Friday, April 19, 2019

Writing Women’s Fiction As A Man-Part One

By Wade Rouse

I’m a man who writes women’s fiction using his grandmother’s name, VIOLA SHIPMAN as a pen name. The picture to the left is me with my grandmother, Viola. Sounds like a terrible literary remake of Victor, Victoria, doesn’t it? Just imagine trying to sell your literary agent on that idea, especially when you’ve spent your entire career writing humorous memoir.

I did, and that was five novels ago. The Summer Cottage is my latest, publishing April 23 from Graydon House Books (HarperCollins). I credit it all to being fearless and to channeling the voice that calls to me when I write (be it funny or serious, a man’s or woman’s).

In fact, of the endless things I could teach and preach to writers, learning to overcome fear to channel your true voice tops the list.

Fear is devastating to all of us in life, but especially an author. Too often in our world today, we let fear consume us: It drives our daily lives typically more so than passion. We worry about money. Time. Health. Aging. Our parents. Our children. The future. 

The same typically holds true in writing. In the beginning stages, we worry about all the things over which we have no control: Whether our writing is good enough, whether we'll make money at it, whether those we love and know – and even those we don't – will like our work.

Awful things happen from head to hands, from brain to fingers to laptop, when we let fear consume us as writers. When emerging authors begin a book, they are driven by that unique voice that runs in their heads – the one only they can hear, the one which drives all of us to tell our stories. But before we fully channel that voice, it begins to be drowned out by the call of fear.

I know because it's happened to me many times in my career. I began my first book, America's Boy – a memoir about the difficulty of growing up in the Missouri Ozarks but surviving due to the love of family – as a novel. I started it as a memoir but grew fearful of pretty much everything, including what my family and hometown would think. I spent a year writing it as fiction, until someone I loved accidentally read it (a nightmare for writers).

When I asked what they thought, the reply was, "If you had dropped this on the street, and I had picked it up, I would never have known you had written it. It sounds nothing like you."

I was stunned. But, in my heart, I knew they were right. On Monday, Wade will appear with Part Two titled, “Fearless Writing.”
WADE ROUSE is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction. Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope Chest; and The Recipe Box. NYT bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank says of Wade and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage: “Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters.  Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that novel.” Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly. Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors.For more, please visit and Facebook:   Instagram: viola_shipman  Twitter: @viola_shipman

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Comfort Zones

By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine

Well, you can tell me if this is true for you or not, but I write my best scenes and dialogue when I am writing in my comfort zones. No, I’m not talking about writing in my office or out on my patio. I’m talking about writing about the settings I’m placing my characters in.

I’m an outdoors person. I love to hike and camp. I’m comfortable in the mountains or on the beach, as long as I am outside. Where am I the most uncomfortable? Any meetings. I don’t like being confined to a room and having to listen to reports or spontaneously come up with ideas while everyone is watching. As far as the time of day, I prefer being outside in the mornings or right at dusk. I try to be in by dark (guess that comes from my upbringing when I could play with friends in the neighborhood as long as I was home by dark).

So, what does this have to do with my writing? After all, I’m creating fictional characters that often have very different personalities from my own. They have their own tastes. However, I have learned that when I am placing my characters in situations or settings that I am uncomfortable in, I tend to write as if the characters are uncomfortable there. I have to check myself or I will have a character running for home just because the sun is setting. I’ve had powerful CEOs squirm in a meeting just because I would.

That’s when I have to edit the most. I have to go back and make dialogue flow much more smoothly or have the character do something to appear relaxed like take off her shoes and relax on the patio as she watches the moon at midnight. When my characters are out of my comfort zones, I tend to want to get them back to my happy places quickly.

I’ve learned to edit my way out of those situations and improve the scenes, but I always have to admit that it’s a weakness for me. Decide what makes you uncomfortable and go back through your writings. See if this is true for you. You may have an entirely different weakness in your manuscripts. What’s important, though, is to know where your weak spots are and acknowledge them. Then you can edit your way to a stronger scene.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Dream Realized

By Larry B. Gildersleeve

Being a published author had been a dream of mine since my high school days, but it took about fifty years to begin that journey.

My first two self-published novels using CreateSpace (now Kindle Direct Publishing) received favorable reviews in newspapers and magazines. My third novel and my first non-fiction work, both self-published, will be released later this year, and I’ve begun an aggressive search for an agent to hopefully gain access to a mainstream publisher.

