June 30, 2021

Making the Right Choice

Bill Woods

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I took a week off from work and flew to St Martin in the Caribbean to consider my options. One option, my doctor explained, was to do nothing––skip the operations and endless treatments and accept an early death.

I stayed at a French resort on one end of Orient Beach. That first morning, I woke early to walk the mile-long beach and think.

I walked by a solitary man raking sea grass into a pile at the waterline with his feet. Judging from his leathery skin and ropy sun-bleached hair, he lived at the colony down the beach. After kicking the grass into a throne, he sat down and contentedly watched the sun rise out of the ocean. This scene is the Prologue to the novel.

In my imagination, this man had faced a dilemma like my own and had chosen to spend his last good years here. His backstory, family, and private thoughts began to emerge. On this pristine beach, he could have been from any time period. Orient Beach is my imagining him and his family on this beach in the years 1580, 2002, and 2023.

The first draft of Orient Beach was written by an engineer. Every day, I concocted plots and scenes. Every night, however, a voice nagged, “Everything you wrote today is crap. Your plot is just a frame with characters dangling from it. The plot won’t become a story until you get inside their heads.” This awakening of my feeble, underused right-side brain made me feel possessed. In my writing journal, I began to refer to this emerging aspect of myself as Muse. This banter between my Muse and my engineer raged daily.

After two years of struggle, Orient Beach began to fizzle. But this idea of a hack writer being haunted and badgered by a Muse took over my imagination. I turned “pantser” and wrote the Muse of Wallace Rose over the next four months. After, when I went back to Orient Beach, I kept my Muse in the driver’s seat and rewrote that novel into its current form over the next six months.

My original approach to writing was overly structured. Outlines. Character studies. I had to know the end before I started. I discovered answering all the “what if’s” up front makes writing boring, both to write and to read. I also discovered when my characters came alive as I wrote, they wouldn't follow the script I gave them in the outline. The “what if" choices I made up front got overruled. As a writer, I like my characters to surprise me. Fiction readers like this, too.

The start (first page of a short story or fifty pages of a novel) is gruelingly hard. Some days my Muse does not show up for work. This is when many new writers lose faith and quit, I think. I have to continually reassure myself my theme and concept are strong and worth the struggle. I’ve learned if I continue to blunder ahead and be patient, my characters will turn from cardboard cutouts into real people. After this point, the characters take over and the story begins to flow.

If I look back over my novels and short stories, my pattern is to choose my characters first. The story starts with them. Most of my characters are patterned on someone unique I’ve observed but don’t actually know. My imagination creates their current situation and backstory. I present them with tough problems and record how they solve them. Out of this a story emerges.

I have been asked how I conceived such “bizarre” characters. I get this question a lot––not from my fans, but from me. I would like to say that the inspiration for “Orient Beach” overtook me one morning and it just rolled off my fingertips as fast as I could type. The plot for the most part did; however the characters and themes only became fully formed after exhausting rewrites and polishing.

In Orient Beach, digging into the psyche of my characters, discovering their motivations, their unique insights, was like panning for gold nuggets buried beneath the gravel. It was only after the first draft that Legion and Lily Anna came alive for me. This is when I began to laugh out loud at their jokes and become too bleary to type during their calamities. I became vicariously them.

In both my novels and in my short stories, I explore tough issues (religion, love, greed, prejudice, death, war, etc). With writing I can create characters who are braver than I am, or wiser, or more moral. I throw these dilemmas at them and see what they learn. As Flannery O Connor put it, “I don’t know what I think until I write.”

The principal character in Orient Beach is this beach itself. The beach is the only character that spans the four and a half centuries covered in the novel. And like any protagonist, it faces hardships and changes over time. My other characters could not have existed anywhere other than this unique location. I'm so enthralled by the Caribbean, the only difficulty in writing scenes was going back and deleting all the superlatives that crept in.

“Orient Beach” has left me in a different place from where I started––perhaps more self-aware. It’s this anticipation of the next discovery in that vast unknown between my ears that makes me eager to write the next novel.

What happened to the cancer? I chose to have the operation. What was the primary factor for that choice? At age 15, I read Hemingway’s, For Whom the Bell Tolls. I fell in love with language, the possibilities of it. I promised myself someday, before I died, I would write a novel. I’m relatively healthy now.

