February 28, 2013

Story Plots from Carrier and the Sistine Chapel

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Sistine Chapel underwent a renovation. There had been almost 500 years of soot, dirt and human perspiration that had accumulated on the great works of art on the walls and ceiling. The project eventually took 20 years and the results were phenomenal. Having viewed the project in 1992 I was able to see the before and after results. The restored works showed the original vibrant colors and the clarity of the paintings. It appeared as if they had been saved from a dark fog.

Another polluter was noise. As the crowds of tourist gathered to view the great works of art they began commenting as if at a party. The volume would begin to rise higher. When it hit a certain decibel level a security guard would shout, “Silence!” Although startling it was not enough. The crowd soon forgot and would quickly reach the decibel level which in turn produced another performance by the guard. This noise was damaging to the art and needed to be addressed as well.

The Vatican commissioned the international company Carrier, a unit of United Technologies, to come in and develop a system to control the environment of the walls and ceiling for the artwork and as well as a separate environment on the floor for the crowds of tourist. They would have to accomplish this without adding to the noise factor and disturbing the beauty of the art or the building. Carrier was able to accomplish this and in my hometown of Collierville TN they have on display in their headquarters how it was done.

I brought this to you to show the vast array of story lines that you could read into this. The mystery of the Vatican could be combined with the discovery made by the Carrier engineers in the 10 foot thick walls of Sistine Chapel. The romance of a United Technologies employee with a love interest he/she found while in Rome. How about a story of contraband smuggled into the country, city or Vatican by an employee while working there. We could also have a dishonest Vatican official overseeing the project but with a self-serving interest in the successful outcome or lack of it. 

The scenarios go on and on. Choose what interest you most and put it into the equation. Do some research and check out your options. In this case if the Vatican spin is not to your liking Carrier also has other landmark installations like the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, the Singapore Hall of the People in China or George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Surely one of these locations would appeal to your story. Around us are great story opportunities. Should you decide to use one of these ideas for your next story, I would love to read it.         

February 27, 2013

Inspirational Breathing

By Jody Bailey Day

The word 'inspiration' always makes me take a slow, deep breath. My eyes close and a smile warms my face. The word always reminds me of the reason I became a writer.

I am a great fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. The third novel, Anne of the Island, finds Anne and her young adult friends facing life's challenges. Ruby Gillis is a chum who had never given any thought but to her day-to-day pleasures. Unhappily, Ruby is now dying of consumption. Anne pays her a visit and finds Ruby terrified of death. Ruby's "soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved". Anne left that meeting a different young woman. I was changed as I read Montgomery's prose of Anne's thoughts: "The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."

That sentence first inspired me to "the highest" and reinforced my faith. Second, I was consumed with the desire to write in a way that would encourage people to aspire the way I did at that moment. The notion began as a desire and has blossomed over the years into a full-blown passion and calling. I will never forget it. Over time, I have reread and highlighted many such inspirations in Montgomery's work as well as many of the Masters and Christian authors.

Keeping that goal in my heart and mind has gotten me over many a writer's block. I just close my eyes, remember that moment, and then ask the Father to help me take my readers to that place of inspiration the highest.

Jody Bailey Day is an author who looks at life through love-colored glasses. Her passion is inspiring people to live a life that embraces who they are in Jesus Christ. She writes poems, articles, devotionals, and novels from West Texas, where she is President of the Fort Stockton area Critique Café. She is a member of ACFW and Her poems and articles have appeared in Mature Living, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine,,, and Splickety Magazine. She has two books available on Amazon,
H.E.A.V.E.N. A Handle for the Storms of Life and H.E.A.V.E.N.: A Handle for Troubled Times Her debut novel from Harbourlight/Pelican Group, Washout Express, is forthcoming. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.

February 26, 2013

Location Location Location

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

They say it a lot in Real Estate, but "location location location" plays a significant role in storytelling too.  Where you plant your characters can be vital to the plot, as well as give it strong visuals in the reader's mind.

Since the Academy Awards were on this weekend, revisiting the nominees for Best Picture would be a good way to review how important setting can be in a story.

These first few films, based on real-life events, could not have taken place anywhere but where they happened:

Ben Affleck has international-sized problems in the Oscar-winning Argo
A CIA agent (Washington, DC) recruits a movie producer (Hollywood) to set up a fake film crew to rescue hostages (Iran).

During the Civil War, the 16th president seeks to abolish slavery (Washington and Virginia).

A CIA agent's aggressive pursuit leads to the death of Bin Laden (Washington and Pakistan).

