June 28, 2013

Setting Priorities Better

By J. L. Greger

Authors - at least those who don’t have a really good agent, which probably accounts for 99% of us– really have at least two roles. Besides being writers, we must be publicists. It also helps to be a good speaker, a master of a variety of computer technologies, and a decent business executive.

Oak Tree Press published my first novel ComingFlu, a medical thriller, in July 2012. As I reviewed my activities during the last six months, I realized that I didn’t deserve even a B, for many of my writing associated activities. I could argue that I was a beginner and learned a lot during this time period. Realistically, this greater proficiency will not be sufficient to make 2013 a great publishing year for me. I need to do a better job of setting priorities. If you’re honest with yourself, you might draw similar conclusion.

A rule for setting priorities-
After searching the web for organizational ideas, I decided that I already had a golden rule for setting priorities. In my novel Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight featuring Linda Almquist, the heroine, is given this advice.

“There are three types of problems. A few problems are like wine; those situations improve if you delay decisions and let them age. Most problems are like waste paper. You can ignore them because they don’t matter. Unfortunately like waste paper, they tend to be messy when they pile up. And some problems are like manure. You must identify them quickly before they stink.”

Applying the rule-
I admit that I dislike setting up speaking engagements, but enjoy fussing over my slides and handouts for talks. This probably reflects the fact that I was a professor in the biological sciences for many years. I’m comfortable lecturing and never had to request a chance to speak. In 2013, I’ve resolved to spend less time on details that no one notices for my presentations and more time on trying to schedule engagements.

With further thought, I realized that I was not listening to the advice given Linda. I was solving a “waste paper” problem. I was not attacking my “manure” problem - I was reaching only a small local audience with my publicity. That means for me doing more guest blogs, increasing the outreach of my own blog ( and website (, and, in general, being more active in promoting my books.

When you analyze your situation, you’ll draw different conclusions. Many of you will like me tend to attack the “waste paper” problems before the important “manure” problems. That’s a mistake.

Which problems are like wine?

We all waste time dreaming about how we’ll spend our next royalty check.

 J.L. Greger writes medical suspense and mystery novels with tidbits about recent scientific advances and glimpses of life within the scientific/medical community. My novels are examples of a new genre of books: science in fiction or lab lit. But don't worry if you're not much interested in science, you'll find the action exciting and the characters just quirky enough to be appealing. As a former professor of biological sciences and university administrator. Now she enjoys putting tidbits of science into her novels, which she hopes encourage more women and minorities to major in science. She is the author of Coming Flu, the first in a series of three novels based on Sara Almquist, an epidemiology professor who took early retirement to get away from bad memories, and her sister Linda Almquist, a physician in the Albuquerque area. Although no one in "Coming Flu" is real, except for my Japanese Chin Bug, I use my past experiences as a professor with a research lab and grad students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a co-author of "Nutrition for Living" (a textbook for non-science majors), and a university administrator to "color" my novels with reality and grit.Her latest book is Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight

June 27, 2013

Would You keep Writing If You Won Half A Billion Dollars?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

Confession time...I only buy a lottery ticket if the amount of winnings is truly obscene. Yes, I know the odds of winning are not in my favor, but it is fun to have a ticket, and before the announcement of the winning numbers, I can play-out all the "what if" scenarios in my head. 

The latest winner of the largest single winner lottery jackpot in history has come forward. Zephyrhills, Florida,  a small town with a population of 13,300, was all a buzz with who might be a new millionaire. News paparazzi  camped out trying to scope out townsfolk  who didn't show up for work and may be the winners. 

Gloria C. MacKenzie, 84, purchased the only winning ticket at a supermarket. She was the sole winner of the $590 million Powerball jackpot. She is the biggest, single lottery winner of all time. 

Her story is most interesting, a widow with four grown children. Prior to this turn of events, she lived in a small, tin-roof house overlooking a cow pasture. Originally from Maine, she retired to Florida about ten years ago with her husband, Ralph, who passed away in 2005.

Her winning ticket is thanks to a friendly lottery ticket purchaser with Southern manners, who allowed MacKenzie to get in front of her and buy the winning ticket. Mindy Crandell, 34, allowed the winner MacKenzie in front of her. She advised she is happy for MacKenzie and not resentful that she came so close to winning the jackpot herself. In an interview she stated, “I’m not upset. If it was meant to be, it would’ve happened for us. Maybe there’s something for us down the road.”

