December 31, 2018

Literary Leftovers - A Matter of POV

Years ago when I first started writing, I wrote short drama sketches for my church. The first one got published and every one after that. Then I turned my hand to novels. After a few months and 125,000 words, I found an online critique group.

When I received my first critique, I discovered I knew nothing but good dialogue ... and I mean nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zip. I'd never heard of POV and had no idea what it even meant. Show don't tell?? Why can’t I use a plethora of adverbs? Omniscient is something God is.

I didn't have any problem accepting the hard critiques. The difference was, while they were hard, I never saw them as harsh. It's all a matter of POV. I wanted to learn. I read those critiques from the POV of being taught - not attacked.

We need to trust that our critique partners won't let us get away with anything less than our best. We should grow to the point where we don't need compliments. The highest compliment I can receive from my CPs is getting back a chapter with no suggestions or corrections. I think that’s only happened once.

How do we do give the best critiques? Read with an editor's eye and a sister-in-Christ's heart:
the mindset that God deserves our best not our leftovers. When I’m lazy and don’t feel like thinking up a new meal, I fix leftovers. I even tell myself I’m being thrifty. That might be fine with food—but not in our writing.

What are literary leftovers?

1.      Not removing superfluous adverbs in contrast to spending an extra twenty minutes looking for just the right verb.
2.      Not knowing your characters well enough to communicate their hurts and motivation.
3.      Not investing the time required to get the character's motivation shown-not-told on the page.
4.      Using clich├ęs or over-used metaphors
5.      Recycling a great metaphor or simile without changing it.    
6.      Using the same old conflict over and over. In romance, if miscommunication is the only conflict, that’s week-old-moldy-green leftovers.
7.      Not always striving to grow as a writer.

Even if you've already got an agent, have been close to a contract, or you’re published, you can still get a low score on a contest entry. Fiction is subjective. We all know that. But instead of ruffling your quills in indignation, change your personal POV. See teaching not attacking. You'll be glad you did. You'll add another layer to your rhino skin, and you'll be more willing to kill your darlings. It’s all a matter of your POV.
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's an award-winning bestselling novelist, a multi-published playwright and contributor to the award-winning blog, The Write Conversation. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler who thinks he’s a teddy bear. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). Ane firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Her passion when she isn't writing her Southern-fried Fiction, is Community Theatre. She's Creative Director of Players Guild@Sugar Hill, an avocational non-profit theatre group, where she and her husband act, direct, build sets, and are chief gofors. Contributor to the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and a wooly mammoth. You can find Ane on her website and blog: If you'd like to see a map of Chapel Springs showing you where all the characters live, visit

December 28, 2018

Rules, Guidelines, and the Occasional Parlay

By Josie Siler

I’m sitting here at my favorite small-town coffee shop on National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Snippets of Pirates of the Caribbean flash through my brain and I can’t help but smile. Hold on to your tricorn hat because I’m about to shed some light on a group of writers who are just as elusive as those rascally, roguish pirates.

Who are these mysterious writers? Writers who live with chronic illness. We’re a mysterious lot, we know, but it’s time to come clean. We’re rule breakers, and we’re okay with that. We’re constantly breaking one of the biggest rules of writing: Write Every Day.

Sometimes weeks or months pass when we’re not able to write a word. Does that mean we’re not real writers? No!

Let me tell you a little secret. Writers come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities.

Every writer comes to the moment when, like Elizabeth Swann in Pirates, we learn that the rules of the pirate’s (or writer’s) code are more like “guidelines” than actual rules. When we understand this, we find the freedom to be ourselves and do what we need to do.

I’d like to share with you five guidelines that have been helpful on my writing journey, especially on the days when I’m too sick to write.

1.   Extend grace to myself and understand that rest isn’t a waste of time, but the most important thing I can do some days.

2.   Let my imagination run wild, making notes to remind myself of any grand ideas I’ll want to write about later.

3.   Read or watch movies. Collect ideas from other creatives and make notes to remind myself of inspiration I discover.

4.   Be prepared to take advantage whenever and wherever inspiration hits. Just a few weeks ago I wrote a page on my iPad in the middle of a medical treatment. This page will make its way into my book.

5.   Befriend other writers who are chronically ill. We understand each other, know how to encourage one another, and help each other get back to writing when it’s been too long.

Our writing journey may take a bit longer, but it’s a journey we still get to take.

When deadlines loom and we need to write through brain fog or pain, more times than not, those are the best things we write. Why? Because we’re forced to depend completely on the Lord.