Bill Woods, author of Orient Beach and The Muse of Wallace Rose, lives and writes beside the Duck River in Columbia, Tennessee.

His debut novel Orient Beach was a finalist for the Faulkner Society Award in 2018.

The 13th annual Killer Nashville awarded the Silver Falchion Award for Best Short Story Collection or Anthology of 2020 to Bill Woods for THE MUSE OF WALLACE ROSE.

June 29, 2021

The Georgia Magnolias Series

Ane Mulligan       @AneMulligan 

When I began writing this series, I had an idea for each book that I presented to my publisher when I handed in the proposal for In High Cotton, book 1. But each book was intended to stand alone. The characters in the second book, On Sugar Hill, are new.

However, in the third book, By the Sweet Gum, coming out in March 2022, I was writing a scene and realized I wanted Maggie and Sadie from the first book to be in the scene. So, I gave them a cameo appearance. Now, as I write the fourth book, Up Level Creek, several characters from On Sugar Hill show up in the story, since the fourth book takes place in Sugar Hill, too. Are you confused yet?

While this series is historical, it takes place in 1929-1932, so dialogue wasn’t hard. Perhaps some people talked a little more formally than we do today, but not a lot. I did pull a few slang words for the young people to use.

The most difficult part was the research. For the first book, I used a fictional town, so research was general. I learned some interesting things, like most rural areas of Georgia didn’t have electricity until the 1950s! Atlanta and the larger towns did. Some smaller towns did if they had a mill in the town with hydroelectric.

But when it came to Sugar Hill, I hit some roadblocks. My hometown was not incorporated until 1939. That’s the reason for the title of On Sugar Hill instead of In Sugar Hill. Before 1939, there was no official history. What is now the City of Sugar Hill back then was a militia district. The closest city, Buford (which today shares its zip code with Sugar Hill) didn’t include the militia district in its official history. The county listed the streets and schools, but that’s it. And since most were dirt roads and not paved until many years later, it’s hard to find a lot of information. One good rainstorm could change the topography of a road.

I had to rely on the oral stories of families who had lived here for generations. The folks old enough to remember the details of 1929 have either passed on or are too ill to be interviewed (of course, Covid didn’t help). Their children, however, have told me many their family stories.

One character (both in real life and in my book) was Rocky Venable. I first learned about Rocky through our theatre company performing cemetery tours in Sugar Hill. For some reason, Rocky fascinated me. Then, I met his great niece through church and learned more about him. I couldn’t leave him out of my story.

Because of the sketchy history prior to 1939, I’ve had to—or been able to—take some literary license as to who owned what store and exactly where it was placed. Hopefully, nobody will object and simply enjoy the story of On Sugar Hill.

I try to use real people as often as possible, when their families give me their blessing, knowing I won’t tarnish their memories. You’ll meet Rocky Venable, and Melvina Hosch in the latest release.

Another name of someone very dear to me is Bug Pugh. Bud appears by name in nearly every book I write. He was a great encourager to me. When I was the creative arts director for our church, one of my jobs was to recruit actors for the annual Easter or Christmas pageant. Have you ever tried to enlist people for those? Ninety percent of everyone gives a resounding no. But not Bud. He always said yes. He loved being in them. He was so enthusiastic, I learned to ask him first. It always started the project off on a positive note. He’s now passed on to Heaven, but I love to keep his memory alive and honor him. To me, no book is complete without his delightful self in it.

I’m truly enjoying writing in the late twenties and early thirties. I plan to camp out here for as long as stories show up on my doorstep. Lately, I’ve started doing a some of my writing at our town’s newly opened history museum, run by the Sugar Hill Historical Society. If you’re around our neck of the woods, be sure to stop in and say hey. We’ll show you around. Our downtown is one block long – but it’s a packed one block.

Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, BookBub, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, and The Write Conversation.

June 28, 2021

Downsize, Upsize, Which is the Right Size?

Meloday Carlson

For some ironic and absurd reason, tiny homes have always fascinated me. The main reason I say it’s ironic is because my husband is 6’6” tall. Get the picture? He doesn’t exactly fit easily into small spaces. The absurd part of this flawed equation is my fault. I love home décor—things like pretty dishes and lamps and linens and furnishings—things that require space. These two factors do not lend themselves to less-is-more tiny house living.

