June 30, 2014

A Perfectly Flawed Character

By Amanda Kyle Williams

What connects us to a character? What makes us fall so hard we will track down every book in a series and worry about our hero’s safety, state of mind, finances, family, job, or marriage? We want to put our hands around his or her neck and squeeze when they veer off-course. We want to see them victorious, but we want them real.

When I read a review that refers to my protagonist, Keye Street, as flawed, realistic, damaged, vulnerable, gutsy, and a character you can empathize with, I know I’ve done my job. Crime fiction has a rich tradition of scarred and complicated detectives. I want her to be the person we’ve all been at times—imperfect, damaged, fumbling, aching, trying, failing—and the person we aspire to be—courageous, funny, quick-thinking, loyal. I want to pack the heart of a lion in my five foot, three inch detective even as she wrestles her own demons—addiction, self esteem, an inappropriate sense of humor, and a tendency to set fire to the things she loves most. This balance is a tightrope. If a character has too many flaws and continues on with their same behavior without giving the reader a sense that they’re growing and learning, it can frustrate and drive the reader away just as quickly as a too-polished, too-perfect character who delivers too many clever remarks. Readers want to know that everything we’ve put our characters through has meant something, changed them in some way, and made its mark on them.

Many years ago, a friend read one of my early manuscripts and told me it didn’t feel genuine. She said, “If you’d just write like you talk, that would feel real. That’s something I’d want to read.”

So I took this piece of advice the way most writers take advice, even when we’ve asked for it—I politely thanked her and walked away thinking she had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. It took me a couple of days of stewing and obsessing to realize not only was it great advice, but some of the most difficult to execute. What we’re really talking about is how to write with honesty. As a new writer, I was self-conscious. I wanted to impress. Writing without restraint, stripping a character down to their bones—to all their selfishness and self-indulgence, to their lust and demons and jealousy, and to all the petty and heroic deeds we all commit every day—means showing the world something vulnerable, raw, and something close to home.

Keye Street tries to be a decent human. Sometimes she makes it. Sometimes she falls short. But we care about our flawed characters because their struggles remind us of our own. We root for them because they’re trying to find their footing just like we are.

I try to let the world inspire me. We, writers, use everything from how we’ve felt to every experience and person we’ve encountered, especially when it comes to our family. Lord knows there is gold to be mined in one’s family for a writer. These are the most complicated, comfortable, uncomfortable, wonderful, and sometimes scarring relationships we will have in our lives. Use them. There’s validity to that age-old advice of writing what you know. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about Berlin from your Charlotte living room, or write a detective without having been a detective. It means write what you know in your heart, deep down in your bones—what love feels like; what grief feels like; what excitement and adrenaline feel like; that fear that can rock up at you like a big black wave; the gray areas we have all traveled in from time-to-time; the ethical struggles. Give that to your characters, and their hearts will begin to beat.

Amanda Kyle Williams has contributed to short story collections, written small press novels and worked as a freelance writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She was a house painter, a property manager, a sales rep, a commercial embroiderer, a courier, a VP of manufacturing at a North Georgia textile mill, and owned Latch Key Pets, a pet sitting and dog walking business. She also worked with a PI firm in Atlanta on surveillance operations, and became a court-appointed process server. The job was wonderful preparation for developing the Keye Street character. The Stranger You Seek is Amanda’s first mainstream crime novel and the first in the Keye Street series. Her second, Stranger In The Room. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, which produces unending fodder for her fiction. Her 3rd, Keye Street Thriller, Don’t Talk To Strangers releases July 1, 2014. Her website can be found at

June 27, 2014

How Theme and Worldview Drive Fiction

 By Elva Cobb Martin

As a beginning novelist I had to research theme and worldview to start planning my first inspirational novel.

Maybe something I’ve discovered will help you, too. A story’s theme is its most basic element. 

Author and award-winning blogger C.S. Lakin recently wrote on her blog, Live Write Thrive, “Think about theme as some essential take-away thought you want to leave with your reader.” She also said theme speaks to your plot, but more to the heart of your story and one way to get to it is to ask yourself just why you are writing the book.

Ron Benrey, in his Complete Idiot’s guide to Writing Christian Fiction, says theme “is the unifying idea of the story—the concept that ties its various insights and values together.”

The Script Lab blog lists 10 central themes in film that are constantly repeated and which describe an opinion about society, human nature, or life in general.  

