August 31, 2020

The Path of Fiction vs. Non-fiction, a Journey of one Author

Jane Kirpatrick

A funny thing happened on my way to writing my latest novel. I was invited to write a biography about Abigail Scott Duniway, who once lived and loved and wrote and walked in history. I was already contracted to write my novel Something Worth Doing from Revell about the life of this remarkable women. She was a wife and mother of six and a suffragist in the late 1800s. She devoted her life to bettering the lives of women and kept alive the move for women to be full citizens and have the right to vote. She persevered on behalf of women’s rights for over 40 years before Oregon women and national women earned the right to vote. She is one of only six women memorialized on the walls of Oregon’s capital building. Her story is compelling, and I wanted to answer the question, where did she draw her strength from?

August 28, 2020

Imaginary Friends Put Into Books

Kim Vogel Sawyer

When I was a little girl, my parents tell me, I had myriad imaginary friends with whom I carried on conversations and brought along on every excursion. Well, here I am, well past my “little girl” age, and I still have imaginary friends. I just put them into my stories.

A lot of writers are plot-driven. They come up with a scenario and then place characters into the situation. I’m character-driven. I see a vintage photograph in an antique store or a picture in a magazine, and something in the person’s expression captures my attention. Then curiosity compels me to learn that person’s backstory. As imagination takes a flight of fancy, the character develops in my mind and begins to reveal his or her situation, as odd as that might sound to people who are normal (you know, people who don’t write fiction for a living). And that is how Addie Cowherd, Bettina Webber, Nanny Fay Tuckett, and Emmett Tharp came to life in my head and subsequently on the page.

A couple years ago, I saw a photograph of a young woman on horseback handing a book over a cabin’s railing to another woman. The caption indicated it was a Pack Horse Library delivery. With my curiosity stirred, I did a little research about the program; and before long the woman on horseback in the photograph introduced herself as Bettina Webber, a life-long resident of Boone’s Hollow, Kentucky. Bettina harbored two secrets, and the money she earned as a pack horse librarian was going to take her out of the hills and to a big city before anyone in Boone’s Hollow could uncover those secrets.

As I usually do when the elements of story are cooking in the back of my mind, I did an online search for photographs of the Depression Era. I found a winsome-faced young woman who raised her hand and timidly requested to be included in the story. So city-dweller Addie Cowherd joined the band of horseback librarians…but not by choice. This job was a thorough distraction from her goal of finishing college and becoming a novelist.

A serious-looking young man also caught my eye. He grew up in Boone’s Hollow and—thanks to scholarships—earned a college education, but how was he supposed to make use of it during a time when jobs are scarce? Returning to Boone’s Hollow, where men made their living running illegal moonshine or laboring in the coal mines, was never his intention. But sometimes life takes us in directions we couldn’t foresee.

One last image—a woman with snow white hair and a gentle expression full of smile lines—grabbed hold of my heart. I knew she belonged in the story. Because she didn’t have anywhere else to belong. She’d faced endless rejection during her lifetime, but maybe…just maybe…she would find a friend in this city gal who’s come to help with the book-carryin’. Wouldn’t that be something?

It never ceases to amaze me how people in a one-dimensional image become three-dimensional in my mind. But they do. And somehow in the course of telling their stories, I learn something along the way. One of the themes that grew intrinsically from these characters’ interactions is how each of us possess a deep need for love and acceptance. So often, like Bettina, we try to force someone to love us, and sometimes that “someone” doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Or, if we’re more like Emmett, we try to earn love by turning ourselves into someone we really aren’t, and our heart’s call gets trampled in the process. Love is a wonderful thing, but it fails to satisfy us when we look for it in wrong directions.

Nanny Fay’s life was rife with disappointment, yet despite her many heartaches, she was content. She leaned into the source of love that never fails, never rejects, never demands, and never ends. She taught me that no human relationship, no matter how wonderful, will last forever. Everything of earth is temporal, but the relationship she had with her Source of Love is eternal. Because she had tapped into the true Source of Love, she was able to share His love with those around her. Her tenacity to be kind even the face of unkindness challenged me to follow the biblical instruction of being kind even to one’s enemies. Oh, how I fell in love with this woman who let life’s hardships make her better instead of bitter.

I truly wish Nanny Fay lived next door to me. I’d invite her for coffee every day. Since that isn’t possible, I’ll just visit her on the pages of The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow. I suspect she’ll welcome me as openly as she welcomed Addie. Won’t that be something?

