April 30, 2019

Are You Reading What You Are Reading?

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Are you reading what you are reading or are you scanning, trolling and searching for an opinion? An opinion which agrees or disagrees. An opinion which you can find fault with and attack? Well this is not uncommon. In today's climate we are told we must have an opinion if it is agreeable or none if not. We are told we must pick a side if it is the correct one or remain neutral or silent if not. It is easy to get caught up in the self-righteousness of critiquing content. But what are the consequences?

Some years ago, I had written a post for Suite T and had used a one-line quote to make a point. The point was well missed by one reader who found fault not with the topic or the quote but with the author of the quote. I admit I too found fault with the author of the quote in the fact she was a 1940’s political activist with socialist leanings. “You can’t see the forest for the trees”.

Her quote was one of encouragement not solicitation to her political way of thinking. Her reputation over powered her positive message for this one reader. I do admire that reader for even knowing who she was. The fact remains the reader dismissed my entire post due to their focus on this one quote and its author. I can only wonder if I had said “someone once said” instead of the authors name would there have been any concern.

I find myself falling into the same trap when reading a piece for the sole purpose of editing it. If the piece is well written and interesting, I tend to drift into the reading for pleasure mode. Once I notice I’m not editing the piece but enjoying the read I simply finish it for pleasure and then go back and edit.

This may work for those of us that are reading for pleasure and drift into critiquing the content. Finish the piece and then go back and search the content. Focus on the point of the peace. What is the author saying? If we do not, we tend to close our minds to any and all ideas we find contrary to our own. I am not saying adopt their ideas but hear them and make sure you are clear about them prior to totally dismissing them. Someone once said, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principal is contempt prior to investigation."

As authors we must be aware of the possibility we may offend. Edit your work. Look for anything that may take away or redirect your reader from your topic. No matter the lengths you go to there will be those that are offended and they may be among those looking to be offended. We can never know where someone will take our writings but a large majority of those that read it will take it in and use it. 

Last and certainly not least is the fact we need feedback, good or bad. Without it we may never know if we hit the mark. Someone once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  Hearing back from our readers will certainly let us know if there was communication. Look at your feedback as a blessing.

April 29, 2019

Hooking Your Reader

By Ann H. Gabhart, Author of The Refuge

“I read one of your books and now I’m hooked!!” (Amazon reviewer) I don’t like to fish. I went fishing once on a school trip when I was twelve. Didn’t catch anything. More telling is that I didn’t want to catch anything. So, I didn’t bother baiting my hook. Fast forward a few years and I’m writing novels. Now I want to catch some readers. I need to bait my hook.

Recently I asked my Facebook reading friends why they picked up a new book to read. Some said the author’s name, but what if you had never read that author before? What then? The cover made some of them grab a book off a shelf or click on a link to find out about the story. Back cover copy was a big key too. My new Shaker story, The Refuge, has an appealing cover and a snappy tag line. “Can love live again for this widow in a community that doesn’t believe in marriage?”

While a novel’s window dressing is important, the words inside are what reels in readers and makes them want to stay in the story. Some readers said they look at the first page to decide what to read. So, a dynamite first line can be perfect bait to catch a reader.

Try noticing first lines to see if the author grabbed your interest right away. You can find famous first lines online such as this one from George Orwell for 1984It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. The weather update might not grab you but the clocks striking thirteen pulls you into the story to find out why.

But what makes a great first line? You need something that not only gives a hint of the story but stirs the reader’s curiosity about what’s to come. I try my best to come up with a good beginning. Sometimes my first lines are edited time and time again, perhaps not being set in stone, or rather print, until after the story goes through many edits. Other times, the first line is in my mind even before I put my fingers on the keyboard to start that first chapter.

That was how it was with The Refuge. This line echoed in my head and drew me into the story. You can’t cheat death. I hope that line will make my readers curious enough to keep them reading the second line. We thought we could. And on and on until they are firmly hooked on my story. 

Bait the hook for your readers with every enticement you can imagine. That great cover. Fabulous back cover copy. A hard-hitting tag line. A compelling first sentence, but most important of all, tell such a good story that after they’ve read it to the end, you’ll have them saying, “I’m hooked!!”
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to Redemption, These Healing Hills, Angel Sister, Love Comes Home, and more. Writing as A. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills. Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at

April 26, 2019

When You’re Sick of Your Own Words

By Rick Barry

When my third novel, The Methuselah Project, approached publication, I experienced something new. I was growing weary of reading, rereading, and editing my own words.

