Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What Gift Would You Recommend?

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

Charlotte Ahlin wrote “Giving someone a good book is pretty much like sending them on a mental vacation for free. All of the vast new worlds with none of the cramped airplane seats.”

Wouldn’t you love to do that for the people you love and care about? I know when I begin reading a book, I slide into the world the author has created, it’s as if I am sitting there watching a movie. I don’t think about anything going on around me. Even if you talked to me, odds are I never looked up just grunted and doubtful I heard what you said. Here is the link to Southern Writers Magazine's Holiday Catalog.

Neil Gaiman said, “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”

I am sure you agree it’s cheaper to buy the book, than the world. There are worlds inside of books the authors have created. I remember as a youngster, reading, and being transported into another country, another time period; I met people in these worlds that didn’t exist in mine.

I would rather sit and read a book, than do almost anything, other than writing.

Garrison Keillor said “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”

You know some of my family and friends just can’t understand why I won’t throw away, take to
Goodwill or give to other people the majority of my books. They remind me I’ve already read the books; some I’ve had for 40 or 50 years. Well, what can I say? I love my books. Yes, I’ve read them all, but lots of times, I go back and reread them. I justify my keeping them by letting them know one of these days I will retire and I will be able to reread them again. But perhaps one of the reasons is as Garrison Keillor said. Maybe I keep them because it feels like a gift waiting for me to open it again.

I think Alan Bennett said it best. “A book is a device to ignite the imagination.”

These are some of the reasons I think giving books as gifts is important. What about you? What are some reasons you think giving books is important?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Passing the Torch

By Cathy Gohlke

It’s nearly Thanksgiving and I’m counting life’s blessings. One of the greatest is books, and a family that devours them. We’ve read many classics both alone and aloud. Through books, I met mentors for life.

Sad to say, some of those great books are no longer popular. Is it the language, the style that creates obstacles for modern readers? Is it that those books are no longer sitting on end caps in brick-and-mortar stores, and room must be made for the push of new books each month online? I understand the short shelf life of books . . . after all, I’m a twenty-first-century author. But some books bear passing, like torches—setting aflame significant thoughts and ideas for a new generation. 

That’s the motivating force behind highlighting Christian classics in my novels—bringing stories of enduring value and the impassioned writers who penned them to new readers.

For example, the Christian’s life journey—its purpose, its pitfalls, its keys to eternal success—is painted in The Pilgrim’s Progress, a seventeenth-century book that was second only to the Bible for generations. John Bunyan’s book is featured as a companion in my novel Promise Me This, a Titanic-through-WWI love story that shows Christ’s sacrificial love for us and our response to that unmerited gift.

The importance and implications of asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” in every situation of life is the premise of Charles Sheldon’s nineteenth-century novel, In His Steps. This burning question is repeated by a group of women facing the perils of human trafficking and taking responsibility for sister victims in my book Band of Sisters, which takes place in the era of Ellis Island and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s TheCost of Discipleship, written before his imprisonment and execution during WWII, contrasts cheap grace and costly grace—the grace Jesus gave to rescue and redeem us. Bonhoeffer, as a cameo character, challenges an American journalist and the woman he falls for in Saving Amelie, where taking a stand for those most vulnerable in Nazi Germany means laying your life on the line.

Corrie ten Boom’s Christ-driven forgiveness of Nazi murderers—even though her sister was one of their victims (revealed in her book The Hiding Place)—was inspiration for characters facing the unthinkable in their own war-torn family in Secrets She Kept.

The challenge of believing Jesus loves us, died for us, and means for us to spend eternity with Him is brought home through a letter from C. S. Lewis (based on his writings) to my protagonist in Until We Find Home, a WWII Lake District story of embracing refugees, to be released in January.
There’s little we can give this world that will make a difference fifty years from now.  But, if through our writing we share books that have helped us, changed us, we will have shared the rich legacy we’ve received—and a springboard for the faith of a new generation.

I can’t think of better Christmas gifts for those we love.
Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

Meant to Be

By Jill Weatherholt

Have you ever tried something over and over, only to get the same result?

In 2013, I was on a mission to sell a sweet romance short story to Woman’s World magazine.

During that first year, I wrote, submitted and received multiple rejections.

When I finally realized my method wasn’t working, I purchased two orange three-ring binders. I labeled one “Woman’s World Stories” and the other “Woman’s World Submissions.”

