August 30, 2013

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

By Morgen Bailey

This is a question that aspiring writers invariably ask and established authors dread being asked, or so theyve told me. For most of us  Ive been a writer (on and off) for eight years  ideas are everywhere, but what do you do if they just dont leap out at you?

You look in newspapers: you can write about the main news story of the day, change the names, location, write it as fiction and see where it takes you. I often find though that its the smaller articles, away from the front few pages, that inspire me the most  the quirky stories that Mark Twain said were “stranger than fiction”. Some are too unbelievable (but I like writing them anyway) and youll know when you see them because they will grab you, planting seeds of a plot inside your brain.

You look in magazines: not a lot of difference you might imagine to newspapers, but articles in magazines tend to be more general, not latest events (because invariably they work weeks in advance) but magazines are full of people; real men and women who can become your characters. Locations can become your settings. Agony pages become your dilemmas.

You look out the window: the chances are that your house or apartment overlooks another, so even if you cant see anyone, you can imagine that theyre there. What are they doing? If theyre just hanging out washing, have them talking to themselves, thinking about something thats troubling them or a holiday they wish they could afford. This would be a template for a monologue. If you imagine that the phone rings or a visitor calls then thered be a dialogue. Great practice for dialogue is to write a conversation with no he saidshe said etc; just write down what they say and see whether they can keep the conversation going between them. And make the speech authentic; incomplete sentences work well but cut down on the ums and ers. With no description, can the reader still follow whats happening?

You think of a word: any word. Yes, just one word can set your imagination flowing. Take
chicken for example. Does it conjure up a dinner you had as a child, or perhaps a story where young boys are egging on a new recruit into their gang to carry out a dare as part of his initiation ceremony.

However ideas strike you (or even if you have to lasso them) its all about communication. A reader reads your words and creates their world around them. They use their memories to picture your characters. Your Tracey could be a girl they knew from school instead of just a name you picked out of your head or magazine. If the readers turn the page eager to know what happens next then youve done your job and hopefully, youve had as much enjoyment getting the words there.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page).She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog. Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works.

August 29, 2013

It’s All in the Name, or the Title, or Is It?

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Huisache, Lagniappe, Aretha Frankenstein, Brooksie’s Barn and Tin Top are the names of some of my favorite restaurants.  I know the name doesn’t give you much idea of what is inside or even that it may be a restaurant, but if you know the local flavor or language it might. These names may draw your interest to find out more.

Some restaurants have a name that tells it all. Big Daddy’s BBQ is one. Yep they serve BBQ and Big Daddy makes it. Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets serves up good food and delicious desserts made by Charlotte. When you see names like these you know what is inside. 

Book titles are similar. Some recent titles on the Best Seller List are The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Happy Happy Happy, These Few Precious Days, Outliers and Brain on Fire. With these names you may not know what is inside but may be drawn to find out. Other books have titles, such as American Sniper and How Children Succeed, which give you some insight as to what is inside. Usually the latter are works of Nonfiction.  Nonfiction gets to the point.                                                                              
So how is a title decided on? John Maxwell, author of over 50 books, has stated that he seldom gets to choose the title of his books. He has his ideas but the process involves his advisors with marketing in mind. He continues to have great sales and great titles, so why change now.

Great titles make great covers which draw readers and make sales. Will your title reflect what is inside or will it be a title that draws your interest to discover what is inside? Will the title enhance the cover design?

Chances are it will all work together to draw the interest of the reader. It will probably be decided by graphic artist and marketing experts, which will be to your advantage.

Whatever the title, we at Southern Writers Magazine want to know about your book. We have promoted 460 authors and their titles and would like to promote yours as well. Stay in touch, and all the best with your title choice.                    

August 28, 2013

The Stories Disagree

By Sandy Stevener

I sat down at my computer today, determined to write. Not scroll through blog posts or check e-mail, blogs, Face book or Twitter, but actually write. It’s been awhile since I did any actual writing. Not having an actual project in mind, but fortified with determination, I pulled up my files and scrolled through them looking for inspiration when I saw one title that I barely recognized but couldn’t quite remember the details. Intrigued I opened the document and began to read.

The story came back to me, but the once vivid details were now only vague memories. It was a great story. Why didn’t I finish it? I procrastinated, that’s why. I let pesky negative thoughts swarm like insects, eating away at my resolve, my self-esteem, my calling. That story didn’t get told and soon another one took its place, and then another.

You see, stories are like living, breathing beings to me. They take form in my mind, creatures with breath and life that grow and transform as I contemplate the possibilities. They consume my thoughts and emotions. They demand my time and my attention. They are jealous of my other commitments and often intrude into the middle of other activities. But if I don’t capture them, if I don’t get them down on paper, then they vanish like strangers in the night, eventually being replaced by the next story that grips my imagination and screams to be told.

