Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for our Community of Authors and Readers

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Southern Writers Magazine says thank you to all our authors and readers! It's because of you the magazine is such a success. 

SWM's blog Suite T is rapidly approaching 2 million views and it's all because of y'all. Thank you!

We love our community of authors and readers who make it fun as we put together each issue. Our editors and staff are constantly working on ways to expand our services to benefit all authors, while creating interest to readers. 

Here's a little writing exercise. Put your thinking cap on and name these "turkeys" that are hanging out on my front porch. Remember, you have to name characters in your writing to make your characters unique. 

Or write a short paragraph of no more than twenty-five words. You will need to write a tight blurb about your book to entice readers to open your book. This writing exercise will help you hone your skills. 
Still stumped? 

Here's mine; the "Turkey" on the left is named "Perky." (Cross between a Pumpkin and a Turkey)....The "Turkey" on the right below is named "Wobble"(he ate too much at dinner) 

My twenty-five words blurb; "Pumpkins hang out on my front porch for All Hallows' Eve tricksters. A few metal attachments extend their time on my porch. Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writing 101

By Barbara Weitzer

God created the heavens and the earth, but even He realized He needed some kind of plan instead of just creating stuff willy-nilly.

Before you begin to type, read “Stein on Writing,” available at the library or Barnes and Noble. This is an easy to read guide for beginners with lots of practical advice.

Join a writer’s group at your local church or library. Don’t rely on family advice. They think everything you do is wonderful.

To help your creative stimulation, arrange a set time agreed by family to allow you uninterrupted silence.

Develop your own original style, or “voice.” When you have finished a chapter, read it aloud— you will hear your awkward sentences, repetitions and lack of cadence.

Listen to people— note their inflections. This will help you to write, “People speak,” and well-forged identities so your characters don’t all sound alike. This will also help you to eliminate “he-she said,” and develop distinct personalities.

Read Elmore Leonard, a master of dialogue. He also authored Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.

Avoid stiff, overly literary sentences with too many commas. Keep index cards with each characters statistics. This will avoid Susie having red hair on page 20 and blonde hair on page 200. Mentally put your arm around your protagonist and say, “I hear you, man. Because this is how I feel when I’m creating you. When I’m not typing I miss us hanging out together, and it gets lonesome.”

Keep a note pad with you all the time, yes, even at your bedside. Good ideas can be forgotten by the time you are able to sit down and record them.

Don’t try to impress your editors with big words. If you have to look it up, delete it.

Enter as many short story contests as you can. Start with the no entry fee college literary magazines. I found the editors favored themes with people who were unbearable, insurmountable or inscrutable. Ordinary folk didn’t cut the mustard. (But this is strictly my observation.)

When you are certain your story is complete, invest in a professional editor. Unless you are Phillip Roth, you need your work evaluated and polished. Be sure to verify his (her) credentials.

Last but not least, develop an interesting query letter. This is not a synopsis of your plot. The opening paragraph should be short and tempting. Editors read thousands of queries, so make sure yours will immediately catch their attention. My query for “The Most Glorious Thing Ever,” began with, “A couple meet in a bar. He buys her a drink. He can hardly believe his luck. She’s gorgeous and fun. Where could it lead?”

My query received twenty-two replies.

Don’t become discouraged. Believe in yourself and keep at it.

Good luck!
Barbara Weitzner's novels, The Most Glorious Thing Ever, The Parradine Allure and A New Start have been published by Solstice Horizons. Her short story, Please Wake Up was published in Soundings Magazine. Her article, Never Too Late appeared in the September issue of Southern Writing. Her articles have appeared in Breezes, a South Florida Magazine. Her short story, First Love appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Gemini Magazine. Her short story, On The Veranda will soon be published by Crimson Cloak Publishing. Her short story, An American Christmas will be published in November.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Authors, Let’s be Safe on Social Networking

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

Well, there is a new social network on the block! Some of you may have heard of it.  The name is Nextdoor.  Now according to my sources, this is a private social network for your neighborhood. When you join, you have to give your home address, which I understand is Google Map synched.

Yes it might help you get to know people in your neighborhood, and introduce them to the fact they have a real live author in their neighborhood…but do you really want your address thrown out  live on the internet?