The winner made careful plans before coming forward to claim her winnings and was accompanied by two attorneys when she claimed her prize. Smart woman!

Mary Higgins Clark writes a mystery series about a former cleaning lady, Alvirah, who wins the lottery. She is married to the devoted Willy. As a lottery winner, she solves mystery adventures that are only possible because she has the money to travel to the various destinations and locales. Alvirah, makes her first appearance in "Weep No More, My Lady".  Followed by "The Body in the Closet", "Death on the Cape", "The Lottery Winner" and " Bye, Baby Bunting."

Does this give you any ideas to develop into a story for your next book?

My real question to y'all is, if you purchased a winning lottery ticket of this magnitude would you still write? If your answer is yes, definitely then you are a true writer. So keep up the hard work of getting your words on paper. You have the heart and soul of a writer when winning a lottery would not change the fact that you would continue to write.

June 26, 2013

How To Write A Novel

By Ty Hutchinson

Southern Writers Magazine - First Draft
Get story down on paper. Fix later.

Southern Writers Magazine - Second Draft
It’s important to get the story down on paper, and then you can polish it.

Southern Writers Magazine - Third Draft
I always tell beginners that a first draft is about putting their story down on paper. Ignore the typos, the grammar mishaps, and the chapter that makes no sense and the stilted dialogue. All of this will be addressed later.

The story is brought to life in the second and third drafts, sometimes the fifth draft.  This is where you look over everything you’ve written and determine if you could write it better. This is where you tweak scenes so they work better or delete them if they’re not needed. It’s hard to determine this when writing a first draft but most beginner authors do just that. Stop it. It’s probably why you’re struggling to write that first novel.

Southern Writers Magazine - Fourth Draft
The goal of a first draft is to create content, not an edited, polished piece of literature. It’s about putting your story down on paper, nothing more. Do not edit as you write. Do not fix typos or grammar mishaps. Ignore all of it and keep writing until the entire story has poured itself out of your head.

This is the most important step a beginner struggling to write their first book can take. Why? Because they believe perfection starts at that point and therefore can’t get past chapter one. It doesn’t. It’s much easier to take something that has already been written and improve upon it. It’s very hard to invent and edit at the same time, yet so many beginners try. They have not realized what seasoned writers have come to know. The first draft always sucks.

Rewriting is where story magic happens. It’s where dialogue comes to life and where an opening line in a paragraph sets the tone. Only at this stage will you notice a perfectly good sentence that you can rewrite so it shines. It’s only in the second and third draft you will be able to tighten or lengthen as needed or realize chapter three should be your opening chapter. 

Working this way will be hard for some writers. For others, it’ll be a godsend. Either way, if you’ve struggled to write that first book, try this approach. Let your imagination write the first draft and then go edit crazy.
Ty Hutchinson is from Hawaii.He is the author of the best selling Darby Stansfield novels; Chop Suey, Loco Moco, and Stroganov. Corktown is, the first novel in his new series featuring FBI Agent, Abby Kane. The second in the Abby Kane series is Tenderloin. He spent twenty-two years in advertising writing stuff that irritates you. He stopped that. For the next six months, he’ll be living in Bangkok and writing the third novel in the Abby Kane series. Website:  Twitter: @latersbra
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June 25, 2013

Two Tips to Market Your Book

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

Let’s face it, if you are an author you eventually will have to market your books.

So where do you start? Here are two tips to get you started on this fun journey. You are probably saying, “Yeah, right!” But it’s true. It is a fun journey because you get to meet many nice people who are going to become fans of your books.

First - you need to define who your market is. It would be great if the ‘whole’ world was your market, but it isn’t.  Therefore, it is important to figure out just who is your market. Who are the people that are going to want to buy your book?

In sales terms, this is defining your target market. They are your customer – your reader. It is also important that they have a need for your book. Oh, and you will want them to be able to afford your book and make the decision to buy your book. Every salesperson had to learn this lesson when they took their first job in a sales career. It has been around a long time.

Next, make a list. Describe this person. Put down the characteristics that make a person a good prospect for wanting to buy your book.

An example would be:
Your book- a planned program on how to lose 50 pounds in one year; laid out for easy follow.  The title indicates book is to help you have a healthy life style.

