Friday, June 23, 2017

Memoir Writing: Seven Tips

By Tricia Pimental

Putting your past on paper is an intimate form of communication. Blog posts are personal, but memoir writing is another thing. Here’s what you need to know.

Choose your purpose.
Do you want to encourage, telling your story of overcoming abuse, or cancer? Or entertain, with tales of celebrity friends, assuming you have them. My intent with Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way was to instruct about the pitfalls of false religions. Have a clear idea before you start.

Focus on a theme.
One risk with memoir writing is getting distracted. You’ll include many vignettes in your work, and just as with any well-written fiction, they should make sense as a cohesive unit. With A Movable Marriage, however tangential some description might have seemed, it was always directed to my message: it is possible to not only adjust, but thrive, in changing circumstances.

Tell the truth.
This means being honest. It does not mean telling every event that happened in your life. A friend objected to my leaving out something she considered pertinent in one of my books, but I knew it didn’t move the plot forward. Remember, it’s your story. If people want to tell it differently, they can write your biography.

Deal with—not out—pain.
Here’s a two-parter. First, as you delve into the past, you will uncover memories that not only make you laugh, but cry. Expect it, embrace it, and then let it go. Second, don’t be like Hemingway—at least this way: when his Torrents of Spring was published, it was said, “all Montparnasse was talking of ‘six characters in search of an author—with a gun!’” Bitterness negatively colors what you want your readers to hear. Rise above it.

Use fiction elements.
You wouldn’t expect to read a novel without sensory description that draws you into the narrative. I’ve shared sights and smells of candy stores and pizzerias in Brooklyn and what it’s like to travel on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. Take your readers to another time and place as you take them into your confidence.

Turn off your inner critic.
One of the benefits of participating in National Novel Writing Month is, in having to get 50,000 words on the page in 30 days, you must stop backspacing a dozen times in each sentence. (If this is an issue for you, I recommend you try NaNoWriMo.) Let your thoughts flow freely. You can excise in a rewrite, but censor as you go and you may miss an instrumental connecting idea.

Don’t rush.
Years ago, I had dinner with Judith Krantz. When I said writing a book seemed overwhelming, she replied, “Write a page a day, and in a year, you’ll have a book.” It didn’t take you three months to live your life, so don’t expect to write a memoir in three months. Savor the process.

Do it right and they’ll be thanking you for the memories.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tricia Pimental’s first book was a memoir about her circuitous path to faith in Jesus Christ: Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way. That work was followed by a novel, Slippery Slopes. A second memoir, A Movable Marriage, was published in 2016. All three books have received Royal Palm Literary Awards in the annual competition sponsored by the Florida Writers Association. Other work has appeared in A Janela (the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal), anthologies compiled by the Florida Writers Association and the National League of American Pen Women, and elsewhere. She writes regularly for International Living Magazine and their affiliates since signing on in January 2017 as Portugal Correspondent. Tricia and her husband live near Lisbon with their Maltese who, like them, has learned Portuguese. A member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and a former Toastmaster, she blogs at her website, Find her on Facebook at and follow her on Twitter: @Tricialafille.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dreaming of Writing in an Italian Castle or Villa?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director at Southern Writers Magazine

Have you ever had the dream of wanting to write in an Italian villa or castle? Maybe you want to run a Bed & Breakfast? The Italian government may have the perfect property to help you with your dream. All for FREE...sort of.

According to the website, Bored Panda, "The country’s State Property Agency expects anyone who gets a free castle (or any other of the 103 objects) to commit to restoring it...The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for tourists"
A CNN article gives additional information at this link. 

What a wonderful opportunity for a change of pace outside your comfort zone. Think of the possibilities for enhancing your writing spirit. You could be like Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. You could write a best seller about your experience renovating your castle or villa and wind up watching a block buster movie about your Italian adventure. 

According to author Helena Attlee in her book,  The Land Where Lemons Grow, highlights Italy's shores. She provides a glimpse of Italy’s unique crops such as bergamot (and its place in the perfume and cosmetics industries.). Her book shows the vital role played by Calabria's unique Diamante citrons, Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, the gardens of Tuscany, and the story of the Mafia and Sicily's citrus groves.

