Friday, October 20, 2017

Resonance in Writing Fiction, Part One

By Grace Greene

My recent release, THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES, resonated with me in many ways, and more strongly than my prior novels. Writing it was an amazing experience and I wanted to share my thoughts about it—lots of thoughts—thus I’m sharing them in this two-part post, and I hope some of them will resonate with you.

Resonance? What is it? For story lovers, whether as a reader or writer, resonance happens when something of shared significance or mutual interest connects a story and a reader (or writer) and evokes strong emotion or other internal responses. Because humans have many common experiences some story details or elements are more likely to evoke resonance, but resonance is often accidental or unpredictable.

What draws a reader into a story and keeps them reading despite life’s demands and distractions? Something in the story resonates with them, causing them to invest themselves in it and read to the end, perhaps lingering over it for a while after the last page is turned.

For the author, what compels them to continue crafting a story regardless of the angst and obstacles inherent in the writing process? Again, I think resonance must be part of the answer.
I was an artist. In middle school and high school, I spent every study hall and free period in the art classroom. I double-majored in studio art and art history in college. I liked to draw in pencil and paint in oils, and each piece of artwork felt like a story—almost a small world I’d created even though it was constrained by a flat surface. I worked in three dimensions, too, in clay, both on the wheel and in hand-sculpting, but after I left school working with clay became difficult because it was hard to get access to a potter’s wheel and a kiln.

Many years ago, my husband and I lived in Louisville, Kentucky. Our children were toddlers at that time. I was fortunate our home was near a pottery studio where I could buy clay, rent time on a wheel, and pay to have the clay works fired in their kiln. I did this in the evenings while my husband stayed home with the children. It was glorious. But we moved a lot. Before long, we left Kentucky for somewhere else and during a subsequent move most of the pots and other clay works I’d created there were shattered by a careless packer.

Fast forward a decade or two to when I stopped painting and started writing, and then jump ahead a few years more to the day, over a year ago, when the words for THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES started flowing. Hannah Cooper showed up at my desk that day. [Yes, she’s fictional, but she showed up nonetheless.] I wondered where she lived and how she lived. Who were her people? What did she care about? I heard her story and the beginnings of her voice. But she needed something concrete to show the core truth of who she was—a creator, a caretaker, yet a loner. That’s when I saw her bending over a battered potter’s wheel in an old cabin—the same cabin on Cub Creek where her female line had been creating pottery for generations. She was throwing a pot on the wheel that her grandfather had given her as a teenager. As she leaned over her work, her long, dark blond hair cascaded forward and across her arms. I watched every movement, but her focus was so great I felt invisible.  [To be continued on Monday, October 23, 2017]

Grace Greene writes women's fiction and contemporary romance with suspense. A Virginia native, Grace has family ties to North Carolina. She writes books set in both locations. Please visit Grace at and sign up for her newsletter there.The Emerald Isle books, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS, are set in North Carolina where "It's always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach." Or travel down Virginia Country Roads in KINCAID'S HOPE, A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER, and CUB CREEK and "Take a trip to love, mystery and suspense. Her most recent release is THE HAPPINESS IN BETWEEN and her next will be THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES was released on 9/5/17 BEACH RENTAL, her debut novel, won the Booksellers Best contest in both the Traditional and Best First Book categories. BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS were each awarded 4.5 stars, Top Pick by RT Book Reviews magazine. Grace lives in central Virginia. Her Social Media links are: Website  Twitter  Facebook

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Sin of the Desert and Book Sales

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

As we all know book sales are controlled by a relatively small number of book stores.  Sales figures are noted by an even smaller number of booksellers and the large retail stores like Target, Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club are not considered. You can be successful as an author and not have a New York Times best seller but the title alone does propel your career. So getting your book in a store isn’t always easy. This was noted by several authors and a solution was presented.

Just as Southern Writers Magazine is for Authors by Authors, there now are bookstores owned by authors for authors. Several successful authors have opened bookstores for the sale of their books and books they like by fellow authors, local authors and others. Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, Commonwealth, State of Wonder, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, The Magician’s Assistant and more owns along with her business partner Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books in Nashville TN.

