Monday, April 19, 2021

Blue Is For Healing



Saundra Kelley




Early last year, when COVID 19 first raged out of control all over the planet, it seemed the nasty bug would kill us all. It’s not as if the virus were the only thing after us; we were inundated by huge problems at every turn. Our former president, and his followers wouldn’t or couldn’t accept his loss of the national election. Riots ensued, breaching even the People’s House in Washington D.C. Despite dire warnings from national and world health officials, many Americans refused to wear masks to protect both themselves and others. Hospitals overflowed with people of every age and ethnicity fighting for life, served by medical professionals who were just as vulnerable as they, felled by a virus we could not see.



As a writer and oral tradition storyteller, the horror stories struck me to my core. With unrest at every corner, I sensed America would never be the same again. The loss of income struck me first. Last March my plate was full of venue dates, with concerts, presentations at conferences, book sales, and more to look forward to. Then it was over. The bottom fell out when all my gigs were canceled almost overnight, and I was left spinning in place with nowhere to go. “Stay home, wear your mask, and socially distance,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, so I did. But I wasn’t happy about it.



From my perspective, the world was spinning completely out of control. My sense of individuality and unique perspective on life began to dissolve with each news report, leaving me stuck in a dark murky morass of depression. In that seething dark blue place, I struggled to hold onto the dregs of what was left of myself. In the midst of the pandemic, however, I learned a life lesson I hope stays with me always: in the deepest darkness the creative mind continues to churn.



Once I was aware of my brain’s continuing creativity, I turned the tap to full throttle and learned to listen to it, to work with that inner voice. What I needed most was to express my own experiences and imagination, so I backed away from television and changed my reading habits, which I should have done long ago. When words began pouring out, I grabbed pen and paper, instead of the laptop, to catch and distill the nuances of those ideas. Eventually, irrational thought gave way to clarity. Producing stories again provided relief to my pent-up emotions and salvation for my sanity.



Writing in all its forms--journaling, poetry, prose, became a safe harbor during the storm as did the verbal telling of those stories. I couldn’t go anywhere in public; with an immune system dysfunction, I was mostly stuck at home no matter what. With the virus raging outside my door, I turned to a book I’d written earlier, Danger on Roan Mountain. Close revision gave it the polish I knew would make the work publishable. Romantic suspense with an environmental foundation is my favorite genre. Since this was the long-overdue sequel to Danger in Blackwater Swamp published in 2013, I began finetuning the new book to its predecessor. Once that was done, submitted, and accepted by my publisher, I realized the original book needed an update and a new cover. With time on my hands and a green light from SYP Publishing, I tackled that project, too, bringing it to completion. Then I overhauled a mid-grade dragon manuscript that I was dissatisfied with and now it’s shopping for a publisher. In other words, my petrifying brains were eager to work.



When the unrelenting pandemic raged on, I knew that to continue writing about the relationship between nature and people, I needed to be closer to it myself. In response, I turned to a lovely park near my home, spending more solitary time in nature than ever before. The result from those hours of observation came out in my writing when healing shades of blue and green touched my hungry soul. The lake, with its shimmering blue surface a reflection of the never-ending blue of the sky above, offered the peace I longed for.



Today, gratitude for every breath, though difficult to achieve at times, informs each day. I am not beguiled by a false sense of success, just grateful to have a release. In my case, writing about the pandemic from my personal perspective has offered hope. Using my imagination to push through to other worlds and better times helps me cope and prepare for a future we cannot see.

A native of north Florida, Saundra Kelley graduated from Florida State University, raised her family, and enjoyed a career in the non-profit sector for many years. During that time, she wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat and other local papers. When the notion of storytelling hit, she left the live oaks and crystal white sands of home and headed north to upper east Tennessee. There, she earned a master's degree in Applied Storytelling and Performance Art at East Tennessee State University and took to the road collecting, telling, and writing the stories she heard. Kelley's most recent book, Danger on Roan Mountain came out in 2020. Her other books include Danger in Blackwater Swamp, The Day the Mirror Cried: a collection of short stories and poetry, and Storytelling in Southern Appalachia: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition. She is currently back home in Florida living with her family, and a Labradoodle named Winston while telling stories about her adventures in the mountains and writing yet another book in the 'Danger' series.        

https://saundrakelley.com/

Friday, April 16, 2021

DIGGING THROUGH THE DEBRIS WITH RESEARCH TOOLS



Candice Cox Wheeler




My debut novel, Cradle in the Oak, is a historical fiction inspired by an intriguing newspaper clipping from 1906 found among the possessions of my husband’s grandmother after her death. The sentence that caught my attention was: Handicapped by traveling alone across the country as a woman, she had cut her hair, donned masculine garments, and changed her name to Harry. But it was the rest of the article that had me hooked. It mentioned her determination to obtain possession of her children, who were abducted from their home in Biloxi, Mississippi, by her unfaithful husband and his young mistress, and described her journey by train to locate them.

Since this difficult period of her life remained a well-guarded family secret, I used my imagination, along with some research tools, to uncover the fascinating history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the East Coast of Florida at the turn of the twentieth century. The only clue as to where this newspaper article originated were the words, Special dispatch to the Evening News – Califon, October 2. Through genealogy records, I was able to pinpoint the year of the incident to 1906, and an internet search revealed that Califon was a small railroad town near Baltimore, Maryland. I’m still searching for the newspaper that published the article.

