Friday, January 30, 2015

Battling Burnout ~ 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Emily T. Wierenga

I pin the colored fabric as though savoring a mango, this slice of time so sweet, and the sounds of children splashing in the pool. And all I want is to rest. To open wide this moment and step into it, to sit on a beach chair and hold my babies and breathe in their skin, and funny how, once you get what you want, all you can think about is the other.

But I am learning to write, in spite of myself because I want to honor the call. I don’t want to miss out on my children nor the man I made them with. Sometimes though, I’m just plain worn out. I don’t have any more words in me.

How do we balance the laptop with the laundry and the liturgy; still our souls in a world that never sleeps?

To know God, in the stillness there has to be less of us and more of him. Sometimes we think we have to produce when really, we’re slaves to no one. Christ calls us friends, and there is freedom in this. We serve God alone, and have nothing to fear. So, when we’re burning out, we need to quiet our souls.

Here are 10 ways to find that stillness:
1.     Turn off the laptop. I have made a habit of turning it off for the entire morning and spending those hours with my preschoolers. By noon, I’m normally more than excited to begin writing.
2.     Cry, and laugh, a lot. Experience that ALIVE feeling again. Remember: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a (poor) first draft.
3.     Read. Whether it’s a novel or a memoir or the Psalms in your pajamas
4.     Take a bath with some Epsom salts and a candle.
5.     Eat some dark chocolate. And then eat some more.
6.     Write a letter to someone you trust.
7.     Surround yourself with inspiration. My friend constantly mails me encouraging quotes and artwork; I have posted these quotes and pieces of art above my desk to provide visual stimulation.
8.     Hug your kids. They’re your greatest story. Hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight.
9.     Kiss your husband. He’s your biggest fan.
10.  Pray. Pray as you write, as you edit, as you rest. Pray through it all. Because God is the Word. He gave you this calling. So trust him to work through you, even on days when the pool and the sunlight and the birds are calling
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, and the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: FindingHome in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). All proceeds from Atlas Girl benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Benjamin Franklin’s Pen Names Were Many

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

How many pen names did Benjamin Franklin have? Many of us are well aware of Franklin’s best known work, Poor Richard’s Almanac, written by Richard Saunders (Benjamin Franklin) but Franklin had many other pseudonyms in his repertoire. Franklin would readily create a pen name for whatever the occasion called for. This allowed him to slip letters by his brother by writing them as Silence Dogood, a forty four year old preacher’s widow, so his brother wouldn’t judge him but publish them which he did. These letters were used as clues for the movie, National Treasure. Franklin used other female pen names, Celia Shortface and Martha Careful, when writing critical letters of a former employer and publishing them in a competitor’s publication. Franklin was prolific and detailed in his creations.

Today pen names still serve us well. Pen names can hide the identity of the writer. Many writers that are professionals in another field do not want  their name out there as an author  writing books of a genre that may be questionable for their profession. Pen names are also used for marketing as Joanne Rowling’s pen name of J. K. Rowling was created to market a book, Harry Potter, written for adolescent boys. It was feared a female, Joanne, would not sell well to that market. We will never know.

No matter the use if you are considering a pen name here are some things you may consider.
·       Once you begin down that path you may not be able to return to your true name. You may become so popular you would not be able to leave that pen name. In essence it may become bigger than you.
·       Is it absolutely necessary or is the reason to use the pen name valid. Are you doing this on a whim, are you using this to avoid rejection or are you testing the water with your work.
·       Will you be able to live up to the pseudonym as Franklin did? By that I mean Franklin built a persona around these pen names and maintained their character in his works. This will take an effort on your part and may be as much work as the writing.
·       Do you have the same name as another author?  Authors and Artist do this quite often. A friend of mine was told there were too many country artists named Tracy in country music and was recommend to use Trace instead. Not a big difference but enough to make a difference.
·       Have you failed in the past and are looking for a fresh start? It may not be the name but the work of the author.

