Friday, July 3, 2015

The Final Proof

By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Wilted Dandelions is now in the final editing stages. I feel like an expectant mom all over again. My mind crisscrosses the nine months of Wilted Dandelions gestation, the research, editing, and more editing that went into this historical romance.

The final proofing was not easy for me. This is it. Once Wilted Dandelions goes into print, it is out there for the world to see. My mind raced along like a fireman to a house fire. Should I change this dialogue? Does that ever happen to you when you do your final edit?

I always liked to check the “what ifs” of a situation. Just like when I was pregnant and ready to rush to the hospital with my second child. It hadn’t been an easy pregnancy. I had gotten labor pains four week before my due date.

Now that my children have left my maternal nest, the characters in my books have, in a way, replaced them.  Rachael and Jonathan Wheaton, the heroine and hero in Wilted Dandelions have become as real as one of my family members.

I want Rachael and Jonathan depicted as I see them in my mind’s eye—alive, vivacious, dressed to glow with vitality, and their voices strong and poetic. Did I forget anything? Are the characters and scene depiction strong enough to carry my reader back into the 1830s, into that time machine of words and imagination I envision? Back to the western frontier before the Oregon Trail was a reality, before there were states to mark the vast unknown?

Memories pelted my thoughts like a thunderstorm. My contractions were coming; only they didn’t feel right ...  my baby wasn’t due for another week. Prov. 3:5 immediately came to my thoughts, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not rely on your own insight.” The encouraging voice of my obstetrician confirmed this. “Your baby is healthy and he will do fine.” With my faith renewed, my confidence escalated.  

With Wilted Dandelions I felt that concern again, Prov. 3:6 came to mind “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

“At some point we just have to let go.” My publisher had e-mailed me. Her words provided the confirmation of faith I desired.

Yes, dear authors, we have to let go. Our new creation must come out of our hearts and computers, become the printed word in order for our readers to enjoy our characters and story.

Just as I held my bundle of joy in my arms, so perfectly formed by God’s hands, I know a mustard seed of awe will be present when I caress Wilted Dandelions with loving fingers, and whisper a prayer to my Maker and Savior, Jesus Christ, to bless the words and characters within Wilted Dandelions and to perform their mission and reason for existence. 
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed portraying the creator with your characters? Awed, knowing you are also beautifully created by a loving God?

Does your stomach feel the butterflies, knowing this is the final hour? Your final proof is finished and you pray God will be honored above all else?

Thanks so much for having me today and may God richly bless you!
Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is an author of two non-fictional history books, and two inspirational historical romances, The Wind of Destiny and Wilted Dandelions. She is a former staff writer for Michigan Traveler Magazine, and has freelanced for numerous newspapers and magazine publications. She has had many short stories published. A few are: CrossRiver’s The Benefit Package, Revell’s The Dog Next Door, and The Horse of my Heart scheduled for release in Fall, 2015. Catherine enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. She lives in Michigan with her husband, Edward, of forty years and her Arabian horses. Her children are grown and married. She and Edward are blessed with three grandchildren. Please visit Catherine at Hopes,Heart, and Hoofbeats: Twitter: 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Isn’t It A Little Early For New Year’s List?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to begin looking at the first part of this year, 2015 and see what I accomplished from my list I made New Year’s Eve, 2014. Why so early you ask? Well, I believe you have to have a plan in order to meet your goals. Just like you have to have a map to reach your new destination in a car. Therefore, now that July 2015 is here, I need to see what corrections need to be made on my goals for the remainder of the year and be sure to include these to do before the end of the year. You see this will help me to make sure I stay on point to reach my goals.  Checking on loose ends, making sure they are tied up so to speak. Must be sure not to overlook anything. After all, if it was on my list, then it was important enough for me to make certain it is done. I know, it sounds like a lot of work, but in reality, it really saves me a lot of work.

It’s not fun going through months and having that “little gnawing” in the back of your mind that you’ve forgotten something.

I also want to make sure I spent the time with my family and friends. We all need that special time of nurturing each other. Sometimes they are overlooked when we are hard at work. After all, we are most fortunate to have our families and friends, we need to make sure we spend quality time with them. 