The research methods I used in developing this story were a welcome change of pace from the legal research engines used in preparing briefs and legal arguments on behalf of our law firm’s clients. As a first-time author, one of the things I quickly learned is that you can spend as much time researching a historical fiction as in the creative process of writing it. Research tools come in varying shapes and forms, anything that will transport the writer back in time. It is like a big jigsaw puzzle where you fill in one piece and it leads you to another amazing revelation. I cannot tell you how many times I thought, I love that – how can I use that in my story? The only problem was that I loved so much of the material, I wanted to include it all. This is where my great publisher/editor, Joe Lee of Dogwood Press, stepped in and kept me on track.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is fortunate to have a treasure trove of helpful reference books published by writers and preservers of the area’s history. These books transported me to the early 1900s through words and pictures. Due to the number of devastating hurricanes which have hampered this area over the years, we are lucky to have these references because many of our historic gems have been destroyed. Questions not answered in these books led me to the local history department of the Biloxi library and its head librarian who gave generously of her time, pointing me in the direction of the microfilm machines and teaching me how to use them. Old newspaper articles and advertisements provided invaluable information, leading to many answers and more questions, which led to old periodicals, such as the 1902 Biographical and Historical Review of Biloxi, Mississippi, published by the Biloxi Daily Herald, where pictures and biographies of many of the real-life characters in my novel were discovered.

Sometimes research tools can come from unexpected places. Each year, around Halloween, a group of volunteers reenact the lives of our dearly departed in our local cemetery. They recently printed a small booklet with interesting information on Coastal residents of the early 1900s and


their lifestyles, which I found extremely useful. The City of Biloxi also hosts an annual history fair at their beautiful Visitor’s Center where organizations from all over the Coast set up booths to share their history. My arms were loaded down with helpful pamphlets from that excursion.

One of the most valuable research tools a writer can use is the personal interview. Some of the most enjoyable days of my literary journey were spent in conversations with old Coastal historians, listening to them recount stories from interviews they conducted for their own research twenty or thirty years ago.

Internet searches led me to a Collectors Weekly article where I discovered exactly what I needed to know about candlestick telephones in 1906, and to an antique newspaper pamphlet published by McCall Bazar of Fashions which provided clothing details from that era. A Preservation in Mississippi website led me to the architect who designed many of the historic structures frequented by characters in my novel. And never underestimate the benefits of a blog. One blog provided a copy of an article written by a New York boating editor from an old magazine no longer in print that provided a first-hand account of a schooner race held in Biloxi in the early 1900s.

Maps are also great tools, especially when your protagonist will be traveling across state lines by train. The State Library and Archives of Florida in Tallahassee, Florida, was a great resource for a copy of a 16-inch by 20-inch map of the State of Florida Atlantic Coast Line Railroad: Florida and the South (c. 1906). This map allowed me to find stops along the railway line. Along with the internet searches which provided great photographs of the depots from the era, I was able to visualize my storyline. From there, I moved on to references that described the train’s interior, amenities and even menus.

I enjoyed each of the researching techniques used in developing Cradle in the Oak but visiting museums and actual sights where the story takes place is the most inspiring and enjoyable research tool a writer can use. I hear my next novel calling and I can’t wait to make a list of subjects to research and places to visit. Happy researching everyone!


A fourth-generation Biloxi, Mississippi, girl, Candace Cox Wheeler is a partner in the law firm of Wheeler and Wheeler, PLLC, where she has worked alongside her husband, David, since 1982 and raised two sons. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law. Cradle in the Oak is her first novel.


https:\\cwheelerauthor.com

Author Facebook page: Candace Cox Wheeler

First edition signed copies can be ordered through dogwoodpress.com beginning on April 17

The book’s release date is April 17, at which time Candace will have in-person signings at Hillyer House in Ocean Springs, MS, from 10am-12pm, and that same day from 2-4pm at The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi, MS. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Three Basic Habits That Will Improve Your Writing - Part 2




Elizabeth Goddard




This is Number 2# on the Three Habits That Will Improve Your Writing:

2.

 Again, this advice is nothing new—write, write write—but it’s a requirement. Write something every single day. If you want to be a novelist, give yourself a word count or a time limit, whatever works for you and get those words on the page. Even if they’re awful words, once you’ve written them, you can always fix them. I have sometimes told friends that I’m slinging mud, meaning that I’m just throwing awful words on the page. It’s easier to fix the words than a blank page. In this process of writing every day, you also want to increase your skills. Read craft books on dialogue, story structure, etc. Since you’re reading more, you’ll build skills that will become natural, and you’ll also see where you need to improve. Another way to improve your writing is to judge a contest. The first contest I judged, I had that “Aha” moment and I knew what good writing looked like. I understood what kind of magic caught an editor’s eye, so I then tried to insert that “magic” into my own writing.

3.


But craft isn’t everything. I almost want to say that content is king. Your storytelling ability is equally important. I’ve taught a workshop on brainstorming ideas and finding inspiration. Along with reading and writing, you’ll want to train your brain to become an idea generator by looking for ideas every single day. Create a file and keep everything that snags your attention. At some point you won’t be able to turn the idea machine off. Then you’ll learn how to find the best idea to create a novel or a series out of what you’ve collected.



Within each of these essential daily habits, I expanded on the tips so you can see just how far you can go by taking advantage of the basics to become a better writer.



The sky is the limit!


Happy reading, writing and story crafting!



Elizabeth Goddard has sold over one million books and is the award-winning author of more than fifty 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.




























Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Three Basic Habits That Will Improve Your Writing - Part 1

Elizabeth Goddard


So much has changed in the publishing world since I first started writing for publication in 2001. I distinguish writing for publication from simply writing for fun because, for me, there truly is a different mindset when writing with the hope that an editor would acquire my manuscript or that an agent would sign me. That mentality allowed me to take writing seriously. Sure, I could have fun with it. If I love what I’m writing, that’s going to shine through. But my goal to write something I could be proud of, something professional and publishable, meant I had to learn everything about how to improve my writing.


With the tremendous increase in the need for written content, the number of writers has also increased and hence the competition. In my opinion, there’s never been a better time to be a writer. That said, the bar is even higher. If I want to stay relevant as a novelist, even now after fifty novels, I must continue to educate myself, improve my skills and learn new techniques.


Aspiring writers often believe what they’ve written is amazing. I’m guilty, so I’m not pointing fingers. It isn’t easy to truly see how your writing compares or fully understand how much better you need to be before you start sending your work out.


Ask any multi-published experienced writer about those first attempts—those manuscripts that never sold that are now stuck in a drawer. Often, you’ll be told the writing is awful and the story would need to be rewritten. Or in some cases the novel did sell, and that writer will tell you she cringes that anyone read it. I’m both of those writers. I have manuscripts that should never see the light of day, and I have works published that make me cringe. I’ve been able to get rights reverted to most of my first novels and I plan to rewrite them, using my experience and the well-developed skills to create a much better book. Now, years later, I can easily see how they can be improved.


How does any of this help a new writer? Understanding that writing is a journey is key. Getting from point A to point B requires travel time—your mileage may vary.


The idea is that you should never give up. You’ll get there one day. Good writing, great writing—for most of us—doesn’t happen overnight. To give an example . . . You can’t expect to take one guitar lesson this week and play at Carnegie Hall next weekend. To get to Carnegie Hall, you’ll need to practice your guitar several hours every day, while learning new techniques and excelling at them. Getting there might even take years. While gaining exceptional skills playing the guitar, you’ll also need to develop contacts who can help you get where you want to go professionally.


But everyone must start somewhere. The three basics to improving your writing are:

1)      

You’ve probably already heard this writing advice—read, read, read. It’s true and it bears repeating here. There’s no getting around reading wide and reading often if you want to excel at the writing craft. At one conference where I was a mentor, I had breakfast with an aspiring novelist who wasn’t sure what she wanted to write. I asked her what she enjoyed reading. Her answer? She hated to read. I admit I was so surprised that I wasn’t sure how to respond. Let me put it this way, you can’t be a great writer if you don’t even like to read. In the case that you want to be a good writer, or a better writer, then you’ll want to read more. Read as much as you can. There have been seasons during my writing career that I found it hard to find time to read, but I’ve remedied that. Every evening I set aside time—thirty minutes or an hour--and I read for pleasure and usually that’s in my genre because I love to read what I love to write. I read my favorite authors along with new-to-me authors. Reading also increases your vocabulary, stimulates your brain, improves your memory, focus and concentration. I could go on. But most important to an aspiring writer—reading intuitively makes you a better writer.



Let’s say you want to write romantic suspense novels. Reading those novels will give you the sense of pacing and romance you’ll want to put into you own novels, and you can do that without too much thought because it will come naturally to you.

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Before You Post on Social Media — T.H.I.N.K.



Edie Melson         
@EdieMelson




I didn’t always enjoy social media.

Before I spent time on the various networks, I assumed that interactions there were at best, shallow, with little or no real-world value. I’d formed my opinions by listening to the comments and complaints of others.


It wasn’t until I actually took time to interact online that I discovered there were lots of things of value being shared. The people I’ve met and the skills I’ve learned through online connections have added so much to my life—professionally and personally.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Writing - A Lonely Profession?

Susan Reichert





All writers know we have chosen a lonely profession. However, it is not always lonely. Especially if we participate in all the things open to writers.

There are writer’s groups, critique groups, webinars, podcasts, and writer conferences. All of these give us the opportunity to network with like-minded people and through these opportunities we develop wonderful friendships who are right there with us.

While at conferences, professionals are educating us on the writing craft. They help us learn the ins and outs of writing techniques to help us become more successful in our writing. They are delighted to answer any questions we have and to make our learning experience better. A perk with this is networking with someone in the business that knows what you need and can give you answers based on real experience. They graciously teach us more about our industry.

Another opportunity at a writers conference is we meet agents and publishers and spend time with them, face to face. These contacts are invaluable. And the perks? Having their full attention to pitch our work to them; we get to pick their brain. And remember they are also looking for people who have a book or book idea. This is a great benefit for writers.

One thing for sure, attending a conference will improve our writing, learn more about the industry and network with some great people.

We will be inspired by the people we meet and hear and being surrounded by other writers will energize and refresh us.

The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is coming soon. It is a conference we do not want to miss. It is considered the premier training and networking event for both seasoned and aspiring writers and speakers. Their workshops are some of the bests in the industry. Here we will interact with the top professionals in the industry. Truly a conference that is made for a writer.

Whether you are a professional writer expanding your skills and networking contacts, or a brand-new writer just beginning to chase your dream, this Christian Writers Conference is the ideal opportunity to take your creative goals to a higher level.

Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills are Co-Directors of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. They bring much more to the table than their combined half-century of writing expertise. They exhibit a proven passion to equip writers today.

