Thursday, September 27, 2012

Self Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing



by Bruce Wayne Sullivan

After ten years of being a published book author,.I have learned a few tips along the way that may save you a lot of heartache and money. There are two routes into the world of publishing: self publishing, which would most likely be through a vanity publisher, and traditional publishing. I would first like to operationally define the two types of publishing. A vanity publisher is one who charges a fee for services and this means any kind of service that the vanity publisher provides, including, but not limited to, editing, photo design, changes in manuscript after submission, proof reading, etc. In short, a vanity publisher is one who requires payment for services rendered.

A traditional publisher does not charge a fee for anything. They edit, design, do photo ops, font set and any other service your book will need to make it attractive in the market. Traditional publishers are trying to sell books to the public. They are not in this to make their income on selling to the authors. A real traditional publisher does not even charge you for author copies albeit some may call themselves traditional publishers and charge for author copies and this may be the only charge at the end of the process. However, they should let you know in the contract if there are any fees involved, even costs to you for books.

If there is nothing in the contract about a fee to the author when the last stage is reached and the book is ready for publication, then a sudden charge appears out of nowhere, beware! This is a scam unfolding! Let me just warn you up front, it is VERY difficult sometimes to tell the sharks from the Guppies and let me assure you, there are far more sharks in the tank than Guppies. If you get stuck with a deal like this, whatever you do, don’t give them any money! I know, I just got it in this same situation. While I am writing about this, let me also warn you not to sign any contract beyond a year, because you may have to wait out the end of the contract to avoid the scam should one emerge from out of the shadows. If you have money then you can hire an attorney to void the contract and get out of it before the year deadline is up. Can you imagine what horror would ensue if you signed a six year contract under these type of circumstances? In addition, there are not many traditional publishers who pay author draws any more. If you find one who does, Hallelujah for you!

Lastly, there is a great watch dog agency that is extremely helpful when trying to find a legitimate publisher. It is called Predators and Editors. They list the publishers and issue warnings concomitant the ones that are not legitimate; although their list is not exhaustive, it includes volumes of agencies and publishers. They are also very good about answering any questions you have through email. Predators and Editors has been my life line over the years. A great vanity publisher that I had an excellent experience with was Createspace.com. Good luck with your publishing, and remember to keep your eyes wide open and listen to your gut feeling.

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Bruce Wayne Sullivan is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He completed his undergraduate work at two private schools in Mississippi. His concentration was in history and social science. He attended the University of Memphis and earned his Master's degree. He’s a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Clinically-Certified Forensic Counselor with more than a decade of experience in mental health care and treatment. Bruce is the author of Up From the Ruins: Based On a True Story, Refections from the Other SideVodka Tonics for the SoulHis website is  www.brucewaynebooks.com



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Birthday Wishes for T. S. Eliot


Happy Birthday to Southern Writer

T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot 

Born September 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri 



"There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands,
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Symphony of Syllables


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director


On a Sunday afternoon (and there happened to be one this weekend), one of my favorite getaways is to go to the symphony.  I'll never cease to be amazed by the astounding feat of eighty musicians all striking up the band at the wave of a baton, and staying in perfect rhythm for two hours amid a myriad of  constantly changing tempos.  There's also something about live orchestral music -- definitely its lack of words for one thing -- that allows me to become thoroughly enveloped in the musical experience.

Even while under the rapture of Rachmaninoff, the wordsmith in me is still present and accounted for, and can't help analyzing how the art of music can be very much like the art of writing.  They really have a great deal in common.

MAJORS & MINORS
A song with predominantly major chords (such as Do-Re-Mi) tends to sound positive, happy, hopeful, while a song in all minors (The Funeral March) evokes gloom, misery, danger.

HIGHS & LOWS 
We think of high sounds as bright and illuminating, while low, deep tones sound dark, even claustrophobic.
 
TEMPO
Fast passages suggest busy activity and forward motion, while slow passages evoke introspection and ponderance.

VOLUME
Loud is boisterous, triumphant, powerful.  Quiet is caring, tentative, gentle.