Once I get my list made, corrections notated with instructions then I can continue with the rest of my year knowing I am on track to accomplish my goals.

With time and age comes the realization that we want to spend our time productive not only in our careers but also and most importantly with our family and friends and give back to our community and help others.

I am anticipating with much excitement the things I will accomplish before this year ends, as I am sure you are. I also look forward to the wonderful surprises that will meet me along the way in this second part of the year. After all variety is what put’s a spring in our step.

We who write are blessed. We have the opportunity to put words to paper, build exciting worlds for others to enjoy and create characters we all love and hate. I know we all agree it’s a little piece of heaven to be able to sit and curl up with a good book.

So on with the second part of 2015…creating characters, building worlds, and giving delight to those who choose to pick up our writings and enter into our imaginations.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Writing is Fun, Again

By Ken Oder

In 1986, a prison guard ushered me into a maximum-security visitation room divided by a pane of glass with desks on each side and telephones bolted to cinderblock walls. I sat down and waited. The barred door on the other side rolled open. A death row defendant, his hands and legs manacled, stepped into the room. He sat down, stared at me with fierce black eyes, and put the telephone receiver to his ear. Twenty-five years later, those sixty seconds of my life were still seared into my mind. However, when I started to write about them, the images that came to me were of a different prisoner and lawyer in a different place and time. The story that took shape evolved into my first published novel, The Closing.

My stories always begin this way, born out of a vision of a brief scene. Sometimes they’re drawn from memory, as in The Closing. Other times, they’re imagined. Old Wounds to the Heart began with an image that came out of the ether of random thought. I saw an old man lying in bed before dawn contemplating suicide when he hears the sounds of an intruder opening a downstairs window.  
Henry James described these bits of inspiration as germs or seeds. He said The Spoils of Poynton was inspired by “wind-blown floating particles in the stream of talk,” ten words spoken at a dinner table. Dorothy Bryant, in her book Writing a Novel, noted that inspiration can come from news reports. Dreiser’s American Tragedy came from a high-profile murder trial and Madame Bovary was inspired by a real-life suicide. But it more often comes from everyday, seemingly inconsequential experiences: a dream, the mere glimpse of a person or scene, or a casual conversation. Bryant calls these seeds “weak clicks of the mind,” and she warned that you could miss them if you’re not listening.

In my case, the seed is usually a memory or an imagined scene. When it comes to me, I feel a slight jolt, faintly electrifying. Ideas spring to mind almost immediately; characters soon come to life; and a story starts to flow. I can’t write without one of these inspirations, but even with one, success doesn’t often follow. Like seeds, many of my ideas fall on rocks, dry up, and blow away, or worse yet, they grow into weeds I wish I’d never planted. Only a precious few blossom into a good story.   
So I watch and wait, and not too long ago, I felt the faint jolt again. In my mind’s eye, I saw a frenzy of moths slapping against a naked light bulb that hung over the front stoop of a country church. Under its pale glow, a small group of people crowded around a preacher, their voices hoarse and desperate. A story of lost faith and hoped-for redemption is straining to break through and take shape. 

Excitement is building; the drudgery of countless revisions of my last novel is falling away; and writing is fun again.           

Ken Oder was born in Virginia in the coastal tidewater area near the York and James Rivers, where military installations during World Wars I and II fueled the growth of urban centers like Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News. His father worked for the Navy Mine Depot in Yorktown and later as a Hudson dealer until he heard his calling and became the minister at Mount Moriah Methodist Church in 1960. The family moved to White Hall, Virginia, a farm town of about fifty people at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountains and the rural culture were a jarring contrast to the busy coastal plains, but once the shock wore off, Ken came to love it there. He found the mountains and hollows spectacularly beautiful and the people thoughtful, friendly, and quietly courageous. White Hall became Ken's home, and his affection and respect for the area and its people have never left him. Ken and his wife moved to Los Angeles in 1975, where he practiced law and served as an executive until he retired. They still live near their children and grandchildren in California, but a piece of Ken's heart never left White Hall. That place and time come out in his stories. Website: Goodreads Author page: Pinterest:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

There Oughta Be a Flaw

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

In virtually every story we write, it's a given that we will give our hero challenges to face.  Those obstacles we put in his/her path are likely to be external in nature, delivered by either circumstances or an antagonist.  But we can increase the drama further by slipping in some internal struggles for our hero too.

