May 31, 2013

Things I’ve Learned About Writing from NaNoWriMo

By Susan M. Baganz

I got my start in writing after doing my first NaNoWriMo in 2009. If you are not familiar with this, you write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  That’s 1,667 words a day. It costs nothing and there’s a fun community of around 20,000 insane individuals from around the world who are doing the same thing.  Glorious insanity.

I wrote 110,000 words in 17 days that first year and fell in love with writing. 

I have participated for four years. Last year (2011) was the first year where I did not finish the novel. I still won but my story wasn’t done. I had lost steam. Yet – when I read it now, even in its rough draft form, it is probably my favorite.

I have written two novels, a novella, flash fiction and short stories as well as non-fiction, outside of NaNoWriMo as well. I have proven to myself that I do not need a deadline to get something done.

I have learned some things in the process of writing along the way.

1.I’m a “panster.” I write by the seat of my pants. I might do a little research but I do not outline my novel. I know the first scene, possibly some tidbits of what might happen and where I want them to be at the end. I may even do character interviews for my two main protagonists. Beyond that, I wing it.

2.When you start, NaNo or not,  hit it hard. No matter how many words you have in after seven days and no matter how much you love your story, it gets harder after that.

3.Having a day off is not the end of the world.

4.I am both an awful writer and far better author than I give myself credit for. When I have people critique my work, it stings. But when I read something months later I’m sometimes shocked by a turn of phrase and have to sit back in wonder that I wrote this! The fact is no one writes a perfect first draft. My critics make me better. The art and magic happen in the rewrites.

5.Never stop learning. Deep point of view. Using the senses. Strong verbs. Avoiding those pesky adjectives. Finding those pet words that crop up. I had one manuscript where I found the word “then” 63 times. I deleted them all.

6.Hang on and enjoy the ride. I love the wild adventure that my characters take me on as I throw things at them to overcome.

7.Find other writers to connect with.

8.Write short stories. Flash fiction (1,000 words or less) or short (under 
3,000) and practice tightening up your style.

9.Write. Write. Write. Don’t ever stop.
Susan M. Baganz is an author of historical Regency as well as contemporary romances, all in various stages of revision. She has recently been published in the anthology “I Choose You” by OakTara Press. She has a non-fiction book contracted and due out in 2014 (under another name). Her children roll their eyes when she’s in the zone but her son told her with her recent book release: “Mom, that’s epic!” Who needs more? Pintrest: silygoos Twitter : @susanbaganz
Web site:  
Google+ : Susan M. Bganz  LkedIn: Susan M. Baganz

May 30, 2013

Paying it Forward

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

May is the month of Mother's Day, various educational levels of Graduations, and Memorial Day. It is fitting to say thank you on all these occasions.  Words and actions to mothers, students, teachers and veterans are always appreciated but especially on their special designated days.

Thank you is such a simple word but has wonderful residual effects for both the giver and receiver. I truly think the giver receives the most benefit. Today, people refer to a gesture of thanks as "paying it forward". A concept that is not original to the 21st century but very worthwhile for us embrace.

Acts of kindness have been the subject and themes of countless books. Southern Writers Magazine's blog, Suite T, strives to "pay it forward", five days a week. SWM's Suite T blog provides an opportunity for authors to learn from other authors, as does the magazine.

As May comes to an end, take a stroll through the blog archives. There may be a post you overlooked that can help you through a current writing challenge. The authors who guest post want to mentor other authors. Sharing their experiences may help you tackle a writing issue.

As Communications Director, I thank all our writers and contributors to SWM's Suite T and the magazine!

Did you know May 30th; is the 150th day of the year? There are 215 days remaining until the end of 2013. You have plenty of time left in the year to share your writing experiences. Isn't it time you send in a guest post to SWM's Suite T blog and "pay it forward?"

Paying it forward helps the giver remember how they got to be a writer and it defines where you are going as a writer. Generous sharing of your talent experiences will definitely payback to the giver. There may be a writer who could benefit from some advice that helped you. 

Pay It Forward, y'all!

May 29, 2013

Writing Your Memoir, If It Feels Right

By Kathleen Pooler

"The marvelous richness of the human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse." 
--- Helen Keller

It's a well-known conclusion in memoir writing circles that writing a memoir is a daunting task fraught with many challenges, not the least being: excavating painful memories, standing in your truth, dealing with family members who might not agree with your perception of significant events.

All that on top of a market that says you have to be a celebrity to sell your story. After all, who would be interested in your ordinary life? Everyone has drama in their lives. What makes your story compelling enough to interest readers?

