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?







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.

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.

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.

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).



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 

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.

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?

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?

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

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.

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.

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. 

July 10, 2020

Southern Appalachian Storytellers

Saundra Gerrell Kelley

What gives a writer the urge to create new work? In the case of Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition, published by McFarland, it was one person - Dot Jackson.

At the time I met Dot, a former investigative reporter, and editor from South Carolina, I was working on my master’s degree at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. I had met Billee Moore earlier, and it was she who decided Dot and I needed to make acquaintance. At her invitation, I drove to her cabin in North Carolina. Waiting at Billee’s for Dot (she was in Galax. VA giving a talk), I took a nap. I awakened later that afternoon to something storytellers love more than anything - the human voice telling stories.

July 8, 2020

Passion In Writing

Susan Reichert

I have heard it said when you are writing a book, make it a labor of love.

Thinking about that remark made me wonder who would write if they did not love to write?

Writing is wonderful, yet it takes effort, from the beginning to the end. Sometimes the words flow other times authors pull and tug, even dig for the right words. But when all is said and done, they love it.

William Faulkner said, “If a story is in you it has got to come out.” And I believe that. For there are times our brains will not shut off until we get up and write what is going on in our brain.

I believe writing is a passion. The compelling emotion is you must write.

Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, said, “I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.”

But the question that needs to be answered is how do you put passion in your words, so your reader feels passion as they read the story?

Using sensory words is a definite help. You want your reader to feel, picture, and experience what you are writing. You want them to be transported into the story.

One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Frost who said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Do your characters energize you and unfold the story to you as you hasten to keep up with them, putting to paper what they are saying, doing, and showing you?

Are you personally involved in the story? Is your enthusiasm, growing? Remember, enthusiasm is contagious. Your reader can catch it.

Everything we write in our story matters to the reader. It can be a key, or a steppingstone.

Your story must come to life for the reader. 

Susan Reichert, Author of Storms in Life, God's Prayer Power, Author of Nine Anthology Book Short Stories as well as writing for Southern Writers Magazine.

Retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Head of Collierville Christian Writers Group, President of Southern Author Services.

She lives in the Memphis area with her husband. They have four grown daughters and three grandchildren.

July 7, 2020

Why and What Editors do for Authors

Nancy Arant Williams

First and most importantly, I’d like to thank Susan Reichert for the chance to address you all. Let me introduce myself. My name is Nancy Arant Williams and I’m a multi-published author and have been editing freelance for nearly twenty years. Not long ago, I was humbled and blessed to be named #2 of the top nineteen editors in the U.S. You may have recently read my author blog here—well, this particular blog speaks to my editing career.

I would never have learned to edit had I not struggled with an editor who repeatedly pulled my chain on my first several books. Through that process, I realized that an author truly needs an editor who sees eye to eye philosophically. In my case, that editor used a red marker to exclaim her annoyance at things she couldn’t understand—like the jargon/conversations between teens and parents. After many sleepless nights and high stress interactions, I finally asked for another editor. The new one was a dream come true, praise God.

July 6, 2020

Behind the Curtain with Legacy of Lies (Part 2)

Robert Bailey 

(Part 2 – continued from July 3)

In terms of outline, I normally will write a loose synopsis before I begin writing that sets out the beginning of the story, the key premise or situation that drives the plot, and a general sense of the ending. I want to have a roadmap for the story that will assist me if I get stuck, but I don’t want the synopsis to be so rigid that I can’t vary from it if the characters start coming alive on the page and doing things I didn’t originally anticipate. I try to end each writing session with a few words in bold for where I want to go the next day.

Revisions first involve a developmental edit, where I work with my editor to iron out the kinks of the story, fill in gaps and, perhaps most importantly, trim any parts of the novel that aren’t working. This is one of my favorite parts of the process, as we cut the fat and enhance the theme of the story. The overall theme of Legacy of Lies is redemption, as Bo Haynes seeks to resurrect his life and family by moving back to Pulaski and representing General Lewis.

Once we have fully developed the storyline, the last and most painful steps involve a copyedit, where the book is read with a fine tooth comb for continuity issues, typographical errors, etc. and then a final proofread.

