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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Send In Your Merriest for Friday Funnies!

Why?  Because we all need a chuckle during the holidays.  The first holiday edition of Friday Funnies will come to you in one more week!

Therefore I now proclaim, since it's officially two days past Thanksgiving, time for our first-ever Friday Funnies, Holiday 2013 edition of "You MIGHT be a Writer"!  Due to the Thanksgiving holidays, I decided to pass on yesterday's Friday Funnies, and instead gear up for the next Friday, and I need your help.

While originally I was going to call this segment simply "You MIGHT be a Thriller Writer", I realized the many wonderful, friendly scribes I know don't all write in the same genre, so I'm opening the door wide for all genres, but with only one caveat~

So tweet or send it to me.  You just might see yours featured!

Now on with the merry.  Deck your halls.  Dance at the office party.
George Costanza:  "Sweet, fancy Moses!"

Strut around proudly in that reindeer sweater!

It's the merriest time of the year, and time to push aside those troubling thoughts of looming tax-hikes and something called a Mayan prophecy.
It's holiday time!

Now drink that egg nog and send me your holiday-inspired versions of "You MIGHT be a Writer"!

DO NOT post it as a comment on this post (because hey, that'd be giving half the fun away), but instead tweet or email me your ho-ho-holiday musings and you might find your words featured on the blog!

Btw, on twitter, I am JoeynGA.

Wishing you and your family all things merry and bright~

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving~

Look deeper.  Give Thanks.

Back as a pre-med major in college, I listened to many professors, most of whom were atheists. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's perfectly fine by me to believe what you wish.

 I heard so many concepts during my first year in college, that eventually my faith began to chip away little by little each day with every lecture in science classes or in anthropology that I doubted some of the principles that had clearly defined my life.

Eventually by sophomore year, I had tossed my faith aside.

Until one fateful day.

I had to write a paper in a certain class about the proverbial meaning of life.  Didn't know what to write.  I didn't know what the meaning of life was.  After all, we were just a bunch of mindless ants, almost drone-like trying to make our little corner of the universe better for a short and finite time, right?

While contemplating this matter, I'd decided to go outside and sit on one of the picnic tables behind my dormitory.  It was early fall, and the trees were ablaze in their splendor, so I decided to lie down on top of a picnic table to take a better look at them, when suddenly a gust of cool wind set their limbs in motion, sending leaves falling down all around me, and one particular giant leaf fell on top of my nose.

I picked it up, remembering what I'd learned in my botany classes, began to examine it and held it up to the sunshine.  I marveled at the miniscule structures and bright burnt-orange color, but something else happened that very moment.

While admiring the very structure of that leaf I felt an interconnected-ness to it.  Immediately I sat up and looked all around at the trees, the students walking around, the sky, the clouds, and whatever remnant of my abandoned faith that remained, grew and filled my heart in that quiet moment,  making me wonder if maybe,   just maybe, everything on earth WASN'T an accident.  In that moment I saw beauty, I saw connected-ness, I saw life, and more hope inside than I'd felt in such a long time.

So today I am thankful.  I am blessed to have a beautiful family and wonderful friends and also, I'm thankful for that leaf that fell twenty some-odd years ago onto my nose.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and no matter what you believe, find the beauty in this day and open your heart  and feel the love that surrounds you.

Oh, and almost forgot, during this holiday season give to someone in need.  Help others find more reasons to fill their hearts with thanksgiving.  It's a beautiful feeling.

And remember to give thanks for our liberty and for the men and women of our armed forces who protect our freedom.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A JACK of All Trades~Meet Calista Taylor and Win Copies of JACK, Plus Free Book Download!

We'll be giving away two copies of JACK in a really fun contest, plus
I'll link you to a free download with Calista's latest release!   Read on to find out the deets~
Her books are selling in three different genres.  She has designed the book covers for NYT bestsellers, and somewhere in her short life, has found the time to achieve an M.S. in wood technology/building materials, be a science teacher, earn a B.S. in animal science, and is now pursuing an additional degree in biotech.

Oh and did I forget, she's been a pastry chef, pottery teacher, and has fletched her own wooden arrows (take THAT Katniss!), created jewelry, engaged in stone sculpting and designing medieval outfits, and created silk paintings?

But if you take all of these diverse elements and mold them into one person, the end result is Calista Taylor, an amazing writer, and one I also call a friend.

