Friday, August 22, 2014

Author Book Signing Southern Style

By Claire Fullerton

Being raised in Memphis and instilled with Southern manners as if from a rulebook, when it came to my author book signing at my local bookstore, I did what any Southerner would do: I conducted the affair as if it were a party. None of this sending out a general circular e-mail-- oh no, I went through my contact list and e-mailed each person individually saying how thrilled I’d be to see them at the event.

I had glossy 5x7” postcards made with my book cover on front and a blub on the back with the time, date, and place of my event.  For three weeks prior, I carried the cards with me wherever I went.  Now then, there’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and being pushy, and since I’m the chatty sort who talks to both acquaintances and strangers easily, I wanted to be ready but not obnoxious. The thing about being Southern is we just assume the world is a friendly place, and it’s miraculous what transpires because of this attitude: the world tends to step up. Be it in the grocery store, the post office, or in line at the bank, I had a surprising number of opportunities to reach into my purse and produce my post card as if it were a gift.

Timing is everything in life, so when I heard my town’s local newspaper was under new ownership, I wrote the new editor saying I’m a local author who’d love to meet her in person. The result was a full-page interview the week of my book signing.

What I learned growing up in the South is no gathering is complete without sugar, so it is my good fortune to have a friend that loves to bake. When she asked if there was anything she could do to help for my book signing, rather than humbly demurring, I said “Yes!”  An assortment of cookies was set out buffet style, and I brought one of each for the bookstore employees, who would still be standing there long after the event.

On the day of the event, a full-sized poster of my book cover was placed in the window, and forty chairs were arranged before the desk I sat behind, along with a friend I’d commissioned to compile a list of attendees for my next book signing. I’d been asked to read from a chapter of my book, yet I’d written a suspenseful page-turner whose chapters fit together like pieces of a puzzle and I didn’t want to give any part of it away. Being Southern, I felt the inherent need to give the attendees a large dose of gratitude, and decided to do so by telling the peculiar story behind my book’s inspiration, which made the atmosphere feel like a fireside chat.  

All of this led to a sold-out event that exceeded my expectation, and because of the success, my local bookstore continues to keep my book on its shelf.
Claire Fullerton is the author of A Portal in Time (Vinspire Publishing.)  Her second novel, "Dancing to an Irish Reel" will be published in early 2015. She is a three-time, award winning essayist, a contributor to numerous magazines, and a multiple contributor to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book series. She had her own weekly column in the ”Malibu Surfside News," and is currently writing a Southern family saga based on her award winning narrative in the San Francisco Writers Conferences' 2013 contest.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Books About Town, London Writing Benches

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

If you live in London or are traveling there this summer, you are probably aware of the BookBenches around various London neighborhoods. Summer 2014 from July 2 - September 15 the Books about Town project,sponsored by The National Literacy Trust, is a treat for every reader and writer. "Established in 1993, the National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that gives people the skills they need to succeed. Our Patron is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall."

The bench information can be found online with an interactive map of each bench location. There are 50 different benches to see. The link to the maps in four different parts of the city; Greenwich Trail, Bloomsbury Trail, City Trail and Riverside Trail.

The trails are grouped to highlight the charm and settings in the various neighborhoods of London. All benches are shaped as open books and decorated to represent a specific book by various authors, both contemporary and classic. "Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site when you complete the Books about Town Greenwich Trail. The BookBenches are located in the majestic surroundings of the Royal borough, with stunning views across the capital and surrounded by some of the finest architecture in London." 

"The area of Bloomsbury has many well-known literary links, making it an ideal area to host a BookBench Trail. Follow in the footsteps of many famous authors and explore the wonderful green spaces as you discover the BookBenches." 

"Enjoy some of London's most iconic sites by following the Books about Town, City Trail. The buzzing centre of business and finance also offers glimpses of the original Roman settlement of Londinium. Discover hidden parks and historic buildings at the same time as searching for the BookBenches." Notice the brilliant placement of the Shakespeare bench in front of "The Globe Theatre." 

"From the curves of City Hall and the sharpness of The Shard, to the standing circles of the Globe, the Books about Town, Riverside Trail provides the ideal activity this summer. Discover the range of iconic books depicted on the Riverside BookBench Trail."

