January 31, 2020

Like a Thank You to a Friend

By Suzanne Woods Fisher  @suzannewfisher

Just a few days ago, I received an email from a reader who wanted me to know that she was throwing my book in the trash. I’d offended her, somehow, and she wanted me to know it. I thanked her for her feedback, like I would thank a friend.

When I first started getting published, that kind of reader email would have thrown me for a loop. I would have felt hurt or misunderstood or defensive. Probably…all three. And my already shaky confidence about my writing ability would go off-kilter, not unlike a wobbly spinning top.

January 30, 2020

The Value of Change

By Annette Cole Mastron  @acole828
Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

As Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, in the 1998 movie, “You’ve Got Mail” says at the closing of her bookshop, “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened.” Well, not to agree with a fictional character or anything, but change is an everyday occurrence in everyone’s life, including the characters we write about. Change is what drives the plot of any book.

Change is life. We were all once babies. Babies are born; they grow; they go to school; they go to college; they move into their own life, and the change repeats. Change drives our own lives on a daily basis whether we recognize it or not. Why wouldn’t it drive the characters we create? As Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

January 29, 2020

Two of the Best Editing Hacks Ever

By Wendy Wilson Spooner  @Wendy_W_Spooner

We all know that reading our work aloud helps us find typos, sentences that don’t make sense, and repeated story information in our WIPs. But what would you do if you could get someone else to read your work aloud to you? Or some thing?

Here are two hacks I use that save me hours upon hours of precious editing time.

January 28, 2020

Change the World with Your Writing-Using History to Change the Future Part 2

By p m terrell, Columnist for Southern Writers Magazine 

If you missed Part 1 of this blog series, it appeared on January 14, 2020 and you can access it via the archives on the right hand side of the blog page. 

Any genre can incorporate historical events; even science fiction and fantasy can begin with true history and alter them, so they fit into the fictional worlds of the characters. Here are some guidelines to take your work to the next level by incorporating history:

January 27, 2020

The Year of Perfect Vision: 2020

By Maritza Martinez Mejia  @luzdelmes

When people hear they have a 20/20 vision, they understand that they have a perfect vision. They pride themselves and reassure you that they don't have to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Unfortunately a 20/20 vision does not mean having a "perfect vision". When the optometrist tells you that you have "20/20 vision", he/she is referring to the visual acuity, which is the clarity or sharpness of your vision. This number indicates that you can see objects clearly at a distance of 20 feet, compared to others.

Don’t worry! We can make that concept 2020: The year of the perfect vision a reality.

January 24, 2020

No Cold Mashed Potatoes: Crafting Effective Backstory

By Linda S. Clare @Lindasclare

When I sent the first pages of my first novel to a well-known author, I wasn’t prepared for her feedback. “Your opening has way too much backstory.” From that moment, I was determined to master backstory techniques.

January 23, 2020

Journey of a Lifetime

By Edie Melson, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine

The writer’s path is a journey of a lifetime—one fraught with discovery and discouragement. We can avoid some of its pitfalls if we define that path early on. Today, I want to share some insights into my writing journey and the markers I look for to help me stay at least in the vicinity of the path.

January 22, 2020

How I Do It: Novel Writing

By Creston Mapes

I’ve developed a system for novel-writing that helps me avoid dreaded “writer’s block,” and gives me tons of great ideas from which to choose when it comes to “what’s going to happen next.”

January 21, 2020

Do Readers Love Reading Your Stories? A Hundred Years from Now?

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

Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was published back in 1929. The story was written in the World War I era, yet readers still love reading this story. The question we want to ask is why do readers still love reading a story written almost a hundred years ago?

When Hemingway wrote this novel, there were no

January 20, 2020

I’ve Gotta Be Me, She Said, Part 2

By Dan Walsh

Last month, I began talking about how vitally important it is when we write to spend as much time, if not more, creating characters readers really care about, than it is spending time on things like crafting the story itself (did you catch the phrase “if not more”? I believe it matters more). If our characters are boring, shallow and/or totally unlikable for the reader, the book will flop (no matter how good the story is).

I ended talking about one of the big problems authors have creating these kinds of solid characters. Many writers THEMSELVES (in real life) are not solid, interesting, compelling and/or fun-to-be-with people. So, if you’re not that kind of person in real life, how can you create characters like that in your books?

