Friday, July 28, 2017

I Can Get It All Done – Just Maybe Not Today

By Heather Blanton

If you feel like you’re writing life is about to go flying off the rails because you JUST CAN’T GET IT ALL DONE—maybe I can help.

The last year has been pretty hectic. I released two novellas and a novel. I guest blogged so many places I can’t remember them all. Like 90% of all authors, I do my own marketing, maintain my own blog, and I recently (finally) started a newsletter. I exercise four—sometimes five—days a week (because sitting is the new smoking and I don’t want my dream job to kill me). I read and listen regularly to podcasts from authors and marketing gurus. And somewhere in this crazy mix is a husband, two kids, a farm, and a Youth Sunday School class.

Allow me to share some time-saving tips I’ve picked up over the last couple of years that have kept me from pulling out my ever-thinning hair. Maybe you’ll find them helpful.

Outlining – probably the biggest improvement in my productivity. I discovered that if I sat down and actually tried to think a novel through, lo and behold, I wrote more. Faster. This from a formerly avowed pantser. No longer. I get a pretty tight outline/synopsis/storyboard going before I write the first sentence anymore.

Scrivener—let me just say, I have not been paid to endorse this wonderful, magical, brilliant, labor-saving software. However, they should pay me. I am a Scrivener evangelist. For the uninitiated, Scrivener is a word processing program that, among so many other capabilities, lets you write in scenes—even create 3x5 note cards of the scenes—and then move those scenes around simply by dragging your mouse. The ease with which I can organize and navigate through an entire novel leaves me breathless.

Evernote—Honestly, I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of what this nifty little free program does. It saves webpages, images, PDFs, audio recordings, and notes (typed or handwritten). I can write notes on images, which is awesome. I can even drop audio into the same file with the image or notes.

I tend to leave a gazillion tabs open in my browser because, you know, I might need that website in six months … if ever. Before Evernote, I kept a Word document entitled “Web Pages.” Brilliant, I know. Just a list through which I had to scan to find the desired web site. Evernote saves the URL as its own file and in various formats. Things are so much easier to find now. 

I can set reminders in Evernote, too. This is helpful when I want to schedule time to look at research or listen to a podcast.

Did I mention this app is free?

iPad—Because my iPad has Siri, I’ve started using it to dictate emails and responses to things on my social media sites while I simultaneously work on my laptop.

Help—literally, I got help. I have a dear, dear friend who works for peanuts (when I pay her) a few hours a week. She helps me with the newsletter, blog, giveaways, and a little social media. She is a godsend.

These aren’t earth-shattering, super-illuminating lifehacks, but they’ve created some extra time for me. Maybe they will spark some great time-saving ideas for your life.

Now get back to writing.

No. Seriously.

Get back to writing.
A former journalist, Heather Blanton is an avid researcher and skillfully weaves truth in among fictional story lines. She loves exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw's note in her hand. She is the independent bestselling author of several Christian Westerns, including the Romance in the Rockies series. She writes Westerns because she grew up on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne movies. Her most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to her father, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester! Both men inspired her love of guns. Heather lives on a farm outside Chapel Hill with three boys, ages 13, 16, and 56, and too many animals to count. She can be reached several different ways:  Blog:  SocialMedia:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How Embarrassing

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

We all have had some embarrassing moments. Most are low key and only a few people may know about it. But there are some of us misfortunate enough to have the world know of our misfortune or mistake. Two recent moments come to mind.

One was Steve Harvey’s announcement of the wrong Miss Universe Contestant as the winner. In 2015, before a television audience of millions around the world, Harvey mistakenly announced Miss Columbia as the winner. As embarrassing as this was the truth is viewership was down by a million viewers from the year before. This boosted the ratings and helped the pageant. Harvey and the pageant are the better because believe it or not people don’t watch NASCAR for the racing but the wrecks. People watched the pageant the following year to see if Harvey would make another mistake.   

The other embarrassing moment was the 2017 Oscars announcement by Warren Beatty announcing La La Land as Best Picture. Beatty had been handed the wrong envelope by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant. The accountant had been backstage on Twitter like an excited teen and failed to do his job. The outcome was discovered and Moonlight was announced as the actual winner. As Beatty’s co announcer Faye Dunaway said, “We made history tonight.”  Indeed they had and as millions watched the scene repeated again and again Moonlight received more publicity than money could buy free of charge.

Now on a more personal note a gentleman I am very fond of had two examples of his own. It has become a part of family lore and is shared again and again at family gatherings. The gentleman was a kind and gentle soul and good natured as anyone you have ever known. As embarrassing as it was it never seemed to concern him at all.

The first incident was concerning an injury he received at work. He drove home to find some first aid products to bandage the head wound on his forehead. He quickly found what he needed. He cleaned the wound and applied a compress and was good as new. He completed his daily duties stopping at several businesses then headed home for the day. Walking in the door his wife greeted him with, “Why are you wearing a panty liner on your head?” He thought it was a bandage. Not a lot of people knew most of the men he met at the businesses had no idea what it was. No harm no foul.

The other incident was a bit different but still of legendary proportions. It happened during a party when he met another gentleman and they were discussing being henpecked. He told the man a story of a man and wife that went to a party similar to the one they were attending and the man took off his jacket and placed it on the back of a chair. Immediately his wife came over and told him to put on his jacket. He did so then thought to ask her, “Am I cold or are we leaving?” They both had a good laugh. Little did he know the gentleman was a columnist for a newspaper? Not just any newspaper but the only statewide newspaper they had. The columnist enjoyed the joke so well he printed it and gave our gentleman full credit for the tale. His wife as well as everyone in the state had an opportunity to enjoy his henpecked state of mind.

This gentleman was able to do as Steve Harvey and Moonlight had done. He took lemons and made lemonade. As writers we too can take some embarrassing situations use them either as a part of or as the entire story. If you feel embarrassed about something that has happened to you, you can change the names to protect the guilty and tell the story. Don’t run from embarrassment.  Embrace it and use it in your craft. How embarrassing it would be not to use some of your best material.                

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do’s and Don’ts of Submissions

By Cherrilynn Bisbano

“His platform is growing, I love the story idea…Hmmm, should I send this to the agent?”

As a submissions reader, I forward manuscripts for consideration. I check to see if the author followed submission guidelines, used proper email etiquette, wrote well, and has a social media platform.

I almost hit the send button on this author but an avoidable mistake caught my eye. The writer cc’d about fifty other agents in his submission email. I sent a pass email and put him on our agency email list.

In my short time as a reader I ‘ve learned some Do’s and Don’ts of email submissions. These mistakes could cost a book contract or agency representation. I’ve made some of these errors in the past. I’m compelled to share with you what I’ve learned, so our submissions will shine.

Do follow submission guidelines- The agent looks for authors who follow direction. Agents give action steps for authors, if an author cannot follow submission guidelines the agent believes the writer cannot follow his instructions.
Do have a Social Media Platform- Let’s face it, writing is a business. The more people you know, the more speaking engagements you book, and followers you have, the more books you sell. If you don’t have social media accounts, choose two platforms and build your followers.
Do take time to research agents- Spell the name correctly. Research what genre the agent represents. I work for a Christian agent. He represents family friendly content as stated on the website. I’ve had three erotica submission in one month.  
Do send an edited manuscript- Agents want to represent authors who are ready to publish or are already published. An unedited manuscript denotes unprofessionalism.
Don’t say your book is anointed by God and we must represent you- I’ve also read, “My book belongs in every school library,” “My writing is like J.K. Rowling, only better.”  Confidence is great, an agent loves to work with a confident writer. However, there is a fine line between confidence and exaggeration.
Don’t send your proposal to many agents in one email- Your Manuscript will be rejected by most agents.  In the body of the proposal state “simultaneous submissions,” this alerts the agent that others are receiving your work.
Don’t harass the agent with multiple emails- Agents are busy. Most submission guidelines give a response time. Three months seems to be the average. If you have not heard from the agent, chances are they will not represent you or your work.
Don’t give up- Agents desire to see you succeed. Agents also look for specific genre’s. If one agent passes on your proposal, keep submitting to other agents. Meanwhile, make sure your manuscript is edited by a professional editor, have Beta Readers review your book, build your social media platform, and sharpen your writing skills.
If you follow these do’s and don’ts you have a better chance of success. I know I’d love to hit the send button for you.
Cherrilynn Bisbano is a speaker, editor, coach, and writer.  Her passion for helping people is evident.  She is Associate Editor at Almost an Author, an online community for aspiring writers. She is a two-time winner of Flash Fiction Weekly. You can find her published in Amramp, More to Life (MTL), Christian Rep, Refresh, Broken but Priceless, and other online magazines. Contributor to Breaking The Chains-Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage  She earned her Leadership Certification through Christian Leaders Institute and continues toward a Women’s Bible Leader certification.Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard; earning the John Levitow Military leadership award.  She lives with her fifteen-year-old autistic son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 18 years, Michael, Sr.  Website:  Contact:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Constant Conflict

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One of the Oscar Best Picture contenders earlier this year was Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and based on the 1967 book The Unlikeliest Hero: The Story of Desmond T. Doss.  HBO just had another of their free weekends, so I watched the film again, and doing so reminded me of something:

I love boot camp.