Just the same I’ve enjoyed creating some fun ‘small spaces’ over the years. Like our redesigned RV, a renovated tiny beach cabin, a mini guesthouse, a scaled down writing studio and a few other compact habitats. I think it might all stem back to my favorite childhood toy—a rickety metal dollhouse filled with my homemade pixie sized furnishings.

So anyway, I got my first real taste of honest-to-goodness downsizing about six years ago when we went from 3,500 square feet of living space (that we’d occupied for almost twenty years) to 1,700. Let’s just say we had the biggest yard sale the neighborhood had ever seen. They still talk about it. Not much later, we downsized even more by selling the beach cabin and most of its furnishings. Naturally, our dramatic ‘downsize’ year resulted in a ‘temporary’ storage unit (which we still have!).

Although I liked our smaller home, it was an adjustment and a lot less space. Our three bedroom house (which held two office spaces) became a huge challenge for having guests? And I love being hospitable. But where do you put them? Another thing was troubling. We had this oversized never-landscaped lot. We loved living in town, but half an acre of dirt and weeds required massive work, followed by maintenance. Not exactly the downsized we’d been dreaming of.

So I got an idea. What if we split the lot and built on the other side? To that end, we constructed a ‘barn’ with two very small studio apartments above it. And then, just one year ago, we sold our 1,700 square foot house (in a matter of days!) and quickly moved into the apartments. Each studio is just over 300 square feet—real tiny living! We started summer with more donating household goods, more packing, more storing, more downsizing madness. Our friends thought we were crazy.

It wasn’t long before I thought our friends could be right. Besides discovering that 700 square feet—including two tiny kitchenettes and baths—is a formula for severe cabin fever (especially during winter and Covid!) we began to dream of upsizing. We began to design the home we wanted to create in the front part of our recently divided lot. I drew up plans for a house very similar the one we’d sold (which I greatly missed in our tight second floor quarters). Suddenly 1,700 square feet sounded like a mansion! Especially with the two apartments to use for guests after the house was finished.

But everything seemed to take longer than expected. While waiting on permits, we built a small ‘shed’ to use for storage now and perhaps my writing studio later. In the meantime, I’m writing in a cave-like book storage room in back of the barn. But we weren’t completely deprived. While it was still summer, we threw together a covered outdoor living room/kitchen (partly to store furniture) but also to enjoy during warm weather. And we hardscaped around it, adding a small raised garden and fishpond. Okay, I’ll admit it, our ‘downsize’ was steadily growing by ‘small’ increments. But it made things more livable. At least during warmer seasons. But winter was coming.

It was in autumn, with building finally begun, that my big husband got it into his big head to make our house bigger. He decided we needed a second story. While I was off visiting my sister, a second floor replaced what was supposed to be a small attic. I came home to find a tall house—much larger than the simple single-story ranch style home I’d envisioned. So much for downsizing. And, of course, this change brought a whole slew of new challenges with it. Not to mention severely slowing down what should’ve been a fairly simple build. I thought six months at the most.

So here I am, one year later, still living in small crowded spaces, longing for roomier ones, and suddenly my new novel Home Sweet Tiny Home is about to release. I had such fun writing that lighthearted story . . . back before my life changed so drastically. I lived vicariously through my main character. A widowed empty-nester, her McMansion was too much for her, and while binging on HGTV tiny house shows, she fell in love with the idea of a major downsize—and subsequently reinvented her life. Needless to say, I was still infatuated with small spaces while writing that book. I still believed less was more and that pixies could fly. Maybe I still believe in some of these things—tempered with experience.

What we have wound up with in our downsize-upsize adventure is a bit of both. Our nearly finished home of 1,700 square feet (plus an oversized unfinished attic) as well as a ‘barn’ with two studio apartments, a separate small studio, and an outdoor living area. Downsize, really? It’s like we created a compound! But it works for us. And with mostly hardscape, yardwork is a breeze.

So today, I must ask myself: what have I learned in my adventures of downsizing (and upsizing) over these past six years? Here is what I came up with: 1) People/relationships (like husbands and construction workers) are more important than things (like cabinets and plumbing fixtures). 2) Downsizing is not for the faint of heart or the wistful daydreamer. 3) Patience is a virtue I still need to work on. And 4) I never want to downsize or upsize again.