January 17, 2020

I’ve Gotta Be Me, She Said

By Dan Walsh

My 21 novels have thus far garnered over 7,200 Amazon Reviews (Avg 4.6 Stars) and over 18,000 Ratings on GoodReads. The most consistent comment readers make (and my most favorite) goes something like, Once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down.” They don’t just say this on my suspense novels but even the more romantic stories. Even with my Christmas novels.

But this month,

January 16, 2020

Farewell to a Friend

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last week, we celebrated the life of a friend of mine. She is guarded in her earthly resting place by two sentinel angels, representative of the angels she is now dancing among.  Since her death, I’ve replayed in my mind the fun times we shared over the years. We met because we shared a dear mutual friend. We were cemented in friendship while watching our children grow up. She had a million-watt smile that would light up a room. She was kind with a giving heart. 

January 15, 2020

Do you want to Write? Learn from Great Models

By Delores Topliff

You want to write. People say you have a gift, but you’re not sure where to start. You’ve written a few things but haven’t hit your stride or quite found your voice.

Try this strategy.

January 14, 2020

Change the World with Your Writing-Using History to Change the Future Part 1

By p m terrell, Columnist for Southern Writers Magazine

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -- novelist George Santayana (1863-1952)

Those words have been repeated innumerable times in countless variations. Authors are in a unique position of bringing history to the masses, not in the form of unimaginative lists of dates and titles but in stirring emotionally charged scenes. Consider the statement that some people were abducted, taken halfway around the world, and placed into slavery. Now imagine the scene in Alex Haley’s bestselling book, Roots, in which Kunta Kinte arrives in America and is sold to a Virginia plantation owner. They both tell the same story, but one is so emotionally charged as to make it unforgettable.

January 13, 2020

How Do you Make your Reader Care?

By Susan May Warren, author ofThe Way of the Brave (Released 1/7/20)

There are 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone. Yes, that’s a lot. But you don’t need that number to blow your mind…simply walk into a Barnes and Noble and notice the shelves and shelves of books…

January 10, 2020

Writing the Book You Want to Read

By Laura Frantz

I once heard the sweet spot for readers is historical fiction set in the 19th-century American west. Novels abound during this time period and are often bestsellers. But what if that’s not your sweet spot as a writer? What if your interests and instincts pull you toward another era and setting? Your passion vs. writing for the market?

When I look back on the ten years spent crafting my debut novel, I clearly recall my motivation. I wrote a book I couldn’t find on the shelf. A book that I really wanted to read but couldn’t locate. That eventually became The Frontiersman’s Daughter published by Revell. Drawing from local lore and the lives of Kentucky’s first settlers, including Daniel Boone, I discovered a treasure trove of novel fodder. Since The Frontiersman’s Daughter released in 2009, colonial American fiction has come into its own with an array of authors to choose from, each penning unique stories devoted to our country’s founding history.

Several years later, I took the same approach when writing The Lacemaker. Although Colonial Williamsburg is a favorite historic site of many, I couldn’t find another novel set in this fascinating, pivotal place. Other than the bestselling Dawn’s Early Light published in 1943, little fiction in 18th-century Williamsburg seemed to exist yet I sensed there were readers who were as interested in Virginia’s tumultuous beginnings and the events leading up to the Revolutionary War as I was. In 2018 I was honored when The Lacemaker won the Christy Award.

My newest novel, An Uncommon Woman, returns to my frontier roots. This story, set in western Virginia, now present day West Virginia, draws heavily from the history of that region and has an Indian captivity theme. Thankfully, my passion for this time period and reader interest has allowed me to continue writing about our nation’s founding, helping keep history alive in even a small way through fiction.

I encourage writers whether beginning or established to write a story they would love to read but can’t find on the shelf. Do you have a favorite setting or time period? Start there. A favorite historic site? Visit if you can, do a little digging/research, and see if it holds the seeds of a story. Write that first page and chapter. If you gain momentum and move forward, keep going. If it appeals to you, then it will probably appeal to readers, too.
Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Frontiersman's DaughterCourting Morrow LittleThe Colonel's LadyThe Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. When not reading and writing, she loves to garden, take long walks, listen to music, and travel. She is the proud mom of an American soldier and a career firefighter. When not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State. Learn more at Facebook: Instagram: Pinterest:

January 9, 2020


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

If only I’d read Delia Owens’ book before publishing my book, Writing with Voice. But unfortunately Where the Crawdads Sing wasn’t published until 2018 so I didn’t have Delia’s wonderful examples of “writing with voice” to give you, so I’ll take this opportunity to show, not tell, on the Suite T blog.

