Friday, August 26, 2016

Fearless Writing?

By Susan Gabriel

Whenever I run my Fearless Writing for Women workshops, I usually have a waiting list. Many women who want to write are afraid that they aren't good enough, have nothing to say and that if they do write something it will be criticized. While they enjoy writing, and may even love it, the ensuing battle between love and fear can paralyze them. And, of course, this happens to men, too.

So is fearlessness the answer? Actually, it was only after I had taught several workshops that I realized fearlessness isn't the goal. Making peace with fear is, and realizing its relationship to creativity.

Whenever we’re being creative, fear is generally nearby. Especially if we hope to put whatever we create out into the world. For example, I have been writing novels for twenty years. Two of my novels have been Amazon and Nook #1 bestsellers. One of them (The Secret Sense of Wildflower) received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was named one of their Best Books of 2012. Yet this doesn’t stop me from questioning if I’m a good enough writer. Whenever I start a new novel. I worry (another name for fear) that my imagination will dry up, I'll have nothing to say and I will have forgotten how to write a good story. However, I keep writing year after year, and to some I may even appear fearless.  

How do I not let fear stop me? Here's the short answer: I know myself well enough to recognize the script that runs in my mind and the minds of many creative folks whenever fear is around. It consists of lines like: You’re (or I’m) not good enough. Who do you think you are? What will people think? When I hear those fearful thoughts, I acknowledge them, but I don’t let them stop me. Fear is a normal part of the creative process and is often temporary. If I get busy writing, the fear goes away. I’m suggesting that you do the same.  

The fear that keeps us from walking down dark alleys makes sense, but fear during creative endeavors isn’t helpful. Fear wants to keep us small and safe. Yet the world needs our creativity more than ever. Keep in mind, procrastination, worry and perfectionism are fear, too, and are a waste of our creative energy. So when you feel fearful, remember that you are not alone. Many other writers feel it, too. Then get busy writing.
A former marriage and family therapist, Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of Amazon #1 Bestselling novels  The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and Temple Secrets. Her other books include Lily’s Song, the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower and Grace,Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.  Author website: Author Facebook page: 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

When Things Are Not As They Seem

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine 

Once a friend telling me of one of his adventures began with, “I was awakened by the sound of rain on my windshield”. You would immediately think he was in a car asleep and the rain woke him up. I could not help but wonder, where were you when you fell asleep in your car? Another question was whether or not the car was moving? Were you asleep at the wheel? All are legitimate questions which he had easily brought up with one phrase. In other words he had my attention.

He went on to tell me he looked up and discovered it wasn’t rain at all. If not rain what was it? Again he had me! What could possibly be confused with rain? He went on to say it was very high grass that was growing along the side of the road. He had fallen asleep while driving and was plowing through the grass. It was hitting the hood and windshield of his car and sounded like rain. I am now thinking there is more to this story. He had me.

My friend is not necessarily a great story teller but he had done a great job with the beginning of this on. He had me realizing early on things were not what they seemed. He did so by simply stating what seemed to be his reality. Asleep, awakened by the rain, the realization is was not rain then the realization of his plight. This could also be a great lesson on the statement, “Perception is Reality”. His reality was changing moment by moment. 

As writers we can use the “things are not what they seem” concept in many ways. Mystery writers live by this. Mystery writers create the atmosphere of things are not what they seem. We begin to look for clues in the story to determine what reality is. The mystery writer stays ahead of us and leads us toward reality.

In a story like my friends a writer could follow his lead and use his perception of reality and the corrections made along the way. I favor this method because it goes along the lines of story- telling and I love a great story. Tell it from the perception of the characters. There is opportunity to get that perception from opposing characters with opposing realities. Then you can change their perception as many times as you want until we all come to the reality of your story.

Now back to my friend’s story. The reality of it is he had partaken in a few drinks with friends, fallen asleep at the wheel, ran off the road but was able to jerk the wheel and ended up back on the road in the opposite direction without any damage to himself or his car. Upon returning to the road and coming to a stop he realized a State Trooper had been following him and was now parked in front of him nose to nose. Now that is reality and it was as it seemed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What’s the Good in Writing?

By Linda Brooks Davis

I recently read a novel that focused on the ins and outs of legal wrangling and duplicity. It held me spellbound. But I closed it wondering what good had come of reading it.

So I made a list:

1)      It provided spellbinding entertainment from first page to last. But its story, characters, and take-away deserted me in minutes. A fleeting good.
2)      It educated me in back-room plea deals, courtroom drama, and proper evidence gathering.  But will that knowledge affect a single aspect of my life? No.
3)      It illustrated effective dialogue techniques. But much of the dialogue tested my sensibility meter. The needle slammed to its upper limits and beyond. It inspired me to nothing good. I put it down praying the memory and imagery would fade.

Shortly thereafter I read a similar novel. But its story line, characters, and take-away stuck with me. They’re tucked away in a drawer of memories, in fact. What good had come of reading this novel?

I made another list:
1)      It provided spellbinding entertainment from first page to last. Will I hold onto the story line, characters, and take-away—and certain images they created? You bet. That’s good.
2)      It educated me in back-room plea deals, courtroom drama, and proper evidence gathering.
But will that knowledge affect my life? Indeed. One character in particular has become a reference point, a measuring rod, for how to stick to the straight road in the midst of so many crooked ones. That’s good.
3)      It illustrated effective dialogue techniques, but this time the dialogue tested my sensibility meter not a whit. The needle didn’t even twitch. Has its dialogue changed me even in a small way? Yep. The dialogue’s contrast of sunlight with darkness left me repelled by the dankness—the emptiness—of the first novel and reaching for sunlight on my face and fresh air in my lungs in the second. It left me striving for similar inspiration in my writing. That’s very good.

What made the difference for me? Heart. Faith. Or inspiration if you prefer.

The first novel challenged my brain cells; the second challenged my heart. The first built my knowledge; the second built my faith. The first aroused a sense of repulsion; the second inspired me to reach beyond the good to the best.

I’ll no doubt keep reading novels similar to the first, as well as the second. Why? Because I want to seep myself in the contrasts so I’ll forever run from the void created by writing that lacks heart, faith, and inspiration. And create instead a home for both heart and faith—inspiration, if you will—between the front and back covers of whatever I write.

That’s all good.
Linda Brooks Davis, first-place winner of the 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, has lived in multiple states and outside the U.S, but she speaks Texan. Born and reared in Raymondville, a small farming town in the southernmost tip of Texas, Linda holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees. She devoted forty years to the education of students with special needs before settling down to her lifelong dream: writing. Set in 1905 pre-statehood Oklahoma, THE CALLING OF ELLA MCFARLAND, an inspirational historical with a strong romantic thread, debuted on December 1, 2015. When not writing, Linda enjoys teaching 4-year-olds at church, reading, and researching genealogy. She and her husband dote on six grandchildren, three of whom arrived in 2005--in triplicate form. In her first published article, "The Choice", which appeared in 2011 in LIVE, a publication of Gospel Publishing House, she chronicled her daughter's agonizing at-risk triplet pregnancy and the heart-wrenching choice her medical team placed before her. Linda likes to brag on her daughter and son, both veterinarians who like one another well enough to practice together. In Texas that's called learnin' to get along.You may visit Linda at Porch light's always on. 
Twitter: @LBrooksDavis  Facebook: 
YouTube Book Trailer:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Brand Are You?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Some years ago in a writing magazine, I noticed an advertisement for Kleenex®.  But they weren't hawking facial tissue.  This was a fairly official-looking admonishment to all writers advising them that Kleenex® is a registered trademark, and that whenever the word Kleenex® is used, it should be capitalized with the copyright symbol ® added to it.

Presumably this even mattered because people tend to call any brand of tissue a Kleenex®, for example, "Could you pass me a Kleenex®?"  You can already see how distracting it would be for writers to include the symbol in a novel.  Almost as distracting as the heavy-handed alternative, "Could you pass me a facial tissue?"  (People don't talk like that.)

My gut reaction was that Kleenex® should just be happy to be such a front runner that they would become the go-to word for not just their product but all others like it.  However, many products—from Ex-Lax® to Preparation H®—are equally, um, zealous about protecting their brand name.

It does have to be a little frustrating when you're Coca-Cola® and a large portion of the population refers to any kola nut-flavored carbonated drink as a "coke".  But it feels a little over the top when a catchy TV jingle like "I am stuck on Band-Aids, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me" is changed to the clumsy "I am stuck on Band-Aid brand, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me". Cramming "brand" in the middle of an established slogan suddenly sounded a little desperate.

You may be old enough to remember Funny Face Drink Mix (similar to Kool-Aid, with the kid-friendly flavors Goofy Grape, Injun Orange, Freckle Face Strawberry, Chinese Cherry, Loud Mouth Lime, and Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry).  In a short time, someone decided that two of the flavors were potentially offensive, so Injun Orange became Jolly Olly Orange, and Chinese Cherry became Choo Choo Cherry.  (I'm surprised Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry wasn't picketed for being insensitive to cowboys.)

In more recent years, perhaps you noticed when the jingle "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man" became "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks."  (That one I do get, since a friend of mine's sister works at a hardware store.)

Clearly, companies go to a lot of trouble to protect their brand.  If you're a writer, you have a brand that should be just as important to you.  While it may seem foreign to think of yourself as a product, consider Hollywood stars with established images, like Brad Pitt and Melissa McCarthy.  It's hard to picture Pitt in a slapstick role, or McCarthy playing Anne Frank.  Then there are chameleons like Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who can do both comedy and drama, but that very flexibility has become part of their brand.

The cover of a Stephen King book is distinctively Stephen King, evoking the bad vibes that lie inside.  His Maine radio station WKIT is also fit for a King, with songs like "Black Magic Woman" and other ditties that would be right at home in a soundtrack to Christine.  You know what you're gonna get when you buy a Stephen King book because of the consistency throughout his work and throughout his platform.

When readers see your name, what should come to mind?  What image will help promote your books?  Just what is it that you want to say to the world through your writing?   These are good questions to ponder as you tweak your website and before you post things on Facebook.  In defiance of the old saying, not all publicity is good publicity if it goes against the image you want to project.

As you develop your brand, follow in the attentive, consistent footsteps of proven marketing successes like Kleenex®. Becoming a brand people know and love is nothing to sneeze at.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Should I Join a Boxed Set?

By Heather Day Gilbert

Most authors I know are constantly seeking new ways of getting their books into readers' hands. One method of extending reach is to join with other authors to produce a boxed set collection.
Boxed sets might include novels or novellas that are previously published, or they might be all-new offerings published for the first time with the collection. A boxed set can be a collection by a single author, but for the purposes of this post, I'll be referring to multi-author sets.

Sets began trending a couple of years ago. Some benefits of boxed sets are:
-increased exposure to new readers (in particular, readers of other authors in the set)
-group marketing (which can be far more powerful than individual marketing)
-long-term connections made with other authors in the set
-an influx of personal author newsletter signups

But before you jump on-board a boxed set, you need to consider what will be required of you. 

Although sets vary, most sets require:
-participation from the ground-up, including input on cover art, set title/theme, release date, and marketing plans
-active participation in marketing (which includes contributing to any ads that are taken out and being involved with any online events or social media pushes)
-an determination to keep deadlines
-a willingness to share ideas and come to a consensus
-a willingness to promote the set instead of your individual book for the duration of the set

It is easy to nod your head to all the above, but when it comes down to putting these steps into practice; it can get tough, especially since sets are typically planned months in advance. Keep in mind that although other writing opportunities might arise during that time, maintaining your commitment to the set is important to its success.

The only way everyone can expect to have good royalties from the set is for each author to participate in marketing, especially since most boxed sets are priced around $0.99-$2.99 to extend their reach, and that is often split between 5-10 authors.

To avoid conflicts, many boxed set authors agree to a contract for the set. You can find a boxed set contract template here in my post on Novel Rocket.

I've been involved in two boxed sets, and I have enjoyed both of them. Yes, they required a lot of marketing, but my readership increased, as did my closeness with authors in the sets.

I would encourage you to keep boxed sets in mind as an effective marketing tool, but also be aware of the obligations that saying "yes" to a boxed set will entail.
HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winning author, is currently part of the Smoke and Mirrors romantic suspense 8-novella collection. You can find this highly rated set on Amazon for only 99 cents! Heather's Viking historical novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon Norse bestseller. She is also the author of the bestselling A Murder in the Mountains mystery series. Heather also wrote the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. You can find Heather on her WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Writing for Therapy

By Chandler Gerber

Writing is therapeutic for me.  It’s an outlet and a way to get my thoughts that are often jumbled and complex, into words that are understandable for even me.  There is a saying: “Leaders are readers”.  I love reading non-fiction books of different kinds, and oftentimes, as I read a book I am filled with new ways of thinking about problems or issues that I am facing or that we are facing as a country.  As I begin having new ways of thinking about problems, I love to be able to put down my thoughts in the form of writing as well.  They say music is art and we know that if you are a professional musician, you are considered a “music artist”.  Writing is my art form.  I love to be thinking and processing an issue and then be able to get all of the different parts put down in an orderly way.