Let’s build a profile of the buyer for this book.
·         Overweight
·         Wanting to get their bodies  back in shape
·         Want to fit in smaller sized clothes (which means shopping-Yea!)
·         Want to make sure they have a healthy plan to follow
·         Look Better
·         Feel Better
·         Be able to do activities with family and/or friends

We could add many more reasons to that list in defining our reader, but these will give you an idea of how to make your list based on your book. 

One of the tips given sales people is, don’t use a shotgun approach, use a rifle approach. A shotgun splatters. You aim a rifle. You have a better chance of hitting your target.

Second - you need to know where to find your target market.
People who have things in common tend to spend time with each other, shop at the same shops. Read similar books, magazines, websites, and read the same blogs.

This brings us to making another list based on our sample in the beginning.
·         Websites
·         Blogs
·         Book stores
·         Gyms
·         Clinics/doctor's offices
·         Retail stores
·         Magazines
·         Libraries
·         Bulletin boards
·         Newspapers

Offer useful information in magazines and newspapers, and guest post on blogs of that subject. You will gain credibility, which is helpful in selling your book.

With some places, you would need to ask permission to put bookmarkers. You may have to offer some of them a free autographed copy of your book. Explain what the book is about…this is the limit of the elevator pitch…nothing more, unless asked.

I will add, depending on your topic in the book, there are companies that will give you thirty minutes to donate your time and talk to their employees. They just need to know it’s good for their company and employees.  Be sure and tell them you would like to bring a few books in the event someone wanted to buy an autographed copy.  Also, gift them with an autographed copy for letting you speak.

Don’t forget, your local organizations and associations are always looking for speakers. This is another opportunity to build credibility, experience and exposure for you as an author and for the sale of your book. Happy sales!

June 24, 2013

Your Writing Attitude Is Showing

By MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA

Have you ever wondered why some writers can face rejection with a smile while others cannot? Have you ever noticed that some writers deal with criticism graciously while others get all bent out of shape? Have you ever been amazed that some writers share their expertise freely while others are reluctant to help aspiring writers?

In each of these three instances, one common denominator stands out. Have you figured it out yet? It’s attitude. A writer’s attitude determines his responses toward other writers and toward editors, agents, and publishers.

Attitude is the way one looks at himself and at his world. For the writer, attitude is the way she looks at herself as a writer and the way she looks at her writing world.

Contrary to popular opinion, attitude is not determined by what happens to us. Attitude is determined by our response to what happens to us.

When you get a rejection letter, do you mope or do you hope? Moping will get you nowhere; hoping will get you sending that query or article out one more time. That one more time may be the acceptance time.

When your critique group points out something that needs addressing in your story, do you take it to heart or do you tear them apart? That critique may be what gets your story published.

When a newbie writer asks you for help or advice, do you pour it forth or do you horde it? That newbie may be on the verge of quitting and needs a little boost to go on.

Your attitude is usually quite obvious to those around you. When your attitude is upbeat, you make life easier for everyone, including yourself. But when your attitude is negative, you make life miserable for everyone, including yourself.

The wonderful news about attitude is that we can control it. We can decide the attitude we will take in every situation.

If you would like, please share how your attitude helped you or hurt you in your writing career. What advice would you give us for keeping a good attitude as we face the challenges of the writing life?

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio writes compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. A widely published, award-winning author, she teaches fiction writing online for Regent University. Dr. MaryAnn, is also a writing coach. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Dominic. They are the blessed parents of two grown daughters, a wonderful son-in-law and a new granddaughter. In her spare time, MaryAnn loves to paint, walk, and play the piano. Her books include, A Christmas Homecoming, Magnolia Memories, and The ABCs of Top Notch Writing.  WEBSITE: 

June 21, 2013

Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone

By Hugh Ashton

I've been out of my own country for long enough that it seems like a foreign land by now. When I go back to visit family, everything has changed. For example, when I left the UK, cellphones, mobile phones, or whatever you want to call them, were almost completely unknown. The word "text" was a noun, not a verb. There is no way that I can write an authentic piece set in contemporary British society.

So, if I am to write fiction, where do I set it? The obvious answer is "Japan", but in some ways this poses the opposite problem. I have written and published two books set in Japan, but because I am so familiar with the country, it is possible that I will take for granted some aspects of the culture and the society with which my readers are unfamiliar. There is also the point that Japan has a limited appeal, except to a certain readership. Fiction set in Japan tends to be either "martial arts thrillers" or "sensitive stories about multicultural relationships", in my
experience (perhaps a little of an exaggeration, but not too much).