During the French Revolution, a parolee agrees to care for a poor woman's daughter (France).

Now, an ex-con caring for a young child is a plot that could be taken anywhere. But adding the backdrop of war elevates a story into epic proportions, and Frenchman Victor Hugo is one of countless authors who have utilized this device.

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina provided inspiration for this fantasy drama. A flooded Louisiana bayou was a fitting setting for these backwoods characters.

Too much water also engulfs this fantasy adventure, in which a boy from India is stranded for months on the ocean. While most of the story takes place on the high seas, the spiritual undercurrent gets a running start through multicultural first scenes in India. 

When you think of spaghetti westerns you may think of California or Texas, but the Old West gets some Southern exposure in this Mississippi tale of slaves, plantations and revenge.

An elderly French couple face life and death challenges when the wife becomes critically ill.  This is another story that could have taken place in any city, but the real setting is the couple's apartment. Most of the drama takes place there as the figurative walls of life close in on them.

Even what the characters wear can reinforce location
The protagonist's father is an obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan, a subplot that provides moments of conflict as well as victory. It's not a football film, but that tie-in brings depth to the "playbook" title. This is another story which could have taken place anywhere, yet the place it chose was used to dramatic advantage.

When we choose (and use) a strong locale, we don't give our characters merely a generic home, but a real, living place in which to experience real life.

As we write our own Oscar-worthy words,  let's remember the words of Eudora Welty:

"Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who's here? Who's coming?"

February 25, 2013

The Writing Process

By E. H. James

People will ask me, “Where do you get your ideas for your stories?” I have to say they literally come to me out of thin air. Somehow, I am always able to come up with something. I guess my problem is I have too many ideas. I have over fifty outlines waiting to be turned into novels. But another problem I have is I can’t seem to make up my mind what genre to write in. I have ideas going off in all directions, like horror, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal. So as to which one I will write, that depends entirely on the mood I happen to be in when it comes time to start the next novel.

But once I do start into a story, it always amazes me how it takes on a life of its own. I will have a basic outline of where I want my novel to go, and even an idea of what I want to happen in any given chapter. The funny thing is sometimes the book, or chapter, will take off and head in a direction I never planned. I start with an opening line and just let it evolve on its own. And as the chapter takes off sometimes so do the characters and what they say and do. The next thing I know they are doing and saying things I never planned. When that happens I have to stop and take a serious look at what is happening with the story. Does this make the story better? Is it something I think I can use in the existing storyline? Or is this going in a direction I really don’t want it to, and I have to chop it out from the point it went off on a tangent? Most of the time I don’t chop, but if it is going places I don’t like I won’t hesitate to do so.

I will say writing dialogue is always extremely exciting for me, as I have no idea what my characters are going to say. I know all my characters and the kinds of things they would say, how they would say them, and how they would respond or react to what is being said or done. But as to exactly what they will say I have no idea. I throw out the opening line of dialogue and let the other character react to what has been said. And then back again. As I don’t know what the response will be until the very moment I write it I have no knowledge of what is about to come. More often than not, my characters shock and surprise me at the things they say. 

Now you’re probably thinking: How can that be? You are the one writing it. How can you not know what they are going to say? Well, I don’t, until the moment I am writing it. Some of the things that pop into my head make me laugh out loud. To me writing a book is very much like reading one. I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next. Yes, I know where the story is going and have a general idea of how I want to get there, but as to the specifics of how they get there, and all the many details along the way, it all happens in the moment of writing it.
E. H. James is an author writing novels and short stories in the science fiction, horror, thriller and fantasy genres. Laura, The Visitor’s Room, and The Fifth Floor are the first three paranormal short stories to have been released, with The Visitor’s Room winning book of the month, for April, in the Mystery category at Long and Short Reviews. The Red Door, The Orah, and a four story collection, all paranormal short stories, are to be released through Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing.Contact Links for E. H. James

February 22, 2013

Historical Romance in the American South

By Dina Sleiman

When my agent asked me to write a historical romance, my next task was to decide on a specific setting. Prairie stories dominate the inspirational romance world, but I’m not really a prairie kind of girl. I long for settings with elegance and mystique. My favorite place on earth has long been a stretch of country situated on route 17 near Paris, Virginia, featuring rolling hills, vineyards, horses, and gorgeous old plantation houses. You see, I’m a transplanted Southerner. I’ve now lived in Virginia for twenty years, and for a decade, I would pass that spot on route 17 while driving to visit my parents in Pittsburgh. I fell utterly in love with it.

