Thursday, March 23, 2017

Technology Crying Wolf

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

The laser light show of the Great Pyramids is instructive and beautiful. It allows a glorious presentation of one of the world’s great wonders. It is a marriage of modern technology and ancient wonder. But some years ago this great marvel set off one of the greatest technology mismatches in modern history.

After 911 our military started positioning itself for a possible conflict in the Middle East. The Vietnam era C141 cargo planes began the long haul from the States to the various military bases    in the Middle East with supplies and equipment.

These great mammoths were equipped with the latest technology for defense which included a flare defense against heat seeking missiles. These flares would be fired off to draw the heat seeking missiles away from the aircraft and explode harmless is midair out of the range of the aircraft.

As these great aircraft made their way over the area of the Great Pyramids their flares began firing. It took some research to discover the false triggering of the flares but it was soon discovered the lasers in the Pyramids light show was setting off the flares. The lasers were simulating the lasers of the guidance system of a heat seeking missile thus the flares fired to defend the aircraft from the incoming missiles, in effect crying wolf. The solution was switching the defense system to manual while in the area of the Pyramids.

Today’s technology, for the most part, does what it is intended to do. But there are cases when it goes awry. One case was the recent phantom phone calls to 911. They were generated by a problem in the lines and were signaling a 911 call as a hang up coming from a particular home. The calls were not made by the people or their children. The children were grown and not living with them and the couple were in fact not even home when some of the calls were made. The police had made several trips to the home but the owners felt sure that was about to end. A glitch in the system was crying wolf. The authorities were not about to make a false run when someone may need their help elsewhere.          

Technology crying wolf has become more common than we think. Most of it sounds like fiction but it is highly possible it is true. Either way writers can use these believable or not events to begin a great story. I say believable because you may want to verify the two stories I used as examples. See if you can confirm either or both and let me know what you find. Was this true or was I crying wolf.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Show, Don’t Tell

By Sheree K. Nielsen

Anyone can tell a story, and it might even interest the reader, but wouldn’t it be better if they conjured up visual images in their mind?

Attending Saturday Writer’s group for the first time in 2008, the board members gave a talk with handouts on The First Rule of Writing by Sandy Tritt – Show, Don’t Tell. I still implement this principle of writing today.

Born and bred in The Show Me State, the Show, Don’t Tell rule is easy to remember.

Readers love visual details. With regards to travel writing, I try to place readers in the moment by touching on all the senses. Here are a few examples of painting visual pictures while penning travel articles.

As I stroll through the Middle Caicos’ picturesque Mudjin Harbor, I notice limestone cliffs towering above. Powdery pink sand massages tender toes and heels. Rounding the curve of the island, warm summer trade winds tousle my sun-bleached hair as I reach harbor’s point.

An excerpt from my feature in AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler“Southern Sophistication”, published in 2016, talks about the interior of award-winning restaurant, Circa 1886, in Charleston, South Carolina. “The romantic restaurant with arched booths and candlelit tables, beckons couples to linger over a fine-dining experience.” Even that one sentence description sets up a visual image for the restaurant ambience.

Don’t those two totally different descriptions place you in the moment?     Anything less than feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing or touching robs the reader from pure imagination in this adventure we call Life.

And finally, here’s an example taken from my ‘healing’ coffee table book of beach photographs and lyrical poetry and prose, Folly Beach Dances – The Infinite Rhythms of a South Carolina SeashoreThe photograph is titled Liquid Dancing. If I’m having a stressful day, I remember these words for writing inspiration.

“The glistening water reflects from the sun hints of golden maize and beige gray in this late morning swelters, with ripples that form parallel to the sand similar to an Escher drawing.”
Often when I’m traveling, I’ll find a seat on a park bench, or along a shoreline, and observe the sights, sounds, and smells around me. When I begin writing, the words seem to flow like musical notes on a song sheet.