What does all of this have to do with words?  The same principles apply to every sentence we write.  Our choice of words have a huge bearing on the mood of the moment. Compare these simple sentences, for example:

1. "Will you let Lily know she's invited Wednesday for dinner?"
2. "Take that to your sister and tell her Tuesday is pot luck."

Number 2 has a little more punch because it's packed full of plosives (Ts and Ps).  Even if we don't read it out loud, our brain reacts to all those little percussive power points.

Another example:

1. He would be happy with nothing to do, if he could be sure that his boss didn't care.
2. If only he knew that Mr Abernathy didn't care, he would be just as happy having nothing to do.

Number 1 has a rhythmic flow, while number 2 has a less predictable cadence.  Nothing wrong with any of the above sentences, but if you're trying to further a particular mood (easygoing? Aggressive? Unsteady?) at this point in the story, you can see how a subtle variation can have subliminal impact.

One more:

1. I'm telling you, if you do that again, I promise never to forgive you as long as I live.
2. Don't.  Just don't.

I don't know about you, but I'd listen to the second one.

A great classical work often has multiple movements. A typical progression is Allegro (lively), Adagio (slower), Scherzo (swift), and back to an Allegro finale, bigger than before.  Isn't this very much like every story, in which we start with an interesting premise, then give the hero problems to bog them down, then they find the strength to answer the call of battle, then wave the flag of victory?  (That's when we break out the timpanis for some heavy duty hoopin' and hollerin'.)  And through it all we provide a roller coaster of ups and downs, fast and slow, hard and soft, to keep things from getting monotonous.

Every sentence we compose is part of a symphony, bigger than the sum of its parts.  Each measure of our composition will measure up if we put the right mood into the words we choose.  With over 250,000 words in the English language, we have a lot of notes to play with.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fish Hooks and Writing



By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

While doing some research at a local bookstore, a title hooks my brain. This is not a recommendation for a book or an author, but to pose several questions. Would this title draw your attention? Or am I the only one that finds the title curious? "Why Fish Fart and Other Useless or Gross Information about the World"  It catches my eye and draws my hand to reach for the book. The point is, the title intrigued me enough to pull it off the shelf surrounded by hundreds of other books vying for my attention. At home, still curious by the title, I researched the title and author. Why? Because the title stuck in my brain and I had to know more about this book and author. 
The teachers who most impressed me in school are those who made their subjects spring off the pages of the textbook and land upside my skull. Writers need to learn, from their own great teachers, how to hook their readers. 

A search for this book yielded a couple of review pages telling me the book is not the humorous tongue-in-cheek satire I'd expected. Rather, it is an organized book of scientific animal factoids that are most unique and interesting. Several I recognized as crime plots in a current police television dramas. 

More of the author's catchy titles are, "Why You Shouldn't Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless or Gross Information about Your Body" and "Why Is Yawning Contagious? Everything you ever wanted to know about the human body and some things you'd rather not know". There is no doubt author Francesca Gould has found a way to make science fun and contagiously intriguing.

Armed with scientific factoids and a catchy title, books can be born. Does this give you a good idea for a book? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How I Transformed Grief into a Writing Journey


By Cindy Adams



The moment I became a widow, my grief kept me in shock for close to 6 months. As the pain began to seep through, I found ways to push it away and bury it. I traveled, drank, gambled, and ate until my clothes no longer fit, and then of course I had to shop. About nine months into grief, and stories I told, of things I did, that were so out of my character, a friend suggested I write a book. I liked the idea of writing down some of my crazy stories so I’d never forget them.

I started writing about when my former husband became ill, until his death a couple months later, and then my grief process. I began to journal every day. The day I wrote about the day he died, it was on the one year anniversary of his death and I cried hard. The day he actually died, I didn’t cry at all feeling too numb and in shock. I realized how beneficial my writing was in my grief and how sharing my experiences could help other widows. Thus began my writing journey.