To get more information about this conference click on this link:

. https://www.blueridgeconference.com/blue-ridge-mountains-christian-writers-conference/

They also offer special Facebook Live training in our Blue Ridge Conference Writers FB group (https://m.facebook.com/groups/BRMCWCwriters/?tsid=0.2863704857874556&source=result ). This is called Mentoring Moments and is led by coordinators Edwina Perkins and Karynthia Phillips. It is held twice a month in April on Monday evening (the next one is the 19th) and every Monday evening in May. Attendees can also pay for a mentor to help them get ready for the conference for $70. Here is a link to all that information: https://www.blueridgeconference.com/mentoring/

The blue ridge conference also now has a podcast run by Linda Goldfarb: Your Best Writing Life: https://www.blueridgeconference.com/podcast/

We all need an inspiring week of writing, encouragement, and inspiration.



Susan Reichert is the founder of Southern Author Services and Editor of Suite T. Prior to this was the co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, a national magazine for authors and readers.

She is the author of Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life, numerous magazine articles, and in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, libraries and founder of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group).

Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals and inspirational works.

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

Visit Susan at: https://www.susanlreichert.com/

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

 https://www.facebook.com/SusanLeeReichert 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-reichert-55922a13/

Amazon

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54576850-god-s-prayer-power

Member of the:  DAR; First Families of Mississippi.


Friday, April 9, 2021

What 2020 Taught Me as a Writer and as a Person ~ Part 2



Cynthia Ruchti




Traveling for conferences and speaking for women’s retreats rank high on my list of joy-bringers. Zap! Overnight the plug was pulled. I cancelled so many flights that Delta wrote to tell me they missed me. I’m a bit worried the gate agents with whom I’ve built relationships at our small regional airport will think I’ve forgotten them. I hope when travel resumes for me, they’ll remember our deal—that 52 pounds of luggage can easily round down to the max of 50.

I did not lose anyone close to me due to COVID. I lost them before COVID. I did not lose my job, although I lost a chunk of irretrievable income. I did not have to vacate my home. Home was and is a haven. I won the battle with my own bout with the virus and kept breathing. Although I did lose my sense of taste and smell and they are very tardy in returning, the little scamps. I didn’t miss a meal because we couldn’t afford food. The only meals we missed were the ones I didn’t feel like making. I was drafted into service as the homeroom monitor for two teen grandsons, but I may have enjoyed the role of encourager and snack provider a little too much.

We’re still here. We survived with our health relatively intact. We’ve enjoyed the extra togetherness…for the most part. My luggage has been grateful for the stay-cation. And the books did release.

So, tackling a topic like this—What 2020 Taught Me as a Writer and a Person—humbles me. I didn’t have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death but still learned more than a few life lessons. Among them are the revelations of:

· Things I once took for granted—coffee with a friend, lunch dates with my sisters, hugs, having a chef or cook or hamburger flipper or anyone else but me make supper, breathing air not filtered through cloth.

· Things I once wasted—slightly shriveled carrots, potato skins, that last square of you-know-what on the cardboard roll, leftovers I threw out because we were tired of eating the same thing, moments (so many moments!).

· Things that can’t be shaken—faith, the blessing of a good family, peace that isn’t dependent on circumstances.

· Things I know now—that freedom is not hindered by borders or restrictions because true freedom is internal, that it’s not a right but a privilege to have two packages of paper towels in your cart at Sam’s Club, that much of what we call hardship would be better named inconvenience, and that words and story have no boundaries even if they have to be communicated virtually or on yellow legal pads.

· Things I’ll remember when I write—that the pain or losses I imagine for my characters are always minor compared to some readers’ real losses, that the stories we tell matter because for some readers 2020’s distresses were blips on the radar of what they face every day, and that we—authors and readers—are more resilient than we realized.

Years ago, a friend and I adopted a policy for handling crisis of any sort. Actually, we didn’t so much adopt it as agree to it. God invented the policy millennia ago: Adjust and trust. One without the other does not a saying make. Or a good plan.

When disappointments rain down like Agent Orange…

When crises just won’t…stop…coming…

When upheaval is the catchword of the day…

When expectations dissolve like bath fizzies and leave a nasty stink rather than a sweet smell…

When what we get is the opposite of what we hoped for…

When prayers not only go unanswered but seemingly unacknowledged…

When nothing looks or feels normal…

When you realize normal is too much to ask…

When you can’t see the end of the tunnel’s darkness…

When uncertainty crowds out every optimistic thought…

Adjust and trust.

Businesses, restaurants, schools, families pivoted. When it came down to the option to adapt or to fold, most adapted. But pivoting is only part of the code for surviving life’s disappointments and devastations. Adjust and trust. Adjusting can weary us. It’s hard on body, mind, and spirit. Trusting fuels us.

What did 2020 teach me? I have a feeling most of its lessons are still on the horizon as I keep adjusting, keep trusting, and keep writing to those who need to renew their confidence in the truth that they can’t unravel if they’re hemmed in hope.




Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, including the novels Afraid of the Light, Miles from Where We Started, As Waters Gone By, Song of Silence, A Fragile Hope, and They Almost Always Come Home. Her books have been honored with more than 40 readers’, reviewers’, and retailers’ awards, including Romantic Times’s Inspirational Novel of the Year, four Selah Awards, and five Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, and has been a finalist for many others, including the Carol and the Christy. Former president of and current professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Cynthia lives in Wisconsin and can be found online at www.cynthiaruchti.com.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

What 2020 Taught Me as a Writer and as a Person ~ Part 1

 



Cynthia Ruchti




“We’re in this together.” I remember saying those words often this past year. Crisis seemed to pile upon crisis. For most of the year, every news report was more grim and gruesome than the one before. Not only were people dying, but they couldn’t have their loved ones near in those final hours—no touch, no whispers of forever love, no sweet assurances and sing-you-Home lullabies. Not only were schools shut down and parents evicted from their offices and sent home, but nearly every parent became a live-in teacher or at the least a homeroom monitor almost overnight. Teachers, doctors, emergency staff, business leaders, and scientists—all scrambled to keep their ships upright, their charges calm, and their heads above water.

