Monday, July 25, 2016

Memoir Writing – Courage Required

By Maureen Hager

I have one of those stories – you know the ones where others gasp as you are telling it. For years, I lived with the shame, guilt, and condemnation of my past mistakes. It was time for me to confront the past and move forward.

A misguided search for love and acceptance led me into a world of drugs and life in a motorcycle gang. Caught up in a violent gang war, I became a victim of two gunshot wounds when a rival gang opened fire with M16 rifles. Within those few seconds, the crippling bullets forever changed my life.

In my determination to start a new life, I encountered the hope and healing of God’s transforming love. Often people would say to me, “You ought to write a book.” I always balked at the idea, after all; I’m not a writer. I wouldn’t know where to start, and the thought of it was so overwhelming.

Eventually, I did begin to write. I was passionate about taking my story and using the scars of brokenness to offer hope and healing to other broken people.

What would be required to begin writing my memoir?

Courage to be transparent: If I was not completely honest and sincere, who would I be fooling? How could I give a credible account of my story?

Vulnerability: A belief that your story matters and a willingness to unlock painful memories.  

Trust the healing process: Deliverance happens as we share our personal trials and triumphs. 
My introduction to becoming a writer was literally a cry-out to the Lord, “Help me!” This has been my heart’s cry with each new chapter. I remind myself that the Lord would not call me without equipping me.

I searched the internet for writing resources and found helpful blogs and advice. I attended my first Christian writers’ conference and brought with me an unsure heart. In my hand, I held my book’s outline and prologue willing to offer it up for critique.

It was at this first conference that I met many incredible writers and editors. What a relief for this newbie writer to know much-needed support would be available along this writing journey. 

Because of their generous hearts, I not only learned writing tips, but I gained the confidence that my story needed to be told.

I am a perpetual writing student. I am so grateful for the help from authors who are willing to share their experiences and to give a little shout of encouragement along the way.

Writing my memoir has been a great challenge and a great blessing. I know you have a story to tell, do you have the courage to do so?

Write from the Heart
Maureen Hager is a survivor. Her passion lies in empowering women to receive healing from their brokenness through the love of Christ. Once a wounded victim in a biker gang war, her painful journey led her to a place of restoration. Her testimony of deliverance and hope has impacted women of all ages. She is currently writing her first book based on her journey through emotional, spiritual and physical trauma. Website: Twitter: @Maureen_Hager Blog:  Facebook: Maureen Hager – Out of the Brokenness  Pinterest: Maureen Hager 


Friday, July 22, 2016

The Word Carpenter

By Julie Saffrin

I grew up in a three-bedroom rambler in Bloomington, Minnesota. When I was twelve, Dad built himself a workshop. Pegboards surrounded it. Mounted hooks held sawdust-topped tools. Baby jars held screws, nuts, bolts, and nails. On the floor, an old toy box housed wood scraps. The whole place was filled with possibility.

Dad decided to make me a desk. I watched him at his drafting board as he sketched out plans. Once finished, we went to the lumber store. He lifted a two-by-four to his eye. “Try to pick straight boards, Julie. The warped ones are worthless.” If the board was straight, he looked for knots. “They’re tough to drill and hard to hide under paint.”

I loved to work with Dad. I think he liked spending time with me and the chance to polish his daughter’s grammar. One Sunday after church while in his shop, he cut angles with his radio arm saw and I sanded boards.

The Vikings game was on. “Which team are you voting for, Dad? The Vikings or the Packers?”

My father, who minored in English at Stout College in Menomonie, Wisconsin, replied, “One roots in football, Julie.”

Lesson learned.

I wrote many stories for school on that desk. Life moved on.

In my thirties, I turned serious about writing, and Alzheimer’s began its twelve-year war with Dad. His workshop door stayed closed. I took creative writing classes and he went to doctors’ appointments. Day after day he lost his wallet while I discovered my writing voice. I watched his love of wood diminish to a paper sack, into which he’d placed receipts and a deck of cards, as he wandered, confused, in the house.