I would journal everyday about 3 pages. These were hand-written for a couple years. The bulk of my grief was within two to three years. As I began to complete my grief journey and accept my loss, I made new plans and goals for my life. I wanted to share with other widows that grief is only part of our life and not our whole life. I then typed my journals into 300 typed pages. During this process, I was in transition, moving from Florida to Georgia.

Once my daughters and I settled into our new home, we found a church close by. Some of the church members were starting a writer’s group. I joined, of course, and this began the journey of writing a book. I had no idea what I was in for. Why would anyone subject themselves to such a painful process? But I was determined to help other widows in their grief and knew that if I could share my experiences, maybe they could see that life goes on and can be good again.

So now, 17 years later, I have completed my book and wanted to show my readers that I reached my goals. I completed college with a social work degree in 2010. My children are grown and I wanted to share how they survived through their grief. My writing journey, which includes a widow’s blog that I started, last year, has actually been a big part of my healing process. Writing also helped transform my grief into a life of new dreams, goals, and purpose.  
 ______________________________________________________________

Cindy Adams, LMSW, was widowed at 34 yrs.old with two daughters, ages 6 and 7 yrs. old. As she held on to her faith, she worked through widowhood and realized there was more to life than grief. Part of her new goals in life was to help others in their grief. She not only supported her own friends through their loss but volunteered at Hospice. She went back to school to become a social worker and obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 2010 from the University of Georgia.  Cindy feels blessed that she remarried and currently resides with her husband in Atlanta, GA. She serves in her church as a GriefShare leader and pursues her social work career as a Medical Social Worker for a home health agency. Cindy started a widow’s blog, www.widowspursuits.blogspot.com  to pursue her passion to help others through grief by sharing her experiences.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blog to Build Your Audience



By Londa Hayden, Staff Writer for Southern Writers Magazine


In promoting a book, one must think outside the box at times. It finally dawned on me one day that I would serve my book's intended audience far better by offering a blog by the same title at http://www.datepraywait.com. My book “Date, Pray, Wait” is a nonfiction work about my dating experiences as a young Christian woman. I share about how I came to know Christ and learned to wait on God to bring my husband into my life. But, there is so much more to my story than just my dating experiences. Every person can relate to the loneliness of being single. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, almost everyone wants to find that one and only someone to have and to hold until death do you part. I've been married almost 26 years now, so what the heck was I thinking when I wrote this book for single people? I mean, doesn't it make more sense for single people to want to read book written by other single people? Perhaps that is true, but I do have the advantage of experience and wisdom to share with Christian singles without being their mother or teacher.

Of course, there are tons of websites out there for Christian singles who want to date, which could be considered my competition. Cyberspace can be a remarkable social networking tool, but it can also be a pretty scary place if you’re not careful. Instead of looking at all these Christian dating websites as competition, I decided to go with the flow and use my blog to compliment them instead. And once I can get the SEO and RSS feed stuff figured out, I hope to start getting a lot more traffic to my website. This is an age of social networking unlike anything the world has ever seen or experienced before. Single people especially use the Internet constantly all day long on their laptops, desktops, iPads, phones, Kindles, etc. They are always online and connected to the Internet in one capacity or another. You must learn to use this technology in order to communicate and reach your audience.

Think about who your book will attract. Now think about who is really buying and reading your book? What does your true demographic audience really look like now? Guess what? That is your audience. So work your promoting and marketing around that demographic; their wants, desires, and needs. Starting a blog is one of the easiest ways to gain internet presence and market your book. I also blog on a separate author website at http://www.londahayden.com about writing, and I have set up separate pages to promote each book I have written. I have a fan page on Facebook for just my book titled “Date, Pray, Wait.”  And of course Twitter is another authority website which really should not be ignored. All of these avenues of social media are interconnected with one another and help me target my marketing efforts to my specific audience. All I need to do is click on the Twitter or Facebook icon to get the link to my new blog article posted to every one of them. It really is just as simple as that.

