July 31, 2014

Opportunities Passing Me By

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Morgan Freeman once said, “It appeared things were passing me by and I wondered why they were passing me by.” Freeman was speaking of his career as an actor and the parts he thought he should have been given but wasn’t. One can imagine thinking as he did, this was a missed opportunity. Seeing a once in a lifetime chance for a great part gone could be overwhelming and asking myself, would there be another?

One can also imagine having an intense self-examination of one’s career path or even career choice. Self-doubt, lack of confidence or even total abandonment of your path could result. It happens to us all at one time or another as we are finding our way or fine tuning your craft. So what do we do?   

Freeman continued onward and soon came to the realization about those missed opportunities and said, “Well they weren’t passing me by but were happening for me all along. Providence had said, no this job is not for you.” This is an eye opening and heartfelt statement we all could take to heart. When that opportunity appears to have passed us by it may simply be things happening for us but not the way we imagined it happening.

I always considered this to be similar to traveling down the interstate and an interesting exit comes up. The billboards tell of all the wonders available to us at this exit. The restaurants, rest stops, historical sites and entertainment opportunities all appear irresistible. Even more enticing are the passengers in your car find them enticing and encourage you to take the exit. You know this is not your exit. This exit will not get you to your destination. It will only delay your arrival at your determined site. What do you do?

I find many times I take the exit. I explore and then return to my original path. I am delayed temporarily but continue on. We all must explore to find our way but we must not let our exploration turn into 40 years of wandering in the desert.

The next time you feel you have a missed opportunity think of it as Freeman did. Providence may be saying this isn’t for you and continue on to your destination.


July 30, 2014

Writing is Like a Carousel Ride

By Kim Smith

Writing a story, whether short or long is like a carousel ride.

The exciting calliope calls to you to be a part of the magic. It tugs and pulls until you throw caution to the wind and get on board.  Sometimes you pay to get your moment on the ride, sometimes with fortune smiling, the ride is free.
Some people approach the carousel with trepidation, as it can be tricky to get onto the platform if you don’t watch your step. Some people never try; content to sit on the outside of the experience and watch. But for those who do, the world looks a bit different.
Inside the carousel are painted animals. Horses, rabbits, cats or pigs, each one is different from the rest, with intricate factors about its design and history. Some are dark, some are light, but all are interesting and beautiful. If you’re new to carousels you may find staying on the animals difficult, as the seat is hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes not working.
Around you, people climb atop the animals. They hold onto them with clutching fingers and laugh or cry, as the ride begins to move. The upward movement is exciting, and the rider goes with it up, and then back down again until the end.
The riders talk to you with accents and diction each unlike the last. The trick is to develop a friendship with them and be interested in their story because if you don’t, they soon will be gone.
You listen to the riders and notice every so often, one of them will stretch out and attempt to grab something zipping by. It’s a brass ring, and if they catch it, at the end of the ride, they receive a prize.

What does this have to do with writing you ask?

The ride’s motion is a successful story idea.  Usually coming around on a regular schedule, some are long and some short. Oftentimes, it’s the shorter ones writers have the most trouble with. Story ideas can be tricky, and writers approach the writing process with trepidation, but eventually they get to the place where they can see their way.

Inside the story, the writer sees a plot, a painted animal. Each is special, beautiful and different, comedic or dramatic, with possibilities to be explored. Sometimes finding the plot is hard, just like the animal’s seat, and can be frustratingly difficult to stay with when they don’t work.

The carousel riders are the characters. They breathe and move, speak and tell stories of their lives. They want to tell a writer their stories and do so in differing voices, with accents and diction, which make them unique.

Finally, the brass ring would be publication. For some, it remains outside their reach, an illusion as it zips just past their fingertips. For others, it’s a prize, hard-fought and won, to take along down life’s path until they discover another carousel to ride.
Kim Smith is the author of five novels, one novella, and more short stories than she can remember. She hosts the lively online radio show, Writer Groupie where she entertains writers of all genres. She lives in the Mid South region of the US with her Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, and her husband of many years.  You can find out more about Kim at her website,
Twitter: @mkimsmith or Goodreads:

July 29, 2014

Stuck in the Middle

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

The great philosopher Taylor Swift once said, "I love the ending of a movie where two people end up together. Preferably if there's rain and an airport or running or a confession of love."  I think I might have seen that movie. 

