September 30, 2013

The Importance of Strong Women In Life and In Thriller Books

By Chris Allen

I’ve always felt very comfortable around women. I like them, I enjoy their company, equally as the company of men. I grew up with two strong-willed and confident older sisters with my resourceful mum ever-near, while enjoying a strong matriarchal figure in our nan and a collection of larger than life Aunties – the collective influence of whom ensured from a young age that I’d have nothing but the greatest respect for the female of our species.

When creating a series of action thrillers, as I am, it’s important to not fall back on the age-old formula of female characters written from a passive view, like that in the old Bond films and to an equal extent, Ian Fleming’s novels. In my espionage stories, the female lead characters are all equal players across the landscape that I create.

I’m not a fan of films or books that still present women as window-dressing. I’m proud to boast an equal division of male / female readers and am confident that it's because there are strong female characters within my novels that women readers can relate to. For me, female leads need to be multi-dimensional: strong but vulnerable, intelligent, practical, and with a relevant, believable and, above all, an interesting story, because that’s the kind of women that I admire most and am surrounded by every day.

My protagonist, Alex Morgan, finds it hard to resist strong and capable women like the beautiful but distant Arena Halls in Defender and more recently, the talented and glamorous Charlotte-Rose Fleming in Hunter. But who can blame him? He’s got good taste.

The female lead in Defender, my first action thriller, is Arena Halls, a highly educated government specialist who works for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. She has some of the attributes of my wife Sar – big blue eyes, short blonde hair, and an innate ability for stubbornness combined with feminine charm – even her name Arena Halls is an anagram of my 
Sar’s name!

Then in Hunter, the second in the series, there’s Charlotte Rose Fleming. Charlotte Rose – or Charlie for short – is a world-famous classical pianist: technically proficient and a consummate entertainer. Like Arena, Charlotte is intelligent, resourceful and able to take care of herself even when faced by overwhelming odds. And Charlie’s name is a hat tip to my literary hero Ian Fleming, and the result of a competition to name the heroine in Hunter that I held on Facebook.

One of my favorite female leads in the books I read is Dr Kay Scarpetta, as written by Patricia Cornwell. She’s resilient, intelligent, devoted to family, and an expert in her field, with just enough vulnerability to make her real. I like having examples like Scarpetta to recall when I’m writing a scene – especially when writing a dialogue exchange between characters.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Intrepid, General Davenport’s right hand person, Mila Haddad, is an accomplished criminologist with experience in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In the Mila character I focused on bringing out the other side of Intrepid which is the detailed analysis and understanding of the crimes they are attacking while in equal measure reflecting the loyalty not just to General Davenport but in a larger sense to the global cause. In fact, it is Mila’s intellect and doggedness that leads Intrepid successfully down a course of enquiry and discovery that they would not have otherwise followed in Hunter in tracking down one of the last fugitive Serbian war criminals.

In Avenger, the book I’m currently penning, I am thrilled to be developing the first female Intrepid field agent and know that her character will be on an equal footing as the male counterparts. I can’t divulge too much, but in a similar vein to agents Alex Morgan, Dave Sutherland, and Hermann Braunschweiger, this new operative is hand-picked for Intrepid and comes from a professional and emotional background commensurate with that of her colleagues.

This newest agent, let’s call her E.R., is not going to be acting on orders without another thought. Life is more complex than that. In reality, when deployed to the field, these agents have to live by their wits – they’re not guided every step of the way by an all-seeing master giving them instructions through an ear piece. They are field agents in the truest sense of the words and they are in control of their own destiny and responsible for the decisions they make as they make them, whatever the outcome.

For Morgan and his fellow agents, the life they have chosen is a vocation and throughout the series as it develops, women will continue to play a central role in the stories and will be anything but window dressing in the world of Intrepid. As much as I loved Ian Fleming’s Bond stories and have been endlessly inspired by his writing, that style of representing women in literature is long gone – and strong, talented, multi-dimensional women are here to stay.