The disparity between what he’d lost and I gained crushed me at times. Medications failed to bore into the twisted tangles of Dad’s mind, his chisel, now worthless on brain plaque. When the disease stripped away his vocabulary, I used the still lessons of being in his presence to read him my latest revision, which he seemed to enjoy.

For I had a purpose to write. I wrote about life because he was prevented from living it.

And that is why I’ve kept the desk, currently stocked with books, board games and photo albums, in the basement.

Dad now shares space with Heaven’s other carpenters. But my desk is his visible signature. It affirms he was once fully here. It tells me, I too, must leave my mark, through writing, in this world.

Today as I write, I look at the words on the page, and I hear Dad whisper, “Choose the best boards, Julie.” His carpentry skills taught me well. I outline a story, plane away extra words, let shavings of prepositional phrases pile up around my feet.

As for knots, I’ve grown to like them. A challenge, yes, but I find tough characters are sometimes the best to know.

And when I finally see my published words, I catch the sawdust scent of a proud carpenter, and smile.
Julie Saffrin is the author of the popular gratitude book, BlessBack(r): Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life, Kissing the Shoreline: Quotes and Reflections to Live By, as well as published articles and essays. She received her bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and English from the University of St. Thomas. Julie divides her time between Minneapolis and Ottertail County in Minnesota with her husband Rick,  a golden retriever named Mick, and their three sons and their families. She blogs at
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Writing, Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Memphis has had the hottest weather of the year this week. Heat is oppressive and drives everyone inside to seek air conditioned rooms. This was true on Monday night when I tuned into the Republican National Convention. I normally pass on viewing the antics of both political party's conventions. I've been there done that and have several t-shirts, pins and hats. However, after watching the RNC candidate enter to the Queen song, "We are the Champions," I was intrigued. Via the New York Daily article, rock band, Queen was not and issued the following statement, "Queen does not want its music associated with any mainstream or political debate in any country." Minutes after Melania Trump's speech, social and news media turned hotter than Memphis weather.  

This is not a political blog post. It is about authors, plagiarism and copyright infringement. As an author, plagiarism and copyright infringement is a serious charge and can land you in a courtroom for years. In today's technological atmosphere, it is just too easy to check if your words are yours. At plagiarism checker you can easily find interesting articles about plagiarism and copyright infringement. This site has two free printables you can share with other authors and writing groups. 

Starting in middle school, students are required to turn their work in to If your work is deemed plagiarized, a student can find themselves suspended from school. A high school and college student could be expelled for plagiarism or not citing sources within a paper. Students learn early that their writing should be their writing, period. 

Do you remember the 1989 Academy Awards where the opening was a Snow White theme song and dance number/skit? The Academy was sued for use of Snow White by Disney who held the rights.  In March 1989, Frank Wells, Disney's president and chief operating officer, said at the time, "we have great respect for the academy and for all that it does, we were therefore greatly surprised and dismayed when we viewed last evening's Academy Awards ceremonies to see that our Snow White character had been used extensively without our permission." 

As an author, excluding the obvious legal ramifications, I want the satisfaction of being a success with my own words not using someone else's. How about you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Conflict in Romance Stories

By Ellen Butler

The framework for romance writing includes conflict between your hero and heroine. Conflict can entertain and carry your couple through a 70K word novel, but done incorrectly will have your reader tossing the book aside for something better. Without the conflict between your hero and heroine either a) your story isn’t a romance or b) Your novel becomes a nice short story about how a couple met and got married—The End. When writing conflict there must be a fundamental reason for your characters to be at odds. Below are three easily made mistakes in romance conflict creation.

The Misunderstanding - The biggest mistake in romance writing is the creation of conflict because your characters don’t talk to each other. Maybe they heard part of conversation and made inaccurate conjecture. This is called The Misunderstanding which you can use for a chapter or two, but The Misunderstanding can’t be your main source of conflict throughout an entire story. It gets old quickly and a reader will want to reach through the pages and slap your main characters for being so stupid.

