golden Quill award and in the Aspen Gold Award and won 1st Place in the Volusia County 2000 Laurel Wreath Award.  Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in magazines such as Woman's World, The Star, Endless Vacation and The Washington Post. In addition, her work has appeared in various anthologies such as Kay Allenbaugh's Chocolate for a Woman's Heart, Chocolate for a Couples' Heart and Chicken Soup for Couples.  www.carolebellacera.com. Her books include; Border Crossings – Forge Books, May 1999, Reissue December 2011, Spotlight – Forge Books, April 2000, Reissue July 2012, East of the Sun,West of the Moon – Forge Books, July 2001, Understudy – Forge Books, June 2003, Chocolate on a Stick – Baycrest Books, Sept 2005, Tango’s Edge – CreateSpace, September 2011, Lily of the Springs – CreateSpace, March 2012, Incense &Peppermints – CreateSpace, May 2014


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Songs Past


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


Shopping malls and radio stations once again are filling the air with the familiar sounds of the season. Having heard these Christmas classics countless times every December, we can hum, if not sing, along with most of them. I thought today we'd pay a little holiday homage to the talented writers who gave us these chestnuts.

THE CHRISTMAS SONG (aka "CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE") (1946)
Actor/musical arranger Mel Torme wrote over 250 songs in his lifetime, some of which became jazz standards. But the one tune most tuned into was the biggest Christmas hit of the 20th century, co-written with lyricist Robert Wells. Torme said this was never one of his favorites. Maybe he considered it a throwaway because the entire song was written in just 40 minutes.

A fair number of Christmas songs come from movies. Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS (1940) was included in the Bing Crosby film Holiday Inn. (Ironically, it was written in a hotel room.)  "White Christmas" has, of course, been recorded by many other artists. For a radio station morning show I once edited together Bing Crosby's lush version with Elvis Presley's doo-woppy rendition to create "The King and Bing." You wouldn't want to hear it.

By the way, among Irving Berlin's other claims to fame are "Puttin' on the Ritz" and "God Bless America".

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (1944)
This is from the same duo who gave the world "The Trolley Song".  Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin were composers for stage and screen musicals, best known for Meet Me in St Louis, starring Judy Garland.

SILVER BELLS (1950)
This is from another film, Bob Hope's The Lemon Drop Kid. It was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, whose hits also include Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera" and the "Bonanza" TV theme. For trivia buffs, Livingston's record executive brother created Bozo the Clown and signed The Beatles to Capitol Records.

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (1951) Meredith Wilson, yet another writer for musicals. His most successful, The Music Man, includes songs that recall the fanciful lilt of this holiday hit (think "Gary, Indiana").

THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY (1941) by Katherine Kennicott Davis. Not one of my favorites, but I gained some appreciation for it when I learned that this teacher and choir director sought to write a piece that could be arranged with voices to emulate the sound of a drum rhythm. It earned a little more respect when I discovered that it was a beloved choice of the legendary Trapp Family from Austria, who recorded it in 1955.

World War II captain Johnny Marks gave us no less than three Christmas classics: RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1949), ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE (1958) and A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS (1964). "Rudolph," incidentally, was based on a story written by Marks' brother-in-law as a promotional piece for retail store Montgomery Ward.

MY GROWN UP CHRISTMAS LIST (1990)
Veteran record producer David Foster (Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna) wrote this comparatively newer classic with Linda Thompson (yes, one-time Elvis girlfriend). When Amy Grant recorded her hit version of it in 1992, she wrote a second verse of her own (the "As children we believed..." section).

TEXT ME MERRY CHRISTMAS (2014) This instant classic for modern times, sung by Straight No Chaser with Kristen Bell, was penned by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum (comedic songsters whose individual credits include the Tony Awards, The Daily Show, and Sesame Street). With luck this clever new novelty song will put "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" out of its misery.



These are just a few of the composers we can tip our Santa hat to, and we didn't even mention carols like "Silent Night" and "We Three Kings".  Many of the sacred songs come from the 19th century or earlier, with indistinct European origins.

One interesting thing about the above list is how many of these Christmas classics were written by Jewish songwriters.  If they had stuck to the adage, "Write what you know," most of these songs would have never been written.

Feliz Navidad, y'all!



Monday, December 15, 2014

What’s My Writing Inspiration?


By Jennifer Wilck


One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by people when they hear I write romance is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The question is surprisingly difficult for me to answer, or at least it used to be, because it makes it sound as if I’m sitting down and consciously making an effort to come up with a plot and characters and a conflict. Perhaps some writers do that, but for me, the process is more organic.

My best ideas for a story come to me when I’m most relaxed—right before I fall asleep, while I’m driving (and trying to shut out my kids’ music) or when I’m walking the dog. They are all times when I’m not thinking about what I should write. Although I think he’s gotten used to it, my husband doesn’t really understand why I bolt out of bed and race to my computer in the middle of the night, rather than waiting until a decent hour in the morning, and my neighbors know me as the crazy lady who talks to herself while walking the dog.

