September 30, 2014

Another New Writing Tool

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

By now, everyone I am sure has heard about the new tool Facebook launched for users. No? Well, this tool allows you to store links from News Feed and Facebook Pages–items like links, places, movies TV and music. This way you can view it later when you have time.  Hey, in case you save these things and forget, they will even remind you. What is this called “Save”.
Be sure and check  it out.

Daniel Giambalvo, Software Engineer at Facebook wrote in in a blog post "You can view the items you saved at any time by going to your saved items in the "More" tab on mobile or by clicking the link on the left hand side of Facebook on the web. The saved items list is organized by category and users can swipe right on each item to share it with their friends or move it into the archive list.”

Periodically Facebook, Twitter and the other Social Medias release new tools or new ways to do things. Some you may use and some you  may not. But I think it would be wise to at least read over what they are, what they are for and determine if this would  be a good tool for you to use to get more information out there to bring attention to your books.

Every day, someone is inventing the next great tool for us to use…whether it is or not the jury is still out…however, we need to know what these toos are for. Anything that will help us as writers to be better at our jobs is necessary item to have; especially when it comes to marketing.

September 29, 2014

Perseverance—and More Writing!

By Terry Shames

When I finally got my first publishing contract, friends who had supported me during my long prelude to publication crowed, “Perseverance pays off—you did it!”

Although I smiled in agreement what I secretly knew is that it took a lot more than perseverance.

In the late eighties and early nineties I wrote one book after another and snagged one fabulous agent after another, each of whom would at the end of a year send my torn and tattered manuscript back saying with regret, “close, but no cigar.”

When my son started school I took time off from the rejection cycle to just be a mom. I wrote school newsletters, articles and copy for annual reports. And I wrote some fiction, but I didn’t send anything out. When he was a senior in high school, it was time to gear up again. I wrote a new book, and started looking for an agent. But in ten years, the publishing world had changed! Before, I had easily found agents. This time, even an agent eluded me. Although I got several nibbles, there were no offers of representation.

So what happened that eventually led to success? I started taking myself seriously, stopped sending out “good enough” manuscripts, and started trying to write the best novel I could--something that came from deep inside me. I studied current fiction trends, paid attention to how the publishing world was evolving, and worked on finding an agent who was right for me. Before, I had simply trusted to luck and instinct to find my way to publication. Now I realized it took a lot more.

You can learn a great deal from books about writing and publishing. But nothing is better than talking to fellow-writers. I attended workshops and writers’ conferences, and joined a critique group. I talked to other writers who had written one book after another before they got published--and I listened to what they did to finally break through.

With the current publishing climate, I had to make the decision whether I still wanted to go through a traditional publisher or strike out on my own. Was it perseverance, stubbornness, or fear that kept me going after a traditional publisher? Probably a little of each. I knew that whichever way I chose, I still had to perfect my craft, make my book as good as it could be and target my audience.

Bottom line: I learned to take myself seriously as a professional. I did the hard work of making my book the best it could be in terms of craft. I did the hard work of finding good beta readers, and finding the right agent for me. So in the end, it wasn’t just that I persevered, but that I kept learning.

And finally I found a publishing home and I thought I was home free. Not so fast! There was a new learning curve, one I’m just beginning to understand—promotion and marketing. A whole new bag of tricks.

Terry Shames is the best-selling author of A Killing at Cotton Hill and The Last Death of Jack Harbin, (Seventh Street Books). Her most recent book,  Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek releases October 7th,2014 and can be pre-ordered. Her books are set in small-town Texas and feature ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock. Terry grew up in Texas and has abiding affection for the small town where here grandparents lived, the model for the fictional town of Jarrett Creek. She lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. She is Vice President of Norcal Sisters in Crime and on the board of MWA Norcal. For more information, please visit her website:

September 26, 2014

Genealogy Research Writing: Using Vital Records to Re-Create Your Loved One’s Life Story

By Traci Pollard

Genealogy research for some is establishing names, dates, places and origins of distant family members by gathering information as to whom they were, where they lived, who they married, and how many children they had. While all this information is important, there is so much more to know about the family member. I realized that this was not just a person who has lived and died, but a key genetic part of who I am today. I want to know all about that person, who was he or she? Were they a kind person, with good values? Did they believe in God? Did they love their family members? Are there any genetic diseases in my family tree? Often times research records will indicate and answer all of these questions.