Peace, love, and long walks on the beach!
Sheree K. Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer, poet and photographer.  Her countless credits include Missouri LifeAAA Midwest TravelerAAA Southern Traveler, and others. For two consecutive years, Sheree received First Place for Photography from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance – Awarded September 2014 for “Jimmie on the Pier”, and in October 2013 – “Dear Kindred Spirit”. The photos were selected for inclusion in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 and 3. Chosen by her peers, Sheree received the First Place, People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction, Storyteller Magazine, April-June 2010. Sheree’s works are well-represented in numerous anthologies, magazines, websites, and newspapers across the nation and Caribbean. Her essays and poems interweave universal beauty inspired through travel, nature and family.  She enjoys teaching her “Every Picture Tells a Story” workshop to veterans. She credits a deep affinity for the ocean to her parents through regular vacations to the Southeast.  Dad Joe, a World War II veteran, spun tales of exotic ports of call.  Her mom Gladys, a sketch artist and master gardener, taught Sheree about art and nurturing the soil. She blogs at Sheree’s Warm Fuzzies.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Collaborative Beauty

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Each time I attend a writers conference, as I had the pleasure of doing this weekend, I come away with a renewed sense of the community spirit that writers share.  It's a brotherhood and sisterhood unique in the fact that we all have something to say.  Not only do we respect each other's right to say it, but we're eager to help each other do so.

The folks who visited my table for 15-minute one-on-ones were all promising writers with diverse interests: songwriting, playwriting, creative fiction, and more.  They were each working on projects at various stages of completion.  But what they all had in common was the question, "Now what do I do?"

My first question back to them is to find out whether they have a platform for promoting their work. I'm quick to recommend Edie Melson's comprehensive but easy read, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers.  Lots of books offer advice on using Facebook for marketing, but few address specific promotional tactics to help writers develop an online audience, and Edie has practiced what she preaches with great success.

To those who want to know how to approach a publisher with what they've written, I then pull out my copy of W. Terry Whalin's Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success.  From coming up with an elevator pitch to putting together the whole presentation package, Terry's voice of experience as an acquisitions editor has helped countless writers learn how to get their feet in the door and their manuscripts looked at.

Occasionally, I can even answer a writer's question without the aid of a book! But in moments like these I'm reminded of how grateful I am for Terry and Edie.  I'm especially grateful that they contribute their talents to each issue of Southern Writers Magazine.

As a huge movie buff, I have an affinity for the insights of screen and stage writer Shelly Frome, who left his mark in the Big Apple before taking up roots as a Southern novelist.  Shelly's articles on screenwriting also appear in each issue.  He explores themes, scenes, character motivations and much more from an insider's perspective.  If you like to ponder the psychology of what's on the silver screen, Shelly is the man in the director's chair.

Acclaimed Virginia poet and author Sara M. Robinson is one busy gal.  In fact, she presented at another convention herself just a few weeks ago.  But she finds time to contribute her deep thoughts via "Poetry Matters" in each issue.  Her ability to analyze prose and its purpose is of TED Talk caliber.

C. Hope Clark is another regular in the mag who parlays her talents as a novelist into valuable instruction, in this case on writing dialogue.  You can catch a glimpse of Hope's enviable ear for the spoken word via an entertaining new video she and I collaborated on, called What Rhett and Scarlett Can Teach Writers About Dialogue at

What can I say about Steve Bradshaw besides that he is a scholar and a gentleman, and has seen more corpses than Vlad the Impaler? Well, that's been a necessary evil in his career as a forensic investigator, biotech entrepreneur, and now a celebrated mystery author. His articles in each issue dig into medicine and murder as only someone who has investigated over 3.000 unexplained deaths can do, so that you don't have to.

We couldn't do what we do without those talented folks, much less the 30 to 40 authors who appear in each issue and an awesome writing staff that includes Vicki H. Moss, Chris Pepple, Jessica Ferguson, Londa Hayden, Barbara Ragsdale, and Annette Cole Mastron, who also makes this very blog you're reading happen.  Put them all together with our fearless leader, Editor-in-Chief Susan Reichert, and it adds up to a collaboration much greater than the sum of its parts.

This is not so much a shameless plug for the magazine (although it is!) as much as a well-deserved plug for these authors and any others who sacrifice their own precious book-writing time to show other writers how it's done. We never take them for granted, and I hope when you meet them at a conference, you'll take a moment to thank them too.

