Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Our Voice a Lighthouse

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

Writers have their own voice when telling their stories.  But it occurred to me everyone has a voice. 

Me as me and you as you. We share our voice with others. With our voice we share who we are.
That brings me to this. People who meet us, know us, are they clear on who we are, or do we wear a mask? In fact, are we clear on who we are?

Tad Hargrave, who has a knack for marketing, some have called him a marketing nerd, said, “As you find your voice the world becomes less confused with you. It becomes clear about who you are, and you become not a searchlight desperately looking for people, but a lighthouse. A beacon calling your ships to safe harbor.

What struck me in that quote was how writers may sometimes feel as if they are a searchlight looking for readers instead of the beacon leading readers to them.

Marketing can seem overwhelming to some authors. They aren’t sure what a marketing plan is and are unsure how to design a plan to promote their book.

But once the author knows their niche then a plan can be made to market to that specific group.
In other words, if you wrote a book about fly-fishing your niche would be people who fish. If you wrote a book about knitting the niche would be people who like to knit.

If you wrote books about private detectives in the 1940’s your niche would be different than a book about cowhands riding the range.

So, in finding a specific niche, you can listen to people when they tell you they liked your book. 
What did they like most about your book? Ask them questions that get them to talking about their interest and passions. Especially questions about your book. Sit down and write out three questions you could ask a reader who has read your book that are important to you which would give you insight into what they liked, what they didn’t. Questions geared to their interest. This would enlighten you on what other readers might think and where and what that niche of marketing would be. Give them your card, and if you are writing another book, tell them. Ask them if they would be willing to give you their opinions on your book they’ve just read.

It’s best to remove the masks.The more you interact with your readers, the more they become invested in you and you in them. 

They tell their family and friends they met you and talked to you.  Through this, you become the lighthouse instead of the searchlight.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Four Ways to Support Other Writers

By W. Terry Whalin

Writing is a solitary profession. Alone we sit at our keyboard and write words—maybe for a magazine or a book or a website. So why would you even want to support other writers?     

Bestselling author, Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” As you support other writers, your life will be richer and you will see remarkable and often unexpected results. I’ve been working with writers for many years.

In this article, I want to give you four simple ways to support other writers. While I personally practice these ways, I encourage you to pick one or two which you can do on a regular basis.
1.      Write reviews of any book you read or hear. Depending on the book, it is often hard to get book reviews. It’s why I’ve written over 850 reviews on Amazon. Any book that I read or hear the audiobook, I take a few minutes and write a few sentences of review. As a writer, I’m always reading books and when I finish the book, it doesn’t take much time to write the review but other writers will appreciate your support.
2.      As you read the blog posts from others, make a short yet relevant comment. Sometimes with blogging, you wonder if anyone is reading and your relevant comment will encourage the writer. The key concept is to make a “relevant” comment and tie it to the content of the blog post. I often get unrelated comments for my blog which are never posted and deleted as SPAM.
3.      Use Social media retweets. When you read a solid blog post, magazine article, Facebook post or tweet, pass it onto others. Often there a simple buttons to facilitate this effort but you will help other writers when you pass on this information.
4.      Introduce writers to each other. In the writing world, who you know is often as important as what you know. A simple email introducing a writer to someone else can help that person make the right connection. It could change the direction of their writing life.

As writers, we need each other. Our writing may be in isolation but taking these actions can be a difference maker in the life of other writers.
W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook, his blog and LinkedIn.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Breathtaking Power of Secondary Characters

By Ed Protzel

Do you feel blocked because your hero and plot are played out? Simply need to add power and verisimilitude to your completed work? Secondary characters can inject lightning into your novel, screenplay, or short story when you adopt some of these principles and secrets.

The Hero’s Reflection & Subplots
The most basic minor character is the hero’s reflection: a best friend, spouse, pal, or loved one. Of course, the reflection gives the hero a sounding board, enabling the writer to reveal the hero’s character, motives, and inner thoughts dramatically and economically, without introspective narratives. Further, because the reflection closely parallels the hero, if you put him/her in the same or a similar situation as the hero, you’ve created a viable subplot. Note how Shakespeare uses minor characters and subplots in every play—fantastic! A good subplot will not only give depth to your themes, but also can add humor and irony to a dramatic story, poignancy to a comedy, and, importantly, conflict.

Juice it Up
For dramatic purposes, you want to increase the conflict in every scene to juice them up, right? To succeed, your reflection should be the relative opposite of the hero. In the historical novels of my DarkHorse Trilogy, I gave my protagonist, Durksen Hurst, two major reflections, creating a dramatic triangle of allies who are always in intense conflict. Durk is a creative hustler, prone to wild schemes. He secretly partners with a group of escaped slaves, including a distrustful, angry Isaac, who expresses what the others are only thinking. Standing between these two combatants, representing reason, is wise Big Josh, the natural leader of the group. Every development scene in the novels is, thus, made dynamic.