Those who don’t read or write fiction would (and do) say, “It doesn’t matter, they’re just stories. They don’t really need to be told.” But in response to that, I believe the stories disagree. Maybe they’re just fanciful tales that take us away for a few hours of relaxation into another time and place. Maybe they’re just a way of exercising my own demons. The truth is they do have a life of their own. They do have the ability to teach us lessons, become our friends, help us heal hurts and overcome strongholds. They are God’s way of using our imaginations to teach us lessons we can’t see in the harsh realities of life. So they want to be told, they need to be told, and God has given me the privilege of being one to tell them.

So next time you are discouraged just remember the stories rely on you to tell them. They do need to be told and only you can tell them.

What do you think? Do the stories need to be told? Have there been stories that have made a difference in your life?
Sandy Stevener’s work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul The Power of Positive Thinking and God Still Meets Needs both available on Amazon. She is currently working on her third mystery suspense novel. She and her husband Bill live in Southaven Mississippi where they are involved in local and international missions work. You can follow Sandy on her blog at and on Face Book


August 27, 2013

Gimme an A

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

If you were online over the weekend, you may have come across this amusing photo from an Alabama high school jamboree, showing a banner with the message: "HOOVER FOOTBALL CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSABLE FOR RUFFLED FEATHERS."  Apparently they can't be held responsible for correct spelling either.

The kids have already taken enough beating online for their faux pas, so I'm not here to join the fray.  In fact, as a writer, I thought the creativity they expressed in the ribbing of their opponents—the Falcons—was the bigger amusement.

As an artist, however, I find it hard to overlook the barely perceptible space between words, and around the edges too.  You gotta give the banner painters credit for using all available real estate, but it brings to mind one of the most recurring problems seen in amateur book covers, that of not leaving enough breathing room around the title.

Another common mistake is choosing a font that's hard to read, and in truth, the middle lines of this banner would have benefited from the bold treatment they gave the top and bottom lines.  While I'm at it, I don't like all these people standing in the way either, but I digress.

Rather than dwell on less-than-worthy works of art, my goal today is to remind you that this is your last week to vote for the book covers you think really do make the grade.  Through this Saturday night, August 31, tell us what book covers you find most visually appealing, intriguing, entrancing.  They can be any book ... recent releases, a few years old, even your own book cover (hey, if you got it, flaunt it).  In the November issue we'll show you the books that lead the pack, and better still, we'll talk to the authors and artists about how they designed their winning covers.

What's in it for you (besides what's certain to be an enlightening and inspiring article)?  Everyone who votes is automatically entered in a drawing for one of 10 online subscriptions we'll be giving away next week. So rummage through your bookshelf, or your local bookstore, or better yet, visit the Southern Writers Bookstore right now and pick out up to five covers that catch your eye.

Then swing by and simply fill in your entry form to win. Your favorite authors will appreciate the nod, and it could be a banner year for you too.

August 26, 2013


By p.m.terrell 

Ever since my first suspense was published in 2002, I have been asked to write a series. There is something about opening a book and already knowing the characters that makes the reader feel as if they are visiting old friends. The action can happen more quickly and the characters have more space to become multi-faceted.

I resisted writing a series, however, because I didn’t want to become a formula writer. We all have read series in which we knew what was going to happen next because the author uses the same outline for each book. The crime might change, the scenery might transform, but the action, the climax and the wrap-up are almost identical.

I began writing my first series, which reviewers consider my best work, two years ago. And along the way, I’ve made a few notes on how to use a formula that readers love without writing a formula book.

Diverse Main Characters

I decided in lieu of featuring one main character that my Black Swamp Mysteries series would include an ensemble cast, much like those of a dramatic television series. Each character has to be distinctly different from the others and yet blend well. I decided on an introverted psychic spy, an extroverted CIA ground operative, a bad-girl computer hacker, and a political strategist who often straddles the line between right and wrong.

Surprising Plot Twists

With an ensemble cast forever tied together through blood or circumstance, one or more of the main characters can rise to the forefront depending on the plot. In Vicki’s Key, the focus was on the psychic spy, Vicki Boyd. In Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, the focus became the bad-girl computer hacker, Brenda Carnegie—who just happens to be Vicki’s sister. Complete opposites, they are inseparable due to those familial ties. Dylan’s Song brought Irishman Dylan Maguire, the CIA ground operative and Vicki’s love interest, to the forefront.