So where do I go if I want to write fiction, given that I can't write about the society from which I came, and there's really no market for the society in which I currently live? I can either move into the future (science fiction) or I can move into the past. I've chosen to do the latter, as history is somewhat of a hobby of mine, and I enjoy exploring the past. Currently I am exploring a very particular past–a fictional past. What I have chosen is to look at the London of the late 19th
century, ­ specifically the parts of London, which center around 221B Baker Street,­ the home of Sherlock Holmes.

I'm expanding the original "canon" of stories about the famous detective. By the time this appears, I will have four volumes of short stories and novellas in the series, with a total of 14 pieces, in addition to a full-length novel. The first 11 of the shorter pieces have been bound
together into a compendium, which we (Inknbeans, my publisher, based in California) decided to bind as a hardback presentation volume.

It is as easy for me to research the late 19th century from Japan as it would be if I actually lived in London, where the action of the stories takes place. Arthur Conan Doyle, after all, was remarkably lax in his fact-finding. I am writing for a generation of Sherlockians who are much more critical of factual mistakes than were the original readers of the adventures. I can quite happily spend a large part of the morning discovering the train route between Euston station and Whitechapel in
1897. If I get it wrong, the odds are that someone will correct me. In many ways, this fact-finding is the most difficult part of writing Sherlock Holmes stories.

I've been reading these stories since I was a teenager (or possibly even before) and the character of Sherlock Holmes, and that of Watson, are familiar to me to the extent where I can slip into Watson's skin, watching Sherlock Holmes perform his miracles, and report them in what critics have described as the authentic voice of the canonical stories. For some reason, maybe because I am out of touch with contemporary English, I find it very easy to write in a 19th-century style. Of course, the original stories were also written in a deliberately archaic style, if you compare
them with contemporary thrillers and detective stories.

So it seems that cutting myself off from today's society in Britain has done me little harm, as it has forced me to concentrate on a genre which I would otherwise never have touched, and which has proved surprisingly successful.
Hugh Ashton was born in the UK in 1956. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he worked in a variety of jobs. A long-standing interest in Japan led him to emigrate to that country in 1988, where he has remained ever since. Some of the knowledge he has gained in these fields forms the background for At the Sharpe End, his second novel. He has recently published five volumes of Sherlock Holmes mysteries with Inknbeans Press of Los Angeles: Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, More from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, Secrets from the Deed Box of JohnH Watson MD, The Darlington Substitution, and Notes from the Dispatch-Box ofJohn H. Watson MD in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His books include,Tales ofOld Japanese, Beneath Gray Skies, At the Sharpe End, and Red Wheels Turning Hugh currently lives with his wife Yoshiko in the old town of Kamakura to the south of Tokyo, where he is working on future novels and stories. Web sites: http://221BeanBakerStreet.info Blog: Twitter: @hughashton
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June 20, 2013

Connecting with Disaster

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“My kids still trapped at school just outside Moore until I can get over to pick them up. Huge tornado…crazy. I’m stuck by shopping mall in Del City because hail is so bad.” The text was from a friend that lives in Moore, Oklahoma. I was hundreds of miles away but I immediately felt his fear as though I was in the car with him.. 

Earlier we had heard of the tragedy in Moore. The massive destruction, the schools hit and the lives lost. It all seemed far away, far removed. The text message brought it close to home. You think of the situation he is in and place yourself there. What if those were my kids? What if I was trying to get to my kids and could not, not knowing how they were? What state of mind would I be in? All questions that come to mind at a time like this. They bring the fear yet thankfulness that but by the grace of God that would be you.

Disasters keep coming. We have the wildfires out west, hurricanes on the southern and eastern coast, and tornados in the heartland. Then there are the school shootings and bombings. They seem to come one after the other. We see the agony of the families touched by this and their stories of recovery. There are so many aspects of the human struggle and heroism presented to us with these occurrences. There is no end to the opportunity to write about this. But what is your connection?

Finding you connection may be as easy as finding the next disaster. You simply need to ask yourself, “What if?” What if that had been my house, family, friends or community. How would I feel? What would I do? What would my community do? How did they react? Would I have reacted that way? The questions are endless but they will lead you to the angle to use when you write.