Recently I asked her to stop by for a cup of tea, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, and give away two copies of JACK.  Plus at the end of our interview, she'll give us a link so that you can download her latest work under her pen name of Cali MacKay!  After all, what's better after indulging in scrumptious holiday treats than settling in beside a roaring fire with a good book?

Joey:   Come on in Calista, I'm glad you stopped by for a visit.  Now I'm not sure if I already told you this, but a few weeks ago, I attended my son's football game, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Two rows over,  a friend of mine was in the stands wearing a gorgeous cape with leather fasteners on it, and I wondered to myself, where I had seen that style before?  So I leaned over and asked her where she got her cape.  She told me where she bought it, and my eyes bugged out of my head when she said how expensive it was.  However, what actually stuck out in my mind at that moment, was the fact I'd seen an almost identical cape on the cover of your book, STEAMPUNK YOUR WARDROBE, where you teach how to re-purpose an old winter coat and create a new cape that will have fashionistas drooling and wishing they hadn't opened their wallets.

Calista:  Thank you!! I'd have to say that my favorite is probably the mini-top hat made from a cereal box. It was fun figuring out how to put it all together in a way that would not only work but look good.
Both cape and caplet on the cover caught my eye!  Want to make your own?
Joey:  I fell in love with the premise of your latest novel, JACK and it's unusual main character, who is a gorgeous grim reaper. It's a romance, but to me it also has elements of mystery as well.  Can you tell our readers a little more about the plot?

Calista:  JACK is a new twist on Jack the Ripper. Jack is a grim reaper whose suspected of going rogue and killing women before their time to die. Mason and Lilly are also reapers who are investigating the murders and trying to find Jack, though Lilly is also Jack's ex and involved with Mason, which puts them at odds during the investigation, especially when not everything is as it seems. 

Joey:  I've noticed many of your books are written during the Victorian era. It was such an elegant age. What draws you as a writer and as a designer to that time period?

Calista:  I've always been drawn to the past, but like the Victorian era, in part because of the aesthetics of the period. I also like setting novels in that time period because of the struggles and inequalities that were present. My writing tries to explore some of those darker aspects.

Joey:  What authors are your literary inspiration, and what fashion designers give you flights of fancy?

Calista:  My favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry and Elizabeth Peters. As for fashion designers, I really like Alexander McQueen.

Joey: You are also a successful book cover designer, and have designed your own book covers, as well as those of some NYT bestsellers. What do you think is the secret to creating an eye-catching book cover?  You create amazing designs, and I know our readers, many of whom self-publish will love to know more.

Calista:  I think it's a combination of using eye-catching stock, and fonts that feel current, in addition to a composition that will stand out.

One of Calista's amazing book cover designs!
Need a custom cover?  Check out Covers by Cali
Joey:  Could you tell our readers a little more about yourself?  I'm sure after reading our interview they're very curious to get to know you.

Calista:  I'm a mom of two girls, have a crazy dog, and I'm married to an Irishman, accent and all. Which is kind of funny, since I usually write Scotsmen into my stories. 

Joey:  Speaking of Scotsmen and Irishmen, I'm going to tell our readers about your latest endeavor!  You've written two romance novels under the pen name of Cali MacKay, and I have to say that THE HIGHLANDER'S HOPE seems quite tantalizing.  Again, I love my thrillers, but beneath this romance novel, at least from the pages I've read, lies a thrilling adventure.  

But I'm even more excited to link our readers up to the free book giveaway you're doing for THE HIGHLANDER'S HOPE, and for the free e-book giveaway you're giving two lucky readers so they can enter the thrilling world of JACK and the grim reapers!  Thank you for doing this for the readers of Soul and Sweet Tea.

Calista:  Thank you.  

And now for our little contest.  This one's especially fun, and I hope it will heat up your Thanksgiving holidays.  All you have to do is answer the question below.  We'll open up the contest from today, November 18, 2012 until midnight on November 25th.

What movie do you think is the coolest steampunk-influenced movie ever and why (keep it short)?

Calista and I will pick two winners who will each receive the free e-book, JACK!  If you enter, make sure to include how to contact you via email.

Happy Thanksgiving to the greatest blog readers (and their families) in the world. Wishing you a holiday filled with both fun and fellowship as you gather together with those you love to give thanks for life's blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Funnies: You MIGHT Be a Thriller Writer!

If your significant other paints her fingernails in a shade called, "The Spy Who Loved Me"...

