December 31, 2014

Writing Historical Versus Contemporary Romance

By Eryn LaPlant

Hello all, I'm Eryn LaPlant, author of historical romances, Beneath the Wall and The Blue Lute, and the contemporary romance Falling for Shock. In the past people have asked me what the difference is between writing historical versus contemporary romance. Usually I shrug and think, “don't know, there isn't a whole lot of difference”.  Then I wondered why there isn’t a difference. I believe the answer lies in research.

The way I start any book is with an idea, from there my most favorite thing to do is the research that goes along with it. In Beneath the Wall, I had this idea about what would’ve happened to the little boy at the end of the musical, Miss Saigon? My own storyline came from that seed and before I knew it I had a plot. But I didn't know a thing about the 1960s, the Vietnam War, or even what the country of Vietnam looked like. I dove into reading about the subject and submersed myself in the era. I dressed in things like military garb and peace beads, and tried using slang like, “far out, man!” in everyday language. It was silly, but it worked and some of the comments I received about the book were that the readers felt like they were actually there, living with the characters and not just reading about them. To me that is an awesome comment. It tells me I did my job right.

Another research tool that helps me is doing interviews. I am one of those extroverted people who loves meeting and talking with others. In fact, I would rather call someone up on the phone and ask an expert on a subject rather than read about it. One of the roughest times I had with using this tool was while I was writing The Blue Lute, a book half set in the 1920s. Not too many people are alive now from that era so instead, I focused on experts on buildings, clothes, cars, and the music of the 20s. It was more than amazing to hear the stories of those say from Family Jewels, vintage clothing in downtown Manhattan, New York, than to look at the pictures of old suits and dresses online. The pictures couldn’t tell me what a linen suit felt like or what it smelled like and these experts could.

It’s the same with contemporary stories. Falling for Shock is a story about an actor who meets a small town girl while making a superhero movie. I love superhero movies, but have no clue how to make one. Luckily, I have a friend who was an actor in one and he helped me out a lot with terminology, set etiquette and protocol, and what specifically goes into making a man fly. In this case, watching a lot of behind-the-scenes of DVDs was also very helpful.

Overall, research can come in various ways, from the meticulous reading on a subject to meeting people who have actually been in the situation the writers are putting their characters into. All this helps me and it can help others get into characters and become them, in a sense, and therefore making them sound like they weren’t simply cut and placed in the time period or scene. It makes these characters come alive and their books become special.
Eryn LaPlant grew up wishing she could have lived in another time, so now she writes her own romances and lives through her characters. When not writing, she spends time with her loving husband, and their handsome son in the land of Lincoln. If she can't live in the past, she figures she can at least live amongst it! Hello to the world! I am a former slave for the working world and presently a woman of many trades. I am a wife, a mother, an antiques collector, a painter, a baker, a gardener, a photographer, a historian and my favorite by far a novelist (well except the first two in my list)! Thanks for checking me out! Facebook:  Twitter: @erynalicia Goodreads: Website:

December 30, 2014

Opposites Attract

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Conflict makes any story a story, and the most obvious conflict is the one between the protagonist and his obstacle. But an easy and easily overlooked source of conflict is contrast, which is often found in the hero's own best friend.

If we think of the great duos in the history of entertainment, contrast is easy to spot.  Laurel & Hardy, Fred & Barney, Ralph Kramden & Ed Norton feature large heroes who will never be confused with their counterpart.  But the contrast doesn't end in the big and tall shop.  The hero is often loud and blustering compared to their more mild-mannered companion. The mismatch makes for subtle but effective conflict.

A partnership of young and old can provide rich contrast.  In the pairing of Back to the Future's Marty McFly and Doc Brown, we get not just an age difference but the combination of the high-schooler who needs help and the absent-minded professor who knows just enough to get them both in trouble.  In the end, the youngster's cleverness and the elder's experience combine to save the day.

You don't have to look far to find conflict in a romance, where the mere pairing of male and female creates an unspoken battle of the sexes.  Has there ever been a Disney romance where the heroes didn't start off on a bad foot?

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Don't laugh.
Even the music world has discovered that the audience has an ear for contrast.  What sick genius envisioned that Bing Crosby and David Bowie could actually record a decent Christmas duet?  And who would have guessed that Tony Bennett would have deigned to record an entire album with Lady Gaga? 

If you're Sherlock Holmes,  it's helpful to have a Dr Watson to throw enigmatic observations to. The befuddled companion who comes along for the ride readily allows for exposition that comes naturally as the two converse from their own perspectives. 