1) Good vs. Evil   - Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia
2) Love Conquers All   - The Notebook, the Love Comes Softly series
3) Triumph over Adversity – The Blind Side, Facing the Giants
4) Individual vs. Society – Schindler’s List, The Elephant Man
5) The Battle – Braveheart, The Patriot, Attila
6) Death as a Part of Life – The Shack, Driving Miss Daisy
7) Revenge – Cape Fear, Revenge of the Nerds
8) Loss of Innocence – Sixteen Candles, Toy Story 3
9) Man vs. Himself – The Godfather, Wall Street
10) Man vs. Nature – Jaws, Armageddon, Jack London stories, Survivor shows

A quick check of stories in the Bible will reveal many universal themes. In fact, the Bible hasn’t left out any nitty-gritty issues mankind faces.
■ Husband and wife join in wrongdoing (Adam/Eve, Ahab/Jezebel, Ananias/Sapphira)
■ Jealousy/sibling conflict (Cain/Able, Rachel/Leah, Joseph/brothers)
■ Love/hate triangle (Abraham/Sarah/Hagar; Jacob/Leah/Rachel)
■ Arranged marriages (Isaac/Rebecca, Jacob/Leah/Rachel, Christ and His Bride
■ Rape (Dinah and Shechem; Tamar and Ammon)
■ War and its mighty men (Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson)
■ Women’s rights (the daughters of Zelophehad)
■ Adoption vs. Infanticide (Moses)     
■ Adultery/Murder (David/Bathsheba)
■ Redemption and Forgiveness – (the Prodigal Son and numerous other stories)

But what, exactly, determines how any of the above themes will most likely be played out in novels, movies, television? I believe it’s the author’s worldview in a book, and a director’s in a film.

Worldview, the core values that determine a person’s, or an author’s outlook on life, drives theme. In my case I wanted my novel to reflect a Christian worldview versus a secular or naturalist worldview. Someone has said worldview can be determined by the answers to three questions: 
► How did we get here and who are we?
► What went wrong?
► What can fix it?

The Christian worldview short answers would be:
♥ God created the world and made us in His image.
♥ Adam and Eve sinned and brought condemnation upon all mankind.     
♥ Sin must be punished but God loved mankind so much He sent Jesus Christ as our substitute to take our punishment so we could be forgiven.

A naturalist worldview would have different answers to these questions and secular novels, movies, television reflect this.

As a writer, what themes and worldview do you want to aim toward your readers?
Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She has completed two inspirational romances. In a Pirate’s Debt is being considered by a literary agency for representation. Summer of Deception is being considered by a publisher. A mother finally promoted to grandmother, Elva lives with her husband Dwayne and a mini-dachshund writing helper (Lucy) in Anderson, South Carolina. She and her husband are retired ministers. Connect with her on her web site www.elvamartin.comher blog and
on Twitter @Elvacobbmartin and on Face book.

June 26, 2014

Writing Inspiration Can Be Found on Facebook

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

In my job with Southern Writers Magazine, I connect with authors on several different social media venues. It's fun to see what authors are writing and to read about their next contract or book release. 

However, the other day on Facebook, an author wrote a status that sparked a huge number of responses. He said, in one sentence, respond to, "It was a dark and stormy night." Everyone commenting had to continue the story based on the original status and following others' comments. This required the reader to read all previous comments to make sure their response was plausible and made sense.

It was so much fun, and by the end of three days, interest waned. With each sentence on the average of 10-12 words, over 8500 words were amassed on one status post with comments. Amazing and it was inspiring. Some authors were writing it like a cozy mystery, some a psychology thriller; some turned it to horror. Some authors put a paranormal spin on it, and some did a straight thriller. 

All in all, it was an excellent exercise in writing on the fly. At one point, comments were being made so fast that my continuation of the story changed because other writers posted, before I was finished. This forced me to quickly respond based on the new comments, changing gears to redirect the story I envisioned. 

I highly recommend doing this with your own Facebook page, when you need to get the juices flowing. Then grab a mug of caffeine, hands on your keyboard and get ready for a writing whirlwind. Are you ready? Get your status sentence that intrigues, post as your status and go.