But alas, once I pinned down my 1817 date and the plot for my novel, I realized the best setting would actually be Charlottesville, Virginia. A location slightly to the south and east of my personal paradise, but every bit as picturesque and even more full of history and gorgeous plantations. There I found the legendary Three Notch’d Road and the lovely Birdwood Pavilion, which almost perfectly matched the plantation in my head.

Maybe you’re wondering why more inspirational romances aren’t set in the ideally romantic American south. I mean mint juleps on the verandah? Gone with the Wind? I think the answer lies in slavery. An issue far from romantic or ideal. That idyllic Southern existence was an illusion based on oppression, often even abuse. And inspirational romance fans aren’t the best audience for ugly stories about oppression and social injustice. So my challenge in choosing this Southern setting was to find a way to deal with this issue and still create an enjoyable, romantic read.

The solution I found was to face it head on. Several of my main characters are involved in the abolitionist movement. So the ugliness of slavery is not overlooked. Meanwhile, my primary plantation owners are kind to their slaves, treating them like family. And my main character, Constance Cavendish, often finds herself drawn to befriend the slaves around her.

Meanwhile, my reader is able to focus on Constance’s primary challenge, to teach the “scandalous” waltz to the twin sisters of her former fiancé, the man who jilted her when she needed him most. That gives the reader the perfect opportunity to visit those amazing plantation homes, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and take a fun peek at the planter elite class of Virginia complete with its balls, fancy parties, and Regency fashions. They get to glimpse the culture of that day including music, dance, literature, and even science. They also get to experience the nearby mountains, frontiersman, and American Indians.

I call this my Scarlett O’Hara meets Jane Austen novel, and I’m glad I took the risk of setting my book in the beautiful South. Historical Virginia might have included a degree of villainy and oppression, but it was also a fascinating place full of beauty, excitement, and legendary figures, which I’m thrilled to explore in .

And I’m not the only author branching out to the American South. Mary Lu Tyndall has been using Southern settings for years. In her newest book, Veil of Pearls, she takes a direct look at the world of slavery. Tamera Alexander has set her most recent books, ALasting Impressions and To Whisper Her Name, on the plantations of Tennessee. And look for Magistrate’s Folly, a great short historical romance by Lisa Richardson set in Williamsburg that should be releasing early 2013. I’m excited about this shift in romance settings, and I know many other authors and readers are thrilled to visit the American South through fiction as well. I hope to continue exploring the rich history of Virginia for many years to come.
Dina Sleiman explores the world of 1817 Virginia in her novel Love in Three-Quarter Time.  Per Amazon's Author page, "Dina Sleiman writes from Virginia Beach. She enjoys hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel is Dance of the Dandelion " Her website can be found at

February 21, 2013

Joyous and Scary Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Does that blinking curser scare you? What about all that white background with no words? Super scared with a deadline looming? Take five. Get a cup of the beverage of your choice and feast your eyes on this joyous little fellow enjoying the surf.

Now write five minutes without stopping on that joyous feeling your latest character may experience. No editing or spell checking, just get words on paper. 

Okay, so if an ocean-frolicking baby pachyderm doesn’t bring a chuckle and inspiration, check out the scary momma elephant versus a gutsy crocodile. Now, with this scene firmly in your mind, write a heart pounding terrifying scene for one of your characters.

I suspect by now, you no longer will have a blinking curser on a blank page, but rather you will have several pages of very different scenes for your characters.  

February 20, 2013

What I Know About Blogging

By Jeuron Dove

To a casual observer, blogging may appear to be little more than the electronic journaling of one’s thoughts on a particular topic. However, to a writer, blogging provides an invaluable opportunity to simultaneously perfect your craft and cultivate an audience for your work.

The following are a few simple ways to help maximize your blog’s presence. Just like anything else worth having in life, the success of a blog is totally dependent upon the level of dedication put into it.

Keep your blog updated with fresh content on a regular basis - No one likes to read a blog with the same information on it week after week. Whether you post once a week or once a day, make sure to keep a consistent routine.

Participate in meaningful dialogue with your readers- There are few things more disrespectful than a blogger that does not interact with their audience. Responding to comments shows your readers you value their opinion and are not using your blog as a means to stroke your ego. After all, there are thousands of blogs they could have just as easily chosen to read. Pay back the gratitude.

