May 30, 2014

No More Blood-Marketing

By Leslie Leyland Fields

We all know writers regularly slit their wrists before getting to press. As a memoirist and essayist, blood-letting is a familiar part of my life. My newest book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt, just released a few weeks ago, is perhaps my most personal and challenging book yet. I expected the winding of tourniquets and gauzes in the writing of it; indeed, there was spillage. But I didn’t expect what would happen upon release.

All of you with recent books know the truth of this: no one really knows how to sell books anymore. For longer than a week, that is. Every expert has 37 ideas, all of them experimental, and for all of them---blood  required---to start. Add to that an arm, two legs, time, sleep, hope, research, humiliation, luck, cunning, and endurance. Consider one writer’s advice, which went something like this: At book signings, inform the store manager that you’ll station yourself at the entrance to the store to be their official greeter. After greeting the customer warmly, press your book into their hands, along with a bookmark and business card. Don’t forget to smile. On the social media front, when I read each prognosticator’s version of 23 Essential Things All Writers Must Be Doing, two things are always lacking, without which none of us will survive: live well; keep writing.

We all know we need to successfully promote our own work. We’re glad to get the message out. But when we choose the writing life and sacrifice leisure, sleep, money, and most costly of all, time with our families to fulfill that call, none of us makes these sacrifices to then spend every breath after selling and promoting. Remember why we write. Because we believe in our deepest-down spirit that we are called to keep naming the world. We write to serve a meal to the famished, to dress the wounds of the betrayed and lonely. We write to offer hope and a story to the depressed. We write to offer clear thinking in a muddled marketplace. We write in humility, in insecurity, in desperate prayer. We write to offer joy and delight in a troubled world. Nothing less.

And when our book releases, shall we then don our best barracuda suit, polish our teeth, slick back our hair and begin the hard, shiny sell, suctioning ourselves to every unfortunate person who innocently wanders into a bookstore? Or shall we sidle into every blog, feigning friendship, sneaking links into every casual comment? Did any of us sign up for this?

Let’s all of us take a breath. We don’t need to sell. We don’t have to sell out or sell ourselves short, or sell our own snake oil. Instead of selling, let’s offer.  We’ve just spent two to three years composing, listening for the right words. We do indeed have something to offer: our work, and, more importantly, ourselves. In all of our promotion, we need to think, How may I serve my readers? We might end up giving books away—a lot of books. We might do some speaking gratis. We’ll end up talking, maybe even praying, for perfect strangers, becoming friends. We’ll give up the accounting sheet. At the end of the day, the year, the decade, we’ll count it all differently. We’ll say,
I got to give. I got to give more than I knew I possessed. I got to be part of a global conversation. I got to know new readers, who taught me more than I knew. I got to talk with strangers who became friends. I got to lift someone’s load.

When the next list of 233 Things You Must Do To Sell Your Books comes out, give it a glance. Do what you can, but ignore everything that violates who you are and what you’re to be doing in this world. Be a real writer, which is to say, be a real human being. Bleed on the page, but let the bleeding stop there.

LESLIE LEYLAND FIELDS is a writer, editor, and national speaker who lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska in the winter and Harvester Island in the summer, where she joins her family in a commercial salmon fishing operation. She also leads the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop, a week long writing workshop held each September on her remote fish camp island. She has written/edited 8 nonfiction books of memoir and essays on a variety of subjects, including the spirituality of food, forgiveness, wilderness, commercial fishing, and parenting. She is on the Editorial Board of Christianity Today magazine and writes for Books and Culture and other journals. In 2013, she began the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop, a week long writing workshop and retreat at her remote fishcamp island. She has three graduate degrees, in Creative Nonfiction, English and Journalism. Leslie has taught for many years in both undergraduate and graduate programs in Oregon, Alaska and Washington and now continues to teach through college visits, frequent radio appearances, speaking, and her professional writing business, The Northern Pen. Leslie and her husband Duncan have 6 children, a daughter and 5 sons, most of whom work in salmon fishing every summer. She blogs at You can reach her at

May 29, 2014

May, Graduations and Book Releases

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

May is poetically known for the explosion of Spring flowers. On the other hand, parents discover, as their children grow through their various levels of achievement, that May is the busiest month of the school year. Every Spring sports team has their trophy-giving banquets. Field days abound. School clubs and honors programs have their initiations. Band, choir and theatre groups have their spring productions. Grade level bus trips occur all over the United States. These various activities are all important rites of passage which can enrich your child's expanse of their world. All in preparation for graduation. 