One of the challenges of writing Legacy of Lies was to craft a story that would be pleasing to fans of the McMurtrie & Drake series but also stand on its own as the first entry in a new collection of books featuring Bo Haynes. I wanted to tie up the central situation, but dangle a few twists that will hopefully entice readers to come back for book two. As a reader, I have always loved series characters and books, and I love the feeling of being left satisfied with a book but wanting more from the characters. That was my goal with Legacy of Lies, and I hope I came close to achieving it.

One last tidbit I’d offer for prospective writers. I think of writing as a “flow” and “grind” process. Writing itself is a flow activity where you have to find a state of relaxed focus where you can let your imagination run wild. However, to get there, you have to “grind” and make yourself sit in the chair each morning or evening or whenever you choose to write. Both the flow and the grind parts are important, but the grind is probably the most crucial as you can’t ever get in the flow state unless you force yourself to sit down and stare at the computer screen. Sometimes the time spent at the keyboard is painful and all you are left with is a sentence that stinks. And sometimes, you find the flow and you’re left with a couple thousand words and you feel as if you could write all day. Those good days aren’t possible, at least for me, without a few of the painful ones.

Like life, writing can be sloppy and messy, but also wonderful and magical. I wouldn’t trade a second of my journey, and I’m still learning. One day at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time.

Flow and grind. Grind and flow. Rinse. Repeat. Write. 

Robert Bailey is the bestselling and award-winning author of the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers series, which includes The Final ReckoningThe Last TrialBetween Black and White, and The ProfessorLegacy of Lies is his fifth novel.

For the past twenty years, Bailey has been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, where he lives with his wife and three children. For more information, please visit

July 3, 2020

Behind the Curtain with Legacy of Lies (Part 1)

Robert Bailey

Legacy of Lies is my fifth legal thriller and first without Professor Tom McMurtrie as the main character. This story begins a new spinoff series of books featuring Bocephus Haynes, a supporting character from my first four novels.

I was nervous to write a story without the Professor in it, but also excited as the character of Bocephus Haynes has so much potential for growth. To be able to dive deeper into the conflicts in Bo’s life was one of the major draws of writing this book for me. Of course, I also needed an explosive plot and for that I turned to another character from the McMurtrie & Drake series. “General” Helen Lewis is the longtime district attorney general of a four county district in southern Tennessee, which includes Pulaski. Since reading “Presumed Innocent,” I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a prosecutor on trial for murder, and, in Legacy of Lies, Helen Lewis is charged with the brutal murder of her ex-husband in her own county. At the end of her rope, she turns to former adversary and now friend, Bo Haynes, for help.

As this story involves a criminal case in Tennessee and I practice mostly civil law in Alabama, I had to do some research regarding the sentencing guidelines of several crimes referenced in the novel and also refresh my knowledge of the different procedural steps for a murder trial. I also traveled to Pulaski several times to make sure I had the names of streets, restaurants and local establishments correct. Most of my novels are set in real places, like Pulaski, and I want the reader to feel that the stories have an air of authenticity. Additionally, for readers who have eaten at the Yellow Deli in Pulaski or had a drink at Kathy’s Tavern or Hitt’s Place, having scenes take place in these real places is a way to connect with the reader. I call such nuggets “Easter eggs,” which are little surprises for the individual reader who has been to one of these places. I have always enjoyed reading books that have a few of these surprises in them, such as when Mitch McDeere is being chased down the Gulf Coast in The Firm and stops at the Flora-Bama, so I like to include them in my stories.

My process for this novel was the same as it has been for my prior books. Structure is important for me, and I tend to write first thing in the morning. During a first draft, I try to get at least a thousand words a day. As I get closer to deadline and those magic words, “THE END,” my writing pace will tend to pick up speed. For me, reaching “THE END” on the first draft is the most important part of the craft. If you don’t finish the story, you can never go back and fix it. Revising is hard word too, but you never get to that point unless you force yourself to finish. In terms of outline, ...(to be continued Monday, July 6)

Robert Bailey is the bestselling and award-winning author of the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers series, which includes The Final ReckoningThe Last TrialBetween Black and White, and The ProfessorLegacy of Lies is his fifth novel.

For the past twenty years, Bailey has been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, where he lives with his wife and three children. For more information, please visit