Another terrific feature is a "Summer Reading Pack full of activities you can download for free and do with your children to encourage them to love reading.

Included in the pack are activities for each of the four trails, quizzes to complete and you can even design and colour your own BookBench! Our list of books featured on the benches is divided by age category, so it is even easier to find the perfect book for you child. Download the Summer Reading Pack for free and get started today!"

You can also follow the book benches on Instagram, Twitter @booksabouttown, and on Facebook for all the latest news and updates on Books about Town.

If you find yourself across the pond, find a BookBench that calls your muse and write a new story. This inspirational setting may give you the next classic. My pick would be Sherlock Holmes bench. What do you have to lose and which bench would you choose? 

Okay, so you can't make it to London. I'm with you, but you can download a picture of your favorite BookBench and get inspired. You can also design your own BookBench based on your books. Use that imagination and design your own BookBench, hang it in your office, and visualize your BookBench in your town. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Authors: Find Inspiration for Writing

By James D. Bell

American novelist, John Gardner, once wrote in his On Becoming a Novelist"Theoretically there's no reason one should get writer's block, if one understands that writing, after all, is only writing, neither something one ought to feel deeply guilty about nor something one ought to be inordinately proud of.” Gardner wrote that your emotions can alter your ability to write, and write well. Negative emotions, like lack of confidence, fear and doubt can create writer’s block.  Gardner also said that using our emotions coupled with a hypersensitivity to our surroundings and a curiosity about people can make us good writers. How, then, can we use our emotions to keep the good writing flowing?

To keep my writing fresh and compelling when I was writing Vampire Defense, I needed inspiration. You can find inspiration for writing and blast writer's block at the same time, too. When inspiration wanes and writer's block creeps into the picture, inspire yourself and regain your footing by trying these strategies:

Take a walk - Change your surroundings. Don't sit and stare at a blank computer screen or a pristine page of paper. It could make the writer's-block agony worse. Slip on some comfortable shoes and head outside. Examine the beauty of what you're seeing. A little exercise and nature can spark creativity in more ways than you can imagine.  A hike down a nature trail and an evening by a campfire inspired several of my best chapters.

Experience Art - Unique and complex art can be great inspiration. Seeing local art in person is encouraged; if that’s not possible, flip through art books or even browse online.

Write in a journal - This is recommended for any author. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or something you write in every day. A plain notebook will do, although a nice journal can be motivating. Write down thoughts you have, plot and new character ideas, quotes you find, and pieces of dialog you hear. Go back to this journal when you need inspiration.  I carry a Mole Skin journal in my pocket and jot down ideas whenever they strike me.

Listen to Music - It can be inspiring to download and play great music, from Mozart to Beethoven to the Beatles to Radiohead. Play it in the background as you write, and allow it to lift you up and move you.

Instead of letting negative emotions like lack of confidence, fear or doubt, hinder your writing, you can actually transfer those emotions to a character and use them to help you write your next bestseller. Try these tips and see if they help you discover what inspires you and kick-start your creative juices again. Inspiration to conquer writer's block is all around you--you simply need to take note, then... get back to writing.
James D. Bell is an award-winning author. James D. Bell is a retired County, Circuit and Chancery Judge who practices law in Mississippi. He was the youngest trial judge in state history and received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America, and other lists of leading lawyers. Judge Bell authored the Circuit Judges Bench Book, published by the Mississippi Judicial College, a book that is used by all Circuit Judges in Mississippi, a Law Journal article on Habeas Corpus, published by the University of Mississippi School of Law, as well as a number of guest editorials in the Clarion Ledger, the Jackson newspaper. He also helped write rules of procedure and evidence used in the courts of Mississippi.Judge Bell is a speaker at legal seminars on evidence and trial tactics and at various churches and civic groups on the evidence that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Judge Bell has been involved in some of the most significant cases in Mississippi, and drew on actual experiences when he wrote the Vampire Defense. He is the son of an American Indian mother and a prominent local businessman. He is devoted to his wife, Joanne. They live in Ridgeland, Mississippi and have four children. His book is Vampire Defense. Connect with him via his social media links:Website:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

FIve Steps for Authors to Sell More Books

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

1. Take the first chapter and put on your website for people to read free.
       2.  Take your first novel you wrote and put in an eBook and give away free.
       3.  Take the first few pages of a new novel and ask for reader participation. Let them help with naming characters, flaws, locations, etc.
       4.  Take the first few pages and ask for reader feedback.
       5.  Newsletters are great to garner participation…asking them to join your team

Okay, let’s face it, in today’s writing arena there are a lot of people writing books and publishing. Some of these books are good…but not all of them. So what are we as writers to do to get our books read in this sea of competition?

