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).


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.

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.

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.

March 25, 2021

Writing to Learn and Make a Difference

Harriet Hodgson

One of the reasons I write is to figure things out.

Since I’m a nonfiction writer, I’m always researching topics and learning new things. Experience is part of my writing too. Many Americans, including me, thought 2020 was chock-full of challenges. After I was hospitalized for cellulitis, a bacterial infection that can be fatal, my retirement community quarantined me for two weeks.

I was quarantined for two more weeks after I tested positive for Covid-19. Thankfully, I never developed symptoms of the virus. But a month of quarantine was in addition to months of self-quarantine I chose to protect my husband, John. He was terribly ill and paraplegic; the lower part of his body didn’t function.

March 24, 2021

The Positive Possibilities

Tracie Peterson

I must admit I’ve had my own year of negative thought. 2020 gave itself easily to looking at the worst of a situation rather than the best. After a time, I found that it really caused my writing to suffer. I even found my characters were negative.

I looked at the things going on around me as we cruised into 2021 and realized that if I was going to eliminate what my son calls “stinkin’ thinkin’” I was going to have to take the bull by the horns. No one else is going to transform our sorrows and negativities. We must do it for ourselves.

March 23, 2021

Joy In Trials

Rachel Hauck

Is it me or did New Year’s only seem a few weeks ago? Time flies by in the midst of trials and hardship, blessings and prosperity alike.

As we embrace the start of a new year and move into the new millennium’s Roaring Twenties, I’ve reflected on last year with a new lens.

Is there any chance COVID-19 spelled J-O-Y? Or that political unrest spelled J-O-Y? Anyone? Yeah, me neither.

Yet as I look back over my last year—and that’s really all I can judge—I see a touch of the Divine. I see joy.

For years I’d been saying, “I’m not going to travel. I’m going to stay home, rest, and write.”

But a conference here, an invitation there, and I’d be on the road. “Next year, I’ll stay home.” I’d promise myself.

But then the invitations would come and it was a rinse and repeat of the same, “Next year,” mantra.

Then COVID arrived and forced me toward my long-postponed goal. When the country shut down to flatten the curve, my spring conference was cancelled. My August and September conferences soon followed. Which in turn cancelled our vacation plans.

Our church closed for two months and my husband, who’s been a pastor for thirty-four years without a sabbatical, had a bit of a rest. I still miss those Sundays we slept in and had church in our living room.

Our kitchen became our favorite cozy breakfast diner where I mastered eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast like a short order cook.

At one point during the shutdown, my husband declared 5 a.m. his new prayer hour. Eventually, I joined him. Then he added 5 p.m. And yes, I joined him. We call it “Praying on the fives” and now it’s built into our day.

One of my best friends, author Susan May Warren, purchased a winter beach house not far from me and because of COVID, she and her husband were able to spend an extended period of time in Florida working from home.

I know 2020 was a year of tragedy, loss, and sadness. Many of us lost family members and friends. Others lost jobs and businesses. But beneath all the rubble, was there any joy?

I wonder how 2020 would’ve gone without COVID. Without the unrest? Would we have continued with our “normal” lives, not noticing our hurting neighbor?

Would we have gone on with our Mach-10 lifestyle, not pausing to spend time with our families, to pray, to learn new things, to perhaps expand our spiritual and emotional horizons even thought our social and geographical boundaries shrunk?

Tough times force us to examine ourselves, our choices, our values, our goals, and the source of our strength.

I’ve lived through seven hurricanes. Most of them Cat 1 and Cat 2 but still, a lot of wind and rain. After a storm, there’s debris to pick up, window boards to take down. Before we purchased a generator, we’d go over a week without power. September in Florida without A/C is no fun.

But what I learned about myself in those times was how easily I adapted. The trial didn’t kill me or crush me. In fact, I rose up to do a bit of “crushing” myself.

Every time I was overwhelmed in 2020 it was because I listened to all the negative talk. I fretted over things I could not control.

But when I put my trust in God, I felt peace and joy.

Joy is a gift and is often formed in us during the most difficult seasons. It is not a result of a life well lived where everything is going according to plan.

Joy is the infusion of God’s power in the midst of trial and chaos.

This year, 2021, is a chance to refocus, reboot (as we used to say in the old computer days) and refresh ourselves with hope.

Fear is real. We can all feel it. But fear can be a cruel master. One way to fight it is with joy.

Perhaps when all said and done, it will be true. We’ll have learned to spell COVID with three simple letters: J-O-Y.

So put on your dancing-with-joy-shoes and kick the dust of last year off your feet and shout JOY!

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and now lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

Her most recent book, To Love A Prince, released in August 2020. Her next release, To Save A King, releases in May 2021.