Utilize a social media outlet to support your blog- A blog can only reach so many people. Therefore, it is important to complement it through the use of social media. Every major blog-publishing service offers free tools to connect with a wide range of social media options. For example, a blog’s Facebook or Twitter page could be updated regularly with announcements, photos and videos to keep readers interested.

Stay true to yourself- Write what matters to you. Never feel like you must write about something just because every other blogger is doing so. Blogging is a personal venture and anyone who reads your blog should be able to get an understanding of the passion you have for your subject matter. If you find yourself questioning whether you care for what you’re writing about then scrap the idea.

Never lose sight of your goal- The very nature of blogging offers the instant gratification of having your work published for the world to see. The desire to put out as much content as possible could take away from the precious time you should commit towards achieving your real writing objectives. Regardless of what you wish to gain from your blogging venture, always remember that it is just one part of the journey and not the destination.  Becoming an exceptional writer, first and foremost, is where you should keep your focus.

Though there is no guaranteed path to a successful blog, I can assure you these tips will lead you in the right direction.
Jeuron Dove would like to thank to these inspiring writers Michele Berger, Anora McGaha,C. Hope Clark and Susan Woodring. Jeuron Dove graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Journalism and enjoys writing on a multitude of topics. You can read his blog at

February 19, 2013

Are Writers Insecure?

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

The other day, a writer was telling me how insecure and shy she was. She said, “I could sit for days at my computer and be as happy as a frog on a log. (I didn’t know frogs were happy on a log.) Anyway, she continued to tell me that when she finished her book it was almost paralyzing for her to go on book signing tours. “Meeting people, having to talk to them about my book, well–it just makes me feel so inadequate.”

She went on to expound on the grueling times she has to stand in front of an audience to present her book, talk about her writing or just talk to an individual.

The dictionary defines insecurity as lack of confidence or assurance, self-doubt. It defines shy as bashful, easily frightened, timid, and reluctant.  

It is difficult for some authors to toot their own horns. The question is, is  it human nature for some people to feel what they do isn’t as good as someone else’s and others to feel theirs is as good as anyone’s, probably better?

For a writer it can be difficult to get out and mingle, promoting ones self as an author. The question to ask, I believe, is “Are writers timid”? If this is the problem then writers can overcome this by simply practicing talking in front of a mirror, then get with friends and interact with them. Make an effort to talk to someone when we’re standing in line at the grocery. Make the first move to introduce ourselves. Rethink how we see ourselves. Yes, it is possible to re-program how we think about ourselves. However, it will take some work every day.

Or is the question, “Do writers lack confidence in themselves”? If that is the question then the more we write, the more we are published, the more our confidence will grow. Then it is up to us to make sure we are seeing ourselves in a different light and allow our confidence to grow in what we do and who we are.

And just a bit of food for thought.  (I know, that statement is a cliché.) Most people would love to do what we do, “Write”.  Most people would love to be what we are, a “Writer”!

February 18, 2013

Research Is An Art-Part 2

By Paul Pavao 

Researching Well

Friday, I talked about research. Today, let's talk about researching well.

The steps to doing a good job of research are simple enough to understand. Actually producing good research can be very difficult, however, due to the effort and time involved.

1. Become generally familiar with the topic: Finding the sources you need—primary sources if you are writing as an expert; secondary sources if you are reporting on scholarly opinion—is as simple as getting familiar with your subject. Go to the library and leaf through some books on your topic. Use the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature to find magazines or journals on the subject. Search for articles on the internet. Join an online forum that covers your topic and discuss with and ask questions of those interested in your topic.

2. Find out who the experts are: If you are reading about your topic and discussing it with those who are already interested, it will not take you long to find out who the recognized experts are. It is their books and articles that you want. If you are writing a tertiary source, they are the secondary sources you want to report on. If you are writing a secondary source, their writings will provide you with references to and citations from the primary sources. They will also provide you with the most important opinions that you will need to consider before you publish your own conclusions.

3. Sorting through the sources: If there is anywhere that the "art" of research shines through, it is in putting stock in the best sources. Who is most reliable? Who is most likely to be biased or narrow? Who is least likely? Even primary sources are not all equal. Just as eyewitnesses are examined, then cross-examined, in a courtroom, your sources must be carefully looked over for reliability. Yes, you can find a thousand web sites promoting the latest "natural" remedy. You can also find two or three sites that reject every natural remedy as a hoax. But who cites sources? Which sites not only cite the studies, but also tell you how to find the original study results?

I write on both historical and scientific issues. I do not have a degree in history or in any scientific field. Nonetheless, history professors regularly commend my work, and professional scientists volunteer their help, pointing me to any information I might be missing. Why? Because I tell my audience exactly where I got my information and how they can find it as well.