Monday, March 20, 2017


By Cliff Yeargin

I am a storyteller. I work daily in network television and I write mysteries. The two are very different crafts. Television is more a collaborative process in the beginning while writing breeds solitude. But the two also share some very similar traits and challenges when it comes to telling a story. A story bubbles up from one person and as it flows downriver it can often get lost in the muddy waters of teamwork. In TV we have layers of producers, legal, show team executives and reporters that weigh in on each story. For a writer there are agents, editors and publishers to chime in as the story navigates the rapids.

The biggest challenge today in television storytelling is technology. When I first told a story for TV it was just me, one camera and the subject. Today we have a dizzying array of tools. Tiny cameras you can mount on a moving car or maybe a skateboard or even the head of a monkey. Add a drone in the sky and you can end up with hours of footage. Software in our editing process now makes it a snap to add almost any special effect in mere seconds. Once we spit out the final version we often stand around and pat ourselves on the back about how cool it looks. Except for one thing. One big thing. Sinking under all the muddy water of cool tools we have lost the STORY. Viewers at home aren’t as impressed as we are with our toys and all they wish to see and hear is the story. In television the best editing is editing those goes unnoticed by the viewer.

Telling a story in fiction can face challenging water as well. When you set out to write a book the first thing you think about is what story do I want to tell. You are not concerned with revisions, marketing or sales because at that moment you are just telling a story. Even that calm water can turn muddy if you spend too much time trying to turn prose into poetry when your skills don’t reach that level or imitating the style of your favorite writer instead of searching for your own voice. An overwritten fanciful sentence may delight your inner muse but no reader is likely to tell a friend about your book by saying “I just read one of the most beautifully crafted sentences.” They are however much more likely to tell them about a “great story” they just finished.

From the time of cavemen around the fire to the old man next to the pot-bellied stove at the general store, the person who demanded the most attention was the storyteller. We are the storytellers of today. Television or fiction the goal should be to steer clear of muddy waters and narrow our journey downriver to one simple thing…the story.

To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton’s laser focus on the economy…

It’s the STORY…Stupid.”
Cliff Yeargin has spent his life as a “Storyteller”, the bulk of that in a long career in Broadcast Journalism as a Writer, Producer, Photographer and Editor. Most of those years were spent covering sports, particularly Major League Baseball, where in Baltimore he was lucky enough to cover Cal Ripken Jr.’s very first and very last game…and hundreds in between. He is the author of the Award Winning Jake Eliam ChickenBone Mystery Series.The books include the introductory RABBIT SHINE and the second in the series HOOCHY KOOCHY which was named The Georgia Author of The Year Silver Medal Finalist in the Mystery Category for 2016. Today he has returned to his native Georgia and works at CNN. Follow Jake, Catfish and the rest in this Southern Fried Mystery Series.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Story: the View from the Woman’s Section

By Shelly Frome

Anyone, like myself, who has been a husband and a father certainly appreciates how gender affects perception.  And it’s not that when it comes to plot, all my mentors and influences have been predominately male. In fact, my acting coach was the renowned Uta Hagen, deep discussions on the topic of character and story took place with the celebrated Julie Harris and Estelle Parsons, the head of the creative writing program at NYU, and the chief dramaturges at the Hartford Stage and the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven were female. However, whether it was a play, movie or a novel, I was led to believe that the gold standard of storytelling was a self-generating impossible quest. This was later amplified by people like the famed literary agent Scott Meredith who told me that if I didn’t come up with at least a variation on this theme, I was never going to get anywhere in this business.

We all know the old expression that rules are meant to be broken, but it’s only lately that I’ve really begun to reconsider this more or less masculine gospel. As it happens, a friendly lady crime writer invited me to join her Internet writers group she dubs “Mystery We Write.” One thing led to another, and even though I realized I was one of the very few male authors, just out of curiosity, one day I and two other ladies decided to exchange our latest published work. And that’s when all three discovered a marked difference in gender approach. Whereas my male lead was unwittingly caught up in a collision course, their central female characters seemed to be on a more circular trajectory.

