Friday, October 24, 2014

Writing in Ireland, My Irish Blessing

By Joy Ross Davis

In 2007, I was blessed with a summer internship as a travel writer and photographer with a travel agency in Ireland. It was a gift, a miracle that changed my life.  

As a travel writer and photographer, my job was to travel across five counties of Ireland, find remote, lesser known places that American first-time visitors would enjoy, photograph them in the best light, and then compose an enticing article that would actually make visitors want to see them. My basic assignment was to turn in ten articles and twenty photos each week.

Given the weather in Ireland—usually cool and rainy—I discovered that nothing in my suitcase would work as traveling clothes, as many of the remote destinations required long walks through fields of stinging nettle. Gone were the nice pants and blouses I’d brought, replaced now by heavy sweat pants, long sweaters, and most importantly, a pair of Wellies (boots).  

The first two weeks were chaotic as I tried to figure out how to visit the sites, take great photographs of them, and then write interesting articles. Steeped in history and myth, I was more concerned with the legend than the place itself, so I spent hours interviewing people, talking to local about the particular site, and generating ideas. In short, I spent hours wasting my time!

Finally, in desperation, I settled into a routine. When I’d visit a site, I would take along a small notebook that fit inside my camera bag. I’d spend some time reflecting on the beauty of the place, taking many more shots than were required, and in general, coming to know each place. I wrote in hotel lobbies or dining rooms at B and B’s, Internet cafes, libraries, and soon, I established a fixed routine.

And this was my Irish blessing.

My entire writing life changed during my stay in Ireland. I learned that I could write anywhere and under any circumstances. I became a better photographer and found that images inspired my best writing.

Photographs continue to inspire me as nothing else does, and at times, I feel an instant spiritual connection. The story comes, then, and no matter where I am the ideas flow. My Irish blessing generated a new source of inspiration, one that still guides my writing today. And for this small miracle, I am grateful.

I have shared my pictures of my Ireland travels to illustrate this blog post. Photo 1: Welcome: The third photo is one of the interior of the formal gardens at the castle. It is quite a stunning place. Photo 2: Castle Lough Rynn....Exterior of the Castle Lough Rynn. This photo was used on the cover of a travel brochure. Photo 3: Baronial Hall....The photo of the interior of the castle includes a pink sofa on which I would perch myself with my laptop and a cup of tea for hours at a time to write! Notice that the fireplace holds a likeness of Queen Victoria.  
Joy Ross Davis lives in Bessemer, Alabama. A student of the lore and magic of the back hills of Tennessee, she writes imaginative fiction. She has a Ph.D in Creative Writing  and for many years, she taught English at a local community college. She retired to become a caregiver for her mother who suffered from dementia. She documented her experiences with her mother in a series of articles for a local newspaper. The articles titled, “Mother, Can You Hear Me?”, have also been featured in Muscadine Lines, a Southern literary magazine. For several months in 2007, she lived in Ireland and worked as a travel writer and photographer for Tourism Ireland. She is currently teaching English online for the University of Phoenix. She lives with her son and three rescue dogs. Her published works include; Countenance, Emalyn’s Treasure, The Transformation of Bitty Brown, The Sutler of Petersburg. Her social media links

Thursday, October 23, 2014


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

If you don’t attend writer conferences you should definitely consider it. I recently attended and participated in a Writers Conference and Retreat sponsored by the Bartlett, TN Christian Writers Group and President Londa Hayden, The Writers Anointing, Date,Pray, Wait, and her latest children’s book Candy Moon. All of Londa’s books are available on Amazon. Londa is one of the most energetic people I have ever met. She has been successful in her career as a writer and in turn shares with others what she has done to become successful. I believe Londa took the words of Kevin Spacey to heart.

“If you're lucky enough to do well, it's your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” - Kevin Spacey

Londa had recently completed her children’s book Candy Moon with the final illustrations being completed by Illustrator Nick Nixon. Nick took us through the process of the coordination of author illustrator when completing the illustrations for the book. We got to see firsthand the beginning to finish product prior to publication. It looked fantastic and I can’t wait for my copy.

Tracy Crump, The Write Life Workshops, Chicken Soup for the Soul Workshops and author of numerous short stories and articles, including articles for Southern Writers Magazine, spoke on the challenge of finding an agent and publisher. Tracy always does a great job and is very detailed with her presentation. Many writers, including myself, have taken away information and made it a permanent part of their process. I can highly recommend Tracy and should you ever have the opportunity to hear her be sure to do so.