When I research a family member, I put so much more into my research. I am re-creating the character and life history of the person who I am researching.  Using the historical information that I gathered, I can combine it all to tell their personal story of love, trials, tribulations, personal interests, profession, socio-economic status, land ownership, family relations, religion, political status and so much more. There is so much data out there on the Internet today!

Begin your family research with you writing down your historical information that you know, proceeding on to the next generation (your parents). While gathering and writing down information, you are systematically moving up the ancestral tree one generation at a time.

It is so important if given the opportunity to sit with an older member of your family and gather information from them. I remember sitting with my grandmother and asking her many questions about her family members and upbringing. I remember taking tedious notes, not knowing much about the people she spoke so highly in love about. It was years later after she passed away, that I pulled all that information she gave me and researched her family. I met through research so many distant cousins, children of the sibling she spoke about, the problem came with the excitement of wanting to pick up the telephone to share all the information with her, and she was no longer there.

When researching, remember to take good notes, source where you find the information, and stay organized. You will find so many fascinating facts about your family, it will be very easy to wander off in your research to another trail or surname, but if you do that, you will find out that you have information scattered all over the place, making it difficult for someone else to pick up where you left off.

What a beautiful gift of knowledge you share with your loved ones, their past. We all give our children roots and wings, and family history is often such a blessing and beautiful gift to do that.

Traci Pollard is the wife of a retired military officer and mother to five children. Traci is an Author, an Elementary school teacher as well as a Women’s Ministry leader. She an Avid Genealogy Researcher, having researched back over fourteen generations on both my maternal and paternal sides. Traci enjoys writing, blogging, reading and traveling. Connect with Traci at her blog;

September 25, 2014

To Be A Successful Writer You Must…

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

President Woodrow Wilson said, “Absolute identity with one’s cause is the first and greatest condition of success. “Being so focused on your cause, your goal, that your very identity is one with it was President Woodrow Wilson’s idea of becoming successful. Being known and identified with a purpose is something we see in others but are we identified as one with our cause. Are we so focused that we are known for no other thing but that one thing. If not maybe we need to re-evaluate our focus and move toward a place where there is no doubt what it is we deem most important.

Dale Carnegie said, “Flaming enthusiasm, backed by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” Carnegie felt that these three things, enthusiasm, horse sense and persistence, would do the trick.  He did state “flaming enthusiasm” which to me would mean someone over the top with enthusiasm. The part of this quote I like most is his reference to “horse sense”. That means a lot to someone like me that is no Einstein. Academy Award Winner Billy Bob Thornton said, “Ignorance was my best quality because I never doubted myself.” I can see where ignorance would be helpful. And finally be persistent. As Winston Churchill said, 
“Never give up”.

Carnegie’s quote brings us to the next quote of man known to us all as successful and persistent. Thomas Edison said, “I failed my way to success.” We all know his story of the thousands of attempts and failures at the invention of the light bulb. And as far as Edison’s education he was not a scholar with formal education but probably had as good an education as most children of his time. I guess that’s where the horse sense comes in. Edison’s enthusiasm must surely have kept him from being discouraged during the many attempts at the light bulb because at one point he stated, “Every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”

So let’s get started. Henry David Thoreau said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to look for it.” I have known those Thoreau speaks of. Those so busy working toward their dream they failed to see their success. Usually they are notified of their success before the realization sets in. They are told of an award they earned, recognition as a champion in their field, or in our craft hopefully we are told we are on the best seller list. So let’s get busy and do not look up until the notification comes. And when it does, “Pray that success will not come any faster than you are able to endure it.” Elbert Hubbard

September 24, 2014

Normal Writing Language

By Ramona DeFelice Long

After maneuvering through a crush of back-to-college students, I flounced into our car and announced to the man I’d married that I was done with shopping until the new semester started.

