Monday, November 7, 2016

8 Reasons Why You Should Go On A Writing Retreat

By Jessica A. Walsh

Yesterday concluded yet another incredibly productive South Jersey Writers Group retreat! The company was like-minded and lovely, the location mere blocks from the Ocean City beach was inspiring, the rental was comfortable, the food was delicious, and best of all, the words flowed from our finger tips. If you've never gone on a writing retreat and remain on the fence, then keep reading because following are eight reasons you need to go!

From left to right: Dawn Byrne, Jennifer Eaton, Lisen Minetti, Sarah Hawkins Miduski, Erika Timar, Amy Hollinger

1. No Distractions & plenty of quiet

Writing is difficult at home due to the incredible number of distractions! The dog, the kids, the piles of laundry, the clean dishwasher that needs to be emptied, the ringing phone, and on and on and on. Distractions are literally endless when you're home. Some writers block or a challenging scene and before you know it you think your time may be better spent cleaning out the closets. But away on writing retreat all the distractions of home are eliminated and there is peace and quiet to work.

2. People cook for you

We share cooking responsibilities on retreat so for all but the meal you prepare, you literally get to work until someone announces food is ready. For those of us who do all the cooking at home, this is an extra special treat. Which brings me to my next point...

3. EXCELLENT snacking

Writers need fuel, so everyone brings snacks, which results in a fabulous variety. Chocolate covered raisins and almonds, fruit, veggies, salted caramel apple smores dip, popcorn, veggie stix, cheese puffs, chips, chocolate croissants... you name it. It keeps our energy up and I don't know about you, but aids my concentration.

4. Get to know & celebrate your fellow writers
We don't talk much, except during meal time, but when you basically live with people for a long weekend, you get to know them better and that is a real bonus. Friendships are made and strengthened at retreat and the time with like-minded people is beneficial to everyone. There are also some great laughs and sharing of personal news and accomplishments that are met by plenty of cheers.

The truth is that we all want one another to succeed. Being with people who do what you do, and want the same things as you do tend to understand you. And time with people who understand why you do what you do is always refreshing and motivating.

5. Get away

Vermont, Nockamixon State Park, Ocean City, NJ.... regardless of where we retreat, we get to get away and have a new experience. Most everyone takes walks on retreat and it's a special treat to walk somewhere other than your own neighborhood. I know many of us really enjoyed our November walks on the beach this past weekend.

Ocean City beach in November
6. Positive peer pressure to keep butt in chair

When everyone's diligently working, there's a level of motivational energy and pressure to do the same. Again, there are no distractions and the sole purpose for being there is to write. That pressure is beneficial for some serious productivity.

7. Inexpensive way to go on writing retreat

Many writers go away to be more productive, but when going it alone, it can get pricey! When going on retreat, all the costs are shared. The eight of us stayed for three days in a lovely apartment blocks from the beach for less that $60 per person plus the cost of snacks and one meal.

8. Time for ideas to percolate

Even if you're the most disciplined writer, chances are you work for a few hours then move on to something else. But when getting away and having multiple days to focus solely on writing, there is plenty of time for new ideas or solutions to problems to percolate.

Thanks to this weekend's retreat I restructured the entire global story of my work in progress, wrote 9,000 words, and made great progress on my outline. None of this would have happened had I not gone away and spent 25 hours sitting at a table surrounded by wonderful like-minded women, with absolutely nothing for any of us to to do but WORK.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September Meeting Recap: Guest Robin Lovett

By K.A. Magrowski

One of the advantages of helping run a large and successful writing group is getting to meet and schedule so many great authors to give talks and presentations. The South Jersey Writers’ Group has hosted many wonderful authors who have given talks on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and the joys of creativity. Each time, beforehand, I think, what can this person possibly tell me that I haven’t heard or read before?
Each time I am pleasantly surprised, and hearing Robin Lovett speak was no exception. Robin spoke on writing that “unputdownable” book that will hook editors, agents, and readers and how to turn a good story into a great one. So, you may be asking, how does one do that? Well…

Don’t neglect Emotion

The more we emotionally connect to a character, the more invested we are in a book and the less likely we will want to put it down. We will need to keep reading to find out what happens and, more importantly, how the characters will be affected. Emotion brings each scene alive and each scene should be a journey.
How can we convey emotion? Body language, tone of voice, the visceral response of the character, their internal thoughts and mental journey. Think of acting – how would this play out in a movie? How would I, if I were the character as an actor, make this face? How would I feel? How would I perform that motion?
If you hook the reader in the gut, chances are they won’t want to put the book down. If they must, they will continue thinking about it. I know I have read books where both during and afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. Driving, working, cooking. Sometimes all that took second place (at least for a while) to the novel or story.