Check out this map of property locations available. Can you imagine the experience of writing in Italy and creating a writing retreat with a free castle or villa, some sweat equity and the adventure of a lifetime? If this is something that interests you, this is the link to get you one step closer to owning your own Italian castle or villa.

Writing in Italy and turning your Italian castle into a writing retreat...are you ready for a real game-changer in your writing???

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Pilgrim’s Walk

By Warren A. Johnson

I wrote my first novel on a whim. Sort of like Jeremiah Johnson, who ignorantly walked into a bear hunt. “That'll be far enough, pilgrim!” If I’d had someone say that to me, I could’ve avoided the dangers of moving into a wilderness full of awe and wonder, which drew me close to death. Well, to the point a writer gets when he loses the trail and the path contains nothing but tangles, briars, and killers.

I blame my friend Randall, a fashion jewelry designer. He hired me to transport him to the Javits Convention Center in New York City. I listened as he talked about a script. After he completed his tale, he said, “We’re never going to make the movie. Someone ought to write the book.” This is where the pilgrim thing should have happened.

As I sat in front of the blank screen, I discovered I’m a Panster. I sent Randall chapters to identify if I’d captured the plot. He and his wife liked it. Then I heard about writers’ conferences and the money vacuum turned on. ACW rescued me, except they told me, “Kill the first seven chapters. That’s all backstory.” What?! After the shock wore off, I took three years to finish the tale. No publisher knocked down my door—probably because I may have told a decent story, but it wasn’t a novel.
Like Jeremiah, without proper background and study of the art form, I lacked industry survival skills. But, I did know about Max Perkins. He edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the like. I needed a Max. Then one day the phone rang and the guy says, “For three hundred dollars I’ll publish your book.” Well, a book in the hand is better than a manuscript in the closet. I found out later it’s not worth much.

I retired three years ago and followed my writer/editor daughter to a conference where I found like-minded, peculiar souls called writers. I also found excellent mentors who never judged my lack, always encouraged learning, and have never said, “Hold it right there.”

So, people start a writing career for many reasons. Without an education in writing, there are pitfalls, but they can be overcome. It takes fortitude to do it this way. If you didn’t start out to be a writer, what made you decide to write the first book?
Warren A. Johnson writes magazine articles, devotions, and an occasional blog. He lives with his wife of forty-five years, Barbara, in the Catskill Mountains of NY. He fathered three kids and loves the ten child descendants they bring to the table. A public speaking venue, Haversack History, motorcycling and radio control airplanes use up some retirement time. His   Socail Media Links are: Blog Facebook Author Page Twitter  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Who Are Your Characters?

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

Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone with the Wind, released eighty-one years ago in 1936. The story was set in the American South against the backdrop of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. The film tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara, the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, her romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes, who married his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, to her marriage to Rhett Butler.

To this day, we remember, Margaret Mitchell, the author and the characters she created. Rhett Butler (we swooned over him), Melanie Hamilton and Ashley Wilkes, but above all we remember the character, Scarlett O’Hara.

Margaret Mitchell wrote Scarlett’s character with so many flaws we couldn’t help but hate her at times . . . she was driven by her on demons, selfish, spoiled,  as well as a narcissist; yet she had an inward strength that caused us to root for her.

If you study her character, Scarlett was smart and had a force inside her that defied her being like the women of that era––the women of that day were supposed to take back seats, not go bull headed into matters that belonged in the men’s arena. Yet she did. Her morals played havoc with her mind; she wanted Ashley so bad . Yet, something drew her to Melanie. If you study the character and take all the flaws and all the qualities she had you will find a true protagonist.

One you can get angry with, hate and at the same time love and pull for her to win.

In contrast to Scarlett’s character you have Melanie. It has been said that her character is one of the strongest people in the entire story. She had a clear moral backbone, understanding heart and saw the good in people. Her character is shy and sweet and moves with a grace that warms the hearts of people around her. She is more interested in discussing literature than frilly dresses.