Why would anybody in their right mind even want to delve into writing a memoir?
Writing is healing. I have a story to tell that may help others. I want to share my life lessons. I can't help myself; the story is begging to be told. There must be a hundred other reasons.

Otherwise, why in the world would I spend my time trying to relive the pain of my past, navigate around family and involved parties for fear of libeling, slandering or offending them with my truth and living up to the expectation to tell my life story so that it reads like a novel?

Why? Because writing feels right.

I have no other explanation.

So, it stands to reason that there are times when I reach the peaks and valleys in my writing life.

The valleys where I feel discouraged, compare myself less favorably to others, wonder if I can really pull off completing a manuscript for publication, feel so spent from fulfilling my author platform requirements through social media channels that there is little focus or energy for my real work, the writing.

But then, there are the peaks of revising a chapter that resonates with my critique group, breaks open new avenues of exploration and discovery, nurtures creativity and validates that I am indeed on the right path. Or the moments of capturing a flow of words in a journal that will later be woven into and enrich my story.

Here's what I've learned in the process:

Sometimes, my greatest breakthroughs come right after my lowest points. My highest peaks are just around the corner from my deepest valleys IF I keep plowing through.
So I will leave you with four tips I have learned on my memoir writer's journey:

1.   Memoir writing is not for sissies. Expect peaks and valleys in your writing.

2.  Persist through the pain and visualize the peak right around the corner from the valley.

3.   No matter what, keep writing a priority -past your inner critic, past the distractions of social media with a caveat that it is also okay to take a break from it all from time to time.

4.  Rejection is part of the process. Figure out a way to get over it and get on with the work at hand. 

Do what it takes to take care of yourself so you can take care of your writing.

How about you? How do you last in the long haul when you have passion for your work?
Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: and can be found on Twitter @kathypooler and on LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads and Facebook: Kathleen PoolerOne of her stories “ The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe.

May 28, 2013

To Say or Not Say

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

C. S. Lewis said, “The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that.”

I know some beginning writers when they started to write chose big, long words. You could barely get through the first paragraph. Whatever they meant to write was not what they wrote. Eventually, by attending writing groups, reading and honing their craft they came to understand they had to be sure they knew the words they wanted to write, what those words meant and if they were conveying what they wanted to say to the reader.

C. S. Lewis also said, “If you mean, “More people died” don’t say, “Mortality rose.”

That speaks volumes. Many times, we as writers sit down and throw words into what we are writing and these words confuse instead of explain.

I have concluded that we as writers have a responsibility when writing to bring to paper the words that will move another human being. To help them see into other worlds. To help them feel the emotions of gladness, sorrow, anger and fear. To help them laugh aloud or just have fits of giggling. To shed a few tears or sob uncontrollably. Be fearful and cower or stand tall and be brave and courageous.

We as writers must evoke these emotions from our readers. When we have accomplished this, then we will have succeeded in knowing what we wanted to say and saying it the way our readers can see and understand it. We will have accomplished our responsibility as a writer. And we will have given a beautiful gift just by our words.

May 27, 2013

Attention Deficient Disorder Writer? That’s Me

By James L. Rubart

Are you a plotter or an SOTP (Seat of the Pants) writer?

Me? I think I’ve taken the pants, ripped them to shreds and tossed them in the air like confetti with no idea where the pieces will land.

Why? Here’s how I write my novels:

1. Come up with a premise that intrigues me. (For example for my most recent novel, Soul’s Gate, I asked, “What if you could send your spirit into other people’s souls to fight for their healing and freedom?)

2. Start writing. Anything that pops into my mind is fine.

3. Shift direction like a cheetah chasing a gazelle. If a new idea appears in the middle of writing a description or smattering of dialogue, drop said scene and start writing the new scene.

4. Repeat step three over and over again.

Do you see the problem? I never finish a scene or a snatch of dialogue or a description because I can’t focus on it long enough to get ‘er finished.

I end up with bits and pieces of unfinished prose strewn all over my Word document with no chronological order, no coherent thread, and no idea where the novel is headed.
When I write I see a moving playing in my head and I simply write down what I see. The problem is my movies cut from one unfinished scene to the next without warning.

How I Bring Order to My Chaotic Method

When I reached 60,000 words in my third novel, The Chair, I hit a wall. Why? I realized I had no idea what the story was about. I had my premise (What if you were given a chair made by Christ that had supernatural healing powers?) but I didn’t know what the heart of the story was. And my random bits and pieces of scenes were all out of order.