Of course, what we don't see is what comes afterwards.  We usually don't see the happy couple getting blood tests, dealing with paperwork at the registrar's office, trying to lose weight for the wedding, or arguing a year later because someone didn't take out the trash. 

"If you want a happy ending," said Orson Welles, "that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." Indeed, most stories end at the point where there is a happy ending, a resolve, or a sense of hope.  Ever since man began telling stories, beginning / middle / end has been the standard. 

But in the early days of film, movie makers realized audiences would keep coming back week after week if they were given a story that has no ending.  Thus were born short features like Flash Gordon, Superman, The Perils of Pauline, and other cliffhangers starring recurring good guys, bad guys and damsels in distress, some literally hanging from cliffs until the next installment.

That same serialized approach became a staple of radio once it came along.  Even Amos & Andy had its roots as a fractured drama, complete with a somber opening theme.  Then, only a couple of decades later, soap operas dominated TV.  Romance and drama are a natural mix for a storyline that has no ending.  No sooner is one problem solved when three more come along.

NBC keeps its biggest mystery unrevealed on The Blacklist
Today, the "continuing story" concept is more popular than ever.  It's all over nighttime television, from Game of Thrones to Downton Abbey to The Blacklist. Miss one episode and you'll miss some event so pivotal that you'll be scratching your head down the road.

But these are not simply long sagas with no end.  Each episode includes its own weekly situation to be dealt with, and while we are still baited with a cliffhanger, we receive some satisfying conclusion to the drama du jour.  Otherwise it would get frustrating to invest repeatedly in something that never pays off because the story is forever stuck in the middle.

We have an inherent craving for resolve.  Like the tales we tell, our lives contain constant ups and downs, but when we succeed, the world doesn't stop to acknowledge each victory with "THE END".  We love a hero we can identify with and feel the elusive sense of closure through.

If we've written solid characters, their lives could continue beyond the ending of our story.  Choosing the most satisfying place to close the epilogue is how we give readers what they desire.  They are thankful for happy endings, because real life tends to be one big cliffhanger.

July 28, 2014

Writing Inspired Ideas

By Brenda Novak  

The one question I am asked far more than any other is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

When I first started writing, I had THE GREAT IDEA. It was based almost entirely on a title that popped into my head one day—OF NOBLE BIRTH. This title lent itself to a very specific theme: whether one is noble depends on the heart and not the pedigree. That was the message I wanted to convey, and I knew the best backdrop for a story with such a message would be a historical setting where the caste system was firmly in place.

After five years spent researching the Victorian time period and teaching myself the craft of storytelling, I managed to sell that book to HarperCollins. The publisher even let me keep my precious title from which all else had sprung. But with OF NOBLE BIRTH finally finished and sold, I soon realized that was NOT the only book I would ever need to write if I wanted to make my living as a published author. In order to build my career, I had to write another story, and another, and another. That meant I had to develop my imagination, turn it into a deep well of ideas from which I could draw time and again.

I didn’t know how I was going to do this but, fortunately, our brains are very adaptable. The more I demanded that my imagination deliver IDEA NUMBER 2, the harder it began to search. Before long, my mind turned into a “sifter.” It sifted through everything that came my way, every conversation I overheard, every funny anecdote I was told, every movie I saw, every newspaper article I read, every true crime show I puzzled over—until I could pull an attitude from one character I’d come to know via a TV show, mix it with a situation my mother had mentioned to me the week before, throw in some of my personal experience and…I was off and typing.

Some days, I still fear I’ll run out of ideas. After I wrote my last suspense trilogy (INSIDE, IN SECONDS & IN CLOSE), my work came to a grinding halt. “What should I do next?” I asked myself. And there was no answer! I thought my imagination had failed me after thirty-something novels. But it just wanted to go in a different direction. Once I realized that I was craving a return to my contemporary romance roots, a juicy drama started to take shape in my mind about a group of friends (both male and female) who have grown up together and currently live in a small gold country town in the Sierra Nevada Foothills (like those not far from where I live). I could easily conjure up the setting and the type of people my characters would need to be to remain fast friends for so long.