When writing about one of these unfortunate situations, consider those that were involved. My friend went on in his text to ask for prayers for his family and others in his community that had lost so much. Many prayers went up and many were answered. Write! As you do consider a prayer for those struggling to overcome the tragedy they have suffered. And say a prayer of thankfulness for those, like ourselves, that were spared.         


June 19, 2013

Doin’ the Twist

By Pamela Crane

Don’t you just love it when you’re thirty pages into a book and can already predict the ending? I don’t. While predictable endings may work for a happily ever after romance, to me a captivating suspense novel should do just that—“suspend” us until the very end! I don’t want to know the end until I get there.

A twist ending is what I’m talking about here—where the story takes an unexpected turn, throwing even the keenest of readers off track. There are several “types” of twists a story can take, but the two main ones are a twist of events and a trustworthy character gone bad (or a redeemed villain for those who love a good tearjerker). 

So how does a writer execute such unpredictability while maintaining logic and realism in a story? In my thriller The Halo Effect, I default to the character twist by using human nature to my advantage, although subsequent plot twists snowball from this.

Human nature is full of unpredictability. We all have secrets and dark sides. Don’t believe me? Death Row is full of examples. At a recent trip to the doctor’s office, I met the sweetest church-going elderly lady who had been convicted of killing her husband. How’s that for a character twist? As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

The first step in creating a twist ending is deciding who the villain will be, and who your “red herring” is, the distraction from the true villain. Once you’ve decided on that, you’ll need to build a believable yet subtle motivation for each character to be the villain. Throw in hints—“hints” could be something like a glimpse into each character’s troubled past—about the character’s flawed state without being obvious. Meanwhile, you can maximize your red herring’s potential evil motivations to further lead readers astray, such as revealing their greed, jealousy, revenge… But avoid “telling” your readers too much. Let them see the character motivations through their actions and heartbreak. Add in a little sympathy. The more emotionally connected the reader is to each character, the more you’ll throw them off your scent. This emotional connection is the key.

The more your readers trust your characters, the less likely your reader will detect the villain. Isn’t that true with real life? You never suspect the old lady next-door who waves hello everyday and passes out cookies to your kids to be a murderer. You trusted her, after all. Once you establish that reader trust, you’re on your way to a thrilling twist ending when you turn it all upside down, and your readers will thank you for rocking their world.  
Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the psychological thriller The Halo Effect and wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one. She’s a member of the ACFW and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a mom and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of some good story material.Visit her at or follow her on Facebook at

June 18, 2013

The Truth About Flying Saucers

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

This ad, taken from a 1950's magazine, caught my eye this week. Actually, not the one about flying saucers, although that's a curiosity in itself. A mere $2 sounds like a bargain to actually learn the truth about UFOs. But apparently no one ever sent their $2 in, because we still don't know.

Below that, however, is an ad which a lot of folks did respond to. Don't strain your eyes; here's what it says:

Writing short stories, articles on business, current events, hobbies, human interest stories, travel, sports, local, church and club activities, etc., will enable you to earn extra money. In your own home, on your own time, the New York Copy Desk Method teaches you how to write the way newspaper men learn by writing. Our unique "Writing Aptitude Test" tells whether you possess the fundamental qualities essential to successful writing. You'll enjoy this test. Write for it, without cost or obligation.
If you were the Newspaper Institute of America, and your job was to assess the aptitude of would-be writers, what would you look for?  Grammatical errors, poor punctuation, and the general inability to craft a decent sentence might certainly eliminate some candidates (unless, of course, you're trying to sell them your correspondence course in writing).  Beyond the obvious, however, how would you determine that someone has the potential to be a great writer?

We might do well do read our own writing through the eyes of an objective assessor, looking for the very traits that say, "This writer has what it takes."

One organization who knows a great author when they see one is The Georgia Writers Association, which recognizes outstanding writing in their annual awards ceremony.  This past weekend, the Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel went to Kimberly Brock for The River Witch. We're prouder than ever that Kimberly graced the July 2012 issue of Southern Writers, and can also be heard on the current Southern Writers Radio Show, via this link. Congratulations, Kimberly!