I’ve never taken a creative writing course or other formal instruction. I learned to write fiction through exchanges of emails and iterations of my manuscripts with Lynda McDaniel, my outstanding writing coach and editor. Since I live in Kentucky and Lynda is in California, we’ve never met, but that hasn’t diminished the process in any way.

Because I had so much to learn, I wrote, and Lynda edited, six versions of my first novel before finally publishing the seventh in 2016. My second, released in 2017, began with a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline to aid me in focusing on development of my characters, as well as aligning the story line and timeline. The outline was critical to planting seeds of tension and conflict, and then harvesting them.

I wrote my first novel without thinking about things like genre or writing style. I had a story in mind, and just began to write. I’ve since focused my writing in two genres, Christian and Inspirational, yet striving to appeal to a broader secular audience. The more I wrote, the more my style evolved -- short, fast-paced chapters with page-turning endings and hopefully believable and memorable characters. And fewer characters. My first two novels had fifteen and eighteen characters respectively; the third has only four.

The biggest change in writing the second book came with following the chapter outline. With the third, in addition to the outline I’ve adopted the approach of going back to re-read all that I’ve previously written before continuing on a different day. Laborious and time-consuming, yes. But it keeps me immersed in the evolving story and the characters, as well as ferreting out repetitions of words and phrases, sometimes from one paragraph to the next. I liken it to repeatedly passing a comb through tangled hair, getting a smoother and smoother pathway to my desired outcome.

My research revealed the two most important considerations for marketing a book by a new author are the title and the cover, so I’ve given very careful consideration to both. It’s what will catch a reader’s eye when they see the title in print, or a picture of the cover on or other online marketing channels.

My long-deferred dream has finally come true. As another author once said, I write for pleasure and publish for profit. There’s been some profit, but more important is the pleasure I find every day that I write.    
Larry B. Gildersleeve is a father of two and grandfather of four who turned to writing after a four-decade career as a corporate executive. He lives in Kentucky and is the author of Dancing Alone Without Music and Follow Your Dreams. His third novel, entitled The Girl on the Bench, is scheduled for release in mid-2019.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Putting a Disaster to Memory

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

On a recent visit to the Texoma area, I found myself there during the remembrance of the Tuesday April 10th, 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak. An F4 tornado hit Wichita Falls, Texas and it has come to be called “Terrible Tuesday.” Second only to the loss of life¸42 dead, was the loss of property. The storm left an eight-mile swath through the city and destroyed $400 million in property which in today’s dollars was over 1.78 billion. That was only in Wichita Falls.

The outbreak continued for two days throughout the plains and Mississippi River Valley. There were fifty-nine confirmed tornadoes. The death toll came to fifty-four lives. Along with the forty-two dead in Wichita Falls was another eight Texans losing their lives. Three were killed in Oklahoma and one in Indiana. This remained the most disastrous storm until the Joplin Missouri tornado which hit on Sunday May 22, 2011.

Over several days the news covered this 40th Anniversary of the Red River Valley outbreak. Many people were interviewed concerning their loss and their memories of the impact of the tragedy. Each had vivid memories and were very detailed in their descriptions. I wondered if it was from clarity of memory or from reliving it over and over in their minds all these years. The pain was still there and that may have kept it alive.

I was reminded of the observation that our memories and the truth are close relatives but not identical twins. This said, I felt the need for someone, having experienced such a memory, taking time to write down their experience as well as their feelings. Details are important for future generations to know not only what others have gone through but how they dealt with it.

This applies not only to natural disasters but any and all life changing experiences. We should encourage a written account not only by us but by our friends and relatives. All that are interested should write of their view of the experience. When doing so be clear, be precise and be detailed. This will relieve us of tasking our memories with the details in future days and will be an account that will last.                            

Monday, April 15, 2019

Twenty Discoveries from a Writers’ Conference, Part Two

By Marilyn Nutter

In Part One of Twenty Discoveries from a Writers’ Conference, which appeared on Friday, I shared ten take aways I found after reviewing my notes and reflecting on my schedule and conversations. Part two gives my final ten.

1.      Join conversations at writers’ conferences. These may be a different kind of appointment. Don’t dismiss the possibility you might hear a nugget to encourage you or set you on a path. I had several at this conference, and the people don’t even know how they impacted me. And, be an encouragement to others. Share writing opportunities.