As a parent, I've attended my children's graduation milestones and enjoyed watching their growth with each graduation. If you had a graduate this May, congrats to your graduate. It is a special time for both the graduate and their parents, as we all enter a new phase and a new journey. With each graduation from kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, college and beyond, conversations you had with your children as they completed each level will flit through your mind as you watch them graduate from one level to the next phase of their lives. 

While waiting for the start of the graduation of our son from college, I multi-tasked by writing this post. Savoring the ceremonious surroundings, I also jotted notes on my smart phone. It occurred to me that writing and completing a book is much like the process of raising a child. Both books and children are born. Lots of life events happen, all while they are formulating and growing. Lessons are learned along the way. More growth happens. Days, turn into months which flow into years. A child's graduation signifies their passage to the world to complete the next phase of their life. Your book turned into an editor, ultimately graduates and releases to the world for all to read. 

As college graduates turn their tassels, they are signaling to the world, "I'm ready to start the next life phase." Family life and education have prepared them, and their own life lessons will begin. When a book you have written graduates with its release, you are signaling to the world, "Hey world, come read my baby and enjoy."

As Southern writer, Tennessee Williams said, "Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going." May all your book graduations/releases be a great memory and the segue to your next book.

May 28, 2014

Accidental Author

By Linda Robinson

In jest, I say I’m an accidental author because I didn’t intentionally sit down to write my first novel at sixty-seven years of age. It simply happened. Don’t laugh. God works in mysterious ways ... but that’s another blog, another day!

I’ve often written long, detailed journal accounts of special events, have written those silly annual Christmas letters for many years, and I still write descriptive emails to friends. But writing a novel never once crossed my mind. Reading them had been my favorite hobby all my life—and still is, with writing now ranking right up there, too.

The day I sat down to write, I was amazed at how easily the words came to me. I typed nonstop until at some point I began to call it “my book.” Basically, it was my personal story, and I completed it in ten weeks. After I read it through, I decided I didn’t like all the I’s, me’s, and my’s. I ordered six books on how to write fiction and crash-coursed through them. Six months later, I’d written a fictional account of the same story, in third person, and had taken great liberties in a whole new world. I loved it.

When a publisher accepted it for publication, I was astounded—and scared to death. A perfectionist-wannabe by nature, I had trouble letting go of “my baby,” thinking I could make it better with just one more read and edit. After all, English teachers and writing experts would be perusing it.

Recently, I read a comment by an editor in which he said most first manuscripts should still be sitting on the authors’ bookshelves, unpublished. I agreed, but it was too late. Mine was already on the market. I’ve learned so much more about writing since then, but we all have to start somewhere. 

Doesn’t every author have a first book? 

Now three years, two published books, and a recently completed and critiqued third manuscript later, I encourage anyone who has the slightest desire to write and hasn’t started, or their story is unfinished, to go for it! Don’t say, “Never!” I said I’d never write a novel, speak before a crowd, or enjoy book signings. I’ve done all and enjoyed most, but writing is far more fun and rewarding.  

I highly recommend joining a writer’s critique group, which I did nine months ago. Out of it, four of us also formed a smaller, closely-knit, but geographically diverse group. From “across the pond,” the northeast, and the Midwest, my cherished critters supply this Southern writer with cherished friendship, coveted prayers, helpful suggestions, and oodles of encouragement. All are priceless blessings.

