Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How I Learned to Juggle

By Sarah Price

Sometimes I wonder what people actually think that I do all day long. In the minds of some people, I travel the world, meeting new people and taking copious notes in a tattered mole skin. Others probably think I sip tea while sitting by the pool at our horse ranch in Alachua County, Florida or spend the day riding through the Goethe State Park on my mustang, Malibu. In most cases, people probably think that I write at leisure after relaxing or enjoying the simple pleasures in life.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Becoming a full-time author has taught me how to master a skill that, in my previous life as a working professional, I thought I had down pat: juggling.

When I began writing full-time, I quickly realized that I had become less productive than when I was working 60 hours a week and taking care of my home, children, husband, and numerous animals. Breast cancer entered the picture and I lost my job. Suddenly, my dream of writing novels day-in and day-out was a reality. Only I learned that, like those many people who imagine my life, I, too, was living in a fantasy world.

Writing full-time is not easy. To begin with, there are a million distractions on any given day: a sunny afternoon, a lunch invitation, a Netflix binge, even a messy closet begging to be reorganized. And then there are a million interruptions--especially in my life. My daughter is home-schooled and trains wild mustangs. She might find a squished snake in her barn or a gangsta mob of rats infesting her grain...all of which require my immediate attention. My husband often interrupts me with a need for help doing a chore such as fixing a horse paddock or ride to pick up a truck being repaired. When I am in the groove, it's near impossible to turn it on and off when someone does interrupt me.

And, of course, I have the constant interruptions from Coco Chanel, my Umbrella Cockatoo, who loves to eat any and everything from window blinds to moulding to my pens and highlighters. My fantasy of having her sit upon my shoulder while I write my novels doesn't usually come to fruition.

The bottom line is that it's near impossible to write full time and think that, just because you have eliminated a full-time job, you will be more productive. But there are things you can do to improve the odds. First, I try to remove myself from the house as frequently as possible. Whether I head to the library, a restaurant, or a coffee house, it's a good idea to get away. That eliminates me from the very environment that distracts me.

Second, I have learned that if I try to follow a regular writing schedule, other people will learn to leave me alone. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of self-control and cooperation. But I will turn off my cell phone after alerting my family. There's nothing so important that it cannot wait a few hours. If it is, I know someone will find me.

Finally, being organized is a must. Frankly, I'm not very organized so I have a right-hand person who helps me be more organized. She will check up on my progress, remind me of upcoming deadlines, and helps to manage me as I try to manage myself. It helps to acknowledge your own weaknesses and search for creative ways to tackle them.

And, of course, it does help to learn how to juggle. It's a skill that will help you, whether or not you are writing full-time.
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Ms. Price has advanced degrees in Communication (MA), Marketing (MBA), and Educational Leadership (A.B.D.) and was a former college professor. She now writes full-time and talks about her books and her faith on a daily live stream with readers. Visit her at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Get Real

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

"The truth is out there," we are told, but lately it seems to get lost in the shuffle. The more technologically advanced we become, the more we find ourselves bombarded with beguiling betrayal. From clickbait to fake news, there is artifice around every corner trying to grab our attention.

These practitioners of prevarication may think they're pulling the wool over our eyes, but the good news is, we writers are too smart for them. As creative thinkers ourselves, we can spot a snow job from down the street.

Much like fast food, "reality TV" has a bad reputation thanks to its own generally unhealthy menu. But the discerning viewer can tell the difference between a genuine documentary like My 600-lb Life and the sitcomish silliness of Chrisley Knows Best. What they all have in common, however, is conflict.

I bring all this up to remind us of two things:

     1) People are entertained by conflict.
     2) A savvy audience can smell fakery.

Whether the drama is bonafide or bogus, the lure of any story lies in the conflict it portrays. But the more believable the conflict, the more we allow ourselves to invest in it.

Rather coincidentally, I just read a review of a new action movie in which the critic complains that the villain has no motivation nor backstory. Such a film lacks authenticity because even a bad guy has what he thinks is a good reason to give the hero a hard time.

By contrast, it's real human drama with a touch of suspense each time TV's Nev and Max catch a Catfish and get her face-to-face with the victim of her fake identity. It becomes even more relatable when we learn the reason for the ruse, sometimes even evoking a measure of sympathy for the catfish.