2.      Be a listener. I know what I know. I want to know what someone else knows.
3.      Position yourself to be a learner and be teachable. In John Mason’s book, Be Yourself, he writes “Remember, if you try to go it alone, the fence that shuts others out, also shuts you in.” 
4.      Accept criticism with discernment and humility. Know that it’s one person’s feedback. Perhaps that person can’t identify with your genre or topic or perhaps he is spot on.
5.      Take time to rest and refresh. We can’t run on empty.
6.      Trust God and wait on His timing.
7.      Identify my personal enemies: distractions, negative self-talk, zeal without prayer.
8.      Be thankful.
9.      Honor God by living His priorities for me-family, personally, and in writing.
10.  Partner with Him. He is the author and the one who has called me.
Conference takeaways are not necessarily a contract, request to send a proposal, or offer to guest post on a blog. I’m seeing it’s about learning who I am and who God wants me to become.  Number 20-yes, with courage and trust, “He will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8a ESV) ###
Marilyn Nutter is a contributor to magazines, on-line sites, and compilations. She is a Bible teacher, speaker for women’s groups, and serves on the women’s ministry team at her church. She lives in Greer, SC. Visit to find her blog and extraordinary treasures in ordinary and challenging days. Social Media Links: Website: LinkedIn: Marilyn Nutter Pinterest: Marilyn Marotta Nutter Facebook: Marilyn Marotta Nutter

Friday, April 12, 2019

Twenty Discoveries from a Writers’ Conference, Part One

By Marilyn Nutter

I was puzzled. On the drive home from a writers’ conference, I tried to revisit each appointment, conversation, class, and keynote. I asked God to intentionally direct me during the conference, but one class didn’t deliver according to its title. Another went in a direction where the material didn’t apply to me. I had invested time and money. I didn’t want those two experiences to taint my takeaways, but what happened?  

My word for 2019 is “intentional”, so over the next few days, I went through my notes, highlighting key points from classes and keynotes. I sorted through business cards and recalled conversations.
Had I overlooked notes hidden in my scrawl? Was there a repeated thought? A key word? A gem of advice? A Bible verse or theme?

And what about my part? Did I encourage anyone?

So I listed my takeaways, some from conversations, others from classes and keynotes. As we get ready for conferences, perhaps these will be helpful to you.
1.      You will find support and feedback to make your work better when you are in a writers’ group. You will learn from others’ writing, even if it isn’t your genre or style.
2.      Take advantage of online resources: online conferences, courses, and even new ways to research.
3.      Find a writing partner. You may partner in a project, pray together, or exchange writing for critique.
4.      Don’t succumb to the fear of missing out. Attend conferences or workshops that are right for you. This may mean affordability, location, classes, or teachers. Like a buffet, choose what will nourish you. You can’t do everything
5.      Partner with God to find your voice, themes, words, and topics. He called us to write and has a message He wants to send only we can write. He will communicate to me when I ask
6.      Watch your personal schedule and time. Give God your calendar, clock, and phone. Intentionally remove distractions from your schedule. The good can be the enemy of the better or best.

7.      Pray about your appointments at conferences. Who has God appointed for you to speak to? Don’t be disappointed if time slots are filled and you can’t meet with someone. God has an appointment set somewhere for you in the conference or later.
8.      Find a person who understands your frustrations and what it means to be a writer-the delays, discouragement, work, and rejections. And… a person who will appreciate your investment of work and time and celebrate with you.
9.      Read in your genre, but branch out for information, style, encouragement, and enjoyment.
10.  Guard your quiet time with God. It may be early morning, but. perhaps mid-morning or evening is right for you.  I need to position myself to listen so I can hear Him speak.

Marilyn will give you items her final 10 tips in Part Two on Monday’s blog post.
Marilyn Nutter is a contributor to magazines, on-line sites, and compilations. She is a Bible teacher, speaker for women’s groups, and serves on the women’s ministry team at her church. She lives in Greer, SC. Visit to find her blog and extraordinary treasures in ordinary and challenging days. Social Media Links: Website: LinkedIn: Marilyn Nutter Pinterest: Marilyn Marotta Nutter Facebook: Marilyn Marotta Nutter

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Essential Oils and Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

You may be saying, “Annette’s gone, hippy dippy on us.” It’s not true. About a year ago, I discovered the value of diffusing essential oils to help direct my mind while writing various scenes. Essential oils are the essence of any plant. They protect plants from disease while giving nutrients. Essential oils can be found in a plant’s flower, stem, leaves, bark, or fruit. Extraction of a plant’s oils is done often through steam distillation. Essential oil combinations can create an aroma to set the tone for conquering busy writing schedules that seem to require 30 hours in a day to get your writing goals met.