Ann and Karen realized that at one time there were over 3,000 independent bookstores. Their numbers dwindled to 1650 but thanks to owners like Patchett and Hayes their numbers have increased to 2300. Even with this increase Amazon controls ½ of all book sales. Only books with backing from the big publishers, big agents and authors that have sold millions are moved through Amazon. Knowing this Patchett and Hayes has opened her door to promote local authors, all authors and other independent bookstores. 

There is a law in business known as the “Sin of the Desert” which states if you are in the desert, know where the water is but don’t tell others, that is a sin. These owners and others are sharing with other independent bookstores just as Southern Writers Magazine connects authors with authors. Other authors with independent book stores and more joining their ranks every day are Judy Bloom, Garrison Keillor and Jeff Kinney.

Hopefully, we all will support them and their efforts for an opportunity to return to what we all loved, our local independent bookstore.  Have you visited an author owned bookstore?           

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Looking for Jamie Fraser

By Marilyn Baron

My daughter and I went on a TAUCK tour, labeled A Week in Scotland, this past summer. I was already in love with Jamie Fraser, hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Then I fell in love with Scotland. My daughter was interested in seeing the country. I was looking for Jamie Fraser. After talking with many of the women on the tour, from millennials to women of a certain age, it turns out we were all after the same thing. Jamie Fraser.

Did we really think we would find him? Yes, I think we did. When I suggested to my traveling companions that, maybe we would see Claire, they said, “Who cares?”

I came closest to a sighting three times.

Once, in Inverness, gateway to the Highlands, when I tried to go through the stones at the ancient burial site at Clava Cairns. I placed my hands on a center stone and hoped to be whisked away. But, alas, I had left my good jewelry at home and anyone who’s read Outlander knows you can’t travel through time without a jewel. What made me think I could do it? Maybe the visit to Glenturret Distillery the day before where we had lunch and a whisky tasting. 

Second, at Culloden House, a majestic Palladian mansion, where we tasted Highland hospitality with Afternoon Tea, a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly homemade scones served with whipped cream & jam, macaroons, Chocolate Tiffin, a selection of pastries,  Ham & Cheese Panier and a Provençale Tart. Originally a Jacobean Castle, where in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie requisitioned the building as his headquarters prior to the tragic battle of 1746 that divided families and clans. It is now a hotel. I asked the receptionist if she’d ever seen Diana Gabaldon and she said, yes, that the author stays in one of the 28 charming bedrooms when she’s in town and as a matter of fact, had just been there two weeks before we arrived. Missed her by that much!

And the author’s (and Jamie’s) presence was everywhere when we visited the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre. Diana Gabaldon had an impressive display in the gift shop. I bought my daughter a copy of Outlander to try to get her hooked on the series. 

Third, a young French man, who was traveling with his mother and aunt on the tour, was so enthralled with Scottish tradition, he turned into a highlander, literally, complete with kilt and bagpipes. I have a picture of him with my daughter. He’s not Jamie, but he would do in a pinch.

Though I tried everything—I even ate haggis—alas, I never saw Jamie.

I have written historical fiction and I plan to set my next book in Scotland because of the natural beauty and allure of the place, probably on peaceful Loch Lomond, inspired by its breathtaking views from my window at Cameron House, where the sun never seemed to set.

My hat is off to any author, like Diana Gabaldon, who can create a character as memorable as Jamie. Such an author can build worlds in a trendsetting genre and make a fictional character come alive.

That’s my goal and I imagine the goal of many writers. So, we plod on, at our computers, doing our research, making our magic. And maybe one day, we will find Jamie, in one of our own characters or people will travel to distant lands in search of the character of our own creation.
Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres, from humorous coming-of-middle age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel With Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal//Fantasy Romance and most recently was The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones. Her latest novel, The Alibi, a romantic suspense, is her 13th novel with The Wild Rose Press (her 21st work of fiction), and was released September 13, 2017. She’s published five humorous, paranormal short stories with TWB Press and self-published two books and a musical with her sister, Sharon Goldman. AmazonEncore republished her book Sixth Sense in September 2015. She serves on the Roswell Reads Steering Committee and was selected as a featured author in the 2015 and 2016 Atlanta Authors Series. She’s a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and winner of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. Marilyn graduated with a BS in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. She worked in Public Relations for AT&T in Atlanta for 13 years before starting her own PR firm. To find out more about Marilyn’s books, please visit her Web site at Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads: and Amazon Author Page.                                  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What's Your Type?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One font meets another font in Rome. He asks, "Are you a Roman too?"
"No," says the other, "but I am an Italic."

