October 31, 2017

Fear Itself

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

My neighbor goes all out for Halloween. His is the go-to house for trick-or-treaters, not just those from our neighborhood, but from the surrounding ones as well. This photo, taken mid-October, is nothing compared to what his yard becomes on Halloween night.

As in years past, he'll add an impressive walk-through funhouse populated by zombies and other assorted children of the night. A steady flow of kids and parents will line up outside his tarp-covered tunnel hoping for a good scare.

Each Halloween, as the resulting happy shrieks echo through the neighborhood, I once again ponder the appeal of the safe scare. 

Why do we get such pleasure out of being frightened? After all, we have a built-in survival instinct that wants to protect us from any harm.
The simple answer is that there are both physical and psychological feel-good benefits.

As long as we know we are not in any danger, the faux fear factor triggers a rush of chemicals that excite us, making us feel more alive. Margee Kerr, Ph.D. and author of Scream: Chilling Adventure in the Science of Fear, explains that our "fight or flight" mode kicks in during these times, but we are hijacking the flight response and enjoying it.

Or, if you want to get existential, it could be said that "surviving" a haunted house, a Stephen King movie, or a roller coaster ride gives our psyche the sensation of cheating death. At the very least, we can say that we embarked on an adventure, conquered it, and had a happy ending.

If the latter sounds familiar, is that not the essence of story? Our hero begins a quest, fights his way to victory, and survives. We identify with the protagonist and want to see him through to a satisfying resolution so that we can win right alongside him.

Within the safety of a book or screenplay, we relax and enjoy facing our fears. What type of things actually do frighten you? Health scares? Failure? An unexplained sound in the middle of the night? Everyday, true-to-life fears are something everyone feels, and if your hero faces them either as their main struggle or alongside it, readers are able to identify and empathize with your vulnerable champion.

When writing your story, raise the stakes by challenging your hero with whatever he is most fearful of. Igniting the survival instinct with thrills and chills is an effective way to scare up some readers.

October 30, 2017

Changing the Voices

By Becky Villareal

I was finishing up some edits on a children’s book when I read a great piece of advice. Word has a text to speech option. It took me a while to add it by finding the More Commands button and adding Speak to my customized tool bar. But something else happened with that as well. When I listened to my story, I was able to catch errors I would never have otherwise.

I loved being able to hear someone read my story out loud, like a public reading. However, when I began to work on my latest book, the protagonist is a young woman and hearing it read in a male voice grated on my writer’s nerves.

I had to try two different ways to change the sound. One was to go into Windows Settings into Time and Language then into Speech and alter the voice option from Microsoft David Mobile to Microsoft Zira Mobile. That seemed very quick and easy and should have worked.

For some reason, it didn’t. So I had to try it another way. I went into Control Panel to Ease of Access then into Speech Recognition and then to Advanced Speech Options where I was able to change the voice in the Text to Speech tab. Now that worked!

I was so tickled to be able to listen to my protagonist tell her story that it encouraged me to get back to work on my next award winning novel.  :)

Dear writing colleagues, take care and keep writing. Your story matters!
Becky Villareal has been teaching early childhood in Dallas Independent School District. For the past ten years she has been completing family research on her mother’s and father’s families. As an elementary teacher and ten year veteran of genealogy, Becky has been able to enjoy not only working with children but finding out about her family history.She also enjoys a good cup of coffee, a quiet place to write, and a warm purring cat on her lap while she types. Social Media Links: Wordpress: Goodreads: Linkedin: SCBWI: Twitter: Facebook: Google+:  Youtube: Pinterest:

October 27, 2017

Many Sparrows

By Lori Benton

Journeys come in all forms, don’t they? Actual road trips, relationships, careers, birth, adoption, illness, healing, even hobbies. Sometimes we embark on journeys of self-discovery, emotional or spiritual. Often we’re aware of the journey lying before us before we take that first intentional step, though rarely do we have the smallest inkling of all that awaits us around each bend; delights, surprises, joys, disappointments, challenges, triumphs—and at last our destination, though perhaps not the destination we anticipated at the outset.

Getting married at eighteen was an intentional journey (30 years ago tomorrow, as I write this post). Starting my first novel when I was twenty-two was an intentional journey. Moving from the east coast to Oregon with my husband when I was twenty-four was another. Being diagnosed with cancer at thirty, however, wasn’t one of those journeys I’d have chosen to take, yet it proved to be a journey of impact like no other before it.

The type of cancer I had, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, isn’t usually difficult to cure these days. Mine was caught relatively early on and true to doctors’ predictions, after six months of chemo and radiation I was pronounced all clear. And have remained so for nearly nineteen years. All clear. Only… not.

This cancer experience might have been a brief detour in my writing journey save for one side effect to the treatment I never saw coming. Chemo fog, or brain fog. It descended during chemo and didn’t lift for nearly five years. Five years in which, still unpublished but intentional about changing that, I spun my wheels in an ever more dispiriting mess of words that simply wouldn’t come together to do what I was once able to make them do… create a story with a beginning, middle, and end, full of characters living out their own emotional, physical, and spiritual journeys that I would bring—through much trial and challenge of course—to satisfying conclusions. My brain wasn’t able to do the work anymore and trying to force it to do so left me frustrated, exhausted, and bereft, feeling I’d lost a vital part of myself.

Until I came at last to a point of surrender. My will for God’s will—for I believe He’s the one in control of all that concerns me. I stopped trying to write. I took up other forms of creativity. I allowed myself to play. I found patience with my limitations. And gradually, with time, that fog did lift and I wrote another book and it became my first published novel.

Maintaining hope in a season of waiting is a theme in my latest release from WaterBrook Press, Many Sparrows, one that obviously still resonates with me so many years past that difficult journey of waiting through chemo fog. You’d think I’d have learned well not to fret in such seasons, but so often I need to be reminded of what I already know. That sometimes the hardest journey to take is one of standing still, but that’s no less a journey than one in which every step is laid out before us and we are free to step along lively.

And then there are those journeys we don’t even recognize until we’re some distance down the road. About a year ago I embarked on such a one. Before I began writing that first novel at twenty-two, I’d had a lifelong passion for painting and drawing. I attended art college for two years and had even begun a career as a wildlife painter. Then the writing bug bit.

The life of a published writer is, I’ve since found, far more demanding creatively than painting ever was. After a few published novels I found myself hovering dangerously close to burn out. About that time, through a friend with a passion for landscape photography, I discovered Instagram and the many photographers sharing their work through that venue. I had a little Kodak Easy Share camera gathering dust and had just purchased my first smart phone. I thought, “I can do this!”

Thus began that unexpected journey. Along the way I’ve discovered things about myself and rediscovered others. I have a sense of adventure. I’m not afraid to hike new trails alone. I live in the Pacific Northwest, an area that is proving inexhaustible in its beauty. But I think the greatest and most unexpected blessing has come in learning to edit my photos after the joy of exploring and taking them; that young artist I used to be has woken up. I’m painting again, just with pixels instead of paint.

Where will this photo journey lead me? I don’t yet know but sense it’s leading somewhere. And that’s part of the thrill of journeys. The unknown. But don’t you want to go just a little farther, see what lies around the next bend?

I wish you joy in your journeys, wherever they may lead!
Lori Benton’s novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards; The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn;Christy nominated The Wood’s Edge; its sequel, A Flight of Arrows; and her latest release, Many Sparrows. Her Social Media Links are Website  Twitter

October 26, 2017

John Grisham Knows How to Release a Book

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Well of course he does, you think as you read the title. Wait...just hear me out. I know what's going through your mind, right now. You're saying, “Annette, John Grisham he has Doubleday and Penguin Random House behind him." Sure, so what? 

Pay attention, y'all. Mimic the release of a seasoned author and see what you could do for your own books. Remember, John Grisham had a first book. It released before the age of the Internet and the existence of the social media venues at our disposal, today. Rejected by dozens of publishers, Wynwood Press (a tiny and now defunct publishing house) bought the manuscript and printed 5,000 books. 1,000 of which Grisham bought and drove on a southern book selling tour that he scheduled for himself. Sound familiar? Grisham said in interviews that he gave away his first book, A Time to Kill, to clients. He sold them out of the trunk of his car and used them as door stops. That was 1987. Now, fast forward to 2017. 

John Grisham has brilliantly layered his exposure for the successful release of his 25th legal thriller. Here are some unique ideas he is using to entice readers. On his website you can read the first four chapters of his new book, The Rooster Bar. It's intriguing from the start. The story shines a light on the incredible amounts of student loan debt that for-profit law schools encourage their students to take out to pay the FP law school. These loans are owned by the very banks who, through various corporations, own eight for-profit law schools. The story spins from there in the voice only, John Grisham can write.  

Grisham is doing a panel presentation in seven cities with various authors. He comes to River City (Memphis) tonight. The event is billed as "An Evening with John Grisham with special guest Memphis author, Hampton Sides." There will be a moderator with an exchange between the authors about their writing techniques and time for a questions and answers from the audience. Hampton Sides writes primarily non-fiction. It's a nice balance of fiction versus non-fiction authors. It will be an interesting perspective. It is not a book signing event. A purchased ticket includes a signed copy of his book The Rooster Bar. This is to be an evening to get to know the authors. The event in Memphis sold out quickly. Don't worry the event is being recorded and will be available via Podcast just like his latest non legal thriller, Camino Island similar book tour events. 

You can do this, too. With technology on smart phones, you can record a book signing, but maybe you could include other local authors to your event and have a panel discussion that would introduce you to readers who could find you from the Podcast you create. You can find many examples of how to create a Podcast on YouTube and the internet. Grisham also has video updates that appear on his Amazon author page.

The day before his book release, he was on Facebook Live being interviewed at a specific time.  Of course, he pre-advertised on FaceBook that he would be doing a Live event. Questions streamed live and were asked of Grisham. Look at the setting, it would be easy to replicate. A table, the author, a computer with another person working the computer asking the questions is all you need. The backdrop was a bookshelf with books organized by color of books. Grisham's book was the only visible book in the center between the two men at the table. An easy fix would be to reverse all the books in your own bookcase as the background so only white pages showed except, of course, for your book. A friend could moderate on the computer the streaming questions from Facebook, and you could have a list of questions to answer in the event you need them. 

Prior to all that Grisham is doing the week of his book release, he did pre-release offers on Facebook. He gave away 10 galley copies of his book, prior to its release. He timed that for the first week in October with his book releasing on October 24. 

I picked up my signed copies on the release date at Burke's Book Store in Memphis and was delighted to see a marketing giveaway that came with the book purchase. It was unique and a direct tie to the book title. 

What was it? No, not a bookmark but I'll use mine as one. The name of the book is The Rooster Bar. Any guesses? It's a bar coaster. Well done, John Grisham. Don't you just love it? 

Does this give you some ideas for promoting your books?

October 25, 2017

Snagging and Keeping Your Readers’ Attention

By Blanche Day Manos

In the vast ocean of books, what will make your book special, snag the reader’s attention, and cause her to read past that first line? It’s the opening sentence, surely. Start out with a bang that causes your readers to want to know more.

Each chapter in my books is a scene with an opening, a middle point, and an ending; however, the chapters end in such a way as to make the next chapter imperative, all the way through the book until the ending. And even then, hopefully, the story was so intriguing that the reader feels she wants to read the next book, and the next.

Writing is a time consuming, emotional process. Compensation comes in knowing I have done my best to bring the reader into a world of my own creating, in getting the reader to see, feel, and hear the things the protagonist sees, feels, and hears. The only way I know to do this is to be that person who lives within the pages of my book, even when she takes a nose dive in her car, down one of the steepest, most dangerous hills in Ventris County, or finds a dead body on top of a brush pile in Goshen Cemetery, or speeds across a flooded bridge with a killer close behind.

Darcy Campbell and her Mother Flora Tucker, who inhabit the four mysteries in my first series, and Ned McNeil, heroine of the Moonlight series, get into some perilous situations and it’s up to me to get them out. That is never easy, but that’s what makes the story interesting.

My cozy mysteries are all written first person. I stay inside the head of Darcy Campbell in the mother/daughter sleuth series and Ned McNeil in the moonlight series. The reader looks at all that’s happening only through the eyes of these women.

I use dialogue a lot in telling the story. It is always more fun to listen in on conversations between two or more people, rather than just telling the reader what is happening. Even when Darcy is alone, she sometimes talks to herself and Ned can be heard quite often confiding in her cat Penny.

Colorful verbs help keep interest high. “I trotted to Daisy’s side and dropped to my knees.”

grabbed one of my boots, scrambled to my feet, and let fly.”

Sometimes just the right word plays hard to get and tries to elude me. But, finding it is worth the hunt.

More satisfying than the monetary reward of writing is the knowledge that I’ve told a story to the best of my ability. I’ve opened with a bang, ended each chapter with a lead-in to the next, used vibrant action verbs, and tied up all the loose ends by the time the book finishes. I like my protagonists even if they do lead me into some strange and dangerous situations. I want cozy mystery readers to know and like them too.
Blanche Day Manos is the author of the Darcy and Flora series about a mother and daughter sleuth team: The Cemetery Club, Grave Shift, Best Left Buried, and Grave Heritage. She also writes the Ned McNeil mysteries, following courageous heroine Nettie Elizabeth (Ned) McNeil through breath-taking scenes in Moonlight Can Be Murder and By the Fright of the Silvery Moon.  Blanche has been writing mysteries since she was big enough to hold a pencil. In addition to her cozy novels, she has been published in children’s magazines, educational magazines, and Christian periodicals. She welcomes visitors to her daily blog site. Her “Mysteries with an extra shiver” are cozies, but not the kind you might want to read at night when you are alone or need a good night’s sleep. Each book has many shivers, cover to cover. A native Oklahoman and retired teacher, Blanche now lives in bustling and energetic Northwest Arkansas. Her mysteries are set in the small towns she knows so well. You can find out more about Blanche at her website, where she writes a daily blog, on, and

October 24, 2017

Reading to Write

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

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. One of the early influences in her life was the Bookmobile.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it was a mobile library. A vehicle was designed to be used as a library, and held shelves with books and drove to areas that didn’t have a branch library and parked so readers could access the vehicle and check out books.

I feel very fortunate, that I only lived three to four blocks from the library, so I could walk there as a child, which I did every week. I would get five books the first of the week, and when I read those, then I would take them back, and get five more. Why five, that is all they would let you check out at one time. I did this all summer. I loved reading.

To me, writers must be readers. How else will we learn to write what we want to write.
Reading books on how to write is good, education courses in writing is good. But, reading the kind of books you want to write, is an education all to itself.

Barbara Kingsolver said, “I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I’d written. I still do. I limit my exposure to the type of stuff I don’t want to write, and oh boy is the world ever loaded with that, mostly waiting behind some form of “on-off” switch. I’m enough of a biologist to know that whatever comes in will, in some form, come back out.”

Now, let me see, what books do I wish I had written? 

Barbara Kingsolver wrote The Poisonwood Bible, a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry everything they believe they’ll need but soon find all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”

October 23, 2017

Resonance in Writing Fiction, Part Two

By Grace Greene

This is the second part of my two-part post about resonance in writing and how it impacts both writer and reader. I hope you enjoyed the first part! Here’s the rest:

The day that Hannah Cooper (from THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES) showed up in my writing room, and I watched her throwing a pot on that well-used potter's wheel, suddenly, I was flooded with the memory of how that soft clay felt in my hands many years ago when I visited the pottery studio in Kentucky, and even before that in the art room in high school. I relived my own hands wedging the clay, centering it, shaping it with the wheel spinning and the clay resisting until the clay body yielded to the pressure of my fingers and began changing in cooperation with them. I remembered the satisfaction—the wholeness of it as a process from unformed clay to final glazed and fired creation.

As I thought about Hannah and what her life experience had been, I also remembered those winter nights in Kentucky where, after cleaning up the clay, the tools, the wheel, I’d gone out into the freezing night to return home. My hands, tender from those hours of shaping wet clay and washing up in soapy water, would crack and bleed during the short walk to my car. Before going to bed, I would cover my hands with Nivea cream and don yellow rubber gloves. I slept wearing those gloves so that my cracked and bleeding flesh would heal quickly and I could get back to working the clay.

While writing Hannah’s story, I remembered the clay and my hands working it, shaping it. I saw my hands, but I also saw Hannah’s hands. Her fingers were longer and slenderer than mine, and her nails were shorter. Even now, I feel the rhythm of that wheel at work, turning and turning, and I hear Hannah humming softly, lost in the act of creation, in tune with the song of the turning wheel. So, I heard Hannah’s voice and I wrote the story of her early life in Cooper’s Hollow, and of her returning there as an adult. There were difficult parts and lots of painful editing, but it felt like a privilege. In many ways, Hannah Cooper’s story resonated with me and I had no choice but to write it, and to gift some of my own memories to her story. When you read THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES you’ll recognize some of the story elements I’ve mentioned above.

My story. Hannah’s story. Different people, different storiesone real and one totally fictional—and I chased that resonance to the end until the book was finished. For the reader, the intersection of the finished book with their own real-life experiences completes the resonant journey. It is as if I have passed a dream or a memory—or perhaps even a small, newly-created world—to someone else via that story.

Story elements with the potential to resonate are almost limitless because it depends upon who’s doing the reading and the writing. Working with clay is one example of what resonated with me as the author writing this book, and I hope it will connect with some readers. Other elements in Hannah Cooper’s story—elements and details that may not have seemed especially important to me at the time I wrote Hannah’s story—may resonate more strongly with other readers. That’s why it’s all important—all the details and elements of our lives and our stories that resonate between us and connect us.

Happy reading and happy resonance!
Grace Greene writes women's fiction and contemporary romance with suspense. A Virginia native, Grace has family ties to North Carolina. She writes books set in both locations. Please visit Grace at and sign up for her newsletter there.The Emerald Isle books, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS, are set in North Carolina where "It's always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach." Or travel down Virginia Country Roads in KINCAID'S HOPE, A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER, and CUB CREEK and "Take a trip to love, mystery and suspense. Her most recent release is THE HAPPINESS IN BETWEEN and her next will be THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES was release on 9/5/17 BEACH RENTAL, her debut novel, won the Booksellers Best contest in both the Traditional and Best First Book categories. BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS were each awarded 4.5 stars, Top Pick by RT Book Reviews magazine.
Grace lives in central Virginia. Her Social Media links are: Website  Twitter  Facebook

October 20, 2017

Resonance in Writing Fiction, Part One

By Grace Greene

My recent release, THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES, resonated with me in many ways, and more strongly than my prior novels. Writing it was an amazing experience and I wanted to share my thoughts about it—lots of thoughts—thus I’m sharing them in this two-part post, and I hope some of them will resonate with you.

Resonance? What is it? For story lovers, whether as a reader or writer, resonance happens when something of shared significance or mutual interest connects a story and a reader (or writer) and evokes strong emotion or other internal responses. Because humans have many common experiences some story details or elements are more likely to evoke resonance, but resonance is often accidental or unpredictable.

What draws a reader into a story and keeps them reading despite life’s demands and distractions? Something in the story resonates with them, causing them to invest themselves in it and read to the end, perhaps lingering over it for a while after the last page is turned.

For the author, what compels them to continue crafting a story regardless of the angst and obstacles inherent in the writing process? Again, I think resonance must be part of the answer.
I was an artist. In middle school and high school, I spent every study hall and free period in the art classroom. I double-majored in studio art and art history in college. I liked to draw in pencil and paint in oils, and each piece of artwork felt like a story—almost a small world I’d created even though it was constrained by a flat surface. I worked in three dimensions, too, in clay, both on the wheel and in hand-sculpting, but after I left school working with clay became difficult because it was hard to get access to a potter’s wheel and a kiln.

Many years ago, my husband and I lived in Louisville, Kentucky. Our children were toddlers at that time. I was fortunate our home was near a pottery studio where I could buy clay, rent time on a wheel, and pay to have the clay works fired in their kiln. I did this in the evenings while my husband stayed home with the children. It was glorious. But we moved a lot. Before long, we left Kentucky for somewhere else and during a subsequent move most of the pots and other clay works I’d created there were shattered by a careless packer.

Fast forward a decade or two to when I stopped painting and started writing, and then jump ahead a few years more to the day, over a year ago, when the words for THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES started flowing. Hannah Cooper showed up at my desk that day. [Yes, she’s fictional, but she showed up nonetheless.] I wondered where she lived and how she lived. Who were her people? What did she care about? I heard her story and the beginnings of her voice. But she needed something concrete to show the core truth of who she was—a creator, a caretaker, yet a loner. That’s when I saw her bending over a battered potter’s wheel in an old cabin—the same cabin on Cub Creek where her female line had been creating pottery for generations. She was throwing a pot on the wheel that her grandfather had given her as a teenager. As she leaned over her work, her long, dark blond hair cascaded forward and across her arms. I watched every movement, but her focus was so great I felt invisible.  [To be continued on Monday, October 23, 2017]

Grace Greene writes women's fiction and contemporary romance with suspense. A Virginia native, Grace has family ties to North Carolina. She writes books set in both locations. Please visit Grace at and sign up for her newsletter there.The Emerald Isle books, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS, are set in North Carolina where "It's always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach." Or travel down Virginia Country Roads in KINCAID'S HOPE, A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER, and CUB CREEK and "Take a trip to love, mystery and suspense. Her most recent release is THE HAPPINESS IN BETWEEN and her next will be THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES was released on 9/5/17 BEACH RENTAL, her debut novel, won the Booksellers Best contest in both the Traditional and Best First Book categories. BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS were each awarded 4.5 stars, Top Pick by RT Book Reviews magazine. Grace lives in central Virginia. Her Social Media links are: Website  Twitter  Facebook

October 19, 2017

The Sin of the Desert and Book Sales

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

As we all know book sales are controlled by a relatively small number of book stores.  Sales figures are noted by an even smaller number of booksellers and the large retail stores like Target, Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club are not considered. You can be successful as an author and not have a New York Times best seller but the title alone does propel your career. So getting your book in a store isn’t always easy. This was noted by several authors and a solution was presented.

Just as Southern Writers Magazine is for Authors by Authors, there now are bookstores owned by authors for authors. Several successful authors have opened bookstores for the sale of their books and books they like by fellow authors, local authors and others. Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, Commonwealth, State of Wonder, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, The Magician’s Assistant and more owns along with her business partner Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books in Nashville TN.

Ann and Karen realized that at one time there were over 3,000 independent bookstores. Their numbers dwindled to 1650 but thanks to owners like Patchett and Hayes their numbers have increased to 2300. Even with this increase Amazon controls ½ of all book sales. Only books with backing from the big publishers, big agents and authors that have sold millions are moved through Amazon. Knowing this Patchett and Hayes has opened her door to promote local authors, all authors and other independent bookstores. 

There is a law in business known as the “Sin of the Desert” which states if you are in the desert, know where the water is but don’t tell others, that is a sin. These owners and others are sharing with other independent bookstores just as Southern Writers Magazine connects authors with authors. Other authors with independent book stores and more joining their ranks every day are Judy Bloom, Garrison Keillor and Jeff Kinney.

Hopefully, we all will support them and their efforts for an opportunity to return to what we all loved, our local independent bookstore.  Have you visited an author owned bookstore?           

October 18, 2017

Looking for Jamie Fraser

By Marilyn Baron

My daughter and I went on a TAUCK tour, labeled A Week in Scotland, this past summer. I was already in love with Jamie Fraser, hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Then I fell in love with Scotland. My daughter was interested in seeing the country. I was looking for Jamie Fraser. After talking with many of the women on the tour, from millennials to women of a certain age, it turns out we were all after the same thing. Jamie Fraser.

Did we really think we would find him? Yes, I think we did. When I suggested to my traveling companions that, maybe we would see Claire, they said, “Who cares?”

I came closest to a sighting three times.

Once, in Inverness, gateway to the Highlands, when I tried to go through the stones at the ancient burial site at Clava Cairns. I placed my hands on a center stone and hoped to be whisked away. But, alas, I had left my good jewelry at home and anyone who’s read Outlander knows you can’t travel through time without a jewel. What made me think I could do it? Maybe the visit to Glenturret Distillery the day before where we had lunch and a whisky tasting. 

Second, at Culloden House, a majestic Palladian mansion, where we tasted Highland hospitality with Afternoon Tea, a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly homemade scones served with whipped cream & jam, macaroons, Chocolate Tiffin, a selection of pastries,  Ham & Cheese Panier and a Provençale Tart. Originally a Jacobean Castle, where in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie requisitioned the building as his headquarters prior to the tragic battle of 1746 that divided families and clans. It is now a hotel. I asked the receptionist if she’d ever seen Diana Gabaldon and she said, yes, that the author stays in one of the 28 charming bedrooms when she’s in town and as a matter of fact, had just been there two weeks before we arrived. Missed her by that much!

And the author’s (and Jamie’s) presence was everywhere when we visited the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre. Diana Gabaldon had an impressive display in the gift shop. I bought my daughter a copy of Outlander to try to get her hooked on the series. 

Third, a young French man, who was traveling with his mother and aunt on the tour, was so enthralled with Scottish tradition, he turned into a highlander, literally, complete with kilt and bagpipes. I have a picture of him with my daughter. He’s not Jamie, but he would do in a pinch.

Though I tried everything—I even ate haggis—alas, I never saw Jamie.

I have written historical fiction and I plan to set my next book in Scotland because of the natural beauty and allure of the place, probably on peaceful Loch Lomond, inspired by its breathtaking views from my window at Cameron House, where the sun never seemed to set.

My hat is off to any author, like Diana Gabaldon, who can create a character as memorable as Jamie. Such an author can build worlds in a trendsetting genre and make a fictional character come alive.

That’s my goal and I imagine the goal of many writers. So, we plod on, at our computers, doing our research, making our magic. And maybe one day, we will find Jamie, in one of our own characters or people will travel to distant lands in search of the character of our own creation.
Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres, from humorous coming-of-middle age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel With Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal//Fantasy Romance and most recently was The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones. Her latest novel, The Alibi, a romantic suspense, is her 13th novel with The Wild Rose Press (her 21st work of fiction), and was released September 13, 2017. She’s published five humorous, paranormal short stories with TWB Press and self-published two books and a musical with her sister, Sharon Goldman. AmazonEncore republished her book Sixth Sense in September 2015. She serves on the Roswell Reads Steering Committee and was selected as a featured author in the 2015 and 2016 Atlanta Authors Series. She’s a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and winner of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. Marilyn graduated with a BS in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. She worked in Public Relations for AT&T in Atlanta for 13 years before starting her own PR firm. To find out more about Marilyn’s books, please visit her Web site at Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads: and Amazon Author Page.                                  

October 17, 2017

What's Your Type?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One font meets another font in Rome. He asks, "Are you a Roman too?"
"No," says the other, "but I am an Italic."

If that joke made sense to you, you've come to the right place. You're a font-savvy writer who probably pays attention to the typeface you use, and you prefer some over others.  You don't have to have a font obsession like TV's Brick Heck (The Middle) to recognize that some typestyles work better than others, and a lot depends on the project.

For most of our writing, the default fonts do the trick just fine. Arial or Times New Roman are familiar friends and easy on the eyes.  But there are times when you want something that isn't so ordinary, say, for a book cover or an author website.

For the sake of simplicity, let's narrow down all fonts to one of three types: Serif, Sans Serif, and Decorative

Serif fonts like Times New Roman contain hooks, feet and other embellishments. Studies have shown that Serif is the easiest type of font to read, which is why almost every book from the beginning of time has used it. This classic font is ideal for long stretches of copy.

Sans Serif, minus all the ornamentation, is simpler, and some consider it a bit more modern. It has a clean look that advertisers and signage of all kinds have relied on for decades. The Sans Serif font Helvetica is so popular that it was the subject of a 2007 documentary.

Decorative fonts have personality and, used sparingly, are good at establishing a mood. They are only used for titles and headlines, never for body text. A little goes a long way, and if there is too much of it, the eye fatigues quickly.

A look at the covers on this week's New York Times Best Sellers list shows no preference for either Serif or Sans Serif fonts. Both are used almost equally for titles and author identification.  Decorative fonts are much rarer, appearing less than 10% of the time. In almost every case, the background or foreground art gets center stage, while the text is merely complementary.

These two book covers are quick examples of how font choice can make or break a design. The tasteful one on the left can be read even from a distance using bold text and good color contrast, and its tall font is a good match for the tall shape of a book. You could say it hits the bulls-eye.

Where do I begin with the one on the right? First of all, it's a decorative font that wasn't designed to be in all caps, nor do the two ornate fonts play nice together on the same cover. Along with leaving hardly any border on one side, the font is barely discernable against the busy background.

In the end, it's all about communication.  Feel free to experiment with style to get attention, but only take it as far as you need to.  You'll never want to sacrifice clarity for creativity.

October 16, 2017


By Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

I was associated with traditional publishers since 2010 when my first novel, Code Blue, was released. I’d had a good relationship with them, but—like many other authors—the contracts I was given were for a limited number of books each time. There was no lifetime guarantee, but with all the awards and honors my writing received, I wasn’t worried. But perhaps I should have been.

I’d signed (after a long period of nail-biting) with a new publishing house run by experienced and respected people. We were all excited about it, but when my publication date was pushed back a couple of times I began to worry a bit. That unease was validated when I received news from the publisher that there were problems with their financing. My agent negotiated a reversion of rights for the novel the publisher held, but where did I go from here? After several other publishers declined to give me an offer, I reached the conclusion I’d been avoiding: I’d go with self-publication.

Actually, I’d dipped my toe—er, my pen—into these waters earlier, publishing three novellas using agent-assisted publication. And for this novel I used the lessons I’d learned. For the novellas, as well as the novel I was about to release, I made certain that the cover design was a good one. How? I didn’t try to do it myself, but paid a professional. The same with editing, even though I’d read all the books on self-editing and gone through the manuscript several times. Another pair of eyes, especially a good one, never hurt. And, because I was still new at this “indie” thing, I turned to agent-assisted publication for this endeavor.

The agency furnished a coordinator (one with whom I’d worked on publication of my novellas), and she helped walk me through the process. She assisted in pricing the book. She answered my questions and even had some suggestions along the way. And I tried to learn from the experience.

I didn’t have a publisher’s marketing department behind me, but every author will agree that the best way to advertise is to write good books and have readers look forward to your next one. I lined up a few blog appearances, recruited a dozen or so people to help get the word out after I sent them a print copy of the book, and let things take their course. So far, the results have been good.

Would I use a traditional publisher in the future if I am offered a contract, or am I an “indie” (actually a hybrid) author for the foreseeable future? Only time will tell. But this experience has shown me yet another means of getting my novels to readers. And for that I am grateful.
Richard L. Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mysteries with heart.” He is the author of one non-fiction book (TheTender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse), three novellas, and eleven published novels, the latest of which is Cardiac EventHis novels have been a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel, finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, as well as winner of the Selah Award and the 2017 Christian Retailers Best.

October 13, 2017

When a Plot Comes Together … or Follow That Character!

I’m an outliner or planster, really.  I have to know where I’m headed or I stall out. Then as I write the scene, I let the characters take over. Occasionally—okay often they highjack my plan and take off in another direction. It usually works, but today something happened that took me by surprise.

My main character suddenly decided to follow a minor character into a cafĂ©. There, a conversation led to a surprise announcement. Actually, it surprised both of us. I wondered for a bit whether I could actually keep this. Was I letting her off the hook for conflict? Making it too easy for her? Then I remembered a coming plot point … the black moment and this fit into the lead up to that perfectly. Wow.

Then the next conversation she has needed a bit of action around it, so they weren’t talking heads. That action led to a new plot point that fit. Her earlier conversation and its announcement played into this new one so perfectly, it was as if I’d planned it. Wow again.

That’s when I saw how this new direction would bring about another plot point that need to happen, one I hadn’t yet known how to make natural and not contrived. This new direction fits in so perfectly, it’s almost as if it had been meticulously plotted. Amazing.

If this keeps up, I may have to put my characters’ names down as co-authors.

But if I’ve learned one thing over the course of writing 10 novels, it’s to follow your characters. The outline can always bring them back in line if it doesn’t work, but more often than not, it works because it’s organic to the character.
While a floppy straw hat is her favorite, award-winning author Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), CEO of a Community Theatre, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find her on her AneMulligan  @AneMulligan website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.