Tell me, what qualities do you like in a fictional female character within the books that you read? Please leave a comment in the section below.
Chris Allen is  former Paratrooper who has been extensively involved in Government Security and Counter-Terrorism since leaving the military, Chris Allen's thriller series features Alex Morgan, star agent in Interpol's ultra-secret sub-directorate Intrepid (his literary brainchild). Defender and Hunter quickly became eBook sensations and Avenger is due out end-2013 with a film franchise underway. Visit, or say g’day to Chris at on Twitter @intrepidallen. Chris also blogs at

September 27, 2013

Write, Read and Repeat

By Lynn Donovan

The way I describe how I write is this: I follow my characters around and write down what they say and do. That’s how “real” my characters are to me. In my mind, they are real people and I care about them very much. I think about them a lot. I talk about them a lot. And, to be honest, I probably live vicariously through them.

If your characters are not this real to you, how can they be real to your reader? See, there’s a means to my madness! Whahahahaha!

Of course the characters have to “start” from somewhere. And that somewhere is ideas. My ideas come from all kinds of sources, the news, a song, a situation in a person’s life or my own life, and through dreams. I write Christian Fiction, so you understand, I pray for ideas too. They come to me in these same ways. Then I grab an inexpensive spiral notebook and I write down everything that comes into my mind, no matter how goofy. 

I make a separate page for each character and start thinking about their physical attributes, age, name, and I write the word Knot: Because every character has to have a knot. Something they are dealing with and will probably deal with during the story. 

Next, I will let all that simmer in my head and go do other things: Clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, walk, go to school (I attend an oil painting class three days a week). Typically within twenty-four hours ideas for scenes start developing in my head and I hurry to my spiral or computer and start writing them down.

My plans for the plot, I write them on post-it notes and stick them where I can see them while I’m writing. That way they’re in my visual range and hopefully my characters notice that this is something I’d like them to work into their world.

When I get super stuck and can’t figure out how to get the story from point C to point D, I go talk to my husband. I explain where they are, where I know they will be soon and we discuss possible scenarios for their journey to D. He’s really good at giving me advice in this manner! Gotta love a good husband! Thank you God! In The Wishing Well Curse, he suggested, “What if he found an old motorcycle in the garage and worked on it.”

Once the draft is written, I read, or re-read, a good “How To—” Like: “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and David King, or “The First 50 Pages” or “Plot Versus Character” both by Jeff Gerke. Then I go edit, edit, edit. Send it to my critique group and humble myself to listen to their critique and edit again, several times!

My advice: Write down every idea, no matter how goofy, or small. Write, read and repeat! Then: Keep writing!
Lynn Donovan writes from her heart and her passion for Jesus Christ. She is a daughter, wife, mother of four and grandmother of seven who has five decades of experiences to draw from when creating her stories. She has published a collection of Short Stories, The Clockwork Dragon, and this novel with AltWitPress. She categorizes herself as the “sandwich generation” because she is caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s and her special needs sister. She is one child away from an empty nest. She currently lives in Southwest Kansas but looks forward to building a home in Colorado. You can learn more about Lynn on her blog,, follow her on Twitter @MLynnDonovan, at M Lynn Donovan, Face Book at MLDonovan and her Face Book Author page at LynnDonovanFGG

September 26, 2013

Format after Format

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

It was 1968, I was a Senior in High School and driving a “67 Chevy Impala. It would not do until I bought and had installed a Lear Jet 8-Track tape player. It was the latest, so I thought, in music delivery systems. I would soon realize in order to hear my favorites I had collected on LPs and 45s, I would have to purchase the same artist’s music in this new format, 8-Track.

This cycle has continued. Records, 8-Tracks, cassettes, CDs and now digitally downloaded. Will it ever end? I don’t think so. I have bought the same artist on each format. The flip side is the artist enjoys new sales each time the new format comes out. What a benefit to them.