My book, The Irony of Grace: A Journey of Forgiveness, is available.  I have been so thrilled to see the book come together over the last twelve to fifteen months!  As I dealt with the guilt and horror of causing an automobile crash that killed three people in an Amish buggy I was counselled to begin journaling.  That was back in 2012.  The concept of writing really stuck as the years have moved forward and it turned into a hobby of blogging, and then ultimately, the book being written. 

The book describes my experience of that horrible day of the crash, the weeks and months that followed, the blessings that ultimately came from that horrible situation, and even the crash in 2009 that I was a victim in.  Having been in a coma for ten days in 2009 after being t-boned in my car and appearing on the “Today” show years later to describe why driving safety is so important after what I caused in 2012, the book was a great way to share how God can use horrible situations and bring great things from them in the long run. 

I’ve learned so much about love, forgiveness, and compassion from the Amish family that I got to know after the events of 2012. I’ve been so thankful to be able to put the lessons that I’ve learned down on paper for the entire world to read about!  Life happens at a million miles per second, so in the midst of the chaos of those events, I had thousands of thoughts going through my mind all the time.  Writing and journaling and blogging became a way to organize my thoughts, then a hobby, and then an avenue to share valuable lessons that I’ve learned.

Be sure to grab my book in August, connect with me on Facebook, and continue reading in general.  Open your mind, expand your thoughts, and push yourself to do more in life than you thought was possible! God bless.
Chandler Gerber is a husband to Rachel and a father to a daughter, Shiloh, and two sons, Zander and Tripp. He was born and raised in the area around Bluffton, Indiana where he still currently resides with his family. Chandler and his wife chose from the beginning of the chaotic time in their lives that started in 2009, to stay positive, up-beat, and to ultimately bring The Irony of Grace: A Journey of Forgiveness. He has spoken around the country on the topics of driving safety, forgiveness, overcoming obstacles, and a variety of similar themes. Each of us has things in our lives that are unexpected or tragic and Chandler has devoted his life to showing others how to move through the valleys that life has to offer. He presents the same methods that he personally used to cope with tragedy when he speaks and teaches. His life plans never included speaking or being involved in the public eye, but God has a way of using each of us as He sees fit. Whether it was living through horrible memories of bad decisions, speaking with Katie Couric, or talking to a group of students at a high school, Chandler has tried to turn every opportunity into a way to show others to never give up and to always look forward to the days ahead. Our experiences shape us. Turn your unpleasant experiences to beautiful things! Follow Chandler’s blog at

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Movie Trailers and Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Anyone who follows Southern Writers Magazine's blog,  Suite T can figure out I'm a movie buff. I lean towards independent films, especially those based on little known real-life events. 

Recently, I spent a rainy summer day at the movies with my daughter, who also loves movies. As the lights dim we settle into our seats and watch the dancing movie food ads, silence your cell phone notice and the warning against filming any portion of the movie complete with penalties for anyone who does. Late and damp movie goers arrive and get settled. 

Then one of my favorite parts of the movie experience occurs. The movies soon to be released trailers. On this day we were to see the movie, Florence Foster Jenkins. It came to my attention via a trailer when I saw another independent film about publisher, Max Perkins titled Genius. I recently blogged about this film on SWM's Suite T. 

However on this rainy day the trailer did not disappoint. Based on a true event that I did not recall occurring in 1994, titled Denial. Here is the movie trailer that piqued my interest about the Holocaust being a lie. What? Someone actually preported the position and sued the character portrayed by Rachel Weisz. Denial adapts the true story from Deborah E. Lipstadt's book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust DenierThe author, who fought a legal battle against a man, played by Timothy Spall, "Wormtail" from The Harry Potter movies. He makes for the perfect actor to play the man who denied that the Holocaust ever happened. I'm hooked and will be seeing this movie for sure. 

Florence Foster Jenkins is an excellent British film starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. I will not spoil the movie for you. If you chose to see it just remember the events portrayed occurred in this "dramedy." For TV's Big Bang fans, you will love Simon Helberg's brilliant performance as Florence's pianist. This is a great story that actually happened, yet another bit of history I knew nothing about until this movie. 

Thanks to a movie trailer I was drawn to these three movies. It makes me wonder about how author's can create a book trailer to draw readers to their book. I've also blogged about creating a Vine to attract attention for your book. Sometimes a book publisher will make a book trailer to run on TV but these are now a rarity. With various apps, PowerPoint, and iPhones, you can make your own book trailer and link all your social media to draw in readers. Make sure you ask your "tribe" of readers to share your book trailer to expand your exposure. 

If you have a book trailer send us a link in the comment section so our blog readers can connect with your book trailer.