Here, for instance, is an example from the distaff side of the fence. In the background, every now and then there are radio bulletins intimating that somewhere in this homey neighborhood in Cincinnati, a serial killer targeting women is on the loose. In the foreground, a housewife is concerned about her marriage and the little trials and tribulations of her two young children. Her husband, an insurance salesman, has become ill-tempered of late, taken to drink, and flies off the handle when the subject of finances, his imbibing and keeping late hours, plus  their little boy’s possible ADD is brought up. In turn, the wife wishes she had someone to talk all this over with and is also contemplating taking a part time secretarial job at the church to help make ends meet. The author, who apparently is very kind and understanding, devotes a chapter or two to the husband’s woes and longings, and a few equally understanding chapters to other characters the wife encounters. And at least one of the opening chapters to one of the wife’s confidants, a retired police officer, who also had a drinking problem, was a prisoner of war and has seen it all. He spends this episode assessing the past and his present circumstances and finally catches the latest bulletin about the Westwood Strangler but doesn’t respond.  

In short, like the crime novels of P.D. James, a sense of unease is more or less percolating. 
Ruminating and thoughts of mending fences and relationships, healing and making things whole again are integral, even by the husband whose sudden outbursts are followed by retreats to a bar.
This doesn’t mean there won’t come a time after the first quarter of the book that characters won’t be pressed into service. But it’s a far cry from the advice of todays’ agents, editors and publishers who claim that if they aren’t “hooked” in the first three pages, they will automatically stop reading.
Evidently there’s another market out there for women readers who want to take their time and get to know everyone and the given circumstances first. Perhaps an initial disturbance propelling a worrisome, proliferating thrust and parry isn’t the only way to go. Perhaps writers don’t have to continually ask themselves “Why here, why now, and so what?”

Perhaps there’s a whole lot to be said for a more feminine point of view.    

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He is also the film columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and a features writer for Gannett Media. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff and Murder Run.  His transatlantic mystery Murder Crosses the Pond will be released this fall. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Shoe Trees and Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

I'm not talking about the shapers you put in your shoes to help them retain their shape. I'm talking about actual trees that have shoes on their branches. Have you ever seen one up close and personal? It is eerily interesting and will spark your creative side. 

On a recent trip to Alabama, I spotted hundreds of pairs of shoes hanging from a single tree on busy Highway 72 near Cherokee, AL and the Natchez Trace Parkway. It's winter, so with bare branches, the shoes were easy to spot hanging like weird ornaments on this one tree. The tree appeared to be growing literally out of rocks. A quick check on my iPhone app of "Roadside America" gave all the details. 

The app said there are many other shoe trees found across America. Who knew? There is even a map of the various locations of these trees. No one seems to know why this tree is in this north Alabama location. My husband was interested in the "shoe lawn" created as the laces of the shoes rot and fall to the ground.

I found this YouTube from The He actually found a back road and left his own shoes on the tree. He makes statements about the journeys he's made in these shoes. The experiences he has had and the people he met while wearing these shoes. Unusual, and something that can spark reminders of the journeys we have as authors. 

Another shoe tree sits along the Chattahoochee River in GA.  Locals and tourists go “tubing" on the river. The tree evolved as a monument of sorts of the footwear lost while folks used the river. There have been several deaths on the river reportedly the shoe soles on the tree represent the lost souls from the river incidents. 

This is just one of those unusual but real Americana quirks you may want to incorporate in your writing to make it believeable. I hope you enjoy my pictures of the North AL shoe tree. 

Have you seen the Cherokee, Alabama shoe tree or another one?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Write When you’re Frozen Inside

By Pamela S. Thibodeaux

It happens….Life, death, illness or (fill in the blank) and the last thing you want to do, or feel able to do, is anything writing related.

So how do you keep your career as an author from falling into obscurity?

In 2009 my husband passed away and I was forced to deal with these questions. Here’s what I did….

