December 30, 2016

Jump in With Both Feet

By Sandra Atkins

May I ask you a personal question? How do you get in the ‘muse’ to write?

Some writers attempt to get their creative juices flowing by producing the perfect ambience: a window overlooking breathtaking scenery, a quiet office space with fire blazing, a nook surrounded by a line-up of pertinent photographs. Writing is a very personal thing. After all, we do tend to put our whole heart into it, and sometimes, even our feet.

Wearing a pair of oversized loafers, Ernest Hemingway was known to write while standing, as did Lewis Carroll, Thomas Wolf, Vladimir Nabokov, and Philip Roth. Although, I’m not sure what shoes the latter writers preferred. To each his own.

I’d like to share with you a couple of tricks which I have found to be useful. The Bible, a book of infinite wisdom, warns us to beware of getting too familiar with holy things. I know from experience that I can become too familiar with a story in progress. I have learned to lay it aside for a couple of weeks, at least.

When I return to the story with fresh eyes, I find that my perspective has changed. Also, I prefer, at times to read my work aloud. That, also, shines a whole new light on the project. So, get in the ‘muse’. Immerse your entire self into it: hands, feet, eyes, and mouth. Jump in with both feet, as they say, and get personal.

Most importantly, write, write, and write!
Sandra Atkins often declares, “I’m Southern. I wear my oddities like a hat.” She resides in the small, rural town of Campobello, South Carolina. Growing up there, she witnessed a variety of colorful characters, many submerged in local superstition. Sandra Atkins enjoys incorporating her rich, Southern heritage into her writing, which usually contains an underlying theme of one or more of those old wives’ tales. Sandra is a diverse author. Her children’s book titled The Curse of the Owl, will be released in August of this year. She is currently working on a young adult novel, as well as more short stories. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a local critique group. Her aim is for readers to feel as passionate about reading her work as she feels writing it!

December 29, 2016

Are You Ready?

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

President Woodrow Wilson once said, “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything.”

It has been some 6 years ago that Susan Reichert and I sat at a table in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore and discussed the idea of what has become Southern Writers Magazine. Many times I have asked myself if we were ready. I honestly must say, absolutely not. I had never been in the magazine business and had no idea what was ahead. Susan had been some years ago when it was all about the printed word but today everything was digital. We had no idea on what software was needed to produce the magazine or how best to present it but we were forging ahead. If we had decided to wait until we were ready we would not have had our first issue 4 months later or the 3 Million plus page views on our Suite T blog site today.

It is human nature to wait, hesitate or procrastinate when we face the unknown. The fact that Susan and I were partners in this endeavor was reassuring to us both. We felt we could do it if we had the support of the other. Out partnership had started a year earlier when we founded our local writers group. We put out the word and knew of only 3 people that may show up. We were good with that and hoped from that 3 we could grow. We were shocked when at our first meeting 26 writers showed up and the majority is with us today. That initial success was the foundation for our continued success with Southern Writers Magazine. Stepping out on faith can be easier with a partner. Support in any endeavor is a must.

In the world of sales there is a saying, “You can’t wait for all the lights to turn green before you leave home.”  Doing so would mean we would never be ready, never start and, most discouraging of all, never accomplish. You must never question yourself about being ready. Instead think about this idea that has come to you and only you and act on it. It is my belief by not acting on this idea, this gift given you, you have passed on it and it will be passed on to someone that will.

As President Woodrow Wilson said it is a terrible thing to wait because you do not feel you are ready. He went on to say it was his feeling that no one was ever ready. That has been proven to be true throughout our history. Every great success was accomplished by a person or group of people that were willing but not necessarily ready.

What is it that you are wanting to do but do not feel like you are ready to do? Would you feel stronger with support or with a partner? Share your idea and you may find there are others that feel as you do. You may end up with a partner or maybe with a cheering section to help you move along on your own. Ready or not you must act on it or allow it to be passed along to someone else that isn’t ready but is willing take action. So the line starts here, no waiting, start today! You are ready enough!       

December 28, 2016

Writing Letters: A Creative Journey

By Jan Morrill

I’ve found writing letters to, from or between my characters to be an imaginative technique to smash writer’s block. In fact, at this very moment, I’m experiencing that dreaded white space as write a short story for an upcoming Christmas anthology.

So, I thought, why not put my letter-writing technique to the test “live” on Suite T?

Here’s a brief overview of three different techniques I’ve used:
Write a letter to your character.
Write a letter from your character to you.
Write a letter between two characters.
First, what I know about my short story so far:

My protagonist is Sachi Kimura—a ten-year old Japanese American from my historical fiction, The Red Kimono.

She will be spending her first Christmas away from her home in California, after being relocated to an internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.

Her father died earlier in the year, and she misses him terribly.

Next, here we go, “live.” I’m going to write a letter to Sachi. Hopefully, in this demonstration, I’ll learn something that will help turn the above bullet points into a story.

Dear Sachi,
Last Christmas was my first Christmas without my mom, so I am wondering what this Christmas will be like for you, your first without your father.

On Christmas Day, I recalled lots of memories. The one that popped into my mind first was the Christmas of my 14th year when my dad was stationed overseas with the Air Force. Late Christmas Eve, my mom asked me to stay up to help her set up the Santa Claus presents for my four younger siblings who had already gone to bed.

I remember feeling as though I’d said goodbye to my childhood that night. Though at fourteen, I knew the truth about Santa Claus, I think I felt he would still be “real” as long as I didn’t admit the truth out loud.

It’s funny. You’re a figment of my imagination. But you’re also part of who I am and a part of who my mom was. Because of that, in my imagination, I do hope you’ll find some joy this Christmas.

Fondly,  Jan

If the information you glean from a letter you write to your character is not enough to inspire your story, have your character answer with a letter. One of my favorite techniques is to have one character write a letter to another character. In this short story, Sachi is the only character. With this one letter, I learned what her story will be:

It’s Christmas 1944. At ten, Sachi, is old enough to know the truth about Santa Claus. She believes if she doesn’t admit it out loud, he might continue to come to her house. But living in a barrack behind barbed wire, she’s not so sure. Still, even with the loss of the magic of Santa Claus, she will discover new joys.

I hope you’ll give letter-writing a try the next time you’re staring at a blank page or screen. My book, Creative Characterization, includes details and exercises on letter-writing techniques and several others. Give them a try!
Jan Morrill was born and (mostly) raised in California. Her mother, a Buddhist Japanese American, was an internee during World War II. Her father, a Southern Baptist redhead of Irish descent, retired from the Air Force. Her debut novel, The Red Kimono (University of Arkansas Press, February 2013) and many of her short stories reflect memories of growing up in a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-political environment The Red Kimono was selected Historical Novel Society’s Editor’s Choice and a 2013 Arkansas Gem by the Arkansas State Library. Her other books include Life:Haiku by Haiku and Creative Characterization. Jan’s award-winning stories have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and several anthologies. The Christmas anthology, Bright Lights and Candle Glow, will be available on Amazon after Thanksgiving. While working on the sequel to The Red Kimono, Jan speaks and teaches at writers’ conferences around the country. Visit Jan at

December 27, 2016

Hello Goodbye

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Every year, more than 1,000 words are added to the English dictionary. In 2016 alone, roughly 2,000 new entries were deemed worthy of inclusion.

With that many definitions expanding the pages of Merriam-Webster and Oxfords's already hefty references, one might think these books would have become bigger than the desks they sit on. But that is offset to some degree by eliminating other words that have become outdated.  For example, when was the last time you used a nephoscope (to study the movement of clouds) or called someone a snollygoster (a shrewd person with no principles)?

And so, out with the old, in with the new.  I know you're curious, so here are some of the recent terms that have made the cut:

(an acronym for "fear of missing out")

(an acronym for "you only live once")

(frozen yogurt)

(too much information)

(a webpage that lures you in with a false pretense, such as "You won't believe what Ann-Margaret looks like now!")

Other new words include:




Huh?  By now you may be thinking you're reading a blog post from the last century, since we've been hearing and using some of those words for decades.  Why, all of a sudden, are they just now becoming official?  Part of it has to do with the billions of words written every year that are analyzed by databases and narrowed down as the most used by professional word nerds who spend their working lives making these very decisions.  I would find it exhausting, and think they should all be treated to fro-yo.

Fans of Roald Dahl will be glad to know that Oompa Loompa and scrumdiddlyumptious are now part of the English language. Vermiciouis knids, however, will have to wait until the next remake of Willy Wonka.

But here's a new entry specifically related to books and writing:

Urban Fantasy
(a genre of imaginative fiction featuring supernatural characters or elements in an urban setting; also : a work of urban fantasy)

Ever on the lookout for a million-dollar idea, I plan to create a genre called Suburban Fantasy, in which magical things happen to our yards and leaves no longer need raking.

You may or may not find a use for some of the above words, especially the trendier ones which come and go.  I doubt readers in 100 years will regard novels with an abundance of "YOLO" and "TMI" to be the work of unsung Hemingways.  But who are we to argue with Merriam or Webster?

Just as we said hello to some new words in 2016, we also said goodbye to some old friends. I'd like to end my last blog post of the year with my video tribute to some of those who, through their various artistic talents, have entertained and often inspired us. (video updated on January 1st, 2017)

Happy New Year, and may you have an endless supply of pure imagination in 2017.

December 26, 2016

How I Write a Novel Opening

By Molly Noble Bull

Are you a hard-to-please reader? I am.

When I enter a bookstore and find a book that looks interesting, I read the first line on page one. If it captures my interest, I read the first paragraph. If I am still not bored, I read the first page. If I am hooked, meaning that I have the desire to read page two, I buy the book.

I do the same thing when writing a novel, but as a new writer, I often wadded up page one and threw it in the trash. But I finally learned to leave my poorly written page one behind and write page two and beyond, knowing that page one would be written some time in the future—perhaps after writing The End.

A beginning hook is a must in all my novels—one sentence that makes the reader want to read more. The first paragraph wins second place in the reader interest category with the entire first page placing third. I make the first sentence of my books a sort of headline designed to grab reader interest quickly. 

If not a headline, I write the first line of a dialogue. But the first line of that dialogue MUST be provocative. It must cause the reader to want to read more in order to find out what is going on in the story.

Below are some examples of openings.

.   She'd seen him again.
The Rogue’s Daughter by Molly Noble Bull, Zondervan Publishing House in 1986. 

.   Someone was coming. 
When the Cowboy Rides Away by Molly Noble Bull, Elk Lake Publishing 2015

.   It was now or never.
Brides and Blessings by Molly Noble Bull, Love Inspired 1999

.   Monsieur Etienne Gabeau wasn’t his real name.
Gatehaven by Molly Noble Bull, Creation House Publishing 2013

.  “I’m not one to go without a woman for long, missy.”
The Winter Pearl by Molly Noble Bull, Love Inspired 2004

.   “Why didn’t you tell me we were going to have to cancel our honeymoon trip, Merrily?”
For Always by Molly Noble Bull, Zondervan Publishing House 1986

.   Death to Jews, she read. Death to all Huguenots
The Secret Place by Molly Noble Bull was first published by Tsaba House Publishing in 2007 under the title of Sanctuary.

Here is the first line of my upcoming novella titled Too Many Secrets.
.   “Looks like the stage from San Antonio pulled in across the street.”
Too Many Secrets is an inspirational western novella and part of The Secret Admirers Romance Collection. Set in the Texas hill country in 1882, Too Many Secrets is one of nine novellas by nine different authors to be published by Barbour Publishing in May 2017.

I would like to propose a challenge. Write a beginning hook of only one sentence for either a prologue or a chapter one and post it at the end of this article as part of your comment. I will comment on it.
Molly Noble Bull has published books with Zondervan, Love Inspired, Tsaba House, Westbow Press, Creation House, Elk Lake Publishing and Hartline’s White Glove, and she might be called a genre jumper because she enjoys writing books and stories in several categories. Her newest work is a novella titled Too Many Secrets, Part of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection via Barbour Publishing, and it will be published in May 2017. Sanctuary won the 2008 Gayle Wilson Award in the inspirational category and also tied for first place in The Winter Rose that same year. The OvercomersChristian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities is a non-fiction book written by Molly and four other Christian authors, including Margaret Daley, and it was published by Westbow Press in 2011. The Overcomers was entered in the Women of Faith contest and was a finalist in that contest out over six hundred entries. Gatehaven, Molly’s Gothic historical, won the grand prize in the 2013 Creation House Fiction Writing Contest as a manuscript out of thirty-five entries, and it was published in trade paperback and as an e-book in March 2014. When the Cowboy Rides Away was published by Elk Lake Publishing in 2015. The western recently won the 2016 Texas Association of Authors contest in the Christian Western category and was also a finalist in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Awards in the Inspirational category. Hartline Literary republished Sanctuary in 2016 under the new title of The Secret Place, and later in 2016, Hartline republished The Rogue’s Daughter, another of Molly’s Christian western romances first published by Zondervan in 1986. Molly’s social media links are  Blog
Facebook: Molly Noble Bull  Twitter: Mollyauthor Amazon

December 23, 2016

How I Plan my Books

By B. J. Robinson

Different techniques may be used since what works for one writer may not work for another. Some authors outline every book, but I don’t because I enjoy letting my character-driven novels take me on a surprise adventure as I hope my readers will.

Technique One:  Historical Romance novels: More time is necessary to develop these as they require research, notes, and much more detail. I write a short blurb, complete my research, and use a whiteboard. You can either outline or use a whiteboard and sticky notes to complete ideas for each chapter. Since I have always literally hated outlining, I use a whiteboard and write a longer blurb to help me get started. I also make notes and use the board for them. You can plan out each chapter this way.

Technique Two:  Fiction Novels not Historical:  Begin by planning characters’ names and descriptions, the setting, conflict, inciting incident, climax, and resolution. Think beginning, middle, and end. Capture reader interest with an inciting incident. This is an incident that makes your hero, heroine, or both take action. It kicks off the story. Write a blurb. I use this method to get started no matter the type of novel, even with the historical ones, but I complete research and make notes with those. I go from chapter to chapter and write by the seat of my pants with the others. This makes writing more fun for me as I let my characters guide me chapter by chapter. At times, things change. Endings might change, or other characters may become involved within the novel, secondary characters. I don’t plan those. They show up as needed. This method works well for me. If you need to plan more and have chapter-by-chapter outlines, you can either use one sentence per chapter for the topic of that chapter or use one paragraph for a more detailed outline.

I enjoy writing by the seat of my pants and have fun with each chapter I write. You may need to try several methods to see which one works best for you. Below is an example of planning for my Christmas novel.

In my book, When the Snow Comes, the last thing Amber desires is to return to the town she left, but she has no choice. Away at college, a broken engagement, broken heart, and broken spirit, has left her hurting, scared, and scarred. Yet, her dream home beckons her back to small-town life that won’t let her forget the man who broke her heart.

Her favorite aunt left her the old Victorian on Wears Valley Road in Tennessee. It’s the home she’s always coveted since childhood and so many wonderful, cherished memories are entrenched in her heart and mind.

Adam can’t deny the attraction, or pull between them, but the last thing he needs is to get involved with Amber again. He thought he knew what she wanted from life, but she left him and the home they both loved for a career dream and college. He’s vowed he’ll never leave Wears Valley. It’s his home and in his blood. No way will he follow the beautiful ash blonde who broke his heart. If Tennessee and its small-town, traditional values aren’t good enough for her, she’s the wrong woman for him.

Fall is ending and Christmas is coming. He was hired by the estate administrators to put a fresh coat of paint on the old home to spruce it up for the holidays and Amber’s return. Since his broken engagement, Christmas is viewed as just another day to him.

Can their hearts and views be transformed by the spirit of the season? Main Street will be adorned with festive lights, Christmas songs, and holiday cheer. Their wedding was to be on Christmas Day. When the snow comes, will the season melt their hearts?
B. J. Robinson writes inspirational fiction from Florida, where she lives with her husband, a shelter cat named Frankie, a golden cocker spaniel named Sunflower, and a golden retriever named Honi. Her children are grown and have made her a grandmother twelve times. She promises to take her readers on a continuous journey to another world. B. J. has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She believes belonging to a good critique group and reading books by other writers is the best way to hone your skill and craft.  Follow me on Twitter: Facebook Author Pages:
Inspirational Romantic Suspense Page:

December 22, 2016

Write with a Childlike Wonder

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last week, the holiday shows were abundant on television. "I don't get it, how do you manage to always see the good in everything," asks Adam Goldberg of his grandpa "Pops" in the ABC show The Goldbergs. Pops replies, "it's easy if you never lose your childlike wonder, it doesn't matter how old you are people like us always have it." Pops then admonishes Adam "to promise him one thing, always hold onto to that wonder, no matter what."

A friend stated they were just not in a holiday mood. I encouraged them to decorate a tree. Don't have the energy to use the ornaments from the past with all the memories attached, just make your own with paper, pine cones and stuff you have in your home and yard. Glitter and glue are your new best friend. Take pictures as your tree progresses. Share it on Facebook and encourage others. New tree, new ornaments and new traditions. Invite friends over to see your tree.

However, the best people to invite to a decorated home are the "little people" who we adults call children. They have a sense of wonder that is contagious. They will find amazement in items we adults take for granted and complain about dragging down from the attic or locating in the garage. Through a child's eyes, you can get a true sense of a positive perspective on life which influences our words we write.

So what if this holiday season you take a minute to watch a child as they discover a new world which we may have forgotten? I recently visited with a friend whose granddaughter was experiencing the joy of her decorated home. As I watched her stand on tippy toes gazing on the tabletop village I wondered what she was thinking. The table scape had Santa and his sleigh complete with reindeers circling the village. Was this little one wondering who lived in the snowy village with Santa flying high above? The child was mesmerized by the scene and stared at it while the adults at the party just went on their way.

As authors, do we really take in all we see during the holiday season with the wonderment of this child? Or are we too busy rushing from activity to activity? I'm guilty of this too. However, after watching this child I have decided that I'm going to savor the season and try to capture the wonderment of this small child. Who knows, I may write a story about a little girl who saves Santa from flying around the same snow covered village.

The narrator of The Goldbergs holiday show said "if you truly love something you never grow out of it. That's the thing about the holidays, even the biggest Scrooge might be moved by a sense of wonder."

This holiday join me and find your sense of wonder. It may spark you with the perfect story idea. 

December 21, 2016

The Story of The Fourth Partner

By Rodney Page

An interesting topic…what leads to the creation of a novel? I’d never give any thought to the question, but here goes.

I have always enjoyed old-timey murder mysteries, the kind where the crime is solved by good old fashioned detective work…not those that employ high-tech gadgets and gizmos √† la CSI. Perhaps provincial, but I believe an entertaining crime story should highlight human traits and skills…perception, resourcefulness, perseverance and keen intuition.

Thus, no pop-up plasma displays, instantaneous cell phone traces or satellite imaging allowed!

As a former resident and frequent visitor to the southeast Georgia coast, commonly known as the Golden Isles, I have always been in awe of the beauty and tranquility of its marshes, moss-laden live oaks and meandering tidal creeks. I’ve met dozens of colorful locals over the years and always appreciated their casual and laidback demeanor. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘island time.’

It is difficult to imagine that any nefarious doings could possibly transpire in such a bucolic setting. But, ah, what better place to weave a diabolical plot foisted by conniving and evil characters?

So, I had my locale.

Next, who would become my protagonist? I have an aversion to overly-slick crime solvers. You know, a James Bondish-like hero who knows all, is indestructible and wows the ladies. Thus, Leroy Meriwether emerged…a middle-aged, self-deprecating and underutilized detective who impatiently looks forward to retirement so he can indulge himself in his first love: restoring sixties muscle cars.

Since Detective Meriwether has a ‘life’ and is not superhuman, he needed a strong supporting cast. His lady-friend, Barb, keeps him grounded, bolsters him when he is depressed and yanks his chain when it desperately needs yanking. And Amy, the sheriff department’s research assistant, compensates for Leroy’s steadfast reluctance to move into the twenty-first century.

And then the plot and villains…

The discovery of the remains of a victim who supposedly disappeared in a boating accident twenty-five years previously offered the perfect platform. A cold case would showcase Detective Meriwether’s investigative inquisitiveness and dogged determination.

Developing the victim’s murky past provided the foundation of the plot. A hail-fellow-well-met, Billy Howell’s secret lives had to be unraveled before Detective Meriwether can narrow down the suspects…and there are many from which to choose. Creating the characters was challenging but fun.

Billy’s wife and son despised him. The ex-con informant had a motive. So did the gambling kingpin. Was it the drug lords? Maybe it was Billy’s clients who believed they had been fleeced. The sheriff had reason to do Billy in. The county commission chairman?

Throw in a few of the ‘old reliables’…a little sex, drugs, greed, the perverse use of power, a hired hit team, some C-4 explosives…and voil√†, I had a plot.

Finally, though not a representative of Golden Isles Tourist Development Authority, I strived to provide a sense of the area’s history, beauty and uniqueness to those readers unfamiliar with it. It’s a wonderful place to visit...perhaps a better place to set a whodunit.
Rodney Page is a Georgia native and the author of The Fourth Partner released September 2016. Among his other works are Murcheson County,released spring 2016; The Xerces Factor released in 2015 and Powers Not Delegated released 2014. Rodney’s business career included a variety of senior management positions and consulting engagements in companies and industries ranging from startups to Fortune 50 firms. A graduate of the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, in 2005 Rodney authored Leading Your Business to the Next Level…the Six Core Disciplines of Sustained Profitable Growth, a hands-on guide for companies navigating the perils and pitfalls of a high growth environment. An avid student of history and political junky, Rodney combined those interests with his lifelong desire to write his first novel. He then meshed his knowledge of history and current events and penned his second novel of relevant and plausible intrigue inside the Beltway. Using his knowledge of history he penned a sweeping saga of four families in antebellum Georgia, spanning sixty years during our country’s most turbulent times. His fourth novel is a murder mystery set on the Georgia coast. His short story, Granny Mae’s Journey appeared in Crimson Cloak Publishing’s Steps in Time anthology. Projects currently underway include: By the People, For the People, sequel to Powers Not Delegated; Macon–The Novel, a murder mystery set in the racially-charged sixties; tentatively titled Ms. Smythe Goes to Washington, a political thriller chronicling the exploits of a feisty and irreverent congresswoman and her brother, a CIA operative. Rodney lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. His passions include hiking, woodworking, history, R&B guitar and, of course, University of Georgia football.Check Rodney’s blog out at: Website:

December 20, 2016

Bloom Where You Are Planted

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

We’ve all heard that expression. It seems like now is a good time to bring it up.

Recently I heard authors comparing themselves to other authors and it struck me funny. Why? Because what they were saying I heard in Junior High School. You know the girls who were comparing their looks to other girls in school. You remember those girls, right? They were big on the comparing angles. I guess they needed that to feel good about themselves.

You would here one say, “I don’t know why she got that award, I am much prettier or I’m much smarter.” Or maybe you heard, “Well if her daddy wasn’t on the school board she wouldn’t be the teacher’s pet.”

Jealousy and envy are a terrible shade of green and a total waste of time.

As authors though, I don’t understand why one author who writes romantic fiction would compare their writing to someone who writes thrillers. Or why would you compare your writing, when you have only started writing to someone who has been writing for several years and is a successful published author. Those aren’t exactly in the same ball park.

Our family instilled in us to be the best we could be whatever we were doing. Whether it was helping at home, studies or playing the piano or just helping a neighbor. “Whatever you do, give it your best.”
Competition is good. It helps us strive to do our best. We need competition. But comparing ourselves to others, is not constructive, as a matter of fact, it can be destructive.

Growing up my family gave me piano lessons. I loved music, we were a musical family. My grandmother and mother could play by ear. I took lessons for many years. Every day, I was told to practice. As a young girl my practice period was a minimum of thirty minutes per day, unless I had a recital coming up, then I would have to practice longer. I don’t ever remember complaining about time spent practicing. Maybe it was because I love music. Without the practice I would not have been any good. I certainly would not have been able to play classical music, or play at the church for 
services until they found someone to hire, or just play for my own enjoyment or my families.

Writing is no different. The ability to write is a wonderful gift and it should be used. To be good, at anything, you have to practice. The more you write, the better you become. There are books on every subject pertaining to writing. There are courses on different aspects of writing. All of these are wonderful tools. But, if you don’t practice writing every day, even if it’s a few hundred words, you may not get any better.

Talk to successful authors––you will find they write, most of them, every day, and more than a few hundred words!

We would all like to get awards. Until you do, work at being the best writer you can be. IF you do, you will see your efforts blooming.

December 19, 2016

The “R” Word

 By Sandy Richardson

I can hear your sighs loud and clear at the very mention of the word…REVISION. You’ve heard all the usual “why you should do it’s.” You have probably forced yourself to “revise” at least portions of your manuscript. But do you really “get” the necessity of it? Do you know the real reasons why most writers insist that revision is the REAL writing?

In the writing workshops and classes I teach, I preach revision. It is much like a religion to me. Why? Because I know from personal experience that revision gets writers closer to the final product we desire the world to see.

Re-vision. To see again. To think about again. To imagine again. To shape our written words into a re-fined form. Fine. Something valuable. Something desirable. Something to treasure.

In compiling the narratives in my anthology His Mother, I saw firsthand the rewards of the revision process. The re-visioning of my own contribution to the book took place over a period of about 15 years. (No, I’m not advocating for all revisions to take that long!)

I began my narrative in the form of a letter to my mother-in-law. At that time, she was still very much alive and working hard to make life uncomfortable for her family. My initial draft was filled with frustration, hurt, and anger—the typical “mother-in-law-from hell” article you would expect in a book about mothers-in-law.

But with delays in finding a publisher and real-life interruptions, I found myself re-writing that letter five years later. My father-in-law died, and there was much juicy stuff to add to my litany of complaints against the woman.

Another five years passed with more delays and frustrations, and I tackled the piece again, adding a growing list to the “expected” gripes and groans about the relationship. But then, life intervened.  Rather, I should say death; my mother-in-law died, and with her death came the task of sorting through the detritus of her life.

And in that sorting, I discovered much that caused me to re-think my mother-in-law—not  as the person we knew, but as a soul encased in a damaged body, a soul that, dark as we sometimes perceived it to be, was a soul no less. 

What we discovered led me to re-vision my mother-in-law. It was a healing, unexpected and sudden, in its on-set.

These discoveries led me to revise my letter once again to include my newfound perspective. And while my original versions of the piece fit okay in the overall focus of the anthology, I discovered my new vision worked even better to focus my piece toward the whole purpose of compiling the anthology in the first place.
The healing I had prayed for her to receive all those years came about, but not to her, to me. That re-visioning of her allowed me finally to forgive her.

The letter in the anthology fulfilled what the book’s primary focus had always been: that any relationship, no matter how difficult, can have value. Perhaps not in the form we anticipate, desire, or pray for, but certainly, in the healing that takes place when we see relationships outside our narrowed view of them.

My writing critique group members sometimes tease me about living in “revision land.” and I admit to spending most of my writing time there. However, I’ve never heard them say a revised version of a story impacted them less than the previous version.

I’m not a plotter. However, I do begin with a focus for my writing. Revision helps me maintain that standard. It also justifies my belief that timing is everything. If you put writing out into the world before its time, it is going to come back to you, for a reason—the need for you to re-vision it. This is true, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

So take the time to revise. What is the focus of your work? What is your purpose for writing this particular piece? Does your work support that focus? If not, revise and refine it. All it takes is a little time and a new perspective. 
Sandy Richardson is the editor and a contributing writer to His Mother! Women Write about their Mothers-in-law with Humor, Frustration, and Love (2016). Her first novel, The Girl Who Ate Chicken Feet, was published in 1998. Her other fiction and nonfiction have appeared in several anthologies.  “Nana’s Basket” (The Pettigrew Review) received a nomination for the Pushcart Prize in 2013. Richardson is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She currently writes from her home in South Carolina and is founder and Editor-in-Chief for Southern Sass Publishing Alliances.
Twitter: @Southernsaspub4


December 16, 2016

How I Made a Corpse Dishonest

BY Bill Hopkins

My latest book Dishonest Corpse came out in the summer of 2016. It’s book five in my Judge Rosswell Carew series. To bring you up to date, Carew would rather be a detective than a judge who has to listen to people whine all day in a stuffy courtroom.

It wouldn’t be any fun if Carew did everything right. The cops don’t want him around and neither do the bad guys, who are a mysterious bunch of sex traffickers, led by Nathaniel Dahlbert, a guy who would make Doctor Moriarity cringe in fear.

“Fun?” you’re asking yourself. How can sex slavery be fun? It isn’t. It’s a serious problem all over the world. I spoke to several of my writer friends asking them how to make a “humorous” story about a despicable crime.

Here’s what I came up with: All first responders and emergency workers (cops, CSIs, coroners, fire fighters, etc.) have a graveyard humor that is often raunchy and disrespectful. It’s done to relieve tension and stress. My books are PG and there’s no graphic sex, violence, or bad language. But Carew still gets himself in a giant pickle or two. And they’re funny.

Earlier in the series, Carew irritated the powers that be so badly that they kicked him off the bench. (You need to read the whole series to find out how and why!)

Now, oneday recently, disgraced and “benched” Carew gasps in horror early one morning when he watches the report of a girl murdered under the Mississippi River bridge on the waterfront, a couple of blocks from his downtown office in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Although this victim reeks of the evil handiwork of Carew’s nemesis, Nathaniel Dahlbert, Carew and his beloved wife, Tina, herself a retired sheriff’s deputy, can’t let themselves become distraught. Their new detective agency is up and running and they convince themselves this murder has nothing to do with them. Later that morning, two different people come to their agency and hire their services. Within hours, the married detectives are involved in a different murder case that not only points to the girl’s killing, but also to a possible third homicide. Rosswell and Tina find themselves caught up in a deadly cat-and-mouse game that’s got only one solution: The capture of Nathaniel Dahlbert—or the death of Rosswell Carew!

The plot is the basic chase to the death. What makes my books stand out is my characters. I’ve had lots of fans tell me that the characters can never be mixed up with one another. They all have memorable names and memorable (though short) descriptions.

The characters are an amalgam of a lot of people I know plus a lot of stuff that’s made up. There are repeating characters in each book, but also in every new book, I introduce new characters. Some survive. Some don’t. Some are heard of again and some disappear.

Cliffhangers abound. Once you reach the end of a chapter toward the finish of the book, you have a resolution, you think, then up pops the Devil!

I chose Southeast Missouri as my main area of action. It’s my little part of the world and I know it well. I make strange things happen in everyday surroundings.

I will never run out of ideas and I’ll be dead before I can write them all. All my books are fun to write. I love writing and making up situations that I’ve never heard of before.

If I ever get stuck, I ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen next?” Then something happens that’s even worse! That keeps the story moving.

Oh, and what’s a “dishonest corpse”? You’ll have to read my book to find out. And I’ve littered a lot of clues and foreshadowing throughout the book, so you can’t say you were surprised.
But to get the full feel of Carew’s world, you need to read all my books.
Bill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He's had several short plays produced. Bill is a member of Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, SEMO Writers Guild, Heartland Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins (a mystery writer!), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dogs and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. COURTING MURDER was his first novel and his second novel RIVER MOURN won first place in the Missouri Writers' Guild Show-Me Best Book Awards in 2014. Visit Bill and Sharon at get started on my series, try the first: Courting Murder. The ebook is FREE. And the series is addicting. Get my free book here: The Deadly Duo My Amazon Author Page:  Audible Audiobook

December 15, 2016

You Get A Car, You Get A Car, You Get A Car…

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

In September, 2004 on The Ophra Winfrey Show’s season premiere the members of  Ophra’s audience all received a new car. It was thought to be the biggest advertising give away ever. The car was a General Motors Pontiac G6. The value was somewhere near $8 Million! What a wonderful thing to happen for everyone, or was it? 

The truth is it didn’t turn out well for the majority. First thing was many viewers thought Ophra fronted the money out of her wealth and generosity. Many were torn to find General Motors had donated the cars to promote and sell more cars. The additional sales never came and the G6 line was dropped. Not only was the line of G6s dropped but General Motors eventually dropped the Pontiac division. So did anyone come out on top? Yes but only a few.

The audience each received along with the “Free” car a tax bill for as much as $7,000! Many did not have the money for taxes so they had to sell the cars. There was one couple there that coming home with 2 cars was a double nightmare. Their tax bill of nearly $14,000 was overwhelming but they did sell the cars, paid the taxes and had money to pay some debts. Those that could afford the tax bill paid it and looked at the gift as a new car for only $7,000.

It turned out to be a great lesson for everyone. Some years later Ophra teamed up with Volkswagen and gave away a Beetle to each member of the audience but along with it they were gifted cash for paying the taxes. Finally we have a true a free giveaway.

People love to hear the wonderful positive things of life. In this case the only thing most of us remember is an excited Ophra saying, “You get a car, you get a car you get a car, everyone gets a car”. It was an amazing, never been done before, advertising stunt. Most of us don’t want to know the down side of this amazing event but in most cases there is one. It may not be overwhelming enough to erase the positive but it will take some if not all of the bright and shiny off the beautiful gem. So as writers what do we do with the down side. It all depends on what direction you are taking your story.

If you want the “all is well in Camelot” viewpoint you may not want to address it at all. But if you remember most fairy tales have a villain. Usually the ugly underbelly is exposed so the outcome can be achieved against greater odds. Thus a hero is an even greater hero and who doesn’t like that?

Another approach is to have an ongoing battle with the negative forces. They are brought to and remain in the forefront as a constant source of anguish. The hero has a never ending struggle right up to the end and then victory. Be careful as not to overwhelm the reader with the struggle. In their minds it must be challenging but believable and the victory should be doable.

So here is an idea, or exercise. Take a positive event and consider what a possible negative side of it may be. Create the down side for each character and expand on it. Taking their “Free” car euphoria then attaching the reality of $7,000 in taxes can not only create a nose dive in emotions but a world of creative ways to meet the challenge of the down side. 

Even after 12 years the “You Get a Car” saga continues. I am willing to bet the stories do as well. See what you can do and let me know what you come up with.                         

December 14, 2016

Crafting the Perfect Chapter – It’s Elementary, My Dears

By Crystal Caudill

Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom, I taught fifth-grade students to analyze writing. I hadn't given much thought to applying what I taught to my own writing until I substitute taught a fifth-grade reading class. That day, I discovered a crucial concept for every fiction writer.  

Students all over the country are forced to summarize every chapter they read by looking for these key things: Somebody... wants... but... so... then...

We, as writers, need to zero in on every chapter we write to make sure we can answer: Somebody… wants.... but.... so... then...

How do we do this? It's elementary, my dears.  
Someone...Who is the central focus of this chapter? This can be one or two characters if you are splitting your story between points of view, but even if there are multiple points of view, a chapter is generally about one person. Who would students identify as the main character for your chapter? One children’s book has five characters, but only one is the focus of each chapter. 
Wants...This is the goal of the main character for this chapter only. What is it that the character wants to accomplish in this small timeframe? More often than not it is a small goal that builds into something bigger. In the children’s novel George Washington’s Socks, Matt wants to return General Washington’s cape.

But...No story is engaging without conflict, and neither is a chapter. What obstacle does the character face? It can be internal or external in nature, but it needs to be plausible and, if at all possible, unforeseen.  Matt’s challenge comes in the form of a captain who believes Matt is a rebel soldier.

So...This is the reaction to the conflict. What does the character do? What does he/she think? Do they change their goal? That is what Matt does. He goes from wanting to return General Washington’s cape to retreating to the safety of the boat. What about the supporting characters? How do they respond to the conflict, and how does their response affect the main character?

Then...This is where a consequence occurs or an additional problem is added to the plot. There could be a hint to the subplot, or a difficult obstacle the character must face, or it could leave the reader with a cliffhanger. Whichever course you choose, the “then” is used as a hook for the next chapter. Matt’s chapter doesn’t end with him being forced into battle. His “then” is the fatal injury of the only man who can get Matt home.

Somebody… wants… but… so… then… is a quick, easy summary that drives to the heart of a chapter.  Do each of your chapters contain these elements? Could you summarize them in this way? 

Even scarier.... could a fifth-grader?
Crystal Caudill has been writing as a means of survival since she was a child. Story after story lined her private shelves until God did the unthinkable. Called to move beyond her four walls for His glory, Crystal has infiltrated the mysterious world of writers in search of wisdom and truth. Her tactics have included attending the Kentucky Christian Writers and ACFW Conferences; becoming a member of Seekerville, ACFW, Novel.Academy, two critique groups, and a local writing group; and spending countless hours studying top selling authors, writing craft books, websites, and online courses. To pass her a coded message, use one of the following methods:  Morse code is accepted only in the direst of situations.