For one, after reading Where the Crawdads Sing, it’s obvious why the book has—so far—sold four million copies in the U.S., and stayed on the NYT bestseller list for a year. It’s also a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. But besides story, what made this book so special for a first novel and now a movie to be produced by Witherspoon? 

Below I’ll list some of a few lines that stand out for me.
“…necklace of green lagoons.” Rather than the overused and tired “string of green lagoons,” the word “necklace” is a gold nugget plucked straight from a mountain vein and inserted right here.   
“Just like their whiskey, the marsh dwellers bootlegged their own laws.” She nailed that one. And if you’ve ever had a bootlegger in your ancestry, you don’t have to hunt up that word.       
“…Ma’s words needed somewhere to go.” I’m feeling Ma on that one. 
“…lips a thin line under searching eyes.” I’ve seen those lips before, haven’t you? The thin line goes right with the searching. Do plump lips ever match searching eyes? Not as hard as thin lip lines do I’ll wager.
“She anchored him hard with her eyes.” Eyes like that will not even let a barge drift. She doesn’t have to tell us what color those eyes are because that dude’s going nowhere until the anchor’s dislodged.    
“Quiet tongues of foam, waiting for the next surge.”—I can see those tongues of foam moving over sand can’t you?    
“…hunger was a pushing thing.”—Yes, hunger definitely makes you rouse yourself to get up and move to do something about those pangs. Brilliant use of words.   
“She could feel that full gravy taste, like it was round.”—Okay. Laughing and loving on this example because a true gravy-eating-Southerner would truly understand this down to the last cathead biscuit crumb. Now, all ya’ll who aren’t into gravy go learn how to fix some—it takes practice—so you’ll know what Kya’s character is talking about. I’m so craving gravy and biscuits right now! 

Delia’s making her readers go to the kitchen for a cast iron skillet and some bacon grease—no wait, gotta keep turning those pages to see what will happen next! Gravy’s gonna have to wait ‘til this book is finished.

And so sorry, but you’ll have to wait until my February post to read the ending of this story because there were too many jewels to leave out! To be continued in February 6, 2020

January 8, 2020

Historical Research

By Donna Schlachter

Researching any topic in the past can be a fun and exciting adventure. Sometimes, however, it can also be a series of frustrating dead ends. You can even compile a history for places you make up. Simply base it on another town or area nearby.

Here’s my process:
Decide on the setting and the year for the story. Look for something interesting that happened during that time in that area. Begin with the internet, but look for several articles that agree.

Once you have the nugget of a story, locate newspaper stories, books, journals, and diaries to give you more background.

If possible, visit the setting before you start to write. See what the lay of the land is like. How would that impact the story and the characters?

Read books and watch movies set during that time, but don’t believe everything you read and see unless it was written/filmed contemporaneously. Sometimes authors and producers tend to don rose-colored glasses when looking back.

Keep notes. Print everything, especially web pages. Photocopy everything. Record movies and other references you used. You might be asked by an editor to validate a fact that’s crucial to your storyline.

Once you start writing, don’t let research distract you from writing. If you arrive at a point where you don’t know a particular fact, insert a symbol (I use @@) in the manuscript, and carry on. Go back and look it up later.

In Double Jeopardy, because I wanted to include mining in the story line, I researched and found that the Colorado Gold Rush ended around the late 1870s, and the Silver Rush began in 1879. This was perfect for the backstory of how Becky’s father went to Colorado a year before the story began.

I’d visited the Durango area, and loved the landscape. I’d talked with people who lived there, went up some of the canyons, saw old mines, some ghost towns, and decided I wanted to set a story there. I created the fictional town and valley of Silver Valley, and I visited some museums in Colorado where I learned about sheriffs and law enforcement in the 1880s.

For specific details such as silver mining, I did online research then visited a mining museum. For minutiae such as when women began wearing dungarees (not until about 10 years later), when fountain pens came into common use (around that time, but they were still expensive and a luxury item), and Fourth of July celebrations and Indian relations, I relied on various articles from Wikipedia and history books.

So you can that much of your research can be done online from the comfort of your home, but don’t rely on any one online source.

Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for a free ebook copy of Double Jeopardy.

Donna Schlachter lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management. Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter! Facebook:

January 7, 2020

Knowing When to Let Go in This New Year!