She MIGHT be a thriller writer!
Yea, I really did that!  Have I mentioned how much I love Ian Fleming?
Happy 50th Birthday James Bond~

Send me some funny thoughts for another segment of "You Might Be a Thriller Writer", by either commenting here or sending me an email!  And yea, for those who aren't thriller writers, you can send me chuckles regarding your genre as well.  Let's have some Friday fun!  I can only imagine what suggestions I'll get from sci-fi or fantasy writers, and I'll highlight them in future Friday Funnies.

Happy Friday y'all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop (Week 24)

I've been tagged by my friend Sean Jenan for the week 24 installment of "The Next Big Thing".

Personally, I feel his latest edgy thriller, CIPHER, will definitely become one of the next big things you'll want to read, and wish him well.  Not that I'm psychic or anything like that, but I seriously see great things on the horizon for both Sean and for CIPHER.

By the way, you gotta check out the musings and mayhem on his blog~Read the Sloshpile!

And in case you've been wondering, what I've been working on on since finishing THE DEATH BROKERS, it's this:

Cover inspiration for my manuscript created by the very talented
Calista Taylor ( And psst!  We'll be interviewing her next week on the blog!
1- What is the working title of your book?  TWO TALISMANS

2- Where did the idea come from for the book? My summer vacation to the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. John. 

After hopping off the ferry on St. John, I wandered around an area near the port and found a great little jewelry shop. 

While I was looking inside a glass showcase for an item engraved with the ancient symbol of St. John, the salesman behind the counter walked over and began staring at the pendant on my gold chain.

him:  "What's that hanging from your necklace?"
me:    "A coin."
him:  "I can tell it's very old.  What wreck was it from?
me:  "The Atocha, off the coast of south Florida."

And then we had quite an interesting conversation about the wreck.  The coin I have which was made into a pendant, was from the wreck of the Atocha, a Spanish ship which went down over 200 years ago, and the man told me that there has always been a rumor that the gold and silver coins that were found by Mel Fisher (the man who discovered the wreck and brought up the treasure) were cursed (he suffered personal tragedy after discovering the wreck).

Now of course I thought this was terribly tantalizing,  as I love a good tale or legend, and the talk with the man from the jewerly store provided me with all kinds of wild inspiration.

A few days later, I was enjoying a quiet moment off of Hawksnest Beach, just floating in the windex-blue water, and the premise for TWO TALISMANS came to me as clear as the water surrounding me.  I thought of my coin pendant,  and I thought of the lore surrounding the cursed gold and silver coins, and the result was TWO TALISMANS.

3- What genre does your book fall under? paranormal thriller.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  If I had to pick two actresses to play Eleana (short for Eleanor) and Abbie Syler (direct descendents of Amelia Carlysle), it would probably be Claire Danes and Reece Witherspoon.  Without a doubt, I would want Halle Berry to play Sophie DuBois, and possibly Amanda Seyfried to be Amelia Carlysle.

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  It's not really a sentence, but a little poem I wrote while floating on my back in the ocean.  Here goes:

All that glitters isn't gold,
But coins of silver, very old.
Forged into chains with hanging talismans,
And when they touch, chaos begins.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Right now I'm gearing up to send out more queries for my thriller, THE DEATH BROKERS, and have had a good response thus far.

So it's safe to say I'm in search of the perfect agent .  

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I'm not totally finished as of yet. It is actually my Nanowrimo project, but it's moving along quickly.  Like I've told my crit partners, this one is as if it's almost writing itself.  It's too darned easy, this one!

8- What other books would you compare this to to within your genre?  I would compare my w.i.p.  to the feel of THE WITCHING HOUR  by Anne Rice, but mine has more thriller in it, and also some elements from  the 2011 movie, Chronicle.

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?  A series of personal losses, combined with a love for the beautifully wild Georgia coast and the south, and my trip to the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.

This manuscript will be dedicated to two very important women in my life.  One of whom, I miss very very much.  Miss you D.V.H.  Gone but never forgotten.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  Personally, I think that most women who wear any type of jewelry feel some sort of an emotional attachment to a special piece.  As for me, when I put on a certain ring, or when I put on the silver coin pendant I wrote about earlier in this blog post, it makes me feel connected to certain places, people, and events in my life.  The premise of this manuscript draws upon those exact types of feelings you may feel when holding something of value or sentimentality, or of historical value in your hand.  

