Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Is Messy

By Kathleen M. Rodgers

Writing is a messy process. After nearly forty years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to trust what works for me. Every article I sold to Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and many other publications, started out like this: first thoughts scribbled on whatever paper was at hand.

Sometimes I use legal pads or journals given to me by family members or friends. I joke that my first novel, The Final Salute, was cobbled together using sticky notes and index cards.
In 1998, I signed my fifth contract with Family Circle Magazine to write a 2500 word article about attention deficit disorder. Even before I pitched the article to my editor in a query letter, I’d accumulated hundreds of notes on every form of paper available. Once the ink dried on the contract, the pressure was on.

With notes fanned out in front of me on my living room floor, I attempted to puzzle together a story that I was getting paid a lot of money to write. For me, the only way to bring order to chaos is to wade through it. I did what I always do. I took a deep breath and plowed in. After several revisions, “Driven to Distraction” appeared in the October 1998 edition of Family Circle Magazine, where it was read by millions of readers around the country.

For my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press February 1, 2015), my first thoughts were captured in a spiral notebook for a novel writing class I took at Southern Methodist University. Once I got a few words down, I moved to my laptop.

Throughout the six years it took to write and revise this novel, many of my best lines were written in the margins of church bulletins, school programs, grocery store receipts, napkins from eateries, and the occasional paperback I happened to be reading at the moment my mind wandered from the path of reading to writing.

About eight months before I finished the manuscript, I dumped my work onto my kitchen table and attempted to organize the chapters. I’m old school in that I need to see the physical pages of the manuscript as I work. Holding each scene in my hand helped me see where I needed to revise an opening line or create a better transition from one scene to the next.

I’m in the middle of writing my third novel, and once again I am learning to trust the process. Now that my children are grown and I no longer have the need to go hide in my home office, I find myself back at the kitchen or dining room table, attempting to create characters that people will care about. Each night when I go to bed, I place the current scene I’m working on in between my alarm clock and my TBR pile. Having the physical pages close to me before I drift off to sleep is a reminder that my characters are depending on me the next day. Just like my young sons depended on me when they were young. They trusted that I would be there for them each morning when they woke up.
Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former freelance writer for Family Circle MagazineMilitary Times, and many other national and regional publications. Her first novel, The Final Salute (Deer Hawk Publications) has been featured in USA TodayThe Associated Press, and soared to #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), has been featured in Southern Writers MagazineStars & StripesFort Worth Star-Telegram, and The Authors Corner on Public Radio. Kathleen is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.
Author’s website:
Kathleen Featured in Southern Writers Magazine:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Sherryl Woods

The creative well has run dry. Your muse is on vacation. The computer cursor mocks you, blinking cheerfully while you struggle to come up with the first word of a new book, much less the first chapter. Writer's block hits almost everyone sooner or later, including the author heroine of "Bayside Retreat," my novella in the Sweet Talk eBook collection available through June 30 to raise money for diabetes research.

But is this curse just part of being a writer, something to be accepted, struggled through, and then overcome? I don't think so. And after publishing a whole bunch of books and novellas during a career that's spanned over 30 years, I think I can speak from experience. Ideas are all around you. Knowing how to recognize them and weave them into a solid story can come with practice.

I credit two things with allowing me to work even when my muse has taken off on an idyllic trip to the South of France, where I desperately want to be. 

First, I spent a number of years as a journalist, paying close attention to the world around me as I looked for fresh story ideas and angles that would keep me one step ahead of the competition. Honing your powers of observation and developing an insatiable curiosity are the cornerstones of good storytelling and character development. And we all have it. By the time we could talk we were asking why is the sky blue, where do flowers come from, why is that lady crying? For writers, it's just a more sophisticated set of questions that can trigger an idea for a character, a motivation for a hero or the key to solving a crime. 

And second, sometimes it all comes down to two little words Mary Higgins Clark shared at a conference I attended many, many years ago: what if? Read an article in the paper, eavesdrop on an argument in a mall food court, watch Dr. Phil, ask someone you've just met how they met their spouse, and then ask, what if? Those two words can kick your imagination into gear and send you off on a journey into an intriguing new story. 

Years ago, there was an iconic line on the TV series The Naked City: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them." Next time you sit in front of a blank computer screen, think about that. The world right around you is crawling with stories. Observe and ask what if. You'll be well on your way to telling just one of them.
Sherryl Woods is a #1 New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods has published over 140 romance, women's fiction and mystery novels and novellas. "Bayside Retreat," her contribution to the Sweet Talk eBook collection, is part of her popular Chesapeake Shores series, which is currently in development for a movie and possible series for the Hallmark Channel. She divides her time between Key Biscayne, Florida and her childhood summer home in Colonial Beach, Virginia. Sherryl is happy to be part of Brenda Novak’s SWEET TALK collection for raising money for diabetes research. For more information, visit her website at From there you can also follow the link to her Facebook page.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Creating Your Own Sell Sheet

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Recently, I helped an author create a "sell sheet" for his first book, The Gates of Hell, in his Biblical historical series. The author, Earl C. David, Jr. is a member of our writers group.