In a nutshell, conflict isn't just found in the great quest or in a lover's spat.  A partnership with two unlikely companions offers an undercurrent of contrast that creates a little friendly tension.

December 29, 2014

The Character Within

By Holly Parker

Sometimes my characters pester me. They run rampant through my mind, waiting in boredom until I pick up the pen and give them some action. I'll be doing the most routine thing in the world and one will pop into my mind with a sort of plea, opinion or request. They want to be let loose. They want to be free. They try to run my whole life.

I feel like a crazy person sometimes, carrying all my characters and plots around with me, but maybe they ultimately provide an escape. This leads me to wonder, can writers separate themselves from their work or is it too much a part of them? When we write are we really just depicting ourselves on paper?

A lot of people ask me where my story ideas or inspiration comes from. And I have a hard time answering that question because there's not one single thing I do to get ideas. Maybe other authors have a set routine or a secret fishing pole of ideas they dip from. As for me, I see and feel and it comes out on paper.

I personally think writing usually stems from the self and life experiences. From the style of writing, to the voice to the genre; an author draws from what they've seen, felt and lived. I sometimes think if I had been born in a different location, time, or family, that my writing may have been completely different. Maybe I wouldn't even write.

Like any artist, any creator, any visionary, we as writers have our inspiration points and we must allow them to lend a hand to our creative endeavors. I honestly don’t think I could separate myself from my writing. I’m too objective, but then writing what you know works, right? Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to pen ourselves on paper. Maybe we should listen to our inner characters more often. I think I should be more worried if the characters ever stop pestering me or if the ideas stop coming. If I ever feel my work is done.

So don’t be afraid to let loose and listen to your psyche. Be free. Even if you don’t write, the lesson is simple—live life from inside your heart. You are the only person who shares your unique set of experiences and perspective. Write the wisdom and stories captured within. Share yourself with others. You never know where it might lead…
Holly Parker is a southern writer from Birmingham, Alabama. She has invested in a number of different children at childcare programs and is currently employed by the library. She has an English degree from the University of Montevallo with a minor in Writing and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0. Holly is also very involved with her church and helping out with young people in her community. She loves to travel, read, watch Alabama football, take pictures and of course write! She enjoys writing all kinds of genres, but has a passion for blogging and writing Christian fiction. You can follow her blog at and on facebook:

December 26, 2014

Writing Under Extraordinary Circumstances

By Dr. Trisha Petty

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I find that those who use the excuse of ‘writers block’ are looking for an excuse not to write. Just because you can’t work on your novel doesn’t mean you can’t write about something.

Case in point: my husband, Charlie, had 6 to 18 months to live. Since March 4th I haven’t put one word, comma- or much thought toward my novel. My editor and publisher have been wonderful not to push. However, I still find things for me to work on. For instance, newspapers newsletters. . . I get them done, but everyone knows that they are flat. No color. No humor. Yet, my obligations are met.

There is one place I do write with flourish, abandonment, passion and continually- that’s my journal.

I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 15 years old. I take at least 15 minutes and jot down my thoughts. Sometimes I journal in the morning, sometimes just before dinner.  For me it’s the exercise of sitting down and putting words on paper. On those pages I wrote about my mom, my brother, my cat, my fish. I wrote about school, friends and boys. I wrote about becoming a Christian, wrote my devotions down, and my prayers. I listed questions to ask my teachers and college professors. I wrote down lists of things to pack, when I moved to college dorms. I wrote about budgets, worked out anger issues with dorm mates and dorm heads. I wrote about my first date with a boy and the subsequent broken heart. I wrote about getting engaged, planned my wedding and wrote about my pregnancy all within the pages of my journals.  I wrote about my divorce, meeting Charlie, the plans we made for our wedding ceremony, buying our house, and moving from Florida to Tennessee. And yes, I wrote about the anger, blessings, and trepidations of my future without Charlie. I write all the questions to ask Hospice, doctors, friends and others who have walked this path.

My journals show me how, while I was in the midst of all that teenaged angst, the anger, pain, sorrow, and yes, my uncertainty- the words on the pages remind me that - God was with me. The journals remind me of the joys, triumphs, happy moments, peaceful moments, that God was with me.

My journals remind me how I planned, prepared and moved forward. It also reflects on how God guided, blessed, shifted me onto different paths I wasn’t planning on. My journals prove my faith, test my faith, encourage my faith and enlarge my faith.