Fueling the Secondary Character
If a secondary character doesn’t intertwine with the hero, however, it won’t work.
The more functions your secondary character serves the better; the trick is to combine them. For example, early in the next novel (Something in Madness, set in post-Civil War Mississippi), one of Durk’s partners, Long Lou, sets out to find his family, as many freedmen did, creating a poignant scene. Later, I wanted to illustrate the Vagrancy laws in the South’s Black Codes, where freedmen were arrested on the roads, fined, and their fines auctioned off to planters seeking a supply of labor. It was slavery without the name.

How best to illuminate this injustice? At first, I thought about creating a new minor character who would be auctioned off. Instead, I had Durk discover that his friend, Lou, had been scooped up and was being auctioned off to the novel’s ruthless antagonist, a racist with a vendetta against Durk.

Suddenly, by combining the two minor characters into the person of Lou, an illustrative event is transformed into a major conflict between the primary characters, forcing a clash that must be resolved immediately. Thus, a plot point with innumerable possibilities is born!

Want to enliven your tale? Perhaps rethinking a minor character or two can make your work more emotionally charged and meaningful.
Ed Protzel lives in St. Louis, Mo., where he writes imaginative fiction filled with plot twists you won’t see coming. Following years as a screenwriter, Ed turned to novels after earning a master’s in English literature/creative writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the author of the Civil War-era DarkHorse Trilogy: The Lies That Bind (antebellum Mississippi), Honor Among Outcasts (Civil War Missouri), and next year Something in Madness (Reconstruction Mississippi). Look for Ed’s futuristic mystery/thriller, The Antiquities Dealer, coming soon. Connect with Ed:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/edprotzelauthor/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/EProtzel Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14757802.Ed_Protzel

Thursday, April 19, 2018

This is A Limited Time Offer

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

How many times have you heard, “This is a limited time offer so get yours today”! Marketing experts know the odds of you making a purchase are greater if they can get you to act immediately. Any delay increases the odds of a missed sale on their part. So they press the urgency of the decision by limiting the offer with time. I believe that statement is not only true about a commercial offering but about everything in life. Why do I say that?

Most of us can look back and see a missed opportunity. If we are truthful with ourselves we can also see the reason for the missed opportunity the majority of the time is procrastination. I can remember some years back seeing an author on TV and thinking I need to contact him for an interview and article in Southern Writers Magazine. Instead of doing it right away I delayed, I considered myself busy and eventually the urgency of the opportunity left me entirely. I hadn’t realized it had indeed been a limited time offer. I had failed to follow up on my gut instinct to make the contact. I seldom do that but in this case I was guilty. So what happens to those limited time offers?

In this case there is a good ending. I walked into our Writers Group one day and there sat this author. He was a new member and was introduced by one of our contributors to Southern Writers Magazine because she was writing an article about him and his books he had written. I was thrilled then I was stricken with this hard lesson. This offer like some many others is indeed a limited time offer but it is a limited time offer only to the one being presented to it at the time. I honestly believe if you refuse or ignore the offer, the opportunity as it is meant to be, will be offered elsewhere.

We never know how great the opportunity may be unless we follow it through. I have a friend that was studying under a college professor and had earned her certification as a Certified Professional Organizer. The professor’s work had drawn a lot of national attention and a documentary was done involving the professor and his assistants work. My friend was included and was so excited to be a part of the opportunity. Once the documentary hit the airwaves it was very successful and a series was offered. My friend wasn’t sure about being a part of it so she passed. Another assistant took her spot. This missed opportunity became the TV hit series Hoarders. She and her professor were apparently on the cutting edge of the study of this terrible disease. The opportunity would indeed have been lucrative but also it would have been a chance to help many people and their families.  

So what should we do? I like to follow these three simple steps:
·         Be aware and open to any and all opportunities presented. You never know where they could lead.
·         Expect good things to come from these opportunities. Should they take a turn for the worse you can retreat gracefully.
·         Remember this opportunity could and very well will lead to the next great opportunity. Be open and aware of that as well.
·         No regrets! Don’t dwell on lost opportunities. We all have had them. Be on the watch for the next one and it will come.
·         And remember…. “This is a limited time offer so get yours today”!    


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Poetry of Activism We Witness

By Sara M. Robinson

I’ve been asked by many friends and associates why they haven’t seen any activist poetry from me. How do I write about current events? Or will I write about current events? Using poetry, I remarked that this is a very good and timely question. I struggled to provide an adequate answer, however. My hesitation is based on the major stumbling block for me: Where in the world would I start?

To write about world events and our own home country events is a challenge. We are compelled (theoretically, I think) as poets to be the witnesses of our surroundings then write about events in creative ways that provide thought provocation for our readers.

In a future Southern Writers Magazine column, titled “The Poetry of Witness,” I credit the amazing Carolyn Forché with coining that term. She describes in her writings what she sees as inequities of life around her. Another greatly admired poet, is Nikki Giovanni. Her memorable convocation after the Virginia Tech massacre of 2017 was and remains a powerful poetic statement and reminder about our history. 