If you really want to reach your audience, you must consider building a strong internet presence as a big part of your platform for marketing. Most publishers will expect at least this much from any potential author. A blog about your book is a great way to serve and build your audience, and a great way to help promote your book to thousands of people who otherwise might never hear about you or your book. There are many free website hosts where you can easily set up a blog. Here are just a few: Wordpress.com, Webs.com, GoDaddy, Weebly.com, Myspace.com, and Google offers Blogspot.com.
_________________________________________________________________

Londa Hayden is the founding president of Bartlett Christian Writers and a staff writer for Southern Writers Magazine. Her debut book, Date, Pray, Wait inspired a blog by the same name at  http://datepraywait.com and encourages Christian singles to date with wisdom. To learn more about Londa and her other works, please visit her website at http://londahayden.com.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I'll Back You Up


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director


I wore it like a badge of honor.  The realization that I'd gone five years without a computer crash was something to brag about, given the abuse I inflict upon my faithful Dell every single day from sunup well into the wee hours.  Thanks to reliable antivirus software and never clicking links I don't completely trust, my primary hard drive and three external portable drives have tirelessly processed thousands of writing, audio and video projects without complaint.

That all changed three weeks ago, when one of my Seagate external drives suddenly wasn't recognized by my computer. Noticing that it was very warm to the touch, I unplugged it and let it cool down.  After 30 minutes it was good to go again, and it did fine for about two days.  Then it ran hot again and I let it cool again.  This sequence repeated about three times, until I plugged it back in and finally heard the clicks of doom.

My Seagate wasn't just getting overheated; the internal mechanism was now audibly failing, so I decided I'd better start archiving to DVD-R anything that hadn't yet been backed up on disc, which, in my aforementioned overconfidence, was considerable.  Unfortunately, it was already too late, and no amount of unplugging and replugging would get it started again. I resigned myself to having to redo a lot of the work that was on there.

Then I remembered an old wive's tale about bringing a dead hard drive back to life by putting it in the freezer overnight.  I figured, what have a I got to lose; I was already between a rock and a hard drive.  So I wrapped it in plastic and put it next to the frozen waffles.

The next morning I wasn't at all optimistic as I plugged it back in, until I heard the whirring of the motor and the Dell ding that indicated recognition of the external drive. I was flabbergasted, not to mention elated. Supposedly, lowering the temperature affects the metal armature and unsticks it, or something. But this was no time for speculation.  Without delay I began to copy the most essential files to another drive, which worked greatfor about 15 minutes, when it got hot again, and stopped.

Considering that the temperature made a difference, it occurred to me that perhaps all I would have to do was keep the hard drive cold and it would keep working.  So I froze it again, but this time moved a portable refrigerator into my office so the drive could sit inside and stay cool while I continued my archiving to disc.

Great in theory, but unfortunately a complete failure.  Apparently you can only do the freezer trick a limited number of times before the drive totally gives up the ghost.  In every subsequent attempt, all I got from my frigid files was the cold shoulder.

The lesson to be learned here is that it's not only viruses that can waylay your computer.  Hard drives and other components will eventually wear out on their own (in fact, as fate would have it, not a week later my other Seagate began acting up too). In just the last month I've talked to several other writers who've recently experienced a hard drive crash as well.  There must be something in the water. 

So, from one tortured artist to another, I encourage you to make sure anything you care about is saved to disc (or a backup "cloud" service, such as Carbonite) so you'll never have that sinking feeling of losing chapters you've written, family vacation photos, or other favored folders.

For the record, a refrigerator in the office has its benefits too.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Historical Fact or Fiction?



By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor



Babe Ruth had finished his autobiography and wanted to present the manuscript of his life’s story to Yale University. He had arrived the day before Yale’s Baseball Team was to play. He had met with the school officials and arranged to have the manuscript officially accepted on the field at the game the next day.

The next day prior to the beginning of the game, “The Babe” walked out on the field and met with the dignitaries. There he presented the manuscript to the Team Captain. It was a moment the Team Captain said he would never forget. He called it a name dropper’s paradise. The Team Captain was George H. W. Bush, better known today as “41”.