Besides making our protagonist more lifelike, a character flaw has the power to add the fascinating element of irony.  A hero who becomes the guardian of his brother's kids will have a worse time of it if he had vowed never to have children.  An eyewitness in a murder trial will find it harder to testify if he was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be.

The "inner demon" doesn't have to be anything illegal, immoral, or fattening.  It can be a guilty conscience, a moral dilemma, the fight between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  Anything that creates personal turmoil is material for mayhem.

It can feel against the grain to make our hero imperfect, especially if we write in first person, because our own voice is inherently caught up in there on some conscious or unconscious level.  If it helps distance you from your character, seek out a trait you don't possess.  Need some ideas?  The Seven Deadly Sins could be a source of inspiration.  If you can remember all seven and don't have to look them up, more power to you.  I can usually only remember the ones I've gotten good at.

If you're totally uncomfortable giving your beloved hero a flaw, consider a vulnerability instead.  What's the difference?  One would consider chronic grouchiness a flaw, whereas a fear of heights is a vulnerability.  Simply put, a flaw is something we can change; a vulnerability is something we can't.  It's not Indiana Jones' fault that he's afraid of snakes.  (Although I suppose he could get therapy for that.)

Depending on what you're going for, a vulnerability can elicit sympathy more than a flaw.  By the same token, a flaw is something you can work into your character arc.

The most unflawed character in all of fiction would probably have to be Superman.  Here's a guy who possesses superhuman powers and uses them for the public good.  Yet he is vulnerable to kryptonite, much less the designs of a femme fatale who steals his invincible heart.  If Superman didn't possess qualities that could weaken him, he would be as plastic as the toys made in his image.

Whether our protagonist is a "hero" in the truest sense of the word, or an underdog who must rise from the ashes, we give our story layers by including an Achilles heel above and beyond the main conflict.  The reader may not have personal experience with a tsunami or a kidnapping, but everyone knows what it's like to be human.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Is Messy

By Kathleen M. Rodgers

Writing is a messy process. After nearly forty years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to trust what works for me. Every article I sold to Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and many other publications, started out like this: first thoughts scribbled on whatever paper was at hand.

Sometimes I use legal pads or journals given to me by family members or friends. I joke that my first novel, The Final Salute, was cobbled together using sticky notes and index cards.
In 1998, I signed my fifth contract with Family Circle Magazine to write a 2500 word article about attention deficit disorder. Even before I pitched the article to my editor in a query letter, I’d accumulated hundreds of notes on every form of paper available. Once the ink dried on the contract, the pressure was on.

With notes fanned out in front of me on my living room floor, I attempted to puzzle together a story that I was getting paid a lot of money to write. For me, the only way to bring order to chaos is to wade through it. I did what I always do. I took a deep breath and plowed in. After several revisions, “Driven to Distraction” appeared in the October 1998 edition of Family Circle Magazine, where it was read by millions of readers around the country.

For my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press February 1, 2015), my first thoughts were captured in a spiral notebook for a novel writing class I took at Southern Methodist University. Once I got a few words down, I moved to my laptop.

Throughout the six years it took to write and revise this novel, many of my best lines were written in the margins of church bulletins, school programs, grocery store receipts, napkins from eateries, and the occasional paperback I happened to be reading at the moment my mind wandered from the path of reading to writing.

About eight months before I finished the manuscript, I dumped my work onto my kitchen table and attempted to organize the chapters. I’m old school in that I need to see the physical pages of the manuscript as I work. Holding each scene in my hand helped me see where I needed to revise an opening line or create a better transition from one scene to the next.