“But when those husbands go on sale, I’m coming back,” I declared. “The husband in our bedroom doesn’t have any oomph anymore. I’ll get one for the guest room, too. I’ll bet your mother would appreciate a new husband next time she comes to visit.”

I waited for him to start the car, but he didn’t.  The man I married was too busy staring at me.

Excuse me?”

It took me a moment to realize why he was so aghast. Laughing, I explained that a husband is the Southern nickname for a back pillow, the kind you prop up against in bed to read or watch television or study.

He was relieved. “Next time,” he said, “please use normal language, especially if you’re going to mention my mother.”

What, exactly, is normal language?

Every region enjoys word quirks and colloquialisms. I grew up in Louisiana, where people make groceries, fix dinner, take off the light.  When I moved to western Pennsylvania, I had to switch from y’all to you’ens.  In Delaware, I learned that YoUDee is a mascot, not some kind of cold drink.

For writers, a word can reveal a character’s cultural background. In Raney, Clyde Edgerton uses the word “dinners” in an amusing mix-up between a country bride and her sophisticated groom from Atlanta. As I did with the man I married, Raney must explain that “dinners” is not only the evening meal, but a woman’s bosom. Her husband’s befuddlement over the word highlights one obstacle for a couple who wed across a cultural divide.

Husbands meaning pillows and dinners meaning breasts can make a specific point in a specific scene. In a larger context, a word’s double meaning can be a story starter. 

Consider Ellen Foster, Kaye Gibbon’s brilliant coming of age novel. Young Ellen—orphaned, unloved, misunderstood--observes a family everyone calls the Foster family. It’s clear to the reader, but not Ellen, that foster is not a proper name or a proper noun. Ellen, however, sees a lady who takes in children and gives them the kind of safe and loving home every child desires. This is the family Ellen longs for, so she makes her way to them and adopts the name Foster as her own.
Kaye Gibbons built an entire novel around a single word taken slightly out of context. 

Husbands, dinners, Foster family.  Words can be used, abused, misused, misconstrued, misleading, or enlightening. They can do double duty, have double meanings, offer double entendres. With a slight swerve out of normal language, a word can create a scene or seed a story.

Are there words in your normal language that can be a story starter?
Ramona DeFelice Long is a native of south Louisiana and a graduate of LSU. She lives in Delaware. In 2013, she was awarded a literary fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts as an Established Artist in Literature-Creative Nonfiction. Ramona is also an independent editor. She teaches workshops on all aspects of writing, at conferences and online. She has led weekend writing retreats and monthly Free Write programs at her local public library and a variety of book group and writing workshops for young writers and readers. Ramona has collaborated with Sisters in Crime national organization to edit two anthologies of mystery and crime stories: Fish Nets and Fish Tales. She also co-edited a collection of stories from Delaware authors, Tales from the Ink Slingers, with Wilmington writer JM Reinbold, in addition to several short story anthologies for writing groups. Ramona serves as Member-at-Large for the Delaware Literary Connection. She’s also member of the Newark Arts Alliance, Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters, the Eastern Shore Writers Association, and The Written Remains Writing Guild. Her blog can be found at

September 23, 2014

Making the Scene in Song

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One thing country songwriters have a knack for is getting a story off the ground.  A descriptive opening line pulls the listener into the scene from the get-go and evokes the spirit of what's to come.