Reviewing the list of past GAYA winners, we find additional familiar names, including Joshilyn Jackson, Pamela Bauer Mueller, and Ann Hite, who appears in our upcoming July issue. We like to think we know how to pick 'em too.

All of these fine authors recognized at some point that they had an aptitude for writing.  More importantly, they took that potential and saw it through to the finish line, and beyond.  Whatever stage we happen to be at in our writing career, there's the next highest level waiting to be achieved, whether it's the next chapter, or the next awards ceremony.

As 21st century writers, we have more opportunity for success than any generation of writers before us.  When we recognize our potential, the sky's the limit.  The truth is, we may not believe in flying saucers, but we can always believe in ourselves.

June 17, 2013

The New SEO: Optimization

By Elaine Marie Cooper

Forgive me for borrowing the popular acronym “SEO,” which usually means search engine optimization. As a writer, I am constantly trying to improve my craft. What better way to do so than through optimization, or making my words as effective as possible? I can accomplish this by good self-editing: Self-Editing Optimization.

Just thinking about editing makes the creative right side of my brain scream to be let loose, free to use words, punctuation, and grammar in novel ways. But let’s face it: Well formed sentences, accurately punctuated and without excessive words, make for a more pleasant time for our readers.

Think about the times you’ve received an e-mail filled with misspellings, run-on sentences, or poorly phrased sentiments. Did you cringe and want to whip out a red pen?

So in deference to our readers, as well as to those editors who bravely face the assault of misused semicolons and pronouns, let’s all hone our self-editing skills. Where does a serious writer begin?

First, invest a few dollars in a terrific writing guide that has been tutoring authors and others for years: The Elements of Style. There are several versions out there, some written by both William Strunk and E.B. White, which is the original, first copyrighted in 1935. Mine is an updated 2011 version written by William Strunk and William Strunk, Jr. If you have a Kindle, you can download the book for a few dollars and find a wealth of practical information about grammar, punctuation, and word usage. I find the formal writing style of Elements both humorous and informative. It is a quick read—mine is only 58 pages—and well worth your time.

My husband happens to be an editor. He has shared words of wisdom with me that I will share with you:

Read your text over immediately after you write it. If you write like I do, you will surely find multiple errors. Do that first edit. Take a break and put your missive aside. Read it again later—you will likely find even more errors this time. Read it out loud and you will find still more, perhaps minor, flaws that can be improved upon.

Spelling is a frequent problem that is usually helped with spellcheck. However, it is not foolproof and can lead you astray if you rely upon it religiously. Since I write historical novels, I often have to look up the correct spelling for certain words that my laptop has not a clue how to spell.

Every writer tends to make certain mistakes repeatedly. Learn where your weaknesses are. Is it using the same word over and over? Not varying the length of your sentences? Using excessive words rather than being concise? We all have bad habits that would likely infuriate William Strunk!

But don’t be too hard on yourself. Even Mr.Strunk used to be a fledgling writer. I am quite certain he may have misused a semi-colon or two along the way.

If you’re looking for an excellent source of informative tips for writing well, Cecil Murphey has a wonderful blog at He generously shares his “lessons learned from a lifetime of writing.”

Self-editing stretches me, but forces me to become a better wordsmith. And that is my goal as a writer, though it may take me a lifetime to learn all the lessons.
Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of The Road to Deer Run (Finalist in Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Religious Fiction, Honorable Mention in Romance at 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival), The Promise of Deer Run (Romance Winner for 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival, Finalist in Religious Fiction for ForeWord Review Book of the Year), and The Legacy of Deer Run (released in 2012). Cooper is also a contributing writer for Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson. She is a wife, mom, Grammie to triplets, and a registered nurse. Website: the second Wednesday of every month

June 14, 2013

The Challenge Of Crafting Heroines

By Becky Wade

The heroine. 

She's the one your female readers will become inside the pages of your novel, the one they'll sympathize with, cheer for, and cry with.  She's also the one that will cause your readers to throw your book against the wall in frustration and disgust if she's not well crafted.  Which begs the question.   How does an author craft a heroine well? Or, maybe more instructively, what are the...
Characterization Pitfalls to Avoid With Heroines
1.      Saintliness If only the answer to crafting a good heroine was goodness!  But it's not.  Perfection is distancing because it's not relatable.  Readers can't identify with heroines who always think, act, and speak in idealized ways.  Your heroine needs areas of weakness, fears, and insecurities.