Keep your blog alive. Even if that means mostly guest posts with an occasional personal one thrown in. Your readers care about you so they’ll understand. If you look at my blog, you’ll see that 2012 has the least amount of posts since I started in 2007. Strange since he passed in 2009, right? Not really, sometimes the first year or two after a death, you’re still numb and on automatic pilot.

Continue to Network. Attend writer meetings and/or conferences. You may not be writing again, but networking with your peers always helps alleviate the pain and loneliness of your situation. Your fellow writers understand and care, so they will help and support you.

Continue to market yourself and your existing books, even on a limited basis. This includes keeping your newsletter going or starting one. My newsletter is ‘occasional’ anyway so it was easy to stay in touch with my readers a couple of times after my husband’s death. The love and support shown to me was (and still is) something that kept/keeps me going when I felt/feel like giving up.

Take or Teach a class. Again, you may not be able to do anything with what you learn but you’ll never forget it either and teaching others what you already know can help you stay connected to that part of yourself that feels closed off or shut down.

Journal about your experience. Writing is cathartic and you never know when a nonfiction opportunity will arise and you can share your story to help someone else.

Work on existing projects. This was easy for me because I had so many projects in various stages of completion. Many were actually published between 2009 and 2014. However, I’ve been unable to write and complete something brand new until my novella, Keri’s Christmas Wish, which debuted Dec. 2015.

Work in the Industry. Look for opportunities to edit or market other writers. Many small publishers and/or promotion companies will utilize freelancers. Offer to write a magazine column or find places to submit your old articles, essays, etc. Any of these options keep your name in front of people. In 2011 I helped create an Ezine, The Wordsmith Journal. In 2012 I bought and continued the publication until 2013 when I sold it, but even then, I continued to work with TWJ Magazine until the end of 2016.

These are a few ways in which I kept my writing career going even though, with the exception of a couple of nonfiction pieces, I wasn’t really writing. I’d love to hear how you managed to get through a tough situation / life crisis and keep your career somewhat afloat.

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Links: Website address:   Blog:  Face Book: Twitter: @psthib  Pinterest:  Amazon Author Page:  BookBub:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Which Do You Prefer When Writing?

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

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series said, “And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss.”

We writers are funny creatures. We have places we like to go and write. Some of those places are in our home, some outside in a park, or a café as J. K. Rowling said. I know some writers who go to the beach when they are writing a story.

Some prefer to go up into the mountains and stay at a cabin while they write.

Whichever we choose it needs to be a place of comfort. The location I choose must not have distractions. I am a creature of habit when I am engrossed in writing. I like it quiet.

Some authors however, want to hear music, or the ocean waves or the birds chirping or kids playing in the room. It boils down to what fuels the words.

I admire anyone who can write with people talking in the room, children playing, dogs barking, music and nature.

K. A. Applegate, an American young adult and children's fiction writer, best known as the author of the Animorphs, Remnants, Everworld, and other series said, “I really love writing, but I am very easily distracted: my two cats fighting, a rainbow, a TV show... I have to use every trick to keep myself at the computer.”

I guess each author has to determine which is best for their writing. There is no right or wrong here, only what works.

Happy Writing! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

First-Person Realness

By Kara Martinez Bachman

From the time I was a young girl of ten years old, I’ve enjoyed writing in the first person. I wasn’t unlike many other young girls who carefully jotted stories, wishes and dreams into the lock-and-key diaries that really were our first training grounds for learning to write well. The best lesson from these young writings is they were unskilled, but nonetheless infused with absolute honesty and sometimes, real passion.

As professional writers, though, the essay format should be much more than the stream-of-conscious navel-gazing of the journal or diary. The form requires creating content that’s not just about us, but is somehow understandable as a part of the overall human experience.

Sure, we can all babble on about ourselves, our thoughts, and the events of our lives. Making readers care about it, though, is a whole other challenge. Taking on this challenge and defeating it can make all the difference in creating work editors--and readers--will really love.

In fiction, the sky’s the limit for creating the world as we’d like it to be. In the nonfiction essay, however, we don’t have that luxury. If either your narrative or opinions don’t ring true completely, there’s no way readers will connect with them.