If that joke made sense to you, you've come to the right place. You're a font-savvy writer who probably pays attention to the typeface you use, and you prefer some over others.  You don't have to have a font obsession like TV's Brick Heck (The Middle) to recognize that some typestyles work better than others, and a lot depends on the project.

For most of our writing, the default fonts do the trick just fine. Arial or Times New Roman are familiar friends and easy on the eyes.  But there are times when you want something that isn't so ordinary, say, for a book cover or an author website.

For the sake of simplicity, let's narrow down all fonts to one of three types: Serif, Sans Serif, and Decorative

Serif fonts like Times New Roman contain hooks, feet and other embellishments. Studies have shown that Serif is the easiest type of font to read, which is why almost every book from the beginning of time has used it. This classic font is ideal for long stretches of copy.

Sans Serif, minus all the ornamentation, is simpler, and some consider it a bit more modern. It has a clean look that advertisers and signage of all kinds have relied on for decades. The Sans Serif font Helvetica is so popular that it was the subject of a 2007 documentary.

Decorative fonts have personality and, used sparingly, are good at establishing a mood. They are only used for titles and headlines, never for body text. A little goes a long way, and if there is too much of it, the eye fatigues quickly.

A look at the covers on this week's New York Times Best Sellers list shows no preference for either Serif or Sans Serif fonts. Both are used almost equally for titles and author identification.  Decorative fonts are much rarer, appearing less than 10% of the time. In almost every case, the background or foreground art gets center stage, while the text is merely complementary.

These two book covers are quick examples of how font choice can make or break a design. The tasteful one on the left can be read even from a distance using bold text and good color contrast, and its tall font is a good match for the tall shape of a book. You could say it hits the bulls-eye.

Where do I begin with the one on the right? First of all, it's a decorative font that wasn't designed to be in all caps, nor do the two ornate fonts play nice together on the same cover. Along with leaving hardly any border on one side, the font is barely discernable against the busy background.

In the end, it's all about communication.  Feel free to experiment with style to get attention, but only take it as far as you need to.  You'll never want to sacrifice clarity for creativity.

Monday, October 16, 2017


By Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

I was associated with traditional publishers since 2010 when my first novel, Code Blue, was released. I’d had a good relationship with them, but—like many other authors—the contracts I was given were for a limited number of books each time. There was no lifetime guarantee, but with all the awards and honors my writing received, I wasn’t worried. But perhaps I should have been.

I’d signed (after a long period of nail-biting) with a new publishing house run by experienced and respected people. We were all excited about it, but when my publication date was pushed back a couple of times I began to worry a bit. That unease was validated when I received news from the publisher that there were problems with their financing. My agent negotiated a reversion of rights for the novel the publisher held, but where did I go from here? After several other publishers declined to give me an offer, I reached the conclusion I’d been avoiding: I’d go with self-publication.

Actually, I’d dipped my toe—er, my pen—into these waters earlier, publishing three novellas using agent-assisted publication. And for this novel I used the lessons I’d learned. For the novellas, as well as the novel I was about to release, I made certain that the cover design was a good one. How? I didn’t try to do it myself, but paid a professional. The same with editing, even though I’d read all the books on self-editing and gone through the manuscript several times. Another pair of eyes, especially a good one, never hurt. And, because I was still new at this “indie” thing, I turned to agent-assisted publication for this endeavor.

The agency furnished a coordinator (one with whom I’d worked on publication of my novellas), and she helped walk me through the process. She assisted in pricing the book. She answered my questions and even had some suggestions along the way. And I tried to learn from the experience.

I didn’t have a publisher’s marketing department behind me, but every author will agree that the best way to advertise is to write good books and have readers look forward to your next one. I lined up a few blog appearances, recruited a dozen or so people to help get the word out after I sent them a print copy of the book, and let things take their course. So far, the results have been good.

