Friday, December 2, 2016

Work’s a Gift

By Linda Brooks Davis

Everyone worked at my home, a South Texas farm near the Mexican border.

My playmates were children of Mexican laborers. Language never hindered playing la casa, making mud pies, or rocking los bebés. Frijoles and tamales served from stewpots over open fires tasted delicioso in either language. I learned outside their homes a broom works great on hardened soil.

Daddy paid workers on Saturdays, some by the hour, others by production. Lining up, they extended their hands, and he laid cash across their open palms. They checked figures scribbled on paper scraps, trusting el patrón to correct discrepancies. Humble, grateful people, they showed respect.

Daddy verified immigration paperwork for those whom he housed. Others lived in the shadows, arriving around sunup and disappearing before sundown when a car or truck would rattle alongside the field. The shadow worker would slip inside, and the vehicle would clatter toward the horizon.

Occasionally, however, an alarm shouted in Spanish would sound across the field. Dropping his cotton sack, a worker would dash toward the trailer in the turn row. He and a compadre would leap over the sides and dig a hole in the freshly picked cotton like hounds burrowing under a house. The first crawled in, and the other covered him up.

The immigration officer making his rounds would walk into the field and occasionally stomp around inside the trailer, searching for man-sized lumps. I never witnessed the discovery of a shadow worker, but I heard about them. Worst of all, I heard about tragedies. With very little oxygen between tightly packed fluffs of cotton, a man could suffocate and occasionally would. I wondered what would lead a man to take such chances and how my law-abiding, God-loving father justified his complicity. So I asked.

“Desperation, sugar. All they want is work. I can’t turn them away. Work’s a gift.”

Since when is work a gift? I wondered. Years later I understood. The strength to work was God’s gift. The opportunity to work was Daddy’s. And the fruit of a man’s labor was the gift he sent home each week.

At Christmas we enjoyed preparing bushel baskets of meats, fruits and vegetables, candy and nuts, and toys for each family. I wondered about those who stayed around only for a day. Would their children find fruits, nuts, or even a piece of candy on Christmas morning?

Answers evaded me then, but as a writer in my eighth decade of life, I count the strength for each day of writing to be a gift, as is less pain in my arthritic hands and back … a unique turn of a phrase … and an invitation to write a blog.

Protecting our safety isn’t what it was in 1956, but work’s still a gift. Come to think of it, an idea for a novel—one set in the southern tip of Texas, a story about a loving, destitute man who wants only to provide for his family—is work, but it’s a gift.

Linda Brooks Davis, winner of 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel and 2016 ACFW Carol Award, Debut Category, 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 Bible study, 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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

1 Leads to 2 Then 2 Billion

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

I enjoy a McDonald’s bacon egg and cheese biscuit about 2 to 3 times a year. It has to be a special occasion such as having the grandkids over but even then the breakfast trip to McDonald’s makes the occasion even more exciting.

Now I’m not McDonald’s biggest customer with only 2 to 3 purchases a year. McDonald’s CEO recently announced the company was going to serve only cage free eggs. He went on the say that would be over 2 Billion eggs a year. I realize my 2 or 3 aren’t much compared to 2 Billion but they do all add up.

The same is true for writers. We start with a word or two and before we know it they add up to a paragraph, page, chapter, short story or book. I am a fan of the short story. One of my favorites was a 2009 John Grisham book of short stories call Ford County. Grisham took some of his better shorts, put them together and they added up to one great book.    

In some cases writers take their individual stories and compile them in an anthology. Chicken Soup for the Soul is an example of this. Another example would be our local writers group of some 26 or more writers annually compiling their own anthology. It is a great way to gather the efforts of several writers and produce a very interesting collaboration. Everyone can be a part of the work without carrying the full weight of the production.

Over the years I have known of pastors putting their sermons together to form a book. Imagine preaching one sermon each week then bring them together for a book. In another case a psychologist has a nationwide practice complete with newsletter, blog and interactive sites. She has taken her blogs combined them by topic and created many topic related eBooks.

Since the founding of Southern Writers Magazine I and others have written blogs for our blog site Suite T. To show you how 1 leads to 2 then 2 Billion here is an example. I do not have 2 Billion blog entries but I do have, as of this post, 149. 1 post every 2 weeks has led to 149. Other staff members have more or less but each of us have enough material to put into a book or eBook. It didn’t come over night or within a break neck period of deadline meeting writing, but it did come, it all added up.

Now it is your turn. What have you done with your writing over the years? Have you logged numerous short stories or blogs? Maybe you should consider gathering them together for a book or eBook. What you have done over the years has added up to something you may have yet to realize. 1 can lead to 2 then, if not to 2 Billion, to a book. Look into it, you may be happily surprised.              

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Reader as Chump

By Elena Santangelo

Watching political ads this year has put me in a mood to discuss deception and manipulation.

If Agatha Christie had written campaign ads for Wendell Wilkie, FDR would never have won in 1940. She was an absolute master at deceiving her readers. She'd tell you almost right out who the murderer was in the first chapter, then have a grand time strewing misleading clues and outright lies in your path. At the denouement, her readers frantically flip back to the beginning, and, voila, there's the main clue, now seeming to blink in neon light. A sore forehead is a symptom of a Christie fan, because you can't help smacking yourself when she tricks you.