Every week I bought a copy of the magazine, located near the cash register of every major grocery store chain. I’d tear out the story, three-hole punch it and place it in my notebook. Week after week, I studied and dissected each story. I discovered an obvious formula to writing these stories and I was determined to crack it.

Years passed and I continued to submit my stories. During that time, I wrote a book published this year by Harlequin Love Inspired.

As the rejections from Woman’s World mounted, I couldn’t figure out what my stories were missing.

While writing my first book and those that followed, my sweet mother would periodically ask me, “Am I in your story?” At first, I laughed telling her, “Not this time.” Then it hit me. Why wasn’t she?

On a rainy Saturday, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote my mother’s story, loosely based on when she met my father. Something magical stirred in my heart and the words flew on the page. In two hours, “Test Drive for Love” was written, starring Nell and Charles, my parents. The next day, I submitted the story.

Ten days later, I received an email from the editor, Woman’s World wanted to buy my story. To say I was overwhelmed with emotion would be an understatement, but it wasn’t just because of the sale. Of course, that was great, but the fact that they wanted to share my mother’s story with a circulation of over 1.5 million readers told me those years of waiting had a purpose.

Share a time when you didn’t take “no” for an answer.
By day, Jill Weatherholt works for the City of Charlotte. At night, and on the weekend, she writes contemporary stories about love, faith and forgiveness. Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she now resides in Charlotte, North  Carolina, but her heart belongs to Virginia. She holds a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and Paralegal Studies Certification from Duke
University. She shares her life with her real-life hero and number one supporter. Their relationship grew on the golf course, and now they have one in their backyard.  Jill believes in enjoying every moment of this journey because God has everything under control.  Jill loves to blog @ https://jillweatherholt.wordpress.com/ Her website is: JillWeatherholt.com
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/jillian.weatherholt.3

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lunchmeat and Life Lessons

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Mary B. Lucas, B.D was one of 10 children born to the Bichelmeyer family. Her mother was Mary and her father John Bichelmeyer was a butcher and owner of Bichelmeyer Meat Company in Kansas City. Mary described her mother as “the only person that can have 10 children and each one have all her love”. Her father, a man with only an 8th grade education, was a successful business man and full of wisdom which he shared with his family and others.

Although Mary has a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University she feels nothing can compare with the letters, B.D. for Butcher’s Daughter, he father bestowed upon her. She earned her B.D. by spending hours seated at the family’s butcher block table in her mother’s kitchen listening to her father’s life lessons while sharing her father’s lunchmeat. I was fortunate to hear Mary, a self-proclaimed “Intentional Communicator”, share her father’s life lessons with a group at a business meeting in Kansas City recently. Here are some examples you will find in her book.

We all are in the people business. “The People Business is making meaningful relationships with people around you one person at a time.”

“If you don’t like somebody they don’t like you.” Find the like, find something about them to like.
Sell yourself. As a butcher her father felt “The first hunk of meat you have to sell is yourself.”
Make a lasting impression with the “comeback sauce”. Pour some comeback sauce on everyone you meet. Give them a little something extra whether it is a bonus amount of ground beef, exceptional service or showing interest in their family. Keep them coming back.

Mary has done a great job sharing her family life and father’s wisdom with us all. It was from the heart and not only shared the joys of their lives but also the heartbreaks and sorrows. She shares how the family dealt with them as well. I felt fortunate to have heard her and had an opportunity to meet her afterwards.

Mary B. Lucas, B.D. not only shared her family story with us and gave us some valuable life lessons passed on from her father but she also has presented her book as an opportunity to put these lessons into play in your life. “Notes to Readers” provides a space to brainstorm where you may apply these lessons. Mary also has a great list of topics for Neighborhood Book Club discussions and another for Professional Group Discussions.

In Lunchmeat and Life Lessons Mary has indeed connected the rest of the world to her father’s wisdom. In doing so she asked her readers to share their life lessons from their family and how they may have applied the Butcher’s Wisdom in their lives. In doing so you too may be inspired to write about your family’s love and wisdom and share it with the world. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jingle Bells in July and Summer Grove in Winter

By Cindy Woodsmall

Let me share with you a scene that happened in my house a few years ago…

Taking a deep whiff of the cinnamon-cookie-scented candle, I slide on my fingerless writing gloves and snuggle under an Amish-made quilt. Fuzzy slippers on, I settle in front of my computer to work on my Christmas novella. A scrumptious mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows sits on my side table, and I take a sip here and there.