Why is a sell sheet helpful? Consider your fan base via email. You want to let them know with the click of a mouse about your latest book with live links for them to purchase your book. In Earl's case, he is asking that all his fans then forward the sell sheet to their email list in hopes that it will continue. You can also use it to send to bookstores and request a book signing or media event.

To create a sell sheet, make it a one-page concise document. It is virtually an announcement your book is finished and available.

Earl's sell sheet was created using a Microsoft Word document. You can also create a double-fold or trifold brochure. I suggest playing around with the documents you create and then compare them. You may want to create several sell sheets, one targeting fans, family and friends, bookstores, etc.

Definitely put the title of the book at the top of the page. Consider the font size and text color and make the title a different color with a live link to your book sale site. Make sure you include picture of your book's cover. I placed the book cover in the upper left corner of the sell sheet. To the right of the book cover, include publishing details about your book, the title and a short impactive summary. Below the book information include a headshot picture with your book and a short bio.

Make sure when you send out your sell sheets that you can monitor and respond to any emails.

You may be a published author, but your job is not over. You have to market your book for readers to find you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Writing That First Book

By C. H. Lawler

I've had a number of book signings so far with The Saints of Lost Things, and at each one there's been at least one person who's said, "I've always wanted to write a book."

Let me tell you something, something about writing a book.

Writing a book, or creating anything, a painting, a song, anything, is a very vulnerable, incredibly soul-baring experience.  But let's face it, as Faulkner said, if there's a story in you, it's got to come out.

He also said to 'quit when you're hot.' In other words, save an idea for next time you sit down to write. Do this to keep from getting writer's block. 

It's also been said, maybe by Faulkner also, that you should read, read, and read. It fuels your writing. Find a word or group of words that grab you. Language can be delicious. Taste it, smell it, savor it. Open up your senses and then mix them. Let sounds have colors, let smells have textures.  'Vivid' is the highest compliment you can receive. Be mindful in the most mundane life circumstances.  Ask yourself, what am I hearing?  What am I seeing?  Relax and enjoy where you are, even if you don't write.

If you have an idea for a book, you should write it. Play around with it. Get frustrated with it. Set it aside. Reread it. Prune it like a shrub. Wake up at three a.m. and jot it down. At some point you'll begin to enjoy your characters. They'll become like family.

Then have a wide range of people read your story. This is always tricky. Don't avoid critical people.  These are the very people you need most. Even if you self-publish, get a good editor before you do.
And when your story finally sees the light of day, after you've eased it out of yourself, I swear you'll want to hold the book gently and wrap it in a baby blanket and coo at it and wait for the world to love it as much as you do.

Which of course they may not do. No one is obligated to like your book. No one. You were only obligated to write it. No one is obligated to read it or, having read it, like it. Or, having read it and liked it, tell someone they did.

But your job is done. You created. You have bared part of yourself to the world. And if one other person reads it, likes it, and tells you, you are richly blessed.

Be grateful for the latest person who reads and likes your book.

Even if it's only you yourself.
C. H. Lawler is a native of Louisiana and a resident of Baton Rouge.  A practicing obstetrician, The Saints of Lost Things is his first novel, written largely at the hospital while waiting on babies to arrive.  He is married with grown children

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Shakespeare and Agatha Christie

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

Shakespeare, take in mind, lived from 1564 to 1616. Yet, even from that long ago, he has influenced from that time up to today writers, actors, and poets. I dare say probably one of the greatest writers of all time.

The thing I found most interesting and didn’t know or never realized was Amanda Mabillard’s article about him where she stated…”Many authors have used phrases from Shakespeare's works as titles for their own novels. Here is a list of just a few:
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (The Tempest, 5.1)
  • The Dogs of War by Robert Stone (Julius Caesar 3.1)
  • The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck (Richard III, 1.1)
  • The Undiscovered Country by Auther Schnitzer (Hamlet, 3.1)
  • Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Macbeth, 4.1)
  • Bell, Book, and Candle by John van Druten (King John, 3.3)

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie who lived from 1890 to 1976 was a novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet and best known for her crime novels. She too influenced writers. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time stating her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies. Her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind Shakespeare's works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum (World Bibliography of Translation), she remains the most-translated individual author – having been translated into at least 103 languages.

So, what made them stand out? What was different?

Shakespeare used drama and comedy in his writings. He must have understood mankind for he was able to touch them where they would connect with his words.  His themes are what we call today, evergreen; they were as true in his day as in ours.  The interesting thing is he did not over write the sexual end.

Agatha Christi was the “Queen of Crime”. One of the things that make her stand out is her creation of her characters. We all remember Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She was able to develop characters that we could relate to. I remember reading some of her books, thinking how dignified Hercule was. Her plots in the stories were always such that beckoned you into the thick of her story.

What did their stories not have that some stories have today? Will those stories today be remember 100 years from now?

