October 31, 2019

Don’t Be Scared Off by the Business of Writing

By Edie Melson, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Most writers I know have come into the publishing business first as a hobby. For many, the transition from hobby writing to getting serious and treating it like a business was a difficult and scary transition. But with a little forethought, it doesn’t have be.

Tips for a Writing Life
1. Begin as you intend to continue. Actually this is a saying my grandmother used to quote me about a lot of things. Like many old sayings, there’s a lot of wisdom here. Basically it means to take the gift of writing seriously—whether you intend to earn a living or just write for the joy of it.

2. Put your money where your dream is. It’s important to invest in what we’re doing—even before we add the word professional to the description of what we do. Be willing to buy books, take classes (online and in person), travel to conferences and join organizations.

3. Give yourself the gift of regular time. Some people will tell you to write every day. But not everyone can do that. Instead I recommend you write regularly. Find a schedule that makes sense with your life and make your writing time a priority.

4. Create a healthy work environment. Becoming a professional writer means years of sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen. A sedentary life-style carries with it health risks. Make sure your equipment is the best you can afford. A good chair, ergonomic desk, and adequate lighting are minimum necessities.

5. Track your expenses. Even if you don’t plan to write them off your taxes, get in the habit of tracking what you’re spending. There are many apps you can add to a smart phone, or just invest in a notebook and keep your receipts. Then, when you’re ready to make the transition you’ll have cultivated good work habits.

6. Cultivate the support of friends and family. Include those closest to you in the practice of your dream. Show them this is important to you and ask for their help and include them in your celebrations.

7. Find a community of writers. While we all need the support of family and friends, we also need a tribe of people who can give us perspective when we encounter the struggles all writers face.

8. There’s no one right way to do this writing thing. Yes, there are things we must do to file taxes, but each author runs his or her business differently. Get lots of advice and look at how others manage their professional life. Use what makes the most sense for you.

9. Remember that building a business takes time. An overnight success isn’t the way this publishing thing happens. Be ready for a marathon, not a sprint.

These are some things I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career. But with these tips, you’ll find that making the transition from dreamer to professional can be a smooth process.

October 30, 2019

The Intimacy Between the Reader and the Novel

By Johnnie Bernhard

There is an intimacy between a reader and a novel an author prays she creates.  This intimacy evolves from the author’s imagination or subconscious.  A voice or image I have hidden in the recesses of the past often resurfaces in a character or bit of dialogue.  The character Jonas in A Good Girl is a blending of the Spanish-American War foot soldier, South Texas geography, and a mother's heart for a lost son. Leona of How We Came to Be is created from a WWII memorial in Budapest, Hungry and conversations with WWII survivors.  Leona is the embodiment of a woman who has lost everything but her faith.

My third novel, Sisters of the Undertow debuts February 27, 2020.  Every day I wonder how readers will respond to the characters, Kathy Renee and Kimberly Ann, sisters who are as different as two planets orbiting around the sun, never understanding each other, despite their years of circling.  The idea for Sisters of the Undertow comes from viewing the rescue of a little girl who was struggling to keep her head above water when she ventured out into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Grand Isle, Louisiana.  I witnessed that dramatic rescue over twenty-five years ago and have never forgotten it.           

Nothing pleases me more as an author than to have a reader discuss a character as if he or she is a living, breathing human being.  I’ve done my job – the character evoked an emotion with the reader. The intimacy between the two begins.
Johnnie Bernhard is an award-winning author of Upmarket Fiction.  Both A Good Girl and How We Came to Be were shortlisted for Fiction of the Year by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.  A Good Girl was shortlisted for the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction and a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.  How We Came to Be is a recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University. As an author, Johnnie enjoys speaking to book clubs as well as attending state book festivals and writing conferences as a presenter and panelist.  Sisters of the Undertow will be featured in a panel at the AWP in March 2020.  She is a proud member of the international Pulpwood Queens Book Club founded by author and literacy advocate, Kathy L. Murphy.  Visit Johnnie on the web at  Her books are available at retail bookstores and on Amazon. 