2.       Selfishness.  Saintliness will put a reader off of a heroine, but so will selfishness.  For a heroine to grab a reader's heart, she must be sacrificial instead of self-focused.  Just as your heroine needs flaws, she also requires sterling characteristics like bravery and intelligence.

3.      Masculinity If you're a male writer, you may need to work double hard to ensure your heroine doesn't read as blunt, straightforward, and unemotional.  Women are complex and intricate -- just ask any man who's married to one.  No matter how tough your heroine might be, she should also be feminine right to her core.

4.      Foolishness I once heard someone sum up good characterization and good plotting this way; "Your heroine should make every decision your reader would make in the same situation, and STILL get into worse trouble."  Too often, I read the opposite.  Authors are quick to force their heroines to do something ridiculously foolhardy for the sake of their plot.  For example, they'll send their heroine dashing off alone down a dark alley at midnight to rescue a friend.   They'll force their heroine to set off into a blizzard to deliver a message.  Don't do it!  I know these sorts of situations set up opportunities for drama and give the hero a chance to ride to the rescue.  They also give your reader a chance to drop kick your book, and then tell all her friends not to bother buying it.  Honor your heroine by working harder as an author.  Make her smart!  Have her call 911 instead of dash down the alley.  Have her tie a rope to the front porch before she sets off into the blizzard.

5.      Clumsiness.  We want our readers to laugh with our heroines, not at them, so avoid humor at your heroine's expense.  Beware of showing your heroine tripping and falling, choking on a chicken bone, swinging a broom and accidentally hitting another character in the face.  No reader wants to become a woman who chokes on a chicken bone.  Should your heroine have a sense of humor?  Yes!  Should you use physical comedy when depicting your heroine?  Ever so sparingly.

Wishing you all the very best as you strive to create winning leading ladies!

What do you find particularly challenging about the writing of heroines?  Particularly joyful?
As a child, Becky Wade frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins.  These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending.  She's been a fan of all things romantic ever since. Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas. In the  years abroad, Becky's passion for reading turned into a passion for writing.  She published three historical romances, put her career on hold for several years to care for her kids, and eventually returned to writing sheerly for the love of it.  Her first contemporary Christian romance, My Stubborn Heart.She authored Undeniably Yours,   Becky can be found failing but trying to keep up with her housework, sweating at the gym, carting her kids around town, playing tennis, hunched over her computer, eating chocolate, or collapsed on the sofa watching TV with her husband. Her WebSite: Facebook:

June 13, 2013

Image Branding-Your Email Identity

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine  

Okay, maybe your not a famous best-selling author...yet. As writers, it's critical to establish early on the "image branding" for your work. Writing is a business, and you must approach it as such, in order to be taken seriously.

Today, I'm focusing on something super simple and totally within your control. Your author email identity. Often this is the first impression an editor, agent or publishing house has of you and your work. Therefore, it needs to present itself as professional. It should convey and establish your serious intentions toward your craft.

Editors, agents and publishing houses receive thousands of emails weekly. As writers, we want to be found by those who can help us move to the next level. We all know the business of writing is a  process.

We need to do our part. How will an editor be able to identify your wonderful book with an email in their inbox from "OldLadyInHighHeels@notserious.get"?

Don't make anyone interested in furthering your career scroll through thousands of emails. They will become frustrated if they open up all the cutesy named emails, only to not be you. The cutesy emails are great for your personal friends, but you are a professional writer and need a professional email under your author name. Trust me, editors will move on to a professionally-presented author if they can't identify you in their inbox.

Likewise, you do not want to use your current hero/heroine as your email identity. Why limit your potential? Do you really think you will only write about these characters? Keep in mind your future projects.

Regarding pen names, I believe if you use a pen name your email identity should be the pen name for the same reasons mentioned. Your goal is to be found not lost in the crowd of emails.

The writing business is constantly evolving which makes it critical to not get lost in the masses. It takes less than five minutes to set up a gmail account. Try to use the exact name that shows as your author name. If someone else has your email name, consider adding a number after your name.

Think long-term...big picture success. Congratulate yourself on completing Step One in Image Branding!

June 12, 2013

Who Me? Write a Book? At My Age?