Books have followed the same trend. Books have gone from hard copy to paperback. Authors or someone with an excellent speaking voice, like our very own Gary Fearon, present the books by the spoken word on records, tape and now digital. Southern Writers Magazine offers the words of Authors in digital format with Take Five where Authors read their works. Must Read TV shares book trailers with you, much like the trailers at the movies. Southern Writers Radio Show has interviews with various Authors on topics of great interest to writers today. Southern Writers Magazine itself is presented in online format as well as print. It is all done in order to promote and encourage authors everywhere.

What is next? It is hard to say. I have watched car manufacturers discontinue 8-Tracks, cassettes and now I understand they are going to discontinue CD players as well. Digital seems to be the current choice for music and book delivery in the spoken form.  Each change will afford writers another format in which to offer their works to their readers. Another format brings another opportunity. Change is inevitable and Southern Writers Magazine will be meeting the challenge each step of the way.                 

September 25, 2013

How Does She Do It?

By Janet Beasley                                                           

An author’s life today differs drastically from the “good ol’ days.” Or so I’ve heard.  In all honesty, when I found out I had to wear multiple hats I was elated. I had a revelation that all of the fun things I used to do, and now sorely miss, were nothing shy of being deemed requirements on the road to becoming a successful author.

I know many find the added duties for authors of today frustrating, but for me, I find the tasks challenging, exciting and filled with opportunities.

From the onset I believed I could use my past experience to rekindle the fire of lost passions, and birth new ways to promote not just my work, but others along the way.

Here’s how I do it.

November 2012: After appearing at a local author showcase, I received an email from an attending author. She thought I “had something going” and wanted to meet and discuss working together to promote our books. Stunned that a trade published author (who’s publisher had her exhibiting at the London Book Fair, and speaking at the Orlando Science Center) would consider working with a self-published author, thoughts raced. Yes, I own JLB Creatives and that’s who published my novels. And yes, I’ve had my manuscripts professionally proofread, edited, illustrated, and formatted. But let’s face it, most professional’s think I’m swimming in the sea of self-published wanna-be-writers. What should I do?

Honored, I jumped at the chance and we met. Two weeks later another author from the same showcase contacted me for the very same reason. He too was trade published. What was going on?

I took it as fate and destiny once I discovered author #2 wanted to host an event, but didn’t know the ins and outs of event planning. With a smile he informed me he had a building reserved for Saturday. . .two weeks away. My rusty planner mind went on tilt. But we pulled off our first Christmas Spectacular, successfully!

Together with my fellow authors, (now JLB Creatives Executive Team Members), Jean E. Lane and Mark Miller, we promote local authors along with our own books. Through JLB Creatives we present four themed Authors in the Park Events annually and have future events through March 2014 already in the works.

The authors we present to the community are not just there to sell their books. We make certain they are willing to talk with aspiring writers about the writing world as well. Attending guests have found it very special to have the chance to meet one on one and spend time picking the brains of these local authors. It’s a combination of rewarding efforts for me as an author, a facilitator, a guest speaker, and a now formerly retired event planner.  

The possibilities are limitless. Use past experiences to build from. Stay inspired and find new ways to promote. And be sure to help other authors too. With a little effort you’ll be amazed at the satisfying results.
Janet Beasley, author of The Hidden Earth Series (a six novel series), is successfully carving her niche` in the inspirational epic fantasy genre for middle grades and YAs. It is currently being used in the classroom as a “life changing” tool, and hold many educational benefits. Janet makes several appearances throughout year at festivals, events, and conventions. She also serves as a facilitator for the Young Writers Workshop at the Pickford Community Library via Skype. Janet is the founder/owner of JLB Creatives Inc. The JLBC executive team (including Janet) serves the literary world in unique ways, and is the presenter for the Authors in the Park Event Series: four themed annual events to promote local authors worthy of discovery. Janet excels in nature photography, multi-media presentations, event planning, has developed a training center and its curriculum for AV technicians, and produced – directed – and served as a theater technician. She has written fiction - non-fiction – stage plays - and an autobiography. She has crafted award winning poetry, been published in anthologies and trade specific magazines. Janet enjoys the outdoors by kayaking and hiking with her husband, and photographing nature. She also loves animals (dogs are her favorite), spending time with her family, and baking cupcakes. URL:
Twitter: @JLBCreatives   @AuthorJanetB   @AuthorsPark

