Friday, April 25, 2014


By Nancy Springer

Sometime I ought to dedicate a novel to “the night shift, the pixies within me who work while I am asleep.”  Or maybe I’d better not, because they might not like being recognized.  As a student of folklore, I know better than to spy on my nocturnal story-cobblers.   Like the shoemaker’s brownies, if disturbed they might quit in a huff.   I can’t have that.  I depend on them too much, although often I do not discover what they have contributed until after I have completed the hard work of structuring a narrative that makes sense.

The night shift is no good whatsoever when it comes to story logic.  Cause and effect, conflict and crisis are entirely my job.  But imagery, symbolism, theme, even characterization come from inner sprites I meekly trust to guide me. 

Back in college, my English Literature professors warned me against the “intentional fallacy,” meaning that one must remember: what the writer consciously intends is irrelevant to literary criticism. Just because the author of a poem did not plan to use phallic imagery does not mean it isn’t there.  As a student, I scratched my head over this, but now, as a professional writer, I can attest it is true:  what’s in the writing often got there without any conscious permission from me.

For instance: in DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, Stephen Stoat, the antagonist, is a piece of work I cannot account for except to say that the night shift handed him over to me.  I did not sketch him, plan him, or even dream him up.  I have never met anyone remotely like him upon whom I could have based this neat freak weasel of a self-righteous pedophile.  Everything about him and his dance of death with the protagonist issued directly from the night shift.

My dependence on the night shift accounts for my writing schedule:  first thing in the morning, every morning, before the sleepy mists drifting up from my unconscious mind evaporate, I’m at my keyboard.  Talking with colleagues, I’ve found that most, like me, write either early in the day, just awakened from sleep.  If not, then they write last thing in the evening, slipping toward slumber.  We write at the times when we and the night shift have the most unobstructed access to each other short of sleep itself.  If I could write while sleeping, I would. 

Actually, in a way I do.  Most evenings, going to sleep, I confer with my helpful inner elves about what to write next.  Additionally, sometimes I go so far as to consult them in the daytime by taking a nap.   In fact, I am going to consult the night shift right now regarding how best to conclude this blog post.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . .
Nancy Springer ( has ranged from mythic fantasy through YA to mystery in the course of her forty-year career as a novelist.  Her most recent title, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, is set in the wild and swampy area of the Florida panhandle where she now lives, sharing her home with eight rescued cats and two Edgar Allan Poe awards.   Springer enjoys crafting, collecting, and social networking.  She invites you to visit her at or at

Thursday, April 24, 2014

That Certain Phrase

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“I was so close to happy” was the phrase that caught my attention. In our writers group we were sharing in an exercise and one of the young writers, wise beyond her years, came up with this phrase. I am not sure if it was an original or something she had heard but it stuck with me.

Having had a long career in sales I know the importance of presentations using specific words and phrases. It can mean the difference in making a sale or not making one. You must use facts, open ended questions and with emotion tug the heartstrings. Make them think, question and feel. The same is true for writers and this “close to happy” phrase was something I could hold on to.

After hearing the phrase my thoughts were many. So close but yet not there. How sad. So close but I could see or feel what happy would be like. So close so I will continue to pursue. I could only hope that the phrase would not discourage the pursuit of happiness but it definitely could. This is a phrase, like so many, that can be taken in many directions. This is a phrase that writers can look to for inspiration.

Where do you get these phrases or quotes? I find them everywhere, daily conversation, books, movies, sports and the like. When I hear one that catches my attention I write it down. Many of them end up here as titles or catch phrases. Some just stay with me and I use them as I go through life. Some memorable ones are Don Henley’s. “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.” Also I like Henley’s quotes on the Eagles breakup, “It was a horrible relief.” Then there is the former President George Bush 41 when asked about a windmill on his property said, “I am greener than Al Gore.” Bush’s maybe not as inspiring as Henley’s but thoughtful. 

When you hear a phrase that strikes your fancy you should save it. Write it down or do as I do and keep it in notes on your phone. You never know when you might use it as a title or catch phrase in future material. Reaching back and finding these treasures may just get you close to happy.

If you have a phrase you would like to share put it below in comments. It may open the door for others to share as well.
And speaking of open doors, opportunity is knocking for just a few more days to get your entry into Southern Writers' third annual Short Story contest. Join the 26 past winners and see your work featured in this year's special summer short story issue. With over $700 in cash and prizes, you don't want to miss out. For details, visit Send your 1500 words in by May 1st, and good luck!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tips to Use to Write a Male Point of View When You're Not a Guy

By Ronie Kendig

“I don’t mean to be chauvinistic, but you don’t write like a girl.”