Varied Locations

Three of the main characters—Vicki, Dylan and Brenda—live in a small town based on the very real Lumberton, North Carolina. But Vicki’s psychic powers (inspired by the real CIA psychic spy program) allow her to travel the world in her mind—and take us there as well. Dylan’s and Brenda’s work, though often on opposite sides of the law, take them around the world to exotic locations. By starting and ending the books in a familiar town but allowing them movement, the changing backdrop makes the stories more exciting.

Two Climactic Scenes

I often hear writers speak of working toward a final climactic scene and sometimes how daunting that can be. Instead, I work toward a pivotal scene in the middle of the book. This means the first half of the book is laying the groundwork for an exciting scene that changes everything—and from that midpoint to the end of the book it becomes a roller coaster ride of non-stop action.
p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 18 books. Prior to becoming a full-time writer in 2002, she opened two computer companies in the Washington, DC area. Her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. Her specialties are computer intelligence and computer crimes, both of which often inspire her suspense writing. She is the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation whose slogan is Buy a Book and Stop a Crook, and the founder of Book 'Em North Carolina, an annual Writers' Conference and Book Fair. Twitter: @pmterrell Website: and Book 'Em North Carolina: Blogs: and (inspired by her character's CIA front as an angelfish breeder)   Facebook:

August 23, 2013

The Secret Sauce to Selling More Books

By Drea Stein

Like many new authors I . I spent a lot of time reading blogs, books and interviews about how to sell lots of books.  

I spent time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking. And not much happened. And then I found the secret sauce.  Now it hasn’t quite made me into the next Danielle Steele but the “before’ and ‘after’ picture of my sales is amazing.

What’s the secret? Well it’s two-parts. Part One: Write a great book. Part Two: Write several of them. At least three. 

That’s it. You’re probably saying well, duh…but how do you write a GREAT BOOK? Let me clarify. You need to write a book that’s good enough so that people will tell others about it…and then go buy your next book. 

Perhaps you’re still stuck on the Great Book part. By this I do not mean the Next Great American Novel, though that is a lofty goal. I am more of a genre woman myself – mysteries, romances, suspense.  When I focused on really writing a great book in a genre I made my life as an author much easier. Why? Well, a genre has a built audience of readers always looking for new books, new voices. A genre has some discernible conventions that I believe help a writer get from the beginning, through the middle and onto the end, especially a new writer.

But why do you need to write more than one? Well think of your first book as your loss leader. This book – which must be GREAT – goes out into the world as a gift. Keep the price low, give it away, and encourage sharing. You want as many people as possible to read this book and talk about it…and immediately buy your next one.  It’s your second and third book that will help you pay the bills.

So how do you write more than one book – after all writing takes a long time…or does it? There’s a reason writing is also called a craft. The more you write – and especially the more frequently you write, the better (and faster) you get at it.  If you wrote 2000 words a day for 30 days, you would have a book in a month.  Commit to writing five days a week for an hour and half…Arrange your life around it and get going. Don’t look up until you have a book…preferably two, better three. Then you’re allowed to go out and Tweet and Facebook away.
Drea Stein is the author of three romance novels, two of them part of the Queensbay Series;The Ivy House,and Rough Harbor. She really doesn’t have any interesting hobbies…since she’s always trying to write more. She lives in New Jersey (the southern part) with her high school sweetheart, three kids, two fish and a guinea pig. You can follow her on Facebook:

August 22, 2013

Think Ahead As Your Character Develops

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director For Southern Writers Magazine

Recently, I reviewed a brochure from my cell phone provider. It listed wonderful apps for any smart phone or tablet. These were broken down by professions and as luck would have it included suggestions for "writers" apps. 

One app shown in the brochure sounded great for outlining characters on the go and it was free. I immediately picked up my tablet and downloaded. However, after the download a screen came up, stating the app company would no longer have support for this app after August 30. What? To quote a Queen Song, "Another One Bites The Dust". 

I'm sure the cell provider brochure was printed a couple of months ago prior to the mail-out to customers but the facts in the brochure should have been checked before going to print. App companies don't stop supporting their product overnight so someone didn't check the facts before having brochure copy printed and then mailed. 

This experience made my mind drift to authors books set in the past and how careful they have to be in checking their facts on the era. Author, Sue Grafton developed her Alphabet Mystery Series, with protagonist, Kinsey Millhone, a P.I. who lives in the 1980's before Internet and cell phones. With her starting book, A is For Alibi, Kinsey is 32 and it's May 1982 the same date the book was published. This date setting gives readers an appreciation for the difficulties of a PI's job, pre-Internet days. These are the times before "Google it" was the verb of today. 

