Friday, March 16, 2018

Coffee Shop Survival Kit For Writers

By Suzy Parish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite lip balm.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stop Multitasking and Write #IMHO

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

F -Follow
S -Successful

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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fox Hunting

By Mary R. Davidsaver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Marketing for Authors––Is This Viable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Always Have A Backup Plan

By Gayle Trent

My plan for retirement is win the lottery. My backup plan for retirement is to work until I drop while contributing to an IRA and praying it will be enough if and when the time comes.

Sometimes the scales on your plan versus your backup plan isn’t as unevenly balanced as the one for my retirement. I’m currently writing the first book in a paranormal cozy mystery series. My agent is shopping the book as I write. Since I’ve heard nothing about whether any publisher is interested in my series, I’m continuing to write knowing that I’ll self-publish this one if I fail to obtain a traditional contract.

Unlike many authors, I prefer traditional publishing to self-publishing. Traditional publishing can help an author build an audience much quicker than self-publishing. Readers are familiar with the brand, so they’re more likely to take a chance on an unknown author because they trust this book to be comparable with other books they’ve read—this is especially true for genre fiction. Being traditionally published also means your books will be readily available in bookstores. And, although you still have to do most of your own marketing, you’ll have a publicist who works for the publisher. In addition, there’s no upfront publishing costs to the author.

I have done—and will likely continue to do—some self-publishing. In fact, one of my self-published books—Killer Wedding Cake—won a bronze medal in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards. But self-publishing isn’t cheap, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Authors must be prepared to lay out at least $2,000 minimum up front. (I’m putting aside funds now in case I self-publish my current book.) Then there are the advertising and promotion cost. (For more on advertising and promotion, please see my course on Supersizing Your Readership at this link

Of course, there are many benefits to self-publishing. You get to determine your release date. You have control over your content. You get all the proceeds. And you decide what name goes on the cover. [The reason I write under the names Gayle Trent, Amanda Lee, and Gayle Leeson is a story I’ll save for another occasion.]

In my case, knowing I wanted to publish the book whether a traditional publisher snaps it up or not, I almost made my marketing plan before I began writing. The book is set in a beautiful nearby town. The characters go to some of my favorite places—mostly dining establishments—in that town, and I believe that at least some of these businesses would be willing to allow me to have a signing there or sell my books there on consignment since they’re getting such favorable press. Having the book set in a popular regional location will be a wonderful selling point to area television stations and newspapers. And I’ll be able to coordinate the release date with an event—the late summer festival or the Halloween ghost tour season.

So, always have a backup plan. That way if the first one doesn’t work out—lottery or traditional publishing—you’re ready to take the necessary steps to ensure your success.
Gayle Trent says “I'm an award-winning, best-selling international hybrid author. As impressive as that might sound, it really just means I've been around a loooong time; and although I'm still figuring things out, I'm doing much better than I once was. I started out writing for small presses. Then I started my own publishing company called Grace Abraham Publishing. After closing the doors to Grace Abraham Publishing, I landed my first agent. She was wonderful, and she managed to get me through the door at NAL with the embroidery series. So, I now write cozy mystery series for NAL/Penguin Random House under the pseudonyms Amanda Lee (the embroidery series) and Gayle Leeson (the Down South Cafe series). I write the cake decorating cozy mystery series under the name Gayle Trent (that series has been with Bell Bridge, Simon & Schuster, and is now self-published under the Grace Abraham name).  I also write the self-published Myrtle Crumb series as Gayle Trent, and I've written standalones as G. V. Trent and as Gayle Trent. I have so many pen names now that my new motto is, "An author by any other name might still be me." Websites: and and


Friday, March 9, 2018

Using Song Lyrics in Books

By Manning Wolfe

When I give my Legal Issues for Authors presentation, use of song lyrics in books is the number two area of discussion and topic for questions. I often hear: “It’s just one line;” or “How would they know?” Even one line is protected by the songwriter’s copyright, and your book could become a big hit and the music company holding the rights may decide to enforce it. The same laws that protect authors’ book rights protect musicians’ song rights. And, like books, the copyright is created the minute the tune is written, even prior to registration. (Note: Use of song titles on the cover or as the title of the book is also protected and prohibited.)

Titles in Lieu of Lyrics: In my own writing, I try to find a way to get the same effect from the song lyrics I’ve quoted without using the actual lyrics. Most of the time, I use the song title and the artist’s name, which is acceptable under copyright statute.

In Music Notes, the second in my legal thriller series, attorney heroine Merit Bridges represents a down and out guitarist, Liam Nolan, who’s slain near Lady Bird Lake with his own Stratocaster. The probate that develops after his death involves a young University of Texas student who believes that Liam is his father. In comes the villain, a music manager out of Los Angeles, and trouble ensues.