The Love Triangle – Be very careful using a Love Triangle. An open Love Triangle where a woman has to choose between two good men rarely happens to adults. It’s more likely to happen to struggling teens or new adults, but even then it’s rare. What usually causes a Love Triangle is a significant other sleeps with a person outside of the relationship—we call that Cheating and can certainly make for great conflict, like vase throwing conflict, but isn’t a true Love Triangle. It’s also difficult to pull a Love Triangle through an entire book, if you start with a Love Triangle, it needs to end sooner rather than later. Using the Love Triangle as your conflict throughout the entire book will also wear on your reader’s patience because it makes your hero/heroine look like a wishy-washy flake who doesn’t know their own mind and can’t make a decision.

The Third Party – What do I mean by this? A woman falls in love with a man, but her annoying sister is intrusive, doesn’t have her act together, or uses her as a doormat and the couple fight about this. Now this is true conflict and certainly happens in real life. Families stick together and can become enablers of bad behavior and written well it can last an entire manuscript. However, if your character throws off the chains of the family screw up, you need to build up to it. Don’t give me 250 pages of a very sweet character who plays the doormat then have her stand up for herself in the last 5 pages of the book. We need to see the character grow through the book and perceive smaller steps being made before the big break.
Ellen Butler twitter style: author, mother, wife, shoe lover, chocoholic, fashion fan, sarcastic wit, autumn enthusiast, dancer, book worm, and good-time devotee. Ellen is an award winning novelist living in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. She writes sexy, sassy romances with laugh out loud humor and edge of your seat suspenseful women’s fiction. Her recent release includes the Love, California Style series. When she’s not writing Ellen can be found running around after her children, giving interior decorating advice to neighbors, or holed up in her favorite chair with a glass of wine. Ellen admits to having a penchant for shoe shopping and is an admitted chocoholic. Stalk Ellen At: Website:  Twitter: @EButlerBooks

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Which Books Increased in Sales? What Genres?

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

Great news for authors. Printed books are up! This is according to Nielsen Company. You may not be familiar with them but they know what consumers watch and buy by studying consumers in more than 100 countries. “Viewing trends and habits worldwide.”  They reported, “Sales of traditional books increased almost 3% while sales of e-books dipped. This means e-books’ share of the total market slipped from 27% in 2014 to 24% in 2015.
Here is what they reported on genres. They said, “Certain genres maintained a larger share in the digital realm than others, including Romance and Thrillers. Trending was non-fiction. It was the highlight of 2015 with 12% growth in children’s and 7% in adult.”
Some writers I know are glad to hear the news that print books are up. While it is nice to download a book immediately and read, there is just something special about holding the printed book in your hands. Does that sound old fashion? Maybe…but holding a book has a special feeling. Perhaps it transports our memories back in time.
 As a child, we only had printed books. Living in a small town, I could walk to the Library. For kids who loved to read the library was a big deal. During the summer, I would walk the two and half blocks to the library, check out five books on Monday morning. By Friday, I had finished the five books. Each Monday I would return to the library and repeat checking out five. Many summers I read more than most of the kids in my class. But I do remember a couple of kids who would read more sometimes. The beginning of each school year the teacher would compare how many each kid read and the winners always got a treat.
However, it truly wasn’t a race for me. I loved reading; being taken to other worlds and meeting new characters. I knew even as a kid by reading the books I was visiting places I had never been and might never go.  I still love reading. I love being transported into other worlds by authors and meeting their characters and learning their stories.
Writers give readers a special gift if only for a while, they transport the reader out of their world into another time and place meeting different people.
Remember, when you are writing you are opening doors for your readers.

Monday, July 18, 2016

On Being Productive

By Edith Maxwell

I’m often asked how in the world I can write three novels a year. For one thing, my publishers set deadlines, and panic is a great motivator! More seriously, I approach my fiction writing as a career. I left my most recent day job – writing software manuals – three years ago. I’m not retired; this is just my new (and, I hope, last) full-time job.

My most creative time is in the mornings. I’m always up by six AM and writing by seven. Ramona DeFelice Long, a writer and editor friend in Delaware, cyber-hosts morning “sprints.” It’s a great way to work. She posts the sprint thread on Facebook every morning sometime before seven o’clock. Bunches of us from all over check in, writing things like, “Running down for a second up of coffee,” “Here, but barely,” or “Got up early, already have one sprint under my belt.”