Be sure before you begin writing that your subject is something you’re completely free to write about honestly. Anything else will seem like withholding--at the least--or outright lying at the worst.

Anyone remember the brouhaha over James Frey’s memoir, “A Million Little Pieces”? Don’t let that happen to you. Remember: Creative nonfiction implies creativity with expression, but NOT creativity with facts.

When writing in first person, we, ourselves supply the voice and give the narrative direction. What’s more, we pull the whole thing together and arrive at a purpose by providing our readers with bits of analysis. It’s a reflective process that begins as a nugget exposed in the writer’s mind, flows into and through a relevant narrative situation, and then wraps back around full circle as the writer analyzes--for the reader’s benefit--all that has transpired.

To be effective, the reader must TRUST the essayist. This means stripping down, revealing things about ourselves--the good, the bad, and the ugly--from life experiences to feelings.

For instance, in my essay collection “Kissing the Crisis,” I write about everything from what happens in my bed at night with my husband (no, this is not erotica) to my own unpleasant faults and weaknesses. Overcoming the fear of exposure and disclosure, though, will help the essayist jump that hurdle and create an essay that rings true. Be brave.

Focusing on these two important issues … truthfulness and willingness to self-expose … will go far in setting your first-person work apart.

Readers can sense when the world you paint isn’t genuine. What’s worse, they can sense even more so when their guide, the essayist, is scared to open his or herself up to scrutiny, or has something to hide.

When the reader doesn’t get a barebones, one-hundred-percent-honest peek inside, you’ve lost the opportunity to teach, to inspire, to ask questions, or to commiserate.

When you keep your own truths under lock and key, your essay becomes far less interesting than that poorly-written, but completely honest diary of a ten-year-old.
Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the humorous essay collection, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age.” She has read her writing for broadcast on NPR and it has appeared in The WriterFunny Times, and dozens of other newspapers, magazines, websites and anthologies. She’s a former staff and current freelance entertainment journalist for and the New Orleans Times-Picayune and is Managing Editor of three editions of Parents & Kids magazine. Find out more at

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Might Be A Writer If…

By Patricia Bradley

I came to writing rather late in life--at the age of thirty-five. That's when these people moved into my head and wouldn't go away until I wrote their stories. And I remember wondering when I could call myself a writer. Have you ever thought about how writers really know they're writers? Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

You might be a writer…

• If you’re sitting in a family restaurant interviewing a police captain on how murderers get away with their crimes while the diners closest to you edge away…

• If you’re walking down the grocery aisle and people are staring at you and you realize you’ve been working out your latest plot line…out loud

• If you pray for jury duty so you can know what it's like to be a juror…

• If you take pottery lessons for the same reason…

• If this makes sense to you: “I got a request for a proposal from (fill in the blank). They want three chapters and a synopsis, and you know how I hate to write a synopsis. And I’m not sure if I want to resolve the romantic conflict or save it for the next book…

• If you keep a notebook by your bed so you can write the brilliant conversations that come to you in the middle of the night…

• If you’ve ever gotten someone to tie your hands behind your back so you can see how long it takes to get loose…

• If you walked around the house blindfolded to see if your other senses really become heightened…

• If you put the time your Aunt Louise tried to shoot her second husband in your book, disguised of course, and convince yourself that none of the family will recognize her...

• If someone comes up to you and a writer friend in a restaurant and says, “I heard you talking and finally figured it out—you two must be writers. All that stuff you were talking about couldn’t happen for real. Not in this town…”

• If you get depressed because you can’t keep your character from making a really dumb mistake…

• If you spend more money on writing aids and retreats and conferences than you’ve received for your stories…

If you answer yes to any of these ifs, then no question about it, you’re a writer.
Winner of the 2016 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in Suspense, Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi with her rescue kitty, Suzy. Her books include the romantic suspense Logan Point Series and sweet romances with Harlequin Heartwarming. Coming in January is her newest release, Justice Delayed, a Memphis Cold Case Novel. I love connecting with readers on my blog every Tuesday where I have a Mystery Question for them to solve:
Twitter: @ptbradley1  FaceBook:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Writers Per Capita

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Most of us know an author, have met an author or we are an author. It seems to us that everyone is writing a book. In 2009 over 1,052,000 books were published in the USA. That is a lot and it appears to be a saturation of books. But our 1 million plus books per year per a population of over 300 million is nothing compared to the nation with the most writers per capita.  