As you can imagine, many songs and singers are referenced in Music Notes. I wanted to show the mood of a scene with particular songs, but how to do that without including lyrics was an issue. To skirt the problem, I carefully selected songs with a title that gave hints to the mood of the song and thereby the scene.  For example, at a sad funeral, I had a local musician sing an a cappella version of Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Even without the lyrics, the reference to the song was enough to evoke the feeling tone I was trying to achieve.

Permission: If an author is determined to use particular song lyrics, permission can be obtained by sending a request to the music publisher and paying a fee. The cost may be prohibitive, and the process can be slow and frustrating.

Original Lyrics: Another safe option is to write original lyrics. Often a mood can be created by writing as if the lyrics exist. The reader may feel that they recognize the song or at least the type of song even if it’s not a classic or current hit.

Public Domain: There are lyrics in the public domain that are free to use and may be appropriate to a scene. Any song published in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1923 is fair game.
MANNING WOLFE an Author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first in her series, featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Man on the Far Side- Sir Roger Bannister March 23, 1929–March 3, 2018

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Englishman Roger Bannister has always been a great study for me. Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four minute mile. For years it had been said by coaches, runners and sportswriters that is was impossible to do. No man can run that fast. It had been tried many times and was no longer considered a valid goal. Nine years had passed since the last record for a mile was set and that was 4 minutes 1.4 seconds. It was thought if no one had broken it in nine years it would not be done.

Roger Bannister did break it on May 6th 1954. Roger ran the mile in 3 Minutes 59.4 seconds. With others seeing this done they too tried and in the next fifteen years over 300 runners ran a mile in less than 4 minutes. Roger had opened the door. 

Roger Banister went on to become a distinguished neurologist earning an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath. He became Sir Roger Bannister when knighted in 1975. In 2004 on the 50th Anniversary of his 4 minute mile a British 50 Pence coin was minted in honor of the event. His record was noted by the British people as 13th in the top 100 World’s Greatest Sporting Events. One race, one record brought Sir Roger all the fame and glory for a life time. The win made the difference but the many attempts prior to and the failures not known were the secret to his success.

The late Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM said, "Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... You can be discouraged by failure - or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success, on the far side." I am looking forward to seeing you on the far side.

For near 30 years now I have ended my job interviews with a new candidate with this question to them, “Can you tell me who Sir Roger Bannister is?” Many said they had no idea but just as many did recognize his name and knew of his success. I would review Bannister’s history and explain to them I am looking for a Roger Bannister. I am looking for someone that goes beyond what we are told is possible and opens the door for others. 

I will continue to do that but after all these years I will need to learn to ask, “Do you know who Sir Roger Bannister was?” 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Get Your Novel Published!

By Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of Plum Tea Crazy

Forty-two books ago, when I was writing Death by Darjeeling, my very first Tea Shop Mystery, I scored my first three-book contract based on three sample chapters and a twenty-two-page outline. But I was knock-on-wood lucky. Because what worked for me several years ago no longer works today. The world of publishing has changed big time.

Publishers are large, consolidated businesses that aren’t making the profits they once were. Even though their book releases are top-notch, they’re being undercut by self-published authors as well as hundreds of newly minted small presses. So there’s been a considerable amount of belt-tightening in the industry.

I received an e-mail from a fellow author a few weeks ago. She’s written five mysteries for her publisher, but now they’re not going to renew her contract.  Why? Well, she’s making money for them – just not enough money. An agent I talked to recently said he’d just pitched a serial killer thriller to a well-known editor. The editor told him “this is exactly what I'm looking for” – but then he didn’t buy it.

So . . . do editors really know what they’re looking for? Not always. Do they know it when they see it? Sometimes. The radical shift that’s taken place in publishing today is that editors are younger and under a tremendous amount of pressure. Along with editing duties, they’re in charge of acquisitions. They’re tasked with finding the brightest new authors with the brightest new material.

As you would expect, this new breed of editor is constantly on the hunt for the next big thing. They’re looking for breakout books that are different and don’t re-tell the same old story. Books like The Woman in the Window, Little Fires Everywhere, or A Gentleman in Moscow. Books that really stand out in their categories.

So, what can aspiring authors do to increase their chances of success? What can you do if you've got a story to tell and a yearning to be published? Take a look at the various categories. The mystery, thriller, and romance categories seem to be holding strong. Vampire and zombie books aren’t selling like they used to. But editors are still looking for good Young Adult books and what they call New Romance. And if you’ve written a domestic thriller, chances are an editor will want to take a peek.

Today’s tougher market means that aspiring authors have to write and submit a finished manuscript. Authors also need to fully comprehend the internal architecture of a novel. I’m talking plot, pacing, turning points, character development, dialogue, and building suspense.

If you’re an aspiring author, you have to implicitly believe in yourself and not get discouraged by rejections. Know this: John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was turned down by 30 agents and 15 publishers. Mary Higgins Clark, who helped me get started, was rejected 40 times before making her first sale. One editor told her: “Your story is light, slight, and trite.”