That brings me to my most important piece of advice: Pray. Pray hard, pray often, and allow the Lord to speak through you. Whether you live with chronic illness, work full time, care for family members, or just have days when you struggle, it’s okay. You’re still a writer and God can use you in amazing ways.

If you’re ready to go rogue and take control of your writing career, I invite you to join me in invoking the pirate’s code. Take up the cry of “Parlay!” and negotiate your own rules. After all, rules are made to be broken!
Josie Siler is a small-town Wisconsin girl with big dreams. She’s won multiple awards for both writing and and photography and has been published in Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage. She is the Vice President of Broken but Priceless Ministries and the Editorial Assistant for Broken but Priceless: The Magazine. Josie’s passionate about helping people to discover and walk in the freedom found in Christ. When she’s not writing or taking pictures, you’ll find this biker chick riding her motorcycle, curled up with a good book, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or shooting something at the range. Josie shares God’s gifts of beauty, hope, and adventure at  Links:Twitter:
Breaking the Chains:  Broken but Priceless Ministries:

December 27, 2018

This is Who I Am

By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine

When I’m speaking to new writers (or authors facing writers block), I always tell them to keep on writing no matter what they are facing. We have to keep getting words down on paper. It’s who we are. The books we are writing are a part of us.

But continuing to write isn’t the only thing we need to do. We need to keep introducing ourselves to others. Building a career means we can’t stop networking. We need new readers, and we need new contacts in the publishing world.

The first part is obvious: we need new readers to keep buying our books. How do you expand your fan base? Sometimes I just step out of my comfort zone and walk up to strangers and hand out a few complimentary copies of my latest book. I look for people that fit the profile of who usually buys my books. I sell to more women than men, so I give the books to women. Sometimes I take a copy into a restaurant and find a group of women sitting together. Once I gave out copies to a few women on the beach already reading a book. Sometimes I find a small book club and offer to give out a few copies. I’m reaching people who would probably never hear of me without the free copy.

What about making new contacts in the publishing world? I think we all need to be expanding our list of contacts in our field. We may find opportunities to have an out-of-print book reprinted with a new press. We may find marketers willing to give us a plug if we advertise one of their books. We may be invited to write a guest blog post and include a link to our website, or we may find a fresh voice to help edit our next books.

Just this week, I saw a Facebook post from an acquaintance that mentioned she had started working for a small press. I asked if she was willing to pass along my contact information to her boss. She was more than willing to do so. Now my name is before a new publisher. Nothing may come of it now, but I may need someone to help with my next project down the road. I may have the chance to expand my career by shifting to a new position one day. I may get an offer for my next book or an invitation to speak at a new writing seminar. If nothing else, I now have a person who knows my name.

So, don’t stop writing, but also don’t stop introducing yourself. Hi, I’m Chris. I’m a poet and a novelist. I’m an editor and a speaker. This is who I am.

December 26, 2018


By Tracy Crump

Chicken Soup for the Soul® is looking for what I call “snapshot stories.” These true, inspirational vignettes have a definite beginning, middle, and end, telling a complete story in one snapshot of under 1200 words. Moreover, each story must be tightly focused on the theme of the title in which it appears. In my years of teaching workshops on writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, I’ve reviewed a variety of stories and found that many writers find this a difficult task.
Below are four tips that help me focus my work.
  • Read Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Study the stories and see how other authors wrote stories that held to the theme of the book. You will hold in your hand a guide to what the editors consider a focused story. Be sure to read books published since 2008 when Chicken Soup for the Soul changed hands.
  • Read and reread the story callout or online description. And then read it again. I usually go back to the description multiple times while writing. The editors lay out clues about what they’re looking for in the callouts. Themes they’ve covered more than once (such as dog, cat, or Christmas books) will each have a little different slant. Watch for the nuances. What I Learned from the Dog and My Very Good, Very Bad Dog suggest varying ideas on the same subject.
  • Keep suggested topics in mind but don’t be shackled by them. The lists of possible topics included in callouts often help me hone in on a story idea. But I have also gone my own route and come up with stories that are outside the list but still centered on the book’s theme. Don’t be afraid to try something different but keep the book’s premise foremost in mind.
  • Cut anything that doesn’t stick to the theme. Once you finish the first draft of your story, go back and ruthlessly edit. The now-famous story I tell in my workshops is of a friend who asked me to look over her Chicken Soup story on the eve of the deadline. I had no time to be diplomatic, so I slashed a good third of the story that didn’t stick to the book’s theme. She rewrote and submitted it. Not only was that story accepted, but a year later, she reworked the part she cut and submitted it for a different title. That story was also published. Her experience illustrates how important it is to stick to the theme of the book.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is a fantastic market for beginning and experienced writers alike. One of the top-paying anthologies, they’ve been around for an incredible twenty-five years. Focus on writing a story that narrows in on the theme of their next book, and we may well be reading your snapshot story in 2019.
Tracy Crump has published two dozen stories in anthologies, including nineteen in Chicken Soup for the Soul. As co-director of Write Life Workshops, she has conducted workshops and webinars on writing for the series for ten years, and her “How to Write for Chicken Soup for the Soul” course is one of Serious Writer Academy’s top sellers. Tracy’s articles and devotionals have appeared in national publications, and she edits The Write Life, a popular writers newsletter that includes story callouts. She is a freelance editor and proofreader for Farmer’s Almanac and is represented by Bethany Morehead of Cyle Young Literary Elite. Visit Tracy at or This is the link for the SWA course in case it doesn’t show up:

December 25, 2018

It’s A Christmas Tradition

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Our Christmas Traditions vary from nation to nation, community to community, family to family and individual to individual. To each his own and once started traditions seem to change.

Our family loves Christmas. It’s a big affair at our home. Long standing tradition for us, 32 years, is taking in the Bellevue Singing Christmas Tree at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova TN. Although it is at Bellevue it is a community effort. Another is visiting the Peabody Hotel Lobby decorated for Christmas for the last 25 years. We also see the beautifully decorated Gaylord Opryland Hotel we have visited for the last 29 years in Nashville, TN. In recent years we have been attending the annual Amy Grant and Vince Gill 12 Days of Christmas program at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We attend these events with the children and grandchildren in tow.

Our oldest traditions began and remain at home. We celebrate with our children and grandchildren in our Christmas plays. We have all of them come gather together for a Christmas Dinner with gift giving and the works. We are fortunate in this modern mobile society we all live a short drive away from each other. But even with that blessing it’s not always easy but it always seems to work out. I believe it does because of its importance to each family member. That connection with family tradition is truly a blessing.

We at Southern Writers Magazine hope you feel like a part of our family. We would like to hear of your family traditions and hope you would share them with us. As I said traditions seem to change at times. If we hear of another tradition we may find we would like to start a new one. please share.
We also hope you will make Southern Writers Magazine a part of your Christmas Tradition with our Holiday Issue and our Holiday Catalog

Most of all we at Southern Writers Magazine wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year! All the best in 2019!        

December 24, 2018

Crafting Revelation in Fiction One Detail at a Time

By John Copenhaver

Revelation in fiction comes in many forms: In a murder mystery, the curtain is pulled back on the identity of the culprit. In other narratives, the curtain is pulled back on the true nature of a character. For a revelation to work in fiction, it must feel surprising and inevitable to the reader. These qualities seem contradictory but in the hands of a skilled writer, the tension between the inevitable and the surprising is always present; it is the only way a revelation is fairly earned.

So, how do we craft our stories to produce this effect? You embed enough “significant detail” about character, setting, and action prior to the revelation to suggest an emotional shape of the story without divulging the revelation, whether it’s a plot twist or an epiphany or both.

What are “significant details”? In her book, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway explains that “a detail is concrete if it appeals to one of the five senses; it is significant if it also conveys an idea or a judgment of both.” Significant details, then, are details that are colored with a character’s (or narrator’s) point-of-view.

Here’s a description devoid of significance:

Roxy, my chihuahua-mix, is short-haired, taupe-colored, 22-inches long with erect ears and a straight tail.


To me, however, she’s the color of lightly toasted Wonder Bread, and her alert ears are soft and silky, and her small nose damp, reassuring.


To my friend who hates dogs, she’s a slippery beige shark, weaving between legs, patiently searching for a tender ankle maul.


The last two descriptions are significant because they employ details that reveal character; they suggest a relationship between the thing described and the describer. Of course, when that relationship has tension—Rozy as a small tan land-shark—it’s even more engaging for the reader.