September 24, 2013

The Thrill is Gone

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

After enjoying my favorite Chinese buffet this weekend, I clicked open my fortune cookie to reveal the following message inside:  

Change is not just essential to life. It is life.

Surprisingly, only minutes earlier, I had decided that my blog post for today would be about change. I don't know how Confucius does it.

What I do know is that last week, I had heard several different authors express the following rather curious sentiment: They talked about how passionate they are when they first come up with an idea, and how passionate they remain during its writing, but once they finish the last page, something changes. The passion that drove them is now replaced with a certain apathy.  No longer do they feel an all-consuming desire to share their words with the world.

What is it that makes the passion go away?
  • Arriving at their destination.  Their vision centered around getting the story out of their head and onto the written page. For many writers that's all they ever really asked of themselves.
  • Not wanting to take the next step. The fun part -- the writing -- is behind us. You mean now we have to find a market for it?
  • Fear of failure. Nobody likes rejection, especially after slaving over a hot keyboard creating their masterpiece. If nobody sees it, then we're safe from criticism.
  • Fear of success. Really? The idea that anyone would actually resist success sounds unbelievable, but we creatures of habit can be funny that way. Change is inherently scary, even when it's good.
There are more passion killers, but you get the picture.  When post-writing apathy creeps in and the thrill is gone, what can we do to change it?

We can understand that what we write has a purpose far beyond what we initially envisioned. Each of us has a message that is uniquely ours. When the muse compels us to write something, it should be our mission to make sure the world hears it. No one starts a writing project with a commitment that no one will ever see it (unless it's their diary).

We wouldn't be writers if we didn't have a voice that begs to be heard.  When the writing is done, make seeing it through to its destination the part that's even more fun. The real thrill comes when your writing changes someone else's life. And someone is waiting to be changed by your words right now.

September 23, 2013

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

By Terry Odell

You've finally got the story written. You're ready to query, or submit a requested manuscript. No matter how many times you've gone over it, you're sweating about the details. As writers, we spend a lot of time trying to ensure our work is perfect.

Are the margins right? What about the font? What if I use Arial and they want Times New Roman? Or Courier? Or Courier Dark? Do the chapter headers start in the right place? Halfway down the page? Or was it a third of the way down? Should I use numerals or write out the words? Headers? Footers? Page numbers? How do I denote scene breaks?

We stress about rules—, which are fixed in stone, which are flexible, and which are brittle enough to break. We worry about the details—too much telling, too many POV characters, too much head hopping. Does the plot hold true? Are the details right, or will I look like an idiot putting Ponderosa pines where there ought to be spruce trees.

Don't tear your hair out. By all means, follow the rules of grammar. Yes, make sure you've got the right critters and plants in your locale. But it's highly unlikely your manuscript will be rejected because you've got a couple of commas in the wrong places. And the odds are, an agent probably won't know what constellations are visible at ten pm (or should it be PM or p.m.?) in mid-June in your scene's locale (but get it right—because if it's not picked up along the way, a reader WILL notice).

There's only so much you can do. And obsessing isn't going to do anything but drive you straight to the chocolate.

You've got your manuscript polished to a high gleam. You've followed the style guide the agency or publishing house provides. (You DID research this before submitting, right?) You hold your breath and submit. You're one of the lucky ones. You have a contract! Now, you'll work with an editor and do even more polishing. Then, it'll go to a copy editor and, despite the perfection, you and your editor have created; there will be more things to change.