With that, I was able to write brief story outlines. One book after another began to take shape until I had a yet-to-be-written inventory of twelve books, beginning with a digital prequel called WHEN WE TOUCH, which kicks things off with a bang. (Actually, it all starts with a wedding—but not the wedding everyone’s been expecting. What would be the fun in writing about that?) Since then, I’ve written seven of those twelve books. The latest, COME HOME TO ME, is available.

So…where do you get your ideas?
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak writes contemporary romance as well as historical romance and romantic suspense. She also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million to help her son and others like him and is currently gearing up for the fundraiser's ten-year anniversary. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life. Website: Facebook:  Twitter: @Brenda_Novak


July 25, 2014

A Crime Writer’s Adventure

By Stephen Puleston

The first chapter has to grab the reader’s attention. There’s no escaping this fact and the author can’t give the reader any opportunity to close the book. And keeping the readers interested is another key task for the author. I worked with an editor on one of my books who advised me to avoid the ‘25% slump’ – a point at approximately a quarter of the way through the book where the momentum and pace sags enough for the reader to close the book. Now I aim to introduce a twist or turn at this point or something that keeps the reader hooked.

The more I write the more I plot. This is usually a full plot narrative with the main event, character arcs and twist and turns included. As I write crime fiction I generally write a murder schedule too that sets out the motives, suspects and red herrings for all the deaths. But plotting is one thing and allowing the characters to take the story in various directions is quite another so quite often I’ll change the direction or remove/add a character. I keep my chapters reasonably short and I aim for a ‘cliffhanger’ at the end. It may be a cliché but I want to keep my readers turning the pages of my novel.

Edit, then edit again and again. Once the first complete draft is written I then start editing. This means printing off a scene schedule [old fashioned I know] which has all the chapters and scenes listed with summaries of the content of each scene. This gives me the ability to take an overview of the whole book and see what chapters and scenes can be deleted. 

A writer’s favourite command on the keyboard is the delete key. I have a folder called deleted scenes but although it’s quite full I have never gone back to it. If you’ve written one good scene then you can write more that are even better.
Some basics.  I always avoid using adverbs and keep adjectives to a minimum and if I find myself tempted to use speak attribution other than ‘she/he said’ I always rewrite. The dialogue should always carry the meaning – anything else is lazy writing.

Don’t be afraid of deleting – I often catch myself thinking that I’ve written a great scene. But then I think what purpose does it serve? If it doesn’t move the plot forward or tell us something about the character then delete it.

Stephen Puleston published the first novel in a series featuring Inspector Drake based in North Wales and also the first in a series with Inspector John Marco based in Cardiff. The first Drake mystery is called BRASS IN POCKET (currently free on Amazon) and the second WORSE THAN DEAD available now. Stephen’s second detective is Inspector Marco who comes from an Italian/Welsh background and he lives in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. The first Inspector Marco novel SPEECHLESS has been published on Amazon and the second and third in the series will be published in 2014. Brought up on the Isle of Anglesey, off the North Wales coast and Stephen went to school in Holyhead. After a degree in Theology from London University I decided to train as a lawyer and returned to work in the practice run by my father on Anglesey. For many years I worked as a lawyer in a small practice representing clients in the criminal courts and doing divorce work all of which has given me valuable raw material for my novels. He still live and work in North Wales where the Inspector Drake novels are set. Before turning to crime fiction I had written three other unpublished novels and you can read about my writing and about Wales, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, on my website - You can contact him on twitter @stephenpuleston or @inspector_marco  Facebook


July 24, 2014

Finish The Story So Your Readers Want More

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Summer with more daylight has always been the time I read, more than any other season in the year. I gravitate towards young adult reading because I enjoy the reminders of countless hours spent reading with my children. 

The most recent young adult book, I picked up, was a great read until the last third of the book. It was historical and immersed the reader into the story. It contained a passion on two levels: to save the main protagonist and an exciting mission. There was human evil, a chase in harsh conditions, a couple of almost captures, and then escape. 