Unbiased Research

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't be objective and unbiased.

Of course it is true that no one is completely unbiased. Nonetheless, there is a huge difference between objective research and biased research.

A friend of mine, a title lawyer, once illustrated this by comparing his profession to that of a trial lawyer. A title lawyer's job is to research the history of deeded property for a buyer in order to ensure that the seller of the property has legitimate "title" to the property. The only way that a title lawyer can properly serve her client is by finding out the truth.

A trial lawyer, on the other hand, is not interested in the truth, but in defending his client. He researches only the evidence that favors his client's innocence. He will do anything legally possible to prevent any contradictory facts from coming to light.

A skilled researcher will have a title lawyer's attitude. He will want the truth, not a particular result.

Paul Pavao is owner of the popular web site, Christian History for Everyman ( and the author of In the Beginning Was the Logos, an in-depth review of the Council of Nicea. He is married, a father of six, and, more recently, a survivor of a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. He is an active member of CCWriters group. 

February 15, 2013

Research Is An Art-Part One

By Paul Pavao

Research is an art, not a science. There are various approaches, but there are steps that are common to all good research.


First, it is important to understand sources. Research is the process of finding the best—meaning the most reliable, accurate, or trustworthy—sources for the information you want to present.

There are three types of sources: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

A primary source, speaking generally, is an eyewitness or equivalent. In history, for example, a primary source about Benjamin Franklin would be his own works or writing from his time that quotes him or talks about him.  In medicine or science, a primary source would be a study or an article from a peer-reviewed journal.1

A secondary source is a scholarly work—a book or article—by someone who has studied the primary sources.

A tertiary source is a report on what the secondary sources have agreed upon. School textbooks are tertiary sources. A tertiary source is not concerned about researching primary material and questioning scholarly opinion. It simply reports what the secondary sources have agreed upon or where they stand in disagreement. Wording you'll find in a tertiary source include things like "scholars say," "most scientists agree," or "this matter is still controversial."

Know Your Purpose

Your book or article is also a source, and before you begin researching you should know what source level your work is.

Are you writing a tertiary source, merely reporting on the research of others? If so, you need only research secondary sources. You don't have to critique the experts, examining the primary sources to make sure scholars have done their job well. You can simply read what they have written, and report on what they have said. Condensing books and articles written by scholars into one easy to understand work is an important service.

However, if you are writing a secondary source, you will need to go further. You will need to check the primary sources that the experts have used, and you will have to check them thoroughly enough to engage with them.


Don't let anyone tell you that the experts can't be wrong. If you have lived in this world long at all, then you know that "experts" disagree among themselves all the time. Worse, some experts are not really experts at all. Mike Warnke, for example, is the author of the 1975 Christian blockbuster, The Satan Seller. As a result of the book, he has been called on by police departments and appeared on television as an expert on Satanism. In 1992, however, Cornerstone Magazine exposed him as a fraud.

An expert is simply someone who has done a better job of marketing himself than you have.

If you research well, you can not only position yourself as an expert, you can actually be one; and a reliable one at that.

On Monday I will address researching well. I will talk about how to find good sources and about overcoming bias.

1 Many scholarly journals use a process of peer review prior to publishing an article, whereby other scholars in the author's field or specialty critically assess a draft of the article. Peer-reviewed journals (also called refereed journals) are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process. The review process helps ensure that the published articles reflect solid scholarship in their fields. (California Polytechnic State University, "Finding Peer-reviewed or Refereed Journals";; accessed Oct. 10, 2012)
Paul Pavao is owner of the popular web site, Christian History for Everyman ( and the author of In the Beginning Was the Logos, an in-depth review of the Council of Nicea. He is married, a father of six, and, more recently, a survivor of a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. He is an active member of CCWriters group. 

February 14, 2013

Google It

 By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Years ago a motivational speaker brought to light the value of Google when he said he encourages his wife and kids to look things up on Google. This was long before Jeff Jarvis, of BuzzMachine fame, wrote What Would Google Do?. As a matter of fact it was before I had ever heard the phrase, “Google it”. I was intrigued and began searching anything and everything I had a question about.

With smartphones, access to the internet is quick and easy. I have noticed people no longer question but verify with Google. It is not unusual to see people in the middle of a conversation turn to Google to verify statements made. Sometimes the statements are verified but sometimes the statement is challenged. Google can also tell you more than you may want to know but can be great research material.