Whether or not readers are aware of it, significant details urge them to search for a pattern. It’s like standing close to a pointillist masterpiece and then backing slowly away. Eventually, the pattern coalesces, and you see the image in full. These types of details accrue and converge to predict the emotional outcome of the narrative. Readers don’t know what the characters will do, but when they do it, it should feel appropriate to their psychology. It’s irritating when characters behave in a way that's not in keeping with what we know about them. However, when we have a rich supply of significant details but haven’t predicted what actions those details foreshadow, it’s exhilarating and convincing when a character makes a surprising choice. Each significant detail is a building block of character, giving the narrative an emotional topography without drawing a map for the reader: the result is surprising and inevitable.
John Copenhaver’s historical crime novel, Dodging and Burning (Pegasus, 2018), received a Publishers Weekly starred review, and Library Journal starred review and Debut of the Month. The Associated Press calls it “a riveting debut,” and BOLO Books: “A masterwork of tone and voice … a beacon for voices too often stifled.” Copenhaver writes a crime fiction review column for Lambda Literary called “Blacklight,” and he is the five-time recipient of Artist Fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He’s a Lambda Fellow, and he has completed residencies at VCCA, VSC, and Ragdale. He’s a Larry Neal awardee, and his work has appeared in CrimeReads, Electric Lit, Glitterwolf, PANK, New York Journal of Books, Washington Independent Review of Books, and others. He grew up in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and currently lives in DC where he chairs the 7-12 grade English department at Flint Hill School. Website: Facebook: John CopenhaverTwitter: @johncopenhaver 
Instagram: @johncope74

December 21, 2018

Don't Just “Write What You Know”

By Dr. Richard Mabry

When I began writing (after what I thought was a successful career in medicine as a clinician, surgeon, lecturer, and writer), I was uncertain about a lot of things, but not of what I’d write. I kept hearing, “Write what you know,” and I certainly knew medicine. But a fellow scientist who was also an experienced writer set me straight pretty quickly. There was a difference between technical writing (to be read for knowledge) and fiction (to be read for entertainment). Writing what I knew wouldn’t do it. I had to make it interesting.

It finally came together for me at one of the first writer’s conferences I attended. I still remember sitting down with one of the teachers and telling him about the book I had planned. Writers are urged to practice what is known as an “elevator pitch,” a quick summation of the book that we could give to an interested agent or editor during an elevator ride. But after I’d finished my elevator pitch, the man said, “So what?”

Okay, maybe he needed something more. So, I began detailing the synopsis for the book. But every time I reached a stopping point and looked hopefully at my teacher, the response was the same. “So what?”

Eventually, I had run through the entire synopsis, with the same response each time. What more did I need? And then he explained it to me, and—just like algebra—what I had been trying to understand suddenly came clear. What was at stake? The “So what?” might be something happening…or not happening…to the protagonist or to someone he/she cared about. Was it falling in love, getting that new job, keeping a marriage together, saving a life, avoiding a lawsuit? Whatever was at stake was my “So what.”

Another of my early mentors says that during a novel every protagonist must face a death in some form—physical, mental, emotional, or professional. This is their “So what.” The book I was planning was about a physician who attended a baseball fantasy camp. It was interesting, and factual (based on my own experiences) But there was no “So what” in it. Then I added a washed-up player dependent on alcohol and going from relationship to relationship. I made the older player worry about the consequences of his lifestyle. In this case, he was concerned about long-term effects of alcohol, but it turned out to be even worse. This was the “So what” for both the player and the physician who worked to save him.

Write what you know? Yes, but write more than that. Don’t forget the “So what.” It’s what makes your novel worth reading.
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mystery with heart.” His novels have garnered critical acclaim and been finalists for ACFW’s Carol Award, both the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and the Selah Award. He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the International Thriller Writers, and Novelists Inc. Emergency Case is his latest novella. He and his wife live in north Texas, where he writes, works on being the world’s greatest grandfather, and strives to improve his golf game. You can learn more about him at his website, and via his blog and Facebook page.

December 20, 2018

Quirkiness in Your Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Christmas is in countdown mode. Does this send you into a tailspin? Worried about all the things you didn’t get done and have yet to accomplished? This time of year always flies by, and then, it’s a new year. This year I’m making a conscious effort to savor the moment, and I hope you’ll join me. If things don’t get done on your list, give yourself grace and savor the season.

The whole point of the season is really about reflecting on the decorations and goodwill which is abundant during this time of year. If you don’t have time to bake cookies for the neighborhood cookie exchange, it’s okay to brighten the day of a local baker and get your cookies from them. Instead of focusing on perfection, give yourself grace to savor the season.

I read on Facebook of a small town in Belfast, Maine which has a quirky Christmas tradition of using the “broke neck Santa” for the town decorations. It made me wonder how the Santa broke his neck. What a wonderful children’s story it would make. Better yet, incorporate the quirky novelty into your novel. You can like the Facebook page and read all about “Broke Neck Santa” at this linkSavor the quirkiness of the season, and let it shine in your novel or story.