I thank the Lord for giving me a talent and the desire to use it writing inspirational stories for His glory.
Linda Robinson is the author of two novels: Rails of Freedom, released December, 2012, and When Love Abounds,released in December, 2010. Her Christian/Fiction/Family novels depict the people, lifestyles, and music of the 1940's, 50's and 60's in the deep south, with an underlying message of "that little word that makes the world go 'round—love." Linda, whose hobbies include reading, writing, and flower gardening, resides in south Alabama with her husband and spoiled Maltese dog, Joy. She is a member of her local Writers' Forum, ACFW, Scribes, Linkedin, GoodReads, FaithWriters, and others. She has recently completed her third manuscript, in addition to guest-blogging and writing fiction and non-fiction humorous short stories for magazines and contests. Find out more about Linda by visiting her web site and reading her blogs at: Facebook: Twitter:

May 27, 2014

Would I Want to Podcast?

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

Ever thought about doing a podcast?

Here is the definition listed on Wikipedia. “podcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audiovideoPDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device."

In other words, you could put your book, one chapter at a time through podcasts. It isn’t an audio book. A reader subscribes to a podcast and reads your book one chapter at a time on many devices, whether they are at home or on the go. Some people find this easier to read books this way.

Obviously, this might be an excellent mode for a beginning author to build a reader following.  It might be worth checking out. As with any method, you aren’t familiar with, you should make sure and do your homework on the rules and guidelines.

Scott Carl Sigler is a contemporary American author of science fiction and horror as well as an avid podcaster. He started podcasting his novel in March 2005 as the world’s first novel to be podcast. This act built hype and garnered him an audience for his work. According to Wikipedia, he considered it a "no brainer" to offer the book as a free audio download. Having searched for podcast novels and finding none, Sigler decided to be the first. He was able to get EARTHCORE’S offered as a paid download on iTunes in 2006. After EARTHCORE’S success, (it had over10,000 subscribers). Sigler then released others. To find out more information visit his website and Wikipedia’s site

Then look at Mignon Fogarty who produces an educational podcast called Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty tips for Better Writing. According to WD, 2008 issue her podcast had helped over 2 million listeners on grammar. Check out .

Podcast has directories for you to use to promote. 

May 26, 2014

Thoughts on Writing (& How I Write)

By Pamela Swyers

Writing is one of those tricky things. Many people say they want to write and only some of them get around to doing it. It takes time and focus and a strong will to sit down and do something that people may or may not like, that you might or might not get paid for, etc. In my experience, there are some prerequisites to making it as a writer, particularly a writer of full-length fiction novels.

One: I really believe you have to be born with a passion for the written word and be a huge reader. When someone says to me that they want to write a book but then tell me that they never read, I can pretty much write them off--it will never happen. (I always tell aspiring writers to read everything they can get their hands on in the genre that they love.)

Two: You have to have (make) the time to focus on nothing but writing. You must set aside writing time every week, then stick to it, even if you sit down in front of your computer and stare at a blank screen for a while. This takes a lot of self-discipline and can be a tough thing in the midst of families, other jobs and responsibilities. I am fortunate enough to be able to write almost full time these days, but I wasn't always, and not everyone is, especially in the beginning. You prioritize what is important to you, so if you want to write, make it happen.

Three: It always saddens me to say this, but to some degree, you either have it or you don't. I read manuscripts very often, and I can tell in the first three paragraphs if the person has what it takes to be a writer. Some I believe have potential but need to take a few classes on basic writing skills so that they can effectively tell the story they are trying to tell.

For me the process begins with the idea. I keep a folder with book ideas and they come to me all the time. Some in dreams, some just seem to pop into my head and some seem to be generated by people, music, movies or any number of things.

Once I have the theme in mind, I jot down a basic bullet-point outline that will tell me how the book is going to go. I also jot down any and all notes on the characters and direction of the book as I go.

With this in hand, I am generally ready to sit down and just let the creativity flow. I like to be home alone, quiet or soft music playing and do not like to be disturbed. (When a writer gets in the flow and gets that mojo going, there is nothing worse than being yanked out by a ringing phone or nagging question.)

Now good luck and get started!
Pam lives with her husband Bill in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She is the mother of three grown children and has dabbled in creative writing since she could hold a pen. Pam has written poetry, children's stories and dramatic scripts but her passion and calling is penning fictional novels. The Hobby marks Pam's tenth novel to date. She can often be found toodling around NE Atlanta, doing book-signings and making appearances when she's not working hard on her computer. Her books include: Fictionary, Boys with Cars,Married with Children, Playing with Fire, Rebound, Dylan's Cause, Dylan's Muse, Dylan's Choice, and The Dream Dweller.

May 23, 2014

The Writer’s Angst

By Patricia Hudson

Angst is a powerful word. I prefer it to worry, anguish or torment. It sounds like a word that belongs to the struggling…you fill in the blank. I can’t use angst to describe my emotions when I write. That word belongs to much loftier writers than I will ever claim to be. James Joyce was the king of angst. He spent days anguishing over just the right word for his sentence.

Regardless, I do suffer from angst, not while I write, but the minute I type The End. Angst attacks and invades my brain like a possessive demon. I totally fall apart. First, my angst questions the worthiness of my manuscript. It’s not good enough. No one will read it. Trash it, all thoughts that rage in my head. That’s when I turn to my critique partner who assures me that it’s great. Not great, as in the next great American novel, but great enough.

My next bout with angst comes when I submit my first three chapters to my publisher. Four weeks after my submission, I expect to hear back asking for the entire manuscript. I have a timeline. If they don’t meet it, I’m thrown into the depths of hell. “I knew it. They hate it,” I wail to my critique partner. An entire week of cake and cookies has passed, feeding my angst. I finally get the request for my manuscript, only to have angst strike again when I think they’re going to pass on publishing my work. I hate that phrase “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to pass at this time.” Does that mean they’ll take it next week? My angst doesn’t end until I have the contract in hand.

It’s over you say. No. It’s only begun. My next bout begins as soon as the final edit is returned to the publisher. I’m beginning to hate this book. Marketing…this is where angst grows to mammoth proportions. Selling myself is not high on my like-to-do list. I feel like a prostitute beating my drum for readers. I won’t even say it’s limited to Facebook because I’m all over the place. I stand on the corner of Twitter and WordPress if anyone’s interested. I do everything that’s required. I attend book signings. I tweet. And I blog. All creating greater angst. 

And then, we have the rankings and reviews. Hours, days are spent dissecting these dreaded author haters. I stand in judgment as they strip me of my confidence. It’s only when I get a good review that I can raise my head and stare the beast in the eye.

The worst is when a friend or family member informs me that they’re reading my book. Angst goes through the roof when I hear this. I feign a contagious disease to avoid the holiday dinner. Anything is better than listening to them dissect the book I bled over.

Writing is a roller coaster of angst. It’s a good thing I like the word.
Patricia Hudson was born in Wales, U.K. As a young girl she moved to America with her family and currently resides on a small horse farm in central Illinois, with her husband, David, two dogs, and her beloved quarter horse. She has written seven books: Stolen Hearts released in 2013. The Call, Love on the Double T, Love's Deception, and The Exchange to be published in 2014. Also in production are The Circle, and Jana Morgan, PI. Join her on Tweet on
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May 22, 2014

Deadline vs Timeline

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Deadline vs Timeline, what is the difference? No one knows deadlines better than the staff at Southern Writers Magazine. We have deadlines for the articles in the issue, the blog we post, advertising and many other things. 
Deadlines are not new to us. We all learned about deadlines at an early age. We had a book report or homework due on Tuesday and Monday night we begin reading the assigned book or delving into the textbook to deal with the homework. We were under the gun, the pressure was on and we were ill prepared to meet our deadline. Why do we do that to ourselves, and how do we fix this?

The reason we do this to ourselves is simple. Many times the task at hand is a commitment on our part but even though we did commit to it, a priority it isn’t. It may be important but not as important as something else. If you want to see what is important to yourself or others note what it is you choose to do or spend time doing. It is a dead giveaway. Doing what is important to us will occasionally lead to a missed deadline which we explain away with, “I didn’t have the time.”

Is the excuse of not having the time true? We all have 24/7/365 which is all the time in the world. But why are some of us getting more done with our time while others can’t seem to get anything done. Again it is a matter of what is important and what isn’t. But there is also another factor involved and that is urgency versus what is important.

Many of us react to what is urgent. If we are convinced that a matter at hand needs immediate attention it suddenly becomes a priority. There again a priority is not necessarily important but can be urgent. And once urgent, it is an immediate deadline. Once we find ourselves working under a deadline we may feel pressured and may not produce the quality of work we are capable of. We can do better avoiding deadlines by using timelines and here is how.

Let’s say you know you need to finish writing 10 chapters this month. If you like you can set the last day of the month as a deadline but let’s look at it as the end of a timeline. The last day of the month will be the end of the timeline that you set to successfully complete your 10 chapters. Think of it as the day your goal is completed and vision it as such.

The next step is to be honest with you about your work habits. I know I work best in 2 hour burst of energy and concentration. Much longer and I tire of computer screens and need a break. I know I do my best work in the morning and in two hour increments. I also know I will need about 3 to 4 hours to write a chapter. So I will need about 40 hours this month to complete the 10 chapters. I will also need those 40 hours in the morning when I am fresh and do my best work.

What is the next step?

Make appointments with yourself for 20 morning appointments for 2 hours each. With 30 or 31 days in the month you have an additional 10 days to adjust your timeline should you need to do so. Set your calendar dates for these appointments, set the alerts as reminders. The important thing is to keep your appointments with yourself just as you would with an associate, your doctor, or your family member. Make these appointments a commitment Make them important. Most importantly, make them.

You have now turned your deadline into a timeline. A timeline is actually when you do your work. A timeline takes away the stress of the deadline. A deadline is something self-imposed. A timeline can be your answer to a more productive result with the best you have to offer.

Share with us how you may have overcome the stress of deadlines and work schedules.   


May 21, 2014

How to Plan Your Novel and Why It’s Important

By Gary Haynes

When I started writing I had an excellent and well-respected literary agent but my first novel remains unpublished. So for this blog post I thought I’d concentrate on overcoming the one factor that I believe prevented me from securing a publishing contract back then. Here’s the culprit: a lack of structural planning. Or, simply put, not having a plot before you start writing your novel.

When I began to write my first (unpublished) novel I had a basic idea in mind. I had read a book and a particular fact fascinated me. I saw this as the kernel from which my novel would grow. Unfortunately, when I began writing I soon found myself going off in all directions like the branches of a tree. I had no focus and spent hundreds of hours trying to figure out the plot. As a result, the plot was pretty lame, I have to say.

The remedy for this is to plan out your novel as best you can before you start writing it. I used to do a lot of mountaineering, but the thought of going into the wilderness without a map and a clear indication of where I was going and how I’d get there would have been unthinkable. I soon found out that it’s the same with writing a novel.

There’s a wide spectrum of thought on structural planning, everything from a page to a hundred pages. One successful author plans out every paragraph. Well, I’m somewhere in the middle. I do a summary for each chapter. Being a thriller writer, my chapters are short and punchy, and the overall summary is about 10,000 words. This means that for a novel of 100,000 words with 100 chapters, each chapter summary is on average 100 words. Some are no more than a couple of lines, but if the muse takes me, I can write half the length of the actual chapter during this process.

The more you do at this stage the less you have to do when you write the book. You can concentrate on getting a scene right rather than trying to figure out how it will fit into the plot. This doesn’t mean that you have to slavishly continue on the planned route as you are in the writing process, but it does mean that you only take little detours rather than full 180 degree turns. And when you do decide to go off-road, you’ll find that you will do so with confidence, because you are still within sight of the main highway.

So my advice is to plan your novel before you begin to write it. It will improve your plot simply by keeping each chapter cohesive and relevant.  
Gary Haynes studied law at Warwick University and completed his postgraduate training at the College of Law. As a lawyer, he specializes in commercial dispute resolution. Outside of work, he comments upon Middle East politics and keeps fit at his local boxing gym. Gary is published worldwide by Harlequin. He writes cinematic-style, fast-paced, action-packed political/military/spy thrillers. His current book is State of Honour. He will be writing a series of novels based on his main character, Tom Dupree, a special agent in the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security. His favourite quote is: You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take. Author website:

May 20, 2014

Songs in the Key of Life

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

"Where do you get your ideas?" is one of the most-asked questions of any writer, and almost always the answer involves simply observing real life.  Our daily experiences are a constant source of inspiration for any practitioner of the pen, and some of the most famous examples have endured the test of musical time.

Is Paul thinking, "Hold your head up, you silly girl"?
Throughout the songwriting of the Beatles, real life runs rampant.  "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" gets its name from a classmate of John Lennon's son Julian, who drew a picture showing her with diamond-shaped eyes. John's deceased mother Julia was the inspiration for a number of his songs, as was Paul McCartney's mother ("Let It Be") and his sheepdog ("Martha My Dear").  "Lovely Rita", about a meter maid, was sarcasm in song after Paul was issued a ticket by a female parking attendant. "Michelle" started out with similar farcical intentions, ridiculing a French art student Paul had seen singing at a Liverpool party.  "Hey Jude" was originally titled "Hey Jules", intended to encourage John's son Julian during his parents' breakup.  I could go on and on, and I think I just did.

Rumors have survived the decades regarding Carly Simon's biggest hit, "You're So Vain", mainly because Carly still playfully refuses to identify the victim of her vitriolic vocals, said at the time to be anyone from Warren Beatty to David Bowie.  She has at least confirmed that it was not Mick Jagger, who sings backup on the song, nor her soon-to-be husband at the time, James Taylor.

Speaking of Sweet Baby James, Taylor's first hit "Fire and Rain" was written after the suicide of a childhood friend named Suzanne ("Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you").  It also includes allusions to his early failed band The Flying Machine ("Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground").

I'd be remiss not to mention Stevie Wonder (since I stole one of his album titles for this post). Among his 500+ compositions are the hits "Isn't She Lovely" (written after the birth of his daughter Aisha), "Sir Duke" (a tribute to Duke Ellington and other artists of the big band era) and "My Cherie Amour" (dedicated to a girlfriend whose name was actually Marsha).

For anyone who remembers Gilbert O'Sullivan's breakout hit "Alone Again, Naturally", it's only natural to feel a little sorry for this young lad for whom "reality came around" and cut him into little pieces after being stood up for his own wedding.  The song continues to lament how he "cried and cried all day" when his mother passed away.  But don't feel too bad for him; every bit of it was fictional and Mrs O'Sullivan was just fine.  He later, however, wrote a hit song about his real-life niece, "Clair", which became one of the most popular baby names in the months that followed.

More recently, Heaven help anyone who gets on Taylor Swift's bad side.  John Meyer, Taylor Lautner and Kanye West are purportedly among the targets of her poisoned pen.  Swift neither confirms nor denies any speculation, because a lady never tells.  She just writes songs about it.  You kids.

It's only human nature to want to hear the stories of others.  It's our calling as writers to share those stories with the world. The joys and sorrows we live through aren't just personal experiences, they're endless ingredients for whatever literary cake we choose to bake.

May 19, 2014

Write Your Characters to Life

By Sheri Wren Haymore

Don’t you love to get so involved in a book that you can’t put it down and don’t want it to end? Would you like for that to happen for your readers?
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction, a memoir or a biography.  Readers invest time in your story, and they want to see the people you’re writing about come to life, whether fictional or historical. Readers want to feel that they know your character so well that they would recognize him if they met him on the street.
Let’s work on making that happen for your reader.
·        Test #1:  Pick a random scene in your story. Does the scene tell you five things about your character’s essential nature?  If not, then ask yourself: what is my character seeing, smelling, and hearing in this scene? And more importantly, what does he think about that?  Plunge deeper into his psyche, view the scene through his eyes, and then write those details.
·        Test #2:  Read through the first two scenes in your story and make note of your protagonist’s idiosyncrasies. Are your character’s habits integral to his personality? Or do you not find any habits?