After traveling to Italy and viewing Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, I became interested in the replicas I saw in Florence. The first tourist stop in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo with the bronze replica of David and the famous panoramic view of Florence and the Tuscan hills. The other stop we made with a replica was in the Palazzo della Signoria. It was the site of the original marble David which was moved to the Accademia.  I Google’d it and discovered the history of the replicas and also found several interesting things about the statue itself.

Michelangelo was the third artist to work on and finish the marble statue in the Accademia. It began when Donatello’s understudy Agostino first began work on the 17ft marble David. Agostino was followed by Rossellino whose contract was soon ended. Finally after the block of marble sat idle for some 20 years Michelangelo was commissioned to the finish the job.

Now that is a lot of info but it should be a lesson to us today. You can check or be checked at any time. Research you facts.
As for the statue, in my opinion the most accurate portrayal of David is not the marble one by Michelangelo, or the feminine bronze version by Donatello, nor the boyish bronze version by Verrocchio which Leonardo di Vinci modeled for. I believe the best is the marble portrayal of David by Bernini. But don’t take my word for it, Google it!

February 13, 2013

Subjectivity In Publishing

By Byron Suggs

When I was invited to write a piece for SuiteT, it was truly a Sweet Tarts moment—opportunity vs. challenge! So, let’s talk about subjectivity in publishing, shall we? For the benefit of this post, we’ll approach it from the viewpoint of a writer who’s spent a good deal of time honing his/her craft. If you're at that level, then you’ll probably be nodding your head as you read this. If not, read carefully.

When I finished my first book, Rockapocalypse, it wasn't very good. I queried tons of agencies and got either the silent treatment, or "I'm afraid your work is not suitable for our current needs". It took a while, but I got the message. So, I pulled my book and worked furiously to improve it. That meant swallowing a lot of crow to get over my self-importance. I was fortunate to have a small, traditional publisher show interest, and after several re-writes, a failed attempt to get their pub board approval, and much grief, I wrote the doggone thing all over again from scratch. I listened to their advice…threw caution to the wind…stayed outside the box.

And BINGO! They changed their mind.

During all of this, I took everything gained from that experience and started my second book, Cold Currents. It was a joy to find my voice, run with it like the wind, and apply everything I'd learned. Many beta readers and freelance editors loved it. When I started querying, most agencies turned it down, but a few slipped positive comments into their rejection letters. So, I changed tactics mid-stream because I knew I had a good book. I made it a numbers game. All-out assault. I landed twelve “full” manuscript requests from agents.

Why am I telling you this? Because this is where subjectivity really hits home. Even after all of that, three-quarters of them turned it down. Part of those did so because they didn't know any editors that were looking for this kind of book (aka extended subjectivity). The other part did so because it wasn’t their cup of tea, didn’t resonate with them. The lesson here, and one I think every writer should learn, is that even with a good book, subjectivity can still make for a rocky road. Fortunately, I ended up with three agents that saw a good book and offered representation. Bottom line: subjectivity.

I've seen too many writers get depressed over their inability to make their mark in this industry. Too many give up their biggest dream for a lesser one. All because they didn't grasp the concept of subjectivity in publishing. Remember, you're a writer. Your words are the most important thing to you. But publishing is a business. Their potential to sell your work, who they know, andespecially what they personally like, will determine whether you're successful at getting to the next level. Don’t give up! Work hard, believe in yourself, and learn the business! Understanding subjectivity should be a part of every writer’s toolkit.
Primarily a writer of southern fiction, Byron's first novel, Rockapocalypse: Disharmony of Justice, is a tale of youthful dreams, adult peril, and Divine intervention by a few deceased rock icons. His second novel, Cold Currents, a southern literary mystery/thriller, is in the hands of his agent. He is currently working on his third novel, Bone Whispers, (a follow-up to Cold Currents), and a collection of short stories for future publication. A child of the sixties, his first viewing of The Wizard of Oz shaped his outlook of the world and erased any boundaries that could have stunted his imagination. He believes that a good tale should take you on an exhilarating adventure and leave you a bit more enchanted after you turn the last page. Byron is represented by D4EO Literary.  Website:  Twitter  Facebook Linkedin

February 12, 2013

Enjoy the Silence

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director for Southern Writers Magazine

A public speaker whom I had the pleasure of seeing last weeka competent and well-spoken fellowbegan his presentation by declaring that he's probably going to talk too fast, and talk too much. He went on to explain that he cannot bear to hear any silence during his presentations.  The quiet when he's speaking makes him uneasy and he feels he must fill the gap with words.