Not all succeeded.

“Small talk” turned into “large talk.” How will we ever make this work? How can we stay safe? How long will this last? How will we survive if—gulp—a first world country runs out of toilet paper?

But we were in it together. And together is almost always better than alone.

I’m trying to imagine anyone’s life that wasn’t upended at least in some way by the global pandemic. It reached even the remoteness of Outer Mongolia…and I’m not kidding. The US sent ventilators to a common euphemism for “the ends of the earth.”

To say that we’ve all been changed is an understatement.

One would think that someone like me—an author who is quite content spending most of every day with her fingers on the keyboard, moving words around, playing with ideas in relative solitude in not exactly in Outer Mongolia, but in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where we think we can see it from here—would find her life only mildly affected by a global incident. Or that my daily routine wouldn’t change all that much.

Drink the coffee. Boot up the computer. Sit. Think. Type. Repeat. Throw in editing, social media, and an occasional meal and bathroom break. Repeat again.

But I was changed…and not just because we were frugal with toilet paper. Changed. And so was my writing. Come to think of it, I’m still in the process of processing, and almost daily make adaptations to the way I do things and the way I approach life, love, and the privilege of being a writer.

That’s one of them. The reminder that writing is a privilege. It’s a privilege to live in an era and a country and a home environment where writing can continue no matter what’s swirling around me. Even if all that were left to me were the dozens of yellow legal pads I keep, though I no longer use them, and the colored pencils I saved from when my kids were in grade school (my grandkids are in high school now), I could still keep writing. For me alone, if not for readers. For what I learn and how I grow when I tell stories.

I was one of the oh-let’s-call-it-privileged who had/has not one, not two, but three books releasing “in a time of COVID.” A novel in June of 2020 (Afraid of the Light), a novel in March of 2021 (Facing the Dawn), and a nonfiction in the fall of 2021. Among my favorite author activities are visiting and supporting bookstores, popping in to book clubs, holding author events in libraries, and meeting readers face-to-face wherever I can…which during that time was virtual or not at all. Virtual is better than nothing, but that’s what life had been reduced to. “Better than nothing” had turned into “the most we can hope for.”

Did it affect my enjoyment of those glorious release days? Enjoyment wasn’t foremost in my mind. What mattered was readers. Were they able to receive their pre-orders? Did they hear about the new release? Did they feel like reading again? So many have felt the tug of books but no energy to lift the cover and read. I sympathized with the “can’t read” reaction but admit that I wanted to lay my six-feet-distanced arm around the shoulders of those people and whisper through my mask, “But the best place to retreat from the rigors of survival is under the covers of a good book.”



Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, including the novels Afraid of the Light, Miles from Where We Started, As Waters Gone By, Song of Silence, A Fragile Hope, and They Almost Always Come Home. Her books have been honored with more than 40 readers’, reviewers’, and retailers’ awards, including Romantic Times’s Inspirational Novel of the Year, four Selah Awards, and five Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, and has been a finalist for many others, including the Carol and the Christy. Former president of and current professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Cynthia lives in Wisconsin and can be found online at www.cynthiaruchti.com.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Authors Who Succeed in The Book Business

Terry Whalin    @terrywhalin   


Throughout my decades in publishing, I’ve written many different types of nonfiction books: biographies, how-to, diet, self-help, co-authored books, children’s books and others. I’ve interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and written their stories for various magazines. It’s not that I’m the best writer in the room but I am one of the more consistent, persistent writers.

I attend conferences and pitch my ideas to editors. I listen to their response and sometimes they say, “That’s a good idea, Terry. Write that up and send it to me.” I make a little note, then I go home. write and send it. Now that doesn’t mean I get published, but I did give myself a chance to get published because of my submission.

Now I go to conferences as an editor and listen to writers pitch their ideas. I listen carefully and if I hear a good idea, I encourage them to send it to me. I’ve been to conferences across the United States and Canada listening to writers and encouraging them to send me their material. Here’s a startling statistic: probably only about 10% of those writers actually submit their requested material. I follow up through email and often a phone call to encourage them to send it—but they don’t submit.

There are several other key factors from my experience:

Professionals continue to work at learning the craft of writing. I’m constantly reading books and taking online courses and learning. The authors who disappear off the bestseller list figure they have arrived at their craft and don’t have anything else to learn. Yes, I’ve met some of these writers.

Professional writers keep in touch with readers through an email newsletter and have invested the time to learn about their audience (readers) then write what they want and expect. These professionals also understand the importance of a gentle follow-up. Notice the word “gentle” because if you are too pushy, the easiest answer to give is “no thank you.” Yes often takes patience, persistence and time.

These professional writers also understand the importance of continual pitching to decision makers (editors but also radio show hosts, podcast creators, and others of influence). Authors who succeed in the publishing world are looking for opportunities. When they find the open door, they have the boldness to move forward and seize it.

Also professional writers understand the importance of deadlines and meet those deadlines with quality writing. As an editor, I’ve fielded calls from writers who are not going to make their deadlines. They have many reasons—some of them even reasonable. Writers are notoriously late so publishers often build some room for such excuses into their schedule—but don’t be one of those writers. I’ve taken some crazy deadlines from publishers and sometimes stayed writing at my keyboard all night to send my manuscript on the deadline. It’s another key for those writers who succeed in the book business.

The path is not easy for any of us and takes persistence, consistency and discipline. But it is possible for you to find the right idea and the right book and the right publisher at the right time. I understand there are many rights which need to align. It simply will not fly if you don’t try.



W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including https://jumpstartdreams.com/Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. The revised and updated edition will be out later this year. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.




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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Can I Write The Way I Like To Read?

 Heidi Gray McGill


"Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river."

― Lisa See

 

I'm an avid reader, and for years, I happily served as a Beta reader. I realized I enjoyed the process of thinking through the details of whatever book I was engrossed in. I'd read to see if characters were compelling, sympathetic, or someone for whom I found myself rooting. I envisioned the characters to see if they felt real and were three-dimensional, with distinct voices, flaws, and virtues.

I wondered--Can I do this? Can I write the way I like to read?


There was no "story" in my mind when I started. I chose to create a character I could relate to, someone plain and straightforward.


Like most authors, when I began writing “Desire of My Heart,” I struggled.  So much was wrong with the first draft of that book, if you could even call it that.  After learning what I needed to do to make it worthy of being published, I put it on a "shelf" and let it go. I walked away.

 

Only, the characters would not let me leave them locked in the Cloud for long

 

When Covid-19 hit, my schedule became free to focus on the novel again because the ESL program I was directing closed.  I dusted off the cover and reintroduced myself to my old friends. 

 

"The first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

― Terry Pratchett

 



It was challenging getting restarted until I looked at my main character, Rachel, and realized I had been writing my own story. The old saying "write what you know" must be true. I've uniquely experienced profound loss and come out on the other side a better version of myself.



When my debut novel "Desire of My Heart" arrived… let's just say the delivery guy was a little concerned about my mental well-being. Holding my book for the first time felt something akin to holding my children. It had taken nine months, that second go-round, to finish my book, and I had birthed a part of me.



I have found tremendous fulfillment, even ministry, in writing


I am a Christ-follower. My faith is fleshed out through the characters in my books in a fluid and comfortable way, not pushy or confrontational. Writing is how I share Christ with those who may never pick up a Bible or step foot inside a church. My greatest compliments are reviews sharing how "scripture was seamlessly written throughout" and "the characters were so real I connected with them and saw ways I could improve my walk with God.”

 



So, what's next?



Book two in the "Discerning God's Best" series flowed easily, especially with Readers encouraging me. "With All My Heart," tells Pete's and Charlie's stories and has just as many "feels" as Book one. It is available for pre-order and launches on April 23rd.



I'm often asked what I write, my genre.



All my books are sweet and clean, meaning you would feel comfortable letting your pre-teen or grandmother read. They are all Christian. If you took out the Christian element, the plot would unravel. They are historical and set in the 1850s.



My books are also exciting and engaging



"Sometimes, it's the unexpected twists that make life an exciting adventure. At other times, fear, trouble, and deep heartache make it feel perilous. But in all times, accepting God's will, even if it means losing the one you love, makes it worthwhile." Heidi Gray McGill synopsis



When you read this series, to include the free prequel, you embark on a journey from South Carolina to Missouri with characters who quickly become family, adventures that become real, and hope that becomes a promise.



Inspiration was a process



Remember how I said I was a voracious reader? Years of living, in my mind, in the 1800s helped formulate when and where this series would take place. You can see some of the books I've read over the years by following me on BookBub.



What's next?



Today finds me thankful, nervous, in awe, and excited all at the same time. There are so many technical details that I didn't expect would be a part of writing a book. If you know me at all, you are currently laughing as I may be the most technically challenged person you've met. Just aa constantly reading helps me with my writing; using technology daily helps me overcome this shortcoming.



If I want to connect with you, I need technology. Facebook and Instagram are fantastic tools for this. But I'm an old-fashioned girl, so I use my newsletter to share my heart. I'd love to connect with you!



Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little better!




Heidi Gray McGill loves to travel, especially to foreign lands, even though she speaks no foreign language. She embraces the culture, the food, and even the inconveniences that come with adventure.



Her thirst for adventure plays out in her writing. If she can’t visit in person, especially in 2020 during the Covid-19 Crisis, why not visit in her mind and eventually in writing? When mishaps occur in her stories, a slightly tweaked personal incident could be possible, although she will most likely deny all reference to reality.


In addition to writing, Heidi is the founder and Director of an English as a Second Language Program in her hometown. She is an ESL certified teacher and enjoys providing opportunities for non-native speakers to learn English and of God’s love.


Heidi lives out daily her favorite Bible verse, 1 Samuel 1:18 “[Hannah] said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” Heidi identifies with Hannah, believing we each choose to be joyful in our hearts, no matter our circumstances. She also agrees that eating something, especially chocolate, can solve myriad issues.


Heidi has been married for nearly 30 years and lives near Charlotte, NC, where she spends her days having fun with her grandson. When she isn’t playing, you’ll find her cooking, scrapbooking, or writing. She recently released her first book, Desire of My Heart, and will release a sequel, With All My Heart in April of 2021.






Monday, April 5, 2021

Linking Up


Susan Reichert







If you are wondering how important it is to link to websites and for them to link to your website you might find this helpful: Companies know how important it is to link to someone else’s site. How do we know this? Because companies are willing to pay us to put their links on our websites. They know how important it is to link to as many places as possible. Why? Simple. You keep seeing that name long enough, and it becomes engrained and you will go check it out and odds are you will probably find something there to buy. That’s why you and I see advertising on TV. Even though most of us are sick of seeing some of those ads, they draw business into those companies.


So why can’t we do that for ourselves as authors? We can, if we will give them a reason to link to our webites. Most of us aren’t sure what that reason is. Mark Walters, SEO Consultant said, “Your website needs to be unique, interesting and engaging, etc.”


Just a note:


I get emails from people who work for companies who want to link their sites to us quite often. But their sites do not offer interesting information for our readers. Even though we are open to linking to things that benefit our readers, we won't link to just anything. As authors that is one of the things we feel important for Suite T.


Your content has to be very good to garner repeat visitors. Check out some of the websites you know about. Look to see what their content is. Is it unique–one of a kind? Is it interesting? What is interesting about it? Just checking out some sites will give you tons of information that will help you with your website. It is time well worth spent.



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Unknown Threat

 Lynn H. Blackburn



For a long time, I embraced my role as a novice writer. When someone would ask me for advice, I would preface my response with, “Well, I haven’t been doing this long” or “I’m not an expert.”

I kind of miss those days.

Now when someone asks me what it takes to be a good writer or when they look to me for advice on how to write for publication, they expect me to have an answer. I’ve published six books with more under contract so I can understand why they would think I have some wisdom to impart.

But I’m always hesitant to share. Not because I don’t have plenty of opinions, but because what works for me may or may not work for someone else, and I never want to shackle someone to an idea or a method that will never benefit them.

Early in my career I would read advice like “write every day” or “get up two hours early to write” or “attend a writing conference every year” or “hire an editor” and I would despair. There’s nothing wrong with any of that advice, but it made me feel like I was less of a writer when I couldn’t pull it off. I was writing while parenting infants, one of whom didn’t sleep through the night for thirteen months. There was no way I could leave my kids to attend a conference some years, there was no money for an editor, and I was already operating on 4-6 hours of broken sleep.

So, I find it best to preface all writing advice with the following caveat: Your mileage may vary.

Every writer brings their own unique experience and personality to the process so read what I’m about to share with the understanding that I’m not a full-time writer, I’m a raging introvert, I have three children at home, I homeschool, I have a child with disabilities, my youngest child is ten, I have children who play sports (I’m writing this while my boys are at baseball practice), my husband supports my writing dreams, and I have family and friends nearby who help anytime I need them.

If you’re a single parent, taking care of an aging parent, working three jobs, living far away from family, writing without any support, or writing while managing your own health issues, you have to be honest with yourself about your circumstances. You’ll have to decide what advice you can apply, what advice you can put to use with modifications, and what advice you simply can’t use during this season of your life.

With that said, here are my top three pieces of advice for writers who want to improve their skill and become a good writer.


1. Write as much as you can. Please note that I did not say write every day. I think writing every day is great if you can manage it. But if you can’t, that doesn’t mean you aren’t a real writer or can’t become a good writer.

The key is repetition and continual practice. The best way to write a novel is to write a novel. The best way to get better at writing a novel is to write more novels. The best way to do that is to write whenever you can. This might look like getting up at 4 a.m. Or this might look like writing every night after the kids go to bed, or brown bagging it and writing while on your lunchbreak at work. It might mean that you don’t write at all during the week, but you pound out the words on the weekend.

Or you might take what I call the Michael Connelly approach. I was at a conference and heard Michael Connelly answer the “do you write every day” question. His response has stuck with me, and I try follow his example. He said he doesn’t write everyday year-round, and he doesn’t write to a specific word count unless he’s approaching a deadline, but once he begins writing a new story his goal is to “move the story forward every day.” That might be a chapter, a scene, a paragraph, or a section of witty dialogue.

Regardless of how you approach your writing, the bottom line is that writers write. And they write a lot. And the fastest way to become a good writer is to write as much as you can.


2. Be a life-long learner. The best writers I know are always gathering new information. They read news articles, blog posts, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, even take part-time jobs, all in the name of research. “Write what you know” isn’t bad advice, but we all need to expand our knowledge base in order write new and exciting stories.

The internet makes this easier than it used to be. The answers to many topics are just a click away. As a suspense writer, I really do wonder if my search history has landed me on a government watchlist. Surely someone has noticed my proclivity for researching poisons, weapons of mass destruction, and the best way to blow things up. But while the internet is handy, I’ve found that my writing is stronger when I either study books on the subject, personally experience the activity, or interview someone who is an expert.

All three of these options require a greater time investment than an internet search, but they’re worth it. You may need to purchase a few books once you’ve nailed down what you’re looking for, but to start with, the library holds a wealth of free information for the curious writer.

Travel is tricky these days, but whenever possible there’s no substitute for physically being in a location or participating in an activity.

And while it requires some bravery and vulnerability, reaching out to experts will flavor your writing with nuances that can’t be achieved any other way. I’ve never had someone turn me down when I’ve asked for help. Most people, from homicide investigators to Secret Service agents to paramedics to emergency department nurses, love to talk about what they do. If you’re respectful of their time and profession, they’ll usually be happy to answer your questions.