Similarly, a work of fiction carries the ring of truth if there is cause behind the conflict. Yes, the bad guy wants to rob a bank. But why? Because he wants money. But WHY? Because his son needs a kidney transplant. Now we have motivation, and when the truth is revealed we empathize with the troublemaker.

The bottom line is, keep it real and you'll keep your reader committed. Portraying genuine human drama in both the story and in the conflict you create for your characters is how you can avoid writing fake fiction.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Marketing Ideas for Your Book

By Liz Lazarus

Although I have an engineering background, I’ve always had a penchant for marketing. One of the perks of being an author is that the sky’s the limit which it comes to dreaming up clever ways to market your book.

My latest idea was created to gain reader engagement and facilitate preorders. I ran a competition on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to allow anyone who preordered the book a chance to name one of the characters. Here’s the promotion with the corresponding Canva graphic:

Your chance to choose the name of Jackie's brother in my upcoming thriller, PLEA FOR JUSTICE.
1) Preorder the book (on Amazon or B&N)
2) Email me at confirming that you've preordered & tell me the name you'd like to use for the brother (& why if you like)
3) Post about your entry on social media using the hashtag 
#pleaforjustice (Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter)
Contest runs from 2/18 to 2/28 at midnight.

Winner will be chosen at random from email submissions using a random number generator.
If you have already preordered, you are eligible to enter.

*I reserve the right to exclude any overly unusual or inappropriate names - it's my protagonist's brother, after all.*
So far, I’ve received some great names:  Jace - which means healing, Flavel – a fan’s middle name, Blake – strong and sexy, according to the submitter and the suggestions continue.
At first, I was going to use raffle software like Rafflecopter. They charge ~$40/month and I found the set-up to be fairly user-friendly (I did a trial run). But at the end of the day, I wanted this contest to be interactive. I liked the idea of receiving emails directly from readers and if my Inbox gets flooded, that’s a good thing.
A final thought:  If you happen to pick up a copy of PLEA FOR JUSTICE, check out the name of Jackie’s brother and know it was created from reader engagement. Happy selling & feel free to reach out to me on FB: AuthorLizLazarus. Would love to hear your cool Marketing ideas!
Liz Lazarus grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, known for its high school football and being the last watering hole on highway I-75 before entering Florida. She was editor of her high school newspaper and salutatorian of her class. Lazarus graduated from The Georgia Institute of Technology with an engineering degree and Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management with an MBA. She went on to a successful career as an executive at General Electric’s Healthcare division. Later, she joined a leading consulting firm as a Managing Director. Interestingly, Lazarus initially ignored the calling to become a novelist—instead, she tackled other ambitions on her bucket list: living in Paris and learning to speak French, getting her pilot’s license and producing a music CD. But, as she explains, her first book “wouldn’t leave me alone—it kept nudging me to write to the point that I could no longer ignore it.” Though her first novel, Free of Malice, released in the spring of 2016, is fiction, the attack on the main character is real, drawn from Lazarus’ own experience. It portrays the emotional realities of healing from a vicious, physical assault and tells the story of one woman’s obsession to force the legal system to acknowledge her right to selfdefense. Reader response to Lazarus’ first novel was so encouraging that she embarked on a writing career, releasing her second novel in the spring of 2018. Plea for Justice is a thriller that depicts the journey of a paralegal investigating the case of her estranged friend’s incarceration. As she seeks the truth, loyalties are strained and relationships are tested leaving her to wonder if she is helping an innocent man or being played for a fool. Lazarus lives in Atlanta and is engaged to fiancĂ©, Richard. When not working, she enjoys reading, traveling and spoiling their cat, Buckwheat.Liz’s social media links are: Facebook: Instagram: Goodreads: Pinterest: Book Trailer:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Coffee Shop Survival Kit For Writers

By Suzy Parish

I recently spent many days in a local coffee shop proofing galleys for Flowers from Afghanistan.

During that time I developed a survival kit for those long days away from home.

Air travel collapsible pillow: Let’s face it, hard wooden coffee shop chairs are not made to spend hours in when writing. Look in the air travel section of your local store. They have scaled down comfort items that fit perfectly in a backpack to help you be more comfortable and productive in your coffee shop office.

Noise canceling headphones: I tried earbuds, and they worked fine for listening to music and removing most distractions. The problem was no one knew I couldn’t hear them when they came up to speak to me. One day I never saw the barista who brought my coffee. I was deep in thought and never heard her. I’m sure she thought I was rude not to acknowledge her. Or maybe she understood. Anyway, I felt bad she didn’t know I had not heard her. The next day on the advice of my daughter and son-in-law I purchased a set of headphones. I felt much more comfortable knowing people got the message I couldn’t hear them.