So I stopped. I grabbed a handful of 3 x 5 note cards, wrote a headline describing each scene (or start of a scene) and pasted them to the wall of my writing room. It was a puzzle I had to put in the right order. I arranged and rearranged the cards till they started making sense. I tore up cards, rewrote them, and added additional cards as more scenes came to mind.

Finally, I moved all the scenes around in my laptop until they matched the cards on my wall. (I have serious doubts I’d be published if I lived in the age of typewriters.) It worked for ROOMS, BOOK of Days, SOUL’S GATE, and MEMORY’S DOOR (summer ’13) and I’m guessing it will work for more novels to come.

What you Already Know But It’s Worth Repeating

Part of me wishes I could start from the beginning of a story and write straight through.

But that’s not me. It’s not the way I’m wired and it would stifle my creativity. I’ve given myself permission to have ADD when I write.

And I’d encourage you to give yourself permission to write how you write. Whatever method that is, it’s okay. Plotters can be passionate about the pros of outlining. Seaters often believe writing off the cuff will bring surprises you can’t get any other way. Both are right and neither are right.

Allow yourself to be you.

And if you don’t mind, could you hand me another stack of 3 x 5 cards?
James L. Rubart is the best-selling, award-winning author of four novels. Publishers Weekly says this about his latest release, SOUL’S GATE: “ Readers with high blood pressure or heart conditions be warned: this is a seriously heart-thumping and satisfying read that goes to the edge, jumps off, and “builds wings on the way down.” During the day, he runs Barefoot Marketing, which helps authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike, hike, and golf, takes photos, and still thinks he is young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

May 24, 2013

Why Writer's Conferences Have Value

By Kellie Larsen Murphy

Writers like to meet other writers, hang out, and trade advice. In today's world, a great deal of this meeting and mingling is done through blogs, facebook, and twitter. And as wonderful as the virtual writing community is (and it is!), there is another, equally wonderful way to meet writing friends - through the writer's conference.

But What Makes Conferences Special?

Although conferences cost money and blogs don't, I believe there is still something unique about seeing and hearing someone in the business share their experiences that can't be matched by tweets or blogs. Certainly, there is nothing more interesting than attending a panel where a published author talks about his or her writing process followed by a lengthy question and answer session. I have been personally inspired by some of these sessions. Conferences offer the opportunity to learn.

Conferences today are more inclusive, diverse, and interactive than ever. Some offer critique sessions on first pages of novels or give advice on how to make your query letter better. Other panels discuss how and when to use social media, how to find an agent, and even how to self-publish.

Conferences also offer writers the opportunity to trade stories and advice with other writers (in the flesh). I was having trouble describing "who I wrote like" (something agents tend to ask) until a new writer friend I met at a conference was able to do it for me.  A romance writer may find a local critique group. Screenwriters mingle with magazine freelancers. Mystery writers sit next to non-fiction writers. It's fun! While the virtual writing community is limitless, writing conferences are up close and personal.

Manage Your Expectations

In recent years, one of the biggest draws for aspiring writers is the one-on-one "elevator pitch" with an agent. For many writers, just the chance to meet an agent and pitch their book is often worth the price of admission. However, contrary to popular belief, that agent meeting doesn't guarantee a full or even partial manuscript request. I have witnessed disappointment in writers when the agent felt the project wasn't ready or the manuscript wasn't complete. Still, I do believe your chances of getting them to take a look are significantly higher than average.

Even if the agent ultimately rejects your manuscript, they have met you and spoken with you. That alone will usually get you the kind of constructive criticism you would never have received from a query letter alone. In my case, I was fortunate to have the agent request the full manuscript. And while she did later reject the manuscript, she included some great advice about my writing. I can truly credit her with having an impact on my writing today and the subsequent book I published in September of 2012. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Make 2013 Your Conference Year

Add to your writing knowledge base and try a conference in 2013. You may learn more about writing and publishing than you expected and become a member of the writing community in your own hometown or state. Best of all, you may just be a better writer and isn't that what it's all about?
Kellie Larsen Murphy is a freelance writer who has worked in both the banking and publishing industries. In recent years, she has written on a variety of subjects and been featured frequently in several mid-Atlantic magazines. Her debut novel, A Guilty Mind (September 2012), is the first in a series featuring Detective Michael Cancini. The second in the series, Stay of Execution, will be available in 2013. Kellie lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She would be happy to hear from readers through her website,

May 23, 2013


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Celebrate today, May 23rd, with me and say a "Happy Birthday" to a truly gifted author of;
“I like dogs
Big dogs
Little dogs
Fat dogs
Doggy dogs
Old dogs
Puppy dogs
I like dogs
A dog that is barking over the hill
A dog that is dreaming very still
A dog that is running wherever he will...I like dogs.” 
― Margaret Wise Brown, "The Friendly Book"

As a dog lover I love this prose. The story goes that Margaret had to teach illustrators to draw the way a child see things. She gave two puppies to an illustrator. He painted several pictures one day and then fell asleep. He discovered the pictures he painted were blank. This is the part of the story I can identify with, the "model" puppies had licked all the paint off the artist's paper. Back to the drawing board.