Find her at,,

March 22, 2021

My Five-Minute Attitude Adjuster

Nicole Deese

The week after meeting a tight writing deadline is often a bit wonky for me. In its own way, it can feel like re-learning how to live in the real world again, with real people, engaging in real conversations, and figuring out how to deal with real-life issues after my head has been treading water in all things fiction for a long, long time. And while I spend months and months craving and anticipating the freedom that comes after submitting a manuscript to my publisher, that newfound freedom can be, at times, disorienting. Have you ever felt that way after pushing hard to reach a goal?

Several months ago, after I turned in my latest novel to my editor, I had that ever-dreaded “off” week experience once again. My tolerance for people was lower than usual and I was irritated by things I can usually let go of quickly, exchanging my typical glass-half-full mentality for something murkier and critical. I was definitely in a funk.

March 19, 2021

Why Write Fiction?

DiAnn Mills       

As a fiction writer, I’ve often been posed the questions:

"Why fiction when you could be writing nonfiction?”

"If you feel writing is a ministry, then why are you putting your time and effort into a story?”

“A real Christian would be writing something with real sustenance, not fiction.”

I used to swallow my anger with those questions and quickly compose a gracious response that might have sounded like I was playing defense for a losing team.

Not anymore. I’m proud of what I do and privileged to create characters and plots that entertain readers. After years of following my passion for communicating the written word through story, I simply term the individual questioning my life’s work as uninformed. These people mean well. Some of them think entertainment is a waste. After all, isn’t nonfiction how people learn how to live life to its fullest and better themselves?

Not necessarily.

How many abused women purchase books about how to stop a man from beating them? Do those women reach for nonfiction aids on a retailer’s shelf about abused victim’s legal rights, counseling, self-defense, or how to find courage in the midst of abuse?

How many victims of human trafficking find freedom by asking their captor to buy them a book about overcoming trust issues or how to escape an inappropriate relationship?

How many addictions were resolved by forcing the sufferer to read a book on the statistics of US drug use? Or the likelihood of addicts committing suicide?

How many marriages were saved because a woman shoved a book into her husband’s face about how to win back an unfaithful husband?

I think you get the picture. It’s doubtful any of the above examples found solace, peace, answers, escape, or courage in a nonfiction book because they were either too frightened to be found reading it or they simply weren’t interested. But that victim could instead read a novel about abuse, human trafficking, an addiction, or a failing marriage and learn how someone changed and grew into a better person. The reader sees an overcomer and may see how they too can overcome their situation.

First and foremost, a novel entertains. But story also provides hope and inspires readers to take steps forward to embrace a quality life. It’s a nonthreatening environment. A writer’s novel can plant subtle seeds of positive change and challenge the reader to grow beyond their world.

Have you read a novel and found yourself a better person?

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,,

March 18, 2021

Writing Life into 2021

M. K. Graff

There’s no question 2020 was a tough year for everyone, writers and readers alike. With Covid canceling writing festivals and personal appearances, and libraries closed for long periods, the distraction reading provides made eBook figures soar. I was in the midst of revising my fifth Nora Tierney English Mystery, when I realized I could slow down my pace as there would be no book tour coming at the end of it—at least not any time soon.

It turned out to be a good thing I’d decided to postpone the publication date. Alongside worry about family and friends getting the dreaded illness, I found out in early summer I had breast cancer just a few weeks after my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I told him at the time that after thirty-five years as a couple, almost thirty of them married, I knew we liked to do things together, but this was bit much! Fortunately, we were both diagnosed at an early stage without spread. Various tests, surgeries, and radiation were complicated by Covid, but we’re on the road to wellness with a critical eye to watching for recurrence. In between all of these events, working on the manuscripts kept me sane. On days I couldn’t sit at my computer, reading proved my best distraction. By early December I had the manuscript out to beta readers, and started a final revision soon after the new year.

What did I learn about writing a novel while in the throes of a nationwide pandemic and cancer treatment?

I learned that writing is still the solace I also find in reading. I learned that I’ve been a writer long enough that when I couldn’t write for long stretches, I found myself yearning to get back to it. I also learned that I gain much from reading other authors good writing that informs and educates me.

While my hours at my desk were shortened, and some days entirely absent, I’m happy to report that the manuscript is at the copyeditors and being read by the authors who will give me cover blurbs to entice readers to read the book. After another round of edits and the layout and design process, I hope to see The Evening’s Amethyst in print by the end of May or early June. But I also know that this rollout will be vastly different from my other six mysteries.

I’ve always been a big believer in what I can accomplish, not what I can’t. I might not be able to schedule the kind of book tour I like to use to kick off a new book, but there are other ways to bring a new book to a reader.