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 in 2006 with the release of Waiting for Summer’s Return. Now with over 1.5 million books in print in six different languages, she praises God for blessing her far beyond her imaginings. When Kim isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling with her retired military hubby, quilting, performing in community theater, and spoiling her quiverful of granddarlings.

August 27, 2020

How Much Responsibility Can One Man Shoulder?

Audra Jennings


In Terry Brennan’s Empires of Armageddon series, three ancient empires  are rushing toward a collision in the volatile Middle East while an official high in the US State Department is conspiring with a foreign power against the US president. A centuries-old prophecy is unveiled that heralds Christ’s imminent return, and malevolent fallen angels are determined to invalidate biblical prophecy so they can manufacture a different ending to the Bible. The story
which began in Ishmael Covenant picks up right where it left off in the second release, Persian
Betrayal published by Kregel Publications.

Brennan explains. “In this series, our protagonist, Brian Mullaney, is drawn into this conflict against desperate evil forces who want to change the end of the Bible with an earthly battle that has eternal consequences. The spiritual warfare in Persian Betrayal is real, personal, dangerous, and frightening to our characters. And its outcome has eternal ramifications. Not so much different than today.”

One of Brennan’s key inspirations for the series came from the writings of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, who was the most revered Talmudic scholar of the late eighteenth century. In 2014, his great-great-grandson revealed a prophecy the Vilna Gaon wrote two hundred and twenty years before: “When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard.” Only months before that, Russian troops had invaded Ukraine and swept through the Crimean Peninsula. Brennan took the idea of the rising empires and the premise of an unexpected treaty between Israel and all its Arab neighbors and ran with it

In the story, Mullaney is wounded yet he is supposed to save the Ishmael Covenant, the treaty promising peace in the Middle East. Despite angelic intervention, Mullaney wants nothing to do with his final assignment. But without him, evil will win the ultimate struggle and humankind will have no hope left.

Brennan shows how Mullaney’s faith is evident throughout the story as he prays urgently and fervently, pleading for God’s help and direction. The spiritual warfare Mullaney faces also has deep biblical roots. “In the Bible, the book of Ephesians references ‘heavenly realms’ five times and refers to the battle ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,’”

The second prophecy, revealed in Persian Betrayal, is a product of Brennan’s imagination, though rooted in history that dates all the way back to the days of Moses and the battle between the Israelites and their ancient enemies, the Amalekites.

Terry Brennan is the award-winning author of The Sacred Cipher, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, and The Aleppo Code, the three books in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. His latest series is Empires ofArmageddon, which includes Ishmael Covenant and Persian Betrayal.

A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Brennan accumulated during his twenty-two-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercurywon the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series published while he led the team as the newspaper’s editor.

Starting out as a sportswriter in Philadelphia, Brennan became an editor and publisher for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York and later moved to the corporate staff of Ingersoll Publications (four hundred newspapers in the United States, Ireland, and England) as executive editor of all US newspapers.

In 1996, Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending twelve years as vice president of operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as chief administrative officer for Care for the Homeless, both in New York City.

Terry and his wife, Andrea, now live in Danbury, Connecticut.

More on Brennan can be found at He is also on Facebook (Terry Brennan) and Twitter (@terrbrennan1).

August 26, 2020

Poetry as a Spiritual Exercise

Sara Robinson   

Southern Writers Poet

We are aware that many poets, as their professional and personal lives expanded, felt that there was more to their writing than expressions on love, death, themselves, and nature. Many poets believed that they were on a quest, not just for truth, but for deeper meanings. For them, nature was a tool, a door, to allow them exploration into a spiritual side of their writing and consciousness.

Two notable poets, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and Robert Duncan spent a better part of their lifetimes into research on religion, and even the occult. They maintained that “poetry affects spiritual transactions.” For example, a devastating loss can compel one to seek solace in his/her faith and then write about what this means to him/her. Edward Hirsch, an acclaimed poet, focuses much of his writing on traumatic events in his life. This includes elegies for family members and friends. The elegy can be a meditative reflection on sorrow, remorse, extreme anguish; then how to use this grief to heal. Edward lost his only son, Gabriel, and wrote a masterful 78-page elegy. In this he questions his faith, where God is, and even demanding that God give him back his son.

There were a number of poets of “the greatest age of English verse,” who drew on the Bible as part of their prosody practice. We look to spiritual texts to give us inspiration as well as poetic technical help. For example, the meter, rhyme, and musicality of The Bible influenced many, such as Donne and Whitman. Our challenge today is to bring the antiquity to the present so that phrases continue to be relevant. Look at this line from Walt Whitman (from his poem Memories of President Lincoln): “I cease my song for thee, / From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee, / O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night.” A poet incorporating a spirituality in his renderings must find a balance between being pious and poetic.