October 29, 2019

Writing for Halloween

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Every year, as Halloween approaches, it seems all my TV dramas adopt a Halloween theme. I am not opposed to Halloween but it is hard to pull off a believable drama with the same characters that have been doctors, nurses, police officers, firemen and the like. Their strong drama characters overpower their short-lived Halloween characters.

Overcoming the distraction of my favorite character appearing to be something different is hard enough but many times the writers don’t make things any easier. The plots vary from offbeat, to comical, to scary or even cute. I say cute because my grandchildren just saw the “Adam’s Family” and thought it was cute. Another set of grandchildren saw “IT Chapter 2” and described it as creepy. I’m not sure what the writers had in mind on either film but I would be willing to guess it wasn’t “cute” or “creepy”. 

Hearing their description of these movies I thought, I have never heard anyone describe one of Stephen King’s movies as cute or creepy. It seems to me the descriptions of his movies are more like scary and horrifying. King has been noted as the author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, and fantasy. No cute or creepy.

Frightening movies are not necessarily written with Halloween in mind but they are very often released around that time. It is the time of year we are all looking for a scare so why not indulge us? But let’s think back to what was mentioned earlier. Horror and even terror have its place but there are also places for cute and creepy. We may not be of the mind set to write the greatest of horror stories but there is also a place for us if we like writing scary, creepy or even cute. With most genres there are various ways to approach it. Writing horror has many levels as well.

As we enjoy this upcoming Halloween be aware of the stories you see and hear. Look them over and put them in a category you can name, such as horror, scary, creepy or cute. If you decide which one is your forte and you want to give it a try, go for it. It would be great to have it finished and out in time for Halloween 2020. Happy Halloween!     

October 28, 2019

Fiction, Imagination, and Empathy: Part 2

By Rebecca Dwight Bruff

Fiction requires imagination. Fiction demands that we imagine the lives and experiences of other people, people who are not us, and not like us. And even though we’re “making it up”, we want to get it right. We want, and our readers want, our characters to be believable, and to be appropriately represented.

I discovered, almost as soon as I began working on Trouble the Water, that there were innumerable things I didn’t know about my characters. I knew a few dates and places and lineages and accomplishments. But their lives and mine were separated by more than a century. Their experiences, perspectives, motivations, world-views, family systems, hygiene habits, vernacular – and a thousand other things – vastly different from my own.

So how do we bridge such historical and contextual distance? How do we write what we don’t know?

Check your assumptions and presumptions. I had to acknowledge from the start that I don’t know what it’s like to be male. Or illiterate. Or enslaved. And even though I (vaguely) remember being 22 years old, I don’t know what it was like to be 22 years old in 1862 in Charleston.

Pay attention to what you do know. Most of us do know what it’s like to long for something, to love someone, to grieve deeply. Most of us have been inexpressibly angry, or frightened, or passionate, or ecstatic or envious. Our deepest personal emotions are, paradoxically, universal. Tap into what you know about human emotion, and bring it to the page.

Ask good questions. “What is like to…?” “ How does it feel when…?”  I had several long and enlightening conversations with a 30 year-old African American man; he knew I was working on a book and I asked him to tell me about some of his experience. We learned about one another’s lives, and we’re better for it.

Read. Read periodicals and journals from the time period you’re writing about. Read the history. Read first-hand accounts if they exist; I read slave narratives, and diaries of slave-holders, and journals of abolitionists. Read outside of your own experience, interests, and biases.

Learn about personality types. What makes people tick? What motivates a humanitarian, or a narcissist, or an adventurer? How and why do people change or not change their opinions and behaviors over time? Explore the disorders; surely at least one of your characters will benefit from your research.