Once, where both agent and editor followed what I was told was a 'new' trend, and didn't put any commas before the word "too" at the end of the sentence, the copyeditor put them all back. The copyeditor liked commas even more than I did—and added a bunch.

And then you get the final ARCs, and guess what? All those scene breaks with those five asterisks separated by spaces that the publisher insisted on? They don't leave them in the final product. Nope. Just an extra line break.

Bottom line: don't sweat the small stuff. Get the basics down, have a great story, and the rest is easy enough to fix.
Terry Odell began writing by mistake, when her son mentioned a television show and she thought she’d be a good mom and watch it so they’d have common ground for discussions. Little did she know she would enter the world of writing, first via fan fiction, then through Internet groups, and finally with groups with real, live partners. Her first publications were short stories, but she found more freedom in longer works and began what she thought was a mystery. Her daughters told her it was a romance so she began learning more about the genre and craft. She belongs to both the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. Now a multi-published, award winning author, Terry resides with her husband in the mountains of Colorado. You can find her online at:
Her website - Sign up for her newsletter

September 20, 2013

Defining Our Muse

By Gail Pallotta

As writers we meet people who want to know where we get inspiration, why we write, and how we get published. Often they seek advice. Sometimes they seem interested in our motivations. There are a few who look as though the wheels are turning in their heads and they’re thinking, “Well if you wrote a book, why aren’t you famous?”

No matter why they ask, I’m thankful for their interest. Maybe they’ll try one of my books or stories and become fans.

The first time someone asked me why I wrote a Christian book, I was stunned. I hadn’t thought of writing any other kind of book. I thought, maybe I have a Christian muse. Since then I’ve been asked a lot.

Sometimes I wonder if the person asking believes I think of myself as a preacher or evangelist, which I don’t. There are lots of reasons I want to write inspirational stories and books. I’m not always sure which one to give because some of my replies require an explanation.

On the other hand, I’ve read and heard enough to realize some people ask because they believe people writing faith-based work lack the credentials of those putting out mainstream stories and books. A week ago I mentioned to an acquaintance that I have out a new teen novel.

“Is it Christian?” she asked.


“Why do you write that Christian stuff?” Condescension rang in her voice.

“When I interviewed individuals for articles years ago, I always asked them, ‘Does your faith have anything to do with your success?’” Most of the time when the articles came out that question and answer had been omitted.”

Simple explanation. I got tired of seeing Christianity left out.

Another short answer I’ve given is hope. I can’t think of a religion that brings hope to the world as much as Christianity. I once read a best-selling novel that had no hope in it. It’s the only book I’ve ever read I didn’t like.

From a writing standpoint, characters are motivated by what they believe. I can put myself in the place of Christians in most situations and empathize with them, because I know what’s at their core. Of course, I have to give my characters flaws, but that’s not so difficult, since all of us are sinners. Some of my characters aren’t Christians and some are lukewarm Christians, but my faith drives the story because that’s who I am and what I know.

I’ve enjoyed plenty of great reads by Christian people who don’t write Christian books, but when I sit down at the computer and start to write, my faith always slips into the story. For me, leaving it out would be like writing a romance in which the hero and heroine don’t kiss. An integral part of life would be missing. I must have a spiritual muse.

I’d love to know about your muse.
Gail Pallotta is an award-winning author, a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She’s been a Sunday school teacher, a swim-team coordinator and an after-school literary instructor. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Readers can find her on the internet on the staff of Clash of the Titles, and at her blog,
Author, Stopped Cold
Authors and More:

September 19, 2013

It Must Be Included

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine 

Social mores are changing. Whether it is due to our tolerance or intolerance it is hard to say. The truth is we are accepting social behavior now that we would not have some years ago. The most obvious is our digital dependence.  It has expanded our acceptability of the norm.