Now that is a great story, but is it fact or fiction? If you were a historian you may know the answer right away. Today you could Google it and in a matter of seconds know if indeed it is fact or fiction. Either way, you could take this and go with a great story about Babe Ruth, President Bush, politics or baseball. The possibilities are endless.



What interests you? What takes you to the next level of a story? Whatever your interest, you have a connection that can be found in historical events similar to the one mentioned above. You can weave into your story the events of the day or recognized historical events that will add another dimension to your work. 




After all, the story above may have you wondering if it was fact or fiction. If you have yet to Google it, you may want to do so to find it is in fact the truth as told by President Bush. As they say, fact can be stranger than fiction.  
  

       

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Write What You Know


By Bruce Wayne Sullivan

The concern often arises among writers as to how others can hear their voice with so many in the arena? It is like having 500 people on the tennis court swinging at the same ball. You are bound to get bruised while taking your swing.

One of the keys, in my estimation, is to write only on the subject that you are intimately acquainted with and finding your voice that resonates with the hearers/readers. In short, write about what you know or have experienced. It takes a life time to write a book. Stay away from topics that are unfamiliar to you or outside your field of experience.

Another way to set you apart is to use metaphors, hyperbole or simile. Don't tell; use a descriptive narrative when you can. This will help your reader actually see, feel and hear what you are trying to convey in the story. 

Here is an excerpt from my memoir, Up from the Ruins to illustrate:  "Pearl was just another dream that rode in on the crest of a wave that soon broke on the shoreline and returned out to the sea. My nomadic life seemed to have no end and no beginning." This sentence makes the reader feel something the same way a "hook" in a song gets the person's attention. Writing is a lot of hard work, so practice, practice and practice!

 ____________________________________________________________________________________
 Bruce Wayne Sullivan is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He completed his undergraduate work at two private schools in Mississippi. His concentration was in history and social science. He attended the University of Memphis in 1993 and earned his Master's degree. Now a licensed counselor, Sullivan credits bartending for preparing him for counseling. Sullivan is also an accomplished musician. Bruce is the author of Up From the Ruins: Based On a True Story, Refections from the Other Side, Vodka Tonics for the Soul


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Social Media Calling



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

 They say it is imperative that authors have a social network in order to promote their books and themselves as authors.  I decided to look at a few and this is what I saw.

There is Facebook and Twitter. Then I’m told you need to subscribe to LinkedIn, YouTube,  Digg, Stumbleupon, Del.icio.us and My Space.  From there they move onto aNobii,   weRead, and then of course let us not forget Pinterest,  Shelfari, Google and reddit.com.

Now we find another ‘ sect’ has been added  for authors called voiceBoks, Fireflies, Book Launch & Paint Party, Calling All Authors, Branch Out, Author News, Crazy for books, Christian Poets and Writers, The Book Club Network.

Rather than naming anymore, I will just say, there are sites popping up every day for authors to use to get their books and their names out to the public. These are promotion tools for authors but if not careful, they can consume an entire day putting information on each one. Because authors are responsible for their own marketing and promotion maybe it would be a good idea to take some time and look at each one and perhaps categorize them as to what information is best to put on each one. For the most part, there are different audiences on each. After all that is what authors are after, to touch different audiences and introduce them to their books. 

If you know the purpose of each one, the audience it is reaching then you will be able to divide them into categories, using the same information. This certainly cuts down on the amount of time spent. See if you can get them divided into threes. Then you only have to have three segments of content. One segment goes on one list, another segment goes on the second list and the last segment goes on the third list.

If authors are spending a lot of time on building social media my question becomes is when do they find time to write? For authors their passion is writing. Most authors could sit for hours and just write. Yet all authors have to slice out of their workday time to work on the Social Media junket. So maybe if authors segment into list their promotions there will be more time for writing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All in the Family


 
by Gary Fearon, Creative Director


Some years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Richard Kelly, who literally wrote the book on The Andy Griffith Show.  His highly entertaining and informative volume is not only a comprehensive episode guide, but a fascinating behind-the-scenes visit with the unforgettable cast and characters who populated Mayberry from 1960 to 1968.