Robert Alter’s book, “The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary” looks discretely and intensely at biblical language and how to bring it to modern poetic script, as translation and as poetic thought. Take this example: “The Lord is my shepherd, / I shall not want. / In grass meadows He makes me lie down, / by quiet waters guides me. / My life He brings back. / He leads me on pathways of justice / for His name’s sake. / Though I walk in the vale of death’s shadow, / I fear no harm, / for You are with me.”

When we use monosyllabic words with their modern syntax as we compose spiritual text, we create another kind of beauty. How will you embrace spirituality in your writing?

Author of Sometimes the Little Town (her fifth book and fourth poetry collection), is founder of Lonesome Mountain Pros(e) Writers’ Workshop, former UVA-OLLI instructor on Contemporary Poetry, and poetry columnist for Southern Writers’ Magazine. Published in journals and anthologies, she is a former Virginia Writers’ Club and Blue Ridge Writer’s Chapter officer.  Her most recent book, Needville has now been turned into a play.

August 25, 2020

Real Towns or Fictional Towns?

Susan Reichert @swmeditor

Many authors choose their hometown for their novel’s setting.

I loved the town I grew up in. Being a small town, in the 1950s it only had about 1500 people, give or take a few.

In the town itself, everyone knew everyone. Families had lived there for generations.

For me to write a novel and use where I grew up as the setting, I would not be able to write a horror, a thriller or anything that would shine a bad light on this town. I cannot imagine anything bad happening in that town nor anyone bad living there. That sounds a little like nirvana I know, but to me that is the town I grew up in.

How wonderful authors can set their novels in their hometowns because they are already knowledgeable of where everything is so it will make it easy for them to add buildings and other settings. Probably helps with creating characters too.

In writing something you know so well, you would think it would be easy, but I dare say for some authors it would not be so easy. I believe you would have to visit and look at the scenery through eyes of a writer, making notes describing places and buildings, even the scenery of nature.

In doing this you would be able to determine where you are going to take liberties to add buildings, such as houses and stores, restaurants, and other items as needed for the story.

In a small town, everyone knows you and your family background. Every time I visit, which is about once a year, I see people I know. The first thing out of their mouth is “You look just like your mother!” They know me, my name and they know my mother. If they are old enough, they will mention my grandparents who have been dead for many years. And you remember them, their children, and their parents.

For me, I would find it hard to create a character based on any of these people or on people I knew from the past in this small town. I know for sure I could not create a fiction person and make them all bad for fear people who knew me would be wondering who I was talking about. Yet authors do create characters based on people they know.

I am sure there are stories in my small town that if I chose to dig them out, I could find interesting things to create a good story. Since I would be writing about the town I know, it would certainly make research easier. I have also heard that when you place your story in a real place it gives it an anchor of sorts. Certainly, using real people, places and happenings would produce ideas for creating a good book.

Yet, writing about your small town and creating characters from people you know could make them wonder if you based that character on them or someone they know. Same things if you used a real store, they would wonder if you were basing it on their store or one, they know. Obviously, you risk offending people and a town you care about.

For me, the simple thing to do, is not use the real small town or its people.

I would have to make up a small town, make up the stores and the people. But nothing says I cannot draw ideas from the small town I grew up in.

Which do you prefer? Setting a story in your hometown or creating a fictional town?

Susan L Reichert is the author of God's Prayer Power and Storms of Life. She is the past Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. She is the Director of Southern Author Services and President of Collierville Christian Writers Group.

She and her husband live in Tennessee and have four daughters and three grandsons.

August 24, 2020

Sharing Kentucky Stories

Ann H.Gabhart                      @AnnHGabhart

After writing forty books, give or take one or two, I sometimes worry I’ll exhaust my idea bank. Usually the deposits in that bank all come from Kentucky sources. I am a lifelong Kentucky resident and so I’ve used Kentucky settings and/or history in all my books.

Years ago, when I was a young writer and only beginning to wrestle with the task of finding new ideas for stories, I read in a writing advice article that there were only ten basic storylines. Ten. That boggled my mind when I thought about all the books that have been written and that would be written. Some of them by me.

While I never exactly figured out what those ten basic storylines were, since I don’t think that was included in the article, it did take the pressure off about being totally original. It wasn’t going to happen. I was very sure those ten things had shown up in many books. What is it the preacher writes in Ecclesiastes? “And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9b NKJ)

People are people and while our culture is much changed, we as people continue to do the same basic things. We’re born and make our way through childhood and school. We fall in love. We struggle and overcome. Or sometimes don’t overcome but have to find new ways to live. We have dreams and desires. We work and we play. Throughout time until our time is done.

