Friday, August 7, 2020

Making the Reader Want to Know More

Bob Strother

I had written Shug’s Place, the forerunner to Stories Not to Tell, back in 2013. After its publication, many people told me how much they enjoyed the book, and I toyed with the idea of a sequel. But then I began my historical fiction trilogy: Burning Time, A Fire to be Kindled, and Embers On the Wind and that idea sort of slipped by. Following the last book in the trilogy, it just felt like a good time to revisit the characters from Shug’s Place and add a few more. Stories. Not to Tell was the result.

I did a good bit of research on the historical events—such as the David Koresh/Waco siege and the World Trade Center bombing. I also looked into the Nazi Lebensborn birthing program and the history of the Black Muslim and White Supremacy movements. Most of the research was done online, but the Black Muslim and White Supremacy research came from the book: God & Apple Pie: Religious Myths and Visions of America by Christopher Buck.

Inasmuch as possible I like to end a scene (or chapter) with something that makes the reader want to know more. It’s usually an internal question or thought that validates the character’s internal conflict. Or something that surprises the character (and, often, me). I try to use humor as well; it sets the stage for releasing the tension before bringing the hammer back down when you least expect it.

I’ve always been told that first chapter, that first sentence, even that first word or two must hook the reader immediately. I don’t necessarily buy that. I give the reader more credit than that. Sure, I try to make that first paragraph interesting, but I believe making that first character interesting is as much a hook as some event. If the reader doesn’t care about the character—good or bad he or she may be—they won’t bother to read further.

As I just said, character development is something I focus on, and I suppose it’s something that’s come along fairly easily for me. I enjoy making up new characters with all their back story and all that’s been done to shape their perceptions of the world around them. It’s fun. But I love setting scenes as well. I view most scenes like a TV series: Interactions between characters, internal dialogue, making something happen—then jumping off to another scene and other characters. It helps keep the reader interested and moves the story forward. 

A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, award-winning author Bob Strother has over one hundred and twenty-five stories +, essays, and poems in print. His work has been published internationally and adapted for film. Previous publications include a collection, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered and a novel-in-stories, Shug’s Place. His novel Burning Time, and its sequel, A Fire To Be Kindled were released in 2015 and 2017, respectively, through moonSHINE review press. Bob’s short story “The Peanut Man” was awarded second place in the magazine’s 2015 Fiction Contest.  Bob lives with his wife, Vicki, in Greenville, South Carolina.

To see/order  his books go to:

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Is Social Media Necessary for Success?

Jamie Lee Grey

To most authors, social media is a big help – it’s a way to connect with readers, market books, create buzz and establish a platform. And it’s free! Why wouldn’t an author make use of it?

Maybe you find social media a terrible time-drain that distracts you and keeps you from doing your job (writing your book!). Maybe you’re an introvert. Maybe you don’t really enjoy “putting yourself out there.”

Or perhaps you’ve been a big participant in social media and love all aspects of it. Then one day, you find yourself shadow-banned or de-platformed because you’ve committed thought-crime (you’ve posted the wrong opinion, stated an unpopular fact, or liked, linked, re-tweeted or promoted something that isn’t in line with currently acceptable beliefs, opinions or politics).

Bam! You’ve suddenly lost your platform and all your followers!

Now what?

Is it possible to achieve success in today’s book market without social media?

Happily, I can report, that yes – it is possible!

Personally, I’ve never had much interest in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or any of the others. As an author, I don’t use social media. And yet, I make a happy living writing novels.

I didn’t set out to shun social media. I just never got on board. At some point in the future, I may make use of those platforms.

Now, you astute marketers out there are probably staring at your screen in shock. Your fingers are already flying across the keyboard, writing a comment along the lines of, “But you can’t advertise your books on Facebook without a Facebook account!”

That may be true.

And it may be the motivation I need in the future to begin using Facebook – it’s an advertising opportunity I’ve never utilized. And I would like to, someday, when I get around to it. Meanwhile, I’m doing pretty well with other marketing strategies: Amazon Advertising, BookBub ads, and various promotional newsletters like FreeBooksy, Fussy Librarian, etc.

If I begin using Facebook, it will probably be with minimal social interaction, and a primary focus on paid advertising for my books. My work time is best focused on writing books.

So, how do I get by without social media? I rely on God for my financial success, but I have a set of business strategies that any author can replicate. They are:

1. Write great books. This includes all the things that Suite T covers: strong plot, interesting characters, head-turning dialogue, and so on.

2. Get good editing. If you’re not a professional editor yourself, you should have someone else edit your books. If you are a professional editor, you should still have someone else proofread and beta read your books.

