Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Closing Out 2020



Susan Reichert




I have been trying to decide how to bid farewell to 2020. As I look back through the months, I am reminded how quick things can change. In February we were attending a wedding and in March we are told there is a virus spreading across the world that is killing people.

Now we wear mask, make sure there is six feet between us and others, stay away from crowds.

Even though this is a terrible thing that happened causing sickness, death, loss of jobs, and business closings we do see light coming with a vaccine that they have begun using to vaccinate across the country and other parts of the world.

However, rather than focus on the bad things of 2020, I would like to focus on the good things of 2020.

For the first time in a long time, families had to stay at home with each other and reacquaint themselves. Remember families are most important in our lives.

We are appreciating our families and not taking them for granite. We also are finding ways to keep in touch with friends remembering how much they mean to us.

As for writers, many have spent this time writing and publishing books. What else could we do but write? For me, I am almost finished writing one book and will begin the editing process in a couple of weeks and half-finished on another. Many of my friends have finished two books this year.

So how will we remember 2020? Grateful we survived it. Hopefully, we got our priorities straight.

Even though they closed our church my husband and I continued to attend online every Sunday but one. A lot of my friends tell me they got closer to not only their families but also to God and spending time with Him.

I pray that as we end this year, we will remember how great it was to spend time with our families and do things together––in our homes and backyards. Let us take this with us into the new year. Let us put our focus on God to see us into the new year with a new appreciation for life.

Susan Reichert, author of God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life. Susan is the founder of Southern Author Services. The past co-publisher of Southern Writers Magazine and the Editor-in-Chief. Editor of Suite T. President of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group).

 Susan and her family live in Tennessee.

https:// www.southernauthorservices.com

Contact Susan: editor@southernauthorservices.com 

 https://twitter.com/swmeditor?lang=en ;

 https://www.susanlreichert.com/


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

7 Things To Do When Social Media Frustrates You



Edie Melson






I wish I had a nickel for everyone who’s told me that Social Media just doesn’t work for them.

Let me suggest, respectfully, that you’re just going about it the wrong way.

These tips will help realign the time you spend on social media, giving it structure and encouraging interaction.


1. Go back to doing the basics. I teach that to have an effective social media presence on the Internet you need to do three things: Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging. The reason you must use Facebook and Twitter is because, no matter what or who you’re promoting, you’ll find almost one hundred percent of your audience on these two networks. There are other valuable platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, so those may be better choices in certain instances, but in general Facebook and Twitter are the gold standards.


You also need to be blogging someplace regularly. Notice I did NOT say you have to have a blog. I said you must be blogging somewhere, regularly. It could be a group blog or professional blog where you have a regular column. The idea is to have somewhere to send your audience so they can interact with you on a deeper level than social media. Think of it as a place to sit down and have coffee with them, to get to know each other better.



2. Quit trying to be fair. By this I mean you’re trying to spend the same amount of time on all the social networks you’re involved with. Each of us has differing personalities. I’m better at some ways of engagement than you are. For instance, I excel at Twitter, but not at Facebook. So, I spend most of my time on Twitter because I get a better return on investment. I don’t ignore Facebook, but I know my limitations and my strengths, and I work to those.



3. Stop trying to do too much. These days we’re all busy…crazy busy sometimes. So why make yourself even crazier by trying to do it all. I remember a commercial in the 70s that showed a beautiful woman holding a frying pan, singing a song about how she can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. The prevailing myth was women, as well as men, could do it all. Maybe some can. But I must ask, who wants to? Not me. Work on the basics, then just add what you can handle and/or what you enjoy. Remember, this is a means to an end, not the point of your existence!



4. Change your unrealistic expectations. Unless all the stars in the universe line up exactly right and spell out your name, with your blog’s URL and social media accounts, growing a following takes time.



5. Start—or Return to—being consistent. Blogging on a schedule for six weeks isn’t long enough to grow a following or even tell if you have an audience that’s interested—ESPECIALLY if you’re not also being consistent at social media. How long should you do it? Minimum of six months straight. Then come to me and tell me that social media doesn’t work. At that point we’ll have something to talk about.



6. Stop spending too much time on it. Yep, you read that right. After you come up to speed on social media, I recommend you spend NO MORE than thirty minutes a day on social networks and a one-to-two-hour block of time, once a week, writing your blog posts for the week.



7. Quit only talking about yourself. One of the biggest mistakes I see with social media is people confusing it with mass marketing. Let me ask you a question. Do you engage with people who are constantly trying to get something from you? If you don’t like to engage with advertisers, you can bet no one else will. Instead post things on social media that are valuable to those who follow or friend you. Talk about them, share interesting tips gleaned from others, promote other people. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but I guarantee you it works


Building an online presence isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. But when we have a foundation in place, we can build it into something valuable. 


As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. She’s penned numerous books, including While My Child is Away a book of prayers for when we’re apart.

As a leading professional within the publishing industry, she travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her top-ranked blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

In addition, as a respected expert in social media, Edie has the proven expertise to teach others how to plug in without sacrificing valuable writing time. Her bestselling eBook on this subject, has recently been updated, expanded and re-released as Connections: Social Media & NetworkingTechniques for Writers.