I’ve decided this time I’m having the front cover art completed much earlier than usual so I can give readers a glimpse of what’s to come as I use it to give former readers a preview and perhaps entice new ones. I’ll also let readers in on my process in bringing this book to publication as things get closer. And I’ll reduce the price on my books already in print for those who (like me) who prefer to read a series from the first book.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, but it’s necessary to reach readers when I can’t see them in person. So I’ll be upping my presence on Facebook and Twitter, the two I choose to use.

I’ll also be giving hints about the content to catch reader’s attention. The series is a mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural that takes place in different parts of the UK. In keeping the books fresh and different, I’ve written one that revolved around murder in Oxford, another in the Lake District, and one that focuses on a threatre troupe, with chapter epigrams from the play they are producing, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. There’s even one with a psychopath. This new one has a subplot set in 1992 that runs through it and has ramifications set in the current time. See, you have just received the first hint!

If you’re a reader, follow your favorite authors on their social media, and sign up to follow them on their Amazon author page or newsletter. New books will still be appearing by your favorites. Many authors are participating in Zoom conferences you can tune into, which are often free. Now you can see your favorite sitting at their desk while trying to keep their child/dog/cat at bay. Great fun and a relaxing time.

But perhaps the biggest thing I learned is to do one thing a day for myself that somehow pertains toward my writing project, whether I could write or not. To that end, each day I watch an episode of an older UK show called Escape to the Country that we DVR. People looking to move are shown houses in their chosen UK county, which is itself interesting, but I enjoy this show because it’s not just a house-hunt. The presenters open the show with the history of the particular county being visited, and then bring the house-hunters to several different focal sites within that county. While I learn about the first female blacksmith in Cornwall, I also hear accents from different areas in my ear, keep up with current Brit slang, and glimpse new settings for my gal Nora to explore in another book down the road. Because there’s always another book in the works.

Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. She writes the weekly crime review blog Auntie M Writes Crime Review ( and is a member of Sisters in Crime, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the NC Writers Network.


March 17, 2021

Do You Tell People You Are Writing?

Susan Reichert

The question, "Do you tell people you are writing?" This is both a difficult question to answer and an easy one.

Some people will advise new writers to not tell others they are writing a book. Why? Simply because, they can say things that could leave the new writer with confidence being shattered. However, if you have written a manuscript or two and are published, you probably will not take their negative thoughts to heart, especially since you are published.

The key is don't let anything someone says deter you from writing your book. Stick to your plans. Write the book.

Many will tell you to only share this information, about your writing a book, with those who are supportive of your wanting to write. I think I agree with that. For if you are new to writing you need people who will help you and be encouraging and not say things that make you uncomfortable. 

I do not think we should let just anyone read what we are working on either. Sometimes, people will mean well, but what comes out of their mouth doesn't sound like they mean well. And that first time writer could take to heart those words in the wrong way. It is important we always be encouraging and nurturing whenever possible.

I have a few people that are in my inner circle that I let read things I am working on.  I trust them and their opinions. There are others I love dearly, but do not let them see it until it is published. It is a matter of being comfortable. What we are about is birthing a new baby . . . our book. A book that comes from inside us. So, we must be careful as to whose input we listen too.

During this covid quanrantine I have finished two manuscripts and almost through with a third. Only the people in my inner circle have read and had input. I am most grateful for this inner circle. These people know what my writing dreams are. Most important they never mock or belittle my writing.

These are the types of people you want in your inner circle. They are writers and they know what it is like when you are putting your words to paper.

But we also need good critique partners. It is important to learn our craft and surround ourselves with people who can help in our writing.

When you finish the manuscript, these people will be as excited as you are. Like you that will be anxious to hold that book in their hands too.

I am always happy to see a new writer come on the scene. I always hope they will enjoy
writing as much as I do and hope they will have much success.

Always be sure and encourage others in their writing!

Susan Reichert is the founder of Southern Author Services and Editor of Suite T. Is the retired co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine.

She is the author of God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life, numerous magazine articles, and in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, libraries, and President of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group). Her next book releases in March 2021.

Susan lives in Tennessee with her husband. They have four grown daughters with their own families.

You can visit Susan at;;;;

March 16, 2021

The Gatekeepers

Terri Reid

C.S. Lewis once said, “Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing; ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.”

I remember as a child, when things got too much in my dysfunctional family life, I would grab a book, go to my special hiding place, and lose myself in the pages of the story. I could be shivering in the cold, damp rooms along with the Marsh sisters as they practiced for their Christmas play. Or I could be running along the sandy beaches of a deserted island, with only a magnificent, black Arabian stallion as my companion. Or I could be finding clues in the old oak tree behind the deserted mansion with my friend, Nancy Drew.

Books were my escape to another world. A better place, that shielded me, if only for a few hours, from the unhappiness of reality.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I became an author. I fell in love with opening the door to the wardrobe that allowed me to step inside and explore both frightening and fantastic places.

And now, so many years later, I am a gatekeeper to that same world. I put words on paper and open a passage of escape for my readers. I invite them to leave their cares and worries behind, if only for a few hours, and escape. But the position of gatekeeper/writer is not an easy one to obtain. It’s not just sitting in front of a computer and typing, as all of you know. There is a price to be paid. There are roads to traverse. There are journeys to complete.

J. R. R. Tolkien said, “One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”

We write what we know. Not in a finite sense — you can only write about police work if you have been a police officer. But in a deeper, emotional sense — you can write about the fear a child has experienced when she hears steps on the staircase, because you have felt that fear before. You can write about soul-wrenching sorrow because you have felt grief that reaches into your very core. You can write about a broken heart because you’ve experienced the disappointment of loving with all your heart when that emotion wasn’t reciprocated. But you can also write about laughter so intense that your sides ache and cause you to lose your breath. Gratitude so intense that it spills out from your eyes onto your cheeks. Love so real that it wraps itself around you like a warm blanket and soothes away your fears.

During these past twelve months the entire world has been overshadowed with a cloud of despair. I can’t help but liken it to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as the powers of Mordor increased, even the creatures of the forests were affected. The shadow of evil crept unchecked across the land. It’s affected all of us in one way or another. Perhaps, as authors, as observers of humankind, it’s affected us more than most. What can we do?

I believe we need to remember that we are the gatekeepers. We are the tellers of tales. We are the observers of life. We offer our readers a respite from world-weariness and hopelessness.

Samwise Gamgee, who in my opinion is the real hero in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, said, “It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”

We need to take the experiences we’ve had in the past year and write our stories. We need to incorporate some of the feelings we’ve experienced—sorrow, fear, hate, prejudice, negativity and mix them liberally with others we’ve also felt or seen—hope, love, compassion, selflessness, and courage.

Yours is the story that will matter. Yours is the story that will lift a burdened heart, soothe a troubled soul, or open a closed mind.

I believe there is no greater compliment than a note from a reader who tells you that your story made a difference in their life. That your story touched their heart or made them laugh or cry.

We are the gatekeepers, and we have both a noble and important job.

And as Samwise said, “Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?”

Terri Reid is the author of the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mysteries. An independent author, Reid uploaded her first book “Loose Ends – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery” in August 2010. By the end of 2013, “Loose Ends” had sold over 200,000 copies. This year she celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Loose Ends.

In addition to the Mary O’Reilly Series, she has written several other series including The Willoughby Witches, The Blackwood Files, The Order of Brigid’s Cross, The Legend of the Horsemen, and A Shear Disaster Mystery Series.

Reid has enjoyed Top Rated and Hot New Release status in the Women Sleuths and Paranormal Romance category through Amazon US. Her books have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and German and are also available in print and audio versions.

Reid has been quoted in several books about the self-publishing industry including “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran and “Interviews with Indie Authors: Top Tips from Successful Self-Published Authors” by Claire and Tim Ridgway.

She was the keynote speaker for Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair in Lumberton, N.C., a guest presenter at Love Is Murder in Chicago, a guest lecturer at a number of universities, and has been the opening speaker for the Illinois Paranormal Conference.

Reid lives in northwest Illinois near Freeport, Illinois, the setting of the Mary O’Reilly series. A mother of seven and a grandmother of 21, she loves sharing ghost stories with her family.

She writes a weekly blog called Freaky Friday through her website at and can be reached at

March 15, 2021

The Power of Kindness

Tanya Eavenson

I’ve heard it once said, “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” The words of Leo Buscaglia have echoed in my heart these many years but more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been difficult to watch family, friends, and strangers deal with the hardships of the past year, but one of the methods I’ve learned to combat the outcomes from this virus is with kindness.

There are many ways to show acts of kindness within your community and churches, and today, I will share a few of those.

1) Begin a can drive for your local food bank.

Over this past Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I invited others to join me in providing canned goods for our local food bank. While we collected only a small amount, every can makes a difference in replenishing the food bank’s resources that many count on for their daily living.  

2) Make masks. Buy masks. Give them away.

A fun project I joined others in was a mask giveaway. Granted, I can’t sew a button on a shirt and get it to stay, so mask making was out of the question, but I certainly could buy masks. Those who participated either bought or made masks, then donated them to their local schools. Of course, the homemade masks were a huge hit with all the characters from books and movies, and we were providing a need. Those children’s smiles were priceless!

3) Pick up your phone and call someone.

This is probably the easiest way to show kindness during the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s also one of the most impactful. A simple phone call brightens someone’s day as well as their outlook.

4) Write a letter.

Until recently, writing letters and sending cards was considered a lost art. With the pandemic, both have made a resurgence. When email and text are options, why bother with pen and paper? It goes back to making that simple contact with a friend, family, or stranger that lets them know they are loved and not forgotten.