If you wear an engagement or wedding ring,  you'll know what I mean.  You look down at your hand, and you're brought back to that once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Like that feeling.  My glittering band on my left hand may be new, but the solitaire inside of the ring is the same one that I was given on the 9th of December by my husband.   Every time I look at it,  I remember his proposal under the Christmas tree.

Now on a totally different level, I think anyone who believes in karma, or the notion that you reap what you sow, will also want to read this manuscript.  It's the unleashing of the secret desire to see bad things finally happen to very bad people. But in the end, revenge can't really fix your soul or your problems.  It'll eat you alive from the inside out if you let it, and TWO TALISMANS also shows the beauty in forgiveness, and also celebrates the tight-knit bonds of family and friendship.

Tagged for next week (Week 25) is my AQC friend Vicki (also known as the elusive LucidDreamer, and a very talented writer (do check out her incredible poem on the blog too!). Check out her blog next Wednesday, November 21st, when it's her turn to post answers to these same questions about her manuscript!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So You Want to Write a Query, Eh?

Cartoon by  W. Pollard

Well you're not alone.

Utter frustration can be avoided by learning the fine art of query writing!
Thousands of writers wishing to obtain literary representation are trying to do the very same thing, but would you like to have an edge?  Want to quit bashing your head against the desk and stop getting crappy form rejections?

Want to see what I think works, and also find some links that can help you peer into the fantastical minds of lit agents, who read thousands of these (mostly doomed) queries every year, and find a writer's site that is amazing and totally craft-oriented?  You do?  Awesomesauce.

Now if it makes you feel better, understand that I am in this struggle right along with you, as I am seeking representation for my thriller, THE DEATH BROKERS, and soon will be offering up a second thriller (paranormal thriller) TWO TALISMANS as well.

Here's how to get started.  First of all realize a query isn't a mini-novel.  Nah, it's a brief teaser to make someone want to read your manuscript and love it.  What I am going to offer you today are some ideas followed up by actions you can take in order to write a great query.

Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get to work.

First, let's define what a successful query is.  And there's one sure-fire way to do that.  Go take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed, because we're going to take a field trip.  Grab your car keys, and let's go!

Action 1:  Drive to your local bookstore and find books written in your genre.  Go get a latte or expresso before entering, because you're gonna be here a while and have some serious work to do.

A bookstore I've got to visit!  Bound To Be Read Books,  in East Atlanta Village!
Now go scour the shelves and pick up some of the best sellers and read the back cover blurb.  Read it, absorb it, and feel the words.  This short blurb should make you want to read that book, right?  Well this is your first hint as to how to go about writing your own query.  Make it just like the back cover of the best seller in your hand, see how the action and the word-usage and notice the struggle of the main character(s).

Step two, take a hard look at your manuscript and identify the main character and his/her goals and the conflict that is the meat of your story.  Get out a notebook or open up a Word doc.  Hammer those ideas down into a few sentences, and then create in 350 words or less (I know, I know, one of the agent sites I will send you to in a few will say 250 words or less, but I have heard otherwise on this rule) your query.  Pack in as much action and stumbling blocks that show the struggle of your character and how your plot is unique.  Draw in the reader!

Close your query with a kind thank-you to the agent for reading, and also a sentence or two about yourself, your writing experience or relevant life experience that adds to your credibility as a writer, and maybe a few words about similar works that have broken all kinds of book sales records.  But above all, never, ever ever forget to thank the agent for reading your query because they are bombarded by thousands of them and deserve some of genuine, heart-felt thanks.  Show appreciation and a little literary love to them for taking the time out of their busy day to read your query.

Action 2:  Want some feedback and great wisdom on the art of query writing?  Want to take my few ideas to the next level?  Then join the site I adore (and am a member of), AgentQueryConnect!  It's a helpful place, all about craft and will truly inspire you.  I can attest that today I am a better writer because of the inspiration I've gleaned and the friendships I've made there.

Go now! Check out AgentQueryConnect!

Step three:  Still don't believe these two ideas are great?  Then see what the agents are saying about the elements of a good query.  Check out these two sites and read for yourself.  Get into the mind of some top agents and see what makes them sit up and take notice of a manuscript!

Action 3:  Visit these sites to see what works and what doesn't:

Without proper preparation, your query may be eaten alive!

Don't get chewed up & spit out because you don't do your query homework.  Go check this amazing agent's sites out!
Jump in the Water With the Query Shark!

Janet Reid, Awesome Literary Agent & Home of the Chum Bucket!