She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Social Media Director for the now retired Southern Writers Magazine, and the Social Media Mentor for My Book Therapy. She’s a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, regular columnist for Guideposts.org, Just18Summers.com, and PuttingOnTheNew.com. She and her husband, Kirk, have been married 35 years and raised three sons. They live in the Upstate of South Caroline. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Even With Pandemic, Writing Has Goals



Jennifer Deibel




Did the pandemic change my writing in some way? Hmmmm, I don’t know that it has changed my writing style at all. However, during this time I have learned how to write productively outside of my ideal conditions. Before, I would hole up alone, in the silence, and write for hours on end. As you might imagine, I didn’t often write as much as I wanted because of that! Pandemic life changed that.

My family needed me—and I needed them. The majority of my second book was written sitting at the kitchen table with the chaos of a family of 5 at home all day every day swirling around me. And I grew to love it! I feel like they are much more part of the second book, simply because they were in my periphery rather than blocked out entirely. While I do still enjoy a good isolated writing session, I don’t know that I will ever go back to pursuing that exclusively.

Has the virus affected my writing? Oh my, so very much. When everything first shut down, I was so excited to have some extra time to write! I ended up with an extra week of spring break, during which I was not suppose to do any work, so I planned to use that time to write as much as I could. However, my mind was just…blocked. As time wore on, and I adjusted to quarantine life, I found my muse again. I wrote the bulk of book 2 in the month of July. The words were flying and flowing like mad! It was amazing!

But then, the new school year started. We were online the first quarter, and I suddenly found myself working 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was exhausted and soul-weary. I was in sheer survival mode and didn’t touch a thing to do with my own writing for nearly 3 months.

Now, I seem to have found the balance again and am able to start being creative again.

The idea for my new book, A Dance in Donegal started as a way for me to process our experience of living in Donegal for 2 years early on in our marriage.

That time we spent there was so refining. Those were, in many ways, the hardest 2 years of our lives. But at the same time, it was also a time of intense growth and blessing. After we returned, I found myself pining to return, while at the same time vowing “never again.”

Then, the idea for a story struck me, and I just had to get it on paper. I first started writing it way back in 2004 not long after we returned. Once our daughter was born in early 2005, it sat for years.

I finally picked it back up in 2011, and worked on it sporadically until I finally completed it in January 2017. Writing this story became a way for me to honor our time there, while exploring more deeply all the things I love so much about Ireland and her people.

The descriptions of the lush Irish countryside were by far the easiest parts of the book for me to write. There is no shortage of fodder for the eye in Ireland, and the landscape has a way of seeping into the soul of all who behold it.

The most difficult thing for me was to accurately express what the culture is truly like. So many feel that they understand Ireland, when most of us have barely scratched the surface. There is so much more to the Irish people and culture than shamrocks, luck, and beer. They are a deep, complex people who have overcome so much across the centuries.

Over the nearly 6 years we spent there, the Irish outlook shaped my own so much, and I wanted desperately to give others a glimpse of the authentic Irish life and experience.

My first and main goal for the new year for my writing will be to finish my manuscript for my second book which is due to my editor at Revell in early February.

After that, I will work on plotting out my next few story ideas! I have several rattling around in my head, but I haven’t had the time to really sit down and focus on which one I feel lead to pursue.


Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on
(in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others. With
firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine
home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of
living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their
three children. 

You can find her online at www.thisgalsjourney.com.



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Discovering the Secrets of Wonderland



Regina Scott




I love research. I love delving deep into history to discover interesting tidbits about how people lived, worked, worshipped, entertained themselves, fell in love, married, and raised their children. The information I gather helps me flesh out my characters, bolster my plot, and bring settings to life. And I never know when one of those tidbits is going to spark a new story entirely!

Such was the case for my October 2020 release, Nothing Short of Wondrous, the second in my American Wonders Collection. The novels are all set in the history surrounding our national parks.

I was researching information on the Army Corps of Engineers and their survey crews for my 2019 release, A Distance Too Grand, set in 1873 Arizona Territory. The characters in that book undertake the first Army survey of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. U.S. Cavalry officers often accompanied these surveys for protection. One line in a research book tantalized me.

“The U.S. Cavalry was also called in to manage Yellowstone National Park.”

Interesting.

So, I dug some more. Yellowstone National Park was our first national park. There was nothing like it in any other nation at that time either. So, our leaders in Washington, D.C., weren’t too sure how to manage it. They knew it must be protected so that future generations would be able to enjoy its splendors too. But the first superintendent of the park attempted to manage the millions of acres from across the country.

That did not go well.

Subsequent superintendents moved out West but also struggled to find ways to protect land spread so far and wide and so varied: mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and the amazing thermal features for which the park is famous. By 1886, vandals were carving their names in the formations. Poachers were killing game in the park or starting wildfires that drove the animals beyond the boundaries, where they could be killed with impunity. Even well-meaning visitors broke off pieces of the geysers to take away as souvenirs.

Enter Troop M of the 1st U.S. Cavalry. On the direction of Congress, they rode into Yellowstone in August 1886, determined to protect and defend the area the public was coming to know as Wonderland. I discovered the reports of Captain Moses Harris, the first commanding officer, available online. They make for fascinating reading. Through them, I learned the kinds of structures built to accommodate the cavalrymen, how Harris organized them to cover so large a territory, and the problems they encountered along the way.

Including the fact that the first snow fell in September that year, right in the middle of my story. You can bet I worked that into the story!