3. Pay for a good cover that instantly conveys the genre of your book. This is critical. A reader needs to know at a single glance that your book is the type of book they enjoy. Otherwise, they’ll move on. If your budget is limited, look for pre-made covers. They’re more affordable.

4. Learn to market appropriately. Start with a small ad budget and study how to best utilize the various advertising opportunities. Grow from there.

5. Write a regular newsletter, and ask readers to sign up for it! If you do nothing else, do this. Personally, I use MailerLite, but you should use whatever email management company best suits you. I ask for signups in the back of each book (with links), and on my website. When I release a new book, I announce it in my newsletter, and those wonderful readers drive sales, visibility and ranking. They are pure gold, and I am so grateful for them.

6. Write the next book. This is some of the best advice I’ve received, and the best I can give. When you finish a book, do a happy dance, order a pizza, celebrate, and start working on your next book. (Also, writing in a series is a big career-booster.) When a reader enjoys one of your books, they’ll look for other books you’ve authored. Writing to build a backlist of books is like rolling a snowball down a steep mountainside. Each new book makes it bigger. Pretty soon, it can turn into an avalanche of sales.

Sometimes the things we’re told we need to do to be successful authors can seem overwhelming. Don’t let it get you down. If something isn’t a good fit for you, consider whether it’s absolutely necessary for success. In my case, social media wasn’t. For you, maybe it’s something else.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you compensate?

We aren’t cookie-cutter people, and book publishing isn’t a cookie-cutter business. Figure out what works for you, and write on! 

Jamie Lee Grey is the author of numerous Christian novels, including the Band of Believers and Daughter of Babylon series. As a teenager in Idaho, she decided she’d marry a man with a Southern accent who played piano. In college, she found and married a guitar-strumming, drum-pounding son of an old Florida family from St. Augustine. He has since learned to play piano.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Reflections of a Southern Boy: Devotions from the Deep South

John M. "Jack" Cunningham, Jr,

Sometimes, it may take months or years for an idea to give birth on the page. Such was the case of my most recent book, Reflections of a Southern Boy. I conceived the idea at a writers conference many years ago when a speaker suggested that we could write a book by compiling our published articles around a theme. While I pondered this over many years, I continued writing and selling my work: articles, devotionals, and historical novels.

Yet, I wanted to write a nonfiction book. With each passing year, this desire grew stronger until finally, the day arrived when I knew I had to do it.

First, I reviewed all my published devotionals’ bylines and checked their copyright status. Those I still owned the rights to, I set aside. These are the ones I would use. It’s important that we writers know what rights we’re selling to publishers before we attempt to resell a piece because if we don’t own the copyright, we can’t resell it.

Most of my devotionals are centered around lessons the Lord taught me while growing up in Alabama as well as in my adult years in Louisiana. They were, in effect, reflections. This gave me my title.

When I re-read them, I also discovered they fell under four main sections: Reflections on Holiness, Reflections on Ministry, Reflections on Warfare, and Reflections on God’s Blessings.

Immediately, I set to work revising them and even expanded a few. I also added several new devotionals and a Bible study at the end of each section.

I enjoy using fiction techniques when I write nonfiction, if appropriate to the subject matter such as a feature story, because I believe this helps maintain a reader’s interest. In Reflections, since many are personal experience articles, I often used action, dialogue, and conflict. Some of my stories are serious, and other stories are humorous. A few, though, simply have a Southern theme.

Every professional writer should attend at least one writers conference a year, for numerous reasons. In my case, a conference sparked the idea for Reflections of a Southern Boy: Devotions from the Deep South. Maybe at the next conference you attend the Lord will give you a fresh idea for a book too. 

John “Jack” M. Cunningham, Jr., graduate of the University of Alabama. Holds a B.A. in history and taught school in the New Orleans area.

He’s been writing professionally for over thirty years. His work has appeared in numerous devotionals and Sunday school publications as well as Christian and secular magazines. His fiction has appeared in literary magazines. He’s written three Civil War novels and a devotional book. He is also a speaker at writer’s groups, a freelance editor, and a writing instructor.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Settings and Romance

Cindy Patterson

I fell in love with the Amish nearly twenty-two years ago—the same year I married my husband. The same year our church choir visited the towns, villages, and communities of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. It led to reading an assortment of Amish Romance, which then steered to my very first attempt at writing a full-length book.

It was as if something inside me came to life as I filled those pages with words.