This is what works for me. Start with getting a room diffuser. There are a million to choose from. I use a Young Living diffuser because it came wide variety of essential oils. A diffuser is a device that disperses the essential oil molecules into the air using a water mist. I blend various oils in the diffuser with plain tap water depending on what my writing goals are for today.

This morning I’m writing this blog post, responding to work emails and routine office work. I began the day diffusing 3 drops lemongrass oil and 2 drops orange oil. It’s a refreshing blend that clears my mind, helps me stay on task, and makes everything in my office smell clean and fresh. Don’t look too close there may be a dust bunny under my desk.

After lunch, I’m worked on an anthology short story piece. I add 3 drops of peppermint oil to the morning oils and water to the diffuser. This addition to the morning blend helped energize me over any afternoon slump.

As Dr. Axe states, “Essential oils have been around for centuries, dating back as far as Biblical days when Jesus was anointed with frankincense and myrrh upon his birth. They’ve been utilized since ancient times in various cultures, including China, Egypt, India and Southern Europe. French surgeon Jean Valnet, learned that essential oils could help treat soldiers during World War II — a time when medications were scarce. The beauty of essential oils is that they are natural, extracted from flowers, leaves, bark or roots of plants. While it’s best to make sure you use pure essential oils, meaning oils that have not been diluted with chemicals or additives, they can provide much needed relief and healing for a variety of ailments.”

Here is the science behind the sense of smell according to the website Fifth Sense: “detecting a smell the olfactory neurons in the upper part of the nose generate an impulse which is passed to the brain along the olfactory nerve. The part of the brain this arrives at first is called the olfactory bulb, which processes the signal and then passes information about the smell to other areas closely connected to it, collectively known as the limbic system. The limbic system comprises a set of structures within the brain that are regarded by scientists as playing a major role in controlling mood, memory, behavior and emotion. It is often regarded as being the old, or primitive, part of the brain, because these same structures were present within the brains of the very first mammals. Knowing this, helps us to understand why smell plays such an important role in memory, mood and emotion.” For this reason, essential oils and your sense of smell could benefit from diffuse various blends while writing. Remember the scene in the movie, Someone Like You, when Ashley Judd’s character wanted to have her olfactory nerve removed so she would get over her ex-boyfriend?  Long story short, smells can trigger memories and can spurn our creativity.  

These are some of the oil combinations I like to diffuse depending on the types of stories or scenes I’m writing.
-For a scene that just won’t come together diffuse 
2 drops Frankincense to help focus, creativity arrange your thoughts and get words on the page. Blend with 
4 drops lavender, a scent that brings relaxation and calms your mind.

-“Finish your daily writing goal” blend
2 drops peppermint to relieve mental stress and boost your mood.
1 drop eucalyptus to boost creativity, understanding, mental clarity
2 drops lime to help concentration, creativity, focus

-Writing a Christmas story? Here is my Christmas blend to diffuse:
5 drops orange
2 drops cinnamon
1 drop clove
1 drop Frankincense (The Wisemen brought to baby Jesus)
1 drop Myrrh (The Wisemen brought to baby Jesus)

-Writing a Fall story? Blend in the diffuser:
3 drops orange
2 drops pine
3 drops lime
1 drop clove
1 drop nutmeg

-Writing a summer story? Blend in diffuser:
3 rosemary
2 lemongrass
2 lavender
1 spearmint

-Writing a spring story? Blend in diffuser:
3 orange
3 grapefruit
1 lemon 1 bergamot

-Writing a love story? Blend in diffuser:
6 ylang ylang
5 geranium
3 patchouli
3 lavender

Like with anything, check the oil blends with your doctor and veterinarian before diffusing to make sure they are safe for you, your family, and pets. Essential oils definitely help me with my focus and give me the ability to stay on task and finish my writing projects. 

How about you? Have you discovered essential oils? Do you use a diffuse while writing?