Step Four:  Still want query writing inspiration? Then watch this short video that my son showed me this morning for a video game to be released next week.  If you could take the actions in this short video and put them into words, along with a few key sentences that are spoken/heard in the video, you'd have an incredible, action-packed query.  So imagine your manuscript in film-format.  See it in your minds' eye on the silver screen and ponder how you'd convey it to the masses in 350 words or less.

Action 4:  Not everyone's a thriller writer, and although I am one, I do not write military thrillers.  Well at least not yet.  But you'll get the idea of how to condense action and pique interest by watching this video for the upcoming release next week of Call of Duty, Black Ops II.

Now get to it soldier!  You've got a query to create.  The life of your manuscript is on the line.

And do not forget today is Veteran's Day.  If you love your freedom, and cherish our American flag, go find and thank a Vet. Never, ever forget how much they sacrificed, and remember what it is you take for granted.

Today I'm missing one especially, my father.  Miss you dad.  And thank you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Conquer Nanowrimo and Create Something Special!

Are you in or out?

So you want to write a book?  Join Nanowrimo! 

As for me, I'm in.

And I'm using this month during Nanowrimo to get a head start on my next project, a supernatural thriller, and to jump-starting the novel writing process I'll use my secret weapon~outlining!

Yep, yours truly is a huge fan of outlining.  But I do not just outline the plot, I also outline the characters at the outset.

As I've discussed before, some writers are "pantsers" who fly by the seat of their pants when writing, and you never know where they're going to end up.  It's all writing on-the-fly and spontaneous for them, and while that's cool, it's not for me, as I prefer the structure of the outline.  Plus, I also like to keep manuscript notes which also helps me refer back to earlier scenes and also keeps me from accidentally leaving out important clues or nuances I'll need at the end of my manuscript.

For me, writing with an outline is like going on a road trip with a good, detailed map.  Sure, I know the basic driving directions, but if per se, I decided to drive to Disney World and head due south, I might get lost along the way.  Now that in itself would be an adventure, but goodness knows where I'd end up if I didn't have my map with me.

So if you're like me, you want to plot the right course for your Nanowrimo journey.  And here's how I do it.  I jot down in a composition book (which helps me squeeze in writing time no matter where I'm at) the names of the main characters and I begin to develop them. Where were they born, what are their likes and dislikes, how are they integral to the plot, and what are their goals and desires.  I carefully and painstakingly go through this process before writing the manuscript outline.

For me, doing a deep character analysis makes the whole process much easier.  Once you know who your characters are, it's much easier to write about them in the story world you've created.

Next I outline the entire manuscript and once finished,  break it down further into sub-sections (which become my chapters).  All of this is important, and if done correctly, you can refer to these notes once you're ready to query your manuscript, and it will come in handy for the synopsis you'll have to write.

There you have it!  You know who your characters are, and you know where the journey will take you.  But as with all travels, there are unexpected pleasures and mishaps along the way, but don't give up!  Use your time this month before the holidays to create something beautiful.

Squeeze in some time to write, and jot down some words when you have your morning cup of coffee or during lunch.

Best writing wishes!

Friday, November 2, 2012

And the Winners Are...

It was a tough decision trying to decide which entry was the scariest, so I asked writing champ, Revo Boulanger, to pick our winner.  He packs a punch within the suspense/thriller/and paranormal genres, and is both a writer to be reckoned with, as well as a really nice guy.
Want to read the musings of our judge?  It's a fun blog.
Check it out! 

"My selection from the Soul and Sweet Tea contest goes to....
Shocking vision, screams, clutching in fear, and a rational yet disturbing explanation."~R.B.

Fierce female scribe, Terri Bruce, author of HEREAFTER 
Congratulations Amber!  You win a copy of HEREAFTER by Terri Bruce (Incidentally, Terri and Revo both were chosen winners and tied for the 2012 Soul and Sweet Tea Flash Fiction Contest and both recently made it through Superstorm Sandy!), and a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

The hat is in the right corner!  We like to have fun during the holidays at our house.
Can you tell? 

And now I shall draw out of my fabulous feathered non-costume, the name of the lucky reader who also wins a copy of HEREAFTER!

Kaci Verdun

*winners will be contacted via email

Thanks for entering and I hope everyone had a great time taking part in both this blog contest and in the 2012 Spooktacular Holiday Blog Hop.  Stay tuned for more literary musings and fun.