February 29, 2016

How to Show Not Tell

By Michael H. Thompson

Most fiction writers struggle a bit with “showing” instead of “telling” their reader what’s happening with their characters. While this subject has been written to death, I want to talk about a useful took I found to help me figure out how to “show” not “tell.”

Its title is The Emotion Thesaurus—A Writer’s Guide to Character Expressions. (No, I have no financial interest in this book whatsoever.)

Here’s a snippet from the book’s introduction: “All successful novels, no matter what genre, have one thing in common: emotion. It lies at the core of every character’s decision, action, and word, all of which drive the story. Without emotion, a character’s personal journey is pointless. Stakes cease to exist. The plot line becomes a dry riverbed of meaningless events that no reader will take time to read … As writers, we must take our innate skills of observation and transfer them to the page. Readers have high expectations. They don’t want to be told how a character feels; they want to experience the emotion for themselves.”

The Emotion Thesaurus provides seventy-five emotions to give us plenty of ways to “show-not-tell” through three different means—physical signals, mental responses, and internal sensations. The book explains in detail these three emotional reactions.

From adoration to agitation, and unease to worry, the seventy-five emotions offer suggestions in the three means mentioned above.

Here’s just one example: Anxiety. PHYSICAL SIGNALS: Rubbing the back of the neck, crossing the arms, standing with one arm holding the other at the elbow, fingering a necklace, adjusting clothes as if they chafe, and twenty more examples. INTERNAL SENSATIONS: restless legs, increased thirst, accelerated breathing … and a half-dozen others. MENTAL RESPONSES: self blame, seeking reassurance from others, replaying the events that caused the anxiety, time feeling like it’s slowing down, and plenty of other suggested ways to “show-not-tell” about the character’s anxious mental state.

The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, is also full of other helpful writer tips.

I use this book often, and recommend it to writers. It’ll improve your writing.
Michael Thompson was a successful ad agency owner, winning numerous national and international awards. After selling his firm in 2011, Michael turned his attention to full-time writing. His latest novel is The Rector, available on Amazon in print, on Audio Book, and Kindle. Combine a suspenseful murder mystery with theology and that’s The Rector. “High stars for a Christian mystery that reads like a thriller.”~~ H.S. Dale, author. Two graphic novels on the life of David from the Old Testament–DAVID–The Illustrated Novel came first(Volume 2-won first place BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL and BEST INTERIOR DESIGN2012, from USA Book’s INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. Volume 1 won the Silver IPPY for Graphic Novels in 2011 from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.) Next was a sci-fi thriller (CLOUDS ABOVE) that was serialized in a monthly magazine for a year. (Out in book in 2016.) Michael writes Christian novels that entertain, intrigue, and shine a light on his Jesus. He’s a member of the ACFW, Mystery Writers of America, The International Crime Writers Association, and the Southern Writers Association. Visit his website, to learn more.

February 26, 2016


By Linda Lovely

Why did I set my new suspense novel, LIES: SECRETS CAN KILL, in 1938?

The answer is simple: to honor my mother, who shared colorful stories about the 1930s and the hardships the Depression posed, especially for strong-willed females who were the sole support of their families. Mom’s tales helped me sketch out ideas for my heroine, but I lacked even a hazy idea for a plot. For that I needed to do a lot more research.

I should add I’m a pantser. I don’t outline, and my plot often veers in unexpected directions once I start writing. Yet, before I begin Chapter One, I need an overall notion of where I’m headed—if not how to get there. Since I write suspense, coming up with my core idea demands in-depth knowledge of the time period and setting, including known criminal activities, law enforcement operations and abilities (e.g. could they type blood or compare fingerprints in 1938?), religious and union affiliations, jobs women might hold, and general public attitudes and prejudices.

For me, research efforts are half the writing fun. For LIES, my wide-ranging sources included:
·         local and national newspapers
·         the era’s popular songs, movies, lingo and the 1938 Sears catalog
·         accounts of famous scams, Chicago ballrooms, and mob activities post-Prohibition
·         1930s patent applications and an interview with a psychologist on PTSD
·         Iowa histories of labor unions, businesses, and banking
·         histories of the women’s rights movement, census records
·         and, most fun, conversations with individuals in their nineties who shared stories about everyday life that never appear in history books.