Choosing the area for the setting was easy—and what a romantic setting it is. Within its 46-mile-wide and 43-mile-long area, each town in Lancaster County has its own unique personality and name. There’s Bird-In-Hand, Strasburg, Intercourse and many others that unfold along winding roads and farming land with a breath-taking beauty that stretches mile after mile. But there was that one community called Paradise with its scenic back roads and a covered bridge that the story would transpire.

My working title became Chasing Paradise, and this led to another book called Broken Butterfly, and A Paradise Series was born.

It wasn’t until many years later of learning, rewriting, and editing, and more learning, more rewriting, and more editing, that they went into print. And then out of order. But that’s an entirely different story.

Digging deep and creating all sorts of trouble with the very thing the characters want most is hard but rewarding. It is such an important aspect since it makes or breaks the reader from turning the pages. Through their storms, I sketch glimpses of hope throughout their struggles to reveal faith and the unordinary love of Jesus who has been with them all along. In those shattered moments, this gives them strength. And I never leave my characters without a happy ending.

Choosing the central source of challenge for Chasing Paradise came easy as my two primary characters from unique backgrounds fall into forbidden love.

Rachel Adams leaves behind painful memories as she moves from her childhood home in Florida to Paradise, Pennsylvania, at a vulnerable time in her life. With her out-going and lovable nature, it disheartens her when she encounters the attractive Amish handy-man, Paul Fischer, and his apparent disapproval of her.

Paul Fischer has enough trouble gaining his uncle’s approval while running his construction company among the Englischer’s instead of farming his uncle’s land. When Rachel Adams, the daughter of the woman he’s agreed to work for catches his eye, things get complicated fast.

Broken Butterfly is a tale that centers on a tattoo. The Amish lifestyle and culture still play an important role in the background, and Paul and Rachel are still major characters, but the suspense shifts into another gear with a brand-new character, Mallory Scott. While Eric Matthews emerges from the shadows of Chasing Paradise, driven to save Mallory from her haunted past.

What a blessing that God would allow me to pour out these stories and be a voice, no matter how tiny, of His unconditional love and His presence in our lives through Christian Romance! And God-willing, it’s something I will do until I draw my last breath.

Award-winning author, Cindy Patterson, believes in captivating romance and happy endings. In her stories, she loves to give glimpses of how God can use brokenness and make them whole. She reads a lot, drinks too much coffee, and wishes she had more time to write. Author of Chasing Paradise, Broken Butterfly, and Shattered Treasure. 

She loves to connect with her readers and you can find her at


Monday, August 3, 2020

A Touchy Subject

LuAnn K. Edwards

Have you ever worked for a boss who was difficult to work with? I thought about one I had and wondered what would happen if the receiver of his rudeness ended up falling in love with him. What would that look like? That’s the story you’ll find in my Christian contemporary romance series—Love Comes Again.

In Book 1, Only A Glimpse, Keedryn Reynolds is a widow and executive assistant who wants to work hard, prove herself responsible, and do her best for God. She gets a boss, Blake Conner, who can’t find anything good to say about her work. Though she’s not interested in romance, she would like to develop a friendship or at least a better working relationship with him. She also feels led to share God’s love and later realizes she’s sharing her love too.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Quiz: Do You Actually Capture the Readers Attention?

To hook your reader in the first sentence do you use the journalist’s method of who, why, what, where, when or how?

Do you immediately go into a deep point of view or begin the story on a light point of view?

Do you focus on the main character in the first few pages or what is going on in their world?

Does your writing cause your reader to use their imagination or do you interpret?

Do you begin with important facts?

Do you use an active tense?

Do you create an emotional connection with your characters?

Do you use curiosity to lead to the reader’s anticipation?







Thursday, July 30, 2020

Characters Develop the Story

Paul H Yarbrough

I was born and reared in Mississippi; lived  both in Louisiana and Texas and spent most of my business career in the oil business.

I took up writing as a hobby 15 years ago and love to write about the South. I write essays, short stories and a few poems, though poetry is something I do as an amateur chasing a hobby. Just as well, considering the payment for poetry (at least mine).

But now I have just finished a fourth novel. The Yeller Rose of Texas.

When I begin a story, (so far anyway), I have no clear idea of a plot. I usually just think about characters and what they are or what they can be. Then a story develops.

I read once where Damon Runyon said, “Give me characters and I’ll find a story.” That’s why he hung out at race tracks, pool halls, beer joints and places where he would find the most eccentric people. And characters made his stories.

My first two novels took place in Mississippi (where I was born and reared). The third in Louisiana (where my wife was born and reared). And the latest in Texas (where my son was born and reared).

Of course, I have spent, now, most of my life in Texas. In fact, I’ve lived in Texas longer than Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis combined.