5) Help a family with Covid.

I’m speaking from experience when I say, please, help a family sick with the COVID-19 virus. Right after Thanksgiving last year, my son came down with a fever, then my youngest daughter, and it didn’t stop there. I prayed that I would be the last one to get the virus so I could take care of everyone. My prayer was mostly answered. Maybe I should have prayed not to get it, but that’s another post. 😊 By the time I came down with the virus, the kids were on their way to recovery, but my husband was very ill, and I could barely move. I was to the point I couldn’t take care of anyone, even myself.

One afternoon I threw some porkchops and carrots in the crockpot for dinner. Well, I was so sick, I slept most of the day until I was abruptly awakened by my hungry husband hunting food. “It’s in the crockpot,” I told him from my feverish bed.

There’s not much I can say about that meal but to show you the picture. As you can see, my poor husband tried to eat the corner of a pork chop. But shortly after I took this picture, my cell chimed, and someone offered to bring dinner.

“Please,” I almost begged, so thankful my family wouldn’t go hungry because I just couldn’t care for them.

Let me say, for the next week, food and groceries were dropped off on the bench at the front of our house. It still brings tears to my eyes. We were in such need and the kindness of others helped us make it through our experience with COVID.

6) Volunteer.

One of the greatest acts of kindness is volunteerism. Being a part of a community with people from different ethnic groups and backgrounds who come together to serve their neighbors, strangers, as if they are serving themselves. It is a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that needs more kindness than ever.

A genuine smile, a listening ear, and a caring heart are greatly impactful. With simple acts of kindness, we potentially have the power to turn a life around. Let’s remember we do make a difference.

How are you making a difference in the lives around you? 

Have more tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

Tanya Eavenson is an award-winning Christian romance novelist. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. You can find her at her website

March 12, 2021

Humorous Poetry

Sara Robinson

I have spent all my previous columns on the mechanics and cultures of poetry, but have yet to discuss a lighter form, humor as an essential topic for poetry. I am not talking about limericks, puns, or cowboy poetry doggerel, but the type of humorous poetry whose principal role is make the reader smile. Who writes that? For starters, Billy Collins and Garrison Keillor come to mind for modern day writers. Even back in the early centuries of poetry there has been much “lighter-hearted” compositions. Think Shakespeare as the quintessential reference.

But let us discuss modern times. How can we persuade our reading public that poets can be funny, amusing, memorable in a “smiley” kind of way? We can try adventurous rhymes, heavy alliteration, bizarre visuals, and tongue-in-cheek wordsmithing. In fact, we can gain readers’ attention with a book title like The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins. He has a poem in there, “On Rhyme,” that pokes fun at the old rhyme scheme for remembering which months have thirty days or where in Spain rain pours. But this poem has no rhyme to it! This poem is really a lighter approach to a wonderful memory he had about a trip. Another poet, Patrick Chewning, has a chapbook, Chicken-Fried Escargot. What a title, right? His poem, “Priorities,” from this book, speaks to his love of fishing and his love of writing poetry. I love this line, “If someone doesn’t like your fish poem, he probably can’t fish.” When we talk of love of nature and can see humor and humanity in it, then we are offering up a great connection.

One of my favorites, Nikki Giovanni, in her poem: “Letting the Air Out (of my tires)” offers right at the start, “This is not / a country song // I am not / a dixie chick/… I am smiling at this point because I know she is going to make a big point later in the piece.

And she delivers eloquently how the humanness of us all makes us forgive and move on, appreciating the frailty of mankind.

So, humor in our poetry can give us an opportunity to present strong messages in a less intimidating and serious way. Smile, this is only a movie.

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.

The subtle power and intense imagination in these poems will certainly appeal to all readers. The most impressive quality of these poems is that the poet is able to fill the reader’s mind with illumination, which is the mark of genius and the guarantee of truth.

March 11, 2021

Writing Conferences Are Still Important

Susan Reichert

Writing conferences are a must for writers. These are the things we experience at writer conferences:

Education in Writing (honing our skills)

Network with other writers, agents and publishers

Advice on marketing and publishing

Fortunately, virtual conferences are here for us and we will experience the same benefits.

Well known author, Patricia Bradley posted March 9, " You can attend a virtual conference at home in your pajamas if you want to. Doesn’t that sound heavenly to all you introverted writers out there? And for the extroverts like me, there will be chats where we can connect to all our friends!"Saturday, March 20, 2021 MidSouth Christian Writers Virtual Conference. This is just nine days from now so you need to register now.

Rachel Hauck is the Keynote Speaker. Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

Rachel is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award winner. Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an original Hallmark movie. Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews. A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she teaches workshops and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.

So don't delay, register now for the virtual conference March 20. For more information go to their webisite

March 10, 2021

What Can We Authors Write That Might Make A Difference?