Then we do nothing but work for an hour straight. No email, no Facebook, no phone. Just work. If I’m writing a first draft, my goal for the morning is 2000 words. Sometimes, if the story is flowing, I can churn out almost half that in the first hour. If I’m revising, I dive in and polish, trim, elaborate, whatever the book needs, for the hour.

At eight I surface, get some more coffee, grab a bite to eat, and then set the timer again. I find turning off those exterior distractions is so important to letting the words flow. It’s also key that I don’t schedule anything but writing for my mornings. I leave appointments, exercise, and all the considerable business side of being an author for the afternoons.

I have other author friends whose creative time is later in the day, and others who have a day job and sprint on their lunch breaks. We each make it fly in our own particular way. By working every morning but Sunday, and with some focus, I manage to write three mystery series. And I’m living my dream.
Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Maxwell, a former technical writer, farmer, and doula, is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her onFacebooktwitterPinterest, and at her web site.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Write on a Round Desk

By Michael H. Thompson

A: “Why would any writer believe me, you ask? Maybe it’s because they have highly creative minds.”
Q: “What’s a round desk have to do with creative writers?”

A: “It’s simple, really. Round corners … they’re round, no sharp edges. Do you know what that does to the human mind?”
Q: “Afraid you’ll have to explain.”

A: “Well, I’ve experienced this phenomenon for some time. In fact, I’ve had plenty of experience with the “four-corner creative killers,” I now call them.”
Q: “What’s four corners got to do with anything?”

A: “Two problems with four corners. One, the edges interfere with your creative liberty.”
Q: “Really? That’s a new one for me.”

A: “Well, those square corners are out there in the periphery of your eyes. Your eyes are connected to your brain, right?”
Q: “So?”

A: (I pointed to my temple.) “Those square corners become interference to the mind, like a bad song stuck in your subconscious.”
Q: “I’m not buying it. That makes no sense to me.”

A: “Sorry, bad analogy. Let’s try this. We all have a subconscious, right? God made us that way. Now the subconscious, what does it do?”
Q: “I don’t know, you tell me. I thought I was asking the questions here.”

A: “You are. I just wanted you to consider the subconscious. You do know it detects things in our minds we’re not even aware of, right? Now put that thought into this thought … square corners on a writing desk suck up the energy in our writing.”
Q: “How so?”

A: “Simple. Our subconscious recognizes them, but our conscious self doesn’t. A round desk shaves off those intrusive little gremlins, leaving us free to write without subconscious distraction.”
Q: “You’re kidding me, right?”

A: “No, try it sometime.”
Q: “I think you’re insane.”

A: “Why?”
Q: “Well, for one, your computer screen is square. It’s not round. How do you explain that for your subconscious?”

A: “I can’t. I can only tell you that it’s not the machine we’re using to create our work; it’s our surrounding that subconsciously interacts with our work.”
Q: “Hemingway! He wrote at a square desk. What about him?”

A: “Please, keep your voice down. The library guard. She’s already watching us. But you’re right. And my point exactly. Hemingway was a stiff writer. He never loosened up. Too stilted … the square corners got him.”
Q: “You’re crazy, you know that?”

A: “I’m sorry I disappointed you. I think I asked more questions than you did, though. Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot. With that circular periphery, most of your desk mess is out of sight, which could be another distraction disaster. You cool with that?”
Michael Thompson was a successful ad agency owner, winning numerous national and international awards. After selling his firm in 2011, Michael turned his attention to full-time writing. His latest novel is The Rector, available on Amazon in print, on Audio Book, and Kindle. Two graphic novels on the life of David from the Old Testament–DAVID–The Illustrated Novel came first(Volume 2-won first place BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL and BEST INTERIOR DESIGN2012, from USA Book’s INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. Volume 1 won the Silver IPPY for Graphic Novels in 2011 from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.) Next was a sci-fi thriller (CLOUDS ABOVE) that was serialized in a monthly magazine for a year. (Out in book in 2016.) Michael writes Christian novels that entertain, intrigue, and shine a light on his Jesus. He’s a member of the ACFW, Mystery Writers of America, The International Crime Writers Association, and the Southern Writers Association. Visit his website, to learn more.