Reading old journals remind me why I watch reruns on TV. It’s comfortable, I know how it ends, I can laugh at myself and be amazed once again at God’s wondrous works. I don’t have the pressure of making the words perfect. I don’t have two worry about grammar and punctuation in my journal. I just write. And isn’t that what a writer should do?
Trisha Petty Th.D. co-authored 13 novels with Linda Crockett, among these were Siren, To Touch a Dream and Tangerine, published by Tor Press and Harlequin Romances (Simon and Schuster). For 35 years Trisha was also a much sought after Production Assistant, then Personal Assistant to actors, directors and producers. Working with some of Hollywood’s most creative people, Trisha contributed story boards and character development to projects such as “Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn,” “North and South,” and “Paint Your Wagon.”  Recently retiring to Tennessee, Trisha uses her experience, education, and the Civil War history steeped in her newly adopted home and began writing historical novels with Christian perspective.  Trisha Petty currently lives in Columbia, Tennessee and is the founder of Cellophane Ministries, and Antebellum Productions.    

December 25, 2014

My Writer's Letter to Santa

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

The first thing I recall writing on my own was my Christmas letter to Santa. I chose the perfect Christmas green construction paper and a silver crayon. It began, "Dear Santa Claus," and I carefully indented my first paragraph. My printing was not perfect or straight on the unlined paper. I remember drawing a picture of Rudolph, my favorite reindeer because he was different. I remember decorating it with glued glitter, so much glitter. Of course, I wanted my letter to stand out from the crowds.What I asked for is not relevant but what is, it was the first thing I wrote on my own. 

How about you? Do you remember writing a letter to Santa as a child?

As the Amy Grant song says, Santa, "do you remember me?"

As a writer, my grownup letter to Santa would still involve glitter because I like much glitter. It would start as all letters to Santa start: Dear Santa: As you know, I'm a writer and the only thing I really want is the gift of 'child-like wonder.' Wonderment we create each year with festive decorations, light displays, special traditions, musical programs, culinary delights and just the excitement of the season of Christmas.

As children grow into adults, that magical quality seems to lessen as the realities of the world gain our attention. Recapturing the gift of wonder makes writing a joy where words flow freely. This transcends to a great book and an enjoyable read for your readers.

As a P.S. to my letter, I'd ask Santa for the gift of purpose for my writing. As the angel Clarence says to George Bailey in, It's a Wonderful Life, "Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" I want my writing to be unforgettable and make a positive impact on my readers.

That's my writer's letter to Santa. What's on your grown up Christmas letter to Santa?

December 24, 2014

How to Think Like an Agent

By Janet Kobobel Grant 

If you want to connect with an agent, the best way is to think like an agent. Here are four tips:
1.     When we read a query, a proposal, or sample chapters, we look for a reason to say no.
It’s not that we’re inherently curmudgeonly (well, not all of us), but we have heaps of potential projects to look over. That means we have to be exceedingly picky about what we say yes to.

TIP: Presenting your idea or you, as the author, as run-of-the-mill will in not garner you a yes. Tell the agent what makes your idea and you a standout. If you don’t know what that might be, then you’re probably not ready to submit to an agent.

2.     Remember we get paid exactly nothing for reading what you wrote.
An agent receives a commission off of money his or her clients earn. That means every minute we spend on submissions is a minute away from selling something for our clients.

TIP: Use those first few seconds that an agent looks at your query to best advantage by showcasing the most attractive, amazing or unique aspect of your project. That might be a stunning title, your one million faithful blog readers, or an idea that’s about a perennially popular topic or genre with a surprising twist.

3.     Connect with each agent in the way he or she specifies on the agency’s web page or other agency listing.
See #1 and #2. This means emails addressed to “Sir or Madam” are hard for us to take seriously. Such a salutation says you’ll take any agent who shows interest in you.
This means do not phone an agent to spontaneously pitch your project. Such conversations turn into the agent providing a brief history of how submissions work, which might be helpful to you but that agent will not be interested in looking at your project.

TIP: Do your homework before contacting an agent. Know how that person wants to be contacted, what sort of books the agent represents, and some of the agents’ clients. Imagine, if you were an agent, how you would respond if a potential client wrote this in an email: “I’ve read and loved books by these four clients of yours: ____________, __________________, ____________, __________. I think you and I have similar taste in books. For that reason, would you consider looking at title of your manuscript, a genre or category of your project…”
Showing you’ve done some research on who the agent is, aligning yourself with that agent’s sensibilities, and treating the agent like a real person, will have the agent taking special notice of your work.