But Texas is first, Southern, and I like to write about the South. I Began The Yeller Rose of Texas as a nostalgic story centered mostly in East Texas—almost a family story. It was going to be about a family with two young sons whose father was overseas during the Korean War—serving as a military field doctor. That was the original background, and I held to that background as part of the plot.

But the idea of a concept of roses (I had just written an Easter poem about roses) and their having different meanings for different colors, put me onto the thought of something opposite to beauty—violence. This idea touched off the concept of good vs evil and those two opposite nonidentical twins.

I thought, as I revealed the plot, I would also reveal the different nature of domestic roses and their colors and wild roses, Rosa Canina, Dog Roses. They actually are not roses, technically, but are called such—something like “knock-off” roses by nature.

Therefore, the story is throughout almost like a Robert Louis Stevenson “good guy, bad guy” adventure.

So, the story has nonidentical twins both pretty good. But it has another set of twins, nonidentical boys who have a different history altogether. Before I knew it my “down home” Texas nostalgia story was plodding through and bleeding into some kind of (another author, yet) Flannery O’Conner Gothic horror.

Being Texas, the story has a good supply of hunting dogs and feral hogs to go with it, and a concomitant mystery.

But in the end The Yeller Rose of Texas shines just as it is called, The Yeller, not the Yellow—with a Texas twang.

Paul H. Yarbrough is originally from Jackson, Mississippi. For the past forty years, he has lived in Houston, Texas, where he has worked for two oil companies and been an independent consultant in the oil business, mostly as a landman. He is a widower with one grown son. Paul has published a handful of short stories, flash fiction and essays in a variety of forums: The Abbeville Institute, The Daily Caller, Lew Rockwell, Virginia Right, Independent Journal Review.
His first novel, Mississippi Cotton, was published by Wido Publishing in 2011. His second novel, A Mississippi Whisper,was published by WiDo in December, 2014. In December, 2017 Wido published a third Southern novel: Thy Brother's Blood: A Louisiana Novel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Decorations for Your Book

Susan Reichert


What? Decorations for my book? What kind of decorations?

I am talking about the cover image for your book. The story you spent hours creating, massaging, and birthing into being. Oh, and you remember all the editing and rewrites?

A cover is considered a decoration. Why? Because that is what draws the readers’ attention.

Think about walking in a mall and passing a clothes store. Look how the windows are dressed. Eye appeal! Eye Appeal! Eye appeal! Or as I like to call it, eye candy.

If the colors are eye catching and the window is creative, it will draw you through the doors to see what they have. You don’t even think twice about going in.

That is how you want your book to be. Eye candy for the reader.

Through my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine (nine years), I saw thousands of book covers.

Do you think I saw more book covers that were creative, inviting, and exciting or more that did not entice the reader to pick up the book or do you think it was fairly even?

Unfortunately, I saw more covers that did not entice me to pick up the book and read it. Some were bland, colors to dark, and images had nothing to do with the book.

Now you may be thinking that these were mostly books that were self-published. I have news for you. It was also books from publishing companies.

Remember what I said earlier? Visuals make strong impressions on the reader, either enticing them to pick up the book or to pass it by.

Neil Swaab, “A cover exists primarily to entice potential readers to buy the book. It’s a sales tool. It must relay information about the book in a way that grabs potential readers and inspires them to investigate further. To read more visit

So, when you are ready for that book cover, it is always a good idea to look at other books on the subject you are writing about and see what they used. It helps give you an idea. Another idea is to consider hiring a person to design your cover. Just remember,

it is a sales tool!

I also like to go on Amazon and look at different book covers. I make a list, picking the ones that entice me…and why. Then picking the ones I do not like and why.

I keep the list to remind myself, when choosing a cover, why I do not like certain colors, and/or images.

Happy Writing! 

Susan Reichert , author of God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life. Past Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, Current President of Southern Author Services, editor of Suite T and Gallery of Stars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Introduction Tuesday

Leslie Calhoun 

Marketing and Publicity Assistant

WaterBrook & Multnomah

Imprints of Penguin Random House

As you are no doubt aware, COVID has introduced many changes. One positive change, however, has been the rising popularity of adult fiction, which has allowed countless readers to experience a sense of escape during this time of uncertainty.


With this in mind, I am excited to introduce you to The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow, the newest historical fiction novel from award-winning and bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer.

In the same vein as The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekThe Librarian of Boone’s Hollow (WaterBrook, 9/15/20) offers a captivating account of the Depression-Era packhorse librarians of Kentucky.