Only you can make this decision.  As with anything, there are pros and cons in joining.  The biggest turn off for me was I don’t want my home address shared on any social media. Now call me nuts, but I prefer some things a little private, particularly, my address. Yes, I know, there are ways to find out our addresses, but I want to keep from freely giving it online.

Of course, this is just my feelings. But let me remind you that as an author, you have great sources to showcase your books, talk about your book releases, and book signings through Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, and your websites.

At any rate, I would love to know which ones you use and feel helps you the most.

Let’s face it, writers have to use sources to tell other people about their writings, and their books being published, but let’s be safe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why a Book’s Setting Counts as a Character

By Laura Childs

I think every author worth his/her salt constantly strives to create that all-important “sense of place.”  You want your readers to vividly picture your novel’s setting as seen through your eyes.  You want every word to be so filled with imagery that they drink in each scene – tasting the salt on the breeze, smelling the perfumed jasmine in the early evening dusk, and detecting that ominous crunch of footsteps on gravel behind them.  You want your readers’ hearts to pitty-pat a little faster and think to themselves, “Who’s that following me?  What’s happening here?”

When I set my Scrapbooking Mysteries in New Orleans, I hit the jackpot. Seriously, nowhere else in this country is there a spookier, decrepit, elegant, and highly atmospheric city all rolled into one.  Setting a mystery in New Orleans means you can borrow lonesome-sounding tugboat whistles from the Mississippi River or allow faint notes of jazz to bump along on the breeze.  You can impart the grandeur and old world elegance of the Garden District, the raucousness of the French Quarter, and the danger and solitude of nearby bayous.

But there’s so much more to work with. 

I particularly love the infamous aboveground cemeteries in New Orleans.  First of all, they’re bizarre.  I mean, you can’t even bury a body in New Orleans.  If you do, the water table will send it right back to you.  So there’s a nasty concept to play with.  The cemeteries are also a strange amalgam of stately marble crypts, tumbled-down tombstones, oven crypts (you don’t even want to know), and ancient statues whose faces have long since been eroded by hurricanes, rain, and relentless heat.  Yes, a cemetery in New Orleans is always the perfect setting for a somber funeral, a dangerous tiptoe-through-the-tombstones chase, or even a nighttime ghost sighting.

I particularly love the contrast between the French Quarter and the Garden District.  The French Quarter is where the city of New Orleans dug in hard and put down roots.  There are ancient warehouses that have been turned into lofts and apartments, narrow alleys, tiny shops, four-star restaurants, haughty hotels, a genuine cathedral, and cobwebs of wrought iron draped everywhere.  Some of the old brick buildings began life as absinthe bars, houses of ill repute, and voodoo shops.  Interesting enough, some of them are still absinthe bars, houses of ill repute, and voodoo shops.  There’s honest-to-gosh history here and it’s all there for the taking.  And here’s a tidbit that always makes me smile: some of the French Quarter’s interior courtyards are utterly breathtaking with their pattering fountains, marble statues, and riots of flowers, but they’re never seen by anyone except a small handful of privacy-minded residents. 

Even though the Garden District consists of big homes and big money, it is equally private and closed.  When I attended the Rex Ball during Mardi Gras, I came to realize that the real Mardi Gras takes place in these magnificent mansions.  All that hoo-haw down in the French Quarter?  The beads, balconies, drinking, and music you see on TV?  That’s for the benefit of the tourists and the cameras.  No self-respecting member of the Rex, Comus, or Bacchus krewe would ever throw open the doors to their float den, or invite the public in to their elegant parties. 

But there is a way you can partake of these magical, hushed settings.  An author who’s been there can put down the words, take your hand, and gently pull you in for a good long peek.  Are you interested?  Then come along, let’s both enjoy the spectacle of the debutantes, dine on oysters Rockefeller and crab etouffee, and step inside the drop-dead gorgeous mansions and drink twenty-four year-old Bourbon in Baccarat crystal.  Let’s crash this fine eccentric city known as the Big Easy.
Laura Childs is the author of the Scrapbook Mysteries set in New Orleans, LA, the Tea Shop Mysteries set in Charleston, SC, and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries.  Her books have been continually named to the New York Times Bestseller List and have been featured selections in the Literary Guild’s Mystery Book Club.  She is a former Cleo Award-winning advertising writer and CEO of Mission Critical Marketing. She is currently co-executive producer of two reality television shows. Her website is Laura Childs’ newest Scrapbooking Mystery, Gossamer Ghost released in October by Penguin Random House.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Author’s Best Friend

By Jim Proctor

Social media is probably the most important tool available to the indie author for building a following, or building a brand. The important thing to remember when participating is that you are as much a part of your brand as your books are.