4.     Remember that part of an agent’s job is to find the next breakout writer.
Yes, we’re busy; yes, we make no money while we’re reading your proposal; yes, we see a lot that isn’t even vaguely what we’re looking for…but we’re looking. We’re always looking. And nothing gives us greater joy than finding.
Janet Kobobel Grant is founder and president of Books & Such Literary Management, which consists of five agents and more than 250 clients. The agency began in 1996 and represents New York Times best-selling authors; and RITA, Holt Medallion, and Daphne du Maurier Award winners along with a host of other awards. You can find out more about Janet and Books & Such Janet is active on Facebook at and on Twitter @JanetKGrant. Each Books & Such agent writes once per week on their blog at

December 23, 2014

A Tip on Increasing an Author’s Exposure

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

I notice that some author’s do a book giveaway of their new books. This is a good way to create buzz around the release of a new book.
Some authors do those giveaways on their own websites and some on the websites of other authors and friends. Again, this is great…it continues fueling the buzz about the new release.
Here is the tip for more exposure on book giveaways:
When you do a signed book giveaway, be sure you shout it from the rooftops! Whether the book giveaway is on your website, a friend, another author, your publicist, or publishers or on our Weekly “Signed Book Giveaways”, tell everybody about it. Fuel the flame around the release of your book.
When your book is a giveaway on another site, different from your own, that site is saying they are endorsing your work. They are telling people “Hey look at this book…Here is your chance to get a signed copy…We feel it is worth your attention”.
So be sure and send out emails to your family, friends, readers –everyone you know…that this site is endorsing your work…tell them to go see it…enter the drawing for a signed copy. (You should send out the cover of your book as well as the link to the site…we make a graphic for our authors to use to showcase the drawing and their book cover that fits on all Social Medias as well as websites and blogs and emails). Put that on your website, your blog, and all your Social Medias and since it normally only runs for up to a week, drop a note on your Social Medias to everyone to remember to enter the drawing for the signed book. Be sure and tell them to tell their friends about it too. This is one time you don’t have to be shy telling people about your book. Let them here it from the people doing the “book giveaway”. All you have to do is give directions where to go so someone else can tell them about your book.
This is a simple way for you to create a tremendous buzz about your book while someone else is also endorsing it and creating buzz.

December 22, 2014

The Writing Process

By Reed Farrel Coleman

As an adjunct instructor at Hofstra University, a founding member of Mystery Writers of America University, and as someone who has been at this for almost three decades, I have seen just about every pitfall and trap waiting out there to stop a writer in his or her tracks. Writers new to the game are particularly susceptible to the myriad dangers because each step along the way is a new step and they lack the experience to know how to deal with the obstacles thrown in their paths. But I’ve found that the most insidious obstacles to new writers making progress are the ones they create for themselves.

My best piece of advice for writers, especially those just getting their feet wet, is to fall in love with the act of writing and not with what you have written. New writers tend to hold on to their words and work product too fiercely. They hold their work too precious to touch. Editing and criticism are important pieces of the writing puzzle. To ignore them or to be too easily wounded serves neither yourself nor your writing well.

I often warn my classes that if they’re getting into writing because they expect to be flown around in private jets or to have bouquets of roses thrown at their feet that they might consider other lines of endeavor. The world of writing and publishing is a tough one and the financial rewards for most of us who follow the calling are slim. There’s really only one reason to commit yourself to this life and that’s because you feel compelled to do it. The paradox, of course, is that you have to learn not to care too much about what you’ve written. I once told an editor that I have my work and I have my children and I never confuse them.

The only way I have survived long enough in this business to publish eighteen novels, three novellas, two dozen short stories, numerous essays, and poetry was to learn to love the physical act of writing. I had to learn that it was the working that mattered to me more than any particular piece of the work. And that leads me to the second piece of advice: There is no such thing as wasted writing. New writers have to realize that all of their writing, even the bad stuff, has value. You can’t wish yourself to be better. You have to work to be better. And you have to do it every single day.

If you commit yourself to writing every day, even for fifteen minutes, and you stick to that for a few months, you will be amazed at how it becomes part of you. You will find that the very act of writing becomes self-reinforcing. This, in turn, will help you understand that it is the working that matters most. It will help you become more accepting of criticism and make editing easier to deal with. All of this will help you sustain your career and improve your chances of publication.        