June 25, 2014

Persevering through those Dreaded Critiques and Rewrites

By Danie Marie

The word critique often strikes fear in a new writer, or even an old sage, because what we've written is our baby, born from the depths of our being. Thus, crossing the threshold into an established critique group can feel rather daunting. We glance at the onlookers and wonder what they're thinking. "Who's this newbie?" "I hope they're worth my time." "I hope their writing isn't juvenile." I hope they accept me.

The following meeting we sit with bated breath, as each person hands back our masterpiece, praying they loved our prose.

But then we look down.

Red lettering litters our pages.

Like surgeons our words or entire sentences or, gasp, entire paragraphs are crossed out. The rest of the hour the wall clock ticks an eternity before it's time to leave and we can dash out the door. Hopes tramped upon, like the proverbial puppy with his tail between his legs, we head home to our safe haven and lock the door.

I'll venture to say, if you've been to a critique group, at some point that "puppy" was you. The question is, do we want an honest assessment of our writing or not? Do we want our words to shine, to grab the reader and hold their attention? If our novel/non-fiction doesn't do that, we're wasting our time. Readers will trash our work before they get past page one.

Like it or not critiques and rewrites are essential.

Ever been in a writing group where a new writer's work had potential but their tender heart couldn't handle constructive criticism and they quit? If we're honest, we've all been stung by at least one harsh critique. But we want our writing to be the best it can, right? Then we've got to develop a bit of toughness to endure this journey to publication or readers will miss the blessing of our writing.

My friend John is fond of saying, "Take my critique with a bag o' salt." That’s the attitude we writers need. We dig into those rewrites and weigh the advice given­­--keep what's helpful and toss the rest.

Once we discover new ways of using a cliché or we've written a sentence that sings … timbres of excitement burst within. We come to understand the importance of critiques and rewrites, and we realize a treasure of words resides within us that until now has been untapped. Rewrites are no longer tedious, but fun. Our writing improves, and once we've made our project the best we can, it's time to write the dreaded query letter (a topic on its own), and once accepted, we mail our manuscript to a publisher.

As a side note, I spent five and a half years working on my debut novel Kellen's Hope and it was well worth the time. It's receiving five stars by reviewers, so don't give up. Perseverance is a key we writers had better not lose.
Danie Marie is a novelist and inspirational speaker who loves laughter. She was born (1953) and raised in California. She and her husband now reside in N.CA., and love it there. Her debut novel Kellen's Hope (Romance/Tragedy/Mystery/Suspense) released February 2014. Blessed with the gift of evangelism, she has also discipled many over the years. She is a graduate of the 2012 Christian Communicators Conference and has attended writer’s conferences in Canada, Colorado, and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California, a number of times. Her goal as a writer is to engage her readers and draw them into the lives of her characters—to inspire, encourage, challenge and entertain—to enrich the lives of her readers and imprint a lasting message of hope. Her social media links
2012 Christian Communicators Conference Graduate
Inspire Christian Writers   Christian Writers Group International, Inc.

June 24, 2014


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

It seems digital only magazines have decided they want a print magazine to go along with their digital. If you are wondering why, a few million people out there still like to hold that magazine in their hands. However, the main reason is the advertising. You see companies who advertise their products know they get better responses for that buck they pay to advertise when it is in print.

If you don’t think print is viable for authors, think about all those celebrities in glamor land (Big screen and TV) that have their agents working overtime to get them on the covers of those magazines. They want to snag interviews in the magazines and get their movies listed.

Author’s watching this can take some notes here. Get in the magazines. Let people see you, read about you and your books. What you do, how you do it and how many books you’ve written. People love to hear how you’ve accomplished your success. They also love to hear how many obstacles you overcame to get to this point. So don’t be shy in telling them how many rejections you went through before “hitting it”––getting published.

This is a great source to put in your tool belt for marketing and promoting and selling those books!

June 23, 2014

Write a GREAT Story

By Michael Phillip Cash

How do you write a great story? Really. How is it done? Do you map out your work? Do you write on the fly? I get these questions EVERYDAY from fellow writers and interviewers. Everyone wants to know the "secret" to great storytelling.

I have to whisper this...I have that secret.  

OK, are you totally excited now? You should be. Because I really do have the secret to writing a killer story.  And I learned it-from a screenwriting book.  