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her novels range from
serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to
teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including Romantic Time's Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold
Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV.
Hallmark movie ALL SUMMER LONG (2019) and another in the works Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at

June 25, 2021

Why Do I Teach About Contemporary Women Poets?

 Sara M/ Robinson

I was asked this on the first day of my second fall UVA-OLLI session. The easy answer is because I like so many of the contemporary women poets. But that’s too easy; and I’m skirting around the issue. The issue is that women poets have not always received the recognition they’ve earned. I’m not sure I know why, but I can tell you that when I read bios of well-known women poets(i.e. Anne Sexton, Rae Armantrout, Maxine Kumin) I learn that most were influenced by well-known male poets(i.e. Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams). You get the drift.

In one source, I did learn that Gertrude Stein mentored Ernest Hemingway through her famous Paris writing salon. I read in scarce commentaries of the influence of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop; I do find comfort in that. However, it’s not enough for me. I want to see more of our spectacular women poets being cited and mentioned more frequently in journals and literary magazines. Even anthologies need to step up and increase the exposure. For example, I use the 2nd edition (2003) of the Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry in the course I teach. This text contains seventy-five outstanding poets, but only twenty-two are women! Not even half! In the Best of the Best of American Poetry (25th Anniversary Edition, 2013) there are one hundred poems, of which only thirty-eight are written by women. What gives? I could continue with my count, but again you get the picture. We have Pulitzer Prize winning women poets and yet one had to work pretty darn hard to find them in years past. And, by the way, out of ninety-one Pulitzer Prizes given for poetry, only twenty-five have been given to women. Having said that, to be fair, starting with 2010, all the poetry prizes have gone to women. So, maybe something is happening.

So, why do I teach a course on Contemporary Women Poets? Because I want to do my part in getting their voices out there. I don’t buy into the line that there are not as many as men. They are out there all right. We shouldn’t have to dig with a backhoe to find them either. I want to see shelves filled with Tracey K. Smith, Jane Hirshfield, and Sharon Olds books, Lesley Wheeler and Charlotte Matthews, too. I want to see more community-based readings where the list is balanced between the men and women. I want to read more essays about the influence of women poets on our current literature.

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).


June 24, 2021

5 Questions to Ask Ourselves Before Marketing

Susan Reichert

There are lots of questions we can ask ourselves when we get ready to market our books. But today let us look at five.

1.Why would a reader want to read my book?

This is a very important question. Can you list at least three reasons they should want to read your book? If you cannot answer this question, how can they?

2. Who is my audience? Or yet a better question would be, who should read my book.

You see there is a difference in who our audience might be and who should read our book. Think about this carefully.

3. What formats should I offer my book in that would make it easy for people?

There are several . . . paper, audio, digital. Can you think of anymore?

4. Where would I like to sell my books? Obviously, you would want it on and Barnes and Noble . . . but are there other places you would like to sell your book. (Remember who you determined should be your audience and where you would find these people.)

5. How much time, energy and money do I want to invest in marketing this book? Am I in it for the long haul, or am I just willing to do a little?

Marketing is not easy for authors. But it is necessary to get our books out for the people to read.

We must put time in developing a plan for our book and be willing to be flexible to add to what we are already doing to reach more people.

It is a plus if we decide up front what we want our efforts to achieve. Now, can we measure what our results will be? Yes, we can keep up with that, it just takes a little additional effort.

Susan Reichert, author of Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life. She has written numerous magazine articles and stories in anthology books. She is a speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. Also, the founder of

Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group), and founder and co-publisher of Southern Writers Magazine. A national magazine for authors and readers (which is retired now). At the time she was the Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

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

Visit Susan at:

Amazon -

Member of the: DAR; First Families of Mississippi.

June 23, 2021


John M. Floyd

Question: When a book is published and released to the marketplace, if no one’s there to hear it land, does it still make a sound?

That’s what happened to me and my publisher in April 2020, not long after Covid-19 arrived. My eighth book was released then, and I think my diehard fans—thanks, both of you! —were the only ones who knew about it.

Here’s some background. I write mostly short mystery stories for magazines. I’ve written a lot of them, and Dogwood Press, a small but traditional publisher here in Mississippi, has produced seven collections of my short stories over the past fifteen years, a total of 240 stories.