The biggest problem with research is when to call it quits and start writing. Here’s what I gleaned doing just my preliminary setting/time period research reading a local newspaper.  

SETTING/TIME PERIOD: Keokuk, Iowa, my hometown on the Mississippi River, is a short drive from the caves Mark Twain made famous. Take one bridge out of Keokuk, and you’re in Missouri; take the second, you’re in Illinois.

Having settled on a year, 1938, I needed specific dates. I picked September when the Street Fair, an annual highlight, came to town. Mom told me the Fair was as big a magnet in the 1930s as it was when I was a kid/teen in the 1960s. So I began my setting research reading microfilm copies of my hometown Daily Gate City newspaper at the Keokuk Public Library. I perused the issues cover-to-cover for the weeks before, during, and after September 19, 1938, the day the Street Fair arrived. Here’s what I mined:
·         Colorful accounts of the Street Fair, including rides, where and when thrill acts appeared, visits from speech-making politicians, livestock shows, size of crowds.
·         Weather. Daily times of sun rise and set, high and low temperatures, rain and wind conditions, and a big surprise—reports on unusual fall river flooding, including daily flood stages and the impact on bottom-land farmers.
·         Area news. The burning of the Opera House in nearby Nauvoo, IL.
·         Ads told me what folks paid for popular items ranging from the newest style dresses and shoes to movie tickets, groceries, and automobiles.
·         Sports. Lots of reporting related to the World Series.
·         World & national headlines, news reports, and editorials. Painted a picture of what folks knew about Hitler, the growing crisis in Europe, unions, and the economy, as well as public opinion on these and other topics.

Research Hint: Three “saintly” librarians in Keokuk not only directed me toward multiple local research sources, they read my manuscript and helped me nail down an address for my heroine’s home, bus routes, popular eateries, active funeral homes, and more. THANKS!    

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS: While libraries and the Internet provide a wealth of resources to obtain historical information, there’s nothing as compelling, funny, poignant and colorful as the reminiscences of individuals who lived through a time period you’re writing about. If you can find such individuals, you’re on to a gold mine.

Friends put me in touch with several individuals in their nineties, who vividly recalled life in the 1930s. I also talked with lots of younger folks, who’d listened to their parents’ and grandparents’ stories. My conversations with these folks are responsible for much of the local color in LIES. Topics included farm foreclosures, dresses fashioned from feed sacks, and rumors about a doctor treating ailing prostitutes from St. Louis. There was also a story about a bagman who carried money from local gambling halls to Chicago plus detail-rich descriptions of visits to soda fountains, school days, and, of course, the wonder of the annual Street Fair.

Were all these reminiscences accurate? Impossible to know. But, hey, I write fiction! In fiction (as in everyday life) what people believe to be true can influence events just as much as objective “reality” can.

Have fun researching!  
Linda Lovely writes a mix of romantic suspense/thrillers/mysteries. She’s published five novels (available e-book, paperback, and audiobook). Her first four novels are set in the current day, but, her newest book, LIES is set in 1938. To learn more about Linda Lovely visit her website:

February 25, 2016

Small Town Brilliance

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine      

If you grew up in a small town or have lived in a small town for any length of time you will understand the following story.

Some years ago a writer from the East Coast moved to a small town in northwestern Arkansas to get away to the quietness and do some writing. One night she found herself in one of the local watering holes and met an attorney. They talked about the small town they found themselves in and one thing led to another. She went home with him that night.

The next morning as they sat in his kitchen having coffee the mailman went by delivering the mail. The attorney went out to get his mail from the box returning with not only his mail but hers as well. She was shocked her mail was delivered to his home after a one night stay. She asked the attorney why the mailman would do that. The attorney explained the mailman had no doubt observed her car parked outside and left her mail with his.

We tend to laugh at the simplicity of small town living but there is also what I call a brilliance you get from living in a small town. As noted above the brilliance comes from constant observation of the habits and everyday comings and goings of the same small number of people. This observation goes on from day to day with few interruptions. This closeness, the friendships and even family relationships allows one to develop an unlimited knowledge of the lives around them. In this environment the least little thing will stand out as something unusual, strange or just weird. Individuals and their characteristics become well defined and clear in our minds.  

On the other end of the spectrum is the life of those living in a metropolitan area where the vast numbers of those around us as well as the constant unsettling change of those we come in contact with make it hard to study and get that unlimited knowledge of a few. Small town living has its advantage and we can see it in some of our greatest stories.     

