Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Atlanta Braves Pay It Forward!

Warms the heart and soul.  I am proud to be a fan of the Atlanta Braves!

Soldier surprises family on field at Memorial Day Braves game: A special Memorial Day visit was in the lineup for Monday's Braves game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Click on the link above, watch the video, and cheer!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flash Fiction Winner's Spotlight: Revo Boulanger

A Writer Who Pays It Forward

Tonight we're going to get to know an up-and-coming fellow writer and winner of the Soul and Sweet Tea "Spring Into Action" Flash Fiction Contest, the very talented Mr. Revo Boulanger.

Note his creative use of the winning mug!
Read more of his work on his blog at The Revo Files !

I first had the wonderful opportunity to meet Revo courtesy of a wonderful site for aspiring writers called AgentQuery Connect (get there: !), and he has always taken the time to offer a hand up to other writers, offering outstanding advice and help in crafting their stories.

In later posts, we will also get to know Terri Bruce, our other winner of the flash fiction contest as well as the two talented runner-ups, Laura Renegar and Olivia Kelly!

So let's learn about the man behind the thrills, but don't forget to read his winning entry again at the bottom of the post.  I think you'll agree that Revo's edgy submission to the flash fiction contest deserves many more chapters written, because his story didn't end at 200 words, and it left our judges wanting more.

Let's hear from him now:

In turns a son, husband, father and grandfather I am blessed with being surrounded by terrific family and friends. I draw and cook well, play guitar badly, do my own laundry and read voraciously from fiction and non-fiction genres. I’ve also been fortunate enough to see the sun rise and set from both coasts of our great nation. In life, I have no complaints of any substance. My apologies for the lack of drama, but it is what it is.

Coming late to writing, I’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool (sans water wings) and learned to swim the hard way – by writing whenever possible. Thrillers and paranormal romance is my passion as I seek to add a dimension to both segments that I feel is lacking – that of the elusive realistic (i.e. highly complicated) male/female relationship. Whether or not I’ve succeeded remains to be seen by the readers I’ve yet to earn.

Yes, that’s right. I said earn. I do not believe in a magic wand or fairy godmother that will magically grant me respect as a writer. I know there’s only one way to accomplish my goal. It involves a shovel (figurative) and sweat, pain, and perseverance (all very real). The timing is generally beyond my control so all I can do is keep hammering away, seeking that all too brief opening that gets me to the next step.

I wish my contemporaries luck and success, just not as much as I wish it for myself. But at the end of the day, wishes are just a suggestion box ticket for dreams, and dreams, while entertaining, are not of substance. Conflict and achievement is won on the ground, not in the clouds.

In closing, I leave you with my very favorite quote as presented by a man that had that rare combination of vision and drive:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.   -Theodore Roosevelt

Revo Boulanger

Now sit back and enjoy his winning entry!

The hotel was as good a place as any to lay low. Set far enough into the cypress swamps it existed where GPS maps dropped off. It was just me, a meager staff, the gators and a big bag of money.

“Mr. Drake?” The words followed a knock at the door. “A Mr. Lane arrived. He asked about you.”

Perfect. The one person I didn’t want to find me does. 

“Thanks June, tell him to meet me by the dock. I’ll be right down.”

Lane is a born hunter, a bull shark that swims with goldfish. There are only two problems with that; I’m not a goldfish and this is my pond.

I watch through my window, seeing the man in the linen suit and white fedora meander closer to the brackish water’s edge. If I breathe in deep I can smell the North Country. He’s out of his element.

He wants his cut, and for his sins, he’s about to get it. The gators love the perfume of blood.

Rather than grab a pile of bills I put a pair of pennies in my pocket. Someone has to pay the ferryman.

After all, it’s the least I could do.

(200 words) @RevoBoulanger

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Pay It Forward Monday" The Journey of One Book Part 2

So this is my book.  It's an eco-thriller, and I hope it will bring someone hours of adventure.  I've found just the place to donate, and it's one I see every day on the drive home from work.

I've arrived.  Here at the Better World Books "big green bin"!  My book's  ready to take a little trip!

This book could find its way to the other side of the globe, or possibly find a home across town.  It's an exciting thought though, that my book could actually become more well-traveled than I am, so I'll hope that's the case.

Once again, here's a listing of the organizations Better World Books helps!  Take the time and take a look at each of them, for they're worthy causes.