Stories are about people and while each basic idea for a story may have been used a zillion times, the characters I choose to bring to life in my stories will be unlike any characters in other stories. They will be unique just as we as individuals are unique even while we share those same basic needs and wants.

So, when I was searching for a new idea for a book, I reviewed my Kentucky history and decided I could find another story in the Appalachian Mountains with Frontier Nursing Service history. I had written about the Frontier Nurse Service midwives in my book, These Healing Hills, but I wasn’t able to work in all the Frontier Nursing Service history I found so interesting. I wanted to tell more of Mary Breckinridge’s story and her vision of helping mothers and children by bringing better healthcare into the poverty-stricken mountains.

Sometimes we hear of needs and think I am only one. How can I make a difference? But Mary Breckinridge was only one. Yet, with determination and perseverance, she convinced others to join in with her vision. She talked midwives into coming from England to work in the mountains since when she started her nurse midwife service, America had no midwifery schools. She later established a midwifery school right in Hyden, Kentucky in order to train midwives for the Frontier Nursing Service since many of the English midwives returned to England to serve their country during World War II.

She also came up with the idea of bringing in volunteers to take care of the nurses’ horses and do various other menial chores in order to free up the nurse midwives to have more time for their patients. These volunteer couriers were generally young women from well to do families who perhaps were more accustomed to being served rather than serving others. They hadn’t experienced rough living without electricity and other conveniences. I decided to bring one of those couriers to life and let her have the summer of a lifetime as she discovered the joy of helping others while also realizing her own strengths and talents.

Piper has a summer never to forget in An Appalachian Summer. But while Piper is a product of my imagination, she is based on the many courier volunteers I read about as I researched the Frontier Nursing Service. These volunteer positions with the midwifery service became so sought after that prospective volunteers had to add their names to a waiting list.

Women who had served as couriers often added their infant daughters’ names to the list so that their daughters would have the same opportunity they had of being part of the Frontier Nursing Service.

So, once again I had walked across the Kentucky map to imagine a new story set in my home state. Even when my books aren’t centered on historical events, I’m still in Kentucky with my setting. The farm where I grew up was near a small Kentucky town that I used as the model for Hollyhill in the Heart of Hollyhill stories and also for my Hidden Spring mysteries. The setting for my Rosey Corner stories came to life from all the stories my mother told me about growing up in a small community during the Great Depression.

I’ve got a few more ideas for stories where I can drop down my characters into a Kentucky setting and see what happens next. I can’t wait to let my imagination introduce me to some new fictional people anxious to share their stories.

ANN H. GABHART has been called a storyteller, She’s lived up to the title with forty books published (give or take a few) and more stories on the way. Ann likes wrapping her stories around interesting historical times and events in her home state of Kentucky. She’s written about the Shakers in The Refuge, The Outsider and more, gone to the Appalachian Mountains for These Healing Hills and An Appalachian Summer, mined her family history for Angel Sister and Scent of Lilacs, found a feel good story during the 1833 cholera epidemic in Springfield, Kentucky, and more. Even her cozy mysteries under the author name A.H. Gabhart take place in the little town of Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Ann keeps her keyboard warm out on her farm where she likes walking with her dogs or discovering the wonders of nature with her nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann and her books.

August 21, 2020

6 Tips for Social Media Time Management

Edie Melson    @EdieMelson

Social Media Director for Southern Writers Suite T

Many writers I speak with are doing more than juggling writing and social media—they're also committed to something else full time—a job, family, ministry, etc. Others are torn between family responsibilities and industry requirement. All these individuals have my utmost respect!


While writing IS your priority, small (even tiny) consistent steps with social media can grow an impressive online presence.


1. Use Your Evening to Schedule Updates 

I know many of you don’t have the time to schedule your updates in the morning. The way to get around this is to schedule your social media in the evening.


2. Watch the Clock

Divide up your time wisely and spend the bulk of it on writing – but don’t neglect social media entirely. Instead, pare it down.


3. Schedule Updates for the Entire Week at One Time

Another way to work around your time-crunch issues is to devote one single evening to all your social media updates for the week. 


4. Limit Your Social Media Networks 

It’s important to make sure the time you spend on social media is well spent. You’ll have to discipline yourself to make the most of the time you have. This includes the time you spend interacting on different platforms. I recommend you read and comment on no more than 4 – 6 updates per social media network. AND I recommend you limit yourself to no more than 3 networks. Trying to do too much will result in less visibility.