Gary Fearon, writer, songwriter, artist and Creative Director for Southern Writers Magazine, spoke on book covers. Gary creates the covers of Southern Writers Magazine and deals with many of the book covers our 700 plus authors have published. Gary was able to show us the amazing things that take place in the creation of book covers. Each cover design is vital in your books competition with over 1million books that are published each year. Gary let us know books are judged and bought by their covers.  

I spoke about the business side of publishing which pointed to the author turning over their “baby” to the professionals that package your book for marketing. I used several examples of the famous and yet to be famous authors and their journey to the final product. It can be painful at times but in the end people like Nick, Tracy and Gary make us all look better when the final touch is put on the product. The above picture shows from the left to right: Nick Nixon, Tracy Crump, me and Gary Fearon. 

Being able to hear professionals with the credentials of Londa, Nick, Tracy and Gary is priceless for writers. The Q&A opportunity for those in attendance gave each attendee a chance for their particular question/concern to be answered. All in all the knowledge shared will be beneficial in the writing, publishing, illustrating and graphics of each writer’s project. Again if you have yet to attend a Writer’s Conference reconsider and do so. It could be a great benefit to your writing career. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Howl and A Whisper... Writers Many Voices

By Dr. Dawn Leger

"I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed. Get along with the voices inside of my head." Eminem, 2014

So, about those voices… I definitely think that writers – when you are in the “zone” and you’ve got your story line set, the characters well fleshed-out and realized – should be able to step back and let the voices take over. I have, at times, sat back from my computer and laughed out loud at some of the things my characters have said on the page. Unexpected turns in plot that take me in a direction I was not anticipating, characters who just “show up” and interrupt the progression of events I’d so neatly laid out: this is the joy that comes from the daily grind at the desk.

It’s all about the characters and their strong, three-dimensional narrative voices. When they are fully-realized, the author can recede and let the story unfold naturally. Sure, you have to do some work, putting the characters into a place and time, setting the “stage” and throwing a curve at them that will constitute the element of conflict around which your plot will grow. But the real work, the “humanity” of the writing, will come from the mouths of the narrators you release onto the page.

When I close my eyes, I see the characters from my first novel very clearly: Marta Demir, an attorney in her mid-30s, hiding from the pain of giving up her child and leaving her homeland; and Vasilli Vasillios, an elderly Greek coffee shop owner, returning to the land of his youth, searching for relatives he thought he’d lost a lifetime ago. In Flight brought this pair of unlikely travelers together for an adventure that changed both of their lives, and mine. It took me about 20 years to write and publish that book. Now they share a place in my head with Clara and her brother Raoul Quiñones, protagonists of Eagle Scouting, coming out this fall. The siblings tell their stories in alternating chapters – one trying to stop a band of terrorists intent on flying planes into the World Trade Center, while the other seeks to avenge her brother’s mysterious murder and discover what he was really doing in the small town where they grew up on the Connecticut shoreline.

Their voices, their stories, are rich and multi-faceted. Years of character development, notebooks full of backstory material that would never make it onto the page – all of that helped to flesh out the narrative voice and give it credence. Most of my focus is spent deepening the voice and tone, knowing that the authenticity of the character will propel the plot better than any outline I might presume to make. As the author, the “driver” of this work, I know who I am dealing with and the “facts” of their stories; I also have a sense of where I want it to end. How we get there, I leave to them. I only hope they can keep the monsters under control along the way.

Dr. Dawn Leger is the author of In Flight. Dawn Leger is a published writer and editor currently living in Connecticut. Her second novel, Eagle Scouting, was released in September 2014. She is a grant writer, marketing and editorial consultant, and servant to two feline brothers named Simon and Schuster. Dr. Leger is also the editor of many technical articles, books, and dissertations, and is currently accepting editing jobs. Her Social media links are and on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Value of the Vulnerable Villain

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

With Halloween not far away, it seems a fitting time to honor the bad guys of fiction, without whom there wouldn't be much of a story.  Without a worthy foe, a hero is just another joe.

It's not hard to come up with a character whose wants are in direct opposition to those of our protagonist.  The trick is creating a bad guy to whom the reader can relate, a connection which inherently increases the fear factor.  To see ourselves reflected in a villain can be quite disquieting.