I'd like to hear from you too!  Each Monday we're going to find a unique way to pay it forward, so if you have a tip on your blog how you're doing it, let me know!  Please message me here at the blog, or on twitter (I'm joeynga on the tweet).

Now for another "Pay It Forward Monday" announcement.

A Contest Looms On the Horizon...Again!

I've decided to do yet another contest to bring attention to amazing writers, called "Leave Me Breathless!", where in 200 words are less you will write a tense, action-packed moment based upon....well I can't exactly TELL you what it'll be about can I?

No, not that type of breathless...

But THIS type of breathless!                                                                     

But what's different about this contest?  It is flash-fiction, after all...

  1. NO judges.  Yep, that's right!  No judges.  You will be your own judge and people can comment on your entry, because we're here to positively help each other become better writers write? (sorry, couldn't resist that).  
  2. The winner will be chosen by my son.  And he will pull the winning number out of an Atlanta Braves baseball cap!  I'll even video it, so we can unveil the winner and make it more fun!  
  3. What better gift for the "Leave Me Breathless!" contest than a fancy-schmancy Soul & Sweet Tea reusable water bottle!  It will keep you well-hydrated as you bring to life five-finger death punches and firecracker-hot scenes.  Who knows?  You might even get yourself out of breath, if the written scene is juuuust right.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Let's Conduct a THRILLING Experiment!

Yesterday friends, we discussed how music can become a catalyst helping a child want to read, so tonight fellow writers (and grownups), let's see if music has the same curious response, and can bring a character or book to life!

Since I'm a thriller writer, let's take a look at this phenomena from my writing style, shall we?

Watch the videos below.  These are all songs associated with books I've read and enjoyed.  As you listen, do you think of the books or characters?  How powerful is music in triggering a memory or link between a favorite book (or series) that you've read and the song? And finally, does listening to the soundtrack bring about a visceral response, helping you vividly recall the action and plot of the book?   Let me know your results.

CASINO ROYALE, written by Ian Fleming.  The character?  Bond...James Bond.
Interesting factoid:  Did you know that Ian Fleming was turned down by three publishers before McMillan Publishers offered him a book deal?  Btw, don't tell my hubs, but I also think Chris Cornell (who sang this song) is rather cute. Shhh!

As I listen to this song, I'm reminded of the lyrics and how there are many references to pain and heartbreak.  It brings to life for me, the Bond who fell in love with a beautiful woman, yet lost her forever to death, thus setting up a series of books where Bond is a solitary figure, intent on getting the bad guy and forever punishing the kind of villain who took his beloved from him.

THE DAVINCI CODE, written by Dan Brown.  When you hear this soundtrack were you brought to the
last scene in the book under the inverted pyramid?  Did you feel Langdon's wonder?  When I hear this music, this is exactly what I feel.  

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, written by John Berendt.  Quite possibly
one of the finest novels I've  read.  Can you hear the wind through the moss-covered trees?  Can you smell the murder?  Do you know what happens at midnight in the graveyard?  Listening to the song brings back every amazing and subtle nuance of this outstanding read.  Enjoy the haunting melody of "Skylark" by the late, great Johnny Mercer.

As writers we must be able to bring depth to our work, and evoke powerful memories and images within the minds of our readers.  I hope this little exercise will bring forth some creativity from within your soul, and that  either wonderful or terrifying, (or wonderfully terrifying!) words are woven into your manuscript.  

Evening y'all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

STILL Paying It Forward! This One's for the Kids!

Tonight's blog post was inspired by two events today:
  • My son's spring band concert, which featured music from several feature films, a few of which were spawned by books.
  • A fabulous post on an equally fabulous blog, It's All Kid's Play penned by fellow author and friend, Jean Oram which gives great advice on how to bring books into the lives of your children.  Hop over to her blog and definitely read this article:  How to Bring Books Into Your Child's Life
Tonight while I sat in the packed gym at my son's middle school, I looked at the gentleman who has poured his heart and soul into starting the music program at Riverwatch (Thank you Mr. Koperniak! Forsyth Co. Ga Teacher of the Year!) inspiring hundreds of children to discover music, including my thirteen year old son, a two year member of the band program.

Kids, literature and music:  all three should go happily hand-in-hand. How can we make that happen?  Let's start a discussion.

 So many times, a soundtrack can make a book come alive, and when my son was younger, I'd download  soundtrack from some of his favorite movies and we'd listen to them before we'd read some of his favorite books.  

