Friday, July 10, 2020

Southern Appalachian Storytellers

Saundra Gerrell Kelley

What gives a writer the urge to create new work? In the case of Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition, published by McFarland, it was one person - Dot Jackson.

At the time I met Dot, a former investigative reporter, and editor from South Carolina, I was working on my master’s degree at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. I had met Billee Moore earlier, and it was she who decided Dot and I needed to make acquaintance. At her invitation, I drove to her cabin in North Carolina. Waiting at Billee’s for Dot (she was in Galax. VA giving a talk), I took a nap. I awakened later that afternoon to something storytellers love more than anything - the human voice telling stories.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Passion In Writing

Susan Reichert

I have heard it said when you are writing a book, make it a labor of love.

Thinking about that remark made me wonder who would write if they did not love to write?

Writing is wonderful, yet it takes effort, from the beginning to the end. Sometimes the words flow other times authors pull and tug, even dig for the right words. But when all is said and done, they love it.

William Faulkner said, “If a story is in you it has got to come out.” And I believe that. For there are times our brains will not shut off until we get up and write what is going on in our brain.

I believe writing is a passion. The compelling emotion is you must write.

Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, said, “I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.”

But the question that needs to be answered is how do you put passion in your words, so your reader feels passion as they read the story?

Using sensory words is a definite help. You want your reader to feel, picture, and experience what you are writing. You want them to be transported into the story.

One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Frost who said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Do your characters energize you and unfold the story to you as you hasten to keep up with them, putting to paper what they are saying, doing, and showing you?

Are you personally involved in the story? Is your enthusiasm, growing? Remember, enthusiasm is contagious. Your reader can catch it.

Everything we write in our story matters to the reader. It can be a key, or a steppingstone.

Your story must come to life for the reader. 

Susan Reichert, Author of Storms in Life, God's Prayer Power, Author of Nine Anthology Book Short Stories as well as writing for Southern Writers Magazine.

Retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Head of Collierville Christian Writers Group, President of Southern Author Services.

She lives in the Memphis area with her husband. They have four grown daughters and three grandchildren.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Why and What Editors do for Authors

Nancy Arant Williams

First and most importantly, I’d like to thank Susan Reichert for the chance to address you all. Let me introduce myself. My name is Nancy Arant Williams and I’m a multi-published author and have been editing freelance for nearly twenty years. Not long ago, I was humbled and blessed to be named #2 of the top nineteen editors in the U.S. You may have recently read my author blog here—well, this particular blog speaks to my editing career.

I would never have learned to edit had I not struggled with an editor who repeatedly pulled my chain on my first several books. Through that process, I realized that an author truly needs an editor who sees eye to eye philosophically. In my case, that editor used a red marker to exclaim her annoyance at things she couldn’t understand—like the jargon/conversations between teens and parents. After many sleepless nights and high stress interactions, I finally asked for another editor. The new one was a dream come true, praise God.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Behind the Curtain with Legacy of Lies (Part 2)

Robert Bailey 

(Part 2 – continued from July 3)

In terms of outline, I normally will write a loose synopsis before I begin writing that sets out the beginning of the story, the key premise or situation that drives the plot, and a general sense of the ending. I want to have a roadmap for the story that will assist me if I get stuck, but I don’t want the synopsis to be so rigid that I can’t vary from it if the characters start coming alive on the page and doing things I didn’t originally anticipate. I try to end each writing session with a few words in bold for where I want to go the next day.

Revisions first involve a developmental edit, where I work with my editor to iron out the kinks of the story, fill in gaps and, perhaps most importantly, trim any parts of the novel that aren’t working. This is one of my favorite parts of the process, as we cut the fat and enhance the theme of the story. The overall theme of Legacy of Lies is redemption, as Bo Haynes seeks to resurrect his life and family by moving back to Pulaski and representing General Lewis.

Once we have fully developed the storyline, the last and most painful steps involve a copyedit, where the book is read with a fine tooth comb for continuity issues, typographical errors, etc. and then a final proofread.

One of the challenges of writing Legacy of Lies was to craft a story that would be pleasing to fans of the McMurtrie & Drake series but also stand on its own as the first entry in a new collection of books featuring Bo Haynes. I wanted to tie up the central situation, but dangle a few twists that will hopefully entice readers to come back for book two. As a reader, I have always loved series characters and books, and I love the feeling of being left satisfied with a book but wanting more from the characters. That was my goal with Legacy of Lies, and I hope I came close to achieving it.