However, at that point it took a darker than dark turn without any thought toward contribution to the story thus far. It was only one chapter that should have been edited away. Clearly the protagonist was in peril, but this development had nothing really to do with the theme quest of the book. It seemed to be included for shock factor and unnecessary. Keep in mind the book's target readers are young adults. 

The end of the book was rushed. A new dangerous peril occurred for the protagonist and her mission. Danger was handled with the sacrifice of a character who had been on the journey from the first page of the book. The last chapter left too many loose ends unresolved. The book was left without a real ending and made this reader mad that the writer had not completed the tale. Complete the story in each book or you will lose readers, like me. 

As a writing exercise, I finished the story for my own satisfaction. It was fun and gave me a sense of a complete book. Have you done this? 

Let me know, but please do not name the book or author. At Southern Writers Magazine, we support all authors and their hard work. We never bash an author. I'm just curious, do you ever write the ending of a book differently than the author? 

July 23, 2014


By Lynne Gentry

Readers read for a lot of reasons. Entertainment. Education. And escape. How can authors create a world readers will hate to leave?

Pay attention to the three crucial elements of building a story world:

1.               SETTING. Description of the sights, sounds, and smells of your characters’ surroundings is crucial. I write historical romance with a time travel twist. Hours of research goes into discovering the design and texture of clothing, the construction materials used in the buildings, the smells of the market, and even the seasonal changes and climate. Anything that will build the story world. I envy authors who can pop over to the coast to research their beach novel or troll through small southern towns for firsthand details. Does that mean I can’t add layers of authenticity to my settings? No. Since I can’t physically go to third-century Carthage, successful world building will require a different kind of work. I study pictures, look for travel reviews or blogs from people who’ve toured the ruins, and order every book I can find about the history or culture.  

2.               DIALOGUE. Keep the words your characters speak true to their characters but also true to their world. For example, it drives me crazy to hear Jesus speaking with a British accent. But Downton Abbey wouldn’t have near the impact if those characters were speaking with a Texas accent. In HEALER OF CARTHAGE, I created a Down’s syndrome character with a slight lisp. His purpose in the story world? Show how Romans believed imperfection was to be hidden or destroyed, which in turn creates a feeling of danger in the world I’ve created because all the characters fear their own imperfections might be discovered.

3.               NARRATIVE. These filler paragraphs, the ones readers often skim, are delicious opportunities to slow them down and drag them deeper into the world. How? Paint this world by combining sensory proofs of the setting with the emotional needs of the characters. Here’s an example narrative of a slave plotting her freedom in HEALER OF CARTHAGE:
Magdalena waded through the litter of discarded tunics, robes, and half-written scrolls scattered over thick carpets imported from Egypt. She hated how the disorder of Aspasius’s personal life repeated itself in his erratic and spendthrift governing. Doing what she could to bring his reign to an end would benefit more than just her. History would thank her one day.

The description of the bedchamber became more than filler, it became another layer of the story world when it took on the chaos the character felt. Sensory proof combined with emotional needs.

The writing tool I keep beside my computer is Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Read it and gain the skills to build worlds a reader will never want to leave.

Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. Her newest novel, Healer of Carthage, is the first in The Carthage Chronicles series. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright with several full-length musicals and a children’s theater curriculum to her credit. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer whose first love is spending time with family. Lynne can be found at her Website:  Facebook: Author Lynne Gentry Twitter: Pinterest: Youtube: Simon & Schuster:

July 22, 2014

Stories Are Here, There, and Everywhere

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

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”  Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game)

I agree with Mr. Card. As a matter of fact, I was thinking the other day, about all the possible stories I walked past when I worked in downtown Nashville in the 60’s and 70’s. It was somewhat different then that it is now. There were more colorful people on the street. If only! Yes, if only I had jotted down notes about the things and the people I saw each day.

One day in particular, I was watching some men who were working on the roof of a building. They were constructing a building in downtown Nashville. The construction had gone on almost a year when one day, watching out my office window, I see a man fall off the roof. I was dumbstruck. Why did I not make a note about this happening?

I agree, wherever we look, there is a story. Only the writer sees the story– while others go on about their business not seeing.

I have learned to carry a notepad with me wherever I go, so I can capture what I see. What sticks out? What looks odd or funny? Creativity and imagination can take those things we see and conjure up different worlds of fantasy and science fiction, romance and mystery.

Jane Hyatt Yolen said, “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

July 21, 2014

Leverage Our Writing Assets

By Steve Bradshaw

Writers are born—at all ages. We come from every part of the planet with our unique knowledge base, skillsets and perceptions that forever influence our view of all the universe has to offer. Although we are different in many ways, we are connected by the insatiable desire to tell a meaningful and worthwhile story—sooner or later. Although there are numerous factors that come into play, I believe a big part of our writing success is determined by how we leverage our unique assets.

Each day I pound my keyboard alone with my thoughts and dreams and objectives. I make huge withdrawals from my private-world depository and attempt to find the perfect words to create the perfect sentence to build the perfect paragraph that grows into the perfect chapter. I strive to erect the perfect plot, produce the perfect characters, forge the perfect conflicts, hatch the perfect cliffhangers, and bring into existence the perfect resolutions to give rise to the perfect novel. I gather my ideas like a man chasing a thousand butterflies with a tiny net. Most are never caught. Some flutter away for another day. Many die in my net or are horribly damaged in the process. But when I’m lucky, I find the perfect specimens that become the miracles from which my stories are born.

Leveraging one’s assets is like catching perfect butterflies. We all have them, but before we can leverage them we must know those relevant to our writing career. For example, my road to writing traversed fascinating worlds I now draw upon. I was the youngest forensic field agent in Texas history to investigate over three-thousand unexplained deaths. I also developed new medical technology with FORTUNE 500 companies advancing healthcare around the world. And I was a founder-president/CEO of a game-changing biotech company. I raised millions of dollars and developed new age medical devices. Just these life experiences alone provide an unlimited supply of butterflies relevant to my mystery/thriller writing career.

When I leverage my assets correctly, I write stories that draw upon my life experiences that will take my audience to places where I am the profound expert. With me they have a unique opportunity to go where they’ve never been, to see and feel what they would never experience. Because I personally controlled horrific death scenes and was on teams hunting real monsters, I have mountains of information to weave into the stories I create.

Because I controlled powerful boardrooms shaping business plans and futures in our modern world, I have intimate knowledge of people, technology, and business dynamics. I leverage these knowledge-assets when I create fascinating characters and define ground breaking science, and when I shine light on world changing concepts moving from theory to practice at great risk, and when opportunity for enormous success turns into a horrible catastrophe.  

Knowing our assets and using them effectively in our writing can increase the value of our stories because people listen to experts. They lose interest when we don’t know what we are talking about. We must know our fields of expertise. We must leverage the abounding assets that create unique experiences within our stories. If we do it well, we attract and build audience.  
Steve BradshawForensic Investigator, Biotechnology Entrepreneur, Author—received his BA at the University of Texas, trained at the Institute of Forensic Sciences, and investigated 3,000 unexplained deaths. His career with FORTUNE 500s, and as founder-president/CEO of an innovative biomedical company, introduced advanced medical technology improving healthcare around the world. Now, Steve draws upon his experiences in fascinating worlds of biotechnology breakthroughs and the forensic pursuit of real monsters. Steve’s debut novel BLUFF CITY BUTCHER is a 2013 Darrell Award finalist—best science fiction, mystery/thriller in MidSouth. The second book of the Bell Trilogy, THE SKIES ROARED, releases July 2013 is a Darrell Award finalist for 2014. WEBSITES & BLOG  SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS 

July 18, 2014

Unique Writing; Keeping Jack Swyteck Fresh from Book 1 (The Pardon) through Book 11 (Black Horizon)

By James Grippando

My favorite part of any book signing is the Q&A with the audience, and at a recent event for “BLACK HORIZON”) (HarperCollins March 2004), one of my readers asked a very thoughtful question.  Black Horizon is my 21st novel over all, and the eleventh (whew!) in the series featuring Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck.  “With eleven books in the series,” she asked, “how do you keep Jack Swyteck fresh?”

That’s a complicated question and a challenge for any writer who creates a series.  You have to ask yourself up front:  Will my serial character be ageless and in his late thirties forever, like James Bond, or will he evolve over time?   The second option provides more opportunities to keep your character fresh over the life of the series.  Never being one to shy away from the easier (I didn’t say “easy”) route, I did exactly that with Jack Swyteck. 

The best advice I can give any writer of a series is to have a quick handle that describes your character.  If your intention is for the character to grow from book to book, that quick handle should reflect some important change in the character’s life that marks the development of your lead.   Often that defining character is in relation to some other character that is important in the life of your lead.  For example, compare my “handle” for Jack Swyteck from Book 1, “The Pardon,” to Book 11, “Black Horizon”): Swyteck No. 1 (The Pardon): “Jack Swyteck is a young, Miami criminal defense lawyer who defends death row inmates, and his father is the law and order governor of Florida who signs their death warrants.”

The “handle” not only defines Jack, but it sets forth a key conflict in Jack’s life.  You can bet there are some “father-son” issues that need to be resolved.  Compare that to Book 11:
Swyteck No. 11 (Black Horizon):   Jack is seasoned Miami attorney who doesn’t trust the government.  His new wife Andie Henning is a rising star in the FBI who works undercover.  Newlyweds from different worlds; it must be karma.  Or insanity.  

These quick descriptions tell you a lot about Jack and the series.   He’s come a long way, but he still has room to grow.  Will he and Andie survive?  Will they have children?  Will Jack’s issues with his father carry over to his fatherhood?  What kind of a mother will an FBI undercover agent make? 
All these (and more) are “fresh” issues.  I’m glad I didn’t make Jack 37 forever.

James Grippando is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels are enjoyed worldwide in more than 25 languages. As a lawyer, Grippando wrote numerous scholarly articles. A near arrest in a case of mistaken identity sparked an idea for a novel about a man accused of a murder that he may not have committed. His latest thriller, “Black Horizon,” is his twenty-first novel over all, and the eleventh in the acclaimed series featuring Miami attorney Jack Swyteck.  Most of his novels are set in Florida. Since 2004 he has served as "Counsel" in Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP. Visit his website at

July 17, 2014

Publishing Here’s the Deal

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Bryan had made his way through life playing baseball. He started in Little League, then High School and on to college playing and loving the game all the way. He majored in Sports Management while in college and then got his dream job working for the St Louis AAA team the Memphis Redbirds.

Bryan shared with me how quickly he realized this wasn’t for him. His love for the game was giving way to the realization this was work, a job and not the hobby or the game he loved so well. The Red Birds organization was a business. Although their business was baseball it was strictly business that dealt with profits, deadlines and expectations that needed to be met. It wasn’t what Bryan had bargained for so he left the organization. 

Steve Bradshaw is a member of our writers group. Bradshaw shared how he had written Bluff City Butcher and submitted it to a publisher. It was given a good review but he was asked to get rid of the first three chapters. He refused. Later on he was approached by another publisher who liked his book and asked if he would consider a trilogy. He jumped at the chance and signed the deal for the trilogy. After signing they began work on the book and asked him to get rid of the first three chapters. No problem. He said if they pay you enough money you will do it.

In her autobiography Paula Deen tells how she started as a writer on her own. No agent no publisher, just self-published and paid a fortune for her first print. The cookbooks were stacked on a table at the entrance of her restaurant and were sold to the customers that came and enjoyed her wonderful meals. One of those customers was friends with an agent and suggested she look into publishing Paula Deen’s, The Lady and Sons cookbooks.

The agent made the deal with Deen and then the work began. Deen suddenly became aware of the freedom one has as a self-published author. She was self-edited and of course all her recipes had been written with her usual pinch and dash measurements. None of this would do. Editing was torture for her and her measurements would have to be changed to teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. She said she practically had to rewrite the book.

So what’s the deal? The deal is publishing is a business. It isn’t a non-profit but a capitalistic profit making business. Many authors are so immersed in creativity, which is what we most enjoy, we fail to realize in order to have our book published we must be willing to compromise. We may need to meet their requirements of the genre, the readers, the company and the market.

Like Bryan, you may be met with the realization this is not what you bargained for. I understand and there is always self- publishing. But honestly even there you will want some good advice. Be prepared to draw a line or compromise. Neither is easy, especially when you want your work out there in front of people, and ultimately that is what we all want.         

July 16, 2014

Writing About a Family to Be Proud Of

By Terri Wangard

A batch of forgotten letters was found in my grandmother’s house. Written in 1947 and 1948, they came from distant cousins in Germany. My grandparents and other relatives had been sending them care packages. My great-great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1870s, as did two brothers. A fourth brother remained in Germany, and these letters came from his grandchildren.

When I revived a dream to write in 2008, I decided the family in the letters would be the perfect subject around which to craft a story. Research revealed life in Nazi Germany as increasingly grim before the war even started. The letters provide a fascinating glimpse of life in war torn Germany, but nothing about the war years. How had the family coped? I turned to the internet and searched on the family’s factory name. I found it all right, in a list of German companies that used slave labor. I wanted my family to be the good guys, but that hope grew shaky.

Contact had ceased in 1948 after the German currency reform, and with their silence in the letters, many questions couldn’t be answered. Why had they refrained from any mention of their thoughts and activities during Hitler’s regime? Desire to forget? Shame of the vanquished? Concern the American family wouldn’t help if they knew the truth?

Circumstances of their postwar life offer a few facts. The family consisted of a brother, his wife, and three young children, and a sister and her husband, and their “old gray mother,” who turned 66 in 1947. Another brother languished as a prisoner of war in Russia, not returning home until 1949, I learned from the German department for the notification of next of kin. The sister and her bridegroom had lived in Canada for five years, returning to Germany in 1937 because she was homesick. They were bombed out of their homes and lived in their former offices, temporarily fixed up as a residence. Before the war, they employed about one hundred men, but in 1947, had fewer than forty-five, with no coal, electricity, or raw materials to work with.

My imagination took over. The family, not the newlyweds, came to Wisconsin. Because a critiquer scorned someone returning to Hitler’s Germany due to homesickness, I gave them a more compelling reason when I rewrote the story. The grandfather had died and the father had to return to take over the factory, much to the daughters’ dismay, who loved their new life in America.

They did not support Hitler. Because their factory had to produce armaments and meet quotas imposed on them, they had no choice in accepting Eastern European forced laborers, Russian POWs, and Italian military internees.

The older daughter (my main character) took pride in committing acts of passive resistance. Now a war widow, she hid a downed American airman, an act punishable by execution. When they were betrayed, a dangerous escape from Germany ensued.

Maybe the family did support Hitler. Many did before realizing his true colors. My version probably doesn’t come close to the truth, especially concerning the daughter. The real daughter was twelve years old in 1947. No matter. This is fiction, and this is a family I can be proud of.

Terri Wangard has a World War II series awaiting a publisher. Book 1, the subject of my blog, is the 2013 Writers on the Storm winner (ACFW Texas chapter), Book 2 is a 2012 Genesis finalist, and Book 3 is the 2013 First Impression winner. She writes historical fiction but is clearly a thrill-seeker who as her bio picture shows is bridge climbing in Australia. Terri lives in Wisconsin. You can connect with Terri on her blog.

July 15, 2014

Isn't It Ironic?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

When George Bailey decides to drown himself in It's a Wonderful Life, he ends up saving someone else from drowning instead.  Over the course of the story, George realizes his life isn't worthless after all, but rather has had positive impact on everyone around him.  Irony such as this adds a touch of magic to fiction; a poetic twist of fate that makes it bigger than life.

In truth, life itself is full of ironies, so we identify with this fictional device. Ever since Greek tragedies, storytellers have sought to heighten the drama by pitting characters and situations against themselves.

There's enough irony in Titanic to sink a ship. The rich girl doesn't want her rich suitor; she loves the poor immigrant boy. Many on board were looking to start a new life, only to have no future at all. There were too few lifeboats available because something like this was never going to happen, much less on the maiden voyage.

In The Wizard of Oz, everyone puts their hope in a wizard who isn't a wizard at all. Dorothy, who runs away from home, only wants to go back home.  Her traveling companions long for a brain, a heart, and courage, when it turns out they had them all along.

More recently, The Fault in Our Stars features a character who likes to keep a cigarette in his mouth but never lights up, in metaphorical defiance against the cancer causer. 

There is irony in a flawed protagonist.  All super heroes and detectives have at least one serious Achilles heel.  To makes matters worse, costumed crusaders from Spiderman to Zorro can't reveal their secret identity to the people they love most, and are often blamed for something they didn't do.
Contrast is a particularly popular form of irony.  A messy roommate drives neatnik Felix Unger to distraction in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.  Even Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie were a pint-sized pair of opposites.  From The King and I to My Fair Lady to Downton Abbey, there is fascination in seeing different cultures and classes clash.

How many romances start out with the two lovers despising each other?  (Besides all of them?)  Indeed, we wouldn't be quite as interested if it was love at first sight and remained smooth sailing through the tunnel of love.

Similarity can be just as ironic as contrast.  We see it in a child who takes on the negative characteristics of a parent, or a sidekick who comes to the rescue by using a skill the hero taught them.

The very jokes we tell make us laugh through irony.  We are surprised by the punchline because we were expecting something else.  Why did the duck cross the road?  Because it was the chicken's day off.

Irony comes in many different forms, and creates interest instantly. We can give a story more layers and more complexity with the simple addition of this very easy device.  How ironic is that?

July 14, 2014

The Writer's Connection

By H. David Blalock

I have been writing since I was a child. I wrote my first short story, about a little leaguer hitting a home run, at the age of seven. My parents encouraged me to write, even helping by paying out of their meager income to let me take a correspondence course on writing. That was in the late '60s, and I have never lost the love of the written word. Perhaps that is why I prefer the pen and paper – the connection to my youth. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that.

I find it more satisfying to write longhand than directly on the keyboard. I thought for a long time that I was the odd man out when it came to this, but recently discovered that many writers also prefer the immediacy and intimate connection of longhand to the relatively impersonal feeling of the machine.

Beside a love of the written word, I have a deep respect for those who mastered its use. My writing is influenced heavily by writers of the first half of the twentieth century: men and women who conveyed ideas of the fantastic and wonderful through a well-turned phrase or picturesque description. In a time when only books, and perhaps radio, titillated the imagination, the written word was the vehicle for transmission of ideas. Writers were artisans, masters, and marketeers of mankind's past, present, and future. They reached directly into the human psyche and tickled it into invention and innovation in ways television cannot, because the images and sounds and stories it shows are fleeting, ephemeral phantasms that pass from consciousness with the next commercial break.

Willfully and with purpose, I try to continue that tradition. In my writing I try to evoke emotion from the reader. I attempt to make my characters likable or hateful, deeply conflicted or heroic, beings of what some might call stereotype simply because those are the iconic images that prick our subconscious into reaction. As a result, I have received reviews that range from pan to rave, all of which are valid and which I welcome as judgments as to the effectiveness of my intent. My fiction I write in longhand so I might more closely connect to its spirit. All writers put something of themselves in their work, but if I cannot feel the flow of the pen, the resistance of the paper to the nib, see the curve of the letters as they appear, I don't identify with it as mine. And if I can't identify with it, I feel my reader will have the same problem.

I fervently hope that tie between writer and work will never be lost. 
H. David Blalock was born in San Antonio, Texas, David spent the majority of his formative years in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 16, his family moved to the Panama Canal Zone where David finished school and entered employment with the Department of Defense as a Powerhouse Electrician. Hiring into the FAA, he returned with his wife and two daughters to the States and settled briefly in Gulfport, MS. A few years later, he moved to Memphis, TN, as an Air Traffic Controller for the Memphis ARTCC. There he remained until his retirement. David's writing has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, webzines, and writer's sites. His work continues to appear on a regular basis through multiple publishing houses, including Doom Angel, Traitor Angel, and Angelkiller. He can be contacted via Personal Blog -- Facebook Twitter -- @HDavidBlalock