Mind you, I'm a peace-loving guy with pacifist leanings, but I've always been riveted by scenes involving new recruits meeting their drill sergeant and being taken through the rigors of basic training.  

Hollywood loves war movies. Conflict is perhaps never portrayed bigger and bolder than in a battle scene.  But the face-to-face tension of an underdog trying to keep it together under dire conditions is human drama we can all relate to.

A workplace with a tyrant boss, a classroom with an unreasonable teacher, in-laws who can't be pleased, even domestic quarrels, are ready sources of inherent tension that can escalate our protagonist's real problems. Such challenges come in infinite varieties, but if they are resolved as part of a happy ending, these subplots are typically addressed in one of two ways:

1. The troublemaker gets their comeuppance. The conniving co-worker is exposed, the miserly uncle gets arrested for embezzlement, the contentious neighbor breaks a leg falling off a ladder, and the hero is right there to enjoy it.

2. The troublemaker turns out to be ally. The overzealous drill sergeant eventually reveals his human side. When the hero rises to the challenge and their strained relationship takes on a hint of mutual respect, it becomes clear that everything the sergeant put him through was for his own good. That moment feels like a satisfying character arc in its own right.

As we talked about in my recent Suite T post ("Who Is Your Contagonist?"), anyone or anything that stands in the way of our hero's success makes for good conflict along the way. Those everyday scenarios that we inflict on our hero can cause hardship right along with the actual antagonist.

Page-turning prose relies on the story's ability to keep the problems coming.  Providing that steady supply of friction in your fiction can ensure that your reader doesn't go AWOL.


Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Not Fatal

By Deanna K. Klingel

Everything we do naturally, in our lives, is cyclical. Some days are better than others, right? All kinds of creativity are cyclical. How does the potter, after weeks of mediocrity, suddenly in one day, create something astonishing? Think about the song writer who muddles along, then, one day, by a stroke of genius comes up with a winner. The writer, who fills the wastebasket to overflowing and then awakens one morning with a bestseller; it’s a mystery, isn’t it? Some days we are naturally more creative, other days we’re in a slump. Writers often refer to this slump as Writer’s Block. They look for cures. They talk about it as if it were a fatal disease.

In truth, it isn’t even a setback. It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to slow down, breathe, learn something new, all of which will help us get better at our craft, in the long run. Take a class during your slump time; learn something new. Take time out to read for pleasure. Read a genre you don’t normally read. The more we read and listen the better we can produce fluidity in our own work. 

When the flow of words slows down, just stop. Don’t angst over the betrayal! Don’t look for a foundation to fund your recovery. Take time to refresh. And listen. Sit in a food court at a mall and listen to the dialog around you. Click on YouTube and listen to great American orators speaking about anything. You don’t even have to understand the subject matter. Just listen to the flow of words. Listen to poetry readings; listen to the rhythm of the words. Go for a walk and sing great lyrics for a song you’ll probably never write. Enjoy nature; describe what you see to yourself. I’m not a poet, but after reading poetry, my prose is more fluid. These are all ways to get your words flowing again. You can call it writer’s block if you want. I call it opportunity to be a better, more fluid writer.

No one can be productive every day, every hour. We need to refresh, re-energize, rest and breathe in fresh air and fresh words. The slump is normal.
Deanna K. Klingel is an award-winning author of children's literature, writing for the young and the young at heart. She lives in western North Carolina. She's a member of SCBWI, NCWN, and Catholic Writers Guild. She speaks in schools,museums,and at conferences, traveling with her books around the Southeast and beyond. Her social media links are:
@deannakklingel   and

Friday, July 21, 2017

First Time Blogging as an Author

By Christopher Myers

Hello, Chris Myers here. I have over 30 years of professional experiences in marketing, strategy, customer communications, brand management and creative writing with FedEx, AT&T, Thomas&Betts and McDonald’s, among other companies. I also hold a MBA in International Marketing from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. From a creative writing perspective, I have won some writing awards and am a two-time author including the most recently released IN JUST TEN DAYS, a political/spy thriller originally set in Washington, D.C., with stops in Beijing, Sydney, London and yes in Memphis among other places! It is a fast-paced story with lots of action, deceptions, car chases, romance and I am told by my readers a very interesting twist at the end. This is the first in a series with the next one, ST. CHRISTOPHER, due out later in 2017 or early 2018.