After a few hours I put on my swimsuit, turn the air conditioner back to a normal temperature, and leave the house to go join my granddaughter at the neighborhood pool. Extreme and a little silly? Maybe. But if setting up my office like Christmas can help me get into the story I’m writing, I’ll do it. Anything to break up the logjam that sometimes invades my brain when I’m trying to finish a book.

Because I write Amish fiction, I’ve decorated my office with Amish-made quilted wall hangings, Amish-made drawings and paintings, and other things that remind me of Amish life. I immerse myself by burning candles scented like baking bread, or dumping orange peels and cinnamon into a pot of steaming water.

For my recent series, The Amish of Summer Grove, I indulged in going to coffee shops and enjoying the homemade goods and amazing flavored coffees.

I meet my daughter-in-law there from time to time, and we brainstorm for hours. We both live in a small town forty miles northeast of Atlanta, and our area has two coffee shops—one in the historic district that’s very quaint and a more modern one in a strip mall.  The two places provided inspiration for my main character, Ariana, and her family-run cafĂ©, Brenneman Perks.

As I talk to the owners, they share struggles that my characters will face, and the setting is so inspiring. It not only energizes me via delicious cups of coffee served in lovely ceramic mugs, but the sounds and aromas inspire me to write scene after scene.

Another thing that helps me enter my characters’ worlds is looking at pictures of research trips I have made in the past. I have folders and folders of pictures from various places in Amish country, from tourist spots in Lancaster County to the homes and farms of Old Order Amish friends.

I have an upcoming Christmas novella that is my first non-Amish book, and it’s set in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s titled The Gift of Christmas Past, and it’s coauthored with my daughter-in-law, Erin. We spent a lovely, snowy weekend in Asheville, hoping to get a lot of research done. Our husbands and her three children, ages five and under, went with us, so I wasn’t sure how much research we’d accomplish. But I was caught off guard by how many unexpected things fell into place. That weekend served as great inspiration for the book. 

My current writing project is also non-Amish. Its title is Soft Dusks and Noonday Fire, and its setting is St. Simons Island, Georgia. Renting a house and staying there with my daughter-in-law and her family for a week was lovely and, again, surprisingly productive. We met and interviewed people who’ve lived there all their lives and one whose occupation is the same as the main male character. I have pages of notes we took during the interviews and hundreds of beautiful pictures we snapped throughout the week. Whenever I need to be transported to where my characters are, I open the Photos folder on my computer and look through the pictures.

What are some things you’ve done to help get into your book’s settings?
Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written 20 works of fiction, including her most recent series, Amish of Summer Grove. Her connection with the Amish community has been widely featured in national media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline. The Wall Street Journal listed Woodsmall as one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction. RT Book Reviews recently presented her with a Career Achievement Award and gave her latest release, Gathering the Threads, a Top Pick review. Woodsmall and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.Learn more about Woodsmall and her books at www.cindywoodsmall.com. She is also active on Facebook (@authorcindywoodsmall). Learn more and purchase a copy: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/books/242926/gathering-the-threads-by-cindy-woodsmall/

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Trip through Titles

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

From time to time, I enjoy browsing through the latest book titles to observe current trends in titling. This time around, I thought it would be timely to focus on the 158 books that appear in the brand new 2017 Southern Writers Holiday Catalog.  

Often, I break titles down into about four categories. For this exercise I chose seven categories, to get even more specific but also because it makes for a colorful pie chart.

As is often the case, the titles chosen by most authors (54 in this case) come under a non-specific GENERAL category. These are books that give a sense of what's inside without giving too much away, yet still establish the right mood. Here are just a few examples.

A SITUATION is implied in the second most popular category. We learn just from the title such things as that a murder has taken place or that Cupid will be flinging some arrows.

Then you have titles that are poetic or ambiguous and evoke curiosity. They sound thoughtful and erudite, in the order of Gone with the Wind or Of Mice and Men.  Let's call these SYMBOLIC.

The MAIN CHARACTER can be identified by name or by their role in the story, sometimes suggesting the plot.

Or the title can get SPECIFIC about an important object or setting in the story.

There are, of course, NONFICTION titles that speak to the purpose of the book.

And a title can also be a STATEMENT unto itself.

Clearly, there are many roads that can be taken when coming up with a title for your book. The most important thing is to make sure your title is different from other books already out there and that it conveys something, preferably something that will grab attention and interest your potential reader enough to buy it.

If you enjoy browsing titles as much as I do, you'll enjoy thumbing through all 158 in the 2017 Holiday Catalog, which you can do right now by clicking on the cover to the right, or by visiting http://bit.ly/SWHC2017

Happy holidays and happy reading!