Saline eye drops: I don’t think I have to say more than that! Hours of reading, whether in my home office or away give me dry scratchy eyes. I don’t use drops with anything other than saline because though the others may remove red eyes, they work by constricting the blood vessels in your eye and eventually you get a rebound effect.

Protein bars: Coffee shops offer tempting carb-loaded muffins and pastries. I indulge in one, but to stay productive and awake protein takes me farther.

Favorite lip balm.

Small tube of your favorite hand lotion: Long days on the keyboard cause rough, dry skin on hands.

Layer your clothing: My prime writing spot, unfortunately, happened to be right across from the door. Every time someone entered the shop, blustery air followed. I learned after the first day to pack my favorite sweater. That writing spot was so sunny and cheery it was worth the extra effort.

Consideration: If I must take a phone call, I try to do it outside. There is nothing worse than working on deadline and have some guy use the coffee shop to make sales calls. Even wearing my headphones, his voice boomed over the entire shop. Not everyone wants to hear your latest marketing plans.

Purchase their products! I filled a coffee punch card this past week. Remember: their mission is to sell coffee. An old Girl Scout motto is "Leave no trace." Adapt that to your coffee shop office. Clean up your mess as your mother taught you. Make them glad you're spending hours in their shop (taking up space another customer might like). If you follow these suggestions you just may cultivate a great relationship with your barista! __________________________________________________________________ 
Suzy Parish is an author at Pelican Book Group. Suzy wrote as a Community Columnist for the Huntsville Times. She is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her novel, Flowers from Afghanistan was a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest for 2013. Suzy discovered her love of books as a child in Richmond, Virginia when she took refuge from the summer heat in the local Bookmobile. She believes in the power of literacy to improve the lives of individuals and stewards a Little Free Library in a local park. Suzy’s debut novel, Flowers from Afghanistan will be released in 2018. Her social media links:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stop Multitasking and Write #IMHO

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Writing a blog post for Suite T every other week doesn’t sound like a daunting task. At times, it can be difficult to be inspired to provide quality information that will benefit our readers. So this week began with me saying, “What to write...I’m late, I’m late for Thursday’s date.” If this conjures up images of the “White Rabbit” in Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, then you have the correct image of me this past Tuesday

To solve this problem I turned to Facebook which believe it or not, has inspired many interesting blog posts in the past. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. I ran across author Ann Patchett’s PBS three-minute video titled “Retrain Your Shrinking Attention Span.” The #IMHO segment on PBS Newshour appeared on Mar 12, 2018. Just an FYI, #IMHO is the hashtag for “In My Humble Opinion.” Who knew?

In this video, Patchett rhetorically asks,  “What’s the secret to writing novels? Or baking a perfect cake?” At this link take 3 minutes, yes, you’ve got three minutes to immediately help you become more focused on any task at hand. Of course, you could be like my friend who read my rough draft of this blog post and said she’d “have to watch it in 1 1/2 minute installments. That's my attention span.”  She cracks me up but makes a valid point. Our 24/7 notifications of breaking events fuels our brains' difficulty in focusing on the task at hand. Can you identify? 

For the record, I’m not a scratch baker. I lean towards cake mixes with add-ins to make a cake my own creation. Much like, Food Network star and author,  Sandra Lee. Her recipes primarily use a base of ready made grocery items that she tweaks in her show aptly named, Semi-Homemade. Lee always makes a signature cocktail to compliment every shows unique recipes and tablescapes. Should I create a signature cocktail to aid in my writing? Some authors do, I’ve heard. See, I just jumped down another rabbit hole because Ann Patchett talked about making a cake from scratch. I also googled Food Network for the links to Sandra Lee’s show and googled Amazon for a link to Lee’s and Patchett’s books in case our blog readers are curious. Time to FOCUS, again. 

I thought someone probably developed acronyms for the word FOCUS. Googled it and there it was:

F -Follow
S -Successful

Shift back to Ann Patchett, an international bestselling author. She has seven successful novels and three nonfiction books. She contributes essays and critiques to various newspapers and journals. Last but certainly not least, she owns a bookstore in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. She has this focus thing down. So I’ve decided to give “retraining my attention span” a whirl. My plan is to try to focus and be fully present when presented with a particular task. I will turn off my phone with all those instant notifications and resist multitasking even when I am not.  Maybe one day, I will make a scratch cake or a “writing blog” cocktail but first I’m scheduling this blog post for all to enjoy in cyber land. See I CAN focus and #IMHO so can You. 