I’ve witnessed authors (and bloggers, too) treat their followers badly on social media, and I have observed the resulting backlash. In the midst of the turmoil, I’ve seen authors make things better, and I’ve seen them make things worse—much worse. You’re human. If you screw up, apologize. Make it right.

Since creating my first social media accounts to promote my brand, I’ve looked for advice on how to manage those accounts. People have recommended everything from posting things about yourself to show your followers that you are a real person, to keeping it purely professional, strictly talking about your books and writings. In the end, you have to decide how much of your real self you are willing to reveal to your followers.

From my personal experience, and from my observations of others, I can say that it pays to be nice to your followers. Always. Confrontation and negativism are neither attractive, nor endearing. Remember what social media is—a platform to interact with people. It’s not a television commercial or a billboard. It’s interactive. Don’t just post about your books. Find the topics that elicit positive responses, and then engage your followers. Be respectful, be helpful, and be responsive.

If you’re having a bad day, maybe it’s a good idea to stay off social media. Or, at least, limit your activities to posting neutral items and letting your followers interact among themselves. Don’t let your bad day influence the way you treat your fans.

When is it acceptable to be negative on social media? That’s a hard call. I try very hard never to do that. Some authors cultivate an image of being a “bad ass,” and put that attitude on display. If that’s who you are, and it’s what your followers expect, then carry on. Be yourself (or the image you have created of yourself).

On one popular social media site, when users were asked what they like most from authors, one of the most common responses was interaction. They want to engage. When they reply to an author’s post, they want their reply to be acknowledged. They want a response. It takes time and effort. Marketing always does, and that’s what brand building is—the foundation of marketing, and eventual success.

One last thing I have learned about social media—pictures of my dog are always more popular than anything else I post. Get a dog.

Jim Proctor has been an engineer and laboratory scientist for more than 34 years, working at a major university, a national measurements laboratory, and in private industry. After decades of writing and contributing to scientific papers, he began writing his first work of fiction around 2007. Using his scientific background, he brought realism to a science fiction tale of mystery and suspense. A fantasy novel followed, set on a planet where the balance of nature was anything but natural. He has written numerous short stories, and is currently working on a new science fiction novel. His books are Made in The Stars and  The Last Steward. When not writing (or reading), he is working for a living while thinking about writing. He can be found at 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing With All The Senses

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

High above the city of Lisbon rest the ancient site of St George Castle. St George is a beautiful and impressive fortress that stands watch over the Tagus River and the valley behind. To reach the fortress one must travel through the narrow streets of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood that lies between the castle and the water. You must work your way to the top to experience the beautiful view of the city, the river and the Ponte 25th of April Bridge.

I had the pleasure of enjoying these views during lunch at the castle. It was indeed breath taking. The river, where all the great explorers launched to discover the trade routes to the east, looks more like a bay. The Ponte 25th of April Bridge has such a close resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge it is referred to as Lisbon’s Golden Gate. The designs are indeed similar. And most breathtaking of all is the city itself with its many houses with red roofs. It is a beautiful and historic sight indeed.

The sights are available on many websites and all photos are excellent representations of the sites. I took many photos while I was there but none were planned nor as well done as what I have enjoyed on these sights. But there is one thing I have that cannot be shared in a photo and that is the physical experience of traveling there. The true feel of the city must be experienced firsthand.

We arrived on June 11th which is the day after Portugal Day. This is the day in which all citizens and Portuguese Immigrants around the world celebrate their nationality. This is the day of the death of their nation’s great poet Luis de Camoes. Camoes wrote what is considered the greatest work of Portuguese History and the great feats of the Portuguese Empire. The celebration was the day before but the after party effects were in the streets.

Apparently the Portuguese have cookouts on their National Holiday like the Americans do on our National Holiday. But unlike the Americans, that cook burgers and hot dogs, the Portuguese cook sardines on the grill. Tasty I’m sure but the smell the following day engulfed the neighborhood. Smelly as it was it was not a deterrent to our travels.