Be bold! Imagine. Stretch your mind and your capacity and your reach. Give a damn about what matters to your characters, and give them the life to pursue it!
Rebecca Dwight Bruff is the author of the award-winning Trouble the Water: A Novel, inspired by the life of Robert Smalls:   Rebecca heard Smalls’ story on her first visit to South Carolina. She was so captivated that she left her job in Dallas, TX and moved across the country to research and write this book. Bruff earned her Bachelors degree in education (Texas A&M) and Master and Doctorate degrees in theology (Southern Methodist University).  In 2017, she was a scholarship recipient for the prestigious Key West Literary Seminar. She volunteers at the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, South Carolina.  She’s published non-fiction, plays a little tennis, travels when she can, and loves life in the lowcountry with her husband and an exuberant golden retriever.  Visit Rebecca at her website: and Instagram:, Twitter: or Facebook:

October 25, 2019

Fiction, Imagination, and Empathy: Part 1

By Rebecca Dwight Bruff

How do we become empathetic beings? And how do writers help that to happen? I believe fiction, perhaps more than anything else, fosters and cultivates this essential human capacity.

Fiction, by definition, is imaginative invention. If we only read about people like ourselves, we simply reinforce what we already know or believe about ourselves and others. And if we only write about people like ourselves, people with our own characteristics and experiences, then it’s neither imaginative nor inventive. It’s also not very interesting.

When I began writing Trouble the Water, I tried to follow the common advice, “Write what you know.”

But the story is Historical Fiction. What did I know about living in South Carolina in the 19th century? What did I know about the life of the enslaved, or the motivations of the slave-holder? What could I possibly know about feelings, motivations, challenges, hopes and fears of a 20 year-old enslaved African American male?

Imagination – the extraordinary human capacity to explore ideas or concepts external to ourselves – invites us to consider what it’s like to be another person. Imagination opens us to wander through another person’s world and ask the important questions: What is this person feeling, thinking, hoping?

Imagination opens the door to empathy.

Empathy is the ability to sense or consider other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Stories teach us, shape us, inspire us, warn us, and stretch us. Literature gives us empathy for those unlike ourselves.

Can a novelist legitimately tell the story of a person from another place, time, culture, nationality, religion, ethos, sexual orientation? Of course. If, as an author, I fail to explore the depths of human nature – motivations and emotions, desires and dark secrets, hurts and hopes, fears, loves, lusts, all of it – then I’ve not given my best; I’ve failed to honor the story.

Fiction is essential, a critical and necessary door into the otherwise walled-off world of thinking about “other” – other places or times or possibilities, other ideas, other people, other ways of being human together. Fiction and its requisite imaginative endeavor foster our shared humanity.

Sue Monk Kidd said that in writing Invention of Wings, she was inspired by the words of Professor Julius Lester, which she kept on her desk: “History is not just the facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”

Empathy connects us across emotional and cultural distances. This is the privilege of the writing life. Part Two will appear on Monday, October 28, 2019.
Rebecca Dwight Bruff is the author of the award-winning Trouble the Water: A Novel, inspired by the life of Robert Smalls:   Rebecca heard Smalls’ story on her first visit to South Carolina. She was so captivated that she left her job in Dallas, TX and moved across the country to research and write this book. Bruff earned her Bachelors degree in education (Texas A&M) and Master and Doctorate degrees in theology (Southern Methodist University).  In 2017, she was a scholarship recipient for the prestigious Key West Literary Seminar. She volunteers at the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, South Carolina.  She’s published non-fiction, plays a little tennis, travels when she can, and loves life in the lowcountry with her husband and an exuberant golden retriever.  Visit Rebecca at her website: and Instagram:, Twitter: or Facebook:

October 24, 2019

Save NBC’s Bluff City Law like Charlotte Saved Wilbur

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Each September, I look forward to the new television show offerings on the major networks. I’m a TV junkie for good reasons. I like seeing how the show writers handle challenging situations in the limited time they have to garner viewership for a show that must compete with veteran shows and their established viewers. Such is the case with Bluff City Law. I truly love this show and wish it to surge past established shows like “Bull,” “The Good Doctor,” and of course “Monday Night Football.”  In my humble opinion the placement of “Bluff City Law” against these established shows and primo football didn’t give BCL time to be seen by viewers. 