On October 24th, 2011 Dennis Abrams writing for BBC News Magazine wrote the following: "Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world." In Iceland one in 10 people is a published author. Abrams went on to describe the competition as being fierce. One gentleman he interviewed told of living with his mother and partner who were also full time writers. To be less competitive with each other they try to publish in alternate years.

Iceland, since it's independence from Denmark has established its separate identity as a Nation through its literature. Iceland, having a strong culture of strong minded and strong willed individuals of Scandinavian descent, likes its own authors and many of its citizens are prolific readers. With one in 10 people being an author, there better be some readers as well and there are. Writers there are like writers everywhere these days. They sell their books to their community. Their community is one they have cultivated through social media, personal contact, newsletters, book reviews and the like. Authors that are more fortunate find an international market. All in all it is one of the most competitive markets in the world.

So the next time you think that getting published is too competitive here in our world, think about Iceland. Think about walking down the street and every tenth person you meet is your competition. Think about finding a market for you book in a nation of 300,000 people where 30,000 are also looking for a market for their book. Thinking about this can give you hope, give you a second wind and get you back in the saddle so to speak. Maybe we can learn from the Icelanders. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Paranormal Romance…It’s Harder Than It Looks

By Jodi Vaughn

Ever since I was a child I always had stories in my head. These stories always had the hero and heroine doing extraordinary things, things that only paranormal or supernatural creatures could do. I love not having boundaries. That’s what draws me to write paranormal romance.

While there are no boundaries, there are some rules to writing paranormal romance. Once I have my characters fleshed out and my story plotted, I need to set up my rules. Paranormal characters have powers as well as weaknesses. I need to know what they can and can’t do and I need to make sure I stick to my rules.

For instance, my werewolves in RISE OF THE ARKANSAS WEREWOLVES series are born werewolves. In my world, my werewolves are forbidden to bite humans for fear of outing the species to the human population. If a human is bitten by a werewolf, they won’t ever shift, but they will carry enough of the DNA in their blood which will allow them to mate a werewolf.

Another rule I set up is how a werewolf can be killed. My werewolves heal incredibly fast (think Wolverine from X-Men!). If they are stabbed by a silver dagger it will certainly hurt but it won’t necessarily kill them if the dagger is pulled out. If a werewolf is shot by a silver bullet and the bullet stays in their bodies it will slowly poison them until they die. But if you dig out the silver bullet they should be able to heal, it just takes a longer. The only two ways to kill a werewolf in my world is to shoot them in head with a silver bullet or behead them.  

Sounds fun huh? 

When writing my paranormal world, I also did a lot of research about wolves, the state of Arkansas, and legends regarding werewolves. I try to incorporate some of the things I find into my stories to make it feel more authentic. Wolves travel in packs so the best way for my werewolves to travel would be on Harleys. Plus I love riding motorcycles! Upon doing my research I found out that red wolves were thought to be extinct (they’re making a comeback) and I saw that as an opportunity for a story line in BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON. In fact, I made my villains red wolves.  

So I research, make my rules, and compile a series Bible.  A series Bible can be either files on the computer or a book. I prefer a book. It sits on my book case where I can easily find it. My series Bible is a binder consisting of every detail from each book. So if I forget what a secondary character looked like in book one I can go back and look it up.