Reed Farrel Coleman’s love of storytelling originated on the streets of Brooklyn and was nurtured by his teachers, friends, and family. A New York Times bestseller called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the “noir poet laureate” in the Huffington Post, Reed is the author of novels, including the acclaimed Moe Prager series, short stories, and poetry. Reed is a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories—Best Novel, Best Paperback Original, Best Short Story—and a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. A former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct instructor of English at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University. Brooklyn born and raised, he now lives with his family–including cats Cleo and Knish–in Suffolk County on Long Island. His latest book is, The Hollow Girl. He can be found at Website: Twitter:

December 19, 2014

My Southern Storytelling

By T. I. Lowe

I’m a serial storyteller and I can’t help myself. There’s probably a twelve-step program to help me out, but I want no part in it. Stories have long coursed through my southern veins, nagging me to create a world for them to thrive in. Those suckers just pop up in my head and I just have to share them. Really. I have to! I admit I’m completely addicted to doing so too. My fingers itch and my heart beckons until I give in and set the story free. My southern roots entwine meticulously throughout my stories with y’allain’t, and dang sneaking in when I’m not paying any attention. I adore taking my readers out to the cornfield for a game of hide-and-seek or down the humble country river to wrangle up some fish for frying. I can probably even talk you into taking a leisurely stroll down a cool dirt road barefooted while the crickets serenade us and the lightening bugs illuminate our paths at dusk.

Stories go way beyond a dance of southern words and settings though. Oh, yes. My words may sound simple, but simple they are not. Readers want someone to hate, someone to fall in love with, someone to mourn, and someone to root for to the very end. Readers need a story that’s going to lead them on an unpredictable roller coaster of emotions, both good and bad.

My stories want nothing more than to deliver all of this while being packaged in a charming southern setting full of twang. There are endless subjects that plead for us to explore and to provide a brave voice. Whether it’s abuse in its various detrimental forms, self-doubts that plague relentlessly, or tragedies that creep in and turn our worlds upside down before tearing it apart.

So, yes, I’m addicted to my southern stories and want nothing more than to give them the chance to ease their way into the readers’ heart and to open their eyes to a whole new world.
T.I. Lowe is a southern belle that resides on a small farm hidden in the boonies near coastal South Carolina. Most days you can easily find T.I. in her kitchen, whipping up homemade treats for her babies and neighbors or glued to her computer keyboard. Her first novel is Lula's Cafe. She enjoys drifting away in the fictitious world of the latest novel while bathing in the warm southern sunshine with a glass of iced tea in hand. T.I.'s second novel in the Coming Home Again Series, Goodbyes and Second Chances. Information and Excerpts are available on her website:

December 18, 2014

Make 2015 the Best Year Yet

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Oh yes, I am aware we have yet to celebrate Christmas and the New Year but we must realize we are at the point to begin preparing for 2015. Each year brings us a clean slate to begin again. 2015 will bring us a chance to continue or redirect our plan and its individual goals. But to do so we must first take stock of what we accomplished in 2014 and now is a great time to do that.

In order to do so let’s look back and see what were your key accomplishments in 2014. Had you listed them as a goal to reach in 2014 or were they something that came from your reaching for another goal. Many times our greatest accomplishments are opportunities that came to us while reaching out for another goal. As you set your goals and work toward their end be aware of such opportunities that come your way. So first take some time and list your key accomplishments in 2014.

This next step may be a little harder. Being honest with yourself, critique your accomplishments for the year. Did you do well? Did you accomplish all you wanted to do? Could you have done better? If you could have done better be specific. What is it you could have done? Take time and write this down.

Now let’s go to the next question. What did you do in your life in 2014 that changed your life completely? I am sure there is something that you did, or a decision that you made that has changed your life completely. Write it down and think on this. How has it changed you or possibly those around you?

Now for 2015 what is the one thing that you could do that would change your life dramatically. It may be a simple thing like finding a few minutes a day to do some additional writing. It may be finishing a project that has been put on the back burner. It may be something to do with your family and the time you spend with them. Only you know what this may be. You know what accomplishing this one thing will mean to you and how dramatically you will be affected. Write that down and later consider it when setting your plan and goals for 2015.

In all this you must ask yourself, “What is really important to me?” It is of no avail to us to work toward making 2015 the best year yet if we are going in a direction that isn’t important to us. What really matters in your life? Make sure this is a large part of your direction. Of course there are minor things that must happen in order for the major things in our lives to occur. Take care of those on your way to the important task. They should all be connected.

So now we must ask, “What are your goals for 2015?” You should have at least 5 but no more than 10 major goals. Keeping the number small will allow for those unforeseen opportunities that may come along while accomplishing your predetermined goals. Be open and aware of these precious gems and take full advantage of them. They could lead you to your greatest accomplishment in 2015.

As you begin working toward your goals in 2015 keep in mind and ask yourself along the way, “What is my #1 priority right now” Then ask yourself, “Will what I am doing right now help me accomplish my goals for this upcoming year?” This will keep you on point. Follow these simple directions add a very positive attitude and 2015 should be your Best Year Yet!     