The Alfama neighborhood was a beautiful area. Unlike the downtown area of Lisbon with its international flavor, it had the feel and appearance of the traditional old world Lisbon. The people were friendly and open and ready with a nod or wave. We happened upon a wedding and lingered to watch the excitement and joy of the family. A beautiful bride and a large gathering was a joy to see.
Once you reached the top you could feel the summer breeze and hear the sounds of the city rising up. I could feel it was a moment to remember and I have done so many times since. As beautiful as the sights are, I think it took all the senses to establish that moment in my mind.

Having been fortunate to travel and share my experiences I have noticed that showing pictures of your travels tends to have the same effect of seeing the old slide show of our neighbor’s summer vacation. Many of us have suffered through those. I now realize although we see the great photos and see their excitement we have not experienced being there. It takes the combination of all the senses to get the full effect.

The same is true for us as writers. We need to write with all the senses. We must not only paint the picture but we need to allow our readers to smell the roses, feel the breeze, hear the sounds and enjoy the celebration. I am not saying we must spend page after page describing in great detail each and every scene but make the reader aware of their surroundings in the story. If we do this we can establish a moment in their mind. Hopefully it will be a moment they will remember time and time again.        

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


By Ali Brandon

I’m one of those writers that we call “pantsers”…I write by the seat of my pants without a whole lot of prep. We pantsers run on instinct and flashes of brilliance, and we cross our fingers and hope it all works out. And usually it does, though not without a lot of sweat toward the end trying to wrap up all the loose ends.

This is as opposed to the “planner” types. You know who you are! You folks outline and write bios on your characters and pretty well have your story locked in before you begin. But, pantser or planner, sometimes we all have problems when it comes to establishing logical motivation for our characters. So what to do when this happens?

My best advice is to go back to the basics…and I’m talking WAY back. When you’re stumped for a motive, maybe when you’ve tangled yourself up in too complicated a background for your characters, why not go classical, even Biblical? Tap into The Seven Deadly Sins for the very fundamental motivations for humans since the beginning.

So, here you go. These sins obviously will apply to your villains…though, in moderation, they also serve as the necessary flaw in an otherwise likable hero or heroine:

·        WRATH – More commonly known as anger, Wrath is always a great motive. My killers all seem to be driven at least partially by rage of some sort, whether it is anger at the world for some perceived injustice, or anger at a particular person who they feel has done them wrong. As we all know—in real life, as well as in fiction—wrath can lead to murder, whether spontaneous or premeditated.
·        Greed – A staple of caper novels, Greed is usually--but not always--a motivation for theft. Greed, however, does not always have to be about money. Maybe your antagonist wants to control all the land in town, and your protagonist must try to stop his takeover. Or maybe said villain wants your hero’s great job, beautiful family, and overall successful life, and tries to destroy him or her to gain this.
·        Sloth --This sin is a bit harder to incorporate, but it’s still a useful one. Sloth can translate to a character’s deliberate inaction, which can result in something bad happening to a good person, setting the story line into motion.
·        Pride -- This sin can be a flaw, but it also can be a positive. In my BLACK CAT BOOKSHOP MYSTERIES, my protagonist, Darla Pettistone, has pride in her store and her employees, and this spurs many of her actions, including searching out murderers. But a villain overcome by Pride may stoop to all sorts of crimes, including murder, in order to keep his proud fa├žade intact.
·        Lust -- We all know about Lust! It can lead to many other bad things: cheating on spouses, sex crimes, even murder. I write cozy mysteries, so I haven’t tapped into this sin yet…but I might.
·        Envy -- When I envy you, I want what you have…but if I can’t have it, I don’t want you to have it, either. Envy is a sneaky little sin. It can appear as nothing worse than a bit of pettiness but, nurtured, it can lead to other, more serious sins…again, even murder.
·        Gluttony -- A 1st cousin to greed, and not only related simply to food. Gluttony is indulging in too much of anything. I may be rich, but I want to be richer! And sometimes the accumulation of wealth requires removing certain people from the picture.

And there you are. Now, next time you’re stumped for a motive for your bad guy or gal, simply reach for one of the Seven!
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Book 4 in the series, LITERALLY MURDER, will be on the shelf September 30. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ali penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically reviewed historical romances, which will soon be re-released as eBooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association. Visit her, and be sure to “like” Hamlet on .