For those who might be interested in how that works, we grouped thirty of my stories in each of the first two hardcover collections (Rainbow’s End and Midnight), forty stories in the third (Clockwork), thirty in the fourth (Deception), fifty in the fifth (Fifty Mysteries, which was softcover), and thirty stories each in the sixth and seventh books (Dreamland and The Barrens). Almost all the stories had previously appeared in magazines and short-story anthologies, and Dogwood Press allowed me to retain the rights to the individual stories should I choose to market them again in the future. Thankfully the books have sold pretty well—Rainbow’s End had a second hardcover print run—and I think it helped that each of them was “launched” at a signing at a large bookstore nearby. Mainly because of my publisher’s contacts, the books have been featured regularly at other signings at chain bookstores, independent stores, and libraries.

My eighth project with Dogwood Press was a bit different. It’s a book of 300 pieces of my light verse, all of them previously published in places like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Farm & Ranch Living, Grit, The Mystery Review, etc. That collection of poetry, called Lighten Up a Little, was different in another way also: it’s the book I was referring to earlier, the one that was published in the first months of the pandemic last year. At that time, we posted on Facebook that the book would available via Amazon and the publisher’s website, but because our usual launch venue had closed its doors to in-store customers by then, there was no kickoff signing. The collection sold a number of copies and is still selling occasionally, though not as well as it would’ve if I’d been out making appearances and signing books as I’d done with previous releases.

My publisher’s answer to all this, since things have begun opening more now due to the decrease in the number of Covid cases, will be to feature this most recent book at signings in the last half of this year, especially in bookstores during the Christmas season. The publisher and I are optimistic that the collection will get a good reception because it will still be “new” to stores and to most bookbuyers. (Note: I have so far done about a dozen Zoom sessions with literary groups and book clubs and have sold some books that way as well.) So that’s been my experience with new-book releases during the pandemic. What’s happened with the writing and selling of my mystery short stories, though, is a different matter. As terrible as these recent times have been, their effect on my writing has been minimal. The truth is, I wrote more short stories (35) in 2020 than the year before and have written 52 stories in the seventeen months since the pandemic began—probably because my wife and I have been home for the duration. No trips, meetings, gatherings, conferences, or even errands, so I’ve had a lot of time to dream up stories and write them down.

My story sales have been mostly unaffected as well. Some print magazines were forced to stop or slow operations for a while, but most are still afloat and thriving, and in these days of emailed submissions, sending stories into them and to online publications was easy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have 67 short stories published in magazines and anthologies since the lockdowns began, and I have 39 more that have been accepted (sold) but not yet published. Thank goodness for electronic submissions, proofs, edits, contracts, etc.

There’s one other bright spot, about my writing during these unusual times. Last year I received a note from a publisher in Moscow (they reached me via my website) saying they’d seen my short stories in The Saturday Evening Post and would like to publish some of them in a bilingual-edition book, with my stories appearing in English side-by-side with their Russian translations. (Another note: The print edition of the S. E. Post features six pieces of short fiction each year—one in every issue.) I immediately put the publisher in touch with my literary agent, and they soon struck a deal. That book, to be called Selected Stories by John M. Floyd, is due out later this year from VKN Publishing in Moscow. This opportunity was proof to me that short fiction in U.S. magazines do sometimes receive a degree of international exposure. In closing, I’ve found that yes, the pandemic has hurt the sales of my latest book—but

mainly because it prevented us from doing a proper in-person launch event and other signings when it was released. And I’ve experienced no negative impact on my short-story production or sales. Having said that, I’m glad—for many reasons—that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us now, and I wish my fellow writers good luck with all their literary endeavors in the future.

Keep reading, and writing!

John M. Floyd’s work has appeared in more than 300 different publications, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and three editions of The Best American Mystery Stories. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar Award finalist, a Shamus Award finalist, a four-time Derringer Award winner, the 2018 recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and the author of nine books.  Visit:


June 22, 2021

A Twelve-Step Program for NOT Becoming a Successful Writer

DiAnn Mills 


We fiction writers chase successful and entertaining stories like toddlers on a sugar-high. Im one of them. I can dream and plan and plot all day long. Yet sometimes we can be stopped cold by research, social media, and the reality of all the hard work writing takes.


For writers who live and breathe their writing addiction but have a problem staying on task, Im offering a twelve-step program called Story Chasers (SC). These are writers who want to be called authors but dont want to do the necessary work. That is not us! So, let’s beware.


1. Pacifier Writers

A pacifier is used to keep a baby from crying. In the instance of a writer, its whining about the publishing industry instead of writing better manuscripts.


2. Paint Writers

Dont paint your world with illusions such as, My mom says Im the best writer in the state. I dont need feedback.” If you want realistic feedback, ask someone other than a relative.


3. Passionless Writers

If a writers passion is not for his/her story idea, then a reader wont be enthusiastic about it either. Develop ideas that keep you excited about the project.


4.  Peacock Writers

Ouch. Pride stops us from success. It also brands us as unteachable. A humble writer learns the craft, develops a sense of the market, and is enthusiastic about edits.


5. Peanut Writers

George Washington Carver discovered 325 uses for the peanut. A peanut writer pens everything from T-shirt sayings to theology books. We all have varied interests, and thats commendable, but find your writing niche and stick with it.


6. Perspiration Writers

Some writers dont like to sweat. If youre not dripping over your manuscript, then youre not writing a quality story. Writing is a contact sport: your mind is engaged with your heart and fingers. Sweat. Its good for the soul.


7. Pickle Writers

Weak writers are afraid to write themselves into a pickle. They dont want the challenge of discovery, research, or unpredictable outcomes. They also dont sell their work.


8. Plumber Writers

Plumber writers flush all their work down the toilet and never seek publication. Need I say more? Find your confidence and reach your goals.


9. Plywood Writers

Plywood is flexible, inexpensive, easy to work with and reusable. But its very hard to bend perpendicular to the grain. A plywood writer refuses to accept constructive criticism or change with the industry. In short, a plywood writer insists upon writing his/her way. 


10. Popcorn Writers

Popcorn writers are those who jump from one frying pan to another. They submit, are rejected, and submit again without looking at the manuscript for ways to improve it.


11. Potato Writers

Some writers dont want to write for free. Its beneath them. Small potatoes grow into big ones, and those nonpaying manuscripts build our resume. A writer always learns in the creative process.


12. Piranha writers   

Some writers will do anything to keep from writing. They like to swim through swift

waters with published writers, but they have one excuse after another not to work. They never make deadlines, even self-imposed ones. Piranha writers set themselves up to be devoured by the sharks who are swimming upstream.


If youve discovered a characteristic that slides you into a Story Chaser mode, nows the time to change bad habits and begin the next bestseller. How are you changing your writing habits?

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.

For more info visit DiAnn Mills at:

June 18, 2021

Fun Friday with Color on Books

 Okay! Let's talk color on the covers of books.

What is the first color on which book that draws your eye first?

Why does it draw your eyes to it?

What is the second color?

Why was your eye not drawn to this one first?

And what is the third?

Do you think the third color should have been a different color?

What do you think? Remember, colors draw our attention.

June 17, 2021

Fire in Your Belly

 Sara Robinson

Sometimes we want to write strongly about events or issues that particularly affect us.

I get it. I often feel the same way. But here is the thing: How do really great poets and writers get their words across without coming across as “preachy”? The answer to that lies probably in what can be described as “poetic finesse.” We can research about embracing the “great understanding” and how to write as a “witness,” but what about the real fire that one feels. How do we harness that successfully into words and lines without failing our task?


Poets have always been viewed as having a passion for their writing. We see something, a minor thing, and we can create transformative verse that elevates our mind and if we are so lucky, the mind of the reader. Take the transformative poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos Williams. His first two lines: “so much depends / upon…”  You must agree those four words are transformative. Everything in our lives depends upon something or someone else, no matter how isolated we may be. I can sense Williams’ “fire” in those few words because they speak to such large things out of his control.


Let’s take that premise even further as we look at these opening lines from Lester Speiser: “Your violin shattered stars; / call yourself a nice Jewish / boy?” As the poem progresses, I read Speiser getting more and more angry, but not at the boy (who ended up being a hero) but at the Nazis. The reading of this poem stirred in me an anger as well for the aftermath of the Holocaust.

This anger was that the Holocaust robbed so many of their lives and their futures. This poem certainly showed me his “fire in the belly.” That was certainly his idea, I’m sure.


So, how do you channel this passion, this torch, these flaring embers into remarkable writing?

First, look at word choices. Think of powerful words that can be chosen to make your points.

Think of your senses. Which one(s) do you want to focus on? How you feel? What do you see?

I often look to my surroundings to give me ideas/inspiration. A brightly-colored dolphin fish when in the water, and just hooked, is brilliant. But when it comes onto a boat, within seconds, it turns deathly grey. What an opportunity to use this as a metaphor. Elizabeth Bishop and others have used this same fish. Does “red” conjure up something deep within you?


Search for that fire, stoke it properly, with your creativity, then transform yourself while you transform others.

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).


June 16, 2021

Why Put Existing Titles in a Collection?

Pamela S Thibodeaux

When I began my publishing career over twenty years ago, I had a full-time job, marriage, and children at home. If you factor in writing, editing, pitching, contracts, edits from publisher, setting up promotion and/or book signings, speaking events, etc., etc., etc., I decided one book a year was a feasible goal.

As the industry continued to change and evolve, I became more of a “Hybrid” author than trad-published, and a whole new world opened for me. Suddenly things like, audio books and collections and numerous distribution options became a reality. I found there is a lot of trial and error in this business, therefore, I reevaluated my writing/producing one book a year goal and changed that to one product per year and asked myself the following….

Write to market or stay true to my heart – in other words; is it about the money or about the message?

Which categories do the books fit into and what boxes can I think outside of in this?

EBook, Print, Audio, Single title, Series, Collection?

Amazon Exclusive or Wide Distribution?

Marketing (where, when, and how much money can I spend)?

All viable questions each author must answer for him/herself.

Why would an author put existing work in a collection?

Because it is a whole new product. You can offer the collection cheaper than individual titles (after all, the major work in writing, editing, etc. has already been done) and readers LOVE bargains!

Love’s Overcoming Power is a collection of 3 full-length women’s fiction novels and a novella all of which are independently published as single titles. Each had their own set of emotional challenges in writing. The Visionary deals with adult survivors of child abuse – something I never experienced and was terrified of getting wrong. The book is set on a piece of property that once belonged in my family, so researching was imminent but fun. Circles of Fate is a romantic saga covering twenty-years in the lives of the main characters. The intriguing twists and turns fate uses to bring together these people whose lives will forever be entwined was a constant rollercoaster. Keri’s Christmas Wish was a sheer joy to write because through Keri, I got to visit heaven and learn something about one of the most precious times of the year in a Christian’s life. My Heart Weeps deals with one woman’s journey through grief into new life and parallels my own after my husband’s death in 2009.

Blurb: Temptation, Abuse, Grief and Doubt are plagues common to women all over the world. In John, 16 Jesus said…. In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

In this Women's Fiction collection comprised of three full-length novels and one novella, Pamela S Thibodeaux shares stories that exemplify the power of God's love to overcome whatever situations life throws at you.

Includes: The Visionary, Circles of Fate, My Heart Weeps and Keri's Christmas Wish.

Pamela S. Thibodeaux is an award-winning author, and is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” 

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June 15, 2021

9 Important Steps in Selling Your Book

Susan Reichert

Many authors finish writing their book, publish it and then start trying to market their books.

But you can make it easier on yourself if you start your homework on marketing before and during the writing of the book.

You know what your book is about. You know the genre. So maybe doing some research into what other authors (the ones who write in your genre) will give you a much better understanding of your market. This way you are not groping in the dark for the who, how, and where.

1. Search for successful books in your genre.

2. What kind of ratings do they have?

3. How many stars?

4. How many reviews?

5. Read the reviews.

6. How many women, how many men?

7. What is the ranking?

8. Check out their websites, a lot of times you will see ways they are marketing their books.

9. If they have a blog, see how they are marketing their books there.

Then begin to analyze what they all have in common. Choose what you consider to be the top five and compare, compare, compare their results.

This will give you a much better understanding of your market.

Finally, look at their cover design and their title. Two of the most important features people will see.

It takes a little time to do research, but it is well worth it.