The first few seconds of this movie theme, could  make my son go running for his "Harry" books, grabbing them from the bookshelves and directly into my hands so we could together, read before bedtime.  The songs brought to life the stories in his head, and heightened his reading experience, and I believe the same thing vice/versa can be said for listening to music and subsequently feeling inspired to read a book!

Books and music inspire creativity, and if your child loves music but maybe isn't into reading, why not find the soundtrack from their favorite movie, and find a book perhaps the movie inspired and play the music before offering to read to them?  Trust me...this works! 

Or if your child loves reading, but never dreamed of playing an instrument, find a favorite book they've read which has been brought to the big screen, and play the soundtrack of it for them in the car while running family errands when they're along for the ride.  My son, an athlete at heart, found his way to music through listening to soundtracks from some of his favorite movies.

If we as authors want to change the world one book at a time, we've got to find ways to heighten the experience of reading, and firmly believe the addition of a soundtrack sometimes can give that extra rush of emotion, thus making reading a truly personal experience.

Before we go tonight, let's never forget we're all kids at heart.  I know for one, listening to music helps me write scenes more intensely and without my ITunes playing in the background when I write on my laptop, my writing would at best be...lukewarm.

Now on with the show!  Feel free to enjoy a few wonderful pieces from the Riverwatch Middle School Band, directed by the amazing Matt Koperniak and featuring somewhere in the maze of heads, my son (trumpet player).

"Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves" (Michael Kamen/arr.Bocook)
I'll bet you've read a Robin Hood book sometime in your life, didn't you?

And in ending tonight's post, don't forget that "The Journey of One Book" will continue, as we take a field trip to the "big green bin" in our next post.  

Tonight I leave you with the Riverwatch Middle School Band (these kids are only twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years old and they're awesome!) as they rock the house to Train's "Hey Soul Sister" (Pat Monahan, Espen Lind, and Amund Bjorkland/arr. Kazik).  

Can you hear that awesome trumpet?  Who could that talented kid be?  (giggles)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pay It Forward Monday: The Journey of One Book

I apologize about being late with my first post for "Pay It Forward Monday" but I've been busy with work (see my bio to find out what I do).  Very very busy.

So far I've been compiling information and feedback from readers and friends from Twitter about how we as writers can start the whole "Pay It Forward" movement with momentum, and before we discuss as writers how we can help each other up, tonight instead we will take a closer look at the absolute end result of our efforts to pay it forward when we help out other writers.  So what exactly is the end result you ask?

The end result would be a beautifully written book!  And somewhere, that great book will fall into the hands of a person somewhere on this blue-green globe, and something special, possibly even life-changing happens when they open the cover and begin reading.

Now that's power!  Books wield power (in case you didn't realize this) for the gift of reading has helped people obtain employment, a higher education, and can change the course of a family forever.  Now my manuscript isn't yet finished, as I'm in revisions and putting the finishing touches on THE DEATH BROKERS, but we can take a journey with one book already on the market which I've read.  Together we'll marvel at the power of one book and the amazing things it can do, when placed in the hands of a reader.

My book is about to take a "thrilling" journey!  Grab n go time.

Although used, my book looks and feels brand new, and I want it to find its way into the hands of somebody who really needs it.  Someone who might not even have access to a single book or be able to traditionally afford one.  That being said, tomorrow it's going to take a dive into the "big green bin" where all happily used and new books go when they're donated to Better World Books!  This is the "big green bin" I pass on my way home from work each day, and after seeing it there at a gas station for months (it's by a stop light), I finally stopped myself and snapped this picture, and then went home to find out more about the "big green bin", and it was a wonderful thing I accidentally did.

Where my book will begin it's trip.  I wonder who will read it next?

Not only did it lead me to Better World Books, but I ended up discovering a wonderful bookstore called Open Books (of Chicago) and the wonderful folks there who help inner-city children learn and love to read!

So follow me as I donate my eco-thriller paperback and let's see where it could possibly end up!  The world is a mighty big place, you know.

We'll also discuss other places to donate our books, so they can do the greatest good, and let me know where you donate your books and who gets them!

Like I say, the book may be used, but the story is bright, shining, and brilliantly new for someone else.  Let's pass our literary love along, and "Pay It Forward", bringing stories to the world.

In the interim, please check out these amazing blogs which provide outstanding literary advice for writers and tell em' I sent you.