Normally we novelists are lovers of words. So how did I become tired reading of my own story? First, that particular suspense was tricky to write. It consists of two timelines (one beginning in World War II, the other in our current day) that eventually converge. Even before showing the story to anyone, getting the alternating timelines ironed out required plenty of reading and tweaking—by me.

The story fired the imagination of literary agent Linda Glaz, who offered representation. But Linda pointed out weak sections to improve, which I did. Next, the publishing committee at Kregel Books fell in love with this story. (One editor said each person on the committee wanted it even before finishing the manuscript.) However, each of the three editors I worked with made suggestions and requested changes to enhance the story. That chore fell to me. I loved The Methuselah Project, but I grew tired of reading it over and over. I recall thinking, “I just want it done!”

What does this have to do with you? Chances are, you’re not descended from a race of super humans who can craft glittering manuscripts that need no polish. So, your first draft will beg you to iron out plot wrinkles, to replace lackluster nouns and verbs with vibrant ones, to ramp up the conflict, and to make the dialogue sparkle. Because all of these changes demand time with your story, you too just might get sick of seeing your own words.

Here are two keys to survival:
1.     Remember, nobody loves your story the way you do. If you hope readers will fall in love with it, you’re the best person to roll up your sleeves and slog through line after line, improving as you go. Perfecting a manuscript takes time, with eyeballs on the page.
2.     Bear in mind that impatience will undermine your book. If you were the chef in your own restaurant, you might get sick of cooking the same dishes over and over. But cutting corners and serving up mediocre, half-baked meals would lose customers. The same is true in writing. A first draft gets the story out of your head, but revising and polishing is where the magic happens. Even if you get sick of your words, you must meticulously polish them to delight your readers and win word-of-mouth buzz.

So, no matter how weary of your own words you become, don’t rush the revision. The goal isn’t simply getting published. The real goal is getting published with a book so delightful your readers will appreciate you for it!
Rick Barry speaks Russian and has visited Eastern Europe over 50 times for Christian ministry. He leads an active life that has included mountain climbing, jumping out of airplanes, and even prowling deserted buildings in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Rick believes a wide variety of experience provides fuel for his fiction. He has over 200 published articles and short fiction to his credit, plus three published novels. His most recent novel is The Methuselah Project, by Kregel Books. Author’s website and blog: Facebook: Twitter:

April 25, 2019

Game of Thrones Big Writing Lesson

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

I haven't been a Game of Thrones watcher, yet. I was waiting for all the seasons to be completed before I got hooked. However, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not seen the books, multiple interviews, and trailers tied to the HBO show in its final season. Hundreds of thousands have entered the world of Westeros created by George RR Martin. Most have read or seen snippets about the sigils, stones, and symbols of the powerful houses of the seven kingdoms. 

Author George RR Martin was on “60 Minutes” on 4-13-19 with interviewer Anderson Cooper. Martin seemed surprised by his success. He shared, “If you have a story that is about the human heart in conflict with itself about these very basic human emotions about love and ambition and greed for power, it doesn’t matter if there’s a dragon in it or if it takes place on an alien planet or if it takes place in Faulkner’s Mississippi. Human stories are human stories; the rest is just furniture.” I loved that statement.

Martin’s series is, “loosely based on the historical period ‘The War of the Roses.’” He has created a world with, Whitewalkers, supernatural villains who control an army of zombie-like followers called “whites.” 

To quote Martin, the series, “Game of Thrones,” or “his baby,” he gave up for adoption when HBO purchased the rights to his books. He was to complete the series. He missed his deadlines to finish two more books to end the book series. The executive producers Dan Weiss and David Bennyhoff realized the HBO show was catching up to the end of Martin’s published books. They were left with no other option but to create an end for the HBO show in Season 10. With overall guidance from discussion with Martin on his general ideas for the ending of “the game,” Weiss and Bennyhoff are writing season ending scripts.

Martin says the books are still his “baby,” but the ending of the show won’t have his details. This is the lesson to take away: the author missed the deadlines on his last 2 books; HBO moved on without him; the executive producers are finishing the series without the author’s detailed book as a guideline because he hasn’t written it. HBO has the rights to the world he created, so the author won’t be ending his own series. 

The lesson for all authors to not get distracted from your writing by awards, accolades, and commercial success. Focus on your writing. The commercial world may move on without your input even though you created the world in your books. 

How will the Seven Kingdoms end? HBO knows, but the author of the successful series didn’t write the ending, HBO did.