Yellowstone National Park also has its own Heritage and Research Center, and many of its treasures are digitized, giving me more insight into how park tourism and hotels were managed in those early days. I also located the e-mail address of the park historian, who graciously answered my nitpicky questions about how visitors were fed when there was no hunting in the park (the “meat wagon” came through from outside the park on the regular basis!) and how the early tour companies functioned (one driver, one group of tourists, together for days). The National Park Service even has a digitized set of recordings, so you can hear what geysers and mud pots sound like. I’d visited Yellowstone in the past, but reminders of what it’s like to tour Wonderland only whet my appetite to go again.

Ah, research! Nothing like it to discover the secrets of your story.

 Regina Scott is the author of more than 50 works of warm, witty historical romance, including A Distance Too Grand. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the prestigious RT Book Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma, Washington, on the way to Mt. Ranier.

Visit Regina at: https://www.reginascott.com/


Monday, December 21, 2020

A Chance Meeting With An Angel



Dennis Bailey



Hello, I’m Dennis Bailey and I’m the author of the “just in time for Christmas” thriller, The Boy Who Cried Christmas. Before continuing, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Susan for inviting me to be a guest on Suite T and giving me this opportunity to tell you the story of how a chance meeting with an angel on the streets of New York City leads a skeptical young boy back in time to meet the newborn Messiah. There, he faces threats from a number of adversaries, including a king named Herod. However, when he returns to the present, he faces as much skepticism about the veracity of his ordeal as he did physical danger while visiting the past.


I think one of the toughest decisions for an author to make is what to write for their second novel. It’s a unique circumstance, one to which their third, fourth, fifth, and every book following seems immune. This is especially true if their first title experiences even a modicum of success. The pall of suffering the dreaded sophomore jinx can prove quite debilitating.


People often ask where writers get their inspiration. In my case, beyond the leading of the Holy Spirit, that’s not an easy question to answer. I knew I wanted to write a Christmas story. I just didn’t know when. For my theme, I chose a story about a spoiled brat sent back in time to witness the birth of Christ, who would then return to a cool reception of incredulity at the testimony of his experience. Thus, the tie-in to Aesop’s famous fable about a boy who cried wolf. The title character from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” provided the inspiration for my protagonist, Logan. Like many of you, I’d watched Charlie’s story on television every year since childhood, yet always hoped for him to have had a more personal experience with the Messiah. I was, therefore, determined for Logan to have that experience and so created the character of Robert to escort him back to Bethlehem.


What writer looking to craft the character of an angel doesn’t immediately think of Clarence Odbody, the kindly old man sent to save George Bailey in the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Tempted as I was to use Clarence as my template, instead I opted for a man in his thirties, deceased World War II hero Robert. Choosing a younger man to play the part of an angel not only allowed him to better identify with Logan, but also to more easily relate to my co-protagonist, forty-something FBI Agent Marcus Garraway.


2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. My hope for all those reading this book is that they will be able to experience a small taste of the wonder and excitement, the childlike faith that brought the Christmas story to life for Logan. In a world fraught with worldwide disease, social unrest, and political upheaval, the message of the manger remains an enduring truth. And aren’t we all thankful for that?


Merry Christmas!



Dennis Bailey is a retired police detective who turned in his gun and badge for a monitor and keyboard. He is an ardent student of the Bible who felt the calling of God on his heart to take that learning and use it to further His glory. 

Dennis’s first novel, Army of God, a story about how the animals of Noah’s Ark rose up to defend it against an invading army, is a Readers’ Favorite 2020 Gold Medal Award Winner.

For an even better flavor for The Boy Who Cried Christmas check out video trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT3Ga7ziKTQ

Visit Dennis at  https://dennisbaileyfiction.com/

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Songs for Writers

 DiAnn Mills





Are Christmas songs rolling through your head, making it difficult to concentrate on your writing project? I’m humming and singing along to favorites and loving the distraction. Is it possible to change the words to our fun Christmas songs and make them more writerly? Can you help me finish any of these?



“White Christmas” 

I’m dreaming of a new contract. 

With every Christmas card I write . . . 



“Jingle Bells” 

Jingle bells, jingle bells 

Jingle all the way 

Oh what fun it is to write 

In a comfy chair today. 



“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” 

It’s beginning to look a lot like edits. 

Everywhere I go . . . 



“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” 

I really must write (but baby, you have no deal) 

My deadline is tonight. (but baby, you have no deal) . . . 



“Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” 

Rudolph, the one who’s published, 

Had a very shiny hook. 

And if you stop to read it. 

You’d even buy the book. 



“All I Want for Christmas is You” 

All I want for Christmas is a good review. 





“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” 

Have yourself a little writing conference. 

Make your hard work bright . . . 



“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” 

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree with a social media twist . . . 



“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” 

You’re a mean one, Mr. Editor 

You keep sending back my prose. 

You’re picky and your stubborn 

You’re details makes me cry, 

You’re a mean one, Mr. Editor . . . 



“Up On the Housetop” 

Up on the laptop words do fly 

Out jumps more than who or why. 

Off to the agent with lots of prayer . . . 



“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” 

Santa Claus is coming to town. 

He’s making a list, checking those hints 

Gonna find out if I have an agent. 


“Frosty the Snowman” 

Frosty the snowman was a suspense writer, they say . . . 



“Last Christmas” 

Last Christmas, I gave you my book. 

The very next day you refused a look . . . 



I didn’t use the traditional Christmas carols. The words and the meaning are much too sacred and precious. So let me suggest when the season becomes a bit too hectic, allow the sweet sounds of “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Joy to the World” fill you with the reason for the season.