Yes, a screenwriting book, that took those ideas from another book about stories. The screenwriting book is called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and it really is the last book you will ever need on writing a great story. Save the Cat was inspired by The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Another amazing book, but a bit difficult to digest. But Blake's book, Save the Cat is it. If you want to learn how to write a great story, read Save the Cat.  Save the Cat breaks down stories by beats. Every story has to hit a beat, or it won't go anywhere. You'll just be writing, and writing, and writing...and just like a treadmill, going nowhere fast.  No, you have to "beat" out your story before you put your fingers to your laptop. Every story in the history of the world follows these beats. Let me give you an example.

Horror writing. Sounds easy, right? Just write about some dumb teens in a random place, a killer and everyone dies...blah, blah, blah. There are actually three distinctive elements every great Monster in the House story needs. It's called Monster in the House because it's exactly need a monster. Duh. A man-eating shark, an alien, bugs, Freddy, something that will SCARE the living daylights out of people. You need a HOUSE. But not just any house. You need a house that people cannot leave. Like Amityville in Jaws. Or Nostromo in Alien. Third and final thing...probably the most important thing, you need a SIN. A sin that allows the monster to eat the people. In Jaws for example, the sin is committed by the mayor. He knew there was a shark but kept the beaches open (for profit). Greed is the sin for the shark to eat the people. Your story has to be primal. You have to be able to explain it that will affect people emotionally.  

These are all lessons you will never learn in school. You need to read Save the Cat and learn from Blake (who tragically passed away a few years ago). Write out the beats to your story, and you will be able to write in no time!  

Born and raised on Long Island, Michael Phillip Cash has always had a love for horror, thriller, paranormal, science fiction and fantasy. Earning a degree in English and an MBA, he has worked various jobs before settling into being a full-time author. He currently resides on Long Island with his wife and children. Michael Phillip Cash is an award winning and best-selling author of horror, paranormal, and science fiction novels. Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island, The Hanging Tree, and Schism: The Battle for Darracia have all been named to Foreward Reviews Book of the Year Awards. He can be followed at  

June 20, 2014

Inspired by Locale, History, & Antebellum Plantation Homes

By B. J. Robinson 

What inspires your muse? As a lover of the outdoors and nature, I’m often inspired by spending time outside, especially around water such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean. Lately, I’ve found myself inspired by history of the antebellum era and touring old plantation homes. This is how I came to write my two latest novels River Oaks Plantation and Romance under the Oaks. Taking tours seeped in history allowed my mind to wander and wonder. Two novels were the result.

I’m also a product of the South complete with an accent that announces it, so locale plays an important part. If it’s about the South, I’ll be inspired. Due to this, other writers such as Eva Marie Everson inspire my muse. I loved her novel Unconditional and think it’s her best yet, though I also enjoyed her Cedar Key Series and Things Left Unspoken. If you’re stuck, read other authors in your genre or who write and set their books in a locale that inspires your muse.

As a teen, I loved Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and always wanted to write a novel set on a plantation. There is something about the old homes beneath the live oaks and Spanish moss that stir me with romance of the past. I can’t help but imagine what life must have been like for young couples living during the antebellum era, ones who had to endure the Civil War. From the depths of my mind and history, I create characters that will transport you to another era.

One thing I am thankful for is that we don’t have to wear the yards of material and layers women did in those days. Gardening had to be an art. The South is too hot and humid to wear layers of clothing while gardening. I love the outdoors and working in my flowers, but I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed it back in the day.

My novels are character driven, and I’m a morning writer. I’ve always felt I did my best writing then. Once I get into a novel, the characters tell their story. In the wee hours of morning, I’m perking with the coffee.

In my latest novel, Romance under the Oaks, Celina loves the city of New Orleans, and Jacques loves the bayou country and quiet plantation life. Their differences and secrets could drive them apart. Celina hides something in the wall of the plantation and never tells Jacques about it. He keeps something from her even while he romances her under the oaks. Can their love survive differences and secrets? This family saga set on a planation fifty miles from New Orleans is more than a love story. It’s rich in New Orleans history. Learning inspired my muse as I researched and discovered things I never knew, though I was born in New Orleans.