  • The Red Pen of Doom! (I know, the link should be in red but you should check this out!  Great blog about media, writing, and all things literally fabulous!)
  • From The Write Angle  (great blog for elevating our craft!)
  • Writer's Forensics Blog (for mystery and thriller writers, or for those who have an untimely demise in their manuscripts!)
  • Let's Get Digital (expertise & insight for those who plan to self-publish)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pay It Forward Mondays!

Let's Do This Together.

We're writers, and in case you haven't noticed, it's a solitary road we travel, and this is one of the reasons why I began this blog because there is much more strength in numbers.

If we're heading towards the goal of  becoming published authors, it only makes sense to seek others with similar goals so we can together improve our skills as writers, encouraging one another along the way.

As for me, I believe if writers band together and positively lift one another up, that the result will show in our work, and in our manuscripts.  The end result being we will create better manuscripts which will lead to a wonderful reading experience for every person who enjoys reading.

And this concept is a way we as writers can pay it forward, ultimately giving to everyone the gift of reading and standing strong together to encourage all to read, thus stamping out the wasteland of illiteracy.

Each Monday on Soul and Sweet Tea, (provided you get the information to me by Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) I'll highlight blog contests or special events you may be hosting on your site, or from a writing group you may be a part of.  Know of a great lecture for writers that's free?  Let me know about it.

We're here for one another, lifting up one another, and one day I hope our effort will generate some fantastic books which will make people around the world get engaged in reading, which in turn,  changes lives.

That's the end result of the pay it forward:  more people reading.

And with more people around the globe inspired to read, we can change their lives forever, stamping out the pain of illiteracy.

So are you ready to come along with me?  We're going to have fun, strengthen friendships among our small writing communities, and maybe in time inspire a child somewhere to want to learn how to read, or engage an adult to want to take that first steps to overcoming illiteracy.

As of 2011, the United States had a literacy rate of 99%, which is good, but there is still a small segment of our population unable to read.  Sadly in other corners of the globe, such as in the country of Ethiopia the rate of literacy is only 28 percent.  The lowest literacy rate in the world (year 2011) was found in the country of Mali, which was only 26.2 percent.

We may think our little corner of the globe is immune to the pain of illiteracy, but it all comes out in the wash, because when we empower people to learn to read, we are opening up avenues of opportunity to them, allowing them to learn and grow and change some of their life circumstances.  All it takes is the desire and will to pick up and open a book and start.  Everyone must start somewhere, right?

I remember my son at age two and a half asking me in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore to purchase HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE because he saw the cool movie trailer.  I picked up the book, and looked down at my little guy and looked at the big book with very few pictures, and thought this will never work.  My cute little guy was too young to read, wasn't he?

He plead with me to please buy the thick book and I eventually gave in, and it was the best book purchase ever and lead to a series of wonderful events in our lives.  For reading that book became something we did each night together.  I'd hold him in my lap in a gliding rocker and read a chapter each night to him, and it became just something we did together...reading.  Our nightly reads lead to within two weeks, him being able to pick out short words from inside of that big, thick book and by age three he could read simple children's books by himself.  One person reading to another for fun and enjoyment created the beauty of literacy!

If that happened upstairs in my house, think what a good book could inspire globally!  All this takes is a few steps from us, paying it forward as we progress as writers, spreading seeds of promise along the way.

Every great goal begins with one little step forward, but if we multiply our actions by banding together and each of us TOGETHER taking that one little step forward, it's suddenly not little anymore-it's become a giant step!

Let's have a giggle and watch a few movie clips which to me, illustrate the power of paying it forward, one baby step at a time.
In the 1991 comedy, "What About Bob" we meet a guy who's scared of everything.  

The concept of "baby steps" begins to change Bob as he faces his fears (what I'd surmise as a debilitating case of agoraphobia), but something beautiful in the end happens as Bob changes the lives of those he meets through friendship.  That's the idea of "Pay It Forward Monday", where many baby steps become one giant, positive leap ahead.

Here's Bob again, as he is realizing the power of ALL of the baby steps forward he's taken,
 as he enjoys a day out on the water.  
Taking that first step together will bring us to amazing places.

What's going to be your first act of paying it forward to help out another writer?  Do you have an idea to help encourage people to learn how to read?  Put the information up on your blog and start yourself a "Pay It Forward Monday" post and send it to me and I'll post it here every Monday.  Maybe you already have on your blog a similar type of regular post?  Let me know.  Eventually we can start an army of writers, engaged in "Pay It Forward Monday" and helping one another out and hopefully in the end, we'll writing better books and encourage people everywhere to read!