5. Choose the Most Valuable Networks

By limiting your social media networks to no more than three, you’ll have to decide which 3 make the most sense for you. I still stand by my recommendation of Facebook and Twitter as numbers 1 and 2. After that, I’d choose between Pinterest and Instagram. 


6. Do What’s Best for YOU

All of these tips are just that, tips. Ultimately, you know what time you have and what priorities make the most sense for you. Take what works and toss the rest. The most important thing is to have a plan. In the past, stumbling along—doing the best I could—has set me back years with my writing goals.


With these tips, adjusted to a specific situation, anyone should be able to stay active on social media and grow a platform without losing valuable writing time.

Social Media Director for Southern Writers Suite T

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, including the bestseller Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers.

She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Social Media Director of Southern Writers Magazine and board Member of the Advanced Writers and Speaker Association.

Visit Edie on and through social media.

August 20, 2020

Using Powerful Themes in Story

DiAnn Mills  

A story’s theme is the meaning behind the writer’s passion to send a character on a journey. It is an engine additive that fuels why the character is motivated into action. Theme isn’t stated directly in the story, but is shown as a subtle, reoccurring message throughout that expresses the story’s idea. Some novels use theme as a theory to prove or disprove a main idea or moral statement.

The writer discovers the idea by exploring character wants, needs, flaws, and failures. Deliberate and calculated literary techniques ensure the theme is connected. For the idea to resonate with the reader, extensive characterization reveals why the theme is important and the plot demonstrates how it’s accomplished.

August 19, 2020

My Heart (still) Weeps...Part 2

Pamela S Thibodeaux

Inspiration Behind the Book: In 2010 I remarked to a gentleman how much I appreciated him. “I feel your love for me through every fiber of my being and my heart weeps because I’m just not ready….”


Fun (and not so fun) facts about My Heart Weeps:

My Heart Weeps parallels my journey through grief after my husband’s death in 2009. This book actually took about eight (8!) years to complete – it was just too up-close and personal to get through all at once.

Yes, there really is a Utopia, TX. About 30 miles North/West of Bandera and as Melena works at the Crossed Penn Ranch in Utopia, I lived and worked at the Silver Spur Ranch in Bandera. SSR is not an “artists retreat” but a guest ranch. I worked in housekeeping and in the kitchen and even as a drag (back up) wrangler on trail rides.

The descriptions of the area are pretty accurate and drawn from memory. I’ve actually hiked in the Lost Maples Natural Area.

Deer are prominent in the Hill Country, especially rural areas like Bandera and Utopia. It is not unusual to see a huge herd in your yard. I’ve even seen children playing chase with them!

Horseback riding is one of my favorite things to do when possible. There really is nothing more soothing than the clip-clop of hooves on rock. Try it sometime.


Purchase Link:


PS: I’m sure many are wondering what happened to the gentleman mentioned in Inspiration Behind the Book – that relationship lasted about a year and a half and not only showed me I could love again, but encouraged me to do so. After a couple of years of being single (which I abhorred) I’ve been in a relationship for 6 years now. Even though you may learn to live again -and even love again- after losing your soul mate, I’ve found (for me anyway) your heart is never quite the same. 


August 18, 2020

My Heart (still) Weeps…..

Pamela S Thibodeaux 

In my post, How to Write When You’re Frozen Inside, I mentioned a few things I did to help keep my writing career alive when I was unable to do much actual writing due to my husband’s death in 2009. If you read that article, you’ll note that, although I had several projects published, I didn’t write anything brand new, start to finish, until 2016. Keri’s Christmas Wish was written in five weeks, edited, and published within a couple of months. Then…..


Fast forward to 2019.

For the past year or so, I focused on writing short stories for a popular Women’s magazine to no avail. Most have been recycled into free reads for my newsletter subscribers. I’ve managed to write pretty regularly for a local news magazine, and I’ve started publishing my backlist in audio. I am staying active in my career, but still no progress on novels or novellas for the general market. I just can’t seem to get in the groove or mood to write consistently much less write romance.

Until May...

Eight authors and I gather in Meade, OK for a writing retreat. I decided I would pick one WIP and concentrate on finishing it. I had 3 to choose from. My Heart Weeps had the largest word count so I determined I would finish this book. If not during the week-long retreat, soon after.

Since this book is about one woman’s journey through grief into new life and the possibility of new love and parallels my own, I knew I had a rollercoaster of emotions to get through in order to write this story as effectively as it should be told. Many times, I took a break just to get my emotions under control or read aloud a scene or passage and left not a dry eye amongst my writing partners.