So, what inspires my muse? Outdoors, nature, oak trees, Spanish moss, the antebellum era, old New Orleans, plantation homes, history, research, and learning, and reading other authors all enhance my creative mind and inspire me to create other worlds through characters who lived in the past and tell their own stories.
B. J. Robinson is a multi-published, prize-winning author of Christian romantic suspense and historical romance.  River Oaks Plantation is a finalist in the Grace Awards.  She writes from Florida, blessed with her husband, children, grandchildren, pets, and faith. When she’s not writing, she’s reading and reviewing books. Visit her at
Historical Romance Author Page
Romantic Suspense Page
Louisiana Southern Reads Page

June 19, 2014

Fear Disguised as Practicality

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Comedian Jim Carrey’s speech to the 2014 Graduating Class of Maharishi University of Management included the phrase in the title to describe ones reasoning, practicality, for the path they chose instead of the path they love.  Carrey told the story of his father’s love for comedy. Carrey felt his father would have been a great comedian but instead took a practical path. His father chose the safe path of an accountant.  Yet when Jim Carrey was twelve years old his father was let go from that safe job and his family did everything within their power to survive.

I think we all have done that at one time or another. We think we are taking the risk out of life with our conservative choices. We then find that isn’t true. We follow a path that is expected of us and discover that it was the wrong path. Or we may have struck out on our own following our dream only to be reeled back in by our friends, family or our own fears. It is easy to see where we make our choices by fear disguised as practicality. It is the sensible thing to do.

I decided on my current path some forty years ago. I shared with my father my decision and was quickly told, “Son we don’t do that. No one in our family has ever done that.” He was right, no one had. I would be the first. It was kind of scary once you think about it. I was leaving the family’s traditional path and choosing my own. It was also scary to others. Others may come to realize they too can follow what they love and leave practicality behind. At that point of realization they will be forced to make a decision. The decision to remain practical or pursue what you love can be unsettling for some.

Carrey said he had a learned many a great things from his Dad. The least of which was, you can fail at what you don’t want to do so you might as well do what you love. Having heard motivational speakers tell stories of Jim Carrey’s faith in his success, many have used him as an example of determination and perseverance. 

Carrey tells us to look to him as an example. Carrey said, “All there will ever be is what’s happening here in the decisions we make in this moment which are based in either love or fear… You can fail at what you don’t want…so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love…”                

Our society has been blessed throughout history with those that strayed from practicality and pursued what they loved. My hope is it continues. What is it you love? Will practicality hold you back?


June 18, 2014

Writing Through Shame: Bravery, Acceptance, and the Memoir

By H. G. Beverly

A life of sharp contrasts can lead to strong stories. Maybe you’ve lived the kind of life or experienced some special circumstances that you’ve always dreamed of sharing in a memoir. Maybe you feel strongly that your story needs to be told so others can learn from it. Maybe you just want to get it out. The question is: can you write about it?

Can you write about it? Let’s start with the “it” that’s most difficult for you to talk about. Usually, it’s a topic that’s all wrapped up in shame. For me, shame covers entire periods of my life. Here’s an example—I’m ashamed that I couldn’t make my ex-husband care. I’m ashamed of some of the degrading things I did to try and make that happen. And I’m ashamed that I’m the only person in my family who is divorced. When I think about those things, a defensive inner dialogue starts up—it fights back.  It reminds me that hey, I’m also proud of the fact that I was all in, that I gave that marriage everything I had.  Then there’s the shame again. Because it just wasn’t enough.

I was married to a sociopath.

Sociopaths can’t care. It’s hard for caring humans to imagine that it can be so black and white, especially when they can seem to care more than anyone when they want to.

But they don’t.

So my life has been full of sharp contrasts. A childhood on a farm with a sheltering, loving family turned into an adulthood on a farm with a sociopath. There’s birth and death. Food from scratch, lilies, horses, meadows, screaming, choking, and emptiness. The contrast of my experiences compel me to write.

Maybe you feel that way, too, about your own experiences. So you sit down to your private journal and spew it out for hours. You sit down at the keyboard, and your fingers fly. You want people to know what happened. You want people to laugh and cry and feel completely swept away. I’m going to circle it back to my central question here and ask again: can you really write about “it”? The part that you’re ashamed of? The raw part that’s embarrassing to you? A memoir that’s most successful is a whole story—it touches on your own human softness, your weaknesses, and your doubt. If a voice inside cuts off your writing every time you get real about yourself, that scolding voice is shame. Maybe you’ve hurt people and should feel ashamed. Maybe you haven’t hurt anyone and are carrying it around unnecessarily. Many people who seem to carry the most shame are the ones who deserve it the least.