How do you deal with writing distractions?

April 24, 2019

The Idea for Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon

By Carla Killough McClafferty

People ask me where I get ideas for my books.  Ideas come from everywhere.  Sometimes they sort of creep up on me slowly like a cat sneaking up on a mouse.  Other times book ideas pounce on me all at once.  For my new book, Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, it was a little of both. 

A few years ago, I was at Mount Vernon doing research on Martha Washington.  I thought I’d write about her as a follow-up for my book The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon.   That week I met with Mount Vernon’s archaeologists, Dr. Esther White and Dr. Eleanor Breen, to ask them what sort of projects they were working on.

They told me about a brand new project they were planning: an archaeological dig in the Slave Cemetery.  They would not disturb any human remains.  Their goals were to determine the number of graves, discover how the graves were situated on the site, and learn where the boundaries of the burial site were.  I was fascinated. 

I’d visited Mount Vernon’s Slave Cemetery several times before.  It was a quiet and beautiful section of woods not far from the tomb of George and Martha Washington.  There are no grave markers and never had been.  If the large memorial weren’t there, no one would guess it was a burial ground. 

I asked the archaeologists lots of questions about the upcoming project.  As they talked, more and more questions about the enslaved community bubbled up inside me and began spinning around my mind.  Who is buried there?  What sort of jobs had they done at Mount Vernon?  Had they died young?  

Right then and there the idea for Buried Lives was born.  I wanted to write biographies of real people who lived their lives knowing someone owned them—and that someone was the President of the United States of America. 

Then the next phase of the book’s idea came slower as I wondered if there was enough primary source documentation available to write the book I wanted to write.  I knew that if there weren’t enough information, the book wouldn’t work. 

I found out that even though the enslaved people themselves did not leave a written record of their lives (they had not been taught to read or write), their lives were documented in many other primary source documents. George Washington was a meticulous record keeper and letter writer.  In addition to Washington’s records, many visitors to Mount Vernon wrote about the enslaved people. 

I knitted together thousands of pieces of information to write about accurately about six, specific enslaved people who lived and worked at Mount Vernon: William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline Branham, Peter Hardiman, Oney Judge, and Hercules. 

The idea for Buried Lives sprang from one conversation with archaeologists.  Ideas are everywhere.  When you are searching for your next book idea, everything you hear, read, and see could be the catalyst for a great story of fiction or nonfiction.
Carla Killough McClafferty was born in Arkansas and grew up in a tiny, rural community called Tomberlin.  Her parents were rice and soybean farmers. Although neither her elementary school nor her hometown had a library, she always loved to read.  McClafferty shares her award winning books with audiences of all ages.  She provides live author visits with students, professional development workshops with teachers, and interactive videoconferences for both students and teachers on a wide variety of topics.  She has been the speaker at national and international venues including ALA, ASLA, NCTE, NSTA, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the U.S. Consulate in Marseilles, France. McClafferty has been invited by Mount Vernon to do a presentation at the Ford Book Talk Series on April 11, 2019  about her newest book, Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Holiday House, 2018).  Also at Mount Vernon she will present a program for teachers.   She will also lead at two hour writing workshop for teachers at Mount Vernon, as well as speak to the Mount Vernon staff.  While in the area, McClafferty will present a program at Woodlawn Plantation, at Laurel Grove School Museum (one room schoolhouse built by former enslaved people) and at Hooray for Books.  McClafferty’s book The Many Faces of George Washington; Remaking a Presidential Icon resulted in an invitation to present a program for CSpan 2 Book TV. Some text within McClafferty’s book Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment was used in a documentary film on concussions titled Bell Ringer: The Invisible Brain Injury. Read how Carla Killough McClafferty combines fascinating nuggets of information, science, history, art, and medical imaging in her books:  Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment, The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon, In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry, Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium, A Short Biography of George Washington, Forgiving God, and a Bible Study workbook titled The Life of David Through His Psalms: Comfort from the Shepherd. 

April 23, 2019

Cleaning Chores for Authors?

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

I am always looking at books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the lists the publishers like Baker Publishing, Revel, Kensington, Harper Collins, Bethany and others send me.  This helps me keep abreast of what is popular, trending and upcoming.