A close look at hits currently on the charts gives writers solid examples of how to start things off with a strong visual impact. For instance, here are the opening lines from some of the current Top 40: 

It was a perfect day for the end of May, they say a record high (Eric Church, "Cold One")

They roll the sidewalks in this town all up after the sun goes down
(Sam Hunt, "Leave the Night On")

She had a cross around her neck and a flower in her hair (Luke Bryan, "Roller Coaster")

Baby, when I look at you with them baby blues cuttin' right through me... (Big & Rich, "Look at You")

Well, I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feet
(Maddie & Tae, "Girl in a Country Song")

Take it on back to where the grass was greener (Chase Bryant, "Take It On Back")

Well, take a look at what's left in that sunset, fireflies popping like the Fourth of July (Parmalee, "Close Your Eyes")

There's a postcard picture at the back of our minds
(Brothers Osborne, "Let's Go There")

Well, I won two dollars on a scratch-off ticket, so I went back to the counter and I bought two more with it (Brad Paisley, "River Bank")

Each of these set-em-ups paints a mental picture, an invitation to step out of wherever we may be and experience that sunset, that memory, that day in May.  We see the girl in bare feet, with baby blue eyes or a cross around her neck. 

Whether we're writing a song, a poem or a novel, starting with a strong, evocative opening line is the quickest way to draw the audience into our world.  We can thank the early country songwriters, whose imagery of blue moons of Kentucky and walking after midnight created a lyrical legacy that continues to work eight decades down the country road.

September 22, 2014

Envy: The Four-Letter Word in Writing

By David Congalton

There is a scene in my movie screenplay Authors Anonymous where Colette, the New Age, unpublished, Danielle Steel-wannabe, confronts fellow writer Hannah, who has already scored an agent, a book deal, a movie deal and now an invitation to meet a famous author.

“Why does all this happen to you, and only to you?” a frustrated Colette demands to know. “Isn’t there anything—some kind of cosmic creative crumb—for the rest of us to nibble on?”

Envy is the four-letter word that plagues many writers, especially many beginning writers. Yes, we want our colleagues to succeed, but only to a certain degree. We smile and applaud and cheer them on when they land an agent or sell a book, but then we go home and scream at the sky, wondering, Why not me? Few of us will fess up to the truth, but anyone who has ever put pen to paper, or clacked away on a keyboard, has experienced envy at some point.

My moment came in 2000. Catherine Ryan Hyde had sold her novel Pay It Forward to Simon & Schuster the previous year. My wife Charlotte and I had become good friends with Catherine—having known her before she ever sold her first short story. But now, we could only stand back and watch in awe as Catherine experienced this amazing career trajectory. Boom. New York publisher. Boom. Four-book deal. Boom. Movie deal. Boom. Kevin Spacey starring in the movie. Boom. Invitation to join President Clinton for a private screening.

The movie version of Pay It Forward came to town and we sat behind Catherine at the local premiere as she basked in the effusive audience praise and media spotlight. We were driving home afterwards when the truth came bubbling out. “You know what? I’m envious of Catherine. Look at all her success,” I confessed to my wife.

Charlotte didn’t hesitate to put me in my place. “Catherine does the work. She’s earned her success. You haven’t done the work.”

I felt stupid for having said what I did. Charlotte was right. Sure, I had some good ideas and a lot of dreams, but I lacked the work ethic that Catherine embraced daily. I hadn’t done the work.

But five years later, those feelings about Catherine became the basis for my screenplay Authors Anonymous,a comedy depicting the implosion of a writers’ critique group when the members become envious of Hannah after she becomes an overnight literary success.

It took nine years from page to screen, an odyssey worthy of Homer, but I finally achieved success as a writer by buckling down and doing the work. There are no shortcuts to success.

Envy has no place on the creative journey. Catherine has gone on to publish 19 novels; she’s an amazing writer. I couldn’t be happier for her.  Why? Because the serious, mature writer is one who is genuinely excited for the success of others—we understand that when writers like Catherine succeed, we all succeed.
David Congalton is a screenwriter living in San Luis Obispo, Ca. Authors Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein, Dennis Farina, and Teri Polo, is currently available on DVD. A second screenplaySeven Sisters is scheduled to begin production later in 2014. Congalton was the director of the Central Coast Writers Conference for 12 years. There is a Facebook page for the movie:
His web site is.

September 19, 2014

Cozying Up to Murder

By Leslie Budewitz

When I say I write cozy mysteries, some readers light up. “My favorite kind,” they say. Others squint and tilt their heads, asking, “What’s that?”