When we are creating our protagonist, we need to strip everything down to the core. Who is our character? What is the core of their desire? What is the conflict?

What drives our character? Is it duty? Is it a goal? That core desire needs to be something that is universal; something everyone can relate to.

At first we think the core desire of Scarlett is to get Ashley for herself. But that isn’t her core desire. That core desire was to save her beloved Tara! She was driven by that and left no stone unturned to achieve that goal. Through this she showed a bravery and courage that surpassed what we thought she had in her.

So, what about your protagonist? What is their core goal!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Who Knew, It Could Be Me?

By Shelia E. Bell

I never thought I would be a national bestselling author of 20 fiction and nonfiction titles. I always had a penchant for writing essays and speeches, but to be a successful published author was something I never dreamed of until after I faced a tragic event in my life. It's funny how some of life's most devastating moments can be the catalyst that ushers you into realizing your passion. I still recall the tragedy that changed my life and it still brings about a sense of sadness, yet, I realize that I am living my dream because of it and so I embrace it.

Have you ever thought about why you write or why you aspire to write? Maybe your reason is not as drastic as mine is, and that is great. Whatever your reason, I urge you to go all out to make your dreams, your desires, and your passions the driving force behind your writing. However, if you want to make writing a career, do you know what sets your books apart from all of the other millions of authors and the books they write? If you do not, then it’s time you get busy doing some research!

I am sure you know that with rapidly advancing technologies and social media, it is relatively easy to publish a book these days, but if you want to have an edge in the literary world here are a few tips I'd like to share.

1. Write for your readers and not for yourself. You know your story. You know the beginning, middle, and end, but keep in mind, your readers do not. Write in a manner (especially in fiction) so that your readers can get to know your characters and understand your plot. Be clear about what you are writing.

2. Write to the target audience you want to reach. For example, if you are writing for children, identify the age range of the children you wish to reach and target your writing toward that age group.

3. Know your genre. The number of authors who do not know the genre of their writing continually surprises me. Once you identify the genre of writing, find other successful authors who write in this genre. Read and study their work.

4. Editing…the ultimate must do. Whether your book is a short story, a novel, or nonfiction always, always, always have your work professionally edited.

There are so many other tips I could share but these are the ones that I count as being at the top of the writing tip chain.

Thanks for reading and happy writing!
Shelia E. Bell (formerly Lipsey) is an award-winning, national bestselling author with over a dozen books published in Christian fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult genres. Her books have garnered many awards, including 2015 Rosa Parks Award, 2014 Christian Literary Award, AAMBC Nate Holmes Honorary Award, Kindle Award, OOSA Book of the Year, and numerous others. Shelia began her publishing career in 1999 by independently publishing her first book, Always, Now and Forever, which she re-released in 2012. Since then, she has set the literary industry ablaze with her dynamic, true to life stories. She began writing her young adult series in 2012. Her first YA title is House of Cars. The Life of Payne,her second YA book was published in 2013. Shelia is passionate about others and encourages and promotes people to ‘live their dreams now.’ In 2012, she founded and hosted the Black Writers And Book Clubs (BWABC) Literacy Association and Festival. The festival attracts thousands of readers and book clubs from across the nation to Memphis to attend the annual festival, which promotes literacy one community at a time. Authors who write in various genres attend the festival as well, sharing their books, their publishing journeys and their support of literacy. A much sought after inspirational speaker, Shelia travels near and far sharing her inspirational messages of how to overcome the adversities of life. Having had polio since the age of two, Shelia accepts no excuses and is determined not to let her physical imperfections keep her from her life’s purposes Bell’s books are available Nationwide at bookstores, online eTailers, your favorite eReaders, and on this author’s website. Her social media links are: Twitter: @sheliaebell   Instagram: sheliaebell

Friday, June 16, 2017

Can a Vampire Virgin Write Paranormal?