One last tidbit I’d offer for prospective writers. I think of writing as a “flow” and “grind” process. Writing itself is a flow activity where you have to find a state of relaxed focus where you can let your imagination run wild. However, to get there, you have to “grind” and make yourself sit in the chair each morning or evening or whenever you choose to write. Both the flow and the grind parts are important, but the grind is probably the most crucial as you can’t ever get in the flow state unless you force yourself to sit down and stare at the computer screen. Sometimes the time spent at the keyboard is painful and all you are left with is a sentence that stinks. And sometimes, you find the flow and you’re left with a couple thousand words and you feel as if you could write all day. Those good days aren’t possible, at least for me, without a few of the painful ones.

Like life, writing can be sloppy and messy, but also wonderful and magical. I wouldn’t trade a second of my journey, and I’m still learning. One day at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time.

Flow and grind. Grind and flow. Rinse. Repeat. Write. 

Robert Bailey is the bestselling and award-winning author of the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers series, which includes The Final ReckoningThe Last TrialBetween Black and White, and The ProfessorLegacy of Lies is his fifth novel.

For the past twenty years, Bailey has been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, where he lives with his wife and three children. For more information, please visit

Friday, July 3, 2020

Behind the Curtain with Legacy of Lies (Part 1)

Robert Bailey

Legacy of Lies is my fifth legal thriller and first without Professor Tom McMurtrie as the main character. This story begins a new spinoff series of books featuring Bocephus Haynes, a supporting character from my first four novels.

I was nervous to write a story without the Professor in it, but also excited as the character of Bocephus Haynes has so much potential for growth. To be able to dive deeper into the conflicts in Bo’s life was one of the major draws of writing this book for me. Of course, I also needed an explosive plot and for that I turned to another character from the McMurtrie & Drake series. “General” Helen Lewis is the longtime district attorney general of a four county district in southern Tennessee, which includes Pulaski. Since reading “Presumed Innocent,” I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a prosecutor on trial for murder, and, in Legacy of Lies, Helen Lewis is charged with the brutal murder of her ex-husband in her own county. At the end of her rope, she turns to former adversary and now friend, Bo Haynes, for help.

As this story involves a criminal case in Tennessee and I practice mostly civil law in Alabama, I had to do some research regarding the sentencing guidelines of several crimes referenced in the novel and also refresh my knowledge of the different procedural steps for a murder trial. I also traveled to Pulaski several times to make sure I had the names of streets, restaurants and local establishments correct. Most of my novels are set in real places, like Pulaski, and I want the reader to feel that the stories have an air of authenticity. Additionally, for readers who have eaten at the Yellow Deli in Pulaski or had a drink at Kathy’s Tavern or Hitt’s Place, having scenes take place in these real places is a way to connect with the reader. I call such nuggets “Easter eggs,” which are little surprises for the individual reader who has been to one of these places. I have always enjoyed reading books that have a few of these surprises in them, such as when Mitch McDeere is being chased down the Gulf Coast in The Firm and stops at the Flora-Bama, so I like to include them in my stories.

My process for this novel was the same as it has been for my prior books. Structure is important for me, and I tend to write first thing in the morning. During a first draft, I try to get at least a thousand words a day. As I get closer to deadline and those magic words, “THE END,” my writing pace will tend to pick up speed. For me, reaching “THE END” on the first draft is the most important part of the craft. If you don’t finish the story, you can never go back and fix it. Revising is hard word too, but you never get to that point unless you force yourself to finish. In terms of outline, ...(to be continued Monday, July 6)

Robert Bailey is the bestselling and award-winning author of the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers series, which includes The Final ReckoningThe Last TrialBetween Black and White, and The ProfessorLegacy of Lies is his fifth novel.

For the past twenty years, Bailey has been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, where he lives with his wife and three children. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tension and Release in a Poem

Sara Robinson

We are living in a dynamic literary age where diversity is a significant driver in poetry writing and publishing. We have poets representing minorities (i.e. ethnic, LGBTQ, religious, immigrants, and others). These poets are winning prizes, gathering acclaim, and getting published by well-known presses. Their “voices” are getting wide attention, gathering crowds, and likely influencing the public discourse, not just on literature but society as a whole.

Why is that? And what does it mean for all of us? We need to think of poetry, more than ever, as “all-inclusive.” These practicing poets of today are clearly our future. What can we learn from their voices? For one thing, besides being fearless and experimental in their writing, they practice with great craft the use of “tension and release.” So, let us look at what this means and how best to employ it.