In light of Andy's recent death, I thought you might appreciate this.  While discussing what made The Andy Griffith Show such an enduring classic, two things Mr Kelly had to say have always stuck with me, and I've seen their truth time and time again:

1. It wasn't about the jokes, but the personalities.
2. The personalities represented the family unit.

To explain:

1. Think of any scene in any episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  You'll be hard pressed to remember any punchlines.  There was plenty of humor, yes, and a spate of catch phrases like "Nip it" or "Gol-ly," but the laughs sprang from the characters and how they dealt with each situation in this situation comedy.

Anticipating how Barney would react to an embarrassing turn of events was often much funnier than any one-liner he might have uttered.  We got to know the personalities on the show through their believable, consistent behavior.  If it had been a town of stand-up comics, we'd have never bought into it, or felt like we knew these people. That is a failing of many of today's sitcoms, which are a series of setup and punchline, setup and punchline.  But back in Mayberry, we cared about Aunt Bee's feelings when the pickles which she thought were prize-winning actually tasted like kerosene.

2. A sense of family invites us in and makes us feel at home.  Andy, the patriarch, was complemented by Bee, the mother figure, and of course Opie rounded out the immediate family.  We also have characters who represent the the blowhard brother-in-law (Barney), the lovable uncle (Floyd), the busybody aunt (Clara), the unsophisticated cousin (take your pick, Gomer or Goober), etc.  Stereotypes to a large degree, perhaps, but consider other successful sitcoms and you'll see the same formula played out:

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for instance.  Lou Grant was a strong father figure to Mary's career woman of the 70s (being the 70s, it was cool not to have kids, but if there was a child on the show, wide-eyed Georgette might fill the bill).  Ted Baxter was your blustering brother-in-law, and Murray was the uncle you could go to for a different view on things.

Again, most of the characters on this show had personalities we got to know, to the point where humor could come from merely expecting how they would react to situations. 

A good one-liner is fine for a quick laugh.  But for humor that reaches the heart and stays with us, a situation we can identify with and a personality we care about is the magic formula.  Andy had that magic, which is why we'll always have a fondness for Mayberry.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Reassessing My Reassessment



by Chris Pepple, Writer-at-Large for Southern Writers Magazine 


Recently, I felt as if my writing and marketing projects weren’t headed in the right direction. Time to reassess my work! That thought made me shudder. In the past, I considered reassessing something to be a negative process. In my mind, it meant I needed to revise my plan, seeking out my mistakes. I turned this procedure into a time of extreme self-criticism, looking for faults in my work and blaming myself for errors and oversights.

This negative attitude towards reassessing projects usually slowed my work more than it helped. After any reassessment, I had to find exercises to build my confidence before I could dive back into my work fully. Reassessments left me feeling deflated rather than feeling ready to take on the next project.
But if things weren’t working well, I couldn’t avoid reassessing my current work. Before I started, however, I spent time working on schoolwork with one of my daughters. She had to look up vocabulary words in her dictionary. When she stepped away for a moment, I flipped through the pages and landed on the entry for reassess. There was that first definition: to revise. I slipped into my negative frame of mind which said revising meant changing the plan because of my failures.

Then I saw the next two definitions listed: to renew one’s assessment, to get a feel for again. Renewal? Get a feel for again? This sounded like a wonderful challenge. I could bring new life back into my projects. I could get a feel for them again and revitalize the works and myself. Why had I never looked at reassessment in such a positive light before?

The work began. How could I renew my marketing plan? I had to get a feel for my audience again. In crunching numbers and plotting strategies, I lost touch with the people I had written my e-book for. I got online to see what other books were popular with my intended audience. I searched for advertising targeting this age group. Where were they traveling and shopping? What were their hobbies? This helped me redesign my ads and overall marketing strategies. I was pleased that I had gotten a feel for my audience again.

Then I moved to my writing. I was more than one-third of the way through my next book, but the life had gone out of it. The timeframe wasn’t working, and the characters had become dull as I tried to force them into the plot. I went back to my original notes and character sketches. I got back in touch with my book and breathed new life into the characters as I made small changes to the dates and the setting.

