June 30, 2016

Rewilding and Our Love of Animals

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    

There is no questioning Americans love of animals. Our love is expressed in so many ways. It is expressed in the love of our pets, the numerous save the animal funds, protective laws, amazing zoos and even our petting zoos are just a few of these expressions. Now there is a big push for the next great step in showing our love and that is Rewilding.

Rewilding is simply returning animals into wilderness areas. Wilderness areas that were possibly at one time a natural habitat of the species. From this we have seen bald eagles, peregrine falcons and California condors returning from near extinction. In Yellowstone National Park the return of gray wolves and red wolves; regulating deer herds in North Carolina. Grizzly bears are again on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Mexican Jaguars in Arizona’s Sky Islands and cougars back in the Badlands and Black Hills of the Dakotas. Not to be left out are the wild salmon returning to old familiar running waters after dams are removed. But as with most conservation movements there are pros and cons.

The advocates and opponents, both experts in the field have their opinions. The advocates say working with our neighbors, both human and wild; we can restore our great natural heritage. The opponents say it will disrupt the natural evolution that has occurred where a particular predator has not been part of the natural scheme for a while and is returned. The devastation it brings has in the past caused the greatest predator of all, man, to either fight the conservation policy or kill the predator.

I saw the concern of the opponents in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Arkansas when it was overrun with beaver. They dammed up streams causing flooding of thousands of acres of farmlands. Lack of production on these flooded acres cost the farmer income and the state tax money. The answer was to bring in alligators to naturally regulate the beaver. Hunters killed the newly introduced predators for sport, out of fear or just the novelty of it. The beaver population continued to grow.

As writers and animal lovers we can and many of us have used this love and fascination of animals to draw our readers in. Walt Disney’s success is based on animal characters. Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse? Disney has a huge following and it is based on our emotional connection with the animal characters. Our emotions with the characters are driven with human like relationships. We love, we laugh, we cry and we are happy for these characters.

Rewilding could be written about either for its success or its failure. Success could show the natural re-blending of the species brought about, a hoped for result. Larger Bison herds, more condors and bald eagles would be an example. An example of a failure would be the introduction of a predator and something goes terribly wrong for mankind and animal alike.

With pet ownership in the US nearing 80 million plus, there are a lot of animal loving readers out there to connect with. As writers we must decide on our approach. The approach of lovable characters, the fearful approach of predators gone terribly wrong, the hero or the villain are all good ones if our readers connect.

With some of our greatest stories being that of animals we all know there are opportunities for your animal story to be shared with the world. Use your love of animals to write that short story, novel, poem or play.                   

June 29, 2016

The Perils of the Private Eye

By K.D. Hays

Remember the hardboiled detective? The private investigator hired to save a client wrongly accused of some heinous crime was a staple of page and screen for many years. But in our casual-Fridays world, the detective who stood out for wearing a cheap suit is long gone. Characters solving crimes these days usually work in law enforcement or serve as consultants to the police.

So when I started writing cozy mysteries, why did I decide to make my sleuth Karen Maxwell a private investigator? The obvious answer would be that I didn’t know what I was doing. But I prefer to think that I did it to challenge myself.

Here’s why it’s a bad idea to use a private detective in a modern mystery.

1)      First of all, there is no such thing as a private detective. Detectives work for the police. “Private eyes” work for investigation firms, and most of their business consists of doing background checks. Clients often hire investigators to find out who’s stealing from them, but they don’t hire them to solve murders. So if the lead character is a private investigator, she’s not going to be solving murders, and most people pick up a mystery expecting to find at least one or two dead bodies lurking in the pages. But in this situation, it actually works in my favor. I tend to write with a lot of humor and it just didn’t feel right to have characters snarking at each other over breakfast cereal while people are dropping dead all over town.

2)      The second problem with using a private investigator as my fictional crime solver is that a competent investigator already has a pretty good idea “whodunit” by the time he or she goes out to a site to investigate. There may be a couple of suspects, but nowhere near the number of red herrings that are required to sustain a good mystery plot. What’s my solution to this problem? I deviate from reality here and have my investigator spend more time “undercover” than a client would realistically pay for.

3)      A third problem with using a private investigator as my fictional detective is that most investigation work these days is done on the computer. If I write a story where the heroine comes to the office and sits in front of her computer for eight hours, it’s not going to be much fun to read even if I have her associate turn the coffeemaker into a Feng Shui aquarium. My solution to this problem is two-fold. First, I skip over most of the computer stuff. Second, I would have Karen get even with her associate by doing something like covering his motivational posters with banana stickers and sardine labels. It may not advance the plot, but at least it’s a change of pace.

Of course, there are some advantages to using a private investigator. For starters, it gives her real reason to get involved in the first place. I don’t have to make my character a busybody or know-it-all—she gets involved and starts asking questions because that’s her job. And because it’s a new job and she’s not very confident about either her abilities or her status in the firm, her insecurity creates a sense of tension.

So while I would not recommend other writers use private investigators as the main character in a mystery novel, it works for my offbeat suburban soccer mom mysteries. Do you prefer to see an amateur or “professional” solving mysteries?
Kate Dolan began her writing career as a legal editor and then newspaper columnist before she decided she was finally ready to tackle fiction.  As the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas, she writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children's books under the name K.D. Hays. Her book Roped In now available in print and ebook! When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a living history interpreter, coaching jump rope and riding roller coasters with her daughter.  She loves to connect with readers on Facebook and through her website,

June 28, 2016

All Action and No Talk

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

British audiences love American cinema.  Hollywood films have always been very successful across the pond.  Ironically, we don't seem to return the favor.  Comparatively few British films achieve major success here in the States.  One reason, experts have determined, is that American movies contain 1/3 less dialogue than British films.

Think of any British movie (or TV series, for that matter).  Conversation is basically nonstop.  Sometimes the only pause is for an establishing shot, and then they're right back at it again. Even an action flick like James Bond will have more dialogue than most, which makes sense since exposition is what espionage is all about.

They say the reason for this dates back to the 1930s, when movies were still young.  Once the silent film era ended and talkies were possible, British cinema went for intellectual, heady dramas, while America's post-war influx of non-English-speaking immigrants caused filmmakers to rely less on the spoken word and more on the action.  Musicals were extremely popular, and Gene Kelly's long dance numbers caught on with people of any language.

I'm reminded of a CD a friend recommended years ago and gave me for my birthday, an album by a foreign soprano who sang many of the selections in Italian.  Since the only Italian I know involves pasta dishes, the music and the performances had to work extra hard to get my attention, which they did.  I remember marveling at how effectively emotions were conveyed despite my lacking any understanding of the message.

The orchestration, of course, did much of the heavy lifting.  If, by the same token, you were to listen to a spoken radio broadcast in a foreign language you don't know, chances are there would be a total failure to communicate.

2012's Best Picture Oscar winner,  The Artist, is a silent film relying largely on what the audience sees rather than hears (or, in this case, reads). Pixar's Wall-E (2008) is an even stronger example of delivering an entire story without the use of words.

There's a legendary scene in the classic On the Waterfront where Marlon Brando's brother threatens him in the back of a cab, pointing a gun at him.  The disappointment on Brando's face and the gentle way he moves the gun away conveys more pathos than any diatribe a writer could have put in his mouth at that moment.

By now you may be reminded of the old adage "Show, don't tell", and indeed, all of the above makes a decent argument for that philosophy.  I bring it up not necessarily to promote writing less dialogue, but to encourage greater appreciation for the power of imagery, whether on the screen or in a novel.

We are, after all, visual people.  The quote "Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear" is attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Edgar Allen Poe to Benjamin Franklin.  I myself heard it through the grapevine from Marvin Gaye.   I don't know how true that statement is, but I'll believe it when I see it.

June 27, 2016


By Dr. Richard Mabry

Tommy Duncan was the vocalist with the Bob Wills Band (and if you never heard of the King of Western Swing, I feel sorry for you). Tommy wrote and recorded a song titled, “Time Changes Everything.” As I prepared for the release of my tenth novel of medical suspense, Medical Judgment, I thought back to my first novel and realized that in this case, as in the romance Tommy Duncan sang about, time indeed does change everything.

When my first novel, Code Blue released just six short years ago, I arranged a “launch party” at a bookstore in the area. I even had a cake with CODE BLUE on top in blue frosting. I invited all my friends (and some people I barely knew). And when it was time to start, although I expected maybe a hundred people to be there, in actuality the area set aside for my talk contained perhaps a fifth that many persons. When I talked with management afterward, they told me that a New York Times best-selling author had been there to speak just a month earlier, and drew an even smaller crowd than mine.

After that experience, I soon stopped doing launch parties. Now I see some of my colleagues celebrating the release of their books in different ways, while others choose to stick with getting the word out via social media. For a while, it was popular to recruit a group of “influencers,” who would post reviews and tell others about the book. Now I see that groups called “street teams” are being formed. Some authors even have closed Facebook groups to which these special individuals are named. Truly, “time changes everything.”

My tenth book, Medical Judgment, released this month. I didn’t schedule a launch party. I did recruit about a dozen influencers, giving them a suggested list of things they can do to help. I set up a number of blog appearances (each one associated with giving a free copy of the book to a randomly selected commenter). I’m not sure what I’ll do to get the word out for my next novel after this one. After all, as Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changing.”

Yes, time changes everything. But the one thing in book publication that remains unchanged is the knowledge that the best tool for getting folks to read your books and come back for more is to write the best novel you can. That’s an immutable truth, and time hasn’t changed it.
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical suspense with heart.” His previous novels have garnered critical acclaim and been recognized by programs including the ACFW’s Carol Award, the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, the Inspirational Readers Choice, and the Selah Award. He is a proud member of the ACFW, the International Thriller Writers, and the FHL chapter of the RWA. Medical Judgment is his tenth published novel. He can be found on most aspects of social media: website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook, to name just a few.

June 24, 2016

What is the point?

By Lucy Thompson

I see this repeatedly when I’m critiquing…

One or two fairly well-rounded characters wander into a scene, discuss something of mediocre importance, and then boom have something major happen to them, and then wander out of the scene.


What is the point? What is the point of that scene? Why is character A there? What is his/her motivation? His goal? What is the conflict that flows naturally from the differences between that goal and motivation?

A question I commonly ask is:

What is the point of this scene?

All scenes have a reason for being there. All characters have a reason for stepping into the scene.

From Randy Ingermanson’s book, How to write a novel using the Snowflake method I learned that a scene is either Proactive orReactive.
(Go buy that book. Seriously. It’s so helpful and easy to understand!)

1. Goal
      2. Conflict
     3. Setback
     1. Reaction
      2. Dilemma
     3. Decision


We’ve got our characters, now what do they want? What is the goal of this scene? What does your character wantto happen at the opening of that chapter or scene? Should start out with at least a hint of what that goal is.

Conflict…What conflict happens to upset that goal? I mentioned motivation earlier. All characters—and people—are motivated by something. It could be freedom like in Braveheart, it could be survival like in Gone With the Wind. What motivation is driving your character to achieve that goal? In other words, why did they step into that scene? How does this escalate? How does this complicate the story? How does the lead to the third part of a proactive scene?

…What is the setback to that goal? At the end of the scene did the character achieve their original goal; did they not achieve their goal, or change their goal? If there’s no change you might need to rethink your scene and possibly rewrite it.

Moving along to REACTIVE SCENES. Reactive scenes follow on/happen after a reactive scene.

Your character first has a reaction to the setback that happened in the previous proactive scene.

Out of that reaction he/she/it then faces a dilemma. Tip: ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Then out of that dilemma, the character makes a decision.

That decision then funnels into the next scene (which would be a proactive scene seeing as the character has a fresh new goal). Rinse and repeat.

I hope this helps. It’s a common issue I see with beginner manuscripts. There is so much promise hidden under layers of aimless chapters.

So, go dig your story out. Give it some purpose, a.k.a a point! And make it shine
Lucy Thompson is a stay-at-home mum to five precocious children by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical settings, and writing about their exploits. She enjoys meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When she can be separated from her laptop, she is a professional time waster on Facebook, a slave to the towering stack of books on her bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so she can swap recipes and tips with her characters. Her home is in central Queensland, Australia where she does not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because her children won't fit. Represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. Her Blog:

June 23, 2016

Writing for Royalty

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Okay, I admit it. I'm fascinated by Royals, especially the British. Yes, I was a Diana-watcher, wishing for the fairytale. I love Kate Middleton, a commoner who by all accounts is navigating the tricky Royal protocols and duties with grace, while apparently having fun. I follow the blog "What Kate Wore" because it's fun and I get to see an inside look into Royal events not often seen in the states. Don't get me wrong,  I'm proud to be an American but don't you find the Royals intriguing?

The longest-reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, recently celebrated her 90th birthday with multiple parties fit for a Queen. Her actual birthdate was April 21, 1926, but her official birthday was recently celebrated this month with a picnic on London's Mall with 10,000 guests.  There were many formal celebrations. According to the website set up for the event, it is a "celebration of The Queen’s life, her love of horses, her dedication to the Commonwealth and international affairs and her deep involvement with the Navy, Army and ­­­­Air Force." The Queen looked stunning in her bright green hat and matching outfit during her birthday parade and celebration. 

If you're a Royal watcher you might enjoy the website information that gives a detailed biography on Her Majesty (HM). A yearly view of the Queen's evolution can be seen through various pictures taken over her lifetime in this 90 second video from "The Telegraph." 

My all time favorite tribute to The Queen came from A. A. Milne's children's book creation Winnie the Pooh. Both were born in 1926. The Queen's birthday story was inspired by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard characters and written by Jane Riordan.  The sweet short story titled Winnie-the-Pooh and the Royal Birthday, follows Winnie the Pooh as he interacts with HM's great-grandson, Prince George as they navigate famous sites in London and celebrate The Queen's birthday. You can download the story for free. 

I love the fact that The Queen as the young Princess Elizabeth was a fan of the Pooh children's stories. Now, after living 90 years, her birthday is being celebrated by Pooh bear and her great-grandson, Prince George. Talk about a full circle moment for Her Majesty. Oh the things she has seen in her 64 years of service as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 

If you were to write a short story to be read by The Queen for her birthday celebration what would you write about?

June 22, 2016

Characters are the Story

By Paul H. Yarbrough

I often try to jot down bits of info and advice from successful writers. I recall once at a writers’ conference in Vicksburg, Miss. a speaker was talking about how important characters were to a story. I raised my hand and offered him something that I had once read by Damon Runyan.

Runyan would hang out around pool halls, race tracks, beer joints, etc. and would observe humanities’ variety of flotsam and jetsam. A memorable comment that I stored away was from him was: "Give me characters and I'll find a story." The speaker told our group that he couldn't agree more.

And this is what I do. I am a bit older, perhaps, than the average writer so I need to observe less in the now and recall more from the past because through the years I can remember a host of characters that will fill any story. I think about them, their attitudes, their actions, their glories and their mistakes. And from this I start wrting and a story develops.

Obviously there are plenty of characters in the here-and-now; I just don’t relate to them with long memories. However, I have even been considering writing a play (something of which I know zero) about Washington D.C. and the various and sundry varieties of folks who take a federal paycheck. Good grief! Talk about a cauldron of characters.

But this is how I have written my fiction, novel or short story: with an eye on Runyan’s advice. I don’t start a story and develop characters, I reach into my memories for characters and the story flows.
Paul H. Yarbrough is originally from Jackson, Mississippi. For the past forty years, he has lived in Houston, Texas, where he has worked for two oil companies and been an independent consultant in the oil business, mostly as a landman. He is a widower with one son who lives in NE. Louisiana. Paul has published a handful of short stories, flash fiction and essays in a variety of forums. His first novel, Mississippi Cotton, was published by Wido Publishing in 2011. His second novel, A Mississippi Whisper, came out via WiDo in December 2014. He has finisned a third novel which takes place in Louisiana and is working on a Texas story. His social media links are:

June 21, 2016


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

Well, looks like Facebook has been busy. Mark Zuckerberg announced they are rolling out the 360 photos worldwide across Facebook.

Have you been taking 360 videos?  Zuckerberg said, “You can tilt your phone and feel like you’re actually there. You can also check them out in virtual reality for a fully immersive experience.”
Our world truly changes just about every day. There are so many innovations. Choosing which ones to use for promotional purposes, writing and marketing is what we need instructions on in order to keep up.

Let’s face it, for those who use Facebook for ads it would be smart to develop less text in ads. Be sure and do your research before advertising so you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

We all like to see photos; it takes less time than reading a bunch of text and has so much more eye appeal. All in all that will be great for those that run ads.

However, for authors, we still have to be concerned about text. We can’t fill our pages in a book with images and very few words.

With the cost of printing color and images, it also can be prohibitive for us to ad photos to our books.

In truth, that’s the way it should be. When I get a novel, I like to dive into the words and immerse myself into the world the author has created; I don’t want the flow of the story to be broken with pictures popping up.

June 20, 2016

The Story Teller in Me

By Clint Ballard

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m more of a story teller. I can talk a hungry dog off a meat wagon and a raccoon out of a tree. It was a God given gift, inherited through the grace of my Southern blood. I listened and learned to craft the tales from the South by years of hearing them from the folks I call family and friends. I guess I get it mostly from my Dad, he has a way with words so to speak. My Grandmother Doris Ballard was a good as they got here in Carolina, I use to sit and listen to her for hours. I like to start in on a good one in a group and spin it like I was dancing to a Banjo by a campfire. I mean if you’re going to tell a story in the South you have to have some meat and taters.

I do not write by an outline, instead I just sit down and let my thoughts flow. I just simply start telling the story as if I was talking to you about the Black Angus we raised and the time they got on a golf course and tore up a back fairway. Of course, no one knew until the next morning when the golfers, dressed nice, meet up with the dirty herd around the 12th hole.  It ended up costing our family a pretty penny and the herd of Angus a new home, but it sure makes for a good story. See it can be that simple. Take a simple story about an escape herd of Black Angus and the nicely dressed golfers and just describe it simply as if you were talking to your best friend or a group of strangers at a Church social. Keep it simple, that’s the way you tell a good story. Stick with the basic and elaborate when it feels right. Keeping it simple will help you hone in better on your writing and the more you write the easier it feels.

I don’t try to use big words outside the little yard of my vocabulary. I did graduate college but I spent most of my life messing around the family farm and talking barn talk with my buddies. I saw and heard enough in those innocent years to fill a five subject notebook, and I’m not one that likes to use a #2 pencil. So I can’t share them all. Words that are outside of the story or articles comfort zone makes the writer seem they are reaching for a rope tied to nothing.  I mean when you talk like I do, you don’t use words or phrases like, Oh Yes, I am a plethora of knowledge on the Black Angus Breed and can give in depth information on the breed and their history. Let me start…. See I don’t talk that way so I don’t try to write above my raising. My mommy always told me never forget who had you and where they came from to do so.

So just like that, that easy. Just sit down and tell the story, enjoy yourself as your fingers dance the jitter bug with the key board. Lead the story like leading a girl on a crowded dance floor. Just simply choose your song and enjoy the dance.
Clinton Harding Ballard is a shorty story writer with a lot of Southern with and charm. He has been published in Cornelius Today and Counterpoint. He currently is writing about his Southern farm raising and his family’s dysfunction and un bridal love. When he is not writing he hangs out with his dog Karl and waits for another story to visit his head’s front porch. You can keep up with Clint on Facebook, his blog site, TELLINONMYSOUTH.COM or email @

June 17, 2016

The Blame Game

By Shawn D. Brink

So you’re submitting that short story to editors of various appropriate markets and getting rejected time and time again. “Why can’t anybody see the genius in my work?” you declare. “ARGH!!!” you add for emphasis.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t some literary-world conspiracy that is keeping you on the reject list. The blame falls squarely on you, the author.

I am not saying this because I am holier than thou are. No, I was once there too. Submission after submission I lobbed at editors only to see rejection after rejection lobbed back at me.

Then at some point (I can’t recall just when) I experienced that moment of clarity. A ray of angelic light shone down on me. Somewhere unseen, a heavenly choir sang a single, crystal clear note, and simultaneously, a loose wire inside of my brain fell into place.

What did I realize at that moment? I realized that it’s not enough to be a good writer creating good stories. The competition is too fierce for that. In order to break this rejection cycle, I need to write GREAT stories.

From that moment on, every time I received a rejection, I would make it a point to re-examine the work. I would ask how I could make the writing tighter. How can I make it jump off the page? How could I make it glow to the point that an editor can do nothing but ooh and ah and send me an acceptance letter?

Upon completing these edits, I would resubmit to another market. Upon receiving another rejection, I would re-examine, do further editing and resubmit to a third magazine. And repeat. And repeat. And rinse and lather and repeat.

Since taking this additional level of dedication to heart, the acceptance letters have been trickling in. Sure, I still receive rejections, but I know now that being rejected is simply an opportunity to polish the story so that it can eventually be what it was meant to be - published.

I encourage all writers out there to take on this same level of dedication. Take responsibility for your rejections and turn them into acceptances. Your writing deserves it and so do you.
Shawn D. Brink lives in eastern Nebraska with his wife, four kids and a miniature schnauzer. He is currently building a following with two (soon to be three) novels to his name. His first book, THE SPACE BETWEEN (Fantasy/Christian/Apocalyptic thriller), was published through Martin Sisters Publishing (MSP) in 2013. In 2015, MSP released the sequel entitled THE DEVIL’S REVENGE. MSP is tentatively scheduling the third book in this series for release in December of 2016. One of his published manuscripts placed third in a horror/ghost story contest sponsored by WRITERS’ JOURNAL. In addition, he has numerous stories in publications such as APHELION, TWJ MAGAZINE, THEME OF ABSENCE, SPECKLIT, and FLASHES IN THE DARK. His social media links are Website:

June 16, 2016

Bourbon – Could it be the next Urban Cowboy

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    

I remember sitting in the waiting room of an auto repair shop and reading an Esquire Magazine article about the young romance between Dew Westbrook and Betty Helmer. It was a fascinating read about the cowboy dance hall subculture. It was written by Aaron Latham in 1978. Latham latter paired up with James Bridges and wrote a screenplay from the article and using the same name Urban Cowboy for the 1980 movie.

I recently was introduced to the world of Bourbon. This occurred on three separate occasions during the year. In January I was in Hochatown, Oklahoma for an annual outing with family and friends and came across a distillery nearby. The Mitch and Kerri McDaniel and family left their Arkansas roots and moved out to Hochatown for a new business venture. Mitch’s family is involved in The Hochatown Distilling Company, resort cabins, a brewery, restaurant and gift shop. Mitch took us on a tour of his distillery and showed us his set up. Later that year they had their 200 gallon distillery running. It was at this meeting I discovered there are hundreds of these smaller operations springing up all over the country.

In April I was invited to a Bourbon Tasting at Corks in Germantown TN. Having never been to one I really didn’t know what to expect. It was held at 4:00 in the afternoon and at 4:00 a large number of business men in upscale vehicles descended on the parking lot. They quickly stepped into the store some carrying bottles from home. They approached the table set up in the lobby with a distinguished man setting there and nearby a shelf with a variation of bourbon bottles. Some sounding familiar even to a novice like me. The gentleman was Master Distiller James Russell with the Wild Turkey out of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.” Mr. Jimmy” was here to promote his new bourbon carrying his name and to sign any and all bottles bought or brought to him. Those brought were mostly collector’s runs such as anniversary or special event runs. He gladly signed all with a pen with golden ink.

My third encounter was with a Facebook posting from a friend. He had taken a long weekend with his wife and several couples on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. I admit I was not aware of the trail so I had to Google it. The distillery’s are all in an area between Louisville and Cincinnati. You can tour each one and do so in just a few days. I did find out when speaking with “Mr. Jimmy” that they are all friends in the business so why not develop a promotional tour as such for all the interested customers.

Bourbon may not be the next big thing to hit the popularity level of the Urban Cowboy. After all Urban Cowboy had romance. But who is to say writing a romance into the Bourbon craze wouldn’t work. The drink is seen in a lot of popular movies and shows that have everything from romance to murder. House of Cards President Francis “Frank” Underwood played by Kevin Spacey is known to drink Blanton’s a fine Kentucky Bourbon with a Jockey on Horse cork.

Keep your eyes open for those surprising subcultures around you. You can bring them to the forefront but to do so it must be in a way that connects those not in the subculture. No doubt romance is a great way to do it. Romance crosses all subculture lines.              

And just in case you missed it June 14th was National Bourbon Day. There is always next year.

June 15, 2016

5 Reasons to Love Western Genres

By Sylvia Ney

While I could go on and on about my love of Westerns, here are my top 5 reasons for reading and writing in this amazing genre:

The History – so much of American life can be learned from studying fact, and even enjoying the fictional West. As the original “melting pot”, westerns often offer glimpses into the cultures that helped create our country. Taking part in “manifest destiny” and the gold or silver rushes are just a few examples. And while it’s not always an accurate depiction, westerns are one of the last ways to explore Native American civilization. Elmore Leonard and John Wayne fans know this better than most.

The Food – many families don’t cook, or teach their children to cook, anymore. Fast paced lives relegate dinnertime “to go” or defrosting our latest choices. Westerns frequently include references to cultivating your own food, as well as how to prepare it. Authors have even taken to including recipes referenced with their tales, or compiling an entire cookbook based on the genre. The Texas Cowboy : A History in Recipes and Photos. 

Family Time and Community learning – Westerns often depict more family and community time than contemporary stories. Families worked, learned, and died together. Learning to make your own materials, toys, home repairs, animal care, and community service projects are often skills highlighted in these stories. Even the more contemporary ones often focus on these important aspects. I love to use these aspects in my own westerns such as Broken Angel.

Adventure and Excitement – traveling to new places, trying new skills, old-fashioned gun fights and duels, posses, dime novels, cowboys and Indians, lawmen and drifters, the women’s rights movement or damsels in distress, bounty hunters and gamblers, gunslingers and outlaws, and rodeos all offer a variety of stimulating feats to the reader. Linda Lael Miller may be the queen of writing in this style.

Open to any genre – westerns no longer need to be a category on their own. Whether you enjoy a swoon-worthy cowboy romance, or you’re a science fiction fan (Cowboys and Aliens) westerns offer something for everyone.

I’d love to hear what you enjoy most about westerns. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments, or contact me through my social media.
Sylvia Ney is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. She is currently serving as a Board Member of both the Texas Gulf Coast Writers and Bayou Writers Group in Louisiana. She has published newspaper and magazine articles, photography, poetry, and short stories. To learn more or connect through various social media, visit:

June 14, 2016

Writing Prompts You Can Use Today

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

I'll admit it.  Every once in a while I get stuck for a story idea, and when I'm desperate enough, I resort to googling "writing prompts".  Inevitably it's a dead end because "Write about your favorite Christmas memory" or "What's your biggest pet peeve" isn't what I have in mind. 

When talking to writers, I'm always curious to learn whether they like to listen to music while they work, or whether they prefer to have it as quiet as possible. Being aurally oriented myself, I enjoy knowing that many authors listen to music that fits the mood of whatever they're writing.  A website like AccuRadio can provide a running backdrop of soundtracks ranging from romance to horror.

That atmospheric approach provides effective support when you already know what to write. But have you ever considered turning to music as a way of inspiring an idea?  Songs are just one of several readily-available story starters that are easily overlooked.

A good song title can make a good writing prompt.  For example, don't each of these classic phrases conjure something you could build a scenario around?
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Georgia on My Mind
  • Born to Run
  • Blowin' in the Wind
  • King of the Road
  • Behind Closed Doors
  • When Doves Cry
If you're worried about stealing an existing song title, even other songwriters are prone to borrow a good idea for themselves.  Over the years, each of these song titles have been used ten times or more for very different radio hits:
  • Call Me
  • Crazy
  • Hold On
  • I Want You
  • Runaway
  • Smile 
  • Stay
  • Without You
Song titles can't be copyrighted any more than novel titles can.  Even a more involved title like "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" has been used two separate times, in hits for Gene Autry and Rod Stewart.  Steal away.

Country music in particular has provided a wealth of songs that tell a story.  Premises like these could be given different titles, different characters, and adapted into entirely new tales:
  • Ode to Billie Joe
  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
  • Harper Valley P.T.A.
  • Coward of the County
BTW all of the above became critically panned movies or TV shows.  I'm sure you can do better. 

A popular phrase has the bonus of familiarity to add immediate appeal.  The writers of these songs can attest to that:
  • Bad Blood
  • Bad to the Bone
  • Every Rose Has Its Thorn
  • One Bad Apple 
  • Over My Head
  • Take It Easy
  • That's What Friends Are For
  • You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Here are a few phrases I grabbed just now from the middle of three old books in my office.  I'll wager any of these would be the nucleus of a decent story idea:

"It soon became clear, first to his family, then to the village, that he had changed."

"He told his secretary that he was in the States on a special assignment. She was a bit hurt by his secrecy, but thought nothing more of it."

"He was overcome with emotion, with dreams of her in their younger days, the youthful beauty that he had taken for granted and had been lucky enough to find again."

Lastly, there are several websites that generate random first lines. The following are courtesy of  Could you do something with these opening lines?

"He'd had a bad day and just needed something to make him feel better."

"The horse came back alone."

"The whole family had been cursed since..."

Writing prompts aren't just useful for creating story ideas; they can also come in handy in the middle of a novel when things need to take an unexpected turn.

I hope one or more of these tips come in handy for your next story.  Speaking of which, you still have time to enter your latest masterpiece in Southern Writers' 2016 Short Story Fiction Contest (the deadline is June 30; get details here).  Have fun and good luck!

June 13, 2016

Writing Shorts

By Janice S. Garey    

Writing and running have similarities. Both involve gearing up, establishing schedules, training in increasing increments, and fine tuning to increase competence. Both engage in competition for prizes. Runners don’t start with a marathon. Neither do writers. I began writing shorts in the forms of haiku, prayer, flash fiction, and copy partly as practice toward attaining my next level as a writer.

C. J. Hitz, a runner’s coach in Colorado, gives training advice which can apply to writers. “In terms of ‘short practice,’ I would say, “strides” are something I recommend for runners of all levels. Strides are short 20-30 second bursts in order to activate faster twitch muscle fibers and stay tuned to faster running.” Essentially for the writer, that equals producing quality short works. Physically, the writer trains by keying in their thoughts quickly. Mentally, the writer practices self editing. Proficiency results from writers practicing “strides.”

Another observation made by C. J. was, “It’s very easy to run at the same pace day in and day out without going outside the comfort zone into faster stride turnovers.” Writers, like runners, can get stuck in a groove of what works. They initially worked hard to attain a goal, but then decided to let comfort rule. But writing is an endeavor which can always be improved upon. Writing a short piece gives a jolt to the senses. Stale, routine writing may regain sparkle.

Haiku, the seventeen syllable form of Japanese poetry, gives practice in observation and compression. It records a moment in time, a unique flash of insight, and the feelings evoked. The writer must be in the moment, keenly observant, able to weed out and rearrange words for the most impact.

Prayer does double duty through communicating to God and practicing empathy and compassion. Again, this short practice puts the writer in the moment. Prayer requests are found throughout social media.

Flash fiction generally refers to a very short story which includes: few characters; plot with a beginning, middle, and end; and minimal setting. This requires compression, but can span a longer time period than haiku. It gives practice in plotting, description, character development, and following through to an effective ending.

Copy writing practice abounds daily in composing subject lines for email, preparing ads to sell author’s works, making comments on social media, and when composing article and book titles. It gives the ultimate practice in weeding out unnecessary words.

Runners practice movements outside of routine to fine tune their abilities. Writers, also, need to practice outside their normal routines to advance. Personally, I have been writing shorts for an extended time. That has been my comfort zone. Others reading this may be comfortable focused solely on writing novels.

Opportunity abounds for each writer to go out of their comfort zone. Perhaps soon I will attempt the writer’s marathon, NaNoWriMo. Are you up for the challenge of attempting some new to you form of writer’s “strides?”
Janice S. Garey has a background in accounting, homeschooling, teaching preschool, and learning the craft of writing through Christian Writers Guild courses. Her publishing credits include flash fiction in QPB Presents the World’s Best Shortest Stories (of all times), stories in the Moments compilation series, Christmas Moments, Spoken Moments, and future editions, an article in Church Libraries Journal, and book reviews and an article in the Christian Library International (prison ministry) newsletters. She reviews books as a member of, and she frequently posts photos and haiku on social media. Currently, Janice works toward publication of a devotional type coloring book/journal which utilizes her flash fiction and prayer shorts, with a WIP title of Color Away My Hurts. Janice and her husband, Art, live in the Atlanta, GA vicinity with their cat, Miss Bosley. They have one son who is getting his PhD in English. You may connect with Janice at: Twitter @janciegme  Instagram @janciegme Wordpress  janicegareyblog  (under reconstruction)
LinkedIn  Janice S. Garey  Facebook  Janice Garey