Hungry Hungry Hannibal
Who could resist the cultured charm of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs?  Certainly not FBI ingénue Clarice Starling, in spite of — or perhaps because of — his ability to get into her head. But Hannibal wasn't always a cannibal.  His propensity for people eating has its roots in a childhood tragedy in which his own sister was devoured.  While that would ruin most normal appetites, we can appreciate that it could put a side of insanity on the menu.

Speaking of charmers, the man Harry Potter fans know as Snape made his mark in the movies by playing Die Hard's dapper terrorist Hans Gruber.  (Not to be confused with classical composer Heinz Gruber, although there was a certain artful orchestration to his masterminding.) 

We may think of the Wicked Witch of the West as little more than the green face of evil.  But I'd be a little miffed too if someone dropped a house on my sister.  And I don't even have one.

Captain Hook's beef with Peter Pan goes way back, but wasn't helped by the fact that the very reason he has a hook is because of Peter.  Avenging an injustice, again, can be a powerful motivator.

More recently, a pivotal character in The Fault in Our Stars seems at first to have no redeeming qualities until the cause of his unsociable behavior is revealed.

A look at most of the classic movie monsters — presumably the most heinous of the horde — reveals a deep-seated humanity, often that of a misunderstood or tortured soul.  From the Wolfman to the Frankenstein creation that started it all, most were innocent recipients of their lot in life. Quasimodo and The Phantom of the Opera are at their core pathetic figures deformed by life and a lack of love.  

We do well whenever we can cast a villain who is more than a cardboard cutout of crime.  The more relatable he is, the more we sympathize with him, and the more real he becomes.

Basically, we love a villain who has a heart.  As long as it's not someone else's.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why You Need a Social Media Audience

By Becky Muth

When I gave up a paltry retail job to begin a career in freelance writing, I had no idea it would lead to authoring a book. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was registered for 2013 National Novel Writing Month. I met a wonderful group of local writers and plan to release the book, a collection of 13 short stories, this fall.

This spring I released one of the stories in digital format. It did not occur to me until after the fact that I needed an audience that was not only interested in the book, but that would follow its progress beyond its release date – especially if I planned to write additional books. After all, books don’t sell themselves.

Three Tips to Build a More Authentic Audience

Having an audience is a big step on the ladder to success. You don’t need thousands of social media followers, just the most dedicated ones who are sincerely interested in your work. These people are more likely to tell others about your work – up to ten other people per follower.

Naturally building an audience can be a slow process, but here are some of the ways you can attract genuine followers on social media, regardless of the network:

1.     Post Fresh Content Frequently – Your followers love fresh content. It keeps them interested. Google loves it, too and uses this to authenticate your internet footprint. That means when people use Google to search for you, you are more likely to show up at the top of the results.

2.     Respond to Reader Messages – When you respond to reader comments and questions, you send an underlying message that says, “I respect the time you spent to contact me.” A thoughtful reply can mean the difference between a fan for a moment, or for a lifetime.

3.     Keep Calm and Carry On – Avoid confrontation at all cost. Your job as a writer is to share the written word with your followers. If someone has an opinion about your work that you disagree with, then agree to respectfully disagree.

The Difference between Opinions and Trolls

While letting someone have a different opinion than yours is courteous, it is not an invitation for harassment or any other kind of online abuse. Wikipedia describes an internet troll as “a person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people.” If you feel you’re being trolled, report it to the network administrator or block the person from following you.

Whether you’re tied to a publisher or are an indie author, it’s up to you to build your audience. Set aside 30 minutes a day to spend on the business side of your social media accounts. Success won’t happen overnight. Stay true to those who follow you on social media networks, and you’ll hold their attention. More importantly, they will be more likely to stay true to you.

Becky Muth never planned to write full time, but in January 2012 that is exactly what happened. Between freelance gigs for clients on four continents, she works to finish her debut novel, HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS, due out in the autumn of 2014. Becky lives with her husband (a retired career firefighter) and their two (home schooled) teenage sons, as well as their adopted pets, three mixed-breed dogs and a turtle named Speedy. During her free time she enjoys traveling with her family, reading, and knitting. Have you liked the page for my new book? Get updates about release dates and upcoming contests here:
Twitter: @beckythemom

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Voyage to Author

By Daniel O’Neil

It was Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Publication day for Bodies on the Potomac.  BOTP wasn’t my first manuscript, but it was the first to go the distance, to reach an audience. The feeling I had that morning was a combination of nerves, elation, apprehension, anticipation and wonder. And for just a moment, I sat in the big comfortable writing chair in front of my trusty iMac and reminisced about the journey.