Millions of children worldwide still have their childhoods shaped by her musical-like qualities of lyrical overtly simplistic prose. Born in 1910, she died tragically young in 1952 from an embolism, following a surgery. Her debut book, "When the Wind Blew" was published in 1937. Thankfully, she left hundreds of unpublished manuscripts at the time of her death. She wrote all the time and dreamed many of her classic stories. Upon awaking, she would write them down in the morning before she forgot them.

She said of writing, “One can but hope to make a child laugh or feel clear and happy-headed as he follows the simple rhythm to its logical end. It can jog him with the unexpected and comfort him with the familiar, lift him for a few minutes from his own problems of shoelaces that won’t tie, and busy parents and mysterious clock time, into the world of a bug or a bear or a bee or a boy living in the timeless world of a story.” 

Margaret Wise Brown was an insightful author ahead of her time. So many of her books have a gentle pattern of rhythm to them or repeat a word pattern. Her writing brilliance, places a hard word into the story because she intended for children to think harder and expand their critical thinking while they read. Her genius coupled with delightful and unique illustrations shine through on every wonderful page.

Did you know that she crafted a beautiful birthday book? "The Golden Birthday Book" is a delightful combination of Margaret Wise Brown’s writing and Leonard Weisgard’s illustrations. These are pages from my copy of the book with some of her magical words.Take a page from her happy little book and celebrate by being your "own true rabbit". You too, can write a story to influence children and adults for centuries to come. 

Happy 103rd Birthday, Margaret Wise Brown! You continue to make a difference, even in the lives of children and adults in the twenty-first century.

May 22, 2013

Gift Your Reader, Not Yourself

By Linda Acaster

We all write for ourselves, aiming to get in the zone, to experience the rush, to burn in the white heat of creativity when our fingers can’t fly fast enough over the keys. Yet what exactly is it that ends up on paper? Often it is merely a faded rendition of the movie we saw running in our heads.

English has an alphabet of 26 letters. Forget what your school teacher impressed upon you about spelling and grammar; for a writer of fiction those 26 letters are symbols to encrypt emotional content, the emotional content that engulfs us in the white heat of creativity. Readers don’t want to read, they want to experience.

Pacing, atmosphere, tone, description… these and others go into the mix, but each is little more than an inert statement. It is character that makes them live – or not. I’m hot on showing what I mean so let’s conjure a character: the sassy smart-mouth with the unruly hair.

Got her? I didn’t say it was a ‘her’ yet that’s what the majority of readers will have jumped to, probably fully-kitted out in coloring and clothes, and doubtless with an urban backdrop. A stereotype. A cliché. That’s what stereotypes and clichés are, fast pieces of code so that everyone is reading from the same page with the least effort. Is that what you want to gift your reader, least effort? Here’s news: if readers want to slob out with least effort they’ll hit Netflix, not invest a couple of days engaging with your novel.

Let’s try another character. How about an artist? Oh, you’re suspicious now, are you? You want to know whatsort of an artist? Okay, a painter, for ease a male watercolorist. Walk him to your local store and let him buy a few groceries.

How did he do? How did you do? If you’ve ever painted, no matter the medium, you’ll know that a tree is not green, that clouds are not grey, that tarmac isn’t black. If your character didn’t see subtle tones in the light and shade of objects enroute, if he didn’t see mass and contour in the vegetables on offer at the store, he won’t live and breathe as an artist on the page. Musicians hear street noises in terms of pitch and modulation; plumbers hear a gurgle in a pipe and know if the system isn’t working correctly; police officers see a lone bystander and assess that person’s life in the blink of an eye. More than anything that officer sees the lone bystander, while for me and you the person is amalgamated with the background.