For some fun, how about completing one of the songs above OR writing an original verse to one of your favorite Christmas songs and sharing with us in the comments below?

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 https://diannmills.com/, https://www.facebook.com/diannmills, https://twitter.com/diannmills



Thursday, December 17, 2020

How All Through The Night Came About ~ Part 2


Tara Johnson



continued . . .

Since Cadence is desperate to become a nurse, I knew Joshua would need to directly oppose her goals, at least in the beginning. What better opposition could a nurse have than a stubborn doctor? As their relationship grows, I loved that Joshua becomes her biggest cheerleader but is blind to his own flaws. In many ways, Cadence and Joshua are both struggling with facets of the same issue . . . being accepted. They just have different ways of handling their wounds. This is true for many relationships. The way we see the world is filtered through our past, and that filter affects how we deal with fear. I loved exploring Cadence’s and Joshua’s emotions and the way they see the world.

My favorite character to write is the humorous secondary character. They lend so much charm, charisma, and wisdom to a story. They usually bring an opportunity for the reader to take a breath but also give the main character a chance to reflect on some sage advice . . . even if it’s delivered in a comical manner. I relate to this character because I’m a bit this way myself! Laughter is great medicine but it also speaks truth.

For years, I was a singer and songwriter signed with a Christian record label. When I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, and I began to lose my ability to sing for long stretches of time, I was confused. I thought God had told me he would use my voice to tell others about him.

As I began singing less and writing more in my personal blog, I gained more and more followers. Stories soon began to flood my mind. A friend suggested I attend the national American Christian Fiction Writers conference, and after some encouragement from my husband, I went with a good amount of trepidation. In my very first class, my instructor taught us about each author’s unique voice, the way writers string words and phrases together to tell a story. And that’s when God spoke to my heart.

Tara, you can have a voice and still not have a voice.

I’ve been writing ever since. I still sing when I can and speak often, but God has brought me into a beautiful season of creativity with him. Weaving stories that touch hearts and share his truth with others is such a delightful calling.

When I was growing up, my mom and I enjoyed a yearly tradition of watching Gone with the Wind together. I have loved learning about the Civil War ever since. When I was young, the drama and potential romance of the period drew me in, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen in love with the stories of heroism from brave men and women on both sides of the conflict. The Civil War was a turning point for our nation on so many levels . . . politically, socially, emotionally, not to mention the amazing inventions and reformations that occurred as a result. It completely changed the landscape of our society.Here are some of my upcoming projects. I just finished a middle grade story about a precocious preacher’s kid named Sarah Grace who gets into all kinds of mischief and learns some interesting lessons along the way. I’m also in the middle of writing two new historical romances. One is based on the life of Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor, and the other is about a young girl who is mute and sold to Barbados as part of the Irish slave trade.


Tara Johnson is a passionate lover of stories who uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled to the expectations of others. Tara is the author of three novels set during the Civil War: Engraved on the Heart, Where Dandelions Bloom, and All Through the Night. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children. 

Visit her online at tarajohnsonstories.com.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

How All Through The Night Came About ~Part 1



Tara Johnson





This book is written for anyone who has wondered if God sees them. It was birthed for anyone who has wrestled with approval or people-pleasing and been left with a gnawing ache inside. This story is for anyone who longs for freedom.

Faith is an integral part of All Through the Night. Cadence has to learn that approval and love are not the same thing. She must ultimately find acceptance in the eyes of God instead of the fickle applause of man. Joshua believes he must keep striving to do more, to erase the stigma of his past but finally sees his worth rests in being loved by his family and his Creator.

The character of Cadence Piper was inspired by real-life Civil War nurse Elida B. Rumsey. Elida desperately wanted to serve as a nurse in the war but was denied by Dorothea Dix because of her young age and beauty. Elida found another way in . . . by singing to the wounded soldiers. They loved her golden voice and sweet spirit when she visited the hospitals. She quickly found herself being called upon to help boost their sagging spirits. In time, she was called to nurse at the battlefield. After fainting at the first sight of blood, she was mortified and vowed never to let herself fall apart that way again. She was the first person to ever sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Joshua Ivy was created completely from my imagination but was inspired by the heroic abolitionists of the time. Many sacrificed everything for the cause, but even the bravest were not always completely pure in their motivations. While Joshua knows he is doing the right thing, however dangerous, he also uses the cause as a mask to hide his own wounds and insecurities.

All Through the Night is a weaving of real events, including an evil secret society, with fictional characters, all of whom are grappling with spiritual struggles . . . the need to be accepted and loved.Cadence yearns for her father’s approval and does anything to seek unconditional love in conditionally minded people. Joshua fights the demons of his past, particularly his battered existence growing up as a street rat in the slums. He seeks to find his worth in saving others. Cadence seeks her worth in being seen. Themes found in this story are true worth, identity, unconditional love in Christ, how the hurtful things said in our past affect our future, and finally, how to overcome the lie you believed about yourself.

I want the readers to know that whatever lie they have believed —“I am worthless,” “I need to be seen,” “If only ______ would love me, then I’d be happy.” There is hope and freedom in Jesus. There is nothing we can do to earn his love and nothing we can do to lose his love.

One aspect that is particularly unique is the emergence of the Knights of the Golden Circle. This evil sect played a large role in funding the Confederacy and had big plans to form a new nation, a ring of power, that included the Southern states, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. They had powerful men in both the Confederacy and, ironically, the Union and carried out some of the most heinous acts ever committed on American soil.