Would I use a traditional publisher in the future if I am offered a contract, or am I an “indie” (actually a hybrid) author for the foreseeable future? Only time will tell. But this experience has shown me yet another means of getting my novels to readers. And for that I am grateful.
Richard L. Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mysteries with heart.” He is the author of one non-fiction book (TheTender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse), three novellas, and eleven published novels, the latest of which is Cardiac EventHis novels have been a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel, finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, as well as winner of the Selah Award and the 2017 Christian Retailers Best.

Friday, October 13, 2017

When a Plot Comes Together … or Follow That Character!

I’m an outliner or planster, really.  I have to know where I’m headed or I stall out. Then as I write the scene, I let the characters take over. Occasionally—okay often they highjack my plan and take off in another direction. It usually works, but today something happened that took me by surprise.

My main character suddenly decided to follow a minor character into a cafĂ©. There, a conversation led to a surprise announcement. Actually, it surprised both of us. I wondered for a bit whether I could actually keep this. Was I letting her off the hook for conflict? Making it too easy for her? Then I remembered a coming plot point … the black moment and this fit into the lead up to that perfectly. Wow.

Then the next conversation she has needed a bit of action around it, so they weren’t talking heads. That action led to a new plot point that fit. Her earlier conversation and its announcement played into this new one so perfectly, it was as if I’d planned it. Wow again.

That’s when I saw how this new direction would bring about another plot point that need to happen, one I hadn’t yet known how to make natural and not contrived. This new direction fits in so perfectly, it’s almost as if it had been meticulously plotted. Amazing.

If this keeps up, I may have to put my characters’ names down as co-authors.

But if I’ve learned one thing over the course of writing 10 novels, it’s to follow your characters. The outline can always bring them back in line if it doesn’t work, but more often than not, it works because it’s organic to the character.
While a floppy straw hat is her favorite, award-winning author Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), CEO of a Community Theatre, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find her on her AneMulligan  @AneMulligan website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tom Petty, The Swamp and Branding

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

The world mourned last week,  news spread that Tom Petty had suffered a fatal heart attack. His fans on social media linked thousands of their favorite Petty songs and were constantly being uploaded and shared. He was one of those rare musicians who everyone wanted to work with, a talent and nice guy. Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers received keys to their hometown of Gainesville, Florida in September 2006. 

Erick Smith is the University of Florida’s urban forester. He confirms in an article there is a Tom Petty tree on campus. 
Although Tom Petty never attended the University, he worked on the grounds crew at the University of Florida. During his time there, Petty planted a tree that is now known as the Tom Petty Tree. It is an Ogeechee Lime Tree. While watching the game, the TV announcers remarked how Petty's tree was in the shadow of the university's football stadium, The Swamp.

Numerous tributes to Tom Petty have occurred since his death.. On Saturday at the Florida-LSU game in The Swamp between the third and fourth quarter, the stadium speakers played Petty's, “I Won’t Back Down" with the 90,000 fans singing in tribute to Petty. 

University of Florida graduate, Steve Spurrier returned as football coach in 1990. Spurrier wanted UF fans to have pride and passion in their football team. The stadium started as Florida Field, built in 1929 out of a marshy depression. Before construction, the area had to be drained due to an underground spring that was capped. There was such a big hole in the ground, the stadium actually was built from the the ground down. The top row of seats in the stadium (Row 32) was the same height as the surrounding area. The rest of the stadium was below ground level. In 1992, Spurrier nicknamed and gave the football stadium a new brand name. As Spurrier explained “The Swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. We feel like this is an appropriate nickname for our stadium.”

Spurrier, like Petty, knew that branding is important for any product. Whether it's the world of collegiate football or world-renown rock and roll branding is everything toward your success.. As writers, we need to plan on planting trees (our books) with deep roots in the muck of a swamp (our publisher, either self published or traditionally published) so readers can  identify readily our books with us as authors to create our brand. 

Where to start? Create your own author motto. It's really a PMS, no not that PMS it's a Personal Mission Statement. It is your branding tagline. Readers will know what you and your books are about and help you create a loyal fan base.

What is the brand you have created for yourself as an author?