Each of us has our particular irritating intrusion. Mine is the cell phone. Texting or talking in inappropriate places at the expense of others is a common occurrence. I once had a gentleman get a call in a restaurant. He left his table to take the call and walked over to our table to carry on his conversation. It is amazing how people are so clueless. The same disregard for others occurs in checkout lines and even drives thru lines at banks. We have all been held at hostage while someone finishes their conversation.   

The most appalling intrusion I have experienced was at a Christmas Cantata at a local church. A lady sitting on the back row continued with her phone conversation during the cantata without regard to anyone attending or preforming. I couldn’t help but wonder how someone could come to the point where they would think that carrying on a conversation during a church service was acceptable.

No matter the irritant we must begin using these annoyances in our writing. I am not saying they should be the central part of the story but I believe they should be a part of the character development. This kind of behavior has become an everyday occurrence so it must be used in our writing. It definitely has a connection with our readers and usually brings up strong feelings good or bad.

In your next story give some thought to adding this horrible habit to one of your characters and see where it goes. I would love to read it.          

September 18, 2013

Growing Success Through Others

By Mark Miller

I write. I write a lot. I have eight books in print and many more eBooks. I’ve been published since 2008, the longest of those in my “inner circle”. It wasn’t until I stopped focusing on my own writing that I felt I reached some level of success.

At first, it was all about me. An author sits alone, plots alone, writes alone. Many times, he or she never sees a human face with their publisher. It is all done electronically these days. So, when the book is finally out there, it stands to reason that the author must promote alone.

I got that wrong.

Trying to promote my first novel by myself was like swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Sure, a boat might come by, eventually, but something in the down deep might get me first.

What I have discovered is that I was not really on my own. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people doing the same thing. I feel that faith and fate led me to where I am now.

I have teamed with two talented authors as part of a brilliant little company called JLB Creatives. Janet Beasley (Hidden Earth Series) and Jean E. Lane (Lill and Mewe Series) and I now work to promote, not only our own books, but any author that has a positive message to share. We offer services to help develop emerging authors and help promote established authors.

Our favorite, and most successful, endeavor is a public event series called Authors in the Park. We plan and present four themed events each year: Spring into Art, Picnic with an Author, Booktoberfest and the Christmas Spectacular. The events are unique in their offerings, range from ten to thirty authors and are designed to bring in repeat visitors. Each event sees some of the same authors, but also different ones to keep the series fresh.

One of the best aspects to Authors in the Park is that we do not charge the authors to participate. Too many big shows charge vendor fees. We know what it is like to be a struggling independent. We also happen to live in a great community with tremendous support for the arts. We have been blessed to find financial support in other ways than taking from the author’s pocket.

The three of us are working hard these days. We have weekly meetings and attend other event, book festivals and schools. We joke about finding time to write, but JLB Creatives has become a full-time job. It is a fun job, though, and we are helping our fellow authors.

The fringe benefit? While we are out there helping others sell their books, ours are selling too. By pointing the spotlight on our friends, we are getting noticed. I have learned in this solitary pursuit of writing that it is not all about me.
Mark currently resides in Florida with his wife and four children. He has achieved some success as a Kindle Best Seller and having one of his short stories selected as a winner in the Florida Writer’s Association Short Story Collection. Growing up in Kansas, Mark graduated from Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences and received his Bachelor’s from the University of Kansas. Mark has written numerous novels, screenplays, short stories and digital series. He has geared his fantasy series, TheEmpyrical Tales, for the classroom and explored his spirituality, writing both with his father and daughter. Inspirational stories with positive messages are his goal with everything he writes. The First in the series is The Secret Queen followed by The Lost 

September 17, 2013


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

Do you know your characters in your story? Do you really know your characters–everything about them? If you don’t here is a way to learn more about them. Interview them! Yes, interview your characters. Step out of the role of creator/writer and step into the role of your reader. What would your reader want to know about your main character?

You want your readers to bond with your main character. You want them to feel all the emotions he/she does. You want them to be on the side of your character, pulling for them. It is important for you to know everything about your main character in order to let your readers in on what they need to know about your character as the story progresses. It keeps them turning the pages. They become fans. They will buy other books you write. Why? Because they will know your characters are worth knowing–they can relate to them.