You all know the traditional mystery—think Agatha Christie, whose mysteries feature a Belgian detective, a sharp-eyed spinster, and a dashing couple of spy-catchers. One modern incarnation is the cozy. It’s the comfort food of the mystery world, the mac & cheese. And who doesn’t love that now and again? (Or carbonara if you’re Italian, like my protagonist’s mother.) No graphic sex or violence; lots of graphic food.

Okay, so they don’t all involve food. Some involve knitting. Or librarians or booksellers, psychics or museum directors. Or the owners of haunted houses and hotels.

But no FBI agents or bomb squads—at least, not as protagonists, unless he or she is retired and running a fudge shop. (In Sheila Connolly’s Museum Mysteries, her protagonist dates an FBI agent named James Morrison. Cozy writers love to play with names.)

The setting is typically a small town—my Jewel Bay, Montana, Janet Bolin’s Elderberry Bay, Pennsylvania, or Barbara Ross’s Busman’s Harbor, Maine. (Bodies of water are not required, but they do set a certain tone.) A cozy can also be set in an urban neighborhood or community: the capital environs in Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mysteries, Greenwich Village in Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries, or the museum world Sheila Connolly’s characters inhabit.

Regardless of the rural or urban setting, the murder is a shock that disturbs the natural order. An amateur sleuth—typically female—is drawn in by the personal nature of the crime, and uses her skills and connections to solve it.

Not everyone likes the term. Carolyn Hart, a goddess in the mystery world (and a past president of Sisters in Crime, which calls former leaders goddesses), asks, “How cozy is it to die in agony from poison, knowing your killer is among your intimates, but dying without knowledge of the culprit?” Not cozy at all—downright terrifying—but in my opinion, the term is cheekily ironic for exactly that reason.

There is an official investigation, of course, run by law enforcement. But our amateur sleuth hears and sees things the police can’t. She knows the community—she and her shop, cafĂ©, or gallery are often at its center. As a result, she may be convinced that the police are focused on the wrong person—maybe her, or someone she’s close to. She may fear they will act too quickly or fail to take seriously the clues she uncovers. They may find her helpful—or try to stop her from interfering.

Ultimately, in the cozy, both professional and amateur detectives are essential, because they serve different functions. The professionals’ job is to restore external order, through the legal system. They can’t succeed without her, despite their initial reluctance. By giving her help, she demonstrates the triumph of the individual over evil. Her involvement in righting a wrong restores balance to the community. She restores social order.

That’s what a cozy is about: community. How it’s formed, how it’s damaged, how it’s restored.

And of course, how it eats.
Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Crime Rib, the second in the series, was published by Berkley Prime Crime on July 1, 2014. Assault and Pepper, her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015. Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks &Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter. Website:   
Find her on Facebook: LeslieBudewitzAuthor

September 18, 2014

Southern Writers Magazine's Holiday Wish Book Catalog

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director at Southern Writers Magazine

If you were like me as a kid, when the weather turned crisp, I’d keep an eye out for all the holiday catalogs that used to line our mailboxes. The "wish books" containing all the offerings anyone at any age could possibly want or need.

Southern Writers Magazine is planning something special for our November/December issue. A wish book full of book gift ideas for every reader on your holiday shopping lists. Another opportunity for authors to promote and sell their books.

Due to requests from authors, we are adding a few extra pages to our November/December magazine to help authors boost their book sales for the holidays: "A Holiday Wish Book Catalog."

The featured authors tell us their books make great presents for family and friends and they want to have them in the magazine, as a special insert.

If you would like to have more information, you can go to find out more.

Our space is limited so let us know. The November/December magazine will be going to press soon.
If you have questions, email

Everyone, authors and readers alike, catalog shopping with Southern Writers Magazine gives you an easy way to do your holiday shopping while avoiding the crowds. 

When you blow out the candle in your Halloween pumpkin and Southern Writers Magazine's November/ December issue goes live on November 1st, you will be able to access the Wish Book Holiday Catalog insert digitally at Southern Writers Magazine’s website. 