While looking today I ran across an interesting author and her book and found not only is her book trendy, but so is she. It so happens she is in the United Kingdom. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to check it out. It’s Mrs. Hinch: The Instagram cleaning sensation. Her book releasing this month is Hinch Yourself Happy:  All The Best CleaningTips To Shine Your Sink and Soothe Your Soul.  Her name is Sophie Hinchcliffe. And so far, she has over 2 million followers. No longer are household chores the enemy. You can check her out here:

This is certainly a great way for her to sell her book and I would imagine there will be more books coming from her. I don’t know when she started building her platform, but she has accomplished building a platform, marketing, promoting and writing. By walking through her site be sure and notice all the things she uses to draw attention to herself, and although her book is on there, it seems she has wrapped it in the pictures.

What resources can you think of that you could use to add to your platform to increase exposure for you and your books?

Today, our author platforms need to be engaging for sure. All the long content wording we’ve been using over the years is losing favor and being replaced with fresh and unique content and making it shorter. The ever-true words of “keep it simple to understand and easy to read” is more important than ever. As you can see from her Instagram site, photos are the craze. They can say more than our words and keep our readers attention longer.

So, do a little spring-cleaning on your platforms, give them a “fresh coat of paint” so to speak; clean-out the cobwebs and update.

April 22, 2019

Writing Women’s Fiction As A Man-Part Two-Fearless Writing

By Wade Rouse

Continuing from my blog post on Friday, April 19, 2019…So, I started anew. Fearless. I channeled my voice, the funny-sad-poignant-sentimental one that could make me ugly laugh and ugly cry in the course of one paragraph. I finished the book, I queried agents, and I received three offers of representation. That was five books ago.

"Your voice is one-of-a-kind," my literary agent said to me when I signed with her.

The same thing happened again when I wrote my first novel, The Charm Bracelet, which was inspired by my grandma’s heirlooms, life, love and lessons. I channeled the voice of my female elders to write a book about dementia and the fragility of life as well as to remind readers of the value of family, history and what’s most important in life.

Voice is all we have as writers. If you ask any agent, editor, or publisher what he or she is looking for today in a writer or book, they typically will not say the next Harry Potter or Stephen King: They will say the next great voice.

Voice is the only thing that sets a writer apart from another. I joke there is only so much that separates Sedaris from Shakespeare: We all utilize the same tool belt: Same words, same themes. We all tend to write about the same things, too: Love, faith, family, sex, work, pets, war, death, but it's how we tell those stories that makes us unique.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers and teachers of writing. She explains voice this way to writers, and I do as well: If you were all a choir, and I gave you the lyrics to the same song, and stood back and listened to you sing, from a distance, it would largely sound the same. You'd be singing the same words, hopefully together and in tune. But if I dropped a microphone over each of your heads, the song would sound totally different: The sound of your voice, the way you interpret those exact same words would be uniquely you. A writer must do just that, except silently, on paper. 

I teach several writing workshops, where I help emerging and established authors on their craft and their manuscripts. I am proud to have helped several writers have their manuscripts published by major publishers. But I am prouder of the fact that I help souls overcome the fear that keeps them from not only pursuing their passion but also from channeling that unique voice that calls to them.    

Let your voice be heard – no matter what it is, just as long as it calls to you – and I guarantee you'll be amazed at how many people will respond not only to your talent but also your fearlessness.
WADE ROUSE is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction. Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope Chest; and The Recipe Box. NYT bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank says of Wade and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage: “Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters.  Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that novel.” Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly. Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors. For more, please visit and Facebook:   Instagram: viola_shipman  Twitter: @viola_shipman

April 19, 2019

Writing Women’s Fiction As A Man-Part One

By Wade Rouse

I’m a man who writes women’s fiction using his grandmother’s name, VIOLA SHIPMAN as a pen name. The picture to the left is me with my grandmother, Viola. Sounds like a terrible literary remake of Victor, Victoria, doesn’t it? Just imagine trying to sell your literary agent on that idea, especially when you’ve spent your entire career writing humorous memoir.

I did, and that was five novels ago. The Summer Cottage is my latest, publishing April 23 from Graydon House Books (HarperCollins). I credit it all to being fearless and to channeling the voice that calls to me when I write (be it funny or serious, a man’s or woman’s).

In fact, of the endless things I could teach and preach to writers, learning to overcome fear to channel your true voice tops the list.

Fear is devastating to all of us in life, but especially an author. Too often in our world today, we let fear consume us: It drives our daily lives typically more so than passion. We worry about money. Time. Health. Aging. Our parents. Our children. The future. 

The same typically holds true in writing. In the beginning stages, we worry about all the things over which we have no control: Whether our writing is good enough, whether we'll make money at it, whether those we love and know – and even those we don't – will like our work.