How many faces do you see in this tree? Something you should remember you can use a pseudonym by simply using your name and add the phrase “writing as” then your pen name. The truth is it is hard to hide your true name from publishers and the use of a pen name will not protect you legally from any writing illegalities. So whatever you choose to do think long and hard about it. Is it necessary? Give it some thought before becoming another Silence Dogood or Celia Shortface. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How I Writing

By Alonna Williams

Whether it’s fiction, historical fiction, sci-fi or any genre, music inspires me. Music helps me paint a picture in my head, where I want the story to go. From classical music to pop rock, anything inspires me. Many different songs inspire my latest series “Pirates- The Lost Cove”. One of my favorites being “Carpe Diem” by an indie composer named Adrian Von Zeigler.

Usually I like to be in a quiet setting when I’m writing.  I hope I’m not alone when I say I like to act out scenes to know exactly how I want to write them down… sounds weird but I feel that it makes the story better.

When it comes to character development, I usually add a dash of myself to the person and then think of other qualities I would like them to have. My favorite character, “Trevor Henderson”, for example, has some qualities that are from me. Such as his quick remarks, sarcasm, love of corny jokes and his constantly laughing and talking when the time is not right. He also has a few not so good qualities of his own, such as being spoiled, bratty, and selfish and so on. That might make you wonder, if he’s the hero of the story why does he have so many annoying qualities.

When making this character I didn’t want to make a “Mary Sue” character that is perfect and gets everything right. I wanted to make a character that you have to grow to love as you read the series. Someone that you start to get along with as you begin to realize he’s not that bad and he’s changing. Eventually you’ll realize… you love “Trevor Henderson”.

In Conclusion, I’d just like to say that all together, I just write, I write, write, because it makes me happy and it gives me the ability to make other people happy.
My Name is Alonna Williams and I have always enjoyed writing as a really enjoyable way to express any kind of feelings; I have been writing since I was little and don't plan on stopping. I write all genres whether it's, Mystery, Romance, Drama, Adventure or even Children's stories. I wrote my first short story when I was around seven or eight. If I’m not writing books you’ll probably find me tap dancing, reading, or watching a good classic movie
Twitter: alonna_williams  Instagram: alonnawilliams Website:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Real Reality Stars

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Cracking codes, rather than jokes, in The Imitation Game
The countdown to the Academy Awards has begun, and with it comes lively discussion about who should win, who got snubbed, etc.  From a writer's point of view, one of the more interesting sidenotes comes from the fact that exactly half of the Best Film nominees are inspired by real life stories.

Math genius Alan Turing is recruited by the British Intelligence Agency to crack codes intercepted from the Germans during World War II.

A biography of physicist Stephen Hawking, whose rare disease can't keep him from breaking new ground in the fields of medicine, science and space.

A chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr's march from Selma to Montgomery, leading to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

U.S. Navy Seal sharpshooter Chris Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq and discovers upon returning home to his family that he cannot leave the war behind. Based on Kyle's autobiography.

The other four nominees are entirely works of fiction.  (Worth noting is that with the exception of the comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel, all eight films in this Oscar fieldwhich also include Birdman, Boyhood, and Whiplashare full-fledged dramas.)

I remember a chilling horror thriller a few years ago that involved strangers who came to the door asking for someone who didn't live there, later coming back to kill everybody. At the end of the movie was the ominous message "Based on a True Story."  I would later learn that the "true story" it was based on was simply that somebody once came to the writer's door and had the wrong address.

Recreating Stephen and Jane Hawking for The Theory of Everything
Most stories lie somewhere within the extremes of complete fantasy and historic accuracy, and the wide range between them invites infinite possibilities for a writer's personal expression.  Identifying and detailing the dramatic moments of a real-life incident takes as much creativity as crafting a scene of fiction.  The genre known as creative nonfiction is enjoying a resurgence as an outlet for many writers.