December 17, 2014

A Letter to a New Writer:

By Carole Bellacera

Dear New Writer:

I know the depth of your passion, that you want to publish a novel more than you want to keep breathing. That it is everything to you. I understand that because I felt the same desperation. I had stories inside me that were bursting to spring to life, and they did spring to life. But it wasn’t enough.

A writer needs readers, and just having written them without them being read meant, they were unfinished. But what if I told you that you’re expending your energy in the wrong direction? That being published isn’t what makes you a writer?

You are a writer the minute you put pen to paper or type words on a blank computer screen. You are creating something that didn’t exist before. Do you understand what a miracle that is? You are giving birth to a creation. That is what makes you a writer.

So, my advice to you is to write. And continue to write. Then write some more. It’s not all about publication, and contracts, and sales numbers, and prizes and fame.

It’s about writing—because you love it, because you have a passion for it, because you cannot not write.

You are a writer. Believe it, and believe in yourself. And if publication comes, don’t take yourself too seriously. Success comes and success goes. In the end, it’s not about being published; it’s about creating. You have given birth, so be proud of your newborn.

You never know…that baby could end up in the museum someday
Carole Bellacera is the author of eight novels of women’s fiction.  Her first novel, "Border Crossings", a hardcover published by Forge Books in May of 1999, was a 2000 RITA Award nominee for Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Book, a nominee for the 2000 Virginia Literary Award in Fiction. It was also a 2000 finalist in the Golden Quill award and in the Aspen Gold Award and won 1st Place in the Volusia County 2000 Laurel Wreath Award.  Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in magazines such as Woman's World, The Star, Endless Vacation and The Washington Post. In addition, her work has appeared in various anthologies such as Kay Allenbaugh's Chocolate for a Woman's Heart, Chocolate for a Couples' Heart and Chicken Soup for Couples. Her books include; Border Crossings – Forge Books, May 1999, Reissue December 2011, Spotlight – Forge Books, April 2000, Reissue July 2012, East of the Sun,West of the Moon – Forge Books, July 2001, Understudy – Forge Books, June 2003, Chocolate on a Stick – Baycrest Books, Sept 2005, Tango’s Edge – CreateSpace, September 2011, Lily of the Springs – CreateSpace, March 2012, Incense &Peppermints – CreateSpace, May 2014

December 16, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Songs Past

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Shopping malls and radio stations once again are filling the air with the familiar sounds of the season. Having heard these Christmas classics countless times every December, we can hum, if not sing, along with most of them. I thought today we'd pay a little holiday homage to the talented writers who gave us these chestnuts.

Actor/musical arranger Mel Torme wrote over 250 songs in his lifetime, some of which became jazz standards. But the one tune most tuned into was the biggest Christmas hit of the 20th century, co-written with lyricist Robert Wells. Torme said this was never one of his favorites. Maybe he considered it a throwaway because the entire song was written in just 40 minutes.

A fair number of Christmas songs come from movies. Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS (1940) was included in the Bing Crosby film Holiday Inn. (Ironically, it was written in a hotel room.)  "White Christmas" has, of course, been recorded by many other artists. For a radio station morning show I once edited together Bing Crosby's lush version with Elvis Presley's doo-woppy rendition to create "The King and Bing." You wouldn't want to hear it.

By the way, among Irving Berlin's other claims to fame are "Puttin' on the Ritz" and "God Bless America".

This is from the same duo who gave the world "The Trolley Song".  Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin were composers for stage and screen musicals, best known for Meet Me in St Louis, starring Judy Garland.

This is from another film, Bob Hope's The Lemon Drop Kid. It was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, whose hits also include Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera" and the "Bonanza" TV theme. For trivia buffs, Livingston's record executive brother created Bozo the Clown and signed The Beatles to Capitol Records.

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (1951) Meredith Wilson, yet another writer for musicals. His most successful, The Music Man, includes songs that recall the fanciful lilt of this holiday hit (think "Gary, Indiana").

THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY (1941) by Katherine Kennicott Davis. Not one of my favorites, but I gained some appreciation for it when I learned that this teacher and choir director sought to write a piece that could be arranged with voices to emulate the sound of a drum rhythm. It earned a little more respect when I discovered that it was a beloved choice of the legendary Trapp Family from Austria, who recorded it in 1955.

World War II captain Johnny Marks gave us no less than three Christmas classics: RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1949), ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE (1958) and A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS (1964). "Rudolph," incidentally, was based on a story written by Marks' brother-in-law as a promotional piece for retail store Montgomery Ward.