If you are writing a series, you need to determine how your character will age or not. Grafton's B is for Burglar takes place in June/July of 1982, C is for Corpse takes place in August 1982. Grafton developed her series character to age in slow time not real time. "C" was published in 1986.

Thinking ahead was brilliant character development by Grafton. Her latest book, W is forWasted will release in September. If Grafton had not frozen Kinsey in the 1980's era instead of being a 30-something private investigator, she would be of social security age at 63 in present day. Her delightful relationship with her 80 plus year old landlord Henry wouldn't be part of the book in real time. Kinsey Millhone at 63 would not have the same energy, attributes or flaws that keep millions of fans craving the next Kinsey mystery adventure.

As the picture on the right shows, Princess Diana holding the heir to the throne, Prince William born in 1982. Thirty-one years later the picture on the left shows Prince William and Princess Kate with their own Prince in 2013. Think about this picture as you decide how your main character needs to age or not in your book series.

As readers it's about the interaction of characters not are they aging as we do. Writers’ development of characters and human nature as it unfolds in the pages of a book is what keeps us reading until the very last word. 

August 21, 2013

Keeping the Past from Being Too Present

By Siri Mitchell

As an author of historical novels, I want my stories to be true to the times, I want them to feel authentic, but I don’t want them to read like a history book. Here are a few tips I’ve found to keep story front and center. I try to remember that:      
1.  A little goes a long way. Research as much as you possibly can and then try your best not to use more than a tenth of what you learned. What readers most want is a compelling story, not a string of quaint ideas and little-known facts strung together into a narrative. Fiction readers are wily. They can tell when you’re trying to educate them and when you’re simply hoping to entertain them.   

2.   It’s not about me. The things you find absolutely fascinating about eras of the past are probably things that your characters would have seen as commonplace. The key in deciding what details to put in and leave out is seeing the setting through your characters’ eyes. If they wouldn’t notice or remark upon something, then neither should you.   

3.   Tunnel vision is a good thing. Once I step into my character’s point-of-view, I must only use metaphors and comparisons to things he or she would have knowledge of or experience with. My character might never have seen an ocean (so no ‘waves of fear’, no ‘swept in like the tide’, being adrift, or the scuttling of anything). My characters might never have seen a glittering jewel (no emerald-green eyes or ruby-colored gowns). If my character is an urban dweller there should be no references to ‘robin’s egg blue’ and maybe not even to a clear sky depending upon the era in which you’re writing.   

4.   I should check my modern-day prejudices at the door. There are lots of things that can make a writer squeamish about the past, especially when it’s viewed from a modern perspective. Don’t believe children should be seen and not heard? Don’t think anyone should be required to wear a corset or marry strictly to further family ambitions? Your characters likely did. You need to let your characters be true to the times, no matter how backward they may seem to you. Let them be the product of their era’s and prejudices, view those things just like they did: matter-of-fact, without guilt or apology. 

5.   My story isn’t over when it’s over; and it doesn’t start when it starts. Don’t just research your novel from first page to last. You need to know where your characters came from and where they’re going. What kinds of thoughts and attitudes were ‘old-fashioned’ during your characters’ era? And what would it have looked like for them to be forward-thinking? What was history leaning towards and what was it retreating from?

When I keep these tips in mind, then my story steps to the forefront and history stays where it’s supposed to: in the background.
Siri Mitchell is the author of a dozen novels. Among them are the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists Chateau of Echoes, The Cubicle Next Door, and She Walks in Beauty. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Readers can visit Siri at her website:
Twitter @SiriMitchell 

August 20, 2013


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

Remember the old movies with the boy standing on the street corner selling newspapers yelling, “Read all about it” and “Come and get it” along with the price? In those movies, you might see a reporter running to get a story, then hurrying back to type it up and hand it in to get it in for the evening newspaper.

It seems those days are gone and our newspapers are folding or if not folding, yet, they are laying off many of their employees. Yesterday, I saw where two more large newspapers have had huge layoffs. One can’t help but feel sad during this time for the people losing their jobs. Yet there is even more sadness, an era of “big newspapers’ is coming to an end.

For the newspapers that remain open, with skeleton crews, you will find opportunities for us as writers. Now more than ever the opportunities for freelancers are growing every day.

What a great way to get your name out as a writer, writing freelance for a newspaper. So start getting a newspaper every day. Read it. To be even smarter, go to your library, pull up an old newspaper, and compare the old to the new…what did the old have the new one doesn’t in articles, columns, etc. You just might find your niche.

Call and talk to the “Editor” and find out if they are looking for freelancers and in what sections. Get him/her to tell you what they would want from a freelancer. If you can get an appointment, take some things you’ve written.  You are not limited to just the newspaper in your town. Use your imagination.