Since truth is stranger than fiction, it could be added that real life has a compelling appeal all its own, since it has actually happened and has passed the supreme test of truth.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Creating A Writer's Community

By Ane Mulligan

This past September, I took a marketing course at the ACFW conference. Presented by three multi-published Southern authors, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y'Barbo, and Anita Higman, the class taught me a lot about marketing. But the one idea that really struck a chord within me was creating a tribe. The people in a writer's tribe are those who love their stories and help promote their work.

Okay, but the conference took place less than two weeks after the release of my debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival, so while I came home with terrific ideas, I wasn't ready to put any in place. I mean, doesn't one actually need fans to have a tribe? 

When reviews began to come in, I was thrilled at the response to Chapel Springs Revival. People responded to my whacked sense of humor and my characters. They loved them! I gained a few fans. Amazing. One sent me a photo he made that I've framed.

Excuse me while I bask for a moment.

I decided to go ahead and put into place what I'd learned from the conference. I formed a private Facebook group, naming it after the bakery in my novel, Dee's 'n' Doughs, where everyone gathers in Chapel Springs. I invited those who followed my blog tour and loved the characters. They help promote my book and future books. For that, they get sneak peeks at the next book in the series, special offers, and the chance to help name people and other things.

I uploaded a file with the names and roles of the characters in the series. Those who joined Dee's 'n' Doughs have taken on the persona of one of the characters and they interact as such. They're having a crazy lot of fun. In some of the dialogue between these "characters," I've picked up new ideas for another book in the series.

When someone mentioned a new item for the bakery, I got the idea to have everyone submit recipes as their character, and I'm putting together a small Chapel Springs Community Church cookbook. Some have added hilarious side notes to the recipes that come straight from Chapel Springs Revival.

If anyone has read Chapel Springs Revival and would like to join Dee's 'n' Doughs, go to and click join. We've left the light on for you, and I'll approve your membership.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, bestselling novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Friday, January 23, 2015


By Bette Golden Lamb & J. J. Lamb


Nice word. Solid sound. Good potential.

You know how it goes – spouse, sibling, parent, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, significant other, friend, or acquaintance says the brain-freeze words, "I have this great idea; all you have to do is write it."

Remember that old song, "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover?" Well, substitute collaborator for lover and you have an inkling of all the things that could go wrong. If you're not familiar with the lyrics, trust us – have an escape plan.

If you decide to try collaboration, first find a mutually suitable approach to the mechanics of writing a novel, or anything else. We tried writing every other chapter, writing about certain characters, doing individual scenes, and writing virtually every word together. None of these worked particularly well.

Final answer? One of us comes up with a mutually agreeable story idea; that partner writes the first draft, with input from the other with respect to plotting and character development.

We switch off for the second draft and then actually sit down at the keyboard, side by side, to create the final draft(s).

We also belong to a serious and dedicated critique group that provides invaluable assistance.

From out first brave start with Bone Dry (Five Star Mysteries, 2003)  we've now written and published six novels, the latest being Bone of Contention, the fourth in our “Bone” series of medical thrillers.

We would suggest that one of the first things collaborators should agree on is a mutual goal, beyond sharing in all the fame and fortune, of course.

Perhaps collaboration simply sounds like a fun thing to do.

Maybe there's something going on in the world that you both feel strongly about and want to comment on through fiction.

Maybe there are certain genres of fiction you both enjoy reading and would like to try your hand at writing – mystery, sci-fi, horror, romance, humor, or whatever.

Our literary collaboration started by merging a career writer ‒ fiction and non-fiction ‒ with a practicing registered nurse and artist. While our reading tastes were quite similar, there was initial disagreement about what genre we wanted to write in ‒ sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers. Plus, should the stories have medical- or journalism-related backgrounds?

Out of this consternation came Bone Dry, the first of our Gina Mazzio medical thriller series, followed by Heir Today...,a suspense adventure about a husband-wife team of investigative journalists.  Compromise? Absolutely!