The best way for you to know your character is to interview them. If you were going to interview someone you would have a short bio that consist of their name, a few things they had accomplished, whether they work or stay at home. Maybe where they’re from or where they live now. But this information would be short like on a 3x5 card. Your job as the interviewer is to find out everything you can about them.

Remember the “Who, What, Why, When, Where and How” questions? Bring these back into play. Now sit down, make a list of questions, the more the better, and ask your character. Examples: Where were you born? Where do you live now? How did you get from where you were born to where you live now? What do you like? What do you not like? What color is your hair and eyes? What do you do? Where do you work? You get the gest. Just ask regular questions.  By choosing this process, you get to know your character. It will open up more facets for your reader to get to know your character.

Here are a few more words that are good to use when interviewing your character… “Are, If, Would”. I am sure you could think of some more. Do this with your characters, get to know everything you can and you will deepen your characters role in the story, you will also find your story is deeper, more meaningful.

September 16, 2013

The Blessings of a Do-Over

By Lisa Lickel

When a certain small publisher accepted my manuscript, Healing Grace, in 2007, I was thrilled.
I knew it would be 2009 before the book released, but I’d been told patience is necessary in this business. Healing Grace came out with so many typos I was too embarrassed to market it. I eventually got the rights back and submitted it to my new favorite publisher. The acquiring editorial team said it lacked depth and strength of character. I was crushed. That emotion should have gone on the page.

In the same death sentence, however, the publisher overrode them: Lea believed in me and the book. I got off my pity pot and took this challenge. I knew there were things that could have been better, and I believed in the editing team that had done such great things with my other books. I was glad for this Do-Over chance with Healing Grace, a favorite and personal story.

Here’s what I learned.

1. Never assume.
Just because Healing Grace had been published, I shouldn’t have simply thought another publisher would jump at it. There were plenty of reasons why it should never have been published in the first place.

2. Be better.
I've learned a lot in nine years. It’s time to apply that knowledge, but also to accept guidance. Take every opportunity to challenge yourself.
releases then more interviews and spots and signings. Use the opportunities to mention other work.

Treat the Do-Over as a blessing in disguise. We authors don’t always get the chance.
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer and reader, writing mentor, freelance editor, and blogger. She loves to encourage new authors and is the editor of Creative Wisconsin magazine.Web:

September 13, 2013

Breaking the Chains

By M. Sakran

You know that moment – that moment when you are writing a story or a poem or an article – and you just can’t find the words. There is in an idea in your thoughts, the next piece in the flow of your writing, but you just can’t express it. It’s like there are chains holding you back not allowing you to get that thought from your mind to be words on the screen. It’s like you almost feel speechless.

When you have this moment (as I am actually having now as I write this), there is something you can do:
Just write something.

This may sound difficult when you don’t know what you want to write, it may even feel a bit contradictory - how can you write something when you don’t know what you want to say – but it can often be what moves an idea from thoughts to words.

Just write something.

Get something down; get some form of expressing the idea on the screen. Even if all you have is the beginning or shell of an idea, but can’t quite form it the right way, write what you have. Get something written that at least starts to express it. Put something on the screen even if it is not as clear as you would like it to be. Once something is written at least you have a start, at least you have some words. That part of the screen is no longer blank. Once you get past this point, new ideas can start to come. It is like the chains that were holding you back start to bend some. You realize that that third sentence might sound better as the first, and that second sentence should be deleted. You find a simile (like chains) that expresses what you mean. 

You may even come up with a completely new idea that was inspired by the first, delete what you wrote and all of a sudden write something that expresses your idea exactly how you meant it. It can feel like the chains are broken.

When you can’t express a thought exactly how you want, start by expressing it in some way. Put some words down however unclear or incomplete they may be. What you write may not be exactly what you want, but it moves you forward. Once you move forward, the chains holding your writing back can start to bend – move forward enough and they can break.
M. Sakran has published short stories and essays.