They say writing is cathartic and I can attest to this. Although I didn’t complete the project until June or July of 2019 and it’s taken another year to get it up for publication, finishing this book has opened the floodgates to my creativity. Since uploading the preliminary files to Amazon in May (2020), I have completed a second novella which will be published later this year and am steadily working on a third.

It's been eleven years today since my beloved passed away and although I’ve moved forward (I don’t feel we ever completely “move on”) and am living life to the fullest, my heart still weeps.

I guess it always will.

Blurb: After thirty years married to the man of her dreams, Melena Rhyker is devastated by her husband's death. Relief comes in the form of an artist's retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer. 

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.


 Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!


August 17, 2020

His Poetry Method

Michael Harbour

 My methods for using thought-provoking imagery are varied, but can be a message to communicate from the purity of the heart, or a conclusion that I have prior reached to which I move a narrative from the start slowly through the poem to enquiringly prompt the reader to a similar conclusion.

  I find that writing poetry in times of high emotion and intimate connection with a theme the easiest to write, as opposed to lack of pure inspiration being the hardest.

 I purposefully attempt to write on differing levels to allow the reader to either enjoy the message on the surface or read deeper to find something that might stir the heart or jolt a thought never previously contemplated in the mind.


I hope after reading the poetry the reader takes away that beauty and abundance is within all things, whether the theme be good, bad or indifferent, and that the poetry stimulates a state of mind which is clear, pure and happy.

Having studied various philosophical views and perspectives over the past fifteen years I feel I have developed a poetic style that captivates and engages the reader. Not only on the surface but while encouraging the beautiful, deeper consciousness to develop deeper levels of thought.

In my new book, Poems From An Empty Mind, I feel I have been able to captivate the reader with highly engaging verses of joy, beauty and tranquillity, while contrasting emotive and contemplative experiences.

This ambitious, thought-provoking collection of quality poetry encourages the reader to delve deeper into the text to discover the messages of inner peace, pure being and happiness to be found in an open and empty mind.

A variety of verse styles are bound together by an enriching, mindful theme, which encourages the reader to ponder and explore the beautiful nature of life, one's thoughts and pure mind.

 Michael Harbour is a poet, artist and senior manager. He has studied various philosophical views and perspectives over the past 15 years. Michael has developed poetic styles that captivate and engage the reader on the surface while encouraging the beautiful, deeper consciousness to develop deeper levels of thought.


 For more information, please visit

August 14, 2020

First Scene Needs 3 Things

Susan Reichert

Writing a first paragraph in a book we all know is important. Writing the first scene is critical.

The first thing you need to introduce your protagonist to your reader because you want them to know who your main character is so they will pay attention throughout the book to this person. Readers need to know who the protagonist is so they can root for him/her.

The second thing you is start the first scene with your protagonist already in the middle of a situation/conflict that is wrapped with tension and reveals the characters personality, fears, things the reader needs to know about the protagonist. This is where the situation/conflict kicks off the scene. Think of it as making your protagonist feel uncomfortable and remember you can take that to different levels of uncomfortable.

The third thing is what the protagonist goal/need is. The reader needs to know what the protagonist is working toward achieving even if it is only a hint.

C. S. Lakin said, “Each scene in your novel should be moving the plot forward. Each scene should reveal some new information, but not just anything—the information needs to help move the plot forward. The bottom line? Every scene must have a point to it.” For more information visit

Also you might want to check out Now Novel where they talk about how to write a scene: purpose and structure.

It is important to understand how to craft scenes. The better the scene the better the story. K. M. Weiland said, “Once you understand how to craft your scenes into a row of dominoes–each one knocking into the next—you’ll never write an extraneous scene again. Even better? You’ll be able to craft each moment in your story to tap its maximum potential in the plot and gain the most powerful reaction possible from your readers.” For more information visit

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.

August 13, 2020

Know Where Your Story Is Going? Part 2

Susan Shapiro Barash / pen name Susannah Marren 

 In terms of plot, because it is what drives the story and what captures our attention, I must visualize it ahead of time. I don’t start writing until I understand what will happen. This might take weeks or months and I mull it over, ask myself the questions- what if and what then. When my writing group gets together, we often talk about each other’s plots. I find it helpful to get their perspective, but I’m always fairly convinced of what will happen in the book I’m about to write anyway. What we do talk in our group is how plot is the toughest part to get right and totally necessary to hone. Without a plot that makes sense and is compelling, the story flounders. Not only is that very frustrating, but the despair of not having the plot completely worked out can be painful. For this reason, I will rewrite an outline until it is about eighty percent developed. Then I’m confident that the rest will play out as I hammer away at the pages. That is when I am certain enough of the plot for it to work. This isn’t to say that I don’t make changes, but the broad strokes must be set in motion.