Are you willing to join me and Ann Patchett and give “retraining your attention span” so you can write and FOCUS a try?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fox Hunting

By Mary R. Davidsaver

As a psychology major at the University of Iowa in the early 1970s, I was talked into taking a writing class taught by a visiting author who had a hot, new book out. The class became a small group of guys and me, lone female, sitting around a table. They were writers. I was the mole who silently sat there and took it all in.

I wasn’t a great student at the time and I missed a few classes, including the one where one of the “guys” wore a pig mask. He didn’t have it on when we finally met up for the next writing class. It wasn’t necessary, I could tell by his reading that the macho gauntlet had been slammed down. It was up to this shy person to speak up for women. I did my best to point out the sexual myths embodied in his overdrawn parody of the MASH movie. Don’t think I scored any points, but I had to try.

The teacher gave us all top grades. I was totally undeserving of an A. The sad thing was I couldn’t remember his name. The teacher, not pig-man. It’s bothered me for years. Until my morning of miracles.

That’s when I found the Facebook message inviting me to do a guest post for Suite T.  It gave me pause, not because of my lack of online social skills, but because of the regionality of the publication. My cozy mystery, Clouds Over Bishop Hill, takes place in a midwestern village widely noted for its Swedish-American heritage. I cautiously clicked through to Suite T and began reading posts. I was stopped by this quote: “…if the choice were between a brilliant student with no ambition and a poor student with drive, he would always bet on the student with determination.”

That struck me as very familiar as was the name of its source, William Price Fox. A quick search confirmed this southern writer indeed was the author who lead me through the closest thing to an Iowa Writers’ Workshop experience I would have while in college. Whose advice was to write a killer first chapter, and don’t worry too much about it matching anything else. That first chapter sells the book.

Two miracles in one morning wasn’t bad, but I held on for one more: me sitting down to write out my thoughts. I didn’t procrastinate or wait for those thoughts to fade. I, a late-blooming author, sat down and tried to emulate the kind of determined student Fox could be proud of. Who would start searching used bookstores for Fox’s work and get caught up on my southern reading.
Mary Davidsaver lived in Bishop Hill, an Illinois state historic site and a national historic landmark, first as a silversmith and then as a writer, for twenty-four years. During that time, she began writing for local newspapers and won an Illinois Press Association first place feature photo award. Since returning to Iowa she has won two Iron Pen first place awards and was the first local writer to win the Great River Writer's Retreat Contest. She has published her first novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill, with MWC Press, an imprint of the Midwest Writing Center. She was honored as the Outstanding Literary Artist of 2017 by the Midwest Writing Center. Social Media links: Website: Blog Facebook author page: Twitter handle is @mrdavidsaver

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Marketing for Authors––Is This Viable?

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

Do you ever think about those avenues of direct mail marketing?

With more people using the internet there is less mail being stuffed in our mailboxes.

Which means I read most of those paper direct mail pieces now. A few I find distinctive. One thing for sure, there isn’t near the competition there use to be because now they have morphed into being email direct marketing.

What is ironic about all of this? Used to, we took the direct mail marketing pieces and threw them away.

Guess what I am doing to all those direct marketing emails? Yep, deleting before I read them. I have become quite good at recognizing junk email. The amount of direct email marketing has become too hard for me to handle. There is way too many of them. I just don’t have time to read all those every day and I bet, you do the same.

This made me think. Since the paper direct mail pieces have dwindled what would happen if some authors got together and developed and designed a direct mail marketing piece and mailed it out. It would contain a copy of each of their books, a description that would entice the reader.

It would cut down on the cost if there were several authors. You could choose to send to bookstores that were within a certain radius (100 to 200 miles) to each of the authors and/or libraries. I’m sure you could enlarge the list to include readers.

Some of us still like to feel the paper.  There are other things you can choose, like vertical fold-overs and small catalogs. 

You know people love to get catalogs in the mail. I do. And I always go through them.

Authors must find ways to market and promote their books. It is a daily quest for authors to find readers who will buy their books.

Something to think about!