Fans of historical fiction and readers of Jojo Moyes and Kim Michele Richardson will find themselves transported back in time to 1936. Addie Cowherd is a year away from completing her teaching degree when she finds herself unable to continue tuition payments. Desperate to help provide for her parents, she accepts the only employment she can find—delivering books on horseback to poor coal-mining families in the hills of Kentucky. But turning a new page will be nearly impossible in Boone’s Hollow, and Addie is quickly caught up in a decades-old rivalry that threatens to destroy the fledgling library program and any hope the Boone’s Hollow folk have of restoring the fractured relationships in their community.


Additional historical details shed light on the harsh working conditions of coal miners, the trend of salvaging book and magazine pages by creating themed scrapbooks, and the unique history of Cherokee influence in the Kentucky hill regions. In weaving together these fascinating strands of history, Sawyer pens an exceptional story that instills the importance of education and the life-giving lessons of loving and forgiving one’s neighbors.

 Best-selling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer is highly acclaimed for her “gentle stories of hope.” Readers and reviewers alike are drawn to her books and the life lessons contained within the pages. 


Kim dreamed of being a writer from her earliest memories, and her little-girl dream came true. Now with over 1.5 million books in print in six different languages, she praises God for blessing her far beyond her imaginings.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A Trip to Paradise, Arizona

Buck Storm

If world events are getting you down and you’re ready for an escape, take a trip to Paradise, Arizona. 

My new book, The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez isn’t your typical faith-based novel. In fact,  it is a bit funky, sometimes over the top, and rarely going where you’re expecting it to go.

When his wife, Angel, is killed in a head-on collision, Gomez Gomez feels he can’t go on—so he doesn’t. He spends his days in the bushes next to the crash site drinking Thunderbird wine, and his nights cradling a coffee can full of Angel’s ashes. It’s a form of slow, sure suicide, with no one for company but the snakes, Elvis’s ghost, and a strange kid named Bones. Gomez Gomez has always been a little (or a lot) out there, but the endless flow of alcohol sure doesn’t help.

Gomez Gomez’s sad state of affairs is the result of grief, pure and simple. At least as pure and simple as grief can be, I guess. He’s heartbroken at the loss of Angel. For years he was a black sheep, traveling the rodeo circuit and making trouble. When he met Angel everything changed. Somehow—a miracle in his mind—she saw something good and fine in him. She picked him out of a group of men he felt inferior to. She loved him unconditionally. She showed him what love is, unconditionally. She also introduced him to God. Not in an overhanded way, but by living love out every minute of every day. When she dies, Gomez Gomez simply can no longer get his arms around reality. For him, an Angel-less world is not a world worth existing in.

Coming to Gomez Gomez’s aid is his once-close friend Father Jake Morales, who always seems to play it safe, haunted by memories of the woman he left behind, hiding his guilt, loss, and love behind a thick wall of cassock and ritual. 

In books, the very best characters are the ones who are the most human. We’re all just imperfect believers.

I didn’t set out with a teaching theme or spiritual message in mind when I started writing; instead I let the story take over. However, that doesn’t mean readers won’t find God throughout the story. “As authors, artists, songwriters, etc., we all have soul-themes that will insist on finding their way into our work. They won’t be quiet. I love God. I love Jesus. I love His love. So, by nature (I hope) these things will find their way into anything and everything I produce, whether it be prose or song or even how I love my family and neighbors. If I’m honest in my work and let things flow out of my personal relationship with God, then His relentless pursuit will resonate in a reader’s heart in an authentic way. 

Buck Storm is a critically acclaimed author and musician whose stories have found friends around the world. His nonfiction work includes Finding Jesus in Israel and Through the Holy Land on the Road Less Traveled. Storm’s novels include The List, The LightTruck Stop Jesus, and The Miracle Man. The latest, The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez, launches his new series, Ballads of Paradise.
Storm and his wife, Michelle, make their home in North Idaho and have two married children.
Learn more about Buck Storm, as well as his writing and music, at He can also be found on Facebook (@buckstormauthor)Twitter (@buckstormauthor), and Instagram (@buckstorm).



Friday, July 24, 2020

How Did This Setting Get Me Into This Situation?

Sara Robinson

As we have learned, virtually anything can be a subject for a poem.

The poet Pablo Neruda, said that there were only eleven subjects. Now that is interesting especially since we also know he didn’t really provide the list of eleven (that I can find anyway). However, in her book, The Discovery of Poetry, Frances Mayes gives us her list of potentials, including “beginnings, memory, art, time,” etc. I submit these as they relate the most to the settings/situation topic discussed here.