As voyages go, it was not a long one if measured in terms of the age of the solar system. But fifteen years passed from the completion of my first manuscript to the time my third effort reached publication day. There’d been slush piles and agents; there were words of encouragement, there was much rejection; there were editors and rewrites; there were PR firms; there were moments of sunshine, moments of darkness.

But mostly, there were days of writing. Some long days, some short, but primarily days filled with surprises. What would Taylor Clark do today? How corrupt is the crowd in Washington? How evil is the bad guy? These questions and others surfaced repeatedly, but answered in the flow of a day’s work. The most fun was when a scene surprised even me. One incident was such a shock that I remember the hair on the back of my neck standing up as I wrote the last sentence. Fun stuff. And while I’ll never know if the reader experiences the same jolt, a guy can always hope.

The rewrite process cannot escape mention, because not only is rewriting the difference between a good book and a sloppy book, it’s also close quarters combat. No, I would not rather have a root canal than work on rewrites, but reconstruction is painful. It’s not so much that I’m admitting that what I put down the first time wasn’t good; rather it’s the difficulty of retaining proper story linkage when I delete or add or modify. At one point during a discussion of an editorial memo for BOTP, it was suggested that I consider ‘airlifting’ a section from the back of the manuscript to near the beginning. Panic flared. Frustration, too. I didn’t see it; this was all wrong; I would stand and fight.

Instead, I went out for coffee. I seethed. The coffee cooled. I cooled. I finished the coffee. And, son of a gun, suddenly it all made sense.  That’s not to say my acceptance made the constructing of the change any easier, but it taught a good lesson: outside, trustworthy eyes are an invaluable asset.

I’ll try to remember that the next time curses fly from my mouth. 
Daniel O’Neil is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a former sports broadcaster and current insurance consultant. His personal collection of fiction is extensive and serves as his inspiration to introduce readers to BODIES ON THE POTOMAC, his debut novel. O’Neil, the father of two sons, has lived in a variety of locations, including Wisconsin, California, Indiana, Kentucky, and South Carolina. He currently resides in Florida where he is at work on his next book. Follow Dan on Twitter: @danieloneilbook Like Dan’s Author Page: Facebook
Find out more about Dan on his website

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall into Daily Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Most people turn over a new leaf with the ringing in of New Years Day and set new goals. However, when leaves begin to turn glorious colors and subsequently fall to the ground, I get geared up for a recommitment to daily writing. 

For me, it helps to set new daily writing goals before the busy holiday season begins. It also helps give me a kick start towards the National Novel Writing Month Challenge. What is the challenge?

Write at least 50,000 words in a month. Yes, it's doable. You will not go crazy, you just have to get the right mind set. Remember the first day of any college class? The professor gives out a syllabus listing various papers' due dates. Those dates always seem far away but quickly appear. The lessons I learned in my college years was to start planning for writing assignments in my career by daily writing. 

To successfully write 50,000 words in a month, you have to STOP the human nature of self editing. Silence that inner editor. That includes all temptations to edit. The purpose of NaNo Writing is to just get as many words on paper as possible. If you're a "seat of the pants" type writer, you will probably have an easier time in just free flow writing. However, if you're a "plotter-outliner" you can still be successful by doing a little bit of prep work before November 1st, start date of the challenge. Just jot out a short outline and then write.

Let me break it down for you. If you have a website and do a daily blog post of 500 words per post, you only need to write roughly 1200 more for a total of 1700 a day to easily meet your NaNoWriMo goal or over 50,000. Your goal isn’t to end the month with a completely polished novel, but to write each and every day. Successful authors always advise to become a writer you must write.

Are you curious of any best-sellers that started as a National Novel Writing Month projects? The following are just some of the success stories that came from the challenge; Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Wool by Hugh Howey, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer, Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, BreakupBabe by Rebecca Agiewich, Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart, The Movie by Bosley Gravel, Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Dooley,Losing Faith by Denise Jaden, The Compound by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart, and The God Patent by Ransom Stephens.

So what do you have to lose? Nothing but a best-seller, if you don't even try the challenge.

Join with me writers and fall into writing.