Characters don’t just filter our stories to readers. They are the bridge between the white heat of our creativity and the language that encodes emotional content on the page. Think them through; build their foundations deep. Then step into their skins and write so as to allow readers to experience your fiction the way you intend.
Linda Acaster talks more about building characters in ‘Reading A Writer’s Mind: Exploring Short Fiction – First Thought to Finished Story’. Despite being a Brit, her bestselling novel is the Native American historical ‘Beneath The Shining Mountains’ – she used to be a re-enactor so understands the need for deep research. Currently she’s writing the second in a trilogy of paranormal thrillers with Celtic undertones, starting with ‘Torc ofMoonlight’. She loves travelling in New Mexico where she often goes under the guise of Western writer Tyler Brentmore. Catch up with her at 

May 21, 2013

So What?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

You may remember Art Linkletter's famous quote, "Kids say the darndest things".  Even when I was a kid (saying the darndest things), I recognized that it doesn't stop with kids.  I've always been fascinated with the oddities of conversation and how we all say some pretty strange things.

The first time I heard the phrase "good to go" was at a business meeting in 2000, and it caught my ear for its uniqueness and alliteration. I had no idea it would soon become one of the most overused catch phrases of our time.  Having said that, I say it a lot.

In more recent years, "It is what it is" has elbowed its way into modern language.  I was introduced to it by a friend who was suddenly using it several times in every conversation.  I assumed he got it from one of his two great loves, sports or American Idol.  Either way, what an absurd phrase.  How can it not be what it is?  I mean, come on.  I'm validated to observe that "It is what it is" is one of the most hated sayings of our century, and is on its way out.

But much more recently, I'm noticing the unusual propensity of some people to start an answer with the word "so".  For example:

"Why did you become a writer?"
"So when I got out of school I..."

Huh? When did "so" become a synonym of "because"?

Watch any episode of Shark Tank and you'll see numerous instances of this.  For a while I assumed they skipped something in editing, but it's become obvious that's not the case.  I've been hearing it elsewhere too, like on cable news channels.  Have you?

"So" at the beginning of an answer seems to be replacing the ever-popular "well".  Which, if you think about it, is just as odd of a word to start an answer with.  The dictionary doesn't even explain "well" in that context, but we all use it as a bridge of sorts, an interjection to lead us from the question to the answer, giving us an extra moment to form the words that follow:

"Why are you late?"
"Well, I..."

Actually, I have a theory.  In recent years psychologists have asserted that "well" at the beginning of an answer could mean the person is not telling the truth.  (Perhaps it's become an unofficial qualifier, like "actually" or "honestly".)  Because of that, companies may have instructed their salespeople to avoid saying "well", and other circles have followed suit.  Just a theory.

Still, I question the choice of "so" as its replacement, which is like starting an answer with "therefore".  It's especially unforgivable among journalists, who purport to use the English language more fluently than the average bear.  Instead, they're only perpetuating the madness.

Kindly pardon the rant, but it's starting to get on my nerves and I hope this bizarre trend will fade into oblivion soon.  Until then, it is what it is.

May 20, 2013

A Dash of Dis and a Dash of Dat

By Kittie Howard

South Louisiana is a gumbo of ethnicities, languages, dialects, colonial histories, and varied landscapes. I didn’t know dat, me, growin’ up dere, no.

Ah, Cajun English, the sound of home: a pot of gumbo on the stove; sweet corn dripping down the chin; collard greens with—shhh, our secret—a dash of sugar. Mo chagren. I’m sorry. What am I saying? The sound of home is in my mind, a recording only I hear.

When I roughed out my latest novella, Rings of Trust, I dove into the keyboard with the sound of home. Pleased with my Cajun English dialogue, I printed a copy for my husband. Minutes later, he frowned. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

My New Hampshire husband hesitated. “Maybe you should tone down this Cajun dialect.”

We exchanged blank looks: New Hampshire’s boiled potatoes and South Louisiana deep-fried shoestring potatoes; New Hampshire’s clam chowder and South Louisiana’s gumbo. As if I were a character in one of my books, I perused my lips. “Okay,” I said.

I returned to the keyboard and sat there, staring at the screen and tapping my finger on the desk. My husband spoke conversational French, but with a Canadian English foundation his mother’s first language. Tap. Tap. This dialogue is so normal. Tap. Tap. What’s wrong with him? He’s been to South Louisiana countless times without a problem talking sports. Tap. Tap. He wasn’t paying atten—whoa!

I’d forgotten about body language and eye contact, the other aspects of hearing. Of course hub didn’t get it. He wasn’t born into Cajun English, a dialect that had evolved from Cajun French out of economic necessity in the 1800s. When one’s sitting in an un-air conditioned mom and pop diner in August, one understands Da day’s hot, hot. It’s easy to pick up that the lack of the plosive /th/ sound in Cajun French has turned the into da. Just as easy, the brain hears hot. But to read hot, hot in a dialogue? Neither listener nor reader knows the first hot means very. When Cajuns end sentences with no or yeah, there’s no rule, only a sensing.