There are numerous options for settings. What if we are next to a quiet stream? Nothing much happens, but then we see a water strider tiptoe across the water. Suddenly a large-mouth bass grabs it. All at once we have a situation and we can write about it. We could describe a natural setting, no conflicts, just words about how we feel one with nature. Or we can take this setting and let the situation become a metaphor for something larger in life, predator vs prey; now we are witnesses.

As poetry has evolved, so have types of poems appeared that especially describe particular settings. Types include pastoral (usually a rural landscape, maybe some sheep); aubade (usually about dawn, maybe a lover who leaves); carpe diem (where the setting is time); and ars poetica (where the poet writes about writing poetry, some situation). There are more but you get the idea.

I think a poem could have master settings and this takes me back to Neruda’s eleven subjects. I tend to think there are three “master subjects” for poets: Love, Death, and Themselves. Poets historically take these three, put them into a variety of situations and settings and then reveal and possibly resolved.

In Cesare Pavese’s poem, “Grappa in September,” this line that starts a stanza:

“This early, you see only women./… Then he ends with these two lines:

“steeping them to their depths in the soft air. The streets/ are like the women. They ripen by standing still.” (see Mayes’s book). Masterful!

I began my
  creative writing career after retiring from industry. I would love to talk to readers about my writing and the memoir, as well as my short stories and poetry. My latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, is based on the photography of Hobby Robinson. I have 3 other published poetry books and a memoir. I live in central Virginia and enjoy all the wonders that abound in the local area. Much of my writing focuses on these experiences as well as reflecting on how I am evolving as a poet and writer. In Fall 2014, one of my poems about my Jewish heritage appeared in Poetica Magazine. Looking for places to buy my books? 
Check out:, Barnes & Noble, Solace 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Readers Become Vested While Authors Share

Susan Reichert

One of the greatest things’ authors do is share. They are generous in giving of their time to other writers by helping with writing techniques. . . especially the how, why, what, and when.

We are very blessed to be in an industry where there is sharing on how to write the different genres; what works and what does not.

Every author I meet, is always willing to tell other writers this is what worked for me, this is what did not. Every conference I have attended, I see beginner writers talking with published authors. If you watch, you will see the author is generous in taking the time to answer the questions, give tips and encourage.

The interesting fact about writing, is many people would like to write. However, most may not get around to putting words to paper. Instead they will read the genres they enjoy. Readers will read the author’s blogs, to learn more about the author and to see how the author writes the books they write. They love the background of the stories. How the author chose the settings, plots, created the characters––are they people the author knows or people they make up? The more they learn about the how, why, and who the more vested they become in the book the author published.

What happens when a reader becomes vested in the book? They want it. They have learned how it was created, you have given them snippets of the book, and now they want the book. They want to read it. They have an interest.

Readers are enjoying reading Suite T, because they get to read about so many different authors and the birth of their books. Authors like Suite T because they learn from each other. Beginning writers like Suite T because they read how published, successful authors do it.

Selling books is not an easy task . . .but the more the readers learn about the author, the birth of the book, the more opportunities for the book to sell.

Thank you all for sharing your stories, our readers love it!

Susan Reichert is the owner of Southern Author Services, retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine and the author of God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Behind The Book

Darlene L. Turner

The Hidden Staircase, The Secret of the Old Clock, The Sign of the Twisted Candles—these were just some of my favorite Nancy Drew books. I couldn’t get enough of them growing up! My family often saw me with my nose stuck in one of Nancy’s many tales. When I was finished with those, I’d sneak my brother’s Hardy Boy books and devour them too. This is where my love of writing and of a good mystery/suspense began. 

Creating stories in the romantic suspense genre was a natural journey for me. Plus, I had always wanted to be a policewoman after watching Charlie’s Angels (they even kicked butt while wearing high heels…what could be better than that?!), Cagney and Lacey, Police woman, Murder She Wrote, etc. My love for all-things-mystery carried into my adult life. Who doesn’t love Sydney Bristow and Kate Beckett?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Facials Can Be Fatal – The Story Behind the Story

Nancy Cohen

When we plot a mystery, we have to figure out the Howdunit for the crime. In a cozy, this means an off-scene murder or at least not a gory one. These are “clean” books in more ways than one with no graphic sex or violence or bad language. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine how the victim was killed. I ran into this problem when planning Facials Can Be Fatal.

The Setup

Facials Can Be Fatal is book #13 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Prior to this story, hairstylist Marla Shore had married Detective Dalton Vail and moved with him and his daughter into a new neighborhood. They went on a honeymoon to an Arizona dude ranch, and now it’s time for them to settle down. Marla goes back to work at her salon. She has just opened an adjacent day spa when the unthinkable happens. A client is found dead while getting a facial.