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

A wise gentleman, one of my mentors,  was a lover of the Animal Kingdom and all things that dealt with nature. National Geographic was a mainstay of his. He always said there was a lot we can learn from the animals and their nature. He once told me the story of a way monkeys were trapped with a barrel and a banana. He said a heavy wooden barrel had a hole cut into the side and a banana was placed inside the barrel. The monkey was enticed by the banana and would reach into the barrel and grab the banana only to realize he could  not pull it out through the hole with a clinched fist.

Now we would think certainly the monkey would release the banana and go on his way to look for others. That is not in his nature. His nature is to hang on to the fruit. He would be found there still hanging on when his trappers returned. To his detriment he hung on too long.

I know many times I have been like that monkey. The mentor I mentioned was explaining to me about a sale I had in mind. His experience told him it was not to be and he was letting me down gently. I eventually learned in sales those sales were known as china eggs. Eggs that will never hatch.  After that I learned to identify them and let them go.

Thinking only of the reward ahead and not of the predicament one is in can dim one’s judgement. Our hope can be so great we are blinded. Our hope can also be fueled with bait like the banana which draws us further into our course of action, wrong as it may be.

The question is when do we let go? I am fond of the positive advice, “Don’t let go before the blessing!” I understand it as well as , “Never Give Up”. 

But there are times and circumstances when letting go must be considered. There will or should come a time when even the monkey realizes he is not getting the banana. It is then he should change course, withdraw his hand and preserve his life. I know that most times our circumstances are not life threatening but they are important to us.

Someone once said. “ Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” Each of us must decide if it is time to let go. Are we looking at a china egg that will never hatch? Are the promises any closer or are they farther away? Is the timeline expected come and gone? Is the price higher than first thought? What is your gut telling you? It may be time to let go.         

January 6, 2020

Research Ideas for Writing

By Lynette Eason

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on…research. I actually love this part of the job because I get to learn and write about all kinds of fabulous things. Not only that, but I get to meet some top-notch people who are always ready to offer their advice on how best to portray their career.

So…how does one go about researching for their novel? One of the things that I’ve found super helpful is thinking about my story and the kind of information I’m going to need. Meaning, I do some pre-research. If I know I’m going to have a military hero with a military job, I know I’m going to need some good information from someone with that expertise. One of the ways of finding someone like that is by reaching out on social media. There are so many great people out there who are willing—even eager to share to make sure you get it right in the story.

Another great way to find people who can—and will—help you out is to head to the conferences where they are attending. Now, I know this can be an expensive venture, but I’ve found it’s more than worth it. Think of conferences as an investment in your writing. The good thing is, they’re also tax deductible!

Seriously, I can’t think of one conference where I came home thinking, “Well, that was a waste of time and money.” Not one. As long as you’re making the effort to talk to people, gather business cards, make those contacts, not only will you come away with some great resources for your novel, you might even make a new friend or two.

One word of advice about those business cards: Build a database in numbers or excel and enter the information into that. That way, if you lose the cards, you still have the contact info. All of this is great information on research, right? But remember, you can’t spend ALL your time researching. You still have to actually write the story if you want to get it published within a decent time frame.

Set yourself a time limit on the research. If you spend six hours a day writing, vow to spend an hour or two of that in research then get back to the writing. You can always go back and fix the stuff that needs more research, but if you never get the words on the page, you can’t fix it. Well, there you go. Those are just a few of my research tips. How about you? How do you research your stories? Can you add some wise words to help others dig into their research?
Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of Protecting Tanner Hollow, as well as the Blue Justice, Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, Hidden Identity, and Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of three ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, among others. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in education from Converse College. Eason lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children. Learn more at

January 3, 2020

Writing Tips

By Sheila Lowe

Now that I’ve been published for the last twenty years in nonfiction and more than ten years in fiction, I’m often asked what advice I have for new writers. Here are a few bullet points I give them.

On Writing
  • Write what you love and do the work to write a good book.
  • Leave out most of the adverbs (“ly” words), they weaken your writing. Find strong verbs.
  • Keep exclamation points to a minimum!!!
  • Whether fiction or nonfiction, know your subject before you write about it.
  • Join a critique group and get feedback before submitting. If three people give the same critique, even if you don’t agree, listen to them with an open mind.
  • Hire a good independent editor and listen to him/her. Writing is a business and this is an important investment.
  • Don’t show your work to your friends and relatives until it’s published. They want you to feel good and they don’t know how to tell you if it’s not good or how to fix it.
  • Only submit your manuscript when you are positive you have done the very best you can.
  • Attend writer’s conferences. Prepare a 15-second pitch to agents.
  • Keep a record of who you’ve submitted to (a spreadsheet works well).
  • Invest in a book on manuscript preparation (Authors 101 series).