I then did what I should have done in the first place: I devised a list of Cajun accented words (dôn for don’t) and fractured English (Id dôn matta, no.) to season the straight English. Once I had a consistency, the fingers flew. My husband turned page after printed page. “What’s Broussard going to do next? he’d ask.

I’d smile and return to the keyboard. However, I’d learned an important lesson about assuming. The author and the reader have to hear each other. In a way, we’re like cicadas calling each other. If one doesn’t hear, the evening is too quiet.

Much of the dialogue in Southern literature reflects the South’s drawl. But it differs. We hear who’s from Mississippi or Northern Louisiana. We know who’s who. How do you handle this drawl in your dialogue?
Kittie Howard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. She has worked for the U. S. Department of Defense. The United States Marine Corps presented her with a citation for her contributions to its Family Readiness Program. She has served as an advisor to local Red Cross, Navy Relief Boards, the national Armed Services YMCA Board and has coordinated various projects for local chapters of the USO. Kittie Howard’s Christmas novella with Remy chararacter in Remy Broussard's ChristmasSouthern Writers Magazine showcased her Louisiana heritage on its blog in July 2012. In association with a Louisiana historical society, her grandmother’s family will be one of three families featured in a book about South Central Louisiana’s pioneers. Kittie and her husband, Dick Vercauteren, presently divide their time between Northern Virginia and Louisiana.

May 17, 2013

The Gift of Writing Comes From Inside

By Peter B Forster

‘Oh I have always been a writer. All my life I have snatched words out of the air. Even as I woke in the morning my first thought would be to catch their bright burning flame, wield a pen like a branding iron and scorch them deep into a sheet of velum. The pain of the world writ large in raw hide…’ How many times have you heard that kind of pretentious twaddle from a writer?

When I was asked to provide an original piece of work for the magazine and one that might provide some useful insights about the process of writing to the readership I was stumped. Words usually pour out. They jump and bubble. I let them go and watch as they dance around the page like a row of chorus girls. I have never experienced the dreaded yips. Or the cold hollow whistle of an empty head. But that is because I think the gift of writing is within us all. It is not a unique talent; there is no magical formula. All you need to do is write down your thoughts. We all have them and it is as easy as that.

Of course that is pretentious twaddle as well because if it was easy then anybody could do it and if it was true we would all be bashing out books all day long.
‘Oh I’ve always thought I would write a book one day…’

How many times have we heard that? Of course every single person on this planet has a story. And everybody thinks they can write it down.
But they don’t, do they and why not?

It is easy to say creative writing takes discipline and hard work, but that goes without saying. If we all have the gift then anybody can sit down with a lap top. With the press of a button the flood gates are opened and the words just spill out. It is as easy as ABC. But if that is true what makes the difference between words that dribble out with the graceless hum of a splattered cowpat and those that slip off the tongue with a lyrical roll and move with a rhythm that captures the imagination?  I think it is personality. If a writer can harness their own unique personality and transfer it on to the page then the words come to life. They have a personality, power and majesty all of their own.

Well maybe, possibly, perhaps.
Peter is a consulting Counseling Psychologist in a busy East London community health setting. He has published in academic works and provided chapters in books for counselors’’ psychologists and psychotherapists he nurtures a love of and talent for creative writing. He attends writer’s workshops, written and performed poetry as well as provided lyrics for jobbing musicians. Currently he is fulfilling his ambition to write full length fiction novel. Peter’s academic work can be found in Tribe and Morrissey (eds) Handbook of Professional and Ethical Practice for Psychologists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Brunner-Routledge (2005) web:   twitter: @peterbforster

May 16, 2013

Tearing Into History

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Have you ever watched a building being torn down? Last week a 2300 year old Mayan temple in the Nohmul complex in Belize was leveled by a construction crew. Reportedly, it was destroyed to provide gravel for a nearby road under construction.What?

According to the Belize Institute of Archaeology, a small portion of the center of the pyramid mound was left standing. Although situated on private property, historical sites are protected by the government of Belize, and criminal charges may be filed.