Turn up the Conflict and Tension

When writing, we also should be thinking, what’s the worst that can happen? How can I increase the conflict and tension? How will my characters react to what’s happening? There should be a crisis moment in every scene. Of course, this doesn’t mean someone getting killed or an explosion, but something crucial to the character, something important. And here’s the important part: the reader must know/understand why this scene is crucial, why what is happening is significant.
This blog post cannot convey the best part of Robin’s presentation. Her absolute and utter passion and joy for what she does. Part of my day job sometimes involves getting up in front of people and providing training or education and I was literally taking notes on how to engage a crowd from her. I could feel her enthusiasm seeping into the group and being reflected back.
I’d like to part with a few tidbits Robin gave on how to be better writer (who doesn’t want to know “the secrets” of a successful writer, right?)

  • Know your genre and subgenre

  • Know the current work being written and what agents and editors (and readers!) want (personally I think this important, not so much so we can copycat the latest success story, but just so we are aware of trends. You can’t break the rules until you know them.)

  • Always keep on learning

  • Find what fuels you to write

  • Be willing and ready to accept critique to make your story the best it can be

Best of all and most importantly - Give your story the respect and the time it deserves! Don’t rush to publish (or pitch) without a genuine effort at receiving feedback, rewriting, and editing. Remember only you can tell the story inside of you so make sure it reflects the best you are capable of at that time!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Interview with Author Ewart Rouse

The following interview with SJWG member and author Ewart Rouse was conducted by Marie Gilbert and originally presented in slightly different form on her blog, Gilbert Curiosities. You can read the original interview here, but we are proud to re-present it below, Enjoy.

Marie Gilbert: I love being a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group. Our group provides opportunities and inspiration for all members to reach their goals. Everyone has a story to tell and if you check out our blog, you will learn how many of the members got started down that road to publication. Our group is blessed with many talented people and I was happy to have this chance to interview Ewart Rouse on his books and on his love of Cricket.

Ewart Rouse is the author of the Sticky Wicket Trilogy: Watkins at Bat, Sticky Wicket Trilogy Vol.1; Watkins Fights Back, Sticky Wicket Trilogy, Vol. ll; Watkins' Finest Inning, Sticky Wicket Trilogy Vol. lll; and Watkins' Overseas Tour: Another Sticky Wicket Inning. All the books are about a game I don't know that much about, but Ewart Rouse was graceful enough to explain.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your days as a reporter in Trinidad and here in the States. Did you always want to be a reporter?

Ewart Rouse: I grew up in Trinidad back when it was under British rule. Because there were few local authors at the time, we studied primarily British and American literature in school. I decided I wanted to be a reporter after it struck me that many of my favorite authors - including Dickens, Steinbeck, and Hemingway - were journalists.

There are no journalism schools on the island. Fortunately, the Guardian, the major daily newspaper, ran a training program for would-be journalists who, if they cut mustard, were offered jobs. I applied and was accepted into the program. After three months of following the beat reporters around, attending formal classes that they taught in the newspaper's library, and covering stories, I made the cut. I was given the court beat, and soon was covering politics, the top beat, at a time of great political upheaval with the island seeking its independence from Britain.

With that background, I landed a reporting job with the Associated Press in New York when I migrated to the United States in the 1970s. After brief stints in the wire service's bureaus in Newark, Atlantic City and Washington (the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's resignation and Gerald Ford's swearing in as President was brewing then), I joined the staff at the Philadelphia Inquirer. I worked at the Inky for three decades, primarily as a business writer, retiring as a suburban editor in the paper's Cherry Hill bureau a few years ago. While at the Inquirer, I also taught newswriting as an adjunct journalism professor at Arcadia, Temple, Rutgers and Rowan Universities.

Marie Gilbert: Ewart, your books are about cricket and the men who play this game. Would you explain the dynamics of the game and what attracted you to it? How long have you been playing? Can women play, too?

Ewart Rouse: First, a little history: my series of “Sticky Wicket” novels originally were published by LMH Publishing. I acquired the rights back to the books and now have republished them, with new covers and material, through CreateSpace. Each volume is part of the same story, but can stand on its own.

Now, they aren't sports books, but rather novels about immigrants from countries where cricket is the national sport - India, Pakistan, the West Indies islands, England, etcetera - who yearn to play the game of their youth in their adopted land. It's a humorous look at a supposedly “gentleman's” game, a game considered the granddaddy of American baseball. I take an almost over-the-top approach to the challenges the men face, not least of which are wives who think it's time the men grew up and spent more time with their families, as well as Little League and soccer moms who don't take too kindly to these strangers in white uniforms, chattering in myriad languages and with funny accents, who have taken over their playgrounds - “hijacked,” as they tell it