I’m so glad I reassessed my process of reassessment! It gave me a chance to get back in touch with my projects and renew them and me along the way. 
______________________________________________________________________
Chris Pepple is a talented staff writer for Southern Writers Magazine and author of Look to See Me: A Collection of Reflections(2006) and Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain (2012).  Chris is speaker for retreats and seminars on topics related to writing, theology and spiritual growth. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In The Midnight Hour



By David Harry

I would need to go back to twelfth, grade. English class. I had to write a short story. I procrastinated until the very last night. I had no idea of what to say or where to begin.

The clock ticked relentlessly. It was past eleven, the paper was blank—so was my mind. “Just begin,” I told myself. “Half a story gets a grade higher than zero.” 

Midnight. Mind and paper still blank. Zero looming large.

Fingers moving. Someone breaks into my house. I get between the intruder and the door. He runs into the basement. I follow.

He picks up a shovel from a construction project. Swings. Hits me on the head. I black out. He runs. Half a story. Better than zero. I’ll take a fifty. Bedtime

My mind won’t leave it. Back to my desk. Erase. The shovel misses me. I grab a pickax. The blade connects. Blood is everywhere.

I now have a possible seventy. Passing. Go to sleep. Can’t.

The dead body is at my feet. What to do now? Idea. Put the body behind the wall and brick him in. Good plan.

I mix the mortar, position the body, and with adrenalin pumping lest my father come down and find what I’m doing, I frantically begin building the wall. I’m working fast, not taking time to snap a straight line. I refuse to think about what it is I am hiding. The wall is waist high. Then it is over my head. I use a chair to finish one section and begin a new area next to it. Brick by brick I am gaining on it. Not much further to go. 

I hear footsteps above me, but nothing coming down into the cellar. Brick dust is on my glasses, the mortar sticking as well. A film forms. It’s getting hard to see. No time to clean my lenses. Gotta keep going. Now it’s almost impossible to see, but I’m only a few bricks from finishing.

The body cannot be seen. The mortar is setting fast, the wall is solid. I’m almost finished. Just three bricks to go. Then two. One.

Done!

I can’t see, but that’s okay. I’ll go upstairs. No one will know. All sound from the house is now gone. I clean my glasses, but no light comes in.

Then I realize with a sudden jolt that I have bricked myself into the corner. The dead guy is in the cellar and I’m behind a solid wall. No possible way to break through.


I scream. No one answers.

In class the next day I was made to stand in front of the class and read the story that I had worked on for less than an hour. My story was, I thought, being held up as what not to do. I sat down. Then teacher then said, “David’s story deserves an A. I see you have read some Poe. Great job!” 

A writer was born.
________________________________________________________________________
 
David Harry is an attorney and author of three mystery novels, The Padre Puzzle, The Padre Predator, and the September 2012 release of his third in the series, Padre Paranoia.
The series of books are set on the rustically beautiful South Padre Island with his returning characters Jimmy Redstone and Angella Martinez.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lighting the World



by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief


It is so amazing; we are all so incredibly powerful. Writers are, you know! With the stroke of their pen, we can write words that will soothe the beast of most and stir the hearts of lambs.

Writers can paint pictures with words that allow the blind to see and turn around, and write scathing words of do’s and don’ts to their congressional representative, newspapers and businesses.

A writer can lift up the most downtrodden lost soul and then create a wonderful world for a child to play and talk with the animals.


Perhaps as writers, we should remind ourselves that we have this tremendous power to make things better, or worse, in our world. The question we need to ask is which will we choose?

May we be writers who choose not to hide their words, but rather let them be a light to the world.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Look Who's Talking


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director



What started out as a gift to the blind has become an enduring way to enjoy books.  When the Library of Congress first began distributing books for the blind in the 1930s, it wasn't long before the sighted also came to appreciate the appeal of the recorded word on vinyl. 