Veteran record producer David Foster (Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna) wrote this comparatively newer classic with Linda Thompson (yes, one-time Elvis girlfriend). When Amy Grant recorded her hit version of it in 1992, she wrote a second verse of her own (the "As children we believed..." section).

TEXT ME MERRY CHRISTMAS (2014) This instant classic for modern times, sung by Straight No Chaser with Kristen Bell, was penned by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum (comedic songsters whose individual credits include the Tony Awards, The Daily Show, and Sesame Street). With luck this clever new novelty song will put "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" out of its misery.

These are just a few of the composers we can tip our Santa hat to, and we didn't even mention carols like "Silent Night" and "We Three Kings".  Many of the sacred songs come from the 19th century or earlier, with indistinct European origins.

One interesting thing about the above list is how many of these Christmas classics were written by Jewish songwriters.  If they had stuck to the adage, "Write what you know," most of these songs would have never been written.

Feliz Navidad, y'all!

December 15, 2014

What’s My Writing Inspiration?

By Jennifer Wilck

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by people when they hear I write romance is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The question is surprisingly difficult for me to answer, or at least it used to be, because it makes it sound as if I’m sitting down and consciously making an effort to come up with a plot and characters and a conflict. Perhaps some writers do that, but for me, the process is more organic.

My best ideas for a story come to me when I’m most relaxed—right before I fall asleep, while I’m driving (and trying to shut out my kids’ music) or when I’m walking the dog. They are all times when I’m not thinking about what I should write. Although I think he’s gotten used to it, my husband doesn’t really understand why I bolt out of bed and race to my computer in the middle of the night, rather than waiting until a decent hour in the morning, and my neighbors know me as the crazy lady who talks to herself while walking the dog.

But that’s how my brain works best, and I’ve gotten used to keeping a pad beside my bed (if I can’t race to my computer) and downloading a robust dictation device onto my phone (so at least I can pretend I’m talking to someone). The ideas are ephemeral, so I have to jot them down when I get them.

Sometimes the inspiration pops into my head as a conversation between two heretofore-unknown characters (and when they use accents, it’s amusing). Other times I’ll see something and ask myself, “What if...” I could see a character on TV and wonder what would happen if I put him or her into that situation X. Occasionally, I’ll pass a store or a billboard that intrigues me and provides a setting that I want to flesh out. And once, I was inspired by touring an old Victorian mansion and imagining who would live there now and why (I’m still working on that story, actually).

Once I jot down my idea or scene, I flesh out the characters, figure out their motivation and conflict and try to get them to their happily ever after. There’s always a lot of emotion in my books and I favor strong, sassy heroines and strong but vulnerable heroes.

As you can probably guess by now, I don’t outline ahead of time, but I do create one afterwards. As I start round one of edits, I write down what happens in each scene and chapter, where certain descriptions are (that helps me make sure that blue eyes don’t change to green midway through the story) and the progression of the love scenes.

There’s a fine balance between the discipline of writing and the creativity of my muse. The key to completing my manuscript is maintaining that balance. Tell me, where do you get your ideas and how do you turn them into a book?
Jennifer Wilck started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. As an adult, she started writing them down and after several years of writing, editing and querying publishers, she’s a multi-published author. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and always end with happily ever after. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family and friends, reading, traveling and watching TV. She volunteers with her Temple and is also a freelance writer for magazines, newspapers and newsletters. A Heart of Little Faith and Skin Deep were published by Whiskey Creek Press in 2011. The Seduction of Esther, the first in the Women of Valor series, was published in June 2013 by Rebel Ink Press. The next book in that series, Miriam’s Surrender, published September 2014. She can be reached at or She tweets at @JWilck. Her blog (Fried Oreos) is and she contributes to Heroine With Hearts blog on Tuesdays and Front Porch Saturdays at Sandra Sookoo’s Believing is Seeing blog

December 12, 2014

Six Things Every New Writer Should Know

By A.S. Bond

So you think you’ve got what it takes to be a writer? Maybe you’re the next JK Rowling, but as everyone knows, even she languished on the rejection pile for  a’s how to give yourself the best chance at literary success.

1. Read. OK, I know it sounds silly and you probably devour books by the truckload, but are you doing the right kind of reading? Are you reading the genre you want to write in? If you love to read horror, but have decided to write romance because you think it is more ‘commercial’, forget it. Your heart won’t be in it.