I know no one likes to give away his or her work free. However, stop and think a minute. You know that Bakery Shop that just opened around the corner? Do you notice the owner is outside his shop holding a tray with fresh baked cookies offering to every passerby––a free cookie? Why? To let them taste what he is selling. And why? So they will come into his shop and buy a dozen cookies.
There you have it. There are many places we can buy cookies…so the bakery owner is offering a taste of his free so we will become buyers of cookies in his shop. “Smart Cookie!”

This is what an author can do with his fiction. So let’s take these five and dissect them into bite size instructions.

1.      Take the first chapter-put on your website. Make sure you have edited properly. Ask people to read it. (This is your cookie you are introducing the person to-if they like your first chapter they are going to want to buy your book.) The people on your street–Social Medias and everyone on your email list. Offer them this free chapter to read. Be brave ask for feedback.

2.      You know that first novel you wrote?  Get it, put it in eBook form and give it away free.

3.      Take the first few pages of your new novel and ask for reader participation. Ask them to help with naming the characters, naming their flaws, locations, etc.

4.      Take first few pages and ask for reader feedback. Ask them what they liked, what they didn’t, what would make it more exciting? You get the idea.

5.      Send out a newsletter, asking volunteers to join your reader team. The pay is a free book.

All of these will help bring attention to your writing-your books. If someone reads what you have written and likes it, they will become buyers of your books.

If they participate in helping you with names or feedback, they have become fans of yours and are going to buy your books.

These are just five ways to bring readers to your books and sell them. Can you think of other ways? Let us know.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Debut Your Blog

By Holly Parker

Words are everywhere. Our generation spreads news through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs. The allure of seeing your thoughts in print shimmers with possibilities, but many questions still remain in the minds of true writers; those who want to add to the depth of society by sharing their hearts and talents with the world. They simply ask how to write something that stands out and how to get it out there for the world to see?

One extremely popular form of writing is to have a blog. Almost everyone has stumbled across a blog at some point, but the concept is still widely vague. I recently started a blog of my own and have adventured down the road of trial and error. For me, writing is something I have to do, and for anyone else looking for a way to test their material out, I would recommend trying this method. It is simple, relatively easy and you can control what you write, when you post and how the blog appears. I have provided several steps and tips below that have helped me discover blog success along the way. Good luck and happy blogging!

One: My blog started with preparation. For me, that meant praying over it, selecting a start date, brainstorming ideas, and launching a letter to friends and family about my decision. No matter your personal steps, preparation is essential before you become a blogger.

Two: I chose the site I wanted to use my blog through. There are many choices out there. Some are free and some you pay for. Research the difference between the two options and find out what is best for you. If you like other blogs, you can check what site they are using.

Three: I watched a tutorial about how to set up my blog and then chose the themes and appearances. This is where you can get creative and choose colors, backgrounds, fonts, etc. I also created the pages I wanted and what features I would include. This means things like subscriptions, comments, archives and so on.

Four: After setting my blog up, I wrote my first post. Often this is your introduction post telling about yourself and your blog. You pretty much control what happens at this point. You write and then you post! It's as simple as that!

And remember you can edit your blog on most sites whenever you like. I have changed and added to my blog, even after launching it and I am still learning! It is helpful to reply to comments people post so they feel like they are being heard. And lastly, spread the word. People won't likely stumble upon your blog. You've got to tell them about it!