I am a first-time blogger, so I am not really certain what I should tell you in the initial post, but I believe one of the most important aspects of creative writing is PASSION and good PRE-PLANNING. Specifically, you hear people should write about what they know, and that is very true, but also really enjoy the subject that you are writing about. I have read so many wonderful books, articles, stories, etc.  over the years that really captured my attention and imagination because I could feel the author’s energy and interest in the story, characters, plot and putting me in that person’s mindset. That is how I write, too. I truly invite the reader to try to imagine what I am thinking about for a particular moment in the book, chapter or with a specific character. I really think that is what readers want today – fast-paced, good character development, and a sense of the author’s creativity and imagination to “invite the reader into the author’s world”. Also, I am a big believer in pre-planning, meaning, I spend a lot of time conceptualizing each chapter, character and part of the story from beginning to the end before I put one word on paper, and then write and re-write a more comprehensive outline to review and update. I must have updated the outline for IN JUST TEN DAYS a dozen times! I think that makes for a better story and book, in my opinion.

I look forward to your feedback and am happy to discuss your ideas or writing anytime. 

My name is Christopher Myers but I go by Chris. I enjoy writing about political intrigue, events and situations, with some twists and turns and a bit of humor mixed in. This is my favorite topic because I like the subject and that I went to college, lived and worked in our nation's capital for 10 years and love going back whenever I can! Traveling to fun and interesting places, sports (those I can still play and others I enjoy watching like my daughter in competitive volleyball) is another priority and movies - I LOVE GOING TO THE MOVIES! My personal email is We can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Novel Inspiration via John Grisham

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

In a recent interview, John Grisham gives a glimpse into how his hobby inspired his 30th book, Camino Island

It's been 25 years since Grisham has done a book tour and current technology has allowed everyone to share in the experience via a podcast titled Book Tour with John Grisham. Available at iTunes and Google Play.

Watching the podcast of Grisham may give you ideas for promoting your own book/books. It could even provide you with inspiration for your own book tour. 

I'm a fan of John Grisham. We were both born in the same town and both raised and worked in a bigger river town. His books have the ability to stay with me, and his plot lines flit through my mind from time to time. He is a collector of books, as am I. Albeit, his book collection is classic first editions, and mine are not. Sigh. I'm now collecting signed Grisham first editions, wishing I had started sooner. 

The plot line of Grisham's new book finds inspiration in his own hobby of collecting first editions. As Grisham says in his interview, "I collect first editions. I have a number of Faulkners, Steinbecks, and Hemingways. Fitzgerald only had five (novel) manuscripts but a ton of short stories, which he was better known for when he was alive. After his death, Gatsby became his big masterpiece and his best-known work. But Faulkner had forty books, forty manuscripts. They are all stored in one place, at the library at the University of Virginia. I’ve seen them; they’re very well taken care of. But there are forty of them; they would be kind of hard to steal. Hemingway’s stuff is scattered, as is Steinbeck’s. And that left Fitzgerald. As I learned when I was doing the initial research, all five manuscripts are in one place, at the Firestone Library at Princeton. If you’re going to steal stuff that’s truly priceless, that’s a good place to start."

I love that Grisham has written a book about rare book collections and picked F. Scott Fitzgerald books as the focus. "Grisham tells CBS This Morning, a list of writing tips:
  1. Do write a page every day
  2. Don't write the first scene until you know the last
  3. Do write your page each day at the same place and time
  4. Don't write a prologue
  5. Do use quotation marks with dialogue
  6. Don't keep a thesaurus within reaching distance. 
  7. Do read each sentence three times in search of words to cut out. 
  8. Don't introduce 20 characters in your first chapter. 
Grisham also weighed in on plotting in the CBS interview. He talked about writing and says the idea that an author will create a great character and that character will then take over the action is 'total B.S.' Plotting takes work. You have to carefully plot and outline your story before you start. Especially if you are writing mysteries, or suspense or thrillers where the plots can be very intricate. It takes a lot of work. I spend a lot of time outlining before I write the first word. Prologues are 'gimmicks to suck you in.'" 

What hobbies do you have that could provide a inspiration for your next book?