Bluff City Law scripts are excellent and have a true sense of the authentic flair of Memphis and how things work in our city. Like most Southern towns, everyone knows somebody who knows someone within two or three people in your sphere of friends. In a city of a million people, Memphis is still just a small interconnected town. It’s like that 1990’s game described on Wikipedia, “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or "Bacon's Law" as a parlour game based on the "six degrees of separation" concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart.” Only in Memphis it’s more like 2 to 3 acquaintances before you know someone. 

Real life Memphis attorneys, Richard Glassman and his daughter, Lauran Stimac are legal consultants for the show. Their expertise has become a source of many of the episodes’ plots. I find it so fascinating, especially since I worked with Richard Glassman in my previous career as an insurance investigator. He’s a friend and a fierce defender of his clients rights, much like the character of Jimmy Smits in Bluff City Law. In an interview with NBC affiliate, WMC Channel 5, Glassman said, “I got an email from one of the writers the other day. The end of it was, got any new cases coming up. He’s looking for storylines,” he said. This is a well researched and cleverly written legal drama which makes it worthy of saving. 

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis’s newspaper reported on the viability of Bluff City Law last week, “The producers announced Thursday that shooting will end October 31, with the completion of the show's 10th episode. Six scripts had been written for additional episodes, but NBC has decided not to go ahead with the series at this time. “Bluff City Law" has not been canceled, however. Executives will access the program after its 10 episodes air, to see if it builds any traction on Hulu or other delayed-viewing and on-demand platforms.” I wish NBC realized what the writers of “Bluff City Law” understand; Memphis, (the setting of the show) like “The Law,” is complicated, gritty and requires nurturing to get viewers to understand and then fall in love with both the city and the show. This is a serious, well-written show taking on serious issues. It’s a show about underdogs who sometimes win, but when they don’t, they live to fight another day. It’s a show that shows lawyers as real people with real problems who fight for their clients. Isn’t that what all lawyers already know? Hopefully, the executives will re-evaluate and continue with the show’s production. 

This past week celebrates the 67th year of the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. Do you remember the tears you shed while reading this book? A brief review of the 184 page book provides a great story set on a working animal farm where Fern, the farmer’s daughter, saves her friend, Wilbur, the pig. The themes shown in this children’s book actually provide lessons to be carried from childhood into adulthood. One of the central themes is to celebrate and make the most out of life. As Charlotte, the heroine spider, says, “After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” Memphis is always celebrating something. 

Other lessons shown are give people who seem rough around the edges a chance. At the first meeting of Charlotte and Wilbur, it was a bit rough. Then, Wilbur gave her a chance, and he saw a kind heart and a friendship formed that through her efforts, Wilbur was again saved. Appreciating diversity is shown with the interactions of the various animals born in the same barn they all find a way to reach amicable cohabitation and resolve issues throughout the book. Much like the diversity found in our city. 

One of the most important lessons is to never dismiss those involved in the creation of something great. As Charlotte began weaving words into her web no one even saw Charlotte. They just saw her handiwork. As is the case of Bluff City Law, the show deserves a longer stint on network TV. The actors are perfectly cast; scenes are filmed with the backdrop of the gritty picturesque city of Memphis; it is produced brilliantly with well-researched scripts by writers who go the extra mile to get it right. 

My thanks to my talented picture-taking friend, Rene Leach for the fantastic spider web picture she took out her Memphis backdoor. The web appeared like Charlotte’s web overnight between her iron fence, and I revised Rene’s pictures in the spirit of the illustrations from “Charlotte’s Web.” Come on America. Help give BCL a winning judgement by watching Bluff City Law on NBC on Monday nights at 9PM CST or on demand at NBC. You don’t want to miss this show. To the NBC executives who make programming decisions, to quote the post it note from episode 1, “Change the World” and give Bluff City Law a fighting chance!     #SaveBluffCityLaw

October 23, 2019

Ka-Boom! Get Creativity-Working at Peak Speed.