To be a writer that will be remembered, as a great writer, look closely at these two writers. Study how they created their characters, plots, scenes. Look how they developed the struggles, the humor, and the reality even though fiction. These two can help each of us leave a legacy in our writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Question of Inspiration and Passion

By Terry Palmer

One question that I often get as a novelist is about inspiration and passion. What are my sources?  What moves me on to both write the story and then to ‘get the message out’?

As a writer, I need only a prompt, a ‘what if…’ to close upon my mind. At that point I’ll write out the beginning and end and simple wait for the fun journey to begin. I write about the struggle of man with darkness and light. A passage in Joshua makes my point.  Joshua sets out to take the Promised Land, not in the power of man, but through the power of God. It’s a classic tale about the overwhelming power of man against the faithful few and the Power of God. That is also a description of my fantasy series, Chronicles of Orm.

In our Bible passage, five kings attack, confident in their combined strength to defeat this small army of believers.  Joshua 10:11 and following…from the Open Bible. And it came about as they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horan, that the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

I need no other inspiration than this.  I used this sequence for my poor wandering tribe of faithful, who step forward in faith upon the shores of a new continent. The wrath of darkness is about to descend upon them through the packs of vicious wolf like characters of darkness. The faithful few and the power of His spirit against the hordes of darkness.

Here is my type from chapter twenty four of Chronicles of Orm, Book One, Legend of Cre – lo - Way.  Lightning flared upon the hiding places of the horde, who chose this moment to crowd together in hiding just beyond the sight of those in the half circle on the beach. Sharp hail struck with the full stunning force of nature upon either side of mankind on the beach.  Streaming hail stripped leaf and limb from the protective overhang letting mankind see and understand the way of the horde. Huge hailstones rained a stunning and eroding death upon those who lurked in the shame of hiding.

In this case as in His Word, many more fell from the hailstones as from the edge of the sword.
My entire series is built this way, making those who stand for the light against the throws of darkness, dependent upon the strength of the light to overcome.  In this manner, both inspiration and passion flow together to help each scene make my message clear and plain.  By the end of the narrative, the reader will know the darkness, know the light, and know the difference, making it very plain about which to choose from this day on.  Indeed, which will you choose?
Terry Palmer is a writer from northwestern Wisconsin.  Since 2008, Terry has sought to bring the message about the battle between darkness and light to his readers. His latest work is a fourteen eBook series about Valentine’s Day – The Procrastinators Guide to Valentine’s Day. Each eBook takes a few verses from Proverbs 31, about the virtuous woman, and matches that with key words of inspiration. Chronicles of Orm returns to his calling, making a sharp contrast between good and evil in the hope for that one who struggles in life with the throes of darkness will find hope and direction to turn to the light.  And this is the message that we have received and give to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. I John 1:5 Open Bible. Contact Terry at

Friday, June 19, 2015

Crafting Villains

By Cynthia Eden

I have a confession to make—I love villains.  I love their darkness, their layers, and the wonderful twists that they can add to any story.  When I write my books, I always have a goal of creating a villain who will be a perfect match for my protagonist. I want a villain who will be just as strong and just as complex as my hero or heroine. Weak villains don’t pull in readers, and they certainly won’t give a story a hard, intense edge.

So how does an author craft a *killer* villain?  Here are my two rules for a good villain: 
            1. Good villains must command attention.
            2.A good villain will shock, surprise, and keep a reader on the edge of his/her seat.

All characters have a back story, and when authors create a commanding villain, the villain should have a very compelling back story. When creating a backstory for your villain, you should consider the following:
1.     How did your villain come to be so wicked?  What turned her/him into this being? 
2.     Is your villain’s “wickedness” due to nature or nurture?
3.     What is the level of evil for this character? After all, not all villains are killers.  There is a level of evil, a scale, that you can create.

Another point to consider when developing a villain…what positive traits will your villain have? Yes, I said positive. Because it is very rare to encounter someone who is 100% evil (or 100% good). So even villains will have some redeeming traits, and it is those traits that might make your readers sympathize with a villain (if that is your intent). By giving a villain both positive and negative traits, you create a multi-dimensional character, one with dark flaws, but also a few bright points that make readers feel compelled to learn more about this individual.

A powerful villain will be a perfect counterpoint for your protagonist.  So when you write, make sure you spend as much time developing your bad guy (or bad girl) as you do the hero and heroine of your tale.

Best of luck with your villain!
Award-winning author Cynthia Eden writes dark tales of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. She is a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller. Cynthia is also a three-time finalist for the prestigious RITA® award. Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Cynthia has written over fifty novels and novellas. Cynthia lives along the Alabama Gulf Coast. She has authored Mine to Take, Suspicions and many more,  She loves romance novels, horror movies, and chocolate. Cynthia is happy to be part of Brenda Novak’s SWEET TALK collection for raising money for diabetes research. Her favorite hobbies including hiking in the mountains (searching for waterfalls) and spelunking.You can find Cynthia chatting daily on Twitter ( or on her Facebook page ( Author’s website: Author’s blog: