October 31, 2018

Co-Writing a Book

By Cindy Woodsmall 

Michelangelo said, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

While my skills are nothing like his, I can relate to what he meant.

Stories inside a writer’s mind and heart flow easily and are a lot of fun to ponder, but carving a work onto the written page that is free of anything that isn’t “the angel” is hard work, and we, as writers, have to figure out what we must do to free that story.

I had been pondering the story idea that’s now called As the Tide Comes In for many years before my daughter-in-law Erin and I finally met at a coffee shop to begin hammering out the outline.

I’d given the story a working title of Soft Dusks and Noonday Fire, which was inspired by a poem called The Marshes of Glynn, written in 1879 by Sydney Lanier.

I shared with Erin what I knew of the characters and what I was looking for in a setting—a small Southern town with a culture all its own and people to match.  

Her eyes lit up as she asked—have you considered Brunswick, where the poem was written or its neighbor, St. Simon’s Island?

I had thought of numerous small towns in Georgia that were connected to Sydney Lanier, but I hadn’t considered a setting that far south. We discussed my story ideas and all that St. Simon’s had to offer. She knew the island well. Her parents had grown up in Brunswick, and she had spent her summers as a child exploring St. Simon’s Island.

Despite all she knew of it and the interviews she could line up with people who’d lived there all of their lives, I knew I couldn’t write a story based on a place I hadn’t been. I needed to breathe in the air, listen to the myriad of sounds, and live a few days where my characters would.

Erin had a solution for that—let’s go there next month!

It would take time and money and effort…but we began making plans to go.  

When I went home from the coffee shop, I began an online search for a home to rent on St. Simons. While I scoured the pages, story ideas and excitement for the novel began to build. I made a reservation and began writing on the story. But nothing I wrote worked for me, but I kept trying. I find it odd that as much as the story works inside my head, getting the right beginning for it can take numerous rounds of writing the first several chapters and chucking them. Rinse. Repeat.  

Soon we were on the island, and we spent a week in a lovely old home that was incredibly inspirational. Oh, how I long to share its unique beauty with you.

I had to chuck every word I’d written thus far and start fresh…because being on the island and staying in that intriguing old home had stirred my imagination in ways I hadn’t expected.   

By the time our week was up and we were packing to return home, I knew we had all the tools we needed to carve the angel out of the marble.

Without seeing the place firsthand and without the wonderful interviews with those who lived on the island, I couldn’t have seen the angel in the marble to even try to carve him free.

What do you need to do to see the angel in the marble and find the tools to set him free?  
Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of twenty-two works of fiction. She’s best known for her Amish novels. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at  Cindy’s co-author, Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of the three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She has family roots in the Golden Isles of Georgia, and spent time every summer of childhood on St. Simons Island.

October 30, 2018

10 Weeks of Holiday Book Sales

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

The next 10 weeks of the Holiday Season is as important to book sales as it is to any retail product. People buy books during the Holidays for themselves and for gifts. A large percentage of annual book sales are sold during the Holidays and writers need to be on top of the season and top of this sales opportunity. So where do we start?

Start Today with a Social Media Blitz – Those following you on social media are already fans, readers and followers. They know you and your works and will be receptive to your Holiday push. Start with putting them in the Holiday Spirit. Many people look forward to the season and will welcome your recognition of their favorite time of the year. This lets them know you too are on board with the Holiday Cheer. Prepare to present them with a daily contact for the next 10 weeks. This may sound like over kill but each message will be different.

Begin with the thought of Giving – Help them with their search of those needed gifts for family and friends. Make suggestions of your book or books as that perfect gift. Keep this in front of them daily beginning now. Remind them of how much they enjoyed your book and they would want to share that with others.

Giveaways- Early on begin giving away a book a day. Have them enter for the drawing with their name and email address. Then notify them and thank them for their interest and inform them if they won. When you notify them tell them, if they are not opposed, you would like to add their name to your contact list and notify them of future giveaways. You may also offer them a discount should they want to buy the book. You now have an additional contact to reach out to with each promotion. These can be daily, first come, first three contacts etc. Mix it up and keep their interest.    

Change your approach as we near Black Friday / Cyber Monday – As we near Black Friday November 23rd and Cyber Monday November 26th we need to step up our approach just as retailers do. Begin various promotions to draw interest and sales.

Discounts- Expectation of discounts are a given this time of year. Some are waiting for this which tells them now is the time to buy.

BOGO- Buy one get one. One for yourself and one to give as a gift. Or you could offer buy one title get a second title free. There are various methods to use find one you are comfortable with or mix them up.

Cyber Monday – Now is the time to discount your eBook. Expectations dictate this with your readers/customers.

Hanukkah (Dec 2-10) - Have a promo each day of Hanukkah. A book giveaway or if you have 8 books give a different one away each day.

Christmas – Last minute gift giving is the approach going into Christmas. Sell that sense of urgency and offer a solution. After Christmas their gift cards may be used for additional book purchases. His could be a book they did not receive or discovered at gift giving time.

New Years – Have you made you New Year’s resolution to read more? Gear your promotion towards that.

With your due diligence by the end of these 10 weeks you should have made sales and picked up additional contacts for your email, newsletters, blogs and social media. Use all of these to announce each promotion as you go through the 10 weeks. If you need additional ideas just look to your local retailer and shadow them. They are experts at this!

Happy Holidays and many sales during the Holidays!


October 29, 2018

Grow a Network - Part 2 How To Market Your New Book

By Chip R. Bell

Your network includes people who will not only buy your book but recommend it to friends.  So, how do you grow a network?  Do book readings.  Get on local media.  Get on social media networks.  Reach out to others to invite them to join you on these networks.  Send out content to your followers regularly.  Some authors, for example, send out tweets several times a day.  There are programs that enable you to plan scores of tweets (now up to 280 characters each) and blogs in advance, programming them to appear precisely when you elect.  Add a ClickToTweet link to your blog posts to make it easy for others to share it.  Set up your own YouTube channel and post short videos about your book. 

Help other authors be successful.  When you get a tweet, retweet it to your network.  When you read a blog that you like, send it to your followers.  By growing your following, you are in a position to borrow other’s network by asking them to post a guest blog on their website.  Remember Emerson!  Give away books, especially to those who can promote, review, or encourage others to purchase your new book. 

Young Al Hopkins watched his friends every summer set up a lemonade stand on a street corner in his hometown and wait for a passerby to make a sale.  He decided there was a better way.  On Friday afternoon, he delivered to every house in town a flyer promising “amazing blue lemonade coming to your door on Saturday.”  Saturday morning, he loaded up his red wagon with blue-colored lemonade his mom helped him make and went door-to-door knocking on doors.  He made enough money that summer to buy a Schwinn bicycle with a light and a bell.  Make your book unique and take it “on the road” instead of waiting on a street corner hoping for a sale!
Chip R. Bell is the author of nine national and international best-selling books that have won numerous book awards.  His newest book is Book Mark:  How to Be an Author available through the Georgia Writers Museum (  He can be reached at

October 26, 2018

How to Market Your New Book-Part One

By Chip R. Bell

Ralph Waldo Emerson was wrong!  Now, before we get in hot water with teachers of American literature, let’s set the record straight.  Ralph was often misquoted.  He never mentioned anything about a better mousetrap.  What he said was, “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”  Emerson was still dead wrong!

In Emerson’s day, people’s lives revolved largely around a village.  Everyone pretty much knew everyone within miles.  Gossip started at the blacksmith shop could easily reach the ears of about everyone within a day.  Today, no matter how great your book happens to be, if your marketplace does not know about it, not even a few people will beat a path to your door.  You must become a perpetual, hard-working marketer of your new book. 
Today, book selling starts with the Internet and social media.

Create a Buzz

Marketing your new book begins long before you finish writing it.  It starts with clearly identifying the main folks likely to be interested in your book topic.  Think about what your target audience reads, what websites they visit, and the people they are likely to know.  Brainstorm ways to get your book (or excerpts from your book) in front of them.  Pull out short teaser chapters and find ways to place them in newspapers, magazines, or blog sites likely read by your audience. 

Speak at conferences attended by your audience as well as before their civic and church groups.  Always use a handout that includes information about and/or from your new book.  Make certain your teasers have the words, “Adapted from the forthcoming book…” at the end.  If you have a business card, put a photo of the book cover on the back. 

Build a Platform

A platform tells your audience who you are and what you are about.   And, your book is obviously a part of that platform.  Your platform might include a website where book buyers can learn about your book, perhaps even order a copy.  Write a regular blog for your website which gives readers a reason to come back.  Make sure your name at the end of all your emails mentions your website address and information about your book.  Make sure your contact information is at the end of your book. 

Consider getting a memorable email address (called a vanity URL) instead of a Gmail or Yahoo domain address. is not a promotional email address.  However, carries a totally different message.  Once you have your own domain, you can build an inexpensive website.  Drive traffic to your website by including it with everything you make public. Create a short newsletter that goes to your email list. 

To be continued on Monday with Growing a Network…
Chip R. Bell is the author of nine national and international best-selling books that have won numerous book awards.  His newest book is Book Mark:  How to Be an Author available through the Georgia Writers Museum (  He can be reached at

October 25, 2018

From Inner Speech to Memorable Characters

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Oliver Sacks, M.D. was a physician, a best-selling author, and a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. The New York Times has referred to him as “the poet laureate of medicine.”
He is best known for his collections of neurological case histories, including The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain and An Anthropologist on Mars. Awakenings, his book about a group of patients who had survived the great encephalitis lethargica epidemic of the early twentieth century, inspired the 1990 Academy Award-nominated feature film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. Dr. Sacks was a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.“

Dr. Sacks had this to say about, “the act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place—irrespective of my subject—where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day. Over a lifetime, I have written millions of words, but the act of writing seems as fresh, and as much fun, as when I started it nearly seventy years ago.” Dr Sacks also said, “dialogue launches language, the mind, but once it is launched we develop a new power, “inner speech,” and it is this that is indispensable for our further development.” Although Sacks was speaking about individuals, I think, as authors, it certainly applies to the characters we create.

Are you absorbed in the act of writing? Do you lose track of time because you are immersed in putting your words to paper?

If you said “yes,” then you are like me. The stories in your head compel you to get your words on paper. The characters you create have conversations in your inner-speak, and it’s up to you to get the dialogue written down to tell the story we are creating for our readers. This inner speech is an author’s greatest gift for creating characters that live through generations of readers.

Book Editors says, “Character development begins with voice. By understanding what someone says to themselves and how they choose to verbalize their internal dialogue, you can create a realistic and dependable character.”

How has your inner speech helped you write?

October 24, 2018

Who’ll Get a Voice?

By Mary Albers Felkins

No, that’s not the author version of The Voice. Or maybe it is.

I’m at a pivotal point in the first draft of a jilted bride novella and have wrestled with a weighty - and familiar - writer decision: Through whose point of view should this particular scene be written? Who will take center stage? Who gets to speak?

In the past, I’d simply ping back and forth pretty equally between the heroine and hero in my romance stories.

You know, she speaks, then he speaks. Back to her. Or maybe I’d let the hero have a voice in the next scene before crawling back into heroine’s skin to give her a voice.

But now, fingers hovering over the keyboard, I’ve learned to ask an important question which guides my decision:

Through whose perspective will I be able to squeeze out the greatest emotion for the reader?

Because emotion drives story. No matter the genre.

If it’s a hero’s proposal, maybe the heroine should allow the reader to experience this in her POV so they can celebrate with her more deeply. Particularly if she’s believed the lie that no one would ever pursue her.

But what if the ring came at great cost to the hero, one he’d sold something of value to acquire and hoped she’d accept? Maybe the reader would enjoy what that felt like, lowering with nervous energy to one knee, offering his beloved a ring.

Sometimes both characters insist on being heard. You hear it? Listen to me! Listen to me! Since I’m not writing in omniscient POV, I’ll have to choose.


To help untangle the knot of confusion, I’ll write the scene from both perspectives. Then sit back and ponder them awhile until I determine which stirs my soul a bit more.

If I’m not moved or the scene feels a little meh or awkward, my reader might find better things to do with their time than press on through to the end.

As much as I have my favorites, the character whose point of view ignites a greater fire of emotion will earn the privilege of speaking so those pages keep on turning. All the way to a breathlessly satisfying end.
Mary Albers Felkins is a contributor to writer’s blogs and on-line magazines. Her debut, contemporary romance, Call To Love, (www.pelicanbookgroup) will be released November 15th, 2019. The completed cover anxiously awaits being partnered with the story behind it. She is represented by . Raised in Houston, Texas – and forever a Lone Star girl - she and her husband Bruce moved to the foothills of North Carolina in 1997. They have four (adolescent to young adult-sized) arrows in her quiver. She can be lured from her writing cave if presented with a large, unopened bag of Peanut M&Ms or to watch Fixer Upper. If, upon introduction, she likes your first or last name, expect to see it show up in one of her novels. To follow Mary’s story-style devos each week and receive book news via email, join other #Felkinsfans at

October 23, 2018

Billion Dollar Lottery Still in Play

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor & Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

So, You Won the Lottery???

Well I’m sure you have heard the news of a $1.6 Billion MegaMillion Jackpot and the Powerball are still in play. And I am sure you have been asked, should you win, what would you do with the money? And again, I’m sure the odds are you have thought about what you would do with the money if you win. I have, and I not only enjoy the thought of what I might do with the money but what would others do with the money. The thing I hear first and foremost is I’d quit my job. Then I hear I’d buy a new home, spend it on my family and give to a charity. Then there are what some may call the ridicules: Travel to space, Start/buy your own sports team, Buy a plane and fly around the world, Build a casino in Las Vegas and name it after yourself, Pay for college, Buy a private island, Buy a snow machine and every year give a new city a white Christmas, Build a water slide inside your home, Put an ATM in your kitchen and, of course, Build an underground luxury panic room.

Now, that is fun but some of these are hard to comprehend even if you did have a $BILLION.  My question to you is, “When you win the $1.6 Billion Lottery will you continue to write?”

The lottery pot of a billion plus dollars made me think of one of my favorite book series written by Mary Higgins Clark. The amateur detective protagonists are married lottery winners who solve crimes that seem to find them. The protagonist couple have old-fashioned, memorable names, Alvirah and Willy. I often wondered if a lottery win inspired her book series. My research hasn’t found anything to indicate that as her inspiration for the lottery series. 

So, tonight as you check your numbers with us think about these questions. Dream big. Write it down. As an author, can you imagine writing a book after you win a billion dollars? What would it be about? With the resources of millions at your fingertips how would you market the book? Would you turn your book into a movie?

It’s sure fun to think about. We would love to hear from you.

October 22, 2018

Writing, What’s the Rush?

By Lynda McDaniel

Last October, while I worked on final edits of my latest book, the Northern California fires swept through my hometown. I was lucky. My home didn’t burn—but my concentration was shot. Somehow, a dangling participle or misplaced modifier just didn’t matter.

To get back in the groove, I decided to take it easier and edit only one chapter a day. That worked so well, I plan to use it from now on. The slow pace helped me zero in on every sentence, and I caught way more inconsistencies, repetitions, and errors (and a misplaced modifier or two!). I found my brain didn’t get lazy with its “yeah, yeah, I’ve read this a million times” attitude.

It’s a slow technique, but, hey, it takes time to write well. I’ve been known to say that bad writers just stopped too soon. Keep at it, and the writing just gets better and better.

So why do I see so much emphasis on speed these days?

If your inbox is like mine, it’s chocked full of tips on how to write a book in a weekend—or a day! Or how to get my books out before someone beats me to the punch, as though my creative ideas are so fragile, so like everyone else’s, I’d better hurry before I’m outfoxed.

I thought my job was to publish the best writing I could.

And, of course, writers are an impatient lot. We’re eager to see our words in print. We work hard and get tired. Before you know it, we cave. It’s good enough, we tell ourselves, dismissing the power of the 10th (or dare I say 20th?) edit.

Instead, we need to ignore the inner and outer chatter and stop. Stop writing. Stop editing. Walk the dog. Watch a movie. Throw a party. When we’re not writing, our stories will tell us what they need. They’ll send us messages that are impossible to hear through all the noise, but come through loud and clear when we slow down.

Recently, I received such a message while taking a break: Writing and storytelling are two very different skills. Capturing ideas and developing dialogue and denouement are only step one. Step two is crafting a great story. Once all those words find their place on the page, make sure they coalesce into a story that: 1) grabs readers from the get-go, 2) develops conflict and complications, 3) resolves them, and 4) offers a satisfying ending. (By the way, that last point doesn’t mean everything is tied up neatly. As the late Sam Shepard wrote, “The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.”)

The writing process is just that—a process. It’s not write-edit-publish. Rather, it’s more like write, rest, write, stroll, edit, play, edit, listen, and edit some more.

Sure, all those steps take time, but, hey, what’s the rush?
Lynda McDaniel’s writing career started at the end of a gravel driveway lined with tall pines and sun-dappled daffodils. Although it was more than 30 years ago, she says, “I still recall that day with the fiercest clarity: walking up to the massive oak door with a hand-forged handle, tugging on its surprising weight, and entering a world of art and craft, music and writing. I was visiting the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, where I got a job writing newsletters and press releases, articles and ads. Once I saw my first published article, I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since.​ “I’ve gone on to write more than 1,200 articles for major magazines, hundreds of newsletters, and dozens of blogs. I'm proudest of the 17 books I’ve written, including my Appalachian Mountain Mysteries trilogy: A Life for a Life, The Roads to Damascus, and soon-to-be-published Welcome the Little Children.  ​“Other books include Words at Work, which I wrote straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today. (It won top honors from the National Best Books Awards.) Since then, I’ve written two Amazon Bestselling Books: How Not to Sound Stupid When You Write and Write Your Book Now! (with Virginia McCullough). Since I moved to California 10 years ago, I've also enjoyed serving as a writing coach to clients who wanted to write their own books.” WEBSITE:  www.lyndamcdanielbooks.comBLOG:  SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

October 19, 2018


By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

What about Book laundering firms that hire people all over the country to buy books one at a time through many different retailers using different credit cards with different shipping and billing addresses? What about paying a fee for our publisher to have our book placed on the front tables at Barnes and Nobles? Doesn’t WSJ or NYT bestseller = more money?

With those questions and more rambling through my thoughts, the big day arrived for Nailed It! The Nail Salon Chronicles’ book launch. The word was out, now the wait. I kept checking Amazon rankings every 30 minutes and noticed the rankings were updated every hour. I wondered if all this searching the book title on Amazon helped Nailed ItThe Nail Salon Chronicles leave page five to rise to page one on the search, staying in either the number one or number two spot – depending on if there was a sponsored book or toy being promoted by Amazon. The rise to the first page certainly had nothing to do with book reviews because there were none. Then the results magically appeared. 

Natalie and I were truly stunned when Nailed It! The Nail Salon Chronicles rose to #159 in the rankings, up from around millions of books in the inspirational category. And at one a.m., I went to bed, not knowing if the rankings had risen even higher, since Natalie lived in California which is in the Pacific Time Zone and her friends and family were still making purchases. To my knowledge, Amazon doesn’t notify authors how high in rankings a book may have climbed, so I had no way of knowing final results.

Lessons learned from all of this? Forget about making the NYT and WSJ bestseller lists. Like the stock market—the system is more than likely rigged since there’s no tried and true check list for rising to the top. Bias will forever be a main player. Have your NYT and WSJ bestseller strategy, but concentrate on marketing through social media platforms, word of mouth, TV and radio, speaking engagements, and while standing in line waiting for a table in a restaurant—yes, I’ve made a sale that way. (Once, I sold one of my other books while chatting with someone before mall doors opened and the inquisitive couple visiting from another city asked, “What do you do?”)

Then, if there’s any money available for hiring a publicist, find one who has had proven results in your book genre. The main thing to remember—authors are their best publicists. When someone asks about your line of work—have a printed card ready to share with your book’s information and where it can be purchased. No brainer: Always keep extra book copies in your automobile, briefcase, or purse.

Final tip: Begin working on the next book, for after all, who wouldn’t want the challenges of another marketing campaign?   

October 18, 2018

When a Character Faces Betrayal

By DiAnn Mills

We’ve all experienced betrayal, when someone we respected used our trust for selfish gain. We are devastated with the treachery. The relationship we once regarded as worthy and meaningful was crushed and, in many cases destroyed.

Our characters encounter the same deception. Regardless of the motive, betrayal creates a rise of emotions unique to a given personality. Reactions range from grief, hurt, anger, forgiveness, bitterness, disbelief, retaliation, violent behavior, willfully ignore, and usually a mix.

The character can choose to recover or exist in a miserable state.

Those who rise above the situation are heroes and heroines. Because of their struggle, they are equipped to help others facing the same dilemma.

Those who use the unfortunate incident to hold a grudge or seek revenge will suffer in other areas of their lives until they work through the problem. From this list may come antagonists or characters who choose to be victims.

A writer can use betrayal to:

Choose friends and relationships
Consider where to live
Determine hidden fears
Discover what propels the character into action
Establish goals
Evaluate faith and values
Identify strengths and weaknesses
Learn what matters most
Recognize behavior patterns
Select a career
Understand trust issues

In short, we get better or bitter. Here’s a scenario from my latest novel Burden of Proof.

Jason Snyder, hero, is an ESTJ personality type according to Myers-Briggs personality type. The following article helps the writer establish how personalities react and respond to betrayal. How Each Myers-Briggs Type Handles Feelings of Betrayal

"ESTJs are often very loyal and strongly dislike being betrayed by others. They will probably become hurt at first but have a tendency to move on when someone betrays their trust. The ESTJ will likely just alter their behavior to avoid being hurt by this person again. They do not like cutting people out of their lives and will often struggle with doing so. They strive to build a community and want to be able to maintain a sense of control and structure.”

Jason’s wife died of cancer a few hours after their baby daughter was born. When he believes he’s walked through the stages of grief, he's betrayed by a man who has sworn to uphold the law. Jason is falsely accused of murdering his best friend, and his precious daughter is kidnapped. The lack of control and structure sends him into a tailspin. His faith is shaken. He’s on the run. Who does he trust after being betrayed?

The example above fits Jason’s personality. What about your characters? How do they handle betrayal?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her latest book, Burden of Proof has released. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook:, Twitter: or any of the social media platforms listed

October 17, 2018

The Talking Dead

By Linda Hughes

When a reviewer wrote that the real main characters in my latest romantic suspense novel, Secrets of the Island,were the dead people, it gave me pause. True, there is a lot of discussion in the family-oriented mystery about ancestors long dead but, still, I don’t think they overshadow the living characters. After more thought, however, I felt pleased that the reader noticed the importance of the generations of deceit that embattled this family. It caused me to consider something I do when I write; I pay attention to the deceased.

Even when the dead aren’t part of the story, I’m always considering “what went on before” my story starts. What makes these characters do the things they do? At least in my head, I need a foundation to make my story rise out of the dust.

Author Jude Deveraux said, “There are no new stories. It all depends on how you handle them.” I agree, which is why paying attention to the past can help create a story today. Studying real history and reading everything I can get my hands on about an era and a place are critical to writing. But even more important is putting me – my body and mind and heart and soul – into the real-life scenes of my fiction.

I once had a college history professor, Dr. Tom Dyer at the University of Georgia, who said internet research is fine, if that’s all you can manage, but nothing can replace going to the places you’re researching, to feel the souls of the people who lived there in times gone by. For example, for my novel Secrets of the Asylum, I toured the former Northern Michigan Asylum, a gigantic nineteenth century Victorian-era structure that operated for almost ninety years.

I’d already read everything I could about it, but nothing compared to walking through the beautifully constructed building, crumbling with decay but its past glory still apparent. I could hear the voices of the thousands who had been committed to those rooms. Their stories seeped out of the walls, pleading to be heard.

It made my writing better.

So, my advice to you as a writer is to put yourself into the scenes of your stories, whenever possible, and then when you get there pay attention to the history not only of the place but of the people who lived and died there. Not the history book versions, but the real-life stories. Let your senses guide you as you breathe in the past. Let your heart take down the paths of those who lived there before; let your writing capture the feelings you had while there.

Writing isn’t only about sitting in a chair. Sometimes it requires that we get up off our duffs and go somewhere. It requires that we listen to the lives of dead people. And it requires that we expand our perspective to accept doing just that.
Award-winning author Linda Hughes ' new romantic suspense novel is Secrets of the Island, set on historic Mackinac Island, Michigan. It's precursor, Secrets of the Asylum, won an eLit bronze award and was a finalist for the Silver Falchion award. For information on all of Linda's fiction and non-fiction books, visit her website at [,], Twitter @lghughesauthor, Instagram lghughesauthor, and Pinterest /lghughesauthor. Her memoir writing website is at