Another unique aspect of All Through the Night are the cameo appearances by great historical figures like Fanny Crosby and John Wilkes Booth. I love to bring real men and women to life in a way my readers enjoy. . . See Part 2 tomorrow, December 17.


Tara Johnson is a passionate lover of stories who uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled to the expectations of others. Tara is the author of three novels set during the Civil War: Engraved on the Heart, Where Dandelions Bloom, and All Through the Night. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children.

Visit her online at tarajohnsonstories.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Space, A Writer’s Frontier



Sara Robinson



Do you have a dedicated area for your writing? Where is it? How connected to your regular living environment is your space? It is important for all of us who write to have a “room of our own.” We can define that room anyway we want if it belongs to us, the writers. No one else should claim it. Even if your space consists of an unfinished door propped up by two sawhorses, it must belong to you. When you “enter” your space you leave the outside world and let your body and mind go wandering into your imagination.


What comprises your space? Pencils, pens, laptop? Here are my essentials:




Sticky pads, various sizes

3 x 5 index cards

Pencils, pens, highlighters, erasers, laptop, printer

Notebooks/journals of all sizes

Stapler and paperclips

File folders

Bookshelves

Bottle of water

Kleenex



What about books? Do you have favorites close by? I have many poetry books: authors, anthologies, literary texts. Dictionaries, thesaurus, poetry manuals. My go-to poetry manuals are the heart-and-soul of my space. For example, I continuously refer to Frances Mays’ The Discovery of Poetry. One is never so accomplished that prosody resources do not matter. I will always want and need all the help I can get. A big part of my bookshelf belongs to the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (4th ed). What a gold mine of information. I also love the essays on the simplicity and complexity of poetry. If I am going to write the best I can possibly write, I want to ensure that my word choices, line composition, and overall language presence represents the best I can offer.

When I write about coal mining or whisky drinking or my hometown, it is necessary for me to speak with intelligence, emotion, and persuasion. If I am clear and convincing in my writing, then I can be assured that my readers will not be left wondering.

Now, all of this goes back to the fundamental point of having the necessary space to do the necessary job of giving good writing. I look around my space and in its organized chaos I see the offerings of so many to help me.


How is your space working for you?


Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, is poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. In addition to publication in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), and Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017); journals: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica, she is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013), and Stones for Words (2014). Her latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, released in February 2016, was a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award.





https://saramrobinson.com.                                           

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Psychologist Hat


Susan Reichert




Were you aware that sometimes in writing we need to put on a psychology hat? This may be a bigger hat than we knew. Why? Because thinking, either conscious or subconscious, precedes actions. This means the mistakes we make sometimes in our actions began as a mistake in our thinking.

Who hasn’t felt down when they’ve received a rejection letter? Or what about those times you are trying to write and it just isn’t coming together. Most of us go through thought patterns that may start out positive but eventually may begin turning into negative thoughts. Dwelling long periods on things not working causes the mind to pile up lots of doubt about our abilities and our self-confidence begins to wane. To climb out of this pit we now need a ladder. These actions can derail our life and our writing. I am not saying we are not going to have some down times, but we need to make sure it does not take hold.

To improve the results, you are getting you must improve your actions.

You can choose to look at this as an opportunity to grow. What can you learn from the situation? Just because someone turned your article or manuscript down, doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It just means that place and or person was not a fit for what you wrote. Don’t let yourself take it personally. Yes, I know that is hard, but if you are going to be a published author you may go through this scenario quite a few times. Some people went through fifty-one rejections before their work was published, others more times than this. The secret is not giving up, but persevering in spite of turndowns and obstacles.

Choose the attitude you will have.

You can choose to be positive or you can choose to be negative. Which one makes you feel better, lighter? Which choice makes you feel you can accomplish what you put your mind to? I will let you answer those questions. But positive outlooks normally draw positive things whereas negative outlooks send all the positive things away.

As your thinking changes so will your actions. This means you have to change the way you talk to yourself. You will find yourself becoming more productive as a writer. If you think about this, it actually gives you power. You can select the results you want by adjusting your thinking.

It helps to have your thoughts already in place, second nature to you, so when you get a turn down, your thoughts take over in a positive way.


Susan Reichert is the past Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. She is now President of Southern Author Services.

She is the author of God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life. She has numerous magazine articles published as well as short stories in anthology books.

She and her family live in Tennessee. They have four daughters, grown and families of their own.

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Surprise Novel ~ Part 2



Joanna Davidson Politano



Part 2

. . . I ended up using the outline for about three chapters and scrapping the rest (then going back and changing those three chapters later). I’d heard plotting made the work faster, but that’s just not how my brain unfolds mysteries!

I can’t tell you how many times I’d write about ten chapters, feel totally wrong about the story, and delete six of those. (My motto is when you feel like your draft is bad, delete to the point where you were still smitten with it and go a different direction for the rest. It feels like backtracking, but you move forward with smoother, better material.) I’ve done the “fast and furious” first draft with promises to myself to go back and fix it later, but that’s another one of those “not my style” tricks. I need a solid foundation laid with each chapter for the next to be any good. So I actually did a lot of deleting and rewriting with this book, and it became a frustrating one.

Then I stumbled upon my inspiration. During one of my “stuck” periods, a friend suggested I watch a related show called, “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” and I truly fell in love. In the evenings of that drafting stage, I binged every episode about the dead letter office and misplaced letters. I didn’t glean plot ideas, but I was inspired. The subtle way truth was woven in, the gentle but authentic dynamic between well-drawn characters, it all invited me to craft an even better story.