By Marilyn Baron

When I started my writing career, writing paranormal never occurred to me, although I did craft five humorous paranormal short stories about angels and devils, love and death, and weddings and funerals. From there, I focused primarily on novel length fiction in a variety of genres from humorous coming-of-middle-age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and suspense. But along the way, paranormal and fantasy elements kept creeping into my work. There was Someday My Prints Will Come, featuring my heroine, Eva—a minor goddess of the Venus variety, descended from a distinguished line of matchmakers. And then I started A Psychic Crystal Mystery series, including Sixth Sense, Homecoming Homicides, Killer Cruise, and my latest novel, The Vampire Next Door.  

The series is about a family of psychics (mother, daughter, grandmother), but something strange happened in Book 3 of the series. My villain turned out to be a vampire. It didn’t start out that way. Gedeon Nagy was a regular dastardly villain, but when I was almost at the end of the book, I concluded, “This guy is a vampire,” and I went back, made adjustments and created an entire backstory for Gedeon. I didn’t intentionally make him a vampire. He just came, unbidden, into my consciousness. Like Jessica Rabbit, he was “just drawn that way.”

So now I add Paranormal/Fantasy to my list of genres. In the past, most authors were known for one particular genre. That’s what their readers expected and wanted so that’s what the authors delivered. If they wanted to veer off the beaten path, like Nora Roberts or Jayne Ann Krentz, two of my favorites, they used different pen names. But now authors feel free to write in whatever genre they want. They tend to experiment. But, in my case, I can’t stick to one genre and I find I can write paranormal, whether I started out to or not. 

I certainly never thought I’d write about vampires. I like reading about vampires and watching TV shows about vampires but as far as writing them, the thought never occurred to me. But, apparently, I began doing it and discovered how much fun it was. I haven’t decided if I want to continue with the Gedeon character, who is now reformed vampire Lancelot “Lance,” Lakeland, working in his father-in-law’s psychic detective agency in Atlanta and married to his beautiful daughter, Aurora Dawn, a gifted psychic.

Maybe I will or maybe I won’t, but in either case, I feel I have the flexibility to write another vampire story if I want. And you should too. Don’t be defined by one genre or another. Spread your wings. I don’t read only one genre, so why should I be limited to write in only one genre? And why should you?

I’d advise you to read as much as you can in a genre you’re thinking about writing. And next time you ask yourself, “Can I Write Paranormal?” I hope the answer will be, “Why Not?”
Marilyn Baron writes humorous coming-of-middle age women’s fiction, historical romantic thrillers, suspense, and paranormal/fantasy. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, she’s a PAN member of RWA and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), winner of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award and writing awards in single title, suspense romance, paranormal/fantasy, and novel with strong romantic elements. The Vampire Next Door is Marilyn’s 12th novel with The Wild Rose Press and her 20th work of fiction. AmazonEncore re-released her book, Sixth Sense, the first in her psychic mystery series, on September 15, 2015. She’s also self-published two novels and a musical and published five humorous, paranormal short stories with TWB Press, an electronic publisher of science fiction, supernatural, horror, and thriller. She’s served three years on the Roswell Reads Steering Committee, sponsored by the City of Roswell, the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System and the Roswell Library, which promotes the value of reading and literacy through the shared community-wide experience of reading and discussing a common book. She was selected as an Atlanta Author in the 2016 Atlanta Author Series. She is a 2017 Nominee for the Georgia Author of the Year Awards in the Romance category for Stumble Stones: A Novel. A Miami, Florida, native, she graduated from The University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism (Public Relations sequence) and a minor in Creative Writing. Marilyn lives in Roswell, Georgia, with her husband, and they have two daughters. Her books include The Vampire Next Door from publisher, The Wild Rose Press, Inc. To find out more about Marilyn’s books, please visit her Web site at: www.marilynbaron.comre+next+door+marilyn++baron Her Social Media Links are: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads,  and Amazon Author Page.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Southern Writers Short Story Contest 2017

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

How would you like to have your Short Story published, earn as much as $250.00, be Show cased on the cover of Southern Writers Magazine 6th Annual Short Story Issue and receive a year's subscription? That is what the First Place Winner walks away with in our Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest 2017! 