Ironically, the day I heard of the destruction of the Mayan pyramid I was able to observe the destruction of a non-historical icon a former Mrs.Winners Chicken & Biscuit building. Not that this compares to the loss of a historical landmark, but it does compare to the edit process of a book 

In order to destroy a building, you need a big crane and an experienced crane driver. In editing a book, you need written pages and an editor. The crane driver/editor manipulates deep into the pages of the book and extracts what is not necessary. The unnecessary words are scooped up into a pile and deposited into your computer's trash bin. 
During the process of building-destruction, a construction crew member waters down the pile of trash so that it doesn't combust and cause a fire. For your book that could be a trusted reader(s) or critique group. Editing is a personal process even though it's part of the business. While some of your written words are going to trash, it's important to get positive reinforcement. 

When the dump truck is filled to capacity, it leaves the site. After editing is completed, one of the hardest things for me to do is hit the delete button on the trash bin. Once done, you are free from the edit process and ready to start your next project.

What does editing have to do with history? Your book or story contains history no matter the subject or genre. It represents the author's personal history. Life was happening around you while you wrote your book. I think that is why we sometimes have trouble in the edit process. If you are like me, the words I've written remind me of life events that happened, while my book and story developed. When those words are deleted, it's as if part of my history has been deleted. Sometimes it's hard to tear into history but it has to be done. You may be left with a small portion of the original but the heart of your book will allow your voice to shine through.

May 15, 2013

Do you have the next Bestseller?

By Ashley Fontainne 

Is the next bestseller floating around in your head? Better yet, have you already unleashed the tidal wave of powerful words and are now unsure what to do next? Does the fear of rejection letters make you cringe, causing you to withhold your manuscript from the world? Is your mind cowering from the thought of the dreaded negative review? Do you break out in cold sweat when you dare to dream about releasing your novel for the eyes of the world to read?

Fear no more.

The world of publishing has forever been altered through the introduction of the electronic book. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and numerous other ebook reading devices offer an opportunity to unleash your creative prose. If your computer or graphic design skills are limited, like mine are, then there are a plethora of companies/individuals available to take your words and create a masterpiece. From editing, interior formatting, cover design and marketing, the options are abundant. Personally, I recommend the design team at Blue Harvest Creative. (Simply take a look at the astounding covers they designed for me and you will understand why).

Support is available through various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn. These are all free services and loaded with other helpful Indie authors. The close-knit Indie community works as one cohesive entity, helping to support each other in a variety of ways, for when one of us succeeds, we all do.

Think it can’t happen to you? Well, it can. After a few rookie mistakes in early 2011, I found my voice and by December of 2011, my first novel became an International bestseller. In the last twelve months, I have seen the second novel in my series achieve the same status. Then somehow, during all the online promotions and interviews, I was offered my own radio show at ArtistFirst Radio. Not only have my dreams become a reality, but they have been surpassed in ways I never fathomed, even in the wild ones!

So, let the pent-up story hiding inside you flow from your fingers onto the keyboard. Once the words are free from the confines of your heart and soul, follow the dream and let them fly.

And enjoy the journey.
Ashley Fontainne's, Accountable to None, the first book in the trilogy, Eviscerating theSnake. The second in the series, Zero Balance focuses on the cost and reciprocal cycle that obtaining revenge has on the seeker. Born and raised in California, Ashley now calls Arkansas home with her husband and four children. She also enjoys writing poetry and short stories and recently published Ramblings of a Mad Southern Woman: ACollection of Short Stories and Poetry on Life, Love, Loss and Longing. Ashley is also a supporter of the Joyful Heart Foundation that assists victims of violent crime seek help and find healing, and donates 10% of all book sales yearly to the cause.Her website is,  
Tweet her @AshleyFonta

May 14, 2013

Be on the Lookout, Photo is a Silhouette!

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

Interesting thing happened the other day. I was searching for an author, and was having a little difficulty in finding them. When I did find the author, their iconthe one most authors use to show their photo—only showed a silhouette. (I notice that a lot on one of the Social Media sites.)

It got me to thinking about branding. An author’s branding is one of the most important things they can do for promotion, marketing and selling their books, not to mention having a presence so agents, editors and publishers can find them.

I can understand why someone would be reluctant to put his or her picture on the Internet. But it is imperative that an author have a picture to build their branding. If an author isn’t going to use a photo, then what can they use?

Why not use a picture of your book? While it is not as good as a personal photo, at least it adds to the branding and certainly beats that silhouette icon.

Another option would be to have a logo designed for you, perhaps using your initials. That would also work. The important thing is to replace the icon of a silhouette with a picture of something that helps brand you as an author.

It’s the little things we do that bring us the biggest gains.

Can you think of other things that can be used to brand an author?