When I finally had the first draft done, with a month until deadline, it still felt wrong. I sent it to my mentor for feedback and he told me hey, I know you think this is the theme, but it’s actually this totally different thing over here. He had many other helpful notes too, but that single sentence woke me up to the “point” of my story—after I’d already written the whole thing in another vein. But he was right, and the theme he brought forward actually did exist strongly in the book already. I reimagined the ending, the part that would “drive home” the theme, and out blossomed the most surprising, beautiful truth about the human search for love, to know and be known. At last, I was deeply in love with this story and the truth it brought out. The entire story came together as a cohesive whole around this other theme I hadn’t even seen before.

I learned a lot in this project about not forcing anything—chapters that don’t work, writing techniques meant for someone else, and even themes that aren’t quite what the book is trying to say—even if it’s what you intended to say. I will say though, that moment of revelation concerning this story’s (really cool) theme came pretty late in the game, but it was very much worth the wait.

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, and Finding Lady Enderly. When she’s not homeschooling her small children, she spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful,exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two children in a house in thewoods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Surprise Novel ~ Part 1



Joanna Davidson Politano




This novel surprised me. I was desperately scrambling for a nugget of an idea to offer my publisher when they requested it. I had two ideas already but no glimmer of a third, so I frantically looked around. The first thing I saw was a framed photo of my grandparents, coy smiles and all, from when they were dating. They’d met only a handful of times, and their entire relationship was carried out through letters while my grandpa was overseas in WWII. How cool, I thought—but also dangerous. How easy to misinterpret something or miss information in a dropped letter… or even have someone else write it! When you barely know a person, so many things can go wrong. Which, of course, is perfect for a story.

I decided on a lost love letter concept for my third book idea and hastily scratched out a paragraph to send my publisher. A career-minded girl finds a passionate love letter in the crack of an old desk and becomes determined to deliver the note that was never opened, and to play matchmaker to the unknown couple. Back at the seaside manor home where the desk (and letter) came from, someone else finds the letter when the heroine misplaces it and the poor maid believes she has a secret admirer—perfect story fodder. Trouble ensues. Confusion, suspicion, secret longing, denied love… all great stuff. I’d work out the details later, and let the story percolate—or even come up with a better idea to send them—while I wrote the other two books in the contract.

Plot twist—they wanted me to write the love note book first! So with nothing but a short paragraph to go on, I constructed a story about a declarative love letter from some unknown individual that was never opened—was it not found? Had someone refused to open it and set it aside? I had a brilliant answer for all that. Really brilliant. What if the letter was slipped into the old desk for the heroine (to whom the desk was given as a hand-me-down) to find, and her childhood friend wrote it for her? How cool!

And predictable, and a little too coincidental. I wrote with that ending in mind but at about sixty percent I could sense how cliché that twist actually was and knew I needed to make a sharp turn in a new direction. Not that I knew who wrote the letter or who it was for, but the cliché answer was gone. I felt much better after that, so I kept turning more and more corners, and surprising (and amusing) myself completely! I probably drove my poor characters nuts with how off track they really were so many times in their search for the letter writer.

That wasn’t the only big shift I made in this book, though. I started out attempting to plot this book out before writing it, which was utterly disastrous. Not to say plotting doesn’t work—it certainly can. It’s writing in a style that is not YOU that makes for an epic fail. I spent weeks, maybe months, on a plot outline that, when it went into actual story form, was really quite terrible and full of unnatural bridges from one scene to the next. I ended up using the outline for . . . see part two tomorrow to see what outline she used . . .

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, and Finding Lady Enderly. When she’s not homeschooling her small children, she spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful,exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two children in a house in thewoods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Novel Inspiration

Elizabeth Goddard


       Ask any writer and she (or he) will tell you that she started out as an avid reader from a very early age. Maybe that’s the true moment when a writer starts writing, or at least learning to write. All the novels we read during our formative years serve as a foundation and teach us about story structure, plot, and characters. So, it makes sense that reading novels planted that seed of desire in me to become a writer. Once I became a published author, people I met often told me they wanted to write a novel one day. I hope they were able to make that dream come true.

For me that dream simmered for a couple of decades until I had my first child. I ended up resigning form my corporate America job to stay home and raise my daughter. It was during those years I found the time to commit to writing that novel. But first, I had much to learn about the craft and as much as I could about the publishing industry. I attended my first writer’s conference in 2001 and never looked back.

      Some of my favorite authors early on were Bodie Thoene. I devoured her Zion Covenant novels. I also loved Gilbert Morris and Jack Cavanaugh. I loved reading Christian historical romances, and it was their influence that motivated me to try to write historical romances. I put writing in that genre aside and now write romantic suspense—and that’s another story completely! Now I read romantic suspense and thriller authors. One of my favorite writers is James Rollins and I’m making my way through his series of action-packed novels. I believe all these authors I’ve listed have given me a good sense of how to keep the tension elevated and leave readers highly entertained.

      I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I believe the best writing advice I’ve ever received is to read, read, read because it helps you to keep on top of your game and keep pushing yourself to improve. To that you must add one more thing—you must write, write, write—and that’s a winning combination for aspiring writers. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any bad or wrong advice because anything that keeps you writing and pursuing your goals is good.