Every community has quirky items that can be used in your stories. If you don’t take time to savor the season, you might forget them in May when you’re writing a Christmas story.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and everyone who reads our blog we appreciate all our readers and commenters!

December 19, 2018

How to Set the Right Tone for Your Novel

By Karen Cogan

How many ways are there to set the tone of a book? The answer depends upon the genre you are writing. The first few sentences of your novel prepare your readers for the trip on which they are embarking.  Consequently, a sweet Regency romance should begin differently than a psychological thriller. Guess which of the lines below came from a sweet Regency romance and which is the thriller.

1.      . “I thought little enough of it when Charlotte missed our appointment last week. But again, today?” Marianne Bentley creased her fine brow into a furrow as she departed the Pump Room on this bright April afternoon. Her abigail, Elizabeth, scurried beside her, her short and stocky frame hard-pressed to keep up.

2.      Bethany’s heart skittered as she hastened along the street. She glanced behind her, unable to escape the feeling she’d been followed. She’d told no one except the detective about the evidence that could prove the innocence of her friend. In two more blocks she would arrive at the police station. She could hand it over and stop worrying

That was easy. The first was the first sentences of one of my Regency romances titled, THE MYSERIOUS MARQUIS. The second quote is the first lines of my psychological thriller titled, BETRAYAL.

While there is pressure to hook the reader with the first few lines, you don’t want to set the tone for the wrong story.  It is true that many readers cross-over between genres. Yet, they won’t be hooked by the opening for a sweet romance that sounds like science fiction no matter how intriguing it may be.

That is not to say that a sweet romance can’t start with intrigue. Yet it must be the right intrigue. Consider this example from my imagination: “Carla fought panic as she watched the toddler head for the busy street. Where were his parents?  Since no one seemed to notice the child, she set off at a run to intercept him.”

This begins with action and the suspense of whether the child will be saved. It also opens the possibility of romance when she discovers that the father is a widower who had turned around for only a moment and lost sight of his son. If I had written about a gruesome murder, my sweet romance fans would have closed the cover.

The point is that your reader should never be misled for the sake of an enticing beginning. Certainly, you want an interesting opening. All you must do is to think carefully about your genre for the hook that draws readers into your novel.
A native of Houston, TX, Karen Cogan spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing romantic suspense and contemporary and historical romance. She has written over thirty-one books in print and e-book format and she had several more in the works.  When she is not writing, Karen enjoys her grandchildren, horseback riding, reading and Bible study and dark chocolate. She is recently retired from public school teaching and uses the experience of working with children to plan and write her children’s books. She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets. For more information about Karen and her books, go to:

December 18, 2018

Same Date––Different Years

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

Ever wondered what happened on a specific date in history. Example, what things happened on the date of December 18 down through the ages? Are there stories in these events?  Let’s look and see.

On December 18, 1271 Kublai Khan renames his empire “Yuan”. This marks the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty of China. The Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) was China's first foreign-led dynasty, between the Chinese Song and Ming dynasties. Established by Kublai Khan, leader of the vast Mongol Empire, and fell into internal rebellion after it lost touch with its Mongol roots. It was said, that the Yuan Dynasty was the biggest dynasty in the history of China.

Here is another event. On December 18, 1603 the first fleet of the Dutch East India Company under Admiral Steven van der Haghen departs for the East-Indies. Haghen was the first admiral of the Dutch East India Company and made three visits to the East Indies. The Dutch East India Company was an early megacorporation, founded by a government-directed amalgamation of several rival Dutch trading companies in the early 17th century. Originally the company was established in March 1602, as a chartered company to trade with India and Indianized Southeast Asian countries when the Dutch government granted it a 21-year monopoly on the Dutch spice trade

Another event on December 18, 1915 our 28th United States President Woodrow Wilson, widowed the year before marries second wife Edith Bolling Galt, a descendant of native American Pocahontas. It is said, after President Wilson’s suffered a severe stroke in 1919 Edith began to screen all matters of state and decided which were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. In doing so, she de facto ran the executive branch of the government for the remainder of the president's second term, until March 1921.

Just in these three events that took place on December 18 in different years we could find several stories in each one. If one enjoys digging in and researching old records and moving through tales of history then one will find the material to create wonderful stories that entertain readers for years to come.

One key the writer must have in order to mine these fascinating nuggets in events of history is the ability to give their imaginations free reign. Therein lies the truth of weaving a story that could birth a best-seller or two.

For some writers, these three events could keep them busy creating intriguing stories for years to come––writing standalone books, series, and trilogies.