Awful things happen from head to hands, from brain to fingers to laptop, when we let fear consume us as writers. When emerging authors begin a book, they are driven by that unique voice that runs in their heads – the one only they can hear, the one which drives all of us to tell our stories. But before we fully channel that voice, it begins to be drowned out by the call of fear.

I know because it's happened to me many times in my career. I began my first book, America's Boy – a memoir about the difficulty of growing up in the Missouri Ozarks but surviving due to the love of family – as a novel. I started it as a memoir but grew fearful of pretty much everything, including what my family and hometown would think. I spent a year writing it as fiction, until someone I loved accidentally read it (a nightmare for writers).

When I asked what they thought, the reply was, "If you had dropped this on the street, and I had picked it up, I would never have known you had written it. It sounds nothing like you."

I was stunned. But, in my heart, I knew they were right. On Monday, Wade will appear with Part Two titled, “Fearless Writing.”
WADE ROUSE is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction. Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope Chest; and The Recipe Box. NYT bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank says of Wade and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage: “Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters.  Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that novel.” Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly. Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors.For more, please visit and Facebook:   Instagram: viola_shipman  Twitter: @viola_shipman

April 18, 2019

Comfort Zones

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

Well, you can tell me if this is true for you or not, but I write my best scenes and dialogue when I am writing in my comfort zones. No, I’m not talking about writing in my office or out on my patio. I’m talking about writing about the settings I’m placing my characters in.

I’m an outdoors person. I love to hike and camp. I’m comfortable in the mountains or on the beach, as long as I am outside. Where am I the most uncomfortable? Any meetings. I don’t like being confined to a room and having to listen to reports or spontaneously come up with ideas while everyone is watching. As far as the time of day, I prefer being outside in the mornings or right at dusk. I try to be in by dark (guess that comes from my upbringing when I could play with friends in the neighborhood as long as I was home by dark).

So, what does this have to do with my writing? After all, I’m creating fictional characters that often have very different personalities from my own. They have their own tastes. However, I have learned that when I am placing my characters in situations or settings that I am uncomfortable in, I tend to write as if the characters are uncomfortable there. I have to check myself or I will have a character running for home just because the sun is setting. I’ve had powerful CEOs squirm in a meeting just because I would.

That’s when I have to edit the most. I have to go back and make dialogue flow much more smoothly or have the character do something to appear relaxed like take off her shoes and relax on the patio as she watches the moon at midnight. When my characters are out of my comfort zones, I tend to want to get them back to my happy places quickly.

I’ve learned to edit my way out of those situations and improve the scenes, but I always have to admit that it’s a weakness for me. Decide what makes you uncomfortable and go back through your writings. See if this is true for you. You may have an entirely different weakness in your manuscripts. What’s important, though, is to know where your weak spots are and acknowledge them. Then you can edit your way to a stronger scene.

April 17, 2019

A Dream Realized

By Larry B. Gildersleeve

Being a published author had been a dream of mine since my high school days, but it took about fifty years to begin that journey.

My first two self-published novels using CreateSpace (now Kindle Direct Publishing) received favorable reviews in newspapers and magazines. My third novel and my first non-fiction work, both self-published, will be released later this year, and I’ve begun an aggressive search for an agent to hopefully gain access to a mainstream publisher.

I’ve never taken a creative writing course or other formal instruction. I learned to write fiction through exchanges of emails and iterations of my manuscripts with Lynda McDaniel, my outstanding writing coach and editor. Since I live in Kentucky and Lynda is in California, we’ve never met, but that hasn’t diminished the process in any way.

Because I had so much to learn, I wrote, and Lynda edited, six versions of my first novel before finally publishing the seventh in 2016. My second, released in 2017, began with a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline to aid me in focusing on development of my characters, as well as aligning the story line and timeline. The outline was critical to planting seeds of tension and conflict, and then harvesting them.

I wrote my first novel without thinking about things like genre or writing style. I had a story in mind, and just began to write. I’ve since focused my writing in two genres, Christian and Inspirational, yet striving to appeal to a broader secular audience. The more I wrote, the more my style evolved -- short, fast-paced chapters with page-turning endings and hopefully believable and memorable characters. And fewer characters. My first two novels had fifteen and eighteen characters respectively; the third has only four.

The biggest change in writing the second book came with following the chapter outline. With the third, in addition to the outline I’ve adopted the approach of going back to re-read all that I’ve previously written before continuing on a different day. Laborious and time-consuming, yes. But it keeps me immersed in the evolving story and the characters, as well as ferreting out repetitions of words and phrases, sometimes from one paragraph to the next. I liken it to repeatedly passing a comb through tangled hair, getting a smoother and smoother pathway to my desired outcome.