$250.00 Cash  Prize
Cover of 6th Short Story bonus issue
Story published in bonus issue
Showcased in 
Southern Writers Magazine
Year's online subscription to 
Southern Writers
Online copy of 6th Short Story Magazine



$100.00 Cash Prize
Photo insert on cover 6th Short Story bonus issue
Story published in bonus issue
Year's online subscription to 
Southern Writers
Online copy of 6th Short Story Magazine​



$50.00 Cash Prize
Photo insert on cover 6th short story bonus issue
Story published in bonus issue
Year's online subscription to 
Southern Writers     
Online copy of 6th Short Story Magazine



Story published in 6th short story bonus issue
Online copy of 6th Short Story Magazine



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Knowing Your Brand

By Ann H. Gabhart

Did you know that even fiction writers have brands these days? Our brand is the type of stories we write. Amish, romance, historical, mysteries, to name a few. Then those brands break down into more categories. A historical writer might be known for World War II stories, Western novels, or Biblical settings, for example. Mysteries can be thrillers, detective stories, or cozies like my Hidden Spring mysteries.

Some writers prefer to stay in the same genre or brand for all their stories and do that very successfully. Other writers branch out a bit. I’m a branch-out writer. My first published books were historical romances. I might have stayed in that genre forever, but a flurry of rejections convinced me to try something new. Rejections can be great motivators for change. So, I switched genres and wrote eleven coming of age stories for younger readers. My writing direction changed again when those young adult stories stopped finding a publisher. I began writing for adults again, but this time for the inspirational fiction market. I definitely haven’t stayed with one type of stories.

But even if you, like me, write stories that fit into different genres, you can still have things that brand your stories. Many of my stories are set in small towns. Even my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill can be considered a small town. Also, most of my stories have a Kentucky setting. Perhaps some of my books could be labeled Small Town Kentucky stories.

So, think about some common elements in your stories. What sets them apart from the stories others write? Do you focus on character? Or does plot drive your stories? What themes keep popping up while you’re brainstorming ideas?

Consider what you do well. Is it making people smile through the actions of your characters? Can you make history come to life on the pages of your book? Do you melt when you hear a touching love story? What settings inspire you? Have you always loved mysteries? Your answers to these questions and more might help you decide on the type of story you most want to write.

Or you might come up with your story and then think about how it could fit in today’s market. But market is such a fickle thing. The genre selling like hotcakes now might be on the decline by the time you get your book written, edited and ready for a reader’s eyes.

During one of those rejection motivating times when market needs were changing, I determined to write a story I loved and not worry where it would fit in the market. That was a turning point in my writing career.

Now I would most like to be known for a good story brand. Tell the story you want to tell and be your own first excited reader. Other readers will surely follow no matter the genre.
Ann H. Gabhart, a bestselling author of over thirty novels, has been called a storyteller. That’s not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. Also writing as A.H. Gabhart, Ann recently tried a new genre and published three Hidden Springs mysteries. Ann and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and enjoy country life in Kentucky. To find out more about Ann’s books and to check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, visit You can also join in the conversation on her Facebook page, or Twitter @AnnHGabhart.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Additional Opportunities for Writers

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Here on Suite T a few weeks ago, I blogged about some immediate opportunities that writers can get in on.  Today, I'd like to update you on some of them and add a couple of new ones to the mix.

First, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that the deadline for our 6th annual Short Story Fiction Contest is this Thursday night, June 15th.  If you haven't sent in your <1500 word story yet, the $250 first prize might be the right incentive! The easy guidelines are online.

Secondly, I want to thank all the authors who jumped right on the mag's new "Where Writers Write" feature, sending us photos of your work spaces. It's fascinating and fun to get a glimpse of the very spots where great books have come into being. We are full for the July/August issue of Southern Writers, but if you get us your photo and description by July 1st, there's a good chance you'll make it in the September/October issue. Visit

We knew you guys were clever, but some of the promotions you've cooked up and sent us photos of for this upcoming feature have been downright inspiring. If you've developed a creative giveaway for marketing your masterpieces or have a photo from a book signing you're proud of, show it off in Southern Writers Magazine.