In the comfort of your own home, with your feet propped up, you can click your way through your shopping list using our digital Holiday Catalog without having to leave your cozy home.

September 17, 2014

Writing on the Fly

By Michael Devaney

I’m a visual writer. By that, I mean while I’m writing I see the events running through my mind’s eye as though they were happening on a movie screen. Once the show starts, all I have to do is put pen to paper and before long, I have the start of a manuscript. I call it writing on the fly. The only issue is coaxing my fingers into keeping pace with the action. For this reason, I seldom do much editing during a writing session. I reserve that function for an editing session sometime later.

Sounds simple I know, but it goes against human nature not to correct errors as we find them. It’s so hard in fact, that many writers, a number of them well known, find themselves repeatedly drawn back into the trap unable to move on from one page to the next until everything’s perfect. Problem is, when stopping to make corrections; it’s easy to lose your train of thought and stop creative flow. And that, for writers, is the kiss of death.

Writing in this “on the fly” fashion is similar to speed-reading and it’s just as productive. Instead of continually stopping to re-read the previous lines and paragraphs or focusing on every diminutive grammar rule, it’s about getting the main ideas down on paper before they escape. The syntax can always be doctored later. But, don’t get me wrong either. I’m not suggesting that you form the bad practice of plowing through your writing with total disregard for linguistic principles; only that you shouldn’t be weighed down by them in lieu of being creative.

I think that’s why I like writing so much because it’s a process. It begins with a simple idea and grows inside your imagination until you create something original. Then, after the dust settles, you go back in and sharpen what you’ve written until it’s honed to perfection. That’s where good writing becomes a work of art. It’s there that you play with the words and wrestle with the structure until you breathe life into the characters and story. When you’re finished, if you’ve done it right, your readers will be captivated and won’t be able to put it down.
Michael Devaney is the author of The Inheritance and Tragedy’s Gift. Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967 he was educated at Mercer University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Later studies at Kennesaw State University garnered him a Creative Writing certificate. An outdoor sports enthusiast, his articles have been published in North American Whitetail magazine and Great Deer Tales. Michael also enjoys reading, movies, football and leisure travel with family and friends. He and wife, Beverly, have two children; son, Owen, here on earth and daughter, Emaleigh, up in heaven. Please help cure childhood cancer.You can follow him at

September 16, 2014

Authors and Apps

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

The research done by Pew says 58% of adult Americans have a smartphone and 42% of them have tablet computers. 

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions.  See their website for more information:

People are using their smartphones while walking, stuck in traffic, shopping–just about anywhere they are while the tablets they use at home, sitting in a coffee shop, their office. We have two users, even though they own both.

So as an author, how does this affect you? If you have developed an app to market yourself and your books, know that people using the phones are detail conscious and pay attention to the app, as to what is on it. This has to interest them enough to drive them to your website. To buy your book.

And I must tell you, remember the clichĂ© “Try before you buy” that is very important that you have a sample on your app. People want to see a few pages…so pick pages that will be cliffhangers. That is what will get them to buy the book so they can find out what happened?

Good luck with your apps.

September 15, 2014

The Moment in Writing

By M. Sakran

Click.  Waiting … waiting … wait?  Nothing.  Days pass.

Click.  Waiting … waiting … wait? Something’s there!  Is that one of them?  Yes it is!

Okay wait.  Be calm.  Take a second.  Breathe.  Okay – I’m going to open it.  Alright wait.

As a writer, you know this moment – the moment when you open your email and there is a response from a publisher to something you submitted.  It’s there.  It’s bold.  It has that look of an unopened email that just wants to be opened. 

But you’re scared aren’t you?  You want to open it.  You’ve waited for it.  You’ve check for it everyday.  But what if?  What if it’s bad news?  Another decline.  Another thank you but no.  You’ve gotten them before but you’re still nervous.  To send it out again.  To edit.  To start over.  Things would be so much better if it was accepted.