That comment made by a radio host during an interview still makes me smile. I think it was a compliment, and since my brand is Rapid-Fire Fiction¸ I’ll take it. What the host noticed is that I write very raw, real male characters. I’ve been asked many times how I do that, and I honestly didn’t know until I analyzed my own writing, but more importantly, the male point of view (POV).

Writing is a literary expression of who we are, what we feel and how we think. It would be correct to say that in order to write the male POV accurately , one must understand the way men think (I hear many ladies snickering right now). That line of thought led me to the Gender Genie and/or Gender Guesser, an online program that analyzes chunks of writing to determine the author’s gender. The algorithm used is based off a study done between Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, which found indicators within documents that were distinctively male and distinctively female.

The point is, while generalizations about males and females are often exaggerated, they are based in truth—there are differences in the way men and women talk and think. Writers have the great task of translating the known differences into plausible, compelling fiction and characters. To do that, we refer back to the science. And remember, these are generalizations.
·        Men provide answers that assume the receiver has no knowledge of the topic/object being discussed. In other words, they talk and act to provide INFORMATION.
·        Men tend to state demands (“Give me an iced tea.”) rather than preferences (“I’d like a Diet Coke, please.”) the way a woman would.
·        Men usually do not answer all questions or respond to everything said
·        Men are one-box thinkers. They say what they mean and focus on one topic. Typically, there’s no reading between the lines.
·        While men internalize their thoughts, they are generally not thinking about feelings. Paragraphs of internal diatribe on feelings do not belong in a man’s POV (or at least not heavily).
·        Men are not verbose. They take the shortest possible route through a discussion; unlike ladies who can cover ten topics with one conversation, (we’re just talented that way!).
·        While a man might notice a woman’s curves (just keeping it real), they aren’t likely to notice what the woman is wearing (“Hey, is that a new Kate Spade dress?”).
·        At a dinner party, the men are more prone to chat up friends, but women will have stronger radars, noticing not just who is there, but relational aspects (Why is John sitting so close to Sue?) because women are about INVOLVEMENT, connecting, relationships.
·        Use appropriate verbs. Men do not giggle. They chuckle. They guffaw (a strange word in and of itself).

Those are the quick tips to keeping a guy sounding like a guy. They’re a bit more complex than that, but those tips will go a long way in maintaining a solid masculine voice in writing the male POV. Probably the biggest thing I’d say to a writer: let your guy be a guy. 
Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat. She married a veteran, and together their lives are never dull with four children and two dogs--a Golden Retriever and a Maltese Menace. Ronie's degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters. Since launching onto the publishing scene, Ronie's Rapid-Fire Fiction has hit the CBA Bestseller List, won the prestigious Christy Award, named to 2012 Bestselling Fiction by, finaled in numerous contests and reader awards, including ACFW Carol Awards, RWA's Faith, Hope, & Love's Inspirational Readers' Choice Awards, Christian Retailing's Readers' Choice Awards, INSPY Award, The Christian Manifesto Lime Awards, and FamilyFiction's Readers' Choice Awards. Ronie's titles include her debut title and spy thriller--DEAD RECKONING--the Discarded Heroes series (NIGHTSHADE, DIGITALIS, WOLFSBANE, FIRETHORN), the A Breed Apart series (TRINITY:MILITARYWAR DOG, TALON:COMBAT TRACKING TEAM, BEOWULF: EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DOG) and the upcoming (2014) The Quiet Professionals (RAPTOR 6, HAWK, FALCON). Ronie's writings are also in the 7 Hours direct-to-digital novella collection (WHOLE PIECES), Central Park Rendezvous novella collection (DREAM A LITTLE DREAM), and the Denali Dreams novella collection (DARING HEIGHTS, TAKING FLIGHT). Ronie can be found at, on Facebook (, Twitter (@roniekendig

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Magic Minutes and Fortune Cookie Protocol

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

When I get a hankering for General Tso's Chicken, some good friends often go out for Chinese with me.  At the beginning of our friendship years ago, I was a little taken aback by a ritual they perform when it's time to open the fortune cookies.  They contend that each person must be handed their cookie by someone else at the table.  Consequently, each person delivers a cookie as well as receives a cookie, chosen randomly.  Ideally you don't give a cookie to the same person who gave you one.