It’s ironic. I recommend writing and rewriting to get through it. The more you experience the liberation of telling the truth before you share with the public, the more comfortable you become with yourself.  You’ll be more ready to share when it’s time. But give yourself time—write the story to yourself, for yourself. Write it over and over and over again. If your fingers get stuck and the page stays blank, take some deep breaths and step away from it for a bit. Think it out while on a walk. Try to see yourself through your spiritual eyes instead of your human eyes. Through a forgiving lens of acceptance—a lens that recognizes your soft humanity. When you examine your writing, use that same gentle approach. That’s a challenge! When I look back on my original attempts to write about my failed marriage, it’s easy for me to judge them as whiney and boring and insignificant. When I soften my perspective, I can see that I needed to process every little detail before I could even begin to pick out the parts that would be interesting to others—that would make a story. I’m still a work in progress, certainly, but one thing I know is that the more I write with honesty and acceptance, the better I am. My experiences become more real. My stories become more compelling. Over time, I may just get it right.
H.G. Beverly is an award-winning writer, therapist, and activist whose work redefines both trauma and perseverance. She published “The Other Side of Charm” in 2014 and is currently working on its sequel. Besides writing, Beverly enjoys everything from painting to farm life to fitness—and she cherishes time with her family. Learn more at

June 17, 2014

What Writers Regret

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

By the time the mag celebrates its 3rd anniversary in July, we will have had the pleasure of featuring over 600 authors in Southern Writers Magazine.  All have published at least one book, some have as many as 50 or more (I think those authors deserve to have a statue made of them).  If you add up all the books by all these authorsand of course, 600 is just the tip of the literary icebergwe're talking thousands of books by these excellent wordsmiths.

One question we often ask during interviews is, If you could change anything in your writing career, what would it be? And this is the answer we've received hundreds of times:

I wish I'd started writing sooner.

This regret is echoed by writers of all ages, not just the ones who followed their inner Dickens after retirement.  The thrill of having publishing dreams come true at 25 is no less exciting than at 75.  And the bottom line is, no matter when they do it, they regret not having started sooner.

What does this oft-repeated sentiment tell us?  That authors who have experienced the joys and the struggles of committing to their craft have discovered it to be a rewarding enough undertaking that they only wish they could have had more of it in their lives.

How much greater regret will be felt by the many would-be writers who always knew they had a book in them, but never made the time to write the first chapter?

When you're writing, you're 100% more productive than every other writer who isn't writing.  I don't know who said that first, but I'll give credit to Annie K., from whom I heard it first.  (I encourage you to visit Annie K.'s awesomely motivating blog post on the 50 Reasons You Should Be Writing Right Now.)

For any of us who feel the urge to write, it's an essential part of our nature and something that will never be satisfied until it's fulfilled.  Whether we put our everything into it now, or put it off for some distant future, the day will come when we say, "I wish I'd started writing sooner."

One thing's for certain. You will never say, "I wish I hadn't become a writer."

June 16, 2014

Why “Women’s” Fiction?

By Jennie Shortridge

The novels I write are categorized as women’s fiction, even though my latest, Love Water Memory, has both a male protagonist and a female protagonist, and is the story of a harrowing brain disorder and its aftermath. You could imagine John Irving or Nick Hornby or Garth Stein writing about such a thing (in fact they’ve written about very similar things, and fall into the category of “mainstream” fiction).

And yet, I’ve decided to come down on this issue exactly where novelist Elizabeth Berg does. When asked if she minded her work being categorized as women’s fiction, she said something like, “I love women! I love writing for women. Why would I mind?” (Why indeed, when women buy the vast majority of books?)

When women write fiction, we tend to share ideas, experiences, and revelations about solving problems, about surviving and thriving through difficulties, about love and the power of compassion and understanding.  Women are biologically hardwired for empathy, and the only way to write fiction that feels true is with great empathy for your characters.

And yet, women often get subtle (or not so subtle) messages that empathy and compassion are not as important as power and might, in both the literary and the real world. Don’t believe it. If more leaders were women, integrating compassion into decision and policymaking, our people and our planet would be far better off.

And if more readers understood what makes women’s fiction matter, we could change the world, one reader—female or male—at a time.
Jennie Shortridge is the author of Love Water Memory and four other acclaimed novels, as well as a writing teacher and avid volunteer. She is co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit collective of over sixty published authors in the Northwest who work to give back to their community. Find her on FacebookTwitter, her blog JennieSez, and

June 13, 2014

It Helps to Like Jigsaw Puzzles

By Glynnis Campbell

Have you ever considered being part of an anthology?