Michael Hicks Thompson

As Susan Reichert says, and I paraphrase, Let’s make 2021 better, using Suite T to speak life into our new year by discussing opportunities that may open because of what we went through during 2020, one of the worst years any of us have ever experienced. What new venues did we find to cope? What ways do we have to help others? What can we authors write that might make a difference in the lives of those in 2021. What things would we like to see come about to make this year better?

Susan Reichert could not have asked a more pertinent question of the authors she supports and nourishes.

So, here’s my humble, feeble contribution.

First, a confession. I did not look to the Bible for answers to all that happened in 2020, so much as I did books, articles about Covid-19, social justice, blm, the riots, Antifa, the election, and all the subsequent political nastiness played out on the public stage. I should have spent more time in the Bible, but I was glued to news and information about all the issues we suddenly began facing.

2020 was a year that will go down in infamy, as Roosevelt said about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The public discourse in 2020 was acrimonious, contentious, divisive. Politics from all parties showed their nasty underbellies. The Covid scare was worse. Frankly, 2020 stank.

But it’s over. What do we do now?

Well, we can’t ignore the fact that more of the same could repeat. Nobody knows what will happen. But America is under attack. That much is clear.

Me? I believe it’s time to pray like we’ve never prayed before. Will you pray with me now? Right now?

“Our Father, who is in heaven, you are the Almighty, the Creator of all that exists. We are under siege from the evil one. Will you guide us out of his misery? Will you show us how to think? Will you lead those who’ve never tasted the love and forgiveness of Jesus to do so this year? We are in travail. We are confused. It’s as you predicted, people will call evil good, and good evil. LORD, we beg you to not separate us from each other. There is already too much civil enmity within families. We need your peace to fall upon us, shine on us like the noon day sun; take away our own iniquities and sins, as we are all sinners in the face of our Savior. Show those who seek to do you harm the wicked ways of their heart. All this and so much more our Spirit calls out to you for help. We, LORD, are not in control. You are. And that gives us the only comfort and hope we have for 2021, and beyond.” 

While I’ve not addressed all the ideas Susan has for Suite T and 2021, the one that I wanted to concentrate on most was this: What can we authors write that might make a difference in the lives of those in 2021.

Michael Hicks Thompson has written six Christian novels, four of them winning several major literary awards, including The Selah award for Best Mystery Suspense from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Association for The Rector—A Christian Murder Mystery; two Gold Winners from the International Books Awards, Winner for Best Religion Fiction from the Beverly Hills Book Awards (The Rector), Winner for Best Religion Fiction for the Inde Excellence Awards, Grand Prize Winner for best book (The Actress) from the International KCT Awards, Best Christian Thriller from the Pinnacle Awards (The Actress), one Silver IPPY and two Bronze IPPYs from the Independent Book Publishers Asso., for his DAVID books, plus several other awards.

Be on the lookout for his latest suspense thriller, CLOUDS ABOVE, a plausible sci-fi of a 2035 world without clean water. It’s already predicted.

Visit Michael at:

March 9, 2021

Mid-South Christian Writers Virtual Conference ~ Don't Miss

Patricia Bradley 

I’m excited to announce we’re having a virtual writer’s conference!

WHO? MidSouth Christian Writers Conference

Keynote? The AWESOME Rachel Hauck!

WHEN?  Saturday, March 20, 2021…unless you’d like to also attend the pre-conference workshops which will be March 19. For more details check out the website. But first a word about virtual conferences.

A virtual conference? I hear the groanings already, but have you ever been to a virtual writers conference? These days, it’s the only kind I’ve found, and I’ve learned when handed lemons, make lemonade! So…while I love in-person conferences, there are advantages to a virtual one.

You can attend a virtual conference at home in your pajamas if you want to. Doesn’t that sound heavenly to all you introverted writers out there? And for the extroverts like me, there will be chats where we can connect to all our friends!

At an in-person conference, there’s no way to take all the workshops offered, but when you attend a virtual conference, you get access to all the sessions for a limited time—like six months. For example…at the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference there are twelve sessions with a mixture of fiction and non-fiction topics ranging from how to indie publish and writing for children to writing dialogue (Rachel Hauck is teaching this one!) and many more. You can attend four live sessions and later watch the others at your leisure (in your pjs). Here’s a link to the schedule.

The total cost is so much less than an in-person conference. Twelve workshops for $45! (And no hotel costs!) And if you want to attend the Friday sessions (I’m teaching one on your characters journey) there are four 3-hour intensive sessions for an additional $35 each. Like the workshops of Saturday, you can attend one and have access to the others later. That’s a lot of craft to grab hold of.