Using the first person POV is a revival of what once was considered obsolete. “I feel my pain, and I want you to feel it, too,” is a graphic introduction. The poet and novelist, Sherman Alexi, in his poem, “ How to Write the Great American Indian Novel” for the Poetry Foundation starts out by saying, “All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms./ Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food….”

Today the “I” is expanded further into the hot topics of race, sexuality, gender, and politics. These topics are the latest to bring us into inclusiveness of today’s social science. How then do we write powerful tension-invoking poetry that satisfies with a follow-up release? Does it need to be something we personally have experienced? We could start by listening and immersing ourselves into unfamiliar territories, maybe an aisle in Walmart, or outside a courthouse sitting on a bench listening as people leave, or go in.

How does release work? Using our language toolbox, we give the reader possible resolutions, connections, empathy, and tenderness. Here is an example:

How best to express the tragedy of a repressed group whose population has been reduced to single digit numbers than to describe weapons of destruction shooting flames and bullets outside a crumbling shaking building while inside same a middle-aged woman gently hums as she washes the hair of her blind and deaf ninety-year old mother.

Tension and release. Now you try it.

I began my creative writing career after retiring from industry. I would love to talk to readers about my writing and the memoir, as well as my short stories and poetry. My latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, is based on the photography of Hobby Robinson. I have 3 other published poetry books and a memoir. I live in central Virginia and enjoy all the wonders that abound in the local area. Much of my writing focuses on these experiences as well as reflecting on how I am evolving as a poet and writer. In Fall 2014, one of my poems about my Jewish heritage appeared in Poetica Magazine. Looking for places to buy my books? Check out:, Barnes & Noble, Solace 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Jackie Layton

Jackie Layton

Dog-Gone Dead is the second book of A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series. I created the fictional town of Heyward Beach, South Carolina for the setting of this series. It’s south of Myrtle Beach and north of Charleston. I took parts of some of my favorite beaches to create this special place. The island section of Heyward Beach has a few shops, homes, a pier, and of course a beach. A marsh separates the island from the mainland area of Heyward Beach.

I love the ebb and flow of island life. There’s so much life, beauty, and movement, it’s hard to get bored. Each morning there are new shells to be found, birds to see, and if you’re lucky dolphins to watch playing in the ocean. People who enjoy fishing can choose to fish in the ocean or the marsh, or as the locals often call it, the creek. People may fish from their boats, off a dock, from the bridge on the causeway, and some even pull on their waders and walk right into the creek and fish with nets.

Andi Grace Scott is the main character in this series. She’s a dog walker and grew up in this community. She knows the locals, and they trust her to take care of their pets. In creating Andi Grace, I wanted a character with a big heart who loves people. She thinks everybody needs a dog, and she enjoys matching stray dogs to people. She likes people who aren’t dog people, but she feels sorry for them. When Andi Grace isn’t working

When I started brainstorming this series, I researched careers with flexibility and mobility. I didn’t think my sleuth could be a pharmacist, stockbroker, or banker because these jobs don’t allow people to run around tracking down clues. I also wanted something fun, and what’s more fun than hanging out with animals?

Another interesting aspect of the Low Country is the warm weather and ability to grow different varieties of flowers throughout the year. Oak trees with Spanish moss, pine trees, palmettos, front porches, raised houses, plantation homes, sea turtles, alligators, and golf courses are all part of life in the Low Country.

Dog-Gone Dead opens as Andi Grace and her best friend head to a local historical site early one morning before it opens for tours. Before long, they discover a body and soon Andi Grace is investigating another murder. 

If you love small-town coastal life, dogs, and strong heroines, you’ll love Dog-Gone Dead.

South Carolina has been my home for three years. I’ve fallen in love with the people and the area, and it was easy to pick this for my setting. I hope readers enjoy visiting Heyward Beach and hanging out with Andi Grace and her friends. 

Former Kentucky pharmacist Jackie Layton loves her new life in the Low Country. Walks on the beach, bike riding, and collecting shells are a few of her hobbies when she's not writing. She and her husband also enjoy spending time with their family in Kentucky and Texas.
Jackie enjoys connecting with readers, and she can be found on social media as well as her blogs.