September 12, 2013

Let Me Count the Ways

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Today, September 12th, is the 255th day of the year. On this date in 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning. 

Their marriage union forever left their mark on the written word. Her prose in Sonnet #10 — How Do I Love Thee? is, well, a classic. Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew how to write to a soul mate.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death."---By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The newlyweds, after eloping, left England and settled in Florence, Italy. Elizabeth's health improved in Italy. Their son, nicknamed "Pen", was born in 1849. Elizabeth's,"Sonnets from the Portuguese", was published in 1850. The sonnets are a depiction of the couple's courtship and marriage. Elizabeth died in 1861 in the arms of her husband. Their Florentine home, Casa Guidi, has been preserved by "The Browning Society". After Elizabeth's death, Robert returned to England with their son. Robert published "The Ring and the Book", a 12 volume poem about an actual 17th century murder trial in Rome, was published in 1868.

Can you imagine if these two writers had not found each other? 

September 11, 2013

Less is More

By: Stephanie Shott

I was drowning under the tidal wave of social media, my speaking ministry, my ministry to moms and mentors, blog posts and book promotions, and there seemed to be no end in sight.

All I kept thinking was, “I can’t keep doing this!”

Working until wee hours of the morning and getting up at the crack of dawn has a way of catching up with you. It’s hard to be a night owl and an early bird in the same skin, but deadlines loomed largely over the horizon and I really didn’t have a choice.

Or did I?

As I sat back and took a good hard look at my to-do list, I realized that much of what I had written down was self-imposed, nonessential busy writing. The superfluous kind of stuff that wasted time is made of.

I was trying to do all and be all and in the midst of it all, my plate was overflowing, my priorities were out of whack and my life was getting more messy by the minute.

So, I decided it was time to take a good hard look at what I was doing, why I was doing it and begin to filter every activity through the lens of my priorities and my purpose instead of just saying yes because I thought it was a good idea or felt the pressure to perform.

When I was in advertising, we had a saying, Less is more. That has proven to be true for writing as much as it is for advertising. I discovered that by choosing to use priorities and my purpose as a filter, I was writing less but accomplishing more.

For me, it works like this:
Priorities: God, hubby, family, home, church, ministry, others

Purpose: To know Christ and make Him known and to lead women to live full, fearless and faithful lives.

Every open door is not mine to walk through. Knowing that has empowered me to say no when necessary. When speaking and writing pursuits and opportunities line up under these purposes, I’m able to prayerfully decide if it is what I should be doing. If it’s not, I’m just wasting my time, doing what someone else should be doing or weighing myself down with a self-imposed ‘to-do’ list.
Perhaps you are sinking under the tidal waves of writing demands too. Maybe you feel like me and you are finding it hard to catch your breath between branding, social media, speaking engagements and a plethora of petty and nonproductive writing project.
If you need to make a living by writing, then be more diligent about searching for writing projects that pay and quit saying yes to every project that doesn't.

When it comes to a writer’s life, less can definitely mean more.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your ‘to-do’ list? What do you need to say no to now that will help you be more intentional with your time?
Stephanie Shott is an author, a popular international speaker and the founder of The M.O.M. Initiative, a missional mentoring ministry dedicated to taking Titus 2 to the streets. For over 20 years, Stephanie has led women to live full, fearless and faithful lives. Her Bible study on Ecclesiastes, Understanding What Matters Most, has become a favorite of women everywhere. She has also written articles and stories for P31 Woman Magazine, Pearls In the Dessert, MOPS International, Focus on the Family, (In) Courage and the upcoming book, P-Dubs, by Rhonda Rhea. To find out more about Stephanie or to check her availability to speak at your next event, visit her website To learn more The M.O.M. Initiative or how you can begin a M.O.M. Mentor Group in your area, Connect with her and, and on Twitter