Then, when you are ready to send your baby into the world:

Successful Query Letters
State who you are and why you are writing to the agent.
Quote anyone in the business who has seen your book and likes it.
Don’t be modest. Include professional experience and previous publications.
Send only a query letter, a synopsis and, only if invited, the first two or three chapters (or for nonfiction, an outline).
Keep your letter to one succinct page. If the agent wants more, they will ask for it.
In this case, snail mail is usually better than an email. Unsolicited emails usually end up in the trash.

Once it’s Sold
-Be prepared to market the book. The publisher won’t do it for you. Seriously.
-This is another investment. Hire a good publicist if you can.
-If you can’t hire a publicist, build up your social media presence, have a professional website, write a blog, order some bookmarks.
-BookBub is the best advertising you can get once you have a back list. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.
-Give interviews, write articles, give talks if you are comfortable on the stage. If you are not comfortable with public speaking, join Toastmasters and learn how.
-You can get a good, low cost book trailer (30 seconds is good) on

January 2, 2020

Make this Your Decade to Shine

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Today’s blog post was inspired by “Tour Collierville Magazine’s,” November/December 2019 editor’s letter, titled, “Let Your Soul Shine”, the Allman Brothers song titled, "Soulshine" and the arrival of a wonderful new decade. The possibilities abound. Do you have a plan for your writing?

The editor’s letter quotes her publisher dad, Keith. He said, “Everyone can give, but no one gives like a child. When they want to give you something, they truly want you to have it and it means everything to them. It’s a way they let their soul shine.” Albeit, Keith was talking about the gift giving that occurs during the holiday season. However, don’t you just love the combination of those words “soul shine?”

The editor says, “If we all let our soul shine like children, it would have the potential to change the way we give.” Can you imagine if you use those words to influence your new decade of writing? Let your soul shine in your writing, and it may inspire you to connect with your readers in a new way in a new year.

Pick up your pen or laptop and “let your soul shine.” This is your decade!

January 1, 2020

Excellence in Writing

By DiAnn Mills

When we place our name on our writing, we are ensuring the reader discovers excellence. The effort to create an outstanding manuscript requires time and skill with a commitment to learning the newest trends in the industry. Consistent learning, edits, and rewrites are part of the process.


Every writer has experienced the defeat of rejection and the dive into the waters of discouragement. We raise our fists and wade through the tears to work harder and not allow defeat to drown our publishing dreams.

How do we move forward in promoting excellence in our writing? The following are my practices. They’ve proven to work, and I want to pass them on to you.

Schedule time with God every morning before turning on the computer.

         Before writing a word, spend time in the Word. Simple advice, but the best way to tap into our Creators heart.
         God may have something different for us to write or do, and His ways are always perfect.
         Pray our words bless His name.

Schedule time daily to study the craft.

         Explore the blog posts written by professionals who practice quality writing.
         Read the how-to books, highlight and underline the information that speaks to you.
         Put the instruction into practice.
         Don’t be afraid to fail.
         Don’t be afraid to change.
         Never knowingly send a faulty manuscript to a critique partner or editor.

Schedule time daily to study social media.

         Explore the blogs written by social media experts targeted to writers who understand the value of effective and efficient posts.
         Read the how-to books and highlight/underline the information that pertains to your brand.
         Learn how to meet readersneeds.
         Put instruction into practice.
         Don’t be afraid to fail.
         Don’t be afraid to change.

Schedule at least one writing conference per year to deepen knowledge of the craft, network, and find encouragement.

         Explore all the conferences available and choose the one that fits your genre, brand, and level of expertise.
         Ask your editor or publishing house for a conference preference

Schedule time to give back to the writing community.

         If we arent diligent in helping others, how can we expect to grow or pass the baton of excellence when our season of writing is over?
         Practice saying no to those projects that we feel aren’t from God.
         Consider mentoring a serious writer who is willing to work hard.

We all want three Ps after our name: Published, Professional, and Polished. How will you strive for your writer excellence?

Write on!
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. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at