2. Study the books you admire. You need to read quite critically. Ask yourself; how does that author introduce suspense, or a new character? What is a common structure for novels in this genre and am I writing at the correct length?

3.  Think analytically. You want to switch from being a consumer to a producer and that takes work. Writing is a craft, so learn it. 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is about right. Learn how to write fiction; do you understand ‘show don’t tell’? Can you create great dialogue? Have you eliminated all the cliché’s, overused adverbs and irrelevant description? It’s worth taking a class or joining a book group to get some objective feedback on your work, because it’s easier to take than a pile of rejection notes or, even worse, a handful of cutting, 1* reviews.

4. Develop your own voice. The one thing both publishers and readers alike are looking for is originality. A new voice will excite your target readership and rack up those sales. You have it already of course; your ‘voice’ is as distinctive as your fingerprint. What you need to do is not let another author’s style or tone influence your unique expression and this takes both confidence and practice.

5. Don’t rush to publication. Are you confident your work is as good as it can be? Take a step back. Put it in a drawer for a while and go do something else. When you’ve forgotten enough detail to make reading it seem fresh again, go through it. You’ll be amazed at what jumps out at you.

6. I recommend hiring a professional copyeditor before sending out your manuscript. You don’t have to pay a big company thousands for this, just look up a well qualified individual on a freelance website like Elance or Guru. There are plenty of professionals who work at very reasonable rates. If you don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars, you could be throwing away months or even years of your own work (and a possible new career) because of a few typos.

7. Whether you get a book deal, or self publish, be prepared to market yourself. ‘Discoverability’ is particularly hard for self published writers. What all new authors should know however, is that even if you sign a deal with a big publisher, there won’t be glamorous launch parties, book tours etc. Yet there’s tons of advice out there on how to market you as a writer, so take a look and get started long before your book hits the shelves.
A.S. Bond is the author of ‘Patriot’ A Brooke Kinley Adventure, an award-winning thriller that debuted at #13 in its category on Amazon. Winner of TWO 'Honorable Mentions' for PATRIOT at San Francisco & Hollywood Book Festivals, 2014; Winner of 'Spirit of Adventure Award', Captain Scott Society and Winner of Himalayan Kingdoms 'Adventure Award'  For more information and the latest news, visit Twitter: @brookekinleyadv

December 11, 2014

Thank You, American Express

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Every year in America the holiday gift buying season traditionally kicks off with Thanksgiving's long weekend. This year the big box stores tried to get a jump on holiday shoppers’ money by opening on Thanksgiving. This move may have been responsible for the reported flat "Black Friday" sales. 

Thanks to American Express's Shop Small movement: AMEX card members are encouraged via incentives, to shop at small businesses that accept AMEX on "Small Business Saturday," occurring on the Saturday following "Black Friday." The 2014 program incentives for card holders with any AMEX purchase over $10 at a registered AMEX small business, the individual card holder will receive a credit of $10 on their credit card statement. Millions of individual card holders have helped small businesses capture sales activity that otherwise might have gone to bigger box retailers. American Express offers small businesses marketing activities for free so they can plan for a successful "Shop Small Saturday" experience. A win-win for both the consumer and small business in your community. 

The Internet makes it convenient to shop and big box stores have great sales. However, let's face it, if we as a community don't support local small businesses they will not be sustainable and we will lose small businesses that make a communities unique. 

What does Shop Small Saturday have to do with writing? I chose to participate in this year's AMEX "Shop Small" by making purchases at our local independent book stores. 

Why? I'm not just a writer, first I'm a reader. As a reader it's fun to spend time in a bookstore perusing through the offerings. Putting your hands on books, comparing cover art and reading the teasers on the back of the books gives you a sense of ownership in the gift you purchase. It also gives the author, in you a chance to do research. What cover art catches your attention? Would you have started the book with that first paragraph? Would you have rewritten the teaser of the latest best-seller?  

Of course, the interaction with bookstore employees can't be found via an Internet review. Sometimes a face to face recommendation is crucial in the search for the "perfect read" to match the right gift to each person on your gift list. Our independent booksellers gift-wrap as a perk which saves the effort and expense of gift wrapping.

Independent booksellers may only represent 3-5% of a publisher's sales but they are the locals, who can champion a publishers' titles and creating book buzz for authors. Word of mouth can be the vehicle to make a small book, huge. Your local independent book sellers, support local authors by publicizing and granting book-signings at their venues and highlighting them in their email newsletters. 

Independent bookstores matter to your community, to readers and you, the author. The only way they will survive and thrive is if we spend some of our gift-giving dollars within the walls of your local independent booksellers.