I’ll admit that I had the title before the story. Now I had to fit one to the other. Let’s look at all the possibilities I’d considered in determining Howdunit. Obviously, we’re dealing with a fatal facial. So how can this happen?

Monday, July 20, 2020

Setting a Story in an Actual Place

DiAnn Mills        @diannmills

Setting a story in an actual place sounds like a reliable way to ensure a writer’s credibility. Readers are onboard when a writer is successful in delivering reality no matter the genre. Many of our favorite movies and TV shows are set in actual places, and the technique draws us into the film.

I remember a visit to Hawaii and watching the filming of a segment of Hawaii Five-0. My mind whirled with the sights and sounds, rooting me into the experience. Consider the number of times countries and other large cities are the focal points of books and films.

But before we climb on board the train of our favorite location and assign our characters to an address, take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of setting a story in an actual place.


  • · The writer might not the need to travel far from home or could enjoy visiting a favorite spot  while researching for a novel. He/she can take photos, recreate sensory perception, and record exactly where story events take place.

  • · The writer develops an understanding of the locale’s culture.

  • · The writer arranges interviews with real people who may have experienced a happening or career in the story.

  • · The writer envisions an unfolding story with documented research.

  • · The writer establishes believability to promote the story at publication.


  • · The writer faces criticism for staging a crime or inappropriate behavior in a setting that may damage an area’s reputation.

  • · The writer alarms residents by establishing a crime or stating a criminal resides where others may live.

  • · The writer encounters a lawsuit because an individual or a business wants payment for their contribution to the story.

  • · The writer discovers he/she is denied returning to a favorite spot because of something derogatory written.

  • · The writer may be limited by the setting to create an unforgettable story

Weaving Advantages and Disadvantages into a Powerful Story

Consider all the advantages of using an actual place as a story setting, then address the disadvantages and turn them into positives.

Avoid alarming residents or business owners of a potential crime by providing real addresses where events occur. Fictionalize an address within the real setting that eliminates any criticism.

Approach the chamber of commerce with questions about the community. Libraries are another excellent resource. The local law enforcement department, security personnel, media coordinators are your friends. If an interview is necessary, ask one of them to arrange it.

Understand the project is a work of fiction. Never use a person’s actual name unless the person is seen in a positive light. Even those persons who are nefarious need not look worse than already depicted. This applies to real places too. Stating a real business, apartment building, park, etc. is dangerous and could line up the writer for problems. An exception to this would be an act of nature.

Create an exciting story that encourages readers to visit the setting, but not chase them away. If your story involves an actual setting, use it to add credibility to your work.

What are your thoughts about using an actual setting?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. 
Visit DiAnn Mills at

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Why Do We Care About How Poems Come About?

Sara Robinson
Southern Writer Contributor

I recently received the poetry book, Brute (Winner of the 2018 Walt Whitman award), by Emily Skaja. This manuscript of some 30+ poems almost stands as one long poem. The book is about a relationship, and not a good one. There are many passages in there that could be universal to many women, for instance. So, it becomes relatable. When a poet writes about personal experiences, the context is less clinical and more emotional.

Having said that, we may not be so interested in all the details of emotional experiences of the writer that led to the work, as we are in how the quality of the poems are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Carolina Coast Series: The Story Behind the Story

T.I. Lowe            @TiLowe

Extraordinary Stories.

Relationships come in many shapes and sizes. Friendships, acquaintances, lovers, enemies. Yes, enemies. Bet you’ve never thought about it, but there is a relationship between you and the one who has been sworn as an enemy. It’s not a healthy one, but it’s there.

A quick dictionary search tells me relationship means “the state of being connected.” Hello, social media. Sadly, I witness a lot of toxic people smothering their relationships right in front of me on social media. It baffles me how it’s become a thing to tear others apart, to show respect for no one but to demand respect for oneself in the most brash ways.

In the Carolina Coast series, I want to steer readers in the direction of healthy relationships. To show them that it’s okay to cut the toxic baggage we carry in the forms of relationships that take away from our lives and never enrich it. To invest in relationships that matter.

My author’s note in Beach Haven sums it up:

I have a collection of accessories, as most of you probably do. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, scarves… I love the collection and the options I have to complement various outfits. But I have a few pieces that complement anything, and I rarely take them off: my wedding ring and a pair of small diamond stud earrings. Both are expressions of my husband’s love for me.

I view relationships in a similar light. Friends should complement your life and never take away from it. I worry that so many women don’t understand this nowadays and have dressed their lives with toxic relationships. For this reason, I created the Sand Queens and the Knitting Club for the Carolina Coast series.