Monday, November 13, 2017

What Makes a Good Book Great?

By Jeanette Vaughan

As author’s we’ve all heard the advice, “Show don’t tell.” In a nutshell, that’s what makes a good book great. By showing the reader through dialogue, smells, sights and sounds, we intrigue their senses. We show them, like scenes in a movie what is happening in the plot of a story. The goal is to capture them in the first few pages and then engage them to want to read on.  As a writer, if you don’t capture your reader within the first few pages, you are done. If there ever is a pause in their reading, an excuse to put the book down, they may never again pick it up.

According to award winning writer Jack Woodville London, who serves as the Director of Education for the Military Writer’s Association, a great book is filled with good chapters.  A good chapter is like a bad treasure map. It will lead you through uncharted territory. Yet, at the end, it will not yield the treasure—it will just make you want to continue the search.
How do author’s make this happen?  By understanding the mechanics of writing. There is a symbol that characterizes every great book. 

All great books follow this format.  Beginning, middle, end – it is that simple. In the beginning, the protagonist is introduced.  In the symbol above, that is the brief upward swing.  Notice the word brief.  Don’t bore your reader with a plethora of over explanation. Keep your writing succinct and meaningful.

Within the first few pages, a tragedy, crisis, or problem occurs. That is represented in the symbol by the long, swift, downward spike. That event captures and hooks the reader, making them want to find out how the protagonist overcomes this obstacle. This part of the book provides the premise for your plot. 

The middle consists of a series of wins and losses. Just as the reader thinks the protagonist solves the problem, another issue occurs. This up and downward of peaks and valleys as seen above produces conflict. All great stories and dramas need conflict. Without it, writing is just a collection of bland words. The tension builds in an upward fashion throughout the story propelling the reader onward. These struggles, which make up the various chapters should move the story forward.  The author should ask themselves what is important about that scene. If they don’t move the story forward, they are simply not needed.  This is the key to good writing – progression. 

The end, or denouement, is represented in the symbol as an upward flourish. It is the final resolution of the intricacies and struggles of the plot. Most of the time, with a happy ending. Not all dramas end with a happy ending, but in some genres, such as romance, it’s a requirement.  Make sure as an author that you stay true to your genre, whether it be romance, mystery, thriller, or fiction. 

Writers can always write. But good authors educate themselves on the tools of the trade.  You can accomplish this through writer’s groups, attending conference, or reading actual books on writing.  Here are several examples: A Novel Approach: To Writing your First Book, The Action Hero’s Handbook (Or  Your Best One)

A Novel Approach gives the author a foundation of do’s and don’ts for a book. A short and easy to understand step by step guide. In The Action Hero’s Handbook, the twelve plots points of any good action adventure story are outlined. Did you enjoy The Lion King or Mermaid? Disney is a master of using this technique. 

More information and tricks of the trade for writing can be found online, including some tips on my own blog www.jeanettevaughan.com  Don’t get too bogged down with the process. Practice makes perfect.   Take time for yourself to put things down on the page. Get the story out, then get it read by beta readers in a writer’s forum or group. Not your family, friends, or future publisher. Polish it until it is ready for prime-time

Whatever you do, don’t stop writing.
Jeanette Vaughan is an award winning writer and story teller. Not only is she published in the periodicals and professional journals of nursing, but also in the genre of fiction. Out on her sheep farm, she has written several novels and scripts. Her screenplay "Angel of Mercy" won the outstanding nursing research award from Texas Tech University Health Science Center. In addition, she was named Distinguished Alumni for the school of nursing in 2001 for her written work and volunteerism for the Sydney Olympic Games. Her debut novel FLYING SOLO won fourth place in the 2013 Reader's Favorite International Book Awards for southern fiction. FLYING SOLO also was a finalist in the Beverly Hills Book Awards. Her second novel, SOLO VIETNAM was awarded the silver medal for historical fiction by the Military Writer's Society and also received fourth place in the 2014 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards. The finale to the trilogy WAITING IN THE WINGS was published in 2014. Jeanette has practiced nursing in the fields of critical care and trauma. A patriot and devoted to supporting our U.S. military, she is the mother of four children, including two Navy pilots. She lives in a Victorian farmhouse out in the pastures of northeast Texas with her sheep, chickens, donkeys and sheep dogs. Watch the book trailers at:   http://www.bit.ly/OOxATD  and http://www.bit.ly/YpPz4B
Get your signed copies today from:  www.ageviewpress.com