At the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference, you’ll get lots of encouragement…and I almost forgot! You’ll get an opportunity to hear from editors and agents on what they’re looking for, and an opportunity to submit a one-sheet to the editor or agent of your choice. If you’re not sure what a One-Sheet is, check out Workshop Session 2 with Bethany Jett. You’ll learn how to create a One-Sheet that will grab that editor or agent’s attention.

So, what are you waiting for? Time is running out, and we have only so many attendees that we can take. Click here for more information on the conference.

                                                                     Patricia Bradley

March 8, 2021

Finding Yourself Inside the Quiet

Connie Mann

Any fellow planners out there? Nothing makes me happier than a shiny new goal and a world of possibilities. I don’t need to know all the details at the outset, but I need a general direction to get started. I am also a checklist girl from way back. I get positively giddy checking tasks off my to-do list and feeling like I am making progress toward a goal.

I should also add that I am very much a people person and spending too much time alone makes me squirrely.

Enter 2020 when life as we know it came to a screeching halt.

March 5, 2021

Time Periods

 Camille Boucheron

I am Historical Romance writer Camille Boucheron. I am the author of The Seamstress, The Raven and the Rogue, Vixen Blade, Soul of a Pirate, Pirate’s Fortune and The Songbird. I am also Editor-In-Chief at The Eclectic Coast Magazine.

I have always enjoyed historical books and movies. When I am researching a new novel, I immerse myself in that time period. I study everything about it from clothes, to food, to mannerisms of speech. While researching Vixen Blade, I found a real sword to hold and swing so I could better understand what my character felt when she was engaged in battle. For Soul of a Pirate, I had to learn the art of poison and for Pirate’s Fortune (soon to be released) I extensively studied the origins of insane asylums. An avid student of history, The French Revolution features prominently in The Raven and The Rogue. For The Seamstress, I had to learn about costume design and organized crime.

Camille Boucheron

I knew very early in life I was a writer. It was something I felt inside of myself. I remember finding my mother’s typewriter in the basement. Clicking open the shiny latches, I felt as if I’d discovered a magical treasure. I still smell the ink, hear the distinct sound of the clacking as the keys struck the paper, and the bright ding as I reached the end of the sentence. The arts have always held sway over me. Music, art, sculpture, but writing has always been my truest love.

Throughout my life, whatever tragedy or triumph I have faced, writing is the one constant in my life. When I was homeless, I wrote on spiral notebooks purchased from the dollar store. Through tears, through misery, the force that called me to write burned in my soul. During that dark and broken chapter of my life, I wrote my favorite novel, Vixen Blade. Writing that novel helped me to cope with the dire circumstances I faced.

Talia from Vixen Blade is my favorite character because she was born from strife. All of my characters are survivors of misfortune, but deadly when pushed too far. I do not write bodice rippers or explicit stories. Sometimes a great kiss between the hero and heroine is all you need.

There was never a time I didn’t write. I remember reading a quote once that said, “Writers write, everyone else makes excuses.”

Being a writer isn’t easy. Putting yourself out before the masses to be critiqued can be devastating when someone gives your work one star or writes an entire essay on why they hated it. I also learned early on that people correlate monetary success with being a writer. Being a writer means being able to handle and accept rejection on a personal level. Before people could independently publish, if you wanted to be published you ran the risk of having your work returned to you with a simple and direct letter. In my case it read something like this. “This does not fit our needs at the time. Thank you for your interest in our company. Please check out our latest releases.” It was harder for me to get published because I don’t write sweet formula romance. I write sweeping and adventurous stories.

My favorite books are Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, every novel in The Lord of The Rings series, and The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

I have been writing professionally for over twenty five years and write on a daily basis. When I am not writing novels, I am working on stories for The Eclectic Coast Magazine. Writing is not a hobby or pastime for me. It is in my blood, it is the beating in my heart. When a new novel comes to my mind, I write the entire outline as fast as I can on whatever is available. I wrote the synopsis for my latest work on the back of a school lunch menu because it was all I could grab at the moment.

I will always be a writer. It is not about making a fortune, but about being fortunate to call myself a writer and share my stories.

Camille Boucheron is the author of The Seamstress, The Raven and the Rogue, Vixen Blade, Soul of a Pirate, Pirate’s Fortune, and L’oiseau Chanteur. She is Editor-in-Chief at The Eclectic Coast Magazine and currently resides in the beautiful coastal community of Gulfport, Mississippi.

March 4, 2021

A Book of Hope

 Kay DiBianca

“A book of hope in troubled times.” That was the last sentence of a lovely endorsement for my second novel, Dead Man’s Watch, by fellow author Debbie Burke. Debbie is an accomplished writer and a woman with a considerable amount of common sense, so I was deeply touched by her comments.

The theme of the book, “Saving one life is like saving the whole world,” is a paraphrase of a statement from the Jerusalem Talmud. I came up with the idea after a particularly meaningful Torah study where we discussed the Genesis account of the life of Joseph.