You see what I mean about this being a tough business? Persistence is key. If you know deep in your soul that your book has great promise, then you have to believe in yourself and make it happen. Because sooner or later you will bust down that door! And please, please, don’t pay attention to the old maxim of “writing about what you know.” If authors followed that advice we’d never have fantastic novels about outer space, time travel, and dinosaurs. Writing is all about creating imagery – so stretch your imagination and let your words soar!
Laura Childs is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Book Riot recently named the Tea Shop Mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs. Visit Laura at or on Facebook at Laura Childs Author. Laura Child’s new novel, Plum Tea Crazy, was released March 6, 2018

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

When Bad Things Happen to Good Protagonists

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Perfection is boring, said more than one writer and even more readers. We can appreciate perfection, of course, as in a gorgeous sunset.  But when we're seeking to be entertained, it's all about the imperfection of things going badly for the hero.

No one seeks hardship upon themselves, and when given the choice we will choose the lesser of two evils. Our hero has the same instinct for self-preservation, so he/she will try to avoid trouble at all cost. Which is why problems must be thrust upon them, usually by someone with an opposing agenda.    

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly," said Plato, "while bad people will find a way around the laws." This great forefather of fiction knew that characters with a propensity for doing bad are good at creating conflict for a sympathetic hero. When trouble strikes as a result of an outside force, our innocent victim is considered a passive protagonist.

On the other hand — just as in real life — trouble can be self-inflicted, caused by the hero's own carelessness, bad judgment, stubbornness, or other misstep. This active protagonist can attract adversity, if only via good intentions gone wrong. They had set out to accomplish something, only to have it go awry.

In general, writers are told to avoid the passive protagonist because readers don't invest themselves as readily in a hero who things merely happen to. They wish to identify with someone who wants something and is intent on getting it.

The ideal plot, it would seem, will star an active protagonist capable of causing his own calamity (the archetypical flawed hero), only to be further thwarted by an equally active antagonist who brings even more tribulation to the table. Our poor imperfect protagonist can't get a break. They have an enemy but can also be their own worst enemy.

The goal is to pile on however much misfortune it takes to convince the reader that all is lost; that there's no possible way the hero is going to come out on top. They will, of course. But it's all the stumbles threatening that victory which keep the reader turning the page, since trouble  no matter who's causing it  is just plain interesting.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Write What You Know

By Bette Lee Crosby

Every novel starts with a flicker of inspiration; a word, a thought or a memory that is often followed by a journey down the “what if” road. My inspiration for writing The Summer of New Beginnings happened when I read this anonymous quote:

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gives me a piece of their heart. Perhaps if I live long enough all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”  

I’m a dog lover; I’ve always been a dog lover. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love a dog almost as much as a mother loves her baby. My dogs have been my babies, lap dogs content to curl up under my desk and wait patiently for the workday to end. Through the years a number of furry friends have come and gone, but one stands out most clearly in my memory: Katie, my rescue pup.

The relationship between owner and rescue is different than any other. It is a lifetime commitment, a bond that declares loud and clear, "I am yours, and you are mine.” The day you bring that dog home, you know you will be together for as long as life allows.

Katie came into my life just after I’d lost the dog that had been with me for 18 years. I was broken-hearted and ill prepared for any emotional attachment, but Katie sat by my side and waited for my heart to heal. That’s the thing about dogs; they have an uncanny ability to sense our emotions. They understand the complex language of facial expressions, body posture and bonding vocalizations. Their abilities don’t stop there, though; they also understand human nonverbal language and can sometimes pick up on an illness in its earliest stages.

The sage advice given to most authors is, “Write what you know,” which is what I’ve always done. In five of my eighteen books I included a dog but always as a sidekick, never in a featured role. This time I decided to allow the dog to take center stage and be the driving force for the action. Once I came to that decision, I could either turn to magical realism and give the dog a speaking role, or stick with what I know and let the dog play the same role Katie played in my life —a non-speaking but ever-loving companion who changes your life forever.

I opted to stay with what I know and dug deeper into my own reality to model the two sisters after myself and my middle sister, Donna. We were not unlike the Briggs girls: me too serious minded for my own good, and Donna the very embodiment of Tracy, a carefree good-time girl.

Each author has his or her own way of approaching a story. I almost always start with the characters. Once I have a comprehensive picture in my mind of the characters, I can more realistically imagine a set of circumstances that will upend their lives.

For Meghan Briggs, that event was the loss of her father. He was her champion, the one who cheered her on as she reached for the dream of becoming a journalist. When he died, her dream died with him. The business he’d built from scratch was the only part of him she could hang on to, and so that’s what she did. She settled into the oversized desk chair and became a shadow of her daddy. It was easy to imagine Meghan doing this, because it’s what I myself might have done.