May 13, 2013

Why I love Cross-Genre

By Gillian Hamer

Recently my second indie-published novel Closure, released. This is my second novel that combines modern day crime thrillers with paranormal and historical elements.

I’ve been told that cross-genre is frowned on in the publishing world, as people like to pigeon-hole books and authors. I have to say that hasn’t been my experience, and my stubborn-as-a-mule, desperate-to-prove-I’m-right side wants to prove that I’m not alone.
I have no objection to writing straight crime as I love reading crime. I was raised on a diet of Enid Blyton, into Agatha Christie, onto PD James and all the greats. But some part of me adores adding the little extras that no one expects to get in a novel dealing with violent crimes and murder. I adore researching into factual history of the surroundings where I base my novels. And I love creating fictional characters to work within some of that historical element, and if I can run a parallel thread with the modern day story, so that the characters effortless interweave right up to the denouement … then to me I’ve got all the makings of a good book.

Besides, even when I listen to publishers tell me that crime readers read crime, horror readers read horror, historical readers … you get the drift … I’m inwardly shaking my head hard enough for it to fly across the room.

So far the majority of reviews of The Charter have been amazing, better than I could ever have hoped. Eleven five star reviews on Amazon, with nearly everyone getting exactly what I was trying to achieve. Even after KDP Free promotions, while ready for a deluge of negative comments, I’ve been delighted with the feedback, and I am increasingly certain that publishers have got it wrong. Not everyone wants to know exactly what they’re reading. Some people like the surprise element, they like experiencing that tilt of perspective, when what they thought they knew slips away from them.

So, this month I start the ball rolling again, with my Closure - this time the paranormal element concerns spirit guides and the hotly-debated topic of reincarnation.

Again, it won’t please everyone, but if one person who reads the book and studies the research I spent almost a year compiling, changes any preconceptions, I’ll consider it a job well done. If one reader tells me that they were captivated by this little boy’s story I shall be blown away. And if I manage to create characters – both real and spiritual – who impact with readers as much as I achieved in my first novel … well, you just know it’s going to whet my appetite for my next cross-genre adventure.
Born in the industrial Midlands, Gillian's heart has always yearned for the wilds of North Wales and the pull of the ocean.A Company Director for twenty years, she has written obsessively for over a decade, predominantly in the crime genre. She has completed six full length novels and numerous short stories. After completing a creative writing course, she decided to take her writing to the next level and sought representation. She is a columnist for Words with Jam literary magazine, a regular theatre goer and avid reader across genres. WEBSITE :
TWITTER : @gillyhamer

May 10, 2013


By Bernard Schaffer

Writers write.

Writers read.

Writers find inspiration in the work of others and

remain vigilant not to ape anyone else.

Writers seek out criticism from those that

deserve to give it

and they listen.

(Most of the time.)

Writers work alone

without seeking approval from others

and finish with something

before showing it to anyone

because a writer is like a lonesome captain

on a sailboat steering through uncharted waters

expecting to arrive at a lost city of ancient riches.

But nobody wants to hear what you intend to find

expect to find

or say you'll find.

They just want to see it.

When I write, I think about those that came before me

who sat in a chair plinking away at the keys

or loading fresh paper into the typewriter

or putting quill to fresh ink

and I go at every single one of them

like their ghosts were sitting across from me

saying, "Come on, kid, you can hit harder than that."

Not because I don't love them

and not because I don't admire them

and not because I don't appreciate them

but because when I am writing they are my competition

and if you aren't trying to outdo everyone else

then you're just taking up space. 

People often ask me for advice

and I suppose that's the purpose of this column

that I was so graciously asked to contribute to. 

Well, here it is.

Write hard. 

Read hard.

Find an editor who will critique you hard.

And when you find some level of success, repeat those same steps

but on an even greater scale. 

Now go get to it. 
Bernard Schaffer is the author of February 2012 Kindle Top 100 Book Superbia, international best-seller Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes, and the Guns of Seneca 6 series. As a teenager, he starred in Nickelodeon's "Don't Just Sit There," musical productions, television commercials, and a skit on Saturday Night Live. He later left acting to pursue a career in law enforcement. Since 1997, Schaffer has worked as a patrolman, detective, and narcotics officer in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 2012, he released Superbia, a book about a dysfunctional police department that reached the Kindle Top 100. As a result of the Superbia series, he was stripped of his detective rank. Schaffer is the founder of the Kindle All-Stars. The project's first release Resistance Front featured Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. All profits from that book are being donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Official Website  
Amazon Author’s Page for a full list of publications