March 3, 2021

It 's The Way I Write!

 Patricia Bradley

Oh, my. It is almost the end of February and time to take a look at the goals I’ve set for 2021 and see where I am in the scheme of things. *sigh*

Uh…let me see. My books run anywhere from 90,000 to a 100,000 words. My first goal for the fourth book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers was to have 20,000 words of the first draft written by the end of February.

March 2, 2021

Let’s Get lost For A While…

Stephanie Payne Hurt

This has been a crazy year and we’re only a little over a month in. But, as writers, we have the chance to help people that are depressed, anxious, or even beyond agitated. We, the writers of the world can help change their mindset, if just for a little while. And surprisingly enough, that could be all it takes to get them out of that deep void that things of this world bring on.

That’s one of the reasons I began writing romance. I wanted to make a difference. You might be asking, how does romance change anything. Well, let me enlighten you. A romance novel can take you to another time, another world, another life. Think about it. In a romance, the main characters are moving toward one another in a story that can be set in a contemporary setting, or maybe a castle in the medieval times, but it’s not focused on the now, which is a little scary. A romance novel is focused on the two main characters finding the love that will bring them together. And for a time, the reader can join them on that journey.

In the world we’re in at the moment, authors are finding new ways to get their work in front of people. We’re using social media, blogging, magazines, and podcasts to get the word out. It seems like a bygone era when we would do author signings, writing conventions, and meet and greets. So, as authors, we’re finding a way. We have to evolve with the changing times.

I’ve ramped up my social media posting which includes my blog posts. It’s amazing the response that many writers, including myself, are getting through social media. But it’s one of the few ways we can reach out to our readers. And the funny thing is, the readers are reaching out to writers through social media. They are hungry, almost desperate for the release that our books can give them. I’m in awe of some of the comments I’ve received from my fans. They need to get lost, if only for a couple of hours.

Most authors are stepping out of their comfort zone, myself included. I’ve set up a podcast. Some authors are doing vlogs and zoom book tours. Recently I participated in a video with fellow Cowboy Romance authors that showcased our newest books. It was fun and the fans were thrilled. We were able to get in front of our fans as well as give them a smile. As for my podcast, it’s still in the works, but I will be releasing the first session this month. It will focus on coffee time, writing, and showcasing my fellow authors in interviews or snippets from their books. It’s one way to get the word out.

Now, during this trying time, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone with a new genre. Yes, you heard me right. My new series is a Christian Suspense Romance. It’s full of spine-tingling mystery, dabbled with romance and suspense that will have you guessing until the end as to what will happen. These are the kind of books that help people get lost for a while. They need something to test their mind and send them on a trip to the unknown. That’s my aim in this new series, In Harm’s Way.

One of the sad things about this current situation we’re in is the lack of family vacations. So many are having to cancel plans and it’s heartbreaking. But through the words of a book, you can take a trip to an exotic island, a hot desert, the Tuscan hills, or even to the snowy plains of Montana. But, as writers, we have the pleasure of taking our readers on a mini vacation. And if we word it right, they’ll feel like they’re right there with the characters. I had a reader tell me they felt the snow on their face, which made me squeal with delight. I hit my mark.

Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend, make it special. Set up some candles, the fine china, and serve your sweet tea or wine in goblets. You can include the kids and make it a special family night. The theme is love, and we can show that through our actions. Eat a little extra chocolate and sit down with a book that can be read to all ages. Maybe read a children’s book or travel book about another land. Take your family or just yourself on a journey through the words of an author. Get lost in the moment and enjoy the time you have together. Make it special.

On a final note. Even though things look bleak, you can power through the dreary, mundane things happening now. Turn off the television and grab a book. It’s good for your mental health and will take you on an adventure that can leave you breathless, happy, and refreshed. So, laugh, love, and enjoy every moment of life. And if it takes getting lost in a book for a while, then do that. All authors strive to help send you on that adventure, so make sure to let them know if you loved the book. It helps the author know that they are helping, if only for a moment.

Let’s get lost for a while…

Stephanie Hurt lives in Georgia with her husband Tommy and their son Hunter, along with two dogs, Daisy and Jake. When Stephanie is not lost in one of the worlds that she creates, she's an accountant and children's minister. She has been writing the stories that fill her mind since she was a teenager. The moment a story comes into her mind, she's mesmerized and soon she's diving into the story with a cup of hot green tea and a notebook. Before long, the story has bones and is ready for the laptop. She happily types away in the early morning and at night. You can always find her with a notebook full of stories that have yet to come to life. Follow her journey in each of her over 40 published works.

Stephanie Payne Hurt loves to hear from fans and hopes that she's helped them go to another world for at least a while!