I am a believer in ‘hooking’ the reader from the start. By the first page of a novel that I am reading, or writing, I want to know what’s next. One’s curiosity must be there from the very beginning. That being said, when I’m writing a novel, I imagine that the reader and I are on a journey together, engrossed, rooting for our protagonist, waiting to see what might or might not happen, that their goals can be realized and obstacles overcome. As the story moves ahead, the reader learns more and more about the essence of the story, all told in an active tense. A memory or flashback is recalled and wove into a chapter in real time.


How compelled are we to search for stories – for tales and experiences that we can relate to and learn from? I would say during our dark days and our happier times, having a novel to turn to is equally compelling. There is never a dearth of important books to read and to write.

Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of thirteen nonfiction women’s issue books, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends, and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping. Her fiction, Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife, are published under her pseudonym, Susannah Marren. A Palm Beach Scandal comes out on September 15, 2020. 

She has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Elle, Marie Claire, and has appeared on national television including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. Barash has been a guest on national radio including NPR and Sirius Radio. 

Photo by James Maher 

August 12, 2020

Know Where Your Story Is Going?

Susan Shapiro Barash / pen name Susannah Marren 

I have always believed that when a reader gets hooked immediately it’s off to the races.  Each chapter propels the story forward and provides a cliff hanger by the last few paragraphs. The story heightens as it unfolds and that, combined with the voice of the narrator, is what creates the drama. I’m not one to spend time on fluffy scenes, so even if there is a description of a party or an outfit, it is there for a reason.

Before I begin a novel, I write up the characters in detail. I know everything about each of my main characters, from their taste in food to their favorite color to their secrets to their politics. I write down ideas and thoughts on slips of paper if I’m out and about and when I get back to my desk, I add these to my notes. I keep a file for each character, and I don’t start the novel until each is fully fleshed. Their emotional terrain is incredibly important to me as are their interpersonal relationships with others. Sometimes I find myself asking how one of my characters would react to a real-life circumstance. Because I have written nonfiction books (under my real name), documenting the lives of a diverse group of women in terms of how they feel as mothers, wives, single women, sisters, friends and colleagues, when I work on my female characters, I consider how women are positioned in society. The behavior of my female characters reflect how women navigate a path in the workplace, among family members and in their female friendships. All of this is considered in terms of cultural expectations.

While I am aware that some authors like their stories to evolve and their characters to lead them, I am not among this group. Rather I like to know where my story is going when I first begin. I know the ending from the start, and it informs the entire story, it is my compass. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy journey from start to finish, more that I know what the finish line is. This provides clarity for me and a roadmap. I also like to outline my fiction, and while some writers aren’t in favor of this, I find that the more detail I have, the more I am immersed in the writing, and the more the story fills my head.

I also make notes on the place where my novels take place. For me the place is almost another character in the story. I write about places that I know well. For A Palm Beach Wife (2019) and A Palm Beach Scandal (2020), I chose the locale because I knew it so well. I had grown up being there and my parents were residents for decades. I would go out to lunch with my mother and wonder about what really was going on in a town that exuded perfection. How could anyone be unhappy amidst such beauty, surrounded by opulence? Except, of course, that isn’t the case. These books are about what lurks beneath and how women deal with their truths versus their lies.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of thirteen nonfiction women’s issue books, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends, and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping. Her fiction, Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife, are published under her pseudonym, Susannah Marren. A Palm Beach Scandal comes out on September 15, 2020.

She has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Elle, Marie Claire, and has appeared on national television including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. Barash has been a guest on national radio including NPR and Sirius Radio. Visit Susan at

Photo by James Maher 

August 11, 2020

Paying It Forward ~ Part 2

Claire Fullerton

Part 2

You better believe I came ready! I prepared with photographs of Little Tea’s setting in the Deep South (Como, Mississippi; Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas; and my home town, Memphis) two book trailers, a dozen memes, Little Tea reviews, and, knowing that a picture tells a thousand words about an author’s life, photographs of ocean waves taken where I now live in Malibu, California and endless un-staged photographs of my three photogenic dogs. It was my dogs that got the ball rolling. It’s astounding how many people have “a German shepherd story.” The sharing of dog stories led to an enthusiastic kind of bonding. Soon enough, there was a vibrant thread in the private group of dog pictures that dovetailed to include the posting of pet cats.