By Laura Childs, author of Mumbo Gumbo Murder

One of the great perks of being an author is meeting new people at book signings, bookshops, libraries, and writing conferences. And while I adore folks who are passionate about reading, many of them are also secretly longing to become authors.

So I’m inevitably asked the following questions: How on earth can you write three books a year? How do you keep plots and characters straight in your head? How do you cope with writer’s block? And then there’s the biggie – how do you come up with all those ideas?

The answer, of course, is that most ideas spring from the imagination. And here I’m talking about all sorts of ideas – whether you’re trying to craft a novel, short story, book of poetry, or just want to infuse a spark of creativity into your job or everyday life.

The good news is that revving up your creativity isn’t nearly as tough as you think. But if you’re stuck, here are a few of my favorite tricks to get started:

Carry a notebook around with you. When ideas, words, phrases, or images run through your mind, jot them down. I’ve had concepts like “ghost train” and “shooting party” turn into entire book plots.

Try to work when you’re at your best. (I think this used to have something to do with biorhythms). But, seriously, you know when you’re best able to buckle down and work smart. For me, I start to pick up speed around four o’clock. That’s when my motor kicks in and I can write like the devil for the next four hours.

Doodle your ideas. Use circles, arrows, boxes, whatever. I do this when I’m plotting a book. I take a huge piece of paper and start sketching out murderous openings, then I try to connect them with suspects, plot twists, and a few more nefarious acts.

Don’t be afraid to ditch out and take a break. If you’re working on something and your mind starts to wander, stop and do something else. Take a catnap, read a chapter in a book, go outside and walk around, eat some chocolate. I also find that going to museums, concerts, and movies help recharge my batteries.

Try some collaboration. If you’re in a writer’s group, why not pitch ideas to each other? Often you can help build on each other’s themes and story lines.

Music unlocks the brain and sometimes stimulates it. I write to classical music, Stephen King writes to hard rock.

Go ahead and outline your book, your business plan, or the rest of your life. Write it down on paper, keep tinkering with it, and update as needed. Remember that each of us has been gifted with a brilliant, vivid imagination that’s fizzing with ideas. We just have to unlock those ideas to make our novel, poem, or movie script happen!

Best of luck!
Laura Childs is the author of the Scrapbook Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All have been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, and has a new Chinese Shar-Pei puppy.

October 22, 2019

Do Your Readers Turn Your Pages?

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

What do you think would grip your reader to make them want to turn the pages of your book?

Perhaps to a writer that may seem like a funny question.  But you see readers want to open a book and meet a character (person), your protagonist, and they want to come to identify with that character quickly. The more they care about the character the more they care about what happens to this character.

They are not going to put this book down until they make sure this character survives physically and emotionally. They truly want this character to meet their goals and secure happiness. In other words, they have become invested in your protagonists.

You might want to ask yourself is your character genuine. Are they reliable? Are they convincing? Gripping? Fascinating?

The more your character is developed the greater pull he/she has for your reader. Emotions become real and you can feel them.

I want to add, readers prefer the character to be active. In other words, full of life, energetic and involved.

Think of characters in stories you’ve read . . . which ones grabbed your attention? The ones who were active or the ones who were docile––inert?

Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Perhaps as writers this is what we should work towards––turning our character into a person for our readers.

October 21, 2019

Going it Alone?

By LuAnn K. Edwards

Over my lifetime, I’ve described myself as an avid reader. My favorite pastime, better than movies or television, is to read novels. I’m not picky. I enjoy several genres.