      With so much reading and writing, eventually I figured out who I wanted to be when I grew up as a writer or rather, what I wanted to write. That turned out to be an adventurous romantic suspense filled with action and stunning settings. For me, setting comes first. Setting is my inspiration. I love to travel and have visited and lived in some amazing places. I look for a setting that touches me emotionally and spiritually. A scenery that inspires me and usually that’s going to be a mountainous landscape or a rocky coast or a designated wilderness area. A bonus is that these types of settings lend themselves to action and adventure.

      Next I begin the research process which includes diving into the location where the story will be set, learning more about my characters and their jobs, and also discovering everything I can about the suspense premise—the crime. I read everything from books to blogs and watch YouTube videos and, most importantly, I talk to experts. Usually I will end up with more material than I could ever include in a novel and keep things moving and entertaining.

      In writing Covert Cover-Up, guess what? —I started with setting. The story is part of a series set around the Mt Shasta region of Northern California. I decided to use Castle Crags State Park as the backdrop for my story and I already knew the perfect character—someone I had previously created who was just waiting to climb out of my story files and into a novel where he could step off the pages and take a breath. My hero, Beck Goodwin, is a world class rock-climber. With those all-important elements of a stunning setting and my rock-climbing hero settled, I then focused on the suspense plot. I thought it would be fun to throw in the feel of a spy story, so in that way, Covert Cover-Up is unique because it’s an action-adventure tale of romance and intrigue. I pulled out all the stops and I hope that readers will enjoy a powerful emotional experience, be wholly entertained, and be encouraged that God is always with us.


Elizabeth Goddard has sold over one million books and is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery The Camera Never Lies—a 2011 Carol Award winner. She is a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense finalist for her Mountain Cove series—Buried, Backfire, and Deception—and a Carol Award finalist for Submerged. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry.

 For more information about her books, visit her website at www.ElizabethGoddard.com.

 


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Hope For Endings and Beginnings

Lindsey P. Brackett


Every year about this time, I get nostalgic. Not for evergreen boughs and red bows, sugar cookies and candy canes. Instead, I’m remembering the year my parents slipped a book with a yellow cover under the Christmas tree. A paperback with pencil illustrations and simple words about a little family in a little house in the Big Woods.  When asked how I knew I wanted to be a writer, I show them those now tattered paperbacks. I knew because I sincerely believed that if Laura Ingalls could write stories about her family, then so could I.

Not to mention, the world of Laura’s prairies and long winters made me feel safe and secure. Though I realize now, as an adult, how little security her life really held. But under the influence of her stories, I found myself always gravitating toward novels that give me that same sense of contentment.

Monday, December 7, 2020

My Writing Non-Process -Part 2


Karen White



Part 2

A famous writer once said that writing was like driving through fog at night (or something like that). The headlights can only illuminate a few feet ahead as you move forward, but only blackness lies beyond until you cover more ground. I’m sure I’ve butchered that somewhat, but the gist is there. Pantsers can’t see more than a few scenes ahead—oftentimes even less. We might even relish that feeling of something exciting and unseen lurking in the darkness. It’s similar to the feeling of reading a good book, of turning each page with the expectation of being surprised. Of not knowing what a character will do or say.

So what is my process? I do try to schedule as many hours as possible to devote to just writing—with my phone on silent to prevent distractions. I also schedule the “other” parts of my life as much as possible. If I know I have to take my dad to the dentist at two o’clock, I know that I will still have an hour of writing time after I get home before my workout at four-thirty and I make sure I’m with my laptop writing instead of flipping through emails. I research as I go along so I know exactly what I need to look up, understanding the temptation of easily falling into the rabbit hole of interesting factoids that can easily suck up an entire day. These are the parts of my writing I can more or less “control.” The rest of it—not so much.

When beginning a new manuscript, I always start with my protagonist and her inner and outer conflicts. And then I add setting, which is always another character in my books. I’ll have a general and very fluid idea of what the overarching theme of a novel will be, and what is supposed to happen, but the end product is guaranteed to be much different than what I’d originally envisioned. I don’t even tell my editor what my current work-in-progress is about because (her words) it’s always a different book when I turn it in.

My only exception is with my Tradd Street series. I just finished writing book number seven—The Attic on Queen Street (out in November 2021)—and since the first book came out in 2008, there are a lot of details that I simply can’t remember. I barely recall my name most days, much less the name of the main character’s childhood dog that appeared in book two. So, I hired someone to prepare a family tree for all the families mentioned in the series, as well as a Bible of sorts listing all the characters (in alphabetical order) and all the previous plot lines as a prompt for me. Not exactly an outline for my current work-in-progress, but a great start for my spin-of series to follow the final Tradd Street book.

The moral of this story is to do what feels right for you. There is never a wrong method (unless that involves never writing a word). And no right method for everybody. There are as many techniques to getting a novel written as there are writers. Sometimes you have to experiment to find what works for you.

Maybe the real answer as to what my process is should be a simple one: butt in chair. The more time you spend at your desk or wherever you choose to write, the more words will be written. And that, dear writers, is what it’s all about in the end. 


Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 books, including the Tradd Street series, Dreams of Falling, The Night the Lights Went Out, Flight Patterns, The Sound of Glass, A Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of All the Ways We Said Goodbye, The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband near Atlanta, Georgia.


With almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages, Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 27 novels, including the popular Charleston-set Tradd Street mystery series. 