Susan Reichert, author of Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life. She has written numerous magazine articles and stories in anthology books. She is a speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. Also, the founder of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group), and founder and co-publisher of Southern Writers Magazine. A national magazine for authors and readers (which is retired now). At the time she was the Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

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

June 14, 2021

The Time Before and the Time Now

Rachel Fordham

I almost hate to use the word pandemic in this post, but it’s unavoidable. Don’t run off though! As much as we are sick of hearing about pandemics, masks and social distancing, it is still good to sit back and reflect, and consider what’s changed and how to move forward. Today I am narrowing in (I almost wrote zooming in, but that felt triggering too) on the pandemic and my writing.

I was halfway through writing my debut when my son was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy. I was a changed person when I finished that novel. I was aware of fear and loss in ways I hadn’t been before his diagnosis. I was also more keenly conscious of how others could lift me up, of my faith and of my love for my family. Other life events since then have confirmed to me that major events leave permanent marks on us (both good and bad) and as an author, they also affect writing.

The pandemic is not as personal as my foster care journey or raising a medically fragile child, it’s something we’ve endured as a group. It’s a shared experience, one that we are likely sick of, but also one that we will always be able to relate to each other about. On a personal level, the pandemic has not only changed the practical nature of writing for me (with my kids home, I have had to learn to write in smaller doses, versus my preferred big chunks of time), but it has also affected the stories I write.

During the pandemic I have become more aware of other’s loneliness, more conscious of our ability to reach out in creative ways, more mindful of how small gestures can brighten days and increasingly in awe of the importance of family and faith. Whenever I grow as an individual, those newly learned skills or lessons tend to sneak their way into my writing (usually without even knowing it). In a way, readers will get to know me, through my fictional characters and their journeys.

I hope that with each novel I write I dig a little deeper into the human heart and experience, while still sending readers on a romantic adventure that leaves them with a happy sigh and all the feels. During this pandemic the need to be entertained, swept away and encouraged by stories has been emphasized. We need each other! I’m sure we knew that before, but we know it in a whole new way now. It’s my hope that my latest release A Lady in Attendance, will remind readers of their importance, of forgiveness and of the healing power of love. Hazel is lonely, not because of a pandemic, but because she doesn’t know where she belongs in the world. Friendship changes everything in her story, in much the same way that connection and friendship can change so much for us.

That was a very long way of saying that the pandemic has affected my life and writing, my reading and family, and my heart.

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas, and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves
connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy
mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

June 11, 2021

Fun Friday - Top 3 Best Selling Books - A Surprise


The top three best sellers . . . (on Amazon week June 10) two of which are cookbooks and one is a political comentary and opinon book.

That is quite different, don't you think? The political commentary is sandwiched between two cookbooks.

People have been  quarantined for over a year, so I was surprised to see the #1 and #3 best sellers were cookbooks. For most of us, being at home during pandemic, are probably ready to go out and eat. . . yet cookbooks are needed. 

And after hearing all the noise this past year with politics, I was a little surprised a political book was the number two best seller.

👉So the question is this:

Would you have guessed that two cookbooks would be in the top three books in the "Best Seller" list chosen along with a political book?

Have upi ever thought about writing a "cookbook"?

Should authors think about compiling receipes their families love and putting them together to share with others? And if we deed, would it bring more attention to our other books?

Have you ever thought about writing a comentary on the political scene?


The #1 Seller Skinnytaste Meal Prep by Gina Homolka

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Save time, money, and calories with #1 New York Times bestselling author Gina Homolka's simple, smart solutions for healthy freezer meals, ready-to-serve dishes, grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches, ingenious "planned-overs," and more.



#2 Best Seller -  American Marxism by Mark R. Levin

The six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, Fox News star, and radio host Mark R. Levin explains how the dangers he warned against in the “timely yet timeless” (David Limbaugh, author of Jesus Is Risen) bestseller Liberty and Tyranny have come to pass.

#3 Best Seller - Joshua Weissman  An Unapologetic Cookbook

With no regrets, excuses, or apologies, Joshua Weissman will instruct you how with his irreverent humor, a little bit of light razzing, and over 100 perfectly delectable recipes. If you love to host and entertain; if you like a good project; if you crave control of your food; if fast food or the frozen aisle or the super-fast-super-easy cookbook keep letting your tastebuds dow