My love for reading and stories that flooded my mind placed in me a wish to one day become a novelist. I hid that desire inside my heart until a friend asked me to write for our church blog five years ago. After I submitted a few posts, she told me I wrote clean, and she encouraged me to attend a writer’s conference.

At the conference, I met with the author who taught the fiction track. She reviewed the first page of a short story I’d written. Her advice: “Show not tell. And increase your dialogue to move the story forward.”

I put the story aside and began my first novel. I added dialogue and action. This same novelist presented the next year at the conference. She read my first page and said, “We need to see the action.” She gave me a few ideas.

I rewrote my first chapter to pull in more expressive action and asked my friend from church to critique what I’d written. She asked, “Have you considered a writing coach?”

One problem I wrestled with was cost. Not cheap to hire a coach. But the bigger obstacle was making myself vulnerable. Exposed. Ask someone to read my entire manuscript? They’d learn so much about me. I wrote what I knew.

When I weighed my insecurity against the benefits of having a knowledgeable author tell me what worked and what didn’t, I decided to move forward. Not only did my coach find where my writing could be better, he gave suggestions for improvement. He encouraged me with a “Nice” or “Wow” when what I’d written was good. He pointed out rabbit trails, and he pushed me to add more tension. We focused on deep point of view, richer dialogue, and setting.

In working with a writing coach, not only did my confidence grow, but my manuscript became stronger. My coach pulled out creativity I’d hidden away.

If you hope to write your first book, I recommend you hire a coach. An invaluable resource. If you’d like a recommendation, please shoot me an email.
LuAnn K. Edwards lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband and youngest daughter. In addition to writing a weekly blog, she looks forward to publishing her first novel and finishing her second book in the series. She enjoys reading, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family. You may find her online at Email:

October 18, 2019

From Novelist To Screenwriter, An Unexpected Journey

By Mike Lynch

Some years ago a friend asked me if I'd ever be interested in writing a screenplay. My answer was an emphatic--NO. I was nice about it, of course, but my only interest was in writing novels. I had published a number of books by then, and was eager to continue with that as long as the ideas kept coming. Besides, I knew no one in Hollywood. Over time, however, an unexpected thing happened; I had grown weary of promoting my novels. I felt more like a pitch-man than an author. To make matters worse, my sales weren't exactly approaching best seller lists. Don't get me wrong, every published book was an achievement I celebrated, the reason I’d become a writer. But a salesman, that wasn't me. What to do? Then I had a revelation.

Advertisers, not writers, promote TV shows and movies. Why not let them do that for me. So I decided to chase the impossible and became a screenwriter. Great. Then it occurred to me--I had no idea how to write a screenplay.

Acknowledging my obvious cinematic ineptitude, I set about scouring the Internet for articles that focused on how one writes screenplays. I also immersed myself in the world of produced scripts. I noted how they were structured, the cinematic language incorporated into them, and ways writers developed their characters. Fortunately for me, story arcs for movies generally follow the same format as novels: the 3-Act structure.       

Act I    Setup: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Plot Point One
Act II  Confrontation: Rising Action, Midpoint, Plot Point Two
Act III Resolution: Pre-Climax, Climax, Denouement

I chose one of my novels, a story I felt would work as a movie, and set about adapting it into a screenplay. That meant I needed screenwriting software. After doing some research, I decided on Final Draft. Used by most industry professionals, the interactive software is easy to navigate, and it gives you the adaptability to write any script you need. But I won't lie to you, Final Draft isn't cheap. In its current incarnation the program costs around $250. For those who are more money conscious, a free, legal website exists that is similar to Final Draft, called Celtx ( The software is similarly formatted, and you can store as many scripts as you like on their site for free.