Another excellent study in the placement of clues is the movie "The Sixth Sense." I can't say more without giving it away. If you saw it, you know what I mean. If not, treat yourself. Put padding on your forehead first.

The difference between mystery writers who can achieve the "Why didn't I see that?" reaction and those who can't is sheer chutzpah. Many writers I know are afraid to plant an obvious clue. Maybe they're thinking in terms of giving the reader a nice puzzle to solve. I have nothing against puzzles. One of the main reasons I buy a Sunday paper is for the crosswords and sudokus. (The other? The comics.) And I have a closet full of jigsaw puzzles that I piece together during the winter months.

Still, as much as mystery readers love solving puzzles, they also love matching wits with the detective. Hardcore mystery readers tend to be intelligent and savvy. If we writers don't send our readers off after red herrings--if we don't come right out and lie to divert attention--our sleuths may end up looking pretty stupid.

But unlike politicians, if we're going to deliberately mislead the reader, we have to play fair. We have to show the solution or the path to the solution early on. And frankly, once I plant that obvious clue, I have all the more fun being deceptive through the rest of the story.

Learn to lead a merry chase and your readers will love you. Be daring.

Don't forget to vote. And don't believe anything you hear.
Elena Santangelois the author of the Twins Mystery Series and the Possessed Mystery Series, including the novel BY BLOOD POSSESSED, which was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her armchair companion to Agatha Christie's short stories, DAME AGATHA'S SHORTS, won the Agatha for Best Nonfiction. She's also published numerous short stories, and co-edited six anthologies of short fiction. Writing under E.A. Santangelo, she's the author of YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER: The World War II Journal of Joseph B. Chicco, a biography and history of  life on a light cruiser in the South Pacific in 1945. She's a proud founding member of Delaware Valley Sisters in Crime. You can follow Elena at these links: Website:  Amazon 
Twitter:  Goodreads:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Perhaps you've heard of (or played) a game called "Fortunately/Unfortunately".  It's been around since the 80s, although I only learned of it recently. Apparently I travel in the wrong playgroups.

This verbal game requires nothing more than people to play it. You simply take turns making up a story, alternating sentences with the first words "fortunately" and "unfortunately".  For example:

"Fortunately, I won a trip to Paris."
"Unfortunately, my car had a flat tire on the way to the airport."
"Fortunately, a friend picked me up and I made it just in time."
"Unfortunately, I forgot my ticket."
...and so on.

It's a creative way to fill time, like on a long car ride.  It's also good exercise for both sides of the brain, since logic and imagination must work together in order to keep the game going.

But this concept has even greater possibilities for a writer.  Isn't "fortunately/unfortunately" the pattern followed by the classic stories?  For example:

The Wizard of Oz
(skipping ahead to the good parts:)

Fortunately, a good witch gives Dorothy magic shoes to protect her.
Unfortunately, a wicked witch wants the magic shoes.
Fortunately, the Wizard of Oz can help Dorothy return home to Kansas.
Unfortunately, it's a long walk to the Emerald City.
Fortunately, there's a yellow brick road to guide her.
Unfortunately, she gets lost at a crossroad.
Fortunately, she meets a scarecrow who points the way.
Unfortunately, he doesn't have a brain.
...and so on.

Following this pattern of "I have good news and bad news", the audience enjoys a roller coaster of ups and downs to keep things interesting.  And, as I elaborated on in a previous post, it's helpful if the writer knows how it's all going to end so that each scene furthers the plot in the proper direction.

It's not uncommon for a writer to insert several "unfortunatelys" between each "fortunately". Problem may pile upon problem before a reprieve temporarily breaks the tension.  This is especially common in a dark tale or an action drama.

image of Firefox's crash message
I get this a lot (bad news/good news from Firefox).
And the "unfortunately" doesn't always have to be the direct antithesis to what comes before. It can be something completely unpredictable that turns everything on a dime. Who would have anticipated that a cyclone would interfere with Dorothy's running away from home?  Any roadblock to the overall goal can do the trick.

Just as when playing the game itself, allow your imagination to come up with fortunately/unfortunately scenarios spontaneously and without overthinking.  Let the muse do the work, and in no time at all you could have a working outline for your next novel.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dream of Writing

By Lucy Nel

You dream about being a writer, but you’ve got so much going on at the moment that you’re overwhelmed. You’re not sure if it’s even possible to write one chapter, much less an 80k novel when life is so full of demands.

It’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but absolutely possible.

For me, it all comes down to priorities. I had to shift my attention. I had to stop focusing on all the hours I don’t have to write that other writers might enjoy. I had to take what I have and make it work for me.

I work full-time, putting in around nine hours daily. After work I rush to pick up my adorable son. More rushing happens. Preparing and putting a reasonably healthy meal on the table. Spending some quality time with my hubby and toddler. Since becoming a mother, my priorities changed again. Sleep became a savored but interrupted occurrence. By the time my son falls asleep I’m usually wiped out and left with morsels of time and energy. If I go to bed after midnight, I’m unable to be human in the morning without ridiculous amounts of caffeine. Getting up an hour earlier was like milking a rock. Impossible. But, I really wanted to pursue this writing thing, and the characters in my head refused to shut up. I had to come up with a solution. I now arrive at work half an hour earlier, and that’s my writing time. Thirty minutes every morning, Monday to Friday leaves me with over two hours of writing.

I’m not going to lie. Writing takes an incredible amount of discipline. Most writers don’t have an accountability system in place (and even if they do, it’s normally extremely flexible). Usually there’s no one breathing down your neck to finish your first draft. If you don’t protect your writing time, no one else will. If you don’t shift and change your priorities to fit in some writing, no one will be bothered.

I can guarantee you that few things in the world fill you with quite the same satisfaction as when you write those two magical words, “The End”.
Lucy Nel is a coffee addicted work-in-progress daughter of the Lord Almighty. She's a mommy to a rambunctious toddler and wife to her best friend and real-life hero. Along with three spoiled Pugs, they make their home in Gauteng, the smallest of nine provinces in South Africa. She works as a bookkeeper and uses every available second to create interesting characters in historical settings.She's a member of American Christian Fiction and her dream came true when she recently signed a contract with Pelican Book Group for her Christmas themed novella, The Widow's Captive. Follow me on TwitterVisit me at PinterestFind me on Facebook

Friday, November 25, 2016


By Debra Holt

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one tried and true method, one foolproof blueprint for all new writers to follow in order to have instant success with your writing career?  Lovely pipe dream! One certainty in writing is that each writer must find their own path and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. 

After being at this business of writing and publishing for six years now, I can say that I came in blind to the process.  I am still a novice in many ways, and take every advantage to learn each day.  What I do learn, I always try to pass on to other fledgling authors.  That being said, I can share these tips that never steer me wrong and might help reinforce what you probably already know but need reminding of now and then.

One basic tenet never changes…Write what YOU love to read. I think writers tend to really go off track when they get away from this truth. If you can’t love your story, then why expect it of anyone else?  Write something EVERY day…whether you feel like it or not.  It should become a daily habit and that only strengthens your writing abilities. TRUST your gut instinct. You will have many opinions come your way…some positive, some negative, some helpful, and some detrimental. You know your story the best. You know what you are comfortable changing or adding…and you know what box not to force your characters into for someone else.

Learn to say no….and to speak up for your story.  That being said… do keep an open mind to other possibilities in your writing. I was determined to publish traditionally… obtain an agent; publish with “professionals.”  I have done that. I can say that my mind has opened and I am looking into indie-publishing a couple of my books also.  In this day and time, both are acceptable.  Authors are taking more and more control over their own destinies in the publishing world. That is a good thing!

Remember the basic beginning foundation to all writing is simple… is this your hobby or your career? If it is a career goal for you, then you must always treat it as such and give it the importance and care it deserves. Writing is serious business.  It is also to be enjoyable. Finding that balance is essential.  Others will only take your writing as seriously as you do.  You need to gather a good support team around you…family, friends, and colleagues.  It is important to have those you trust who can be relied upon to give you good, honest critiques.  No one will do you any favor by always telling you how wonderful you are each and every time.  Our writing can only grow when we are open to fine-tuning and sharpening our skills.

Writing is a wild adventure. You never know where it will take you next. Chart your course and good luck!
Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra Holt grew up among horses, cowboys, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers.  Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most.  She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and planning high-end weddings (ah, romance!)  Debra’s real pride and joys, however, are her son, an aspiring film actor, and a daughter with aspirations to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more story ideas!)  When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure.  She read her first romance...Janet Dailey's Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary western romances,  is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles...and all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.  Debra invites you to visit her website at  She loves to hear from other aspiring authors or readers via email at  Twitter is and Facebook at  Her latest sweet romance Claiming The Maverick’s Heart is out this week on Amazon, published by LPC/Bling Romance

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving is a Treasure Trove of Dialogue

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy your meal with family and friends. 

It's actually one of my favorite holidays, as it kicks off the holiday season. The week leading up to Thanksgiving is filled with planning menus, volunteering at local food banks, heading home for the holiday, or whatever you may do to give thanks. There is plenty of time for shopping, duck hunting and football later in the weekend. 

This week, I found myself in a waiting room for a couple of hours. I was attempting to work on this blog post but alas, I was distracted by a woman talking animatedly about her Thanksgiving plans. She had her cell phone volume turned up so I could hear the entire conversation. It occurred to me this was great research for a dialogue revolving around Thanksgiving holiday. 

This woman's conversation revolved around who all was coming to her home. I heard about relatives who were coming and those who weren't and why. I heard about Aunt Sal's recipe for sweet potato pie. Then, there was the discussion about when she was going grocery shopping and who had the best prices. They ended their conversation when one of their relatives rang in and needed picking up at "201" (the local jail).

I kid you, not. You can't dream this stuff up but what interesting dialogue for your WIP. 

Happy Thanksgiving to y'all.