The best example I can provide is that of two small town writers that brought us two great stories. One is Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg, a great story about a small town that was no more than a whistle stop for the train. The book had a small number of characters with great detail about each. Everything bout Fried Green Tomatoes was small town. In this story some individuals become brilliant as they observed those around them.

The other book was Forest Gump by Winston Groom. This was a great story about a small town boy who eventually discovered the world. This book reflected the mall town insight of the main character and how the world looked through his eyes as he ventured out. Forrest Gump was another example of small town relationships and the lifelong relationships that came from them. Forrest took his small town observations on the road and met life’s challenges.

Fannie Flagg and Winston Groom did a great job showing life in a small town. They used what they learned from growing up in a small town and shared it with the world. You can as well. If you didn’t grow up in a small town you make where you live a small town. Focus on a few interesting characters, study them, their habits and observe any interesting features. Find out more about them and go from there. Better yet if you ever have the chance, travel to the small town that Fannie Flagg and Winston Groom grew up in, Magnolia Springs, AL. Sit on the corner at Jessie’s, have a beverage and just observe. The brilliance of a small town just may come to you.



February 24, 2016

Learning How to Play with my Writing

By Becky Villareal

Sometimes I take my writing way to seriously.  I dwell over the exact words I’m trying to write or change aspects of my writing until they feel unfamiliar to me.  In other words, I’ve lost my way.  In trying to please whatever writing “gods” that be, I have lost my own writer’s voice.  It’s then that my writing has become a chore and not the joy it always was.      

However, when I found Roberta Allen’s The Playful Way to Serious Writing I thought I had literally “died and gone to heaven”.  Take a picture, give yourself a time limit and write away.  One of the first pictures I tried was of a bundle of wire.  It led me to write about how I had always hated my curly hair as a child and the memories of trying to fit in as a child.  Writing this way is so freeing.  It immediately brought back that impetuousness that impelled me to write in the first place.

This is another thing I do to help oil my crusty mental wheels. Sometimes, while I’m working on the computer I close my eyes and write, simply write.  I don’t worry about spell check, don’t worry about the correct words, I just let the ideas flow through my fingertips onto the screen.  Not only are the ideas fresh, but this helps me to go back and tackle the harder projects I’m working on.

Play helps children learn and develop their creativity.  

I think writers need time to play too.

Becky Enriquez Villareal was born in Dallas, Texas in 1954 to missionary parents. She grew up in several different Texas towns including McKinney. For twenty years she has been teaching early childhood in Dallas Independent School District. For the past ten years she has been completing family research. The grandmother of three she enjoys writing and spending time with her family.

February 23, 2016

Based on the Book

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Each year at this time, I get a kick out of looking at the Best Picture Oscar nominees with an eye toward how each story originated  This year, a record seven of the eight chosen films were based, at least partially, on books.

Michael Lewis' nonfiction bestseller about the housing and financial crisis of 2007-2008 was released in 2010, and Paramount picked it up three years later. Dialogue and data-driven, this is one of those films released just under the wire in December, presumably to be fresh in Academy voters' minds.

Another 2010 book, this true story of the Cold War recounts the politics and negotiations involved in trading an imprisoned Russian spy for an American POW. However, the movie borrows even more from the details given by the actual negotiator himself, James Donovan, in his book Strangers on a Bridge.

The only romance in the bunch, Irish novelist Colm Tóibin's 2009 tale is about an immigrant (appropriated named Ellis, as in the island) who comes to New York in search of a better life in the 1950s. Her affections are soon divided between her new home and the one she left behind. A secret marriage is involved, and those always tend to complicate things.

This debut novel by Andy Weir was published in 2011. Those who remember Gravity from a couple of years back were pleasantly surprised when this wasn't simply one more Lost in Space. How a stranded astronaut (played by Matt Damon) conquers insurmountable odds through ingenuity, science and humor was lauded by no less than NASA for its technical accuracy. And as a plus, there were no aliens in sight.

A revenant is something that returns after death or a long absence. The same could be said of the book this Leonardo DiCaprio film is based upon, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, originally published back in 2002. It took author Michael Punke four years to write what he originally intended to be a political novel. He ultimately turned it into a chronicle about a real American frontiersman, Hugh Glass, who was left for dead by his companions after being attacked by a grizzly bear.