So, if you're interested in writing screenplays in the hopes of getting your project produced, all you need is a great idea, a whole lot of determination, and it can happen for you. How do I know? Because it happened for me. I sent out dozens of query letters to producers listed online, until one of them wrote back. To date, three of my scripts have been optioned by production companies, one of which will go into production this October, The Peaceful Kingdom. If given a chance to write a follow-up article, I'll let you know how that experience went.
Mike Lynch is an award-winning author whose first book, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, After the Cross, Love's Second Chance, After the Sky Fell, Arena Planet and Mind Writer. He has also published a number of novellas, short stories and writing articles in various magazines and anthologies. Turning his attention to film, his screenplay, Jason’s Hope, was awarded as a finalist in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest. Mike's other screenplays, After the Cross and The Peaceful Kingdom, have been optioned by production companies, the latter of which is scheduled to start filming in October.

October 17, 2019


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

Cecil Murphey once said that writers had to be a tad egotistical to write. All that rejection couldn’t be about our writing…. But there’s that word again—rejection.  Who in their right mind wants to keep getting rejected? Writing rejection feels lousy and can ruin the best of days. Then why do we do it?

The odds of getting published can be frightening. Let’s just heap all of that rejection on our heads why don’t we. Let’s schedule in a daily weep fest—just what we need when we go to the mailbox everyday to get another rejection letter. While we’re heaping on rejection, let’s go ahead and pile on some resentment and jealousy while we’re at it.

I’ve heard more than a couple of writers say they don’t understand why so-and-so’s books sell better, etc. (Anne Lamottwrote about her rejections and how they hurt.) The first time I heard that from a writer, I was surprised. The first time I read those words in a writer’s book on writing, I was even more shocked. Isn’t there enough fame and fortune to go around for all writers? The answer is—sorry—but no, according to Cec Murphy and others.

With many owning computers these days or at least having access to them, practically the entire world is writing a book. Especially in the Scandinavian countries. One writer who had recently moved to the States from that area of the world told me that with short winter days, people had nothing to do so they were all writing books to while away the time until spring’s thaw.

Who’s going to read all of those books even if they do make it out of the drawer to be published?  
Let’s face reality. There are only so many hours during a day to read books. I still haven’t read all of the classics, much less the millions of contemporary books out there waiting to be read by somebody. Anybody. One warm body.

So why do we keep writing when the odds are stacked against us? Once more, I’d like to share some of Madeleine L’Engle’s thoughts, this time on what she had to say about why she wrote—especially when her husband was her most ruthless critic and a friend once told her, “It’s been said better before.”

“Of course,” Madeleine replied. “It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.”

Madeleine’s reply made me think: Writing a story is like decorating a room. If ten different decorators style a room, every room will probably turn out gorgeous, but different. (Unless they put shag carpet on the wall. Sorry, Elvis.) The same goes for a novel. Give the same idea—boy meets girl on the beach, they fall in love—to ten writers and they’re all going to come up with different characters, different plots, different beaches. Not all beaches have to be in sunny climes. We could be talking about two Native Alaskans meeting for the first time on a beach not far from ancient fishing territory.       

As writers, particularly writers who feel the need to write with a no holds barred attitude—our fingers must type words or else—we must stack our words next to each other until our own personal story is fleshed out. It will be different from a neighbor’s story. More nuanced, perhaps. Intimate in different ways, perhaps. Yes, you might have been in the same neighborhood when a tornado hit but what one person experiences is usually totally different from what another experiences.

You might be out on the same fishing boat but only the person in the captain’s chair reeled in the sailfish. Everyone on the boat will tell the story from a different viewpoint or angle. Some stories will be more compelling than others. The sailfish might get longer and longer and weigh more and more by the end of the telling for some. I guarantee no two stories will be exactly identical.

Therefore, don’t be discouraged about the odds stacked against writers. Keep writing stories. You won’t know unless you try. Some might say it better, but their voice isn’t your voice. You might find your niche. You might write a bestseller. No matter the success or lack thereof, your grandchildren might one day get a huge kick out of what gramps or granny had to say in their own voice. You won’t know the results unless you hammer out your masterpiece. Hammer down and go for it!        