Modeled on my sister, Donna, Tracy was more of a challenge. People came and went, but few things flustered Tracy. When one party ended, she’d simply hurry off to the next one…until she became a mama. Everything changes when you become responsible for that tiny little creature you are holding in your arms. A woman who is wild and willful would never return home seeking help for herself, but she’d do it in a heartbeat for her child.

Here was the core of my story: two sisters, polar opposites, both struggling with the challenges of life. Certainly enough conflict, but this time my goal was to create a story with the dog as a primary character. It happens when Meghan jumps into the lake to save a scruffy stray from drowning.

Meghan was not ready for an emotional attachment, but dogs have a way of opening up your heart. In The Summer of New Beginnings, the pup teaches her how to love again and leads the sisters to a discovery that will ultimately save Tracy’s baby.

Imagine, a lovable hero who doesn’t have a single line of dialogue!

Now that I’ve done what I set out to do, will I continue to use a dog as a primary protagonist? Probably not. The fun of writing is finding new people, places and things to tell about. A second Magnolia Grove novel is already in progress, and it takes place a few years after the first one. The sweet surprise in this one is that Tracy’s baby is stepping into the limelight.

For me the joy of writing comes in discovering new voices, with or without the accompanying dialogue.
Bette Lee Crosby is the USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels, including Spare Change and the Wyattsville series. She has been the recipient of the Royal Palm Literary Award, Reviewer’s Choice Award, FPA President’s Book Award, International Book Award, and Next Generation Indie Award, among many others. Her 2016 novel, Baby Girl, was named Best Chick Lit of the Year by Huffington Post. She laughingly admits to being a night owl and a workaholic, claiming that her guilty pleasure is late-night chats with fans and friends on Facebook and Goodreads.  Her newest book, The Summer of New Beginnings, releases in March 2018. To learn more about Bette Lee Crosby's work, stop by her website at

Friday, March 2, 2018

Compelling Openings Writing Competition

By Angelyn Sherrod

Hit me with your best shot! No, seriously, do it.

What’s the target? No, not my nose.

Compelling openings.

Malice in Memphis, a mystery writers group located in Memphis Tennessee, will host the first semi-annual 2018 Hit Me With Your Best Shot Writing Competition. This award has been established to reward excellence in writing and to challenge both seasoned and emerging writers to produce their best work.

In this competition, we want you to grab us from word one . . . because every word counts.
The first sentence should compel the reader to finish the paragraph. You raise a question. Hint at a mystery. Your reader finishes the paragraph and before they know it, they’re at the end of the first page.

Pages keep flipping by, the clock is ignored, the TV is silenced . . . the phone goes unanswered.


It’s not your complex plot. Nor your well-developed characters or story arc.
. . . that comes later.

When a reader sits down, opens your book for the first time, scrolls through the front matter to 

Chapter 1, they are looking to answer one question:

“Why should I keep reading?”

That’s the shot we want you to take.

The writing competition opens March 1, 2018. The cost to enter is only $10. Send us the first 300-500 words (No more. No less.) of a larger work e.g., short story or novel, by 11:59pm central standard time May 1 2018. Malice will complete first round judging In Memphis members.

We are honored to have celebrated author, producer, Allan Gilbreath, founder, publisher and managing editor of Dark Oak Press and Media, as our final round judge. The top 5 finalists will be announced on the Malice in Memphis website by June 1, 2018. The first, second and third place winners will be announced on or before June 15, 2018. Though Malice is a mystery writers group, this competition is open to all fiction genres. 1st prize: $100 2nd prize: $503rd prize: $25 Plus, other awesome prizes. As a bonus: we’re going to help you master compelling openings, tell you exactly what we’re looking for. Each week, throughout the contest period, we will submit posts on the Malice in Memphis blog. You’ll learn the elements of producing a compelling opening, the Do’s and Don’ts, tips and encouragement. Head on over to for complete rules and description of the submission process.

So, you’re ready? I think so. Hit us.
Angelyn Sherrod is an award-winning short story writer, lifelong reader and storyteller. She has always been drawn to mysteries and thrillers because of the innate themes of justice and righting wrongs. Therefore, it only seemed natural to start killing off people in her stories: it's cathartic and oh, so satisfying. Not to mention, it helps to maintain her sanity. You can step into Angelyn's world of justice and fair play in the Malice in Memphis Anthologies:  Bluff City Mysteries, Ghost Storiesand Elmwood Stories to Die For. Also, look for the upcoming anthology, due Spring 2018: Malice MAY-hem. Angelyn's short story, THE GAZEBO won the 3rd Place prize in Southern Writers Magazine's 2013 Annual Short Story contest in the printed Short Tales. Check out her blog: Angelyn's Crimes of Passion ( for other short stories and flash fiction, or follow her on Facebook