We've talked before in Suite T about pacing as it relates to storytelling, and how important it is to provide readers with a roller coaster ride that takes them to great heights and then pauses momentarily, giving them a chance to catch their breath.  But it's easy to forget that the principle of ebb and flow is equally important when addressing an audience.

Standing at the podium, a roomful of silent people is indeed very unnatural, especially with all eyes on you.  Hoping as we are to regale the crowd, any silence feels like a vacuum. But if we flip that scenario and instead are seated in the audience, we can be quite appreciative of those pauses, which afford us the opportunity to absorb the information we're taking in.  (Especially if we're taking notes.) 

A good rule of thumb might be this: Any time you make a statement that you consider deep, important, or potentially confusing, make a point to take a long breath while it sinks in.  Join your audience in enjoying the silence.  As long as you don't look like you're fumbling for the next thing to say, the audience will comfortably follow along at your pace.

Authors who speak at conferences have expressed an appreciation for Dr George Lucas' column "Speak Easy", in each issue of Southern Writers Magazine.  In his current series, "What Makes a Good Presentation?", George reminds us that if we have a passion for what we're talking about and a genuine desire to share it with others, it will be hard to fail in front of an audience. 

I would add that a fervent urge to talk about your pet subject is an additional reason we may talk too fast, or too much.  Passion sometimes overthrows pacing.  (But that's a topic for you romance authors.)

Which reminds me, Happy Valentine's Week to one and all!  Even if you don't have a date for Thursday, remember that Southern Writers loves ya.

February 11, 2013

My Journey to Publication: A Lesson in Learning

By Ey Wade

My goal in life is to touch someone, who will touch someone, who will touch someone and make a difference in the world.

Many years ago I jumped into the serious writing frame of mind and the never ending thirst to be a world renowned published author, with a vengeance. I was pumped up and excited when I found this card (there’s a bigger story behind this picture) and it told me I would write the great American novel, a sure sign from God. I have kepted it wraped in plastic from that day on.

I took the dream of two ideas, one about a child being stalked and then mistakenly given to the stalker and the other about five female friends struggling through a relationship with the same person and with determination, I whipped and stretched them into manuscript formation. Low and behold, as I began my quest for an agent I realized I didn’t have far to look. I worked with a girl whose dad was an agent; another sign from God, or so I thought. Agent went rogue, directed me away from Balantine books who wanted The Perfect Solution and right into the hands of Publish America. In order to never fall into such a trap, I recommend following the advice from Writer’s Beware and Predators and Editors who expose scams, etc.

One thing I learned from this entire process was to never give up. So believing this, I decided to self-publish through Amazon and Smashwords. I became a fan and follower of  Joe Konrath. Taking extensive notes I have since published nine books. I write in at least five different genres. My first two babies were reborn and seven new ones came into existence. There are so many people and articles on the internet to direct a fledging Indie, mistakes can become minimal. Even the hints and procedures for marketing are a boon to the creative process.

With the passing of the last two years I have run the gamut on things I have learned. I’ve learned to muddle through html in order to design my blog, succeeded in mastering the eBook formation for most of the major bookstores and most important I have mastered the art of socialization through the Social Networks by following the tutorials from sites such as Indies Unlimited

So, through all of the trials and errors the main thing I have learned is as you walk the road to fulfilling your dream you may stumble and land in ditches, but there will always be a hand reaching down to help you and put you on solid ground. Never give up on your dreams.
Ey Wade is the parent of three adult daughters and Lovey to a one year old grandson. She considers herself to be a caged in frustrated author of thought provoking, mind bending eBooks, an occasional step-in parent, a fountain of knowledge, and ready to share. She is the author of Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History a celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of all races to America’s illustrious growth and history and eight novels

February 8, 2013

Why Do We Write What We Write and How We Write It, When We Do Write. Right?

By H.C.Beckerr

A recent blog post posed the challenge; Write a statement about the purpose of your book. I didn't take long to respond with; Doing what I was told couldn't be done. I like a challenge and I like science fiction. What I don't like are stories that have to use vulgar language and sex to sell them. Don't get me wrong, I do live on planet Earth and I do live in the real world. But, can we talk; am I the only one who thinks a story should stand on its own?