By James C. Paavola, PhD

I was closing in on sixty-three when I underwent my first surgery. Until then, my personal hospital trips had been limited to the emergency room. Negotiating metal detectors would be changed forever. Titanium, it turns out, sets them off. Within eighteen months I was back under the knife, this time to repair a torn Achilles. Being retired, I did my best to cope, to heal, and to adjust to my new normal. Sitting on my right cheek, left leg elevated, I piddled around at the computer. An email chirped in. One of my younger brothers had sent a draft of his first novel, asking for my opinion. I ignored the old admonitions: Never ask a relative to evaluate something you’ve written, and its corollary, if asked, never do it. The good news is we’re still speaking to each other. But the point of this story is that I began thinking: If my brother could write a book…

Not unlike many people with a history of learning disabilities, I carry my share of emotional baggage related to my academic experiences—English courses, and red ink in particular. To this day, I read slowly. I don’t spell. I don’t understand commas. I don’t comprehend the finer points of grammar, nor why they even exist. I don’t fit the profile of an author. How could I ever think about writing a book?

I considered the positive side of the ledger. After all, I did make it through graduate school. And I’ve been told I’m a good teacher and an effective supervisor—activities I enjoyed. Maybe writing a book would be a way to continue to educate. Okay, thumbtack that thought. I’m partial to murder mysteries, but I needed an issue that turned me on. Something I could relate to. Something that could be a motive for murder. I didn’t have to look far. The economy was collapsing all around us. Yes. That would do nicely.

There was one more consideration. A friend facilitates memoir-writing for senior citizens. She tells me her top priority is to create an environment within which the seniors feel psychologically safe. Safe to remember. Safe to write. Safe to share. Safe to rewrite. What would make it emotionally safe for me to begin to write? I decided I would approach this challenge as if no one would ever see my book. No one could criticize it. No one could make those decades-old negative tapes play in my head. This would give me the safety net I needed as I placed my foot on this literary high wire. And it was within this context that I began my first book. There were ups and downs, but overall I really had fun creating, writing. Four years later, I have yet another artificial joint, but I also have a three-book “Murder in Memphis” series in print.

Feel safe, get inspired, have fun, and find a good editor. Happy writing.
James “Jim” Paavola has been a psychologist for over forty years. His areas of focus have been children, adolescents, families and the educational system. Prior to his retirement from the Memphis City Schools, Jim worked closely with law enforcement on developing procedures involving the investigation of child sexual abuse, youth substance abuse, youth violence, and youth gangs, as well as handling calls involving mentally ill citizens. He taught graduate courses in psychology and social work, as well as undergraduate courses in psychology and education. Jim began writing novels at age sixty-four, when he began his Murder In Memphis series. As of this writing there are three books in the series: The Chartreuse Envelope, They Gotta Sleep Sometime, and Which OneDies Today? This latest book was released in November 2012. His website is

June 11, 2013

A Well of Books

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

Sometimes writers forget their very upbringing, their everyday life as a child has an influence on their writing. The years in high school, college and every person they’ve encountered is an influence. Everything they have ever done or heard is an influence. So there is no wonder writers have a vast well to draw forth the makings of stories. There are characters, plots, scenes, dialogues galore down in this well. All the writer has to do is pull them up and place them on the screen of their computer. Regardless of your age, you have enough material to write between 20-30 books or tons of short stories. I would imagine you are now asking yourself “why haven’t I written this many books”? The answer could be you never thought of it that way…but your memory knows these stories are there and they are trying to direct you to that well of treasures.

Ernest Hemmingway’s mother insisted he learn to play the cello, which was a source of conflict, as it would be for most children. However, he later admitted the music lessons were useful to his writing structure as evident in For Whom the Bell Tolls. A memory brought forth and used.

Every time a thought surfaces from your memory of years gone by, write it down. Perhaps once you write that memory down, others will start pouring out for you to write. But if they don’t start pouring out, don’t give us, take the ones that do come up and look at them, remember that time, remember who was there, what was said, why it happened, the emotions that were felt–write them down. Everything, write it down. They are trying to connect with you–you try to connect with them.

If you will keep a journal of these memories, you will be able to take parts eventually and begin writing story after story. Some will be good, some maybe not so good, but they are stories. Let’s face it, a writer’s job is to get it on paper…then the work begins. You start developing the characters more, adding dialogue, scenes, story arcs, obstacles. You massage every page until it is time to start the editing process. Eventually, you have your book or maybe two.