I’m drawn to paranormal romance because of the larger than life heroes, the sacrifices they are willing to make and the strength of the female characters. While it’s not easy, it certainly is entertaining. In a world where you can do or be anything, imagination is everything.
Jodi Vaughn is an USA TODAY bestselling author and a National Readers Choice Award finalist for best paranormal. She is the author of the RISE OF THE ARKANSAS WEREWOLVES series and writes paranormal romance as well as contemporary romance. Born and raised in Mississippi, her deep Southern roots and love of the paranormal led her to write Southern Paranormal novels. When she is not conversing with characters in her head, she can be found at her home in Northeast Arkansas with her handsome husband, brilliant son, a temperamental swan, and yellow lab that is fond of retrieving turtles when duck season is over. She has recently added a black lab to their family who will eat anything not nailed down. Find her on Facebook, Jodi Vaughn, author. Follow her on Twitter and Periscope @JodiVaughn1 Sign up for her newsletter and check out her website Find her on Instagram at VaughnJodi

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Great Escape

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

It's every writer's dream: Escaping to a private sanctuary where there are no distractions, perfect conditions, and all the time in the world to write the Great American Novel.  I'm often reminded of a classic Dick Van Dyke episode in which he attempted just that, retreating to a cabin in the woods with his typewriter, only to end up doing everything but write.

Most of us can identify with his failure to communicate.  Even if we create the most ideal of circumstances, it's not a guarantee that inspiration will magically follow. But take heart, because there are many ways to connect with your muse so that wherever you sit down to write you won't be at a loss for words.

Each year there are numerous retreats in idyllic locations designed specifically for writers. Looking at some that will be available this fall, for example, a farmhouse in Tuscany or a hamlet in Denmark could be just the getaway that gets your literary juices flowing. With a price tag of a couple of thousand dollars, however, these retreats are clearly not in everyone's budget.  But there's nothing to keep you from creating your own retreat in a favorite setting closer to home.  Maybe a three-day weekend at a B&B would be just the right change of venue.

For a longer escape, you might consider the recent travel trend known as a silent retreat.  Who wouldn't be able to write in a Waldenesque locale offering nothing but quietude?  Well, besides Dick Van Dyke.

There's one coming to a city near you soon, guaranteed.  Whether it's a day-long intensive or a multi-day event, leaving the world behind to focus on the voices of experience is a push toward productivity. Meeting other authors is a confidence-building bonus. Many conferences even include a writers bookstore with discounts for attendees. By the end of the conference you'll be dying to get back to your keyboard to write.

Whether they meet once a month or more often, writers groups are an excellent way to stay committed to your craft as well as accountable.  By design, no two groups are the same.  Some focus on instruction and exercises, others resemble a support group or social club. Each has its own personality, which is a good thing, since you can try them all and find the one that makes you the most motivated to write.

The business side of publishing may be highly competitive, but it's always encouraging to see how non-competitive writers are with each other. We celebrate everyone's success and are inspired by each new book release instead of envious. Welcoming each other like family, we readily share tricks of the trade. So it's easy to make friends in the writing community.  Whether we foster those relationships through email, social media, or face to face, there are few things more stimulating than an inspired back-and-forth with another creative mind.

Some of my most invigorating conversations have been over lunch with writer companions.  This past Thursday, four of us enjoyed a spirited repast at McAlister's, and I came away with three really good new story ideas.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't just the Kale Parmesan soup that triggered them.

Where do you think best? What setting clears your head and opens your imagination? For some, it will be outdoors in a park. Others relax at a coffee shop.  The library is a favorite hangout of writers, surrounded by all the literary masters. A museum or art gallery offers a similar sense of communion with creative genius. Whether you plant yourself there with a laptop or stroll the halls contemplating something you'll write later, a brush with greatness never fails to inspire.

Performing a mindless task inherently causes your mind to wander, lusting for something more interesting to think about.  You can use the thankless time spent mowing the lawn or doing the laundry to ponder a scene or a plot, unimpaired by the dull duty in front of you. Sort through story ideas while you're sorting socks and you could have the first paragraph of your next writing session ready to roll.

When all is said and done, getting our words written is not a matter of escaping to a place of perfection. The most prolific authors say that where you write is not as important as getting in that chair and simply writing, period. Books get written through sheer will and the tenacity to see it through. So the real escape is sometimes from our own procrastination.

For your entertainment, here's a YouTube link to the classic cabin scene from that Dick Van Dyke episode mentioned earlier. May it serve as a reminder to avoid distractions wherever you choose to write, or if you can't, at least have fun.

By the way, you'll be glad to know that in the very last episode of the series, he finally did finish his book, just as you will.