Loosely inspired by a real-life incident of a woman held captive in a basement for 24 years, Emma Donaghue's fictional 2010 novel focuses on a young mom (played by Best Actress nominee Brie Lawson) and her five-year-old son, for whom the tiny room in which they're imprisoned has been his entire world. It's not a spoiler to say he gets out, and awakening to how big the real world is becomes an insightful eye-opener for the audience too.

In 2001, a team of investigative reporters for The Boston Globe followed up on a tip about a priest abusing choirboys. They went to court to obtain sealed documents and published their findings in 2002. The power of the press is the star of this film, though it boasts a full ensemble of familiar faces including Michael Keaton.

The remaining nominee for Best Picture, Mad Max: Fury Road is an original screenplay based on its own continuing sci-fi saga. It may not have made that great a read anyway, since its calling card is the constant visual stimuli of bombs and truck chases.

So over half of the books are based all or in part on actual events. Several (The Martian, The Revenant and Room) feature individuals stranded and endangered. And look how many of them have only one or two words in the title.  That's a tactic that can either help or hurt, but in this case, to say "The Revenant" or "The Martian" subtly implies that this is the revenant or the Martian that stands above all others. This Sunday, February 28th, we'll get to see if that is indeed the case.

For a musical mashup of all of the above, I hope you'll enjoy my latest tongue-in-cheek tribute to the 2016 Best Picture nominees, via this video:

See you in Tinseltown!

February 22, 2016

Writing from a Bleeding Heart

By Paula Mosher Wallace

Angry. Hurt. Rejected. Abandoned. Betrayed. Abused. Depressed. You get the hint. Writing from the darker side of the heart. My platform is not fun or light. There is no fluff or nonsense. I write about abuse followed by healing. I know I’m not the best writer in the world, but my readers consistently tell me that they felt the pain and hope in every story they read. That’s because they lived each story with me.

As I wrote my own stories of abuse in Bloom in the Dark, I tasted the blood from my bleeding heart. I felt agonizing pain. I relived my betrayal with shock and disbelief. I was blinded by the darkness and despair. Wrapped up in the realities of my story, I didn’t notice the tears splashing on my keyboard as I typed furiously. (Waterproof keyboards are a good investment for this type of writing!)

As I wrote, I didn’t worry about wording or grammar. I didn’t think about punctuation. I just relived the story. Editing took care of verb tenses, wording and punctuation. Anytime I focused on the mechanics first, my writing was more literary, but less emotionally intense.

Writing about someone else’s pain was different. I had not lived those stories. When I started writing others’ stories, my writing was not nearly as authentic. The emotions were not as deep, but I needed all the stories to pull the reader in with the same raw intensity. Maybe some writers can just play with words and connect at that depth. I’m not that good.

I had to learn to live my heroine’s nightmare while my hands typed. I had to transfer my pain and darkness to her story. I had to hurt just as deeply as she had. I bled from the cuts made by shattered dreams. I felt the quicksand of despair sucking me under. Once again, tears dripped on my keyboard as I typed.

What makes my stories worth writing? The joy I get to live as I experience each woman’s healing is amazing. Facing the darkness this way, makes my everyday life magical. The hope at the end of each story fills me with buoyancy and perspective. Sunlight is so much warmer and brighter after chilling darkness. Writing from a bleeding heart intensifies the beauty of my life.
Paula Mosher Wallace was born in the jungles of Peru to missionary parents, Paula’s beginning in life was anything but typical. Raped at the age of 5, Paula was caught in a cycle of damage and abuse which lasted into her thirties. From sexual abuse to later mental, emotional and even spiritual abuse, Paula developed a victim mentality, which fueled decades of continued abuse. The trauma she experienced caused her to develop a variety of psychosomatic illnesses which, at times, left her bed-ridden. Broken beyond endurance and suicidal, Paula cried out to God for help. He miraculously intervened, faithfully walking with her through a dramatic healing process. Along the way, Paula learned to stand up to her abusers and stop attracting predators. She now knows, from personal experience, the healing, deliverance, and hope that only God can bring. As an ex-victim, Paula’s passion to help others resulted in her writing Bloom in the Dark, a compilation of true stories shared by women who have walked through personal darkness and abuse. Each story tells how God met, healed, and restored an ex-victim. Readers discover that they are not alone and that there is lasting hope and healing!

February 19, 2016

Approaching the First Edit

By Terry Shames

Probably in the history of writing someone got everything right the first time. But let’s face it--you probably didn’t. More likely the opposite is true. The first draft is a hot mess.

There are books, articles and classes on how to edit your manuscript. But no one addresses how to bridge that huge gap between relief that you actually got a draft done and dread that you now have to start the editing process. It’s brutal. It doesn’t just happen to beginners either. Every writer has that sinking feeling when they start to edit.

Here are a few hints to ease you into the process:

1) Remind yourself that editing takes time. It took several weeks or months to write the first draft. It’s going to take just as long to edit—or longer. Remember how insurmountable 70,000 words looked when you typed the first page? It wasn’t. You finished and you can do it again. (And again).

2) Before you begin, spend a few hours thinking about what general things work well in the book. “My dialog seemed to come really easily. I felt like I knew the protagonist. I love one of the plot twists I came up with.” Be specific. Write them down.

3) Now spend equal time thinking about what you know needs to be addressed. Again, be specific. “I still don’t feel like I’ve nailed the protagonist’s girlfriend. The middle seemed really slow. I may need to do a little more research on X.”

4) Decide in advance how you are going to tackle the edits. Do you work best going chapter by chapter, forging ahead until the entire edit cycle is done? Do you work best perfecting one scene at a time before you move forward? Do you feel so strongly about the plot issues that you have to address them before you tackle the characters?

It’s best to establish control from the beginning. When you feel as if you’ve run off the rails, it can steady you to go back and remind yourself what is good about the story. And to remind yourself that you knew some things needed work.____________________________________________________________

Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill was a finalist for numerous awards and won the Macavity for Best First Mystery, 2013. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was a Macavity finalist for Best Mystery, 2014 and was named one of the top ten mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal and top five of 2014 by MysteryPeople. Her fifth Craddock mystery, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake released January 2016.

February 18, 2016

Blog Hop Your Way to Success

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Are you stumped as to how to gain readers for your books?

The other day, I was talking to Southern Writers Magazine’s Editor in Chief, Susan Reichert, and Managing Editor, Doyne Phillips. We discussed new ways authors can promote themselves at no cost to the writer.

The discussion turned to blogs and how authors could promote themselves when commenting on another person's blog. Between the three of us, we get over 150 notifications a day from a variety of bloggers we follow. We brainstormed about how writers could use all their own blog notifications to spread the word indirectly about their books.

It's ridiculous how easy it will be for authors to invest just a little time that could gain them readers which equals sales. All you need to do is make a comment on every blog sent daily to your inbox. However before you leave the comment, add your name and your current book or series. By doing this, it will show as part of your comment. Seen by all followers of the blog. Think of it as your automated signature on an email. You could also apply this idea to other social media venues. By doing this one little thing, you could easily garner readers captured from otherwise untapped sources.

SWM's Suite T blog has over 2.8 million views to its credit. Just leaving a comment on Suite T will help give you exposure, as well as up your Google footprint. Another idea is to offer to write a guest author blog post for authors you admire in the genre of your current work.

What have you got to lose? Nothing but a little time. You will be helping out other bloggers by leaving comments, and you could gain readers of your work.

So again, I ask what do you have to lose?

February 17, 2016

The Five Times I Met Myself

By James L. Rubart

The Power of “What If?”

As with many authors, I’m often asked where my story ideas come from. From all different places is the answer. But what I think they’re really asking is, “How do you come up with concepts that feel unique?”

The answer to that question is I use the power of “What if?” Once I can get my story idea to the point where it fits into a compelling, one sentence “what if?” question, I know I have an idea I can run with.

A few examples from the movies
·       What if a bus explodes if it goes under 55 mph?
·       What if a man can’t lie?
·       What if a shark terrorizes a tourist town?
·       What if a boy could see dead people?
·       What if we could clone dinosaurs?

Most of you know the movies: Speed, Liar Liar, Jaws, The Sixth Sense, Jurassic Park

A few examples from my novels
·       What if you could walk into the rooms of your soul? (Rooms)
·       What if you could find God’s Book of Days on earth that showed you your future? (Book of Days)
·       What if you were given a chair made by Jesus Christ? (The Chair)
·       What if could talk to your 23-year-old self? (The Five Times I Met Myself)

Once I come up with an idea, I test it with friends and family. If I can’t come up with a “What if?” question that intrigues them, then I need to head back to the drawing board and keep brainstorming.

A Specific Example

For my novel, The Chair, I was reading an article by Chuck Colson that mentioned a Jewish historian who said some of the plows Jesus made as carpenter were used all the way into the second century. I thought, “What if Jesus made something that lasted until today? What if it was a chair? What if it was the chair he sat in after he appeared to the disciples? What if it had supernatural healing powers? And the story was born.

The Marketing component of “What if?”

Not only can asking, “What if?” help you with your story ideas, it can help with your marketing. Whether your target market is an agent, an editor, or readers, you need to be able to convey the power of your story FAST. With a strong what if question, you can do exactly that.

Get in the Habit

Once you get in the habit of asking, “What if?” you won’t be able to stop. When you read or watch the news, watch TV, movies, talk to friends ... always be asking, “What if?” Let your imagination run free and you’ll be stunned with the creative, powerful ideas your mind will be flooded with.

Now, hmmm. What if everyone reading this blog post were to buy a copy of my latest novel?
James L. Rubart has a B.A. in broadcast journalism, and for more than 20 years he has also owned and operated his own marketing company. Ever since he was a little boy, Rubart dreamed of writing novels but didn’t begin his journey as an author until 2002. Since then, he has become a bestselling and Christy award-winning author of seven novels, including Rooms, Soul’s Gate and his most recent, The Five Times I Met Myself. Rubart is also a professional speaker. Rubart says he feels like a 28-year-old trapped in an older man’s body and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons. Rubart has spent his whole life in the Pacific Northwest and now lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. For more information about The Five Times I Met Myself and James L. Rubart, visit You can also follow him on Facebook (JamesLRubart) or Twitter (@jameslrubart). 

February 16, 2016

Marketing Tips–Twitter

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

I received this email and wanted to share it with you as it has information and techniques on how to use Twitter effectively for marketing. This link  is Social Quant’s, and this article was written by Josue Valles titled Twitter Marketing Tips: The Complete List dated December 29,2015. It is a complete list he has given to use Twitter effectively.
 Most writers use Facebook but I believe it is important to use Twitter also. For the most part you are reaching people you don’t reach on Facebook. Remember Marketing 101– the more places your name the more coverage you get.

The information he provided seems to have everything broken down where you can actually walk through it and pick and choose what will work best for you. He also included a PDF with the best Twitter marketing tips. Hope this helps you look at adding another social media to your marketing belt.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with two top award winning writers and we were discussing how it has become more difficult to get sales because there are so many books coming out on the market. While that is a factor, it is simply a detour arrow on the road to marketing. Why? If you go back through history you will find that when an industry has a problem, what happens, people become inovative and look for ways to go around it, change it, or develop a new maket…which in essence creates a “new” way to do it.

It’s like when they were building a railroad…they had to find ways to go over, through or around moutains. That happens in all areas. And our sector, selling books, is no different.

One of the things you will find, with all these books coming on the market, when a book is bought from one of these new writers because they like the title and/or the cover, if the story isn’t well written, if it is not edited, in other other words is full of errors, you will find that person is not going to be around very long. So as fast as they come into the market, they will leave just about that fast. Trust me, I get books sent to me all the time to read, and so many of them are chocked full of errors. So much so, it is difficult to read.

So don’t think you are going to lose your reader base. If they bought one of your books, liked it they are going to buy another one of your books and contionue to buy your new book every time you release one. You can bet they are going to stay with you; as long as you continue to write books worth reading, don’t slack on your editing and stay in touch with your readers.

February 15, 2016

The Literary Art of Borrowing

By Daniel Diehl

One of the most enjoyable things about writing fiction is the ability it gives the author to make passing references to other famous pieces of literature just for the sheer joy of wondering how many of their readers will catch the allusion.

When I first began working on my Merlin Chronicles fantasy trilogy I was faced with the problem creating the persona of the delightfully evil Morgana leFay. Mulling her over in my mind, I envisioned her as a young, beautiful, seductive version of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. As I built on this idea, Morgana took on her own life and personality but I have always loved Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch so much that I found it impossible not to slide in a number of references to the character here and there in the text. Nothing too blatant, mind you I didn’t want to beat my readers over the head with it. But if my readers are quick, and know their Wizard of Oz, they will see at least half dozen references – along with a few stolen lines - all of them connecting Morgana to the Wicked Witch.

Similarly, I have always loved the movie ‘Maltese Falcon’ staring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorie, Mary Astor and Sidney Greenstreet. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the 1941 ‘Maltese Falcon’ is the movie for which the term Films Noir was coined, it sports one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled, and I long ago decided to slide a few references into one of my works of fiction. Go to the scene in ‘Revelations: book one of The Merlin Chronicles’ where Jason is at the museum opening in Liverpool, England and see if you can spot Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet in their roles as Sam Spade and Casper Guttmann.

I have no idea how many other vague references there are to movies, lines from movies, movie characters and other campy pop icons in the book. I certainly don’t condone one author ‘stealing’ from another, for that is the road to plagiarism. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with referencing the work of others, particularly if it is going to help make the text seem familiar to the reader and make them feel comfortable and at home in the new and unfamiliar world the writer is creating for them. 

I have always threatened to take a weekend and go through the manuscripts of all three Merlin Chronicles books, highlighting movie and pop culture references but, sadly, it hasn’t happened yet. If any of you do go through the book and mark each movie and pop culture reference, let me know.
Daniel Diehl is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books and five novels including his acclaimed Merlin Chronicles trilogy.  He has also written scripts for more than 170 hours of television documentary programming.  His work has been translated into eleven non-English languages. His latest book is the nonfiction ‘Apparition Atlas: The Ghost Hunter’s Travel Guide to Haunted America’, released in September 2015 by Ravenswood Press. Mr Diehl posts a weekly blog about writing and books on his Facebook page. Facebook: Merlin Chronicles Facebook:
Twitter: @DanielDiehlBOOK

February 12, 2016

The Three P’s of a First Book Signing

By John J. Zelenski 

At last, your book is finally available in print by your publisher and ready to be stocked on the shelves of your local bookstore!  Congratulations on a monumental and personal achievement that few can say they’ve accomplished!  It’s now time for your first book signing event!  Yes, you will be the star of the show!  The lights, the camera, the press…..well, not exactly yet.

A book signing event for your new book is a necessary and extremely fun part of the journey towards building your own personal brand.   However, there are a few key things to point out when it’s your time to shine. 

Preparation – Some publishers will take the time to actually set up the entire event on an author’s behalf.  But unless you are selling 5000 copies of your book per week, don’t count on this method.  And of course, if you are self-published, you should realize that the entire burden will fall upon your shoulders – and that’s not a bad thing at all!  This puts you in the driver’s seat, so to speak, by allowing  you the time to contact venues, arrange your schedule, order books (if necessary), and most importantly, “get in the zone” mentally for your big day.  And remember, you don’t need to sit at the front door of a Barnes & Noble to have a successful book signing.  You can have a great signing at a library or a small coffee shop. 

Perspiration - Obviously, getting the word out about your event is first and foremost.  Creating an invitation via social media is probably the most effective way, but should not be the only route to let others know about your event.  You can create flyers or push cards fairly inexpensively at your local print shop or even from your home computer.  Then hand them out to anyone who will take them.  Leave them at strategic places like community post boards at churches, grocery stores, laundromats, and yes, even book stores.  Remember, this will be your event.  It will be up to you to make everyone aware that you will be signing autographed copies of your book! 

Presentation – I cannot stress how important first impressions will be.  This very well could be the factor to whether or not you get asked to come back with your next book.  Your body language, demeanor, and table set-up will speak volumes about how you view yourself as an author. And may I add, that although this is your time to shine, keep your ego in check.  A little humility certainly goes a long way in paving the road for relationships that may last for the rest of your life.  Bring a box of doughnuts for the guests.  Maybe even asking the event coordinator if you can help set up or break down the table is not out of the question.