While we've found soaring together exhilarating, every now and then we do like to fly solo. Bette has an award-winning sci-fi novel, Rx Denied, coming from Assent Publishing later this year; J.J. recently published No Pat Handsa 2014 nominee for a Shamus Award from Private Eye Writers of America.

First, if you're part of a writing team, regardless of whether you're writing together or individually, we think there's an implicit responsibility needed to keep each other from crashing and burning.

That's collaboration.

Bette Golden Lamb, a feisty ex-Bronxite, writes crime novels and plays with clay. Her sculptures and other artistic creations appear in exhibitions, galleries, and stores. She also hangs out with her 50+ rose bushes, or sneaks out to movies when she should be writing. Being an RN is a huge clue as to why she writes medical thrillers and Sci-Fi novels. Award-winning Rx Denied, is due out from Assent Publishing later this year. J. J. Lamb intended to become an aeronautical engineer/pilot, but was seduced by journalism. An AP career was interrupted by the Army, which gave him a Top Secret clearance; a locked room with table, chair, and typewriter; and the time to write short stories. A paperback PI series followed, the most recent of which, No Pat Handsa 2014 Shamus Award nominee from Private Eye Writers of America. The Lambs, who live in Northern California, have co-authored five medical thrillers - Bone Dry, Sisters in SilenceSin & Bone, Bone Pit and Bone of Contention and a suspense-adventure-romance novel, Heir Today. Website: Blog: www.bettelamb,

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Ain't Nothin' But A Found Dog" and Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Elvis Presley would have been 80 on January 8, 2015. A birthday celebration was televised on The Today Showlive from Graceland, as well as a Livestream of the event. It was so cold that Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley attempted to cut the beautiful eight tiered cake, and it was frozen. Fans from all areas of the world attended the birthday party. The King would have been happy people still loved him and his music.

However, a Canadian couple who planned to attend were unable to because the night before, their dog, Dixie was dognapped. The Canadian couple missed the four-day celebration of events while they attempted to locate their beloved dog. They had to return home without their dog being found. The couple was heartbroken and said they never wanted to return to Memphis. This past week the Memphis Police Department, acting on a tip, found Dixie, verifying her identity via an imbedded chip. The dognappers were arrested. The couple did return to Memphis to retrieve their dog, who had captured the hearts of people in this city. 

In a front page article in The Commercial Appeal newspaper, titled "Ain't Nothin' But A Found Dog" they told the tale of Dixie. The MPD renamed her "Memphis Dixie." The couple and Dixie were reunited, presented with a key to the city, honorary certificate of citizenship, and a certificate of completion from MPD's K-9 unit. They were treated to a night at The Peabody Hotel, and yes, Dixie was allowed to stay in their room. 

These Elvis fans also received a private tour of Graceland, and Dixie was allowed special permission to accompany them. After all that occurred from January 7th until the couple was reunited with Dixie, I'm sure they could not imagine the range of emotions and events that occurred in Dixie's journey. Everybody loves a sad story full of bad guys that takes a turn into a modern day fairytale. 

Yes, I know what you're saying, Annette, nice story but what does this have to do with writing?" Quite a few lessons for all authors are hidden in this story. Are you curious? Read on.

So you've written a story or a book. You think it's your best work. It's your baby, but not everyone agrees. You had plans of being published. You were headed for a celebration for your best work. After being rejected, you feel lost as to what should be your next move. You return to your home to regroup. You circle your wagons. Get help from your trusted "beta" group of readers. You carefully edit your work and try again. You may be published traditionally at this point, or you may opt for indie and or eBook publishing instead of traditional. 

Your journey to becoming published may not look like what you imagined, but who knows? Sometimes plans that go awry turn out better than you could ever imagine. Just like "Memphis Dixie," it may turn out better than you planned. You and your published book could be your own personal fairytale.