An odd custom, I've always thought, but I oblige.  This is in spite of the fact that everyone knows you must take the cookie closest to you when the waiter sets them down, or else the fortune won't come true.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure where I picked up this idea over the years, but when you see 12:34 appear on the clock, you're supposed to make a wish during that magic minute.  Then again, another friend of mine feels the same way about 11:11.  I'm guessing if we combined forces we could each be entitled to two wishes a day (four if you work past midnight every night, as I tend to).

One more for you: A favorite couple of mine recently celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.  When I wished them a happy anniversary, the husband thanked me but said they don't celebrate.  Why not?  He explained that instead, they celebrate the day they met, because thirteen years sounds more impressive than six.  I said that was pathetic, and he said don't be talkin' trash.

I have yet to see a wish come true from a magic minute moment, and while Confucius sometimes hits the mark with a fortune, it's usually because it was generic enough to apply to anybody.  (The one I actually got that said, "You like Chinese food" would have impressed me had it said "You like General Tso's Chicken".)

So one might fairly ask, what's the point in even harboring little traditions and superstitions like the above?

Deep down we crave a little magic.  Even though we know it's whimsy, we would love to know the future and have wishes be granted.  The beauty of being a writer is that we have the power to create whatever reality we want, where anything we choose can happen.  One doesn't have to write science fiction to create a story that's fantastic.

And the little quirks people havesuch as what rituals they engage in or why someone might not celebrate a special dayare the very things that make people unique and interesting.  We can incorporate the things we observe or make up entirely new behaviors and beliefs to inject into our characters and give them humanity.
Fantasy writer Terry Brooks said, "If you don't think there is magic in writing, you probably won't write anything magical."

You are indeed a magician.  Believe in your magic pen and manifest whatever your fertile imagination can conjure up.

Just don't be talkin' trash.

Monday, April 21, 2014

You’ve Got the Words, but Do You Have the Music?

By Tracy Lesch

I’m a big movie fan. The best films touch my emotions like my favorite books.

You can’t help but be stirred when William Wallace gives his troops that pre-battle speech in Braveheart (, or Aragorn in The Return of the King ( Who couldn’t feel Jack and Rose’s love in Titanic (

As I write, I imagine my scenes on the big screen, my characters played by favorite actors, with stunning backdrops, appropriate props, and the best cinematography. This kind of “positive visualization” comes easier today, but it took practice…

Imagine: you set aside solid time to write, you eliminate all distractions, you’re charged up with coffee/chocolate, ready to go. You stretch those fingers inexorably toward that keyboard and… nothing. Nada. Zippo. The writing muse has left the building. Have you experienced this dreaded moment?

Me too. I can’t sit in silence. I need extra inspiration. Starting out, I wondered what that was. The answer came from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

One of my favorite films is Star Wars, undergirded by the music of John Williams. Each character has a theme, from Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader. The perfect mood for every scene is in that soundtrack.

Go back to the clips above, but now concentrate on the music. Does it capture the mood of the script?

Ding! “Mood music” was what I needed. I tried soundtracks while writing and instantly became more productive. I now keep a library close by. Some are go-to favorites, and helped me write my first fantasy novel. Here’s my short list of the best:

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope – Label: Sony

John Williams is the king of thematic music. Need proof? What music comes to mind when I mention Jaws? ‘Nuff said.

The Lord of the Rings – Reprise

The three scores by Howard Shore are winners, with themes of friendship, ominous forces, pulse-pounding battle, and even lighthearted comedy.

The Illusionist – Ryko Filmworks

Philip Glass’ soundtrack is masterful. The film has sequences devoid of dialogue where it falls to the music to tell the tale, and this is accomplished flawlessly. Themes of mystery, timeless love, and aching sorrow abound, along with what I call “horseback music,” ideal for when my own hero is riding into adventure.

King Kong – Decca

James Newton Howard’s score for the marvelous Peter Jackson remake is too big for the CD. The themes are soaring and quintessential, lush, and inspiring every time.

The Dark Knight Rises – Watertower Music

Hans Zimmer’s music is heavily influenced with Japanese drums, and gets the blood racing. Unparalleled for action scenes, the score also tells of despair and hope.

A soundtrack library is a powerful writing tool. No matter your genre, there are soundtracks right for you, and it’s fun discovering them. Some stores have headsets where you can sample disks. Some sell used CDs at bargain prices.