I’m in the middle of writing my third novel, and once again I am learning to trust the process. Now that my children are grown and I no longer have the need to go hide in my home office, I find myself back at the kitchen or dining room table, attempting to create characters that people will care about. Each night when I go to bed, I place the current scene I’m working on in between my alarm clock and my TBR pile. Having the physical pages close to me before I drift off to sleep is a reminder that my characters are depending on me the next day. Just like my young sons depended on me when they were young. They trusted that I would be there for them each morning when they woke up.
Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former freelance writer for Family Circle MagazineMilitary Times, and many other national and regional publications. Her first novel, The Final Salute (Deer Hawk Publications) has been featured in USA TodayThe Associated Press, and soared to #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), has been featured in Southern Writers MagazineStars & StripesFort Worth Star-Telegram, and The Authors Corner on Public Radio. Kathleen is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.
Author’s website:
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Sherryl Woods

The creative well has run dry. Your muse is on vacation. The computer cursor mocks you, blinking cheerfully while you struggle to come up with the first word of a new book, much less the first chapter. Writer's block hits almost everyone sooner or later, including the author heroine of "Bayside Retreat," my novella in the Sweet Talk eBook collection available through June 30 to raise money for diabetes research.

But is this curse just part of being a writer, something to be accepted, struggled through, and then overcome? I don't think so. And after publishing a whole bunch of books and novellas during a career that's spanned over 30 years, I think I can speak from experience. Ideas are all around you. Knowing how to recognize them and weave them into a solid story can come with practice.

I credit two things with allowing me to work even when my muse has taken off on an idyllic trip to the South of France, where I desperately want to be. 

First, I spent a number of years as a journalist, paying close attention to the world around me as I looked for fresh story ideas and angles that would keep me one step ahead of the competition. Honing your powers of observation and developing an insatiable curiosity are the cornerstones of good storytelling and character development. And we all have it. By the time we could talk we were asking why is the sky blue, where do flowers come from, why is that lady crying? For writers, it's just a more sophisticated set of questions that can trigger an idea for a character, a motivation for a hero or the key to solving a crime. 

And second, sometimes it all comes down to two little words Mary Higgins Clark shared at a conference I attended many, many years ago: what if? Read an article in the paper, eavesdrop on an argument in a mall food court, watch Dr. Phil, ask someone you've just met how they met their spouse, and then ask, what if? Those two words can kick your imagination into gear and send you off on a journey into an intriguing new story. 

Years ago, there was an iconic line on the TV series The Naked City: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them." Next time you sit in front of a blank computer screen, think about that. The world right around you is crawling with stories. Observe and ask what if. You'll be well on your way to telling just one of them.
Sherryl Woods is a #1 New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods has published over 140 romance, women's fiction and mystery novels and novellas. "Bayside Retreat," her contribution to the Sweet Talk eBook collection, is part of her popular Chesapeake Shores series, which is currently in development for a movie and possible series for the Hallmark Channel. She divides her time between Key Biscayne, Florida and her childhood summer home in Colonial Beach, Virginia. Sherryl is happy to be part of Brenda Novak’s SWEET TALK collection for raising money for diabetes research. For more information, visit her website at From there you can also follow the link to her Facebook page.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Creating Your Own Sell Sheet

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Recently, I helped an author create a "sell sheet" for his first book, The Gates of Hell, in his Biblical historical series. The author, Earl C. David, Jr. is a member of our writers group.

Why is a sell sheet helpful? Consider your fan base via email. You want to let them know with the click of a mouse about your latest book with live links for them to purchase your book. In Earl's case, he is asking that all his fans then forward the sell sheet to their email list in hopes that it will continue. You can also use it to send to bookstores and request a book signing or media event.

To create a sell sheet, make it a one-page concise document. It is virtually an announcement your book is finished and available.

Earl's sell sheet was created using a Microsoft Word document. You can also create a double-fold or trifold brochure. I suggest playing around with the documents you create and then compare them. You may want to create several sell sheets, one targeting fans, family and friends, bookstores, etc.

Definitely put the title of the book at the top of the page. Consider the font size and text color and make the title a different color with a live link to your book sale site. Make sure you include picture of your book's cover. I placed the book cover in the upper left corner of the sell sheet. To the right of the book cover, include publishing details about your book, the title and a short impactive summary. Below the book information include a headshot picture with your book and a short bio.

Make sure when you send out your sell sheets that you can monitor and respond to any emails.

You may be a published author, but your job is not over. You have to market your book for readers to find you.