Karen’s roots run deep in the South where many of her novels are set. Her intricate plot lines and compelling characters charm and captivate readers with just the right mix of family drama, mystery, intrigue and romance. Visit Karen at https://www.karen-white.com/

Friday, December 4, 2020

Make Your Own Happiness

Sandra Mansfield Wright





It is time we had better learn to be happy by ourselves and learn to play alone. This year has been a year of isolation for many, and we have suffered because we have had to social distance from one another. The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas may bring loneliness and seclusion to us, but we have the choice to either be sad, lonely, and discouraged by this or find the inner strength to make a conscious decision to be happy, no matter what.

We have the power, by our thoughts, to rise above the loneliness and sadness and decide within ourselves to be happy. Let us think of things to do which will make us happy and to think above our problems. I have made a list of ten possible things we can do to help us “think up” and be happy with what we have.



1. Be grateful.

Make a list of at least 100 things for which we have to be thankful. Writing these will bring them more to our attention. Focus on the good and not the bad!



2. Smile and even laugh out loud.

Put a smile on your face, even if you don’t feel it at the time. It is hard to complain and gripe when we are smiling. Laugh out loud, even if you have to fake it. Laughter is good medicine.



3. Play music you like. Dance to it if you feel the urge.

Having music playing in the house will lift our spirits. Dancing lightens our spirits.



4. Light good smelling candles or have essential oils in a diffuser to cause good smells in the house.

Smells of citrus lighten our spirits. You might even put water in a saucepan and add cloves, cinnamon (or cinnamon sticks), orange peel, and sorghum molasses to create a simmering delicious smell. Make certain you continue to add water to the simmering concoction so it doesn’t cook dry.



5. Have uplifting, good books around to read, or if you aren’t a reader, have magazines to look through which you enjoy.

I like to keep books, magazines, articles, etc. which I want to enjoy in my “joy box” or “joy drawer” to pull out on rainy or alone days when I need an uplift.



6. Make yourself a “joy box.”

In this place items you enjoy; such as a scented candle, bath salts, magazines or books you enjoy, markers and an adult coloring book, possibly needle work projects, puzzles, crossword puzzle books, find-a-word books, etc. You may need to start buying items for your “joy box” along through the months ahead and on days when you are alone and need something fun to do, put these together making your “joy box.” Also you might enjoy making a “job box” for another person to give as a gift.



7. Have delicious foods for yourself.

You may be a good cook yourself, but if not, buy some pre-made meals to keep in your freezer to pull out on days alone when you are needing an uplift. Good foods and the smells of good foods cooking make our home more inviting even to ourselves.



8. Go for a walk.

You might not be a walker normally, but this is a good time to start. Just getting outside in nature and breathing in the fresh air will lighten your mood and is good for you. You don’t have to go fast nor far; just get outside and walk. As you walk, notice the beauty that God has placed in our world for us to enjoy. Notice and be happy.



9. Sit outside when the weather permits.

Some days, even in the winter, may be mild and we can put on a sweater or coat and sit outside in the sunshine. Breathe deeply and slowly. Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Relax your shoulders and think on good thoughts. Calm – Relax – Refresh – Renew.



10. Do something for someone else.

Think of others. Get outside of ourselves and do for someone else. We can write a note of encouragement to someone, send them a gift, give them a call, leave a bouquet or gift at their front door; just share our love with them. Start a list of things people have done to encourage and lift you up through the years, and send a note telling them what they have meant to you. We all love to be appreciated.



These are just some ideas to start you going. You can possibly think of many more things you enjoy. Think. Open up your mind and brain-storm, coming up with ideas for yourself. Make happiness for yourself and you will always spill that happiness over to others in your life.



“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord. Psalm 144: 15 (NKJV)





After retiring from her career in real estate, Sandra Mansfield Wright became an interior designer for the heart. She writes and speaks on the subject of joy and provides practical ways to bring joy more fully into the lives of her listeners.

She is the author of the book Strength; the book Gentleness; Growing in Hope; The Posture of Hope; Little Gifts of Joy and 365 Daily Gifts of Joy.


Learn more about Sandra at www.sandramansfieldwright.com and visit her blog


https://sandramansfieldwright.com/my-blog






Thursday, December 3, 2020

My Writing Non-Process - Part 1



Karen White




If I weren’t the shy type that I am, I might share with you a photo of my desk right now. It’s stacked high with two desk calendars (for current year and next—this last because I remain hopeful that things will actually happen next year), research books for three separate works in progress (final edits for one, beginning of another, and rewrites for a third), itineraries for an April 2021 book tour, a never-ending to-do list that starts with a call to the vet for not just one, but two dogs with different ailments, a book I’m reading for another author for a cover blurb, and a stack of insurance and financial paperwork regarding the care of my elderly parents. Oh, and my laptop.

I’m not trying to impress anyone with my juggling abilities (notice how I didn’t mention the endless stream of texts from my children requesting advice on every subject from boyfriend communication to my laundry expertise or the hours of answering emails or creating Insta stories and witty Tweets required of any published author).

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Giving Poetry A Try ~Part 2

 Clyde McCulley


Continued from Part 1

The next day  I was listening to birds singing in the nearby trees.

 The thought hit me whether a blind person hears the birds as we with hearing or are they blessed with a different symphony.

As I thought about this, a new poem started developing and from those thoughts I wrote a poem entitled The Sound of the Sun.

I have continued writing poetry for the last five months and have now published three books of poems. 

I am under no illusion that these make me a poet, but I am enjoying creating in this new medium.