My research revealed the two most important considerations for marketing a book by a new author are the title and the cover, so I’ve given very careful consideration to both. It’s what will catch a reader’s eye when they see the title in print, or a picture of the cover on or other online marketing channels.

My long-deferred dream has finally come true. As another author once said, I write for pleasure and publish for profit. There’s been some profit, but more important is the pleasure I find every day that I write.    
Larry B. Gildersleeve is a father of two and grandfather of four who turned to writing after a four-decade career as a corporate executive. He lives in Kentucky and is the author of Dancing Alone Without Music and Follow Your Dreams. His third novel, entitled The Girl on the Bench, is scheduled for release in mid-2019.

April 16, 2019

Putting a Disaster to Memory

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

On a recent visit to the Texoma area, I found myself there during the remembrance of the Tuesday April 10th, 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak. An F4 tornado hit Wichita Falls, Texas and it has come to be called “Terrible Tuesday.” Second only to the loss of life¸42 dead, was the loss of property. The storm left an eight-mile swath through the city and destroyed $400 million in property which in today’s dollars was over 1.78 billion. That was only in Wichita Falls.

The outbreak continued for two days throughout the plains and Mississippi River Valley. There were fifty-nine confirmed tornadoes. The death toll came to fifty-four lives. Along with the forty-two dead in Wichita Falls was another eight Texans losing their lives. Three were killed in Oklahoma and one in Indiana. This remained the most disastrous storm until the Joplin Missouri tornado which hit on Sunday May 22, 2011.

Over several days the news covered this 40th Anniversary of the Red River Valley outbreak. Many people were interviewed concerning their loss and their memories of the impact of the tragedy. Each had vivid memories and were very detailed in their descriptions. I wondered if it was from clarity of memory or from reliving it over and over in their minds all these years. The pain was still there and that may have kept it alive.

I was reminded of the observation that our memories and the truth are close relatives but not identical twins. This said, I felt the need for someone, having experienced such a memory, taking time to write down their experience as well as their feelings. Details are important for future generations to know not only what others have gone through but how they dealt with it.

This applies not only to natural disasters but any and all life changing experiences. We should encourage a written account not only by us but by our friends and relatives. All that are interested should write of their view of the experience. When doing so be clear, be precise and be detailed. This will relieve us of tasking our memories with the details in future days and will be an account that will last.                            

April 15, 2019

Twenty Discoveries from a Writers’ Conference, Part Two

By Marilyn Nutter

In Part One of Twenty Discoveries from a Writers’ Conference, which appeared on Friday, I shared ten take aways I found after reviewing my notes and reflecting on my schedule and conversations. Part two gives my final ten.

1.      Join conversations at writers’ conferences. These may be a different kind of appointment. Don’t dismiss the possibility you might hear a nugget to encourage you or set you on a path. I had several at this conference, and the people don’t even know how they impacted me. And, be an encouragement to others. Share writing opportunities.

2.      Be a listener. I know what I know. I want to know what someone else knows.
3.      Position yourself to be a learner and be teachable. In John Mason’s book, Be Yourself, he writes “Remember, if you try to go it alone, the fence that shuts others out, also shuts you in.” 
4.      Accept criticism with discernment and humility. Know that it’s one person’s feedback. Perhaps that person can’t identify with your genre or topic or perhaps he is spot on.
5.      Take time to rest and refresh. We can’t run on empty.
6.      Trust God and wait on His timing.
7.      Identify my personal enemies: distractions, negative self-talk, zeal without prayer.
8.      Be thankful.
9.      Honor God by living His priorities for me-family, personally, and in writing.
10.  Partner with Him. He is the author and the one who has called me.
Conference takeaways are not necessarily a contract, request to send a proposal, or offer to guest post on a blog. I’m seeing it’s about learning who I am and who God wants me to become.  Number 20-yes, with courage and trust, “He will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8a ESV) ###
Marilyn Nutter is a contributor to magazines, on-line sites, and compilations. She is a Bible teacher, speaker for women’s groups, and serves on the women’s ministry team at her church. She lives in Greer, SC. Visit to find her blog and extraordinary treasures in ordinary and challenging days. Social Media Links: Website: LinkedIn: Marilyn Nutter Pinterest: Marilyn Marotta Nutter Facebook: Marilyn Marotta Nutter