We've been getting in some very entertaining submissions for this article about how book titles were changed before publication, and the reasonings behind each one. Got a story to share about the evolution of your book's title? Tell us about it at

Each week our online Gallery of Stars gets a ton of visitors seeking to discover authors and new releases (it's only Tuesday and we've already gotten 1,200 hits this week). If you write books, you should be in there! All Southern Writers subscribers are offered a FREE author page in the Gallery. Even if you have your own website (and you do, don't you?), the Gallery is a solid and steadily-seen addition to your promotional platform. Details are at the bottom of this alpha list of authors. As you can see, you'll be in good company!

The season is heating up with lots of choices that would make a terrific destination for a summer vacation while you regain your writing mojo and get friendly with your fellow wordsmiths. Coming right up, for example, is the popular Mystery Fest Key West this Friday thru Sunday, June 16-18 ( Other soon-to-come conferences are in Alabama, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, and Nashville, to mention a few. You'll find this summer's offerings at:

As you can see, there are lots of opportunities to get the word out about your books and to recharge your literary battery this summer. What a great time to be a Southern writer!

Monday, June 12, 2017

What a Writer Can Learn from Friday Night Lights

By Lindsey Brackett 

I’ll be the first to admit I know little about football. But the drama of Friday nights down South? Those stories are worth the ticket price.  After all, Friday Night Lights owed its television success to being a football show that wasn’t about football. Every time I watch Coach Taylor mold boys into men, I add a new play to my writer’s handbook.

1.     Raise the stakes. This show wasn’t just about high school football, but Texas high school football. Not only the best team in Texas, the Panthers are considered the best in the nation. Their stands are full of scouts. As if that’s not enough, it’s Coach Taylor's first year as head coach. Talk about pressure. When you’re at the top, you only have one place to go, right? So the high stakes story becomes all about how the characters handle the fall.
2.     Introduce the players. Whether script or a novel, whenever multiple characters pull equal weight in a story, you’ve got to introduce them quickly—and succinctly. FNL handles this wonderfully in the series premier by having the boys interviewed for a media outlet. With a few sentences, we learn which player is cocky, which one is terrified, and which one is full of grace.
3.     Make them honorable, vulnerable, and human. Once your cast is on the page, make them relatable. Every story needs a hero who demonstrates humility, but we also need those characters who exist in our real life. Unfortunately, real life isn’t edited, and when you deal with hard issues, you make your characters resonate more with your audience.
4.     Say less, show more. Movies and television shows don’t have it any easier with “show don’t tell.” It could be all too easy for them to get caught in the dialogue trap.  But on FNL, when the worst thing happens during the season opening game, the writers didn’t opt for actors recounting the situation. Instead, they gave us images—like the players linking hands when Matt gets called on to captain—and they gave us silence. When a football stadium gets quiet, you know it’s bad. Then those boys drop to their knees and lift their voices to plead for the wellbeing of their teammate, and I never fail to cry. It’s easy to have a character say—or think—how they feel. But readers react when the character faces an uncomfortable situation and proves who he’s going to be.
Offer a uniting goal. Everyone in Dillon, Texas believes football is the ticket. To a way out. For community pride. For a better life or situation for their family.  But all these very different people have one common goal—the success of their beloved football team. That unites them, and it could even destroy them.  But this one goal creates the tension a story needs to drive the reader to the next page, the next scene, the next book.

Your turn—is there a show that challenges you to raise the stakes and write better?
Award-winning writer, Lindsey P. Brackett just writes life — blogs, columns, articles, and stories — in the midst of motherhood. As Web Content Editor for Splickety Publishing Group, she publishes pieces of flash fiction and writer wisdom for those who love a good story and have limited time. Her debut novel, Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness, releases in September. Connect with her at, on Facebook at Lindsey P. Brackett, on Twitter and Instagram, or email

Friday, June 9, 2017


By H. W. “Buzz” Bernard

Writer to writer, the first piece of advice I’d like to give you is this: Don’t listen to any advice I give you.  Why?  Because I don’t listen to my own.