The Bible and other classics were the early leaders in sales.  By the 1980s, the cassette made motivational tapes especially popular.  Today more than ever, book lovers on the go are finding that audiobooks are a great traveling companion.  On a long drive, a compelling book is just the cure for highway hypnosis. 

Even as we see eBooks leap forward in the marketplace, audiobooks continue to claim a growing piece of the pie that used to be dominated by the printed medium. In both 2011 and 2012, sales of audiobooks have increased more than 30% over the previous year.

Some of Southern Writers' favorite authors know the value of the audiobook, and are making their novels available to an eager new audience.  Sandra Balzo, our current cover story, is about to release her second audiobook.  Tamera Alexander, Robert Whitlow, and Andy Andrews are other front pagers whose works are readily available.  These days, you can find virtually any bestseller on CD.

Clearly, books and audio will remain close friends for some time.  Which is why we want you to know about Take Five, one of our new online venues for authors.  At Take Five, simply click a button to listen to a five-minute excerpt from a variety of new Southern books, often read by the author.  As I write this, Pamela King Cable, Kimberly Rae, and Philip Levin's latest can be previewed in Take Five.

Not every sample you'll hear in Take Five is available as an audiobook, at least not yet.  But an aural appetizer is a quick and fun way to get a taste of these great Southern writers. If you like what you hear, the book itself is just another click away.

Give a listen to Take Five now, and be sure to come back again periodically to see who's waiting to talk to you. And if you're a subscriber with a book to promote, you're invited to be on Take Five.  Details on how to get a good recording, along with an easy means to upload your audio to us, are right there on the website.

Whether you're an author who likes to read, or a reader who likes to listen, we hope you'll take part in Take Five.  A few minutes there will be a sound investment.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Life's a Beach, Write On and Dance



By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director

The Lindberghs fly to their cottage on Captiva Island, FL
Happy Labor Day! This holiday is my seasonal reminder that summer is over and the crunch of fallen leaves is around the corner. So before the summer magic is lost, remember how it felt when a hot breeze blows across your damp swimsuit. Pushing wet hair from your eyes, you exit the ocean; you bend and scoop up the latest wave-revealed Gulf treasure, a perfect seashell. Have you ever wondered about the travels of the ocean gift you hold in your palm? Sitting on a chaise lounge under a striped umbrella you don your sunglasses and watch a pair of dolphins gliding ten feet off shore. Water-colored cotton candy-like clouds meet the aqua-blue ocean horizon contrasting the seashell strode sand. Did you get beach time on your vacation this year or do you recall the bliss of time spent at the beach?

Beach time for me gives me peace and centering for my soul and brings a smile to my mind and face. I love the pace of quaint beach towns. “Island Time" allows for clarity of one's perspective. For that reason I think many writers have been drawn to the beach and islands to recharge and regroup.

Captiva Island, my favorite beach town, is where Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the Charles Lindbergh walked. These beaches, in the 1940's and 50's, inspired her most famous work, Gift from the Sea. Published in 1955 and selling more than three million copies. She compared her life to seashells she found during her escape to the island. The kidnapping and murder of their first born was so tragic and is still the source of much speculation. Captiva's beaches helped this couple survive and escape the glare of the publicity that followed them throughout their lives.

Some of her quotes include, “It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can only collect a few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. There is only one moon in the sky.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea      

As a beach lover, Anne planted herself in a “seashell of a house” along Captiva’s beaches, collected shells, and contemplated how they related to her life. Occasionally she recorded her Captiva moments, exalting the “miles of beach without other human life.”

When I view the breathtaking sunsets there on Captiva’s beaches, It reminds me of the song written by songwriters Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders, "I Hope You Dance".

"… when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance, I hope you dance
Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
I hope you dance, I hope you dance
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?...
I hope you dance, I hope you dance”

Tia Sillers experienced a similar writing inspiration as Anne Morrow Lindbergh. There is more than a vacation happening when you have a beach experience...there is an opportunity for deep reflection in your writing.

My hope for us all as writers is to have a beach experience and write of wonder, of gifts of the sea, appreciate things bigger than our lives, and above all, remember to dance.