But you still can’t open it.  It’s like getting a test paper back in school and not looking at the grade.  Not knowing gives you hope.  Maybe you did pass?

You’re worried.  You wonder.  You realize that worrying doesn’t matter, that the result is already there – but you’re still worried.

So there it is.  Bold.  Unopened.  The answer.  The result.

Finally you click, and you brace yourself like getting ready to be punched in the face.  You almost squint your eyes as you try to read it without reading it.

As a writer, when you’re faced with this moment, you need to remember some things.  First, don’t worry.  As you know, worrying doesn’t matter, the result is already there.  You feeling bad isn’t going to affect the result, so don’t.  Second, take a moment.  This is important.  It’s an answer to something you’ve been waiting for.  But don’t wait too long.  Don’t take more than a moment.  Open the email.  You waiting isn’t going to turn it into an acceptance.  Third, no matter what the result, move on.  If it was declined, feel bad, maybe eat some ice cream, but move on.  Edit, try again, do something new.  If it was accepted, feel free to run around and shout (depending on the appropriateness of your surroundings).  Feel good.  Have some fun.  Make sure to follow up, and then move on.  Get to the next thing.  Do whatever else is next on your list.  Start your next project. 

So, as you’re faced with that moment, of having a result from a publisher, but not knowing what it is, take a moment - but then find out what it is.  After that, take another moment, and then move on.
M. Sakran has written a variety of items for websites and magazines. He is the author of First Try. His blog can be found at

September 12, 2014

BANG OUT OF THE GATE With Your Writing

By Craig Faustus Buck

Bang out of the gate.  Or else.

Are you one of those readers who scan the first paragraph of a book and puts it down if it doesn't grab you?  I am.  If I'm feeling ornery, I'll give the author only one line to snag me.  So, as a writer, I make a point of trying to write openings that pop in order to avoid losing those readers who are as quick to judge as I. 

A lot of writers like to set the scene before diving into a story, but most readers aren't interested in what a character feels or how a setting looks unless they're already invested in that character or wonder about that setting.  As Elmore Leonard famously advised, "Never open a book with weather." 

I write noir.  Perhaps cozy, romance or "literature" readers have more patience than my readers, but hardboiled fans want to be grabbed by the throat and hurled into a story.  One way to do this is with a twist. 

A twisted open implies right up front, that more surprises are in store.  I like that in a story. Sue Grafton used the device to launch an empire.  Here's how she opened A is for Alibi: "My name is Kinsey Milhone.  I'm a private investigator, licensed by the state of California.  I'm thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids.  The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind."

She lulls you with a straightforward description of a single-divorced detective, then smacks you awake with the unexpected.

Another opening tactic is the suggestive hook.  In the first paragraph of my first novel, Go Down Hard I use an image: "I look through the spyhole.  Gloria has a bottle of gin in her hand and a pair of cuffs hanging from her belt loop.  A deadly combination."

It's a soft open for a noir thriller, but doesn't Gloria pique your interest?   

Michael Connelly opened The Poet with a suggestive concept: "Death is my beat.  I make my living from it." 

How can you put that book down before you've satisfied your curiosity about the narrator?  Make readers wonder and you buy time to hook them on your story.

These are just two of a multitude of possible opening tactics, but I've run out of space.  Bottom line: hit 'em fast and hard and where they least expect it.
Craig Faustus Buck is an L.A.-based journalist, nonfiction book author, TV writer-producer, screenwriter, short-story writer and novelist.  Among his six nonfiction books, two were #1 NYT bestsellers.  He wrote a short film that was nominated for an Oscar.  He was one of the writers on the seminal miniseries V: The Final Battle. His first noir mystery novel, Go Down Hard, will be published May 2015 by Brash Books and was first runner up for the Claymore Award at Killer Nashville.  His indie feature, Smuggling for Gandhi, is currently in preproduction.  His novella, Psycho Logic was published May 1 by Stark Raving Group and his short story, Dead End, the novella's prequel, is a current Anthony Award nominee.
Twitter: @CFBuck