If you want your writing to play out like a box office smash, words are important, but don’t forget the music.
Tracy Lesch is an award-winning writer of Fantasy, Suspense, and other Speculative Fiction. He is a former Dungeons & Dragons illustrator, radio, and television personality. His work has appeared in books, magazines, and online venues. In 2006, excerpts from his fantasy epic Armor of God: The Paladin earned him Writer of the Year from the Florida Christian Writer's Conference. His book went on to be chosen as a Finalist in the 2012 Global Ebook Awards. Tracy is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance, and a graduate of the Christian Writer's Guild. Connect with Tracy: 
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Friday, April 18, 2014


By Elaine Marie Cooper

One week she was relatively healthy; the next week we were planning her funeral. And though death is not unexpected for one’s elderly parent, the sheer rapidity of Mom’s illness took me by surprise. And the subsequent grieving threw my marketing enthusiasm to the wind, despite the fact that I had a book releasing in less than two months.

Promoting a new book seemed out of sync with planning a funeral, sending thank you notes for sympathy gifts, and dealing with the emotional aftermath. I was lost in my sadness and dulled in my focus.

I am not alone in tragedies of one sort or another near a book release. One author friend received a diagnosis of cancer and was receiving chemotherapy during final edits. Another author’s son had a serious health concern during his novel’s launch. Another author lost HER mother during her book release. So how can a writer overcome these crises in order to not just survive, but have a thriving launch?

The obvious answer is prayer—prayer that you can continue to breathe even when the oxygen seems to have been sucked out of you. There are a few steps an author can take to inhale life into her lungs as well as her book’s success. Both will be key to survival for you as well as your artistic creation.

  1. Give yourself time to grieve, rest and spend time with your family. Your book will still be there but your loved one may not. Don’t be so focused on your book’s success that you can’t see the big picture.
  2. Ask trusted friends to pray for you. Tell them your struggles and ask them to lift you up. Give them specific needs like “I can’t sleep.” Seek grief counseling if you can’t seem to shake depression.
  3. Talk to your editor about what is happening. Ask him or her to keep you on task since your mind feels like gelatin on a hot summer’s day.
  4. Get other writers to help you in your launch. No one understands the pressure of a book release more than a fellow author. Delegate tasks such as setting up a Facebook launch page.
  5. Take some time away from your computer. Give yourself permission to watch a funny move and laugh. Go for a relaxing drive. Take a walk. Be kind to yourself.
  6. Don’t neglect getting sleep and eating well. You will not help your book launch if you’re run down physically and get sick.
  7. Do something helpful for another author. It is amazing how the Lord can work for YOUR book when you reprogram your mind to help another writer. Read their book and review it. Experience the blessing of being a good friend to a fellow writer.

And may the Lord bless your book launch with much success, whether your release occurs during a calm or in the midst of a storm.
Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Fields of the Fatherless, a historical fiction based on a true story from the American Revolution. She has also penned three historical romances: The Road to Deer RunThe Promise of Deer Run and The Legacy of Deer Run. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blood Moon Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

What is Blood Moon Writing? No, it has nothing to do with zombies or vampires rising. No, it's not a new book sub-genre, but I guess it could be...hum. It's my name for using unusual events to add flavor and intrigue to your writings.

This week the first Blood Moon in a series of four tetrads, over the next year occurred. Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early on 4-15-14, a partial eclipse of the moon. Unfortunately, our area was cloudy, but I've seen incredible pictures. 

The science of the “blood moon” is basic and creates a full lunar eclipse. The occurrence happens when the Earth’s shadow covers the moon. The shadow refracts longer wavelengths light of red, orange and yellow, casting the huge moon in a blood like substance. It lasts around one hour and 18 minutes.

Passover 2014 began this week, at sundown on Monday, April 14th. Early on April 15th, IRS tax day in The United States, a blood moon occurred. Americans will have the opportunity to see further lunar eclipses on October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and again on September 28, 2015. Four blood moons all on Jewish Feast days within two years is very rare. In 2014-2015, four blood moons are scheduled to appear. There will not be any more blood moons for the next 100 years.

The Blood moon phenomena has happened 7 times since Jesus's birth. This set of blood moons will make the 8th. Two powerful verses speaking of blood moons appear in the Bible. Joel 2:31, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come." Acts 2:20, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord.” Since these are unusual events, there is no wonder people are talking. Books have been published surrounding this event. However, a lot of these are books are fictional books speculating on the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. 

This is not the type of writing I'm suggesting. Consider inserting a blood moon into your next chapter to give uniqueness to your scene. In your book what if the terrorist struck as the blood moon became visible? What if your protagonist was witness to a crime, and the blood moon glowed as a murder victim is found? What if a lesser character in a historical novel is terrified by the sight of the blood moon? Let your imagination run wild.

What blood moon writing can you image for your latest work in progress?