There are definite perks.

You only have to write a fraction of a novel.  You get to work with writers you trust and admire.  You can link a novella to your own existing series.  And when your book hits the shelves, your promotion quotient increases by the number of authors.

But there are challenges, too.

Writers are by nature solitary creatures.  Creative people are stubborn about their opinions.  And romantics get their feelings crushed easily.  Put all three together, and you must think before you speak.  On any given day, you may be treading on eggshells or walking on broken glass.  You must be honest but careful with words and realize that no idea is so precious than it can't be compromised for the sake of harmony.
So how to begin?

For my latest historical romance anthology with Tanya Anne Crosby and Laurin Wittig, it started with a bottle of wine in the lobby at a writer's conference, brainstorming until the wee hours.

At first, it felt like we were working on different puzzles.

Tanya hoped to write a prequel to her Guardian of the Stone series, featuring the legend of a Pictish goddess from the Dark Ages.

Laurin needed to tie her novella in to her well-loved Scottish Highland romances, the Kilmartin Glen series.

And the story for my Tudor-set Shadow of the Queen series had to revolve around an event in Mary Queen of Scots' life.

What we needed was a thread to not only tie all our novellas together, but to allow us the freedom to go seamlessly off into our own series.

So how do you find that thread?  You can give stories characters or themes in common.  You can place the stories in the same magical setting.  You can connect the stories with an object like an heirloom jewel or a legendary sword passed from hand to hand.

After hours of juggling ideas, we came up with an object to link our stories—the Winter Stone—an ancient crystal with mysterious properties, carried from Keeper to Keeper down through the ages.
Of course, in the jigsaw puzzle of book writing, this is only the outside frame.  There's still the entire middle to complete.  There are more challenges ahead.  For us, these challenges were magnified by the fact that we lived thousands of miles apart.

We went back and forth on the size and properties of The Winter Stone.

We compared plot points to be sure they didn't conflict.

We played tug-of-war with the level of the paranormal element we wanted.

But in the end, with communication, understanding, compromise, and a lot of heart, every last piece of the jigsaw puzzle came together, and THE WINTER STONE was born.

So if you're patient, if you can see the big picture, and if you enjoy turning pieces on their heads and trying to make them all fit, maybe an anthology is for you!
When she's not writing swashbuckling historical romances like Lady Danger, Knight's Prize, MacAdam's Lass, Captive Heart, The Shipwreck, My Hero and playing medieval matchmaker, bestselling author GLYNNIS CAMPBELL is a cartoon voice, the wife of a rock star, and the mother of two young adults. She's been a ballerina, a typographer, a film composer, a piano player, a singer in an all-girl rock band, and a voice in those violent video games you won't let your kids play. She does her best writing on cruise ships, in Scottish castles, on her husband's tour bus, and at home in her sunny southern California garden. Glynnis loves transporting readers to a place where the bold heroes have endearing flaws, the women are stronger than they look, the land is lush and untamed, and chivalry is far from dead! Her social media links are:

June 12, 2014

Words and Pictures

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

This week I was invited to a pre-screening of a movie that was on my-want-to-see-list. Juliette Binoche is a once-successful painter turned Honors Art teacher, and Clive Owen is a one-time published author who is now an Honors English teacher in a romantic dramedy, “Words and Pictures.” As the movie unfolds, a sparring between the two escalates to a "war," and it spills into an inspiring effect on both the characters and the promising students at an exclusive high school. The movie basis, without any spoilers, questions which is more important "Words or Pictures."

The movie got me thinking about which is more important. As writers, you would think its a no brainer, of course it's words. Right? Well, not so fast. As writers, our desire is to let our words paint pictures in our readers’ minds. We dream of writing something that will positively stay with our readers, in their minds, from the first page until the page that says, "The End."

Wait a minute. Every book has cover art and let's face it, readers are attracted to our books because of what they first see that compels them to open the book and read our words. To be honest, the cover art is the hook. Therefore it is an important component to a book's success. If a book is never picked up, you the writer, won't make a sale. It may even be more important if you are an ebook writer. Someone scrolling the thousands of book options available will not even click a link to your book to read your book description unless the cover stops their search capturing their attention. Only then will your description be read...your precious words. 

In conclusion, "Words and Pictures" are equally important for a writer’s success. What do you think? "Words or Pictures" or both equally?