If you’d asked me a year and half ago if you, as a novelist, should hire a publicist, my answer would have been, “Absolutely not.”   That was the conventional wisdom I’d always heard.  A publicist, I’d been told, might make sense if you were a nonfiction writer or a big, brand-name novelist, but certainly not for us scribes who travel in steerage.

So what did I do prior to the release of my most recent novel, Cascadia?  I went out and hired a publicist.  Why didn’t I follow my own advice?

My previous novel, Blizzard, came out with very little pre-publication publicity.  My publisher, BelleBooks, is a small independent press and doesn’t have the big bucks to mount strong pre-pub campaigns.  Blizzard ’s sales, despite its great reader ratings, were miserable. I was extremely disappointed.

I knew the same thing would happen with Cascadia unless I tried something different.  I thought, how can I prevent my book from becoming a bottom feeder among the million and half other titles published every year?

In the past I’d tried blog tours, Goodreads giveaways, Facebook ads, blog series on my own website, special presentations, and Facebook campaigns.  None of those efforts really paid off.  So, given that trail of failures, I began to toy with the notion of hiring a professional.

But there was another reason.  Cascadia takes place in the Pacific Northwest.  I live in Georgia.  That, in and of itself, posed a significant promotional challenge.  So I thought it would be really great if I could find a publicist who lived in the Northwest.

Much to my surprise, I found one in Portland, Oregon.  And, by lucky coincidence, she, Jessica Glenn of Mindbuck Media, just happened to be getting her home retrofitted to withstand a powerful earthquake.  Cascadia, you see, is a novel set against the massive earthquake and tsunami that will be triggered by the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the Northwest (think San Andreas Fault on steroids).  Most everyone who lives in the region is aware of the danger.

Jessica jumped at the chance to represent a novel centered around that eventuality.  It helped, too, that I had, as Jessica said, a great “track record,” solid sales for my previous four novels, including a number-one bestseller on Kindle.

Jessica was up front with me, saying she doesn’t promise sales, but does promise reviews.  Reviews are what I needed, something to get Cascadia in front of readers.

Mindbuck delivered.  The reviews came, despite the fact there turned out to be a huge stumbling block.  Jessica told me a lot of the bigger-name reviewers require a print ARC (advance reader copy), not an electronic one.  I requested print ARCs from my publisher, but they balked, said I’d have to pay for them myself.  I reluctantly did, but the ARCs, through CreateSpace, turned out so crappy we couldn’t use them.  Thus, we undoubtedly lost some great opportunities.

Still, we got some wonderful reviews, including what I considered a real coup; a three-quarter page spread in The Sunday Oregonian, Oregon’s most widely circulated newspaper.

The number of ratings posted by readers on Amazon and Goodreads responded, and so did sales.  Cascadia reached fifty reviews on Amazon twice as fast as did BlizzardCascadia also sold more units in its first six months on the market than Blizzard did in almost two years!  To me, that defines success.

But, you ask, was the effort cost effective?  The answer is Yes.  Publicists aren’t cheap, but the gross royalties from Cascadia for the first six months of its existence covered the expense of hiring Mindbuck . . . and a bit more.  I expect even more dividends down the road.

I can’t tell you if a publicist is right for you.  Each of you will have to perform your own analysis.  Remember that I had a “track record” going for me, and that the novel I wrote resonated personally with the publicist I hired.
H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is the author of Cascadia, Blizzard, Supercell, Plague and Eyewall. Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel as a senior meteorologist for 13 years.  Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades.  He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit. His “airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135). In the past, he’s provided field support to forest fire fighting operations in the Pacific Northwest, spent a summer working on Alaska’s arctic slope, and served two tours in Vietnam.  Various other jobs, both civilian and military, have taken him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama. He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing. Buzz currently is vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association, member of International Thriller Writers, The Atlanta Writers Club and Willamette Writers.  He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy and sometimes over-active Shih-Tzu, Stormy.