3. Don’t go it alone. The writing life is solitary. No one can write your book for you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to find a group of writers with whom you can share the process. Your non-writing friends may give you the side-eye when you start talking about your characters talking to you, or when you get excited about a plot twist that came to you in the shower. But your writing friends will get it. No matter how supportive your spouse is, there’s an excellent chance that he or she will not understand the despair of carrying an untold story and the struggle to release it to the page, but your writing friends will commiserate.

Regardless of where you are on the journey, you need writer friends to help you process the experience—whether you’re considering a new writing opportunity or lamenting a negative review. I appreciated my writer friends before I was published, but I was wholly unprepared for how much I needed them after I was published. I was right back to beginner status as a newly published author, and I leaned hard on my mentor and fellow writers to give me advice, listen when I was overwhelmed, and cheer for me as I stumbled my way through the unexpected firsts that come with signing a contract.

Not only do you need your fellow writers for your own mental and emotional well-being, but because knowing them and interacting with them will improve your writing. They’re the ones who will tell you about the craft book that changed the way they approach dialogue. They’ll rave about the site where they found a treasure trove of expertise on how to write a realistic fight scene. They’re the ones who will help you hone your craft and your writing style, not by telling you how to do it, but by showing you all the different ways it can be done so you can discover the way that works best for you.

The definition of a good writer will always be a subjective one. I know I’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone will appreciate my style, my genre, or my approach to crafting a story. But if I focus on writing consistently, learning constantly, and coming out of my introvert bubble to cultivate friendships in the writing community, I can be confident that my skills are improving, and that I’m doing all I can to be the best writer I can be.



Lynn H. Blackburn is the author of Beneath the Surface, In Too Deep, One Final Breath, Hidden Legacy, and Covert Justice. Winner of the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery
and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel, Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the
Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in
Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

When Do We Write What We Know or See?



Sara Robinson




Some time ago I was asked if I was creating verse about current events, especially since I live in Charlottesville. I replied that I really wasn’t. And I thought later, why not? It seems that historically poets who witnessed horrific events were generally compelled to create passionate verse responses. I find that is difficult for me. It is not that I am not moved by catastrophe or living history or social issues. It is mostly about my comfort level. For most of us pastoral poetry is really what makes us live in the moment. By this I mean writing passionate lines about nature with its living creatures.

For example, I worked on a poem about an injured Canada goose that I found one morning on my usual walk. It tried so hard to fly, flapping spastic wings, and falling over backward. It was clear that is was injured in some way. I was moved by its instinct to keep trying and I wondered how that would work as a metaphor about keeping up courage in the face of disaster. That led me to think about the fires of California and the ash remains of homes where folks lived, read, ate their dinners, and just lived their lives.

These fire-broken devastated homes remained as skeletons of a past. Like the goose, their existences were forever changed. I knew that houses could be rebuilt, but I knew that goose would never fly again, and likely would not make it through the night.

How is it that when we write about what we see and feel that it is so subjective? Critics of the confessional poets used to admonish them for revealing so much about their personal illnesses and weaknesses. These poets did create some of the most impressive and important poetry of the modern centuries. Their illnesses became metaphors for life among others and it was, I believe, their way of bringing illness to the forefront, rather than hidden in the shadows. One big gift a poet can bring is the unwrapping of the present that is within yourself to reveal the core of humanity within everyone.

So, in current events, we see everyday states of affairs that are ever changing and will always do so. Sometimes the changes are rapid; sometimes they are slow. But all of these are part of the human experience and for many poets’ writing about components of the experience is a personal goal. When poets share some of this with the rest of us, we again have been given a gift. To see things, like a mortally wounded goose, and feel empathy as well as sadness, inspires me to write something about living along side the pain of nature; promising the world that I might be magical somehow, with words, to make that pain a little less.

I guess, then, I do write something about current events after all. Like I wrote in one of my earlier published poems, “sometimes the large is often seen in the small.”


Keep writing!


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, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: 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 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).

 


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Major Social Media Platforms

Edie Melson


 

Social media isn’t an all or nothing proposition. We each have our own favorite platform. Some of us excel at Twitter, while others find their social media voice on Facebook. But no matter how much you love a particular venue, it can be social media suicide to build a platform in only one place.

 

Here is a list of some of the most popular social media sites, along with the general audience for each.

Monday, March 29, 2021

If Life Gets Sour, Sweeten It Up!

 

Dr. Lin Stepp





An old John Wooden quote says: “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” There’s a lot of truth in that—and for many of us who work as authors or in the publication field this has been a trying year, with covid and all the national unrest. How have you handled this past year? I tried to remember one of my mom’s favorite pieces of advice when new problems hit last March … “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

As a psychologist, and a woman of faith, I knew the first victory in facing hard times is to hold fast to faith, hope, and to keep a good attitude—to speak positive words and to expect new ideas and routes around life’s problems. William James said: “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” Keeping a positive attitude wasn’t easy with so many people falling into fear, worry, stress, and anxiety over the unexpected problems arising in their lives. Many of my author friends let the negatives simply swamp them. They quit writing, quit working, quit marketing—feeling the adversities too hard to overcome.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Year of Uncertainty



Jill Eileen Smith





When I look back at history, I see a lot of change. Some change is good and exciting. Some frightening and shocking. And then there is everything in between.


For anyone under a certain age who has not lived through a war or other major disaster that affected them on a personal level, 2020 stripped away any sense of normalcy they may have felt. I include myself in that group. And no matter what the unprecedented disaster, life changes and it will change us, like it or not.


2020 taught me several things both personally and professionally. I will list them here in no particular order.