 Little Tea’s premise is built on the power of female friendships—the anchoring, long-lasting kind that see a woman through a lifetime. These friendships tend to have their own language, often times there’s a shared sense of humor spawned from shared history, and what comes from shared history is an arsenal of stories. In Little Tea’s case, much of the bi-racial relationship story is due to the setting, which is to say the story wouldn’t have happened as it did were it not set in the South with its attendant social mores set amidst the roiling cauldron of the cultural racial divide. There’s a line from Little Tea, when narrator Celia Wakefield describes her Southern upbringing by saying, “The thing about being a Southern girl is they let you run loose until the time comes to shape you.” I posted a meme with this quote during my author take over and it led to a riotous discussion about the South and the power of female friendships, which is part and parcel to the story of Little Tea—Little Tea being the nickname of the main character, who is Celia Wakefield’s childhood best friend.

I have to say I’ve always known that readers are discerning people. They’re interested in learning about a book, but they’re equally interested in learning about the author. The beauty of my all-day, author take-over was that it afforded the latitude of an unfolding. One subject led to another with regard to Little Tea, but what warmed my heart the most was the participants who shared their own stories in what became a delightful, even exchange. I came away from the event knowing I’d represented Little Tea and introduced myself as accurately as I could, but the real gift to me came from getting to know those who love reading as much as I do. I went into the author take-over hoping to reach readers, but as I learned about them, it turned into the thrill of finding common ground.

I’m still marveling at the fun I had in the midst of a fortuitous opportunity. It’s not every author who invites another to take over their page and meet their followers. When you’re lucky enough to meet the kind of author who realizes we’re all in this together, it serves as an exemplary reminder of the impact of paying it forward.

 Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of 7- time award winner, Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970's Memphis. Claire is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a 2-time award winner set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire's first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two, time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire's 4th novel. Little Tea is a Faulkner Society William Wisdom Competition finalist, a finalist for the Chanticleer Review's Somerset Awards, and the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency. 

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August 10, 2020

Paying It Forward ~ Part 1

Claire Fullerton

I have a newly released novel titled, Little Tea, but that’s not my focus here on Suite T. My focus is on sharing an incredible experience I had on Facebook because it’s a case in point of what can transpire through the magnanimous efforts of one fellow author during these unusual times.

Those of us who released a book during the pandemic were blindsided as to how to proceed with promotion. In my case, I had a book tour of the South scheduled to promote Little Tea, only to discover each event was canceled. The good news is most of my events were rescheduled virtually, though in many ways, I swam in smaller waters. I stayed tethered to my desk bereft of the gift of personal contact and although I’m not taking the merit out of it, in most ways I preached to a Zoom choir. But an uncanny domino effect ensued that came through the power of connections, and although it’s not a complete surprise, I have Facebook to thank for a great time promoting Little Tea.

My good fortune began with the moderator of a Facebook book group who interviews authors via StreamYard on a nightly basis. I was a guest on her live show and was grateful beyond measure to answer questions about Little Tea. In thanking my hostess profusely, I said, “If there’s anything I can do for you, it would be my great pleasure.”

The first step along the chain of events came when the aforementioned moderator asked me to talk to a debut author she admires, who had questions about the publishing business. I issued the caveat that I’m no expert, but I’ve been in the business long enough to have an opinion. I’ll say here that my policy as an author has always been to pay it forward. Authors work in a common arena, and few of us would get very far were it not for the opportunity to compare notes. And so, I got on the phone with a complete stranger and talked about navigating the book world and am happy to report that by the time we hung up, I’d made a new friend. An hour later, my new friend messaged me via Facebook messaging and invited me to come to her Facebook group page to do an “author takeover.” I said yes before I fully understood the set-up, so, I’ll explain it now that I understand. This debut author had the foresight to create a private book launch group on Facebook. She issued a call-out six months before her book release and created a Facebook “street team” by offering incentives that simply boiled down to the joy of being involved. This street team was gifted with insider information about her debut novel. She gave her private group book swag, played games, and shared pictures pertaining to her life and her book that the general public wasn’t privy to, so by the time her book was released, roughly a thousand readers were ready to shout from the rooftops because suffice it to say, they felt personally tied to the book’s launch.

My invitation to come to her private Facebook group and do an all-day take over essentially sounded like this: “I know of a thousand people who’ve never heard of you, so come on over, I’ll introduce you, and you can post as much about your book as you want to.” 

Part 2 on August 11

Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of 7- time award winner, Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970's Memphis. Claire is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a 2-time award winner set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire's first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two, time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire's 4th novel. Little Tea is a Faulkner Society William Wisdom Competition finalist, a finalist for the Chanticleer Review's Somerset Awards, and the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency. Visit Claire at or at all locations