So, how does all this come back to me? For one thing, as a poet, I constantly remind myself to be observant of all I can see. I take notes in my faithful companion journal. I talk to people and engage them to talk. One of my greatest pleasures is meeting weekly with senior citizen residents at a local retirement community. I use poetry from lots of sources to engage my attendees in conversation about their feelings and impressions. This is activism, using poetry as a “tool” to engage what I see as elderly folks wanting to stay relevant. Many of our weekly meetings inspire me to write poetry about the process of aging and the longevity of love. Often, I write poems for some of the attendees, to mark a birthday or some special event. Sometimes I’ve written poems as eulogy when the group has lost a member. In this way I suppose I have witnessed.

Now, back to the original question. While I may not be currently writing about politics or world events, I believe I write about life. I am a witness to life around me, and I use my poetry to advocate the beauty of living and the respect of aging; and lastly the hope I have gained wisdom of language to express all this in remarkable ways. A key component of my writing is to the creative use of language. After all, it is the basis for all that is human. Without language, we could only witness, we could not share.
Sara M. Robinson, award-winning poet, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, is poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. In addition to publication in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), and Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017); journals: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, and Poetica, she is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013), and Stones for Words (2014). Her latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, released in February 2016, was a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Haunted Hero

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

A good protagonist has issues. No matter how strong and resilient they may be, a solid hero comes with baggage.

When we speak of emotional baggage we generally think of it negatively. For the storyteller, however, it's a favorite device to give the hero depth. The basic plot will throw challenges their way, but it's the inner conflict they themselves bring to the story that can create some of the most intriguing and relatable tension.

In a popular film that's out right now (don't worry, I don't do spoilers), a girl blames herself for a family member's death. Because we observe the incident, it barely needs elaboration. Hardly anything is said of it, but we understand innately what her thought process must be as future dangers present themselves.

The sort of things that haunt our hero can involve any brand of turmoil: death, guilt, abandonment, shame, rejection, you name it. The cause of their self-torture may take place within the action of the story itself, of it may be expressed in a reveal after much of the story has taken place. The latter method is a handy way to pique the reader's curiosity if they are given clues along the way suggesting there is more to the hero than meets the eye. Ideally, it will relate in some way to the plot itself so that they can gain some victory over it as part of their ultimate arc.

Baggage is not only good for the protagonist, but it makes for a more fascinating antagonist as well. Most of us know that Batman wouldn't have become a caped crusader had it not been for a tragedy in his youth. But let's not forget that The Joker also has a troubled past that he considers to be a valid excuse for his mayhem.

Is baggage always bad? Not necessarily. Writer Hope Alcocer shares this brilliant explanation: "Behind every dancer there's someone that broke her, a song that moved her, a moment that inspired her, and a dance floor that healed her." The emotional weight that we lug around makes us who we are for all of life's ups and downs.

Before our heroes embark on whatever quest we send them on, the trip is certain to be more interesting if we remember to pack some believable baggage for their hero's journey.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Lost Art of Reading

By Leslie Hachtel

Apparently, a lot of people don't read anymore. And they boast about it as if it is some kind of accomplishment. I find that hard to understand.

I cannot fathom why people would rob themselves of the pleasure of reading a good book.

The usual reason is: I don't have time. Two things about that are true. One, there are never enough hours in the day and two, we manage to make time for the important things. And I happen to believe that reading is just as vital to life as anything else. Certainly worth fifteen or twenty minutes a day.

I generally read when I go to bed. It takes my mind off the stresses of the day and I can go to sleep thinking about things other than my everyday challenges. I can 'meet' and 'hang out' with interesting people, go to exotic places, time travel, experience the wonders of the world having never left the cozy cocoon of my bed. I can watch conflict and resolution and hug myself with joy at the happily ever after.

When did we lose the simple pleasure of reading? Of course, I think the answer is technology. As fabulous as it is (and as I write this on my computer, I can certainly appreciate it), we are losing much. We don't talk to each other anymore. We text, we scroll through our phones, we post on social media. But we are losing the art of conversation. And with information so readily available, we don't need to take time out for updates, since so much is fed to us in immediate and real time. And that worries me. I miss the "good old days" when we would sit with our friends and actually socialize by talking to each other. And along with that personal loss, many also gave up just reading a book. Sitting quietly with no email, no Facebook, no Twitter.

Now I'm not saying give up social media or stop playing those games. I'm just advocating there is room for more. And the thing about reading—once you start doing it, I think you'll find it hard to stop.

As a writer, I have a special interest in readers. But as a reader, I would love everyone to share in the happiness of just reading.
Leslie Hachtel was born in Ohio, raised in New York and has been a gypsy most of her adult life.  Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences. However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. She sold an episode of a TV show, had a screenplay optioned and has so far produced ten novels, including seven historical and three romantic suspense, including "The Dance Series", "Payback" and "Once Upon a Tablecloth". Leslie lives in Cordova, Tennessee with a fabulously supportive engineer husband and her writing buddy, Jakita, a terrier.