October 16, 2019

Using All the Senses

By Paula Acton

As writers, we often focus on describing what our characters see, hear, and say but sometimes we fail to make use of the other senses in the same way.

Our sense of taste is very rarely used, unless, we are describing the characters eating a meal or the metallic zing of blood in their mouths, but when you consider how closely linked taste is to the sense of smell, it can be worth paying more attention to them in tandem.

Often it is not the actual smell or taste of something we are describing but rather the personal associations with it that can add an extra depth to a writer’s work.

It has long been suggested that if you are selling a house you should bake bread or brew fresh coffee prior to viewing, those smell evoking a sense of home, that the person looking around could have that lifestyle. Now, apply that to your writing, in romances image how the waft of the perfume or scent of a beloved one can evoke an almost physical reaction, a remembrance of embraces, but more than that the perfume itself can say more about your character. Think of the type of girl you think of wearing something soft and floral rather than heavy and musky, of how your own preferences change with age, change from day to night, many people have a signature scent that is associated with them.

The same applies to locations, you can describe a dark alley, but by adding a few smells it can transport the reader there and help build tension. If you are describing a scene by the sea then there is the smell of seaweed, and the sea but also that transposes with even the slightest breeze to the dryness of the characters lips and the saltiness as their tongue darts out to moisten them.
Of course, no one could possibly describe every taste, smell, or sensation experience in the tapestry of their stories, however, when used effectively you can enhance the immersive effects for the reader.
Born in Leeds, and currently residing in Huddersfield in the UK, Paula Acton explores the darker side of fiction. The short story collections feature twisted love stories in Disintegration & Other Stories, whilst Voices Across the Void explores ghostly tales. Her novels fall into dark, medieval fantasy with Ascension the first part of her Queen of Ages Trilogy has been met with five-star reviews from readers new to the genre. Mother to two children, and grandma to two, slave to two cats, and owner of a demented spaniel, any free time she gets she loves to curl up with a book. She is also a lover of board games, regularly can be found assisting in fending off the zombie apocalypse and listening to true crime podcasts. She can be found on Facebook, at her website -, on Instagram - Blog - and all her work is available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.

October 15, 2019

Should I Have a Blog?

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Southern Writers Magazine is a big believer in having a blog. The official magazine blog, Suite T, has over 3.5 million views which is due to the hard work of our Communications Director Annette Cole Mastron. Many authors have posted here and our hope is they will continue to visit here and more will join. The blog archives are a treasure trove of writing information.

Annette has a total understanding of social media and knows the benefits of a blog, podcast or video blog. Annette explains the media you use is not as important as the message you send. As an author the blog is the best way to introduce your writing style to your readers.

On Suite T we introduce many authors writing style to many readers. Many authors that have posted on Suite T also have their own blogs. With their blog and Suite T combined they can introduce their own writing style and their personal websites and books.

For the most part social media is more of a short-term medium. It is important to not only be aware of that but know its value and how to benefit from it as well. Over time it has developed into something that isn’t an end to itself but a conduit for a more long-term medium like your blog, then your goal is your website. Social media introduces you to the reader and takes the flow of traffic back to your blog and website.

This feeds into the scientific marketing facts of search engine rankings and social algorithms. What that means to us is our books and online visibility is greater. This in turn should mean a higher number of views on your website. In the end your connection with your readers is enhanced. With that comes more book sales.    

Our purpose at Southern Writers Magazine is to promote authors and we have promoted close to 4,000 authors. We have done so through our magazine articles which are supported by Suite T blog post. Our readers can get to know and further connect with our authors by following us on Suite T then going to your website. We don't want readers to stay on social media - we want to drive them to the author's website. A blog is the best way to strengthen the connection between an author and their readers. They have a deeper interest in you and your books. The answer is you should have a blog and you should feel free to take full advantage of ours.

You are more than welcome to appear as a guest author and you can connect to our SWM's, Suite T by emailing Annette Cole Mastron at I think you will like what we can do for you and help promote your brand and books.