But that’s how my brain works best, and I’ve gotten used to keeping a pad beside my bed (if I can’t race to my computer) and downloading a robust dictation device onto my phone (so at least I can pretend I’m talking to someone). The ideas are ephemeral, so I have to jot them down when I get them.

Sometimes the inspiration pops into my head as a conversation between two heretofore-unknown characters (and when they use accents, it’s amusing). Other times I’ll see something and ask myself, “What if...” I could see a character on TV and wonder what would happen if I put him or her into that situation X. Occasionally, I’ll pass a store or a billboard that intrigues me and provides a setting that I want to flesh out. And once, I was inspired by touring an old Victorian mansion and imagining who would live there now and why (I’m still working on that story, actually).

Once I jot down my idea or scene, I flesh out the characters, figure out their motivation and conflict and try to get them to their happily ever after. There’s always a lot of emotion in my books and I favor strong, sassy heroines and strong but vulnerable heroes.

As you can probably guess by now, I don’t outline ahead of time, but I do create one afterwards. As I start round one of edits, I write down what happens in each scene and chapter, where certain descriptions are (that helps me make sure that blue eyes don’t change to green midway through the story) and the progression of the love scenes.

There’s a fine balance between the discipline of writing and the creativity of my muse. The key to completing my manuscript is maintaining that balance. Tell me, where do you get your ideas and how do you turn them into a book?
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Jennifer Wilck started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. As an adult, she started writing them down and after several years of writing, editing and querying publishers, she’s a multi-published author. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and always end with happily ever after. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family and friends, reading, traveling and watching TV. She volunteers with her Temple and is also a freelance writer for magazines, newspapers and newsletters. A Heart of Little Faith and Skin Deep were published by Whiskey Creek Press in 2011. The Seduction of Esther, the first in the Women of Valor series, was published in June 2013 by Rebel Ink Press. The next book in that series, Miriam’s Surrender, published September 2014. She can be reached at www.jenniferwilck.com or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Wilck/201342863240160. She tweets at @JWilck. Her blog (Fried Oreos) is www.jenniferwilck.blogspot.com and she contributes to Heroine With Hearts blog on Tuesdays http://www.heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com and Front Porch Saturdays at Sandra Sookoo’s Believing is Seeing blog http://sandrasookoo.wordpress.com.





Friday, December 12, 2014

Six Things Every New Writer Should Know


By A.S. Bond


So you think you’ve got what it takes to be a writer? Maybe you’re the next JK Rowling, but as everyone knows, even she languished on the rejection pile for  a while...here’s how to give yourself the best chance at literary success.

1. Read. OK, I know it sounds silly and you probably devour books by the truckload, but are you doing the right kind of reading? Are you reading the genre you want to write in? If you love to read horror, but have decided to write romance because you think it is more ‘commercial’, forget it. Your heart won’t be in it.

2. Study the books you admire. You need to read quite critically. Ask yourself; how does that author introduce suspense, or a new character? What is a common structure for novels in this genre and am I writing at the correct length?

3.  Think analytically. You want to switch from being a consumer to a producer and that takes work. Writing is a craft, so learn it. 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is about right. Learn how to write fiction; do you understand ‘show don’t tell’? Can you create great dialogue? Have you eliminated all the cliché’s, overused adverbs and irrelevant description? It’s worth taking a class or joining a book group to get some objective feedback on your work, because it’s easier to take than a pile of rejection notes or, even worse, a handful of cutting, 1* reviews.

4. Develop your own voice. The one thing both publishers and readers alike are looking for is originality. A new voice will excite your target readership and rack up those sales. You have it already of course; your ‘voice’ is as distinctive as your fingerprint. What you need to do is not let another author’s style or tone influence your unique expression and this takes both confidence and practice.

5. Don’t rush to publication. Are you confident your work is as good as it can be? Take a step back. Put it in a drawer for a while and go do something else. When you’ve forgotten enough detail to make reading it seem fresh again, go through it. You’ll be amazed at what jumps out at you.

6. I recommend hiring a professional copyeditor before sending out your manuscript. You don’t have to pay a big company thousands for this, just look up a well qualified individual on a freelance website like Elance or Guru. There are plenty of professionals who work at very reasonable rates. If you don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars, you could be throwing away months or even years of your own work (and a possible new career) because of a few typos.

7. Whether you get a book deal, or self publish, be prepared to market yourself. ‘Discoverability’ is particularly hard for self published writers. What all new authors should know however, is that even if you sign a deal with a big publisher, there won’t be glamorous launch parties, book tours etc. Yet there’s tons of advice out there on how to market you as a writer, so take a look and get started long before your book hits the shelves.
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A.S. Bond is the author of ‘Patriot’ A Brooke Kinley Adventure, an award-winning thriller that debuted at #13 in its category on Amazon. Winner of TWO 'Honorable Mentions' for PATRIOT at San Francisco & Hollywood Book Festivals, 2014; Winner of 'Spirit of Adventure Award', Captain Scott Society and Winner of Himalayan Kingdoms 'Adventure Award'  For more information and the latest news, visit Twitter: @brookekinleyadv