As with anything, having a blog is all about trying new things and sharing yourself with others. Don't hesitate or be nervous...go for it! As character Cory Brand says in the movie, Home Run, "Nothing great happens when you hold back."
Holly Parker is a southern writer from Birmingham, Alabama. She has invested in a number of different children at childcare programs and is currently employed by the library. She has an English degree from the University of Montevallo with a minor in Writing and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0. Holly is also very involved with her church and helping out with young people in her community. She loves to travel, read, watch Alabama football, take pictures and of course write! She enjoys writing all kinds of genres, but has a passion for blogging and writing Christian fiction. You can follow her blog at Holly can be found on her blog: and on facebook:

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Hardest Writing Advice I Ever Received

By John W. Otte

The hardest writing advice I ever received can be summed up in one word: “Stop.”

Way back in 1999, I came up with a phenomenal idea: an epic science fiction tale. I worked on it, off and on, for six or seven years. Eventually I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and attended my first conference. I was confident that someone would recognize the genius of my story and snatch it up immediately.

That didn’t happen. Instead, I was told repeatedly by industry professionals that my story was flawed and didn’t work. I was crushed. I might have given up completely if it wasn’t for Deb Raney and Colleen Coble. They had read my first few chapters and really liked it. They were so encouraging that, when I went home, I was determined to roll up my sleeves and fix the story.

I spent another two years working on it. When the ACFW Conference came to my hometown of Minneapolis, I was sure that I was going to succeed. Since the conference was in my backyard, I volunteered to drive people from the airport to the hotel, and one of my passengers was going to be Colleen Coble! I was so excited to see her again, especially so I could thank her.

She was very gracious when I gushed about how much I appreciated her encouragement. She asked me what I was going to pitch this time around. My excitement practically boiled over as I said, “The same story I pitched two years ago!”

That’s when she said it: Maybe it was time for me to stop. Put the story up on the shelf and start something new. She pointed out that if I kept focusing on this one story, my writing could stagnate. I would learn so much by starting fresh with a new story and my craft would improve.

How could I do that? This was the story of my heart, the one that I had lived with for so long! I couldn’t possibly stop working on it!

That conference didn’t go so well either. The story was still flawed in spite of my attempted repairs. In the aftermath, I reluctantly decided to set the “story of my heart” aside and start a new one.

That story would eventually be called “Numb” and it was recently announced as a finalist for the 2014 Christy Awards.

As much as it pained me, Colleen’s advice was spot-on accurate. I could have kept obsessing over that broken story so much that I’d never have been published. But because I was willing to shelve it, I was able to grow as a writer. I might work on that story again someday, but for now, it’ll stay on the shelf.

It’s not easy to stop, but sometimes, that’s the best thing we can do. We stop obsessing over a story that’s consumed too much of our time and attention so we can move on to something better.
John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. His books include; Numb, Kynetic: On Target, Gauntlet Goes to Prom, Failstate, and Failstate: Legends. He lives in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two boys. Social Media Links: Website: Twitter: @JohnWOtte Facebook:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Write the Vision

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“Write the vision and make it plain upon tables…” Habakkuk 2:2. This is a verse from the Old Testament I often think about. The prophet Habakkuk was given a vision from God and was told to write it down. “Write it down that he may run that readeth it.” How specific, how clear are the instructions. How fortunate for a writer to be given such a vision and told what to do with it. Fortunate indeed but many times that is how things come to writers.

Unlike Habakkuk our vision may not be of a prophetic nature but it can be a vision just the same. Our vision may be a story that comes to us imagined or not. It could have been an actual occurrence that we have yet to recognize as a worthy story to write. It is times like this we may need the command similar to Habakkuk’s, “write the vision”.

One way to determine if the vision is one worthy of writing down is to write them all down. If not as a complete work, write it down as a thought, a paragraph or a short story. That way the clarity of the moment is saved and can be revisited or shared. Shared with someone you can trust to give you an honest evaluation and question your direction and purpose. What you are looking for is the command to “write it down”.

We may not be a Habakkuk but I believe our talents are God given. Whether or not our visions are I can’t always say. I do know that once the vision comes, action must be taken. Don’t hesitate. Write it down. Our creativity will not be available unless we obey the command. Creativity will be determined by taking action, obeying the command and writing it down. It can be as simple as “write the vision.”