So the lights, camera, and the press….perhaps they just might be in your future.
John J. Zelenski is an award-winning author who has appeared on television, radio, and has been featured in numerous print articles as well as receiving high-profile reviews from the popular community. Having been inspired, in part, to write his first novel Walker's Vale, by his own paranormal experiences as a child, John has developed a keen understanding of the supernatural. His second novel and prequel to Walker's Vale - The Journal of Ezekiel Walker - continues with the saga of Walker's Vale, with a future third installment presently in the works.
Walker's Vale, the film will be released through Allegentsia Productions with possible filming scheduled to begin sometime in 2015. John, along with his wife and two children, love to watch the seasons change in beautiful Northeast Pennsylvania. My social media links are:

February 11, 2016

Buicks, Book Sales and Your Bread and Butter

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    

When selling your books, what is your “Bread and Butter”?  In the world of sales your “Bread and Butter” could be a particular product or a particular practice that sells your product.

A particular product example may be General Motors worldwide sales of Buick over the sale of other automobile lines. In the case of a writer it may be the sale of one of their books over the other at any particular time. You must go with the popularity of the book at the moment which as you know can change as popularity, genre or focus groups change.

A particular practice for selling your book/books may be your book signing events. Steve Bradshaw author of the The Bell Trilogy, shared with me he sells more books at book signings or when he speaks to groups. His goal is to sell even more of the trilogy, Bluff City Butcher, The Skies Roared and Blood Lions, by continuing this method because it works.

Steve and I discussed the possibilities of other methods one could use as well without abandoning what is working, what is your “Bread and Butter”.  Never leave that but build on it. It is similar to baseball. You can win a game hitting singles but there is nothing like a home run or even better a grand slam. This is what can be referred to as a quantum leap, a move that moves you rapidly forward and puts you ahead in the game. The list of moves is endless but here are a few that have worked:

·         Media interviews – TV, Radio, etc. Being introduced by a reliable source as well as connecting a name with a face can be a valuable asset to you as a writer.
·         Newspaper - feature articles or as a guest columnist. Erma Bombeck developed a following as a columnist and propelled that into book sales with her book The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. Nice springboard I’d say.
·         Proper placement – getting your book into the hands of trend setters or people who can propel your book sales. Andy Andrew was able to get The Butterfly Effect into the hands of Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. Robin brought his book to light and sales took off. Jack Canfield was able to get his book Chicken Soup for the Soul into the hands of the sequestered jury of the O. J. Simpson Trial. The worldwide coverage included the jury members coming and going from their hotel to court with his book in their arms.  
·         Screenwriter – getting your books into the hands of a screenwriter or better yet you become the screenwriter or partner with one to get your book on film. A movie is one of the most effective ways to get your book out there in front of people. If you notice the movie promotions which note “from the book” and the name of your book follows. Your book being promoted along with the movie is a big plus. Also the money you received from the sale of your script, working with or better yet being recognized as a screenwriter and the experience and knowledge you have gained are priceless.

Yes there are other ways that can propel your sales. You should always be looking for them and open to opportunities because you never know what will take you to the next level. Continue to seek out that “out of the park hit” but it isn’t necessary to leave your bread and butter while you do so.      


February 10, 2016

Research ~ for Contemporary Fiction?

By Ane Mulligan

When I worked on two different historical manuscripts, I did the research. In fact, I enjoyed it. But when I switched to contemporary novels, I didn't have to do as much, right? I mean, hey, I live in the present. I know we don't use dial phones or write hand-written letters anymore. So why do I need to worry about research?

Well, I can tell you why. Oy, can I tell you. The first time, after writing the fifty thousand plus words in my WIP, I neatly wrote myself into a corner. Can you say, "Yikes!"? It was the story that became my debut novel, and I wrote that the warm springs had cooled. But when I got to the part where my main character had to find a fix and began to look for one, I discovered my set-up was highly unlikely. Not impossible, but rather improbable. Fortunately, I managed—after groveling and whining—to find a geo-geek who introduced me to a geologist who helped me.

But think of the time—not to mention headaches—I could have saved had I researched it first. But did I learn from that mistake? No, it took another near disaster. You know the kind: the ones that make readers send you letters, telling you you're an idiot.

And so I confess there was another. It was in my sophomore novel and involved a new car. I chose one I figured a mid-twenties dude would buy. Now, I had done some research on it, but not enough. Because I had him purchasing a brand spanking new car … a model that had been discontinued several years ago. All I can say is thank goodness for knowledgeable beta readers.

But I sure learned my lesson. There's more to this gig than writing a story. To make it real, we still need to do the research … prior to writing. Even for contemporary novels.
While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, bestselling novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.