Main thing, be persistent without being too big a pest.  Always make sure if you send an article, it is your very best work. Remember to use a hook. Grab the editor’s attention in the first sentence. Make your words pop off the page.

Then you can say…“Read all about it.”

August 19, 2013


 By Kelly "K. W." Bowlin

If you’re an artist of any sort, do what you love, there is NO taking back time. This is it. Your validation in the end, is KNOWING….KNOWING….you did what you’re passionate about, what drives you.

You uncover the statue in the marble; you form the words, and play the notes. YOU ARE AN ARTIST FIRST. In the end, you don’t measure your success by your sales, fame or fortune. Those things are as much a matter of luck as sheer talent. You are successful when you can look back and know “I said what I had to say and uncovered the beauty in my heart and soul.”

A poster that touched me today said: “Much is made of genius and talent, but the foundation of any life where you get to realize your ambitions is simply being able to out-last everyone through the tough, crappy times — whether through sheer determination, a strong support network, or simply a lack of options.”

Being an artist means taking risks because you open yourself to public criticism and ridicule. Roosevelt once wrote, “Kudos to those who enter the arena to dare mighty things, to strive for glorious triumphs, at the risk of failure and being beaten, bruised and bloodied…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”

HANG IN THERE… brilliant, be creative, say what you have to say.

The world will be a better place for it.
Kelly Bowlin has had over 500 articles, op-eds, and essays, published in a variety of magazines and online sites including Road and Travel, The Digital Journal, L.A. Examiner, AND Magazine, eHow, and The Comic Bible. His first novel “The Mosquito Sting”published in 2012. He recently published Living and Dying in Shorts, a collection of 24 short stories about family drama and dark humor. He’s also an accomplished musician, singer/songwriter whose group, The Kelly Bowlin Band won the 2006 Southern California Music Award for Best Roots Rock. He currently lives in Cripple Creek, Colorado with his wife Mary, and ornery Lhasa Apso puppy. Website Facebook:The Writings of K.W. Bowlin  Twitter: kwbowlin

August 16, 2013

Writing From the Heart

By SS Hampton, Sr.

All writers know, though sometimes-newer writers must be reminded, write from the heart. Pour your emotions into your writing. Your readers will pick up on the intensity and reality of emotions, they will empathize with your characters, they will relate to your characters, their situation, and therefore your story.

Happiness. What has made you happy? Do you remember how you felt when you proposed to your future spouse? Do you remember how you felt when she or he said yes? How about when your child was born, and you held the baby in your arms? How about the grin on the baby’s face the first time they walked (staggered) while you or your spouse held their hands so they wouldn’t fall? Can you describe this happiness in strong, descriptive words?

When I was moving to a new city my son and his girlfriend, with my first grandson, arrived for my farewell luncheon. My 9-month old grandson, carried by his mother, was looking around at all the people gathered in the hallway—the absolute and wonderful curiosity that all babies have. I grinned when I saw him. He saw me and a beautiful smile appeared on his little face. My grandson smiled at me!

Love. How would you describe your realization that you loved someone and wanted to spend the rest of your life with her or him? Do you remember, as a child, how you felt when you loved your mom and dad, or perhaps your sisters and brothers? You might say happiness is easy, easier than love.

My life has been such a roller coaster that love, other than for my children and grandchildren, has always been a fleeting experience.

Pain. This might be the strongest emotion of all, especially where it involves death. Be cautious when examining that area of emotions; sometimes you set loose “demons that you thought you had exorcised. Can you remember how you felt upon hearing of the death of someone? Not a stranger as in, for example, death reported in the news, but someone close to you? How would you describe your emotional reaction to death?

It is true that there is a body-wracking chill that accompanies the news. It can be a kick in the gut and followed by numbness followed by anger. And finally acceptance, because there is nothing else that can be done.

I suggest you sit back, close your eyes, and reach within yourself. Many times the emotions are pleasurable. Sometimes they’re not. But if you can put your emotions on paper and bring your characters to life, your reader will be rewarded by true, believable characters, and your writing career will advance.

Good luck!
SS Hampton, Sr. is a Choctaw from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, a published photographer, photojournalist, and fiction writer. He served in the Army National Guard 2004-2013 and is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle, and Iraqi Freedom. He retired on 1 July 2013 with the rank of sergeant first class. His writings have appeared in Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, Megaera, The Harrow, River Walk Journal, and Dark Fire, among others. His second career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran. His books include Intimate Journeys, Christmas Collectibles, and Second Saturday Author Page UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page