Go to a park or mall and notice the little things people do. Does a young woman flip her blonde hair over her shoulder repeatedly as she talks? Annoying. Do you see a man stick his hands in his pockets and tilt his head when he listens? Endearing. Those little details can make your character come to life.

·        Test #3: Take your character out of the story and stick her in a ridiculous situation. This is a test to see how well you know her. Maybe a stray dog runs through the open door with coyotes on its tail. Maybe a space alien shows up for dinner. Write this bizarre scene and you will see her with more focus. Now put her back into her story and tell it better.

·        Test #4: Have a friend record the darkest scene in your story so that you can hear it afresh. This should be the scene in which your character has been pushed so far into a corner that the situation is unbearable; no apparent way out. As you listen to the recording, can you feel the emotion? Do you know what the character is thinking? Do you understand why he takes the action he does?  

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, the problem may not be in this scene alone. It is likely that there are aspects of your character’s personality that you have not explored in previous scenes. Go back; go deeper; write him to life.

·        Test #5: Finally, read the last scene as if you don’t know the story at all. After all the smoke has cleared, do you like this character? It doesn’t matter how many flaws the story has revealed in your character; in the end, your readers have to be able to say, “I really enjoyed getting to know that guy,” or they will close your book and forget it.
Sheri Wren Haymore grew up in Mt. Airy, NC, and still lives thereabouts with her husband and a pup named Cercie. Together, they’ve made a living running a couple of small businesses, and made a life doing the things they enjoy—traveling, hiking, camping, kayaking. Sheri loves music and yoga, inventing gourmet meals from random ingredients, laughing with friends, and most especially spending time with her daughter. Through Wisdom House Books, she published a romantic suspense, A Higher Voice, and recently released a suspense/thriller, A Deeper Cut. A graduate of High Point University, she has burned more pages than most people will ever write, and is currently scribbling a third novel, which may or may not survive the flames. She can be found at her website is:

May 16, 2014

Genre Jumping: To Switch or Not to Switch

By Marilyn Baron

Ignoring conventional wisdom, I do not stick to one genre when I write. I’ve written historical fiction, romantic thrillers/suspense, paranormal and women’s fiction of all lengths and formats, both traditionally published and self-published. I’ve even written a musical. With the advent of self-publishing, writers are taking control of their careers and now have more choices. Although I write in a variety of genres, I still have a brand. All of my books and short stories have the elements of romance and humor and often, mystery and suspense. Some writers experiment with a variety of genres until they find their voice. Mine is probably humorous women’s fiction.

I’ve even started a series. Book Two of the Psychic Crystal Mystery series, Homecoming Homicides, was released exclusively on Amazon, January 27 and the worldwide release is scheduled for May 9.

Agents traditionally advise their clients to stick a single genre to build a reader base and strengthen their reader brand. When writers want to deviate from their established category, they are either discouraged or told to write under a pseudonym if they want to tackle a different genre. That advice has worked for many successful authors. Some of my favorites are Nora Roberts, who also writes as J.D. Robb for her “In Death” series and Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle.  Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is wildly popular but she also collaborates with another author writing in a different genre. It could be that these authors are the exception because they are so well-known they can afford to break the rules.

I heard about one author who had a highly acclaimed first novel and wanted to experiment and publish a non-fiction book he’d written. He was discouraged by his agent and encouraged to continue writing in the same vein as the first book, following the adage, “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” That advice in guiding an author’s career may not be wrong. That’s just the thing. Today, there is no right and wrong. So take a chance, don’t limit yourself, branch out to other genres if you’re so inclined.

Best Advice
Whatever genre you write, the best advice I’ve ever received from top authors is some variation of, “Finish the Book!” And on a recent online chat, Rhonda Penders, president, The Wild Rose Press, Inc., said, “The best thing you can do to market your book is to write the next one.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Marilyn is a public relations consultant in Atlanta. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and the recipient of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. She writes humorous women’s fiction, romantic thrillers/suspense, historicals and paranormal. She has won writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. Marilyn blogs with the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales at You can find out more about Marilyn’s books and short stories on her Web site at Twitter Facebook   Linked-In