The Knitting Club is the older group of ladies. I had such a blast writing these zany characters, but they have a serious purpose. From six to twelve members, depending on what day of the week it is and who is available to attend their gatherings, I view this group as your wider accessory collection. Not every piece will pair well with every “outfit”—every moment in life—but when they do, watch out! Perfection! I have a similar group of friends who are always there at the right moment, no matter how much time passes between visits. We have busy lives that lead us in different directions, but when we do meet up, it’s always a gift.

Then there are the Sand Queens. This tight-knit group is there through thick and thin, complementing any and every moment you find yourself in. They are my wedding band and diamond earrings, always present and highly valuable in love and loyalty. This friendship consists of only a few women, who are closer than sisters. In this series, you will see how Opal, Josie, and Sophia each bring a unique quality to their friendship that complements the others.

Opal brings liveliness and provides you with courage to step out of your comfort zone. She’s the one pushing you to take a chance and there to cheer you on all the way.

Josie is the shy yet tenderhearted one. Ready to hold your hand and cry with you. She is a quiet force behind the scenes.

Sophia is the voice of reason. She will talk you off the ledge and then give you a much-needed straightening out after it’s all said and done. She is fiercely loyal and ready to go to bat for you.

I’m blessed with a Knitting Club and a Sand Queens group of friends, both important in their own way. I encourage you to identify your groups, seeking healthy relationships to complement your life.

Tonya "T.I." Lowe is a native of coastal South Carolina. She attended Coastal Carolina University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she majored in Psychology but excelled in Creative Writing. In 2014, Tonya independently published her first novel, Lulu's Café, which quickly became a bestseller. Now the author of 12 published novels with hundreds of thousands of copies sold, she knows she's just getting started and has many more stories to tell. She resides near Myrtle Beach with her family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Do You Have Doubts?

Ane Mulligan     @AneMulligan

An engineer doesn’t doubt her calling. She’s a left-brained mathematician with a formula for every situation.

A fisherman doesn’t doubt his calling. He’s a left-brained strategist who can outsmart any fish.

A company CFO doesn’t doubt her calling. She has left-brained-focus on the bottom line.

But creatives are dogged by doubts.

Is my work good enough? Will everyone hate it? Has the well run dry? Are all my ideas merely repeats of what I’ve already done? How did I do it last time? Am I really called to do this?

My name is Ane Mulligan, and I have another passion besides writing.

Oh, pick up your jaw. It’s not a secret to anyone who knows me. I’m managing director of a Community Theatre company. Theatre is in my blood just like stories are in my head, and both are in my heart.

A problem arises

The problem arises when one passion’s demands are louder than the other. It doesn’t matter what that passion is. It can be family, especially when our children are young. Softball, swarm soccer, parent-teacher conferences. Your day job. They pull at a writer. 

Then, you hit a wall in your current work in progress. Doubts raise their ugly heads. After all, a real writer doesn’t get writer’s block. A real writer can write through anything. Maybe you’re done. Is it time to quit? I’ve been plagued with all these and more in the years I’ve been writing.

During one particularly trying manuscript, we held auditions for a new show I was to direct. I was excited about it, and the busyness of planning and directing (and writing a few short bits to ease scenes transitions) stole my creativity and focus.

Doubt crept in once more. Is writing my will for me or God’s? I couldn’t imagine quitting Community Theatre. Is it truly time to quit writing? If so, then so be it.

Yet, I cringed at that thought. I didn’t want to quit either one. I prayed and decided I’d leave it at His feet.

I turned my attention to the theatre and all the shows for that year. I was producing one, directing one, and set-dresser on another, all while managing the non-profit business side. Maybe that’s enough for one person.

Then it happened. As my husband and I chatted about his upcoming choir concert, suddenly in the midst of that conversation, the one piece I hadn’t consciously realized I’d missed exploded in my mind, sparking creativity in a great, big, wonderful visual of motivation ... for my character and for me.

I love it when God shows up.

Creatives will always be plagued by doubts. That’s part of it. It’s built into our DNA. We can’t escape it. So, what do we do? Panic and down copious pots of coffee and six pounds of chocolate?

No. Well, yes to the coffee and chocolate. But learn to embrace the doubts. Take them to God. He’s big enough to handle them. Then wait. Don’t try to force anything. Wait.

Take a day trip. Grab your camera and go take photos somewhere peaceful. Read a book. Cook a new recipe. Go shopping.

In some part of your brain, you’re thinking about your work in progress.

So wait. Don’t stress God will show up. After all, you’re a writer ... called to write

 Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and The Write Conversation.