As a Christian, I was told that I wouldn't be able to write Science fiction. Really? So, I set out to write a story about a local mystery of a lost Indian civilization (the Mississippian culture) who built massive earthen mounds in the prairies of Illinois just east of St. Louis. I took a real life event from the past, and twisted the truth a bit to create Hill of Great Darkness. I have always loved to tell stories, in fact, in grade school I would write a short story and sell it for the three pennies it took to get an extra milk at lunch (I know, I'm dating myself there).

I like to write stories that I would want to read. Here's what I mean; See spaceship. See spaceship fly. Fly, spaceship, fly...Okay, so that's a little too simple. But truth be told, I have never enjoyed a story when I am so busy trying to figure out the meaning of the allegory behind the story that I can't simply enjoy the story itself. I just want a story that will draw me into the world (or worlds) that the author is painting for me. To like the good guys and hate what the bad guys are doing. I may need to escape reality, if for only a short time, and possibly think about things that I may not have ever thought about before. That is the power of the written it not? See spaceship. See spaceship fly. Fly, spaceship, fly…

As a writer, as a Christian writer, I have no desire to use the same tools of writing that the world says are good to use. Language and sex are a BIG issue to me. Representing my Savior is what my writing is about and His approval is of paramount importance to me. I know I am not writing to the masses. In fact, Christian Science Fiction (or Chri-fi as I affectionately call it) is a very small genre. I just want to write, and I am blessed to have been able to afford self-publication for this first venture.

So, write! Don't worry about what the critics say. Let your heart pour out upon the pages through the sword of the pen. Write! Let your words touch others lives. Dream big, and write even larger! God Bless!
H.C. Beckerr is the author of HILL OF GREAT DARKNESSand he resides in the St. Louis area. Over the past ten years he has served as an interim pastor at a small Baptist church, an associate pastor as well as a youth pastor throughout the St. Louis area, all the while working on his first novel. A love for the outdoors as well as a love for mystery and the unknown things of life was fostered in his early childhood by his many visits to an archeological site not far from his home known as Cahokia Mounds. This is where the idea for his Christian based Science Fiction novel was spawned, nurtured, and brought to life.Being a man of faith, family, as well as having a love for his country is at the epicenter of all that entails this simple mid-western man. He can be found on Facebook pages  H.C. Beckerr, and HILL OF GREAT DARKNESS as well as reached at

February 7, 2013

Nothing Is Beyond Your Reach

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Watching the Super Bowl is a must if you want to know what people are talking and writing about in the following days. This year was a treat because two Memphis area young men were playing for the Baltimore Ravens. I applaud the team's win and congratulate all the players, especially Michael Oher (74) and Morgan Cox (46).

Lewis told Michael Oher’s life story from his Memphis high school days to college in the book, The Blind Side. Sandra Bullock portrayed Michael's adoptive mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy in the movie of the same name. Sandra won an Oscar for her acting performance while the Tuohy's cheered her on. Michael Oher also co-authored a book, How I Beat the Odds. From one boy’s story came two best-selling books and an award-winning movie.

It is interesting to consider how a struggle from poverty and neglect changed when a connection was made with people who cared for a boy who had nothing. Now at age 26 that boy has grown into a young man who definitely, beat the odds because one family saw a need and acted on it. He now wears a Super Bowl ring along with his Raven brothers.

Sandra Bullock was at the Super Bowl XLVII along with the Tuohy family to cheer on Michael and The Ravens. To think all these connections and interconnections started with a book. Do you know a story that needs to be told?
Super Bowl ads are fun and everyone has their favorite. Two stood out as favorites for me. One was "The Brotherhood" a Budweiser ad with the iconic Clydesdale horses. A colt is born to the soundtrack by Fleetwood Mac. It shows in 60 seconds a bond between a man and the colt who grows to be a star Clydesdale but never forgets the man who took care of him as a colt. Keep in mind these ads are written by someone. Could you write an ad that expresses brotherhood?

Another favorite was the Toyota ad you may have missed if you didn't watch the trophy ceremony after the game. Toyota turned a real life event into an uplifting ad for their product. In Los Angeles, September 2012, the retired 145-ton Space Shuttle, Endeavour needed to be towed to the California Science Center for display. The Manchester Boulevard Bridge couldn't stand up to the weight of both the shuttle and the traditional tow vehicle. This resulted in a problem for the logistics team and an opportunity for Toyota, a 20-year sponsor of the center. A stock Toyota Tundra with a special tow dolly was used to complete the job. As a writer when your work is rejected find another way to tell the story and think of this ad. 

What events could spark you to write a book? As the Toyota ad says, "let's pitch our dreams, wake them up and make them real. Nothing is beyond our reach."