March 31, 2016

Point of View: It’s More Than A Matter of Tense

By Liz Lazarus

If someone asked you to take your completed novel, written in third person, and change it to first person, how would you react?

I had written Free of Malice in third person, in an omnipotent third person to be precise, since I wanted to present several points of view. When my editor gently suggested that I consider changing to first person, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Did she have any idea how much work that would be?

As we continued through the editing process, my mind was firmly entrenched; I couldn’t even entertain such a preposterous idea. Then I read SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. The portrayal of the protagonist’s feelings and fears were so visceral because of her exceptional writing and her use of first person.

“You have to do it,” was all I could say to myself. It was the only way to remove that gossamer veil between my protagonist and the reader, and I needed the interaction to be raw.

How was I going to make all the changes? A simple find/replace of “she” and “her” wouldn’t work; there were other female characters. To my surprise, a find/replace of “Laura” (the main character) to “I” worked quite well. However, nothing was going to prevent the tedious process of a complete reread and edit.

The larger challenge was actually something different. How was I going to portray the thoughts and emotions of the other characters? I leaned on the “show, not tell” approach to bring the story to life.
First, for the husband, Chris, I replaced the prose of what he was thinking to demonstrate his behavior. The exercise forced me to tackle one of my early writing challenges—to show, not tell. An added benefit was that by showing only Laura’s point of view, everyone else became a little bit more suspicious, including Chris.

The therapist, Barbara, was a bit more challenging. There were observations made by her that I needed the reader to know. After letting my subconscious wrangle with the dilemma for a while, it hit me. I could create and share her therapy notes—that would give the reader a glimpse into her thoughts. Mind you, I took some “poetic license” in how the therapy session notes were displayed, not the traditional SOAP method. An added benefit was that I could imply some concerns without fuller explanation, leaving the reader to question why Barbara had honed in on a certain thought.
In summary, you may ask was it worth the extra effort to take a fully completed manuscript from third to first person? My reply is an emphatic yes and my advice to other writers is to really think through the pros and cons of the tense you choose at the onset. #writinglessonslearned

I leave you with one of my recent reviews, “A psychological thriller! I loved that I could be in the mind of the victim as her reality shifts. I wondered if her paranoia was justified. I really wanted to know! The perspective of the lawyer and the psychologist was fascinating and a little bit troubling. What is going on with that husband of hers and his lady friend? I liked the twists at the end. I didn't know what I didn't know but at the end it all made sense. The clues were there. Passes the high threshold of if I was reading on the plane I wouldn't notice the crying babies. A good read.”

This review alone told me it was worth it! 
Liz Lazarus is author of Free of Malice, a psychological, legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience. She was born in Valdosta, Georgia, graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern with an MBA in their executive master’s program. She spent most of her career at General Electric’s Healthcare division and is currently a Managing Director at a strategic planning consulting firm in addition to being an author. Liz’s social media links: WebsiteFacebook and Twitter 

March 30, 2016

Bull-Dozing Through Writers’ Block

By Terri Blackstock

I used to think that writer’s block was an excuse that new writers used to procrastinate. I thought that if they had bills to pay and a tight deadline schedule, they would be more motivated. However, after thirty years of writing, I’ve found that writer’s block is a very real obstacle. Sometimes plowing through it is as difficult as slamming your body through a brick wall. Because I’ve written more than seventy books back-to-back over thirty years, I’ve had to develop ways to break through this mental wall. Maybe some of these will help you.

1)     Get rid of distractions. I know that sounds like a no-brainer. We don’t often invite distractions into our lives; they just have a way of dropping in like viruses. But for me, one distraction can ruin my whole writing day. There are a few things you can do to clear your day of them. First of all, tell your friends and family not to call or text you during the hours you’re writing. Unplug the landlines and silence your cell phone during that time. Schedule any appointments or errands for the time after your writing hours. If you have small children and you have a couple of free hours to write, then don’t use that time for anything else. Let the laundry and dishes wait—take your shower later—and don’t run errands during that time even though it seems like the logical thing to do. Use it exclusively for writing, then run your errands with your children when they are with you. It may be more stressful, but I find that I’m most calm when I’ve had a good writing day.

2)     Try dictating. There are times when the blank screen on my computer seems like my worst enemy. If I can find another way to write the book my creativity returns. I hate first drafts, and my writers block almost always emerges during the writing of one. Dictating often helps. I can go out to my car and sit in the sunlight or drive down the road with the voice recorder in my hand, or people-watch in a parking lot (in a non-creepy sort of way). I use a voice recorder that’s compatible with Mac Speech Scribe (for PC users, Dragon Dictate does the same thing), and when I’ve dictated a scene, I plug the recorder into my USB port and let the app transcribe it. It’s usually a mess without punctuation, but I still have the voice file to refer to as I clean it up. Then I have my scene down. I will rewrite in another draft, but just getting it down on paper is like knocking a small hole into that brick wall.

3)     Read a great book in the genre you’re writing. It needs to be a book that inspires you, is beautifully written, and is written in the voice or tense that you’re using. When I do this it almost always returns my voice to me. If I immerse myself in a great book, afterward I find myself writing in my head even when I’m not thinking about doing it.

4)     Change your writing location. Sometimes when I’m sitting in my office I get writer’s block because of all the distractions around me. There are piles of papers that need attention, bills to pay, dust bunnies that need vacuuming, the telephone’s ringing. I’ve learned that if I can change my location it sometimes shakes the bricks free. If I go into the living room and curl up by the fireplace, or sit in my car outside with the windows down, or go sit in a noisy cafĂ©, or even drive across town to a park with a nice view, it helps my creativity and focus.

5)     Write something else. An email, an essay, a letter to that person who made you angry. Just get out whatever it is that’s hovering in your mind, whatever it is that’s clogging up your access to your story, and write it in a stream-of-consciousness way without any judgment. Often, once you’ve finished, you’ll be back in the rhythm of writing and you can jump back into your book. (By the way, you might not want to send that letter you just wrote!)

6)     Change the sounds in your environment. If you normally like the TV off, turn it on. If you usually prefer writing to music, turn it off. Sometimes background noise helps to silence the distracting thoughts in your head, but often the noise you usually like is becoming a distraction. Whatever you normally do, try doing the opposite until you get through your block.

7)     Take a few days off. If everything I’ve suggested above doesn’t work, it may be time to just shut it off and quit demanding it of yourself for a day or two (or maybe a week). Do anything except write. Let your brain rest. Then when you’re rested, pick it up again and see if the wall is still there.

These are all things that have worked for me. If your writers block is a temporary affliction that rises up now and then, one that you can bulldoze through because your passion for writing is greater than whatever obstacle stands in your way, then you’ll be fine. During first drafts, I hate writing. It’s not magical or mystical or muse-inspired. Writing is hard work, and sometimes I just don’t want to do it. But the reward of a good writing day is so much greater than the frustration of getting those words on paper. Sometimes I just have to take my thoughts captive and remind myself that I’ve knocked down that wall before. I can do this. Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over seven million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. Her most recent suspense novel is If I Run, about a young female fugitive whose being accused of a heinous murder.  Other books include Truth Stained Lies (the Moonlighters Series), Intervention (the Intervention Series), and Last Light (the Restoration Series). See the complete list of Terri’s books at Join her at Facebook ( and Twitter (

March 29, 2016

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

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

It is interesting to note, people want to know where writers get the ideas for the stories they write. I’ve also heard them ask that question in a slightly lower voice, as if your information is a guarded secret. Truth is many of the people asking these questions have many stories in their lives they could put to paper. Most of them however, don’t know that, and even if they did, they will tell you, “I could never write a book, I’m don’t have that talent.”

What do you say to them? Yes, you could. You might have to take some writing classes, read some books on techniques. The majority would smile sweetly and say, “Thank you, but no, I couldn’t do that.” They wouldn’t believe you. You might even tell them they just have to start writing and keep writing.

I’m not sure what it is inside that opens that portal in to believing we can do one thing and not another.

Eudora Welty said on writing, “I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well; for all serious daring starts from within.” One only has to read her book, The Robber Bridegroom to see her imagination in bloom and know that she looked within herself as she penned this book. She took the legend of Mike Fink, (c.1770/1780 - c.1823) who was a semi-legendary brawler and river boatman. He ran keelboats up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and incorporated him into her book.

Arthur Freed said, “Don’t try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.” He wrote lyrics for numerous films.

Stephen King said, “There are lots of guys out there who write a better prose line than I do and who have a better understanding of what people are really like and what humanity is supposed to mean – hell, I know that.” Maybe there are lots of guys, yet he is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. He mesmerizes his readers and moviegoers with his words.
Louis L’Amour said, “A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in it first” 

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer writes for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.' Every writer can give advice; tell where they get their ideas. Some look within, others are people watchers, some draw from the turmoil of their personal lives while others had a caring and nurturing life. Some read many books and yet others study writing techniques. But in the end, you still have to sit down and put the words in your head on paper. 

March 28, 2016

The One Obvious Thing To Do To Be A Writer

By Wayne Elsey

Creativity is something that everyone should practice. Studies have shown that there are many positive benefits to being creative. These include becoming a better problem solver, heightened self-awareness and the reduction of stress.

I’m in the process of writing my sixth book as I write this article. One of the questions I hear most often from people whose paths I cross is how they too can write.

The answer is very simple. If you want to write, just write.

I think people can get hung up about a few things. They may not feel they are the best writer. They may think there’s already too much content out there, so what’s the point? However, the reason I hear most often about why people choose not to pursue writing is lack of time.

My point in this article is to challenge that thinking. If you want to write and you have something you feel you need to share, then you simply have to find the time. I have a busy schedule, as we all do. Yet, I find the time to write.

It’s not easy to write hundreds or even thousands of words. Yes, it takes time, space and solitude. But it’s possible. I make the time to write.

I’m an early riser. When many people are still sleeping, I’m wide-awake and full of energy. This quiet time when the world still slumbers is when I choose to do most of my writing. Sometimes the words come flowing one right after the other. Other times, not so much.

No matter the results of my writing the day before, I keep on writing. That’s how I’ve published five books. It’s just been a matter of priorities for me. I have things I want to convey to readers and I’ve made writing a priority in my regular schedule.

So, if you’re looking to write you have to brush aside the excuses. You have to quiet that voice in your mind that’s telling you you’re not good enough or there are more pressing things to do. If writing is important to you, it means you have to make space for it. You have to find the time either by waking earlier or staying up later.

Once you begin to incorporate writing into your routine, I promise you it will become second nature. It’s simply a matter of making it a habit. After a few weeks of prioritizing writing into your schedule, you will see that it becomes as much a part of your routine as having breakfast.
Wayne Elsey is the Founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE), a company that works with social enterprise organizations, nonprofits and companies on strategy, branding, development and education via the following suite of independent brands: str@tegic – focusing on leadership and business strategy. Funds2Orgs – a social enterprise that enables individuals, companies and organizations to raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise opportunities in developing nations. – an online university for non-profit education. Not Your Father’s Charity (NYFC) – which is a forum that enables social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, non-profits, the media and general public to learn how to succeed in 21st Century social enterprise. Author of:  The Not Your Father’s Charity Book Series, Get Off the Couch: Grip & Rip and Break the Barriers Holding You Back in Life (Publishing September 15, 2015), Almost Isn’t Good Enough.

March 25, 2016

Planning Ideas for the New Year

By Maritza Martinez Mejia

Are you organized? What is your plan for the New Year and the rest of the year? I have some ideas that may help you find the right path for a successful beginning.  Step by step you reach far. Go ahead! Have a productive 2016.

1.    Use Dream Boards, also called Vision Boards to remind you the path you desire to follow, and the goals you hope to achieve during the upcoming year using the power of images.  For detailed information visit here.

2.   Planners or Calendars to mark important due dates, meetings, anniversaries, birthdays or any important days you don’t want to miss. There a vast variety of calendars and planners. Which one is your best planner or calendar?I frankly use the calendar I received at the New Year’s Mass at my local church. I use it as MASTER CALENDAR. I mark all my children’s important school days and activities in black pen. I use blue pen for my working days as substitute teacher and purple for my book signing or book exhibitions. Finally, I use a red pen for important family activities or medical appointments. I happily use green for our TRIPS.

3.   Monthly Check List for a simple way to mark important dates in a list by month. After the task is done, you cross it off the list with a red pen or your favorite color pen. For me, the satisfaction of completing a task is unique.

No matter the style you use, it is important to get organized and set goals to achieve success. Make your dreams and turn them into goals to 2016.

What is your planning style?

Maritza Martinez Mejia a bilingual substitute teacher born in Colombia lives in Florida with her husband and their two teenagers. For her active participation and service to the community, she is the recipient of the "Crystal Apple Award 2006." Maritza published her memoir "Hazel Eyes" (2010), "Vanilla and Chocolate" (2012), "Grandma's Treasure" (2014), and "Poems, Thoughts and More" (2015) by WRB Publishing. She won the FAU Treasure Coast Poetry Contest Spring 2010 and Virtue Christian Book Awards for Best Poetry 2015. Both Bilingual Children Books received a FIVE Stars Seal Review by Reader's Favorite. Maritza obtained a Bachelor's degree in Humanities with a Certificate in Women's Studies from Florida Atlantic University. She graduated from Universidad Mayor de Cundinamarca in Commerce and Foreign Language. She translated into Spanish "Temporary Permanence" by Yashi Nozawa, "The Legend of the Colombian Mermaid" by Janet Balletta, and "Hazel Eyes" as "Ojos Avellana." Maritza writes to inspire others to be better persons. "I write to inspire others to be a better person." Author page:  Website: 

March 24, 2016

Cuba Revisited

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    

In 1959 Fidel Castro had overthrown the Batista Regime and took over the government in Cuba. Our President John F. Kennedy had secretly funded a small group and attempted the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. This led to Castro’s dependence on Russia for protection and the establishment of missile sites that were well within the reach of a large portion of the United States. The United States retaliated with a naval blockade and for 13 days in October of 1962 the world stood ready for an atomic encounter.

I was old enough to remember the terror of an atomic bomb being launched in our direction. We were prepared or the possibility at school each day and it was all we heard on the news. Maps were shown pinpointing all the possibilities and capabilities of the missiles. East coast to west coast, the gulf to Canada, it was all within Cuba’s reach. Looking back the terror of it all seemed to last much longer than 13 days.

Later in the 1960’s there started a recurrence of aircraft hijackings to Cuba. They reached their height between 1968 and 1970 with some 30 flights hijacked in 1968. These were various sizes of aircraft ranging from a small Cessna 336 to the larger Boeing 720. The hijackings were due to the travel ban to Cuba as well as a political statement by Cuban loyalist. The hijackings hit home when a friend of ours Haco Boyd was traveling to an Insurance Convention in Nassau. Boyd was not only an insurance executive but the recently elected Mayor of Little Rock, AR. His flight left Miami and they were hijacked to Havana. There they spent the night and were allowed to return to Miami the next day. They continued their flight to Nassau without incident. Haco returned home with a great story which seemed to calm us about the hijackings.

In 1980 I was working as the Reading Clerk of the Arkansas State Senate and President Jimmy Carter had persuaded our young Gov. Bill Clinton to accept a large number of Cuban refugees. The refugees had been placed in Fort Chaffee which was an old training area for the National Guard. The number of refugees has always been disputed but there were somewhere around 19,000. They had become intolerant of their surroundings and had begun to riot. They had stormed the gates and headed into the nearby town. Working in the State house everyday it became evident the concern of the politicians was great. The fear of the citizens of that area as well as the State caused a rising tide against the young governor and he lost his bid for re-election. The Cuban crisis had come home and almost caused Bill Clinton his political career.

I had always wanted to go to Cuba and I suppose the reason I had was due to the legendary stories I had heard from those who had known Cuba in the Golden Days. The glamour days of the Havana Clubs, the Casinos, the people and the easy living was very appealing. I had a neighbor that had served there while in the Navy. Even on a military salary he had told of living like a king. He had a house, a car, a twin screw inboard boat and enough time to enjoy it all. He and others had told of the sport fishing there as being some of the best in the world. It all sounded great. I have waited for the day that it would be possible. Maybe it’s just around the corner. Watching the coverage of President Obama’s visit there while attending the Tampa Bay and Cuba baseball game only gave me greater hope.

Cuban culture has influenced many writers and most notable of course is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old man and the SeaI can’t help but believe we will return again to Cuba for inspiration from its people, culture and beautiful lands.   

March 23, 2016

My First Standalone Novel

By J.T. Ellison

This week sees the release of my very first standalone novel.

When a writer changes gears and moves into new territory, it’s scary, both for the author and for the readers. Will the story hold up? Will it make sense? Will I, the author, get drummed out on my ear when people start to read it? Will the twists work?

All kinds of terrible scenarios come to mind, made worse by this book’s (very) long journey to publication.

I’ve been having these worries for longer than most. You see, NO ONE KNOWS was five years in the making. I pitched it in early 2011 and started writing that June. It is based on a dream I had several months earlier, in which many odd things happened, including my husband disappearing and Harlan Coben giving me sage career advice.

It was one of those dreams you wake up from and know you have something. I pitched it to my agent as "a suburban thriller, something dark and unexpected. Think Harlan Coben meets Gillian Flynn." He loved the idea. I started writing it. I poured my heart and soul into this novel, six months of really-stretching-myself bliss. It's the story of a perfect marriage interrupted, of a young widow grappling with her new reality after her husband disappears. It opens the day she receives the letter from the State of Tennessee declaring him dead, five years after he went missing. 

My agent liked the finished novel. A lot. We were prepping it for submission, doing the requisite revision to make it perfect, when Catherine Coulter came into my life and hired me to write the Nicholas Drummond novels with her. That was May 2012.

I shelved the edits on the book for the time being, assuming I'd return the moment I finished the first Nicholas book. Of course, things happened. And then this chick named Gillian Flynn, who I so greatly admired, published a smash-hit novel that was on everyone's lips. I read it, so excited, and while I loved (most of) it, I closed the cover with a major issue on my hands.

My novel was no longer the first of its kind. There really are no original ideas.

So I rewrote NO ONE KNOWS a couple of times (five) until it was an original story again. It took forever to get it right (two years of editing and revising), working nights and weekends, a week here, a week there, getting editorial input from several sources (eleventy-billion, to be exact), rewriting and revising and reworking. Eighteen drafts and five titles later, it became the book Abby Zidle fell in love with—and a book I am incredibly proud of, which will go down in my publishing history as my first standalone.

I hope you agree that it was worth the effort!

(Editor's note: J.T. is giving away an autographed copy of her suspense thriller What Lies Behind! Enter at

New York Times bestselling author, J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Visit for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @thrillerchick or

March 22, 2016

Not Afraid of the Dark

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

If I was to bring up the name of writer J.D. Salinger, most people would think of one of two things:

1. Catcher in the Rye, his first and most well-known novel.

2. John Lennon, whose assassin was reading Catcher in the Rye prior to the shooting.

But if you're a writer, there's a third thing Jerome David deserves to be equally famous for. He gave us one of the great quotes about writing:

"Novels grow in the dark."

Meaning that our mind continues to process for us even after we turn out the lights, figuratively as well as symbolically.  Hemingway was a proponent of shutting off his creative mind when he was done writing for the day, knowing that the empty space will renew itself for the next morning.

On a related note, another great truth comes from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?"

“Every time you try to block a thought out of your mind, you drive it deeper into your memory. By resisting it, you actually reinforce it.”

Fortunately, our subconscious is equally willing to cooperate with us. When we invite our mind to open up to an idea, it accepts the invitation and starts working on its behalf.  How often have you wracked your brain to remember something, only to let it go, and within a few minutes the answer magically appears?
I've lost count of the times a brainstorm has come to me when writing was the last thing on my mind.  An almost hypnotic activity like cutting the grass or drifting off to sleep can trigger a revelation about an existing project or an all-new one. Even when we're dreaming, our brain is literally putting ideas in our head.  We may succumb to slumber, but our synapses never nap.

As a bonus, our conscious mind tends to be a critic, while our subconscious is not.  Letting go and letting the muse take over is where the magic often happens.  I know I do my best thinking when I'm not there.

Like J.D. suggests, we needn't be afraid of the dark. Sometimes that's the best place to detect a glimmer.

March 21, 2016

Location, Location, Location!

By Judith Keim

Real estate agents have a mantra – Location, location, location! And they’re right. Location can mean the difference between a successful choice or one that doesn’t quite work out the way you’d thought.
In writing, a book’s location is really it’s setting. And that setting can change from chapter to chapter, sometimes scene to scene. Setting done well becomes a character in your story. Many writers do a wonderful job of including fabulous descriptions in their books, making their settings come alive and inviting readers to spend time there. Even what some might consider ordinary places come alive with good description that includes use of the five senses.

            In BREAKFAST AT THE BEACH HOUSE HOTEL the setting of a property on the beach encourages all kinds of description:

Stepping onto the balcony, I gazed down at the pool below. The waterfall at one end sent glistening ripples dancing across the pool’s surface. The sound of the tumbling water was almost drowned out by the lapping of the Gulf on the broad, white beach beyond the house. Peace, such as I hadn’t known for a long time, wrapped around me.

             It doesn’t have to be a glamourous setting. In THE TALKING TREE, setting is used to show her pain:

My mother’s death brought me back to upstate Barnham, New York on this crisp April morning. Chills rolled across my shoulders in paralyzing waves as I stared at the peeling paint and darkened windows of my childhood home. Cruelty and rejection had formed its core. I clutched my hands, drew a deep breath, and told myself this place no longer mattered, but I knew better. Until I could work through past issues, I’d always be bound in some horrible way to this house and the people who’d caused such pain.     

            In FAT FRIDAYS, a suburban Georgia neighborhood looks something like this:

She stood a moment, admiring her surroundings, so full of promise. Plantings of various sizes and shapes filled the landscaped spaces between the large houses and served as a playground for the birds flitting among the budding branches. The trees would soon leaf out in pale green glory. Bradford Pear trees were about to blossom, and then their white flowers would coat the branches like fallen snow. Redbud trees would soon add patches of brilliant pink, making the world seem a fairyland of spring colors.

As you work on your book, take a look at the setting around your characters. I’m sure you have a vision in your mind as to what they’re doing and saying, but make the scene come alive with enough description of their “location” to pull the reader into the moment.

Good luck with sharing your world with others!
Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and long-haired dachshund, Winston, and other members of her family. Growing up, books were always present - being read, ready to go back to the library or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges with strength and find love along the way. As J.S. Keim I write children's middle-grade stories. I love writing about kids who have interesting, fun, exciting experiences with creatures real and fantastical and with characters who learn to see the world in a different way. I have a story in Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman's Soul and a story in Belle Book's Mossy Creek Series - A Summer in Mossy Creek. Some of my stories were finals in RWA contests and three of my children's stories have been published in magazines - Highlights for Children, Jack and Jill and Children's Playmate. I hope you enjoy my stories as much as I enjoy telling them! My Website:

March 18, 2016

Keeping Ideas Flowing

By Cyci Cade

Do you want to write a book but don´t have any idea how to develop the story? Or have you already started it but, suddenly, the ideas disappeared and you don´t know how to finish it? Maybe you think that it happens to everybody; after all, who had never problems to write a chapter? It may be true, but the question is, how to solve this problem? I tried some things and they helped me very much.

I won´t talk about reading books, watching movies, looking pictures related to the work you´re doing or observing people and places, traveling… because these tips everybody knows. They help a lot, but sometimes, it´s necessary something else.

1- Imagine yourself in the place of the character – Close your eyes and imagine yourself facing the same problem; then, ask, “what  would I do, say, feel in this specific situation? How would I feel?” When you have the answer, then type the ideas. After that, it´s much easier to turn those ideas in a chapter full of emotion, action, or whatever is the intention of the chapter.

2- Eliminate all negativity – Negative beliefs, feelings, and emotions block creativity. I´ve used EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to get rid of all negativity and it´s impressive the way my creativity improved. Ideas just appear in my mind and it´s easy to accomplish all my tasks, to execute them.

3- Write in the morning – It´s proved that from 8:00 to 12:00 a.m. is the best time of the day for test-review, problem-solving, report-writing, and math-oriented work.  It happens because there are two types of memory, declarative and semantic – differently throughout the day. In the morning, our ability to recall exact details, like names, places, dates… is bigger, it´s working the declarative memory. In the afternoon, predominates the semantic memory and we have more ability for tasks like to integrate new information with what we already know.

4- Meditation – It diminishes anxiety and stress that are negative emotions and block creativity. It improves memory and increases the gray matter in the brain that contains most of the brain´s neuronal cell bodies. The gray matter also includes regions of the brain involved in sensory perception such as seeing, hearing, memory, decision making… To experience the benefits of meditation, it´s necessary regular practice, just a few minutes a day or a week.

Well, this is it. Just four tips will help you to improve your creativity and keep ideas flowing easily. 

The results will appear soon, and, with the practice, it´ll become natural. Try for a month and see the results. If it works for me, it´ll work for you.
Cyci Cade is the author of Dragon´s Curse the first book of the series Dragon Princes.  She is a Brazilian writer and started her career writing articles for magazines, newspapers, and blogs. She has books published in Brazil and she accepted a new challenge recently, to start an international career. She writes urban fantasy and fiction novels for young-adults.  When she´s not writing, she´s in the gym. She can be found:

March 17, 2016

Flooding, Drone Lessons and Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last week, Memphis, TN had record rainfall. In a 30 hour period of time, over 10" of raicaused the Wolf River to flood. Saturday afternoon, I drove around to view the flooded areas so I could take pictures. Little did I know it would turn into research for my "work in progress" book.

In my adventure, I met an impressive high school student drone operator who was shooting pictures from his drone vantage point. His smart phone acts as the remote control of the drone. He showed me how it worked and proudly advised that he had saved his money for the drone. He uploads the photos to his website with links to Facebook. His drone footage of the flooding is also on YouTube. He said his flood pictures were to be shown on a major network news show over the weekend.

We talked about the area we were in that included a strip shopping center. I had read about the evacuation in The Commercial Appeal newspaper. The shopping center had been evacuated the day before because authorities thought rain soaked soil caused multiple methane gas leaks bubbling through breaks in the ground. The strip shopping center sits over an old landfill. Although the area is equipped with equipment to allow gas from the decaying landfill to escape, the huge amount of rain apparently concentrated the gas in the soil. It forced the gas out at toxic levels. Leaks were bubbling up in foam-like swirls across the area, through cracks in floors and in the areas buildings. 

The drone owner left the area because power lines were interfering with him being able to communicate with his drone. I was all the richer for meeting this knowledgeable student. His lessons about how the drone operated were invaluable hand on research for my "work in progress."

I highly recommend taking advantage of unusual events. Get out of your chair and take a mini field trip. When you run across people, be open with them. Ask questions and sit back. Soak in the information you learn. My little Saturday adventure equated into a chapter in my book and possibly will play a part in the book's ending. 

What about you? Do you have life experiences found their way into your stories?

March 16, 2016

Living in the World of Your Characters

By Carole Bellacera

Before I wrote the first line of my novel, INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS, I immersed myself in the world of the Vietnam War. Not because I necessarily wanted to, but because the subject matter of a combat nurse in Vietnam scared the bejesus out of me.  I wasn’t sure I was up to the task, and this book was so important to me, I knew I had to do it justice.  So, for three years before I started writing, I researched this book.  

I watched every movie about the Vietnam War—and believe me, that wasn’t easy.  The gruesome scenes of combat, the violence of sudden ambushes, the horrific torture and rape of Vietnamese women—it wasn’t for the weak-stomached.  But I watched those movies without flinching, knowing that if I were going to write a book set during such a wrenching conflict, I had to make it true-to-life—no glamorization of war, simply because, at the root, this was a love story. 

I delved into books written by actual combat nurses who served in Vietnam.  I watched documentaries about those heroic women who served their country, and came home forever scarred by what they lived through.  I contacted one of those nurses through the internet, Barbara Pendleton, and we struck up a friendship.  We talked on the phone, and through email.  She patiently answered my questions, and told me some wonderful anecdotes of her year at the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh.  And most importantly, she agreed to read the rough draft to catch any inconsistencies or outright mistakes. 

Finally, I was ready to write my story about Lieutenant Cindy Sweet.  It helped that I’d actually been in the Air Force during the Vietnam War--although I wasn’t a nurse, but a med tech, and I served in Crete rather than Vietnam.  (Huge difference!) But I knew the lingo, and I knew the time period of the early 70’s.  And I also knew the kind of woman Cindy Sweet was—innocent, idealistic, brave, and with a passionate desire to serve her country.  

As I wrote, I listened to music from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  You’ll see many references to these popular songs in the book.  For me, music really builds the world of my characters.   For the 24th Evac hospital, I found photos on the internet, and that helped me put my characters in that setting.  Having served on a few different air force bases, all in hospitals, I was able to imagine what the base looked like.  

My four years spent at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii as a military wife helped me immensely with the scenes set at the Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head, and the coastal drive around Oahu when Cindy goes there on R&R.  

Research isn’t difficult when your heart is in a book.  You live and breathe your setting.  You make it come alive.  You give the book depth and passion.  And when you do that, you make your book come alive for your reader.  

And isn’t that what it’s all about? 
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, Spotlight, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Understudy, Chocolate on a Stick, Tango’s Edge Lily of the Springs, and Incense & Peppermints. Her social media link is