Social media links:
Twitter: @Joyfuljel

Monday, June 29, 2020


Sandra Mansfield Wright

In times of stress I find myself writing, possibly as a way to calm myself and think through a situation in a more rational frame of mind. It is a form of self-therapy in my life. Writing has always been a part of my life, beginning with journaling and then going further into writing books.
            At a time when the world around seems uncertain and shaken, writing words of encouragement and hope soothes my soul, and I hope something I write will help others find a calmness in the midst of the world’s madness.
            My first book, Little Gifts of Joy, came out at a time of deep sorrow in my life. It did not begin in this way. It began as a book to my grandchildren about life and the idea of looking for and finding joy in every day. It grew out of that concept into larger and deeper thoughts of finding joy no matter what happens in one’s life, a guide to abundant living.
            From this beginning followed other books; all with the major themes of joy, hope and faith; books of encouragement and thoughts to lift the reader from the depths of sadness, heartache, sickness, despair and hurt into a realm of hope, joy, peace and renewal. My prayer and goals for my writings are to give my readers a ‘daily dose of hope.’ The world in which we live tries to steal our joy and drain us of energy and enthusiasm. My books give practical, down-to-earth, common sense suggestions as to how to find exuberance and practice abundant living every day.
            Quotes are used often throughout the books because quotes lift me when I am down. Memorizing quotes, having them placed in my home where I can see them and read them daily is to me an instant spirit-lift.
            My home is a place of renewal and a haven of tranquility to me, and in my books I often give ideas as to how to create a space of serenity for the reader and ideas on how to design a life of substance and joy.
            A firm believer in the philosophy of remaining positive and thinking on joy, my writings encourage training oneself to re-think and change attitudes and give practical ways to do this. Finding ways to lift ourselves when the world is pulling us down is a focus for everyday living.
            Words, the right words at the right time, can heal our spirit and strengthen our resolve. They can cause us to grow and stretch us to become more than we once thought possible. Words written in love and prayer can soothe the broken soul. This is my constant prayer for the books I put into this world.

Sandra Mansfield Wright has been called an interior designer for the heart, specializing in bringing more joy and hope into the lives of her readers and listeners. She is the author of four books. 

Her book, 365 Daily Gifts of Joy, gives the reader a joyful devotional for every day of the year. Each passage, regardless of topic, points the way to joy and promises that God is there for us in every circumstance.

The Posture of Hope, Sandra's third book, will uplift and motivate the reader to find great power and security in prayer and in the reading of God's Word. A relevant book for today's stressful world, it teaches us how to replace fear with hope.

Sandra's fourth book, is an interactive devotional book entitled Growing in Hope, this book gives the reader a "dose of hope" for the day ahead. Always sharing uplifting and encouraging words to counteract the negative messages given by the world today, Sandra's writings are a breath of refreshment.

In Times Like These (to be released in 2020)

Visit Sandra at: 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Being Vulnerable

Susan Reichert

Through the years I have used journals to write my thoughts, words, and ideas. I have written scriptures that meant something special to me and prayers to help me. Perhaps you do to. I have kept these journals through the years.

Writers seem to always have ideas, thoughts and words follow them around.

I especially like to write things down, not just to remember good things that happen, but also write things that were not pleasant. In all honesty, we learn a great deal more from things that were not pleasant or things we were concerned about.

When reading my Bible, many times a scripture would pop up and I would write it down. More times than not, the scripture would speak to what I was experiencing.

Through different times in my life, I would use the scriptures and write the prayers that would speak to my heart while going through different situations.

I have about three boxes of these journals. When I retired as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, I felt the Lord leading me to share some of these prayers with others.

To be honest, it took some convincing for me to let others read my prayers.

I pulled out my journals, and prayerfully considered the ones to share. I sent these to several of my friends and from their responses, I knew it was time to publish some of the prayers, hoping they would benefit others. 

My book, God’s Prayer Power was born!

My dilemma was how many prayers? There are many. But I felt fifty-two was the right number. This way each prayer, scripture, and exercise would be something people could use to delve deeper into their prayer life.

The exercise in the book is the one I used to find out what God was saying to me through the scriptures which led me to be able to write the prayers.

It has been my experience, when writing devotions or prayers that you can tell when God is supplying the words.

There have been some great devotional books written through the years, and when you read them, they touch your heart, and many of them give you comfort––or perhaps wisdom to see the answers you seek.

Some of those devotions are Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know God is Holding You Close by Lysa Terkeurst; Worry Less, Pray More by Donna K. Maltese; Grace Overcomes Today by Sharilynn Hunt; Growing in Hope by Sandra Mansfield Wright; and of course Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, to name a few. There are hundreds of others and thank God more will be written.

Co-Founder and Co-Publisher of Southern Writers Magazine. Retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magaizne. President of Southern Author Serivces which includes Suite T and The Gallery of Stars, and Collierville Christian Writers Group.

Author of  God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

3 Tips for Creating Compelling Character Emotion Part 2

Continued from June 24

Amanda Barratt  

The White Rose Resists was inspired by the incredible true story of a group of ordinary men and women who dared to stand against evil.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.

An excerpt from The White Rose Resists: Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she's been brought up to believe in the Führer's divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.
Soon Annalise joins their double life--students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they're all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

Tip 3: Make the reader care

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

3 Tips for Creating Compelling Character Emotion - Part !

Amanda Barratt                           @AmandaMBarratt 
Best Selling Author

I’m totally guilty of ending a long day by collapsing on the couch with a favorite show or movie. Though it may look like I’m wasting time, I’ve gleaned valuable insight into the nuts and bolts of storytelling from my before-bed binge watching.

One of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned is how to portray emotion. I’ve learned this from both my favorite cinematic masterpieces, but also from the “that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back” less-than-stellar viewing material. Being able to recognize when art is executed poorly is an important step in learning how to execute it well.

Gathering insight from both the best and the worst emotion I’ve seen and read, here are three tips for creating and conveying compelling character emotion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Characters with Worldview

Andrew Huff          @andrewjohnhuff

When it comes to developing characters in fiction, a writer can spend a lot of time defining a character’s physical traits, forming a compelling backstory, even assigning a complex balance of strengths and weaknesses, and yet still struggle to write the characters in such a way that they feel real and capable of carrying the burden of the plot. When I’m creating characters for my novels, one thing I try to keep in mind to help me write them in an interesting way is that each character has their own worldview.

Monday, June 22, 2020

When Water is Symbolic

Johnnie Bernhard

In Sisters of the Undertow, an upmarket fiction novel that debuted February 27, 2020, water is symbolic in much of the storyline detailing the tumultuous relationship between two sisters. I researched The Little Mermaid, The Great Storm of 1900, and Hurricane Harvey to create mood in its setting.

The Great Storm of 1900 struck Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. It is considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in United States history. Estimates of the death toll range from 6,000 to 12,000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The Lasker Inn on Sixteenth Street is a survivor of that storm. It bears a plaque on its front entry, noting that history. Following the hurricane, it served as an orphanage.

Today the Lasker Inn is a beautifully restored Colonial Victorian, serving as a popular wedding venue and bed and breakfast for tourists. I am grateful to its host, Richard Connor who has opened the doors to this island jewel for my research. I have spent many hours walking its floors, listening to the voices of the survivors.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas in 2017. What was unusual about this deadly storm was the amount of rainfall that fell over several days in the Houston area. In some places over fifty inches of rain fell causing catastrophic flooding, impacting homes and lives of residents. The last two chapters of the novel are set in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.

As an author, I found the best research tools available online and at my local library. Online resources included NOAA, US Census Bureau, and the Texas Almanac.

The novel was recently recognized as one of the hundred best books published by a university press in a May 1, 2020 article in LIT HUB. I am grateful for the reviews and especially the readers who support my work.

Sisters of the Undertow is a novel of family complexities, sisters who are opposites, and their coming to terms with life and each other. It is available on Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite bookstore. 

A former English teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard is passionate about reading and writing. A traditionally published author, her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, both nationally and internationally. She has written articles and columns for: the Suburban Reporter of Houston, World Oil Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, Heart of Ann Arbor Magazine, Houston Style Magazine, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Johnnie's entry for Cowbird, "The Last Mayberry" received 7,500 views, nationally and internationally. 

Sisters of the Undertow, Johnnie's third novel, was selected for panel discussion for the 2020 AWP National Conference, as well as an official selection for the international Pulpwood Queens Book Club. It was chosen by the Association of University Presses as one of the hundred best books published by university presses. 

Find her on social media and her website,


Friday, June 19, 2020

Igniting Your Book Launch – Part III

DiAnn Mills       @diannmills

In our third and final session of the series: Igniting Your Book Launch, we will cover the topics of how to create successful book signings and special events.

Book signing events are an opportunity for the writer to serve:
·        The bookstore owner.
·        The employees.
·        The customers/potential readers.
·        The publisher.

Usually signings are held at bookstores, speaking venues, and in convention type settings. Just about anywhere people shop is an opportunity for a book event. Consider coffee shops, gift stores, craft stores, grocery stores sewing shops, clothing boutiques, and etc. A book signing in a non-bookstore setting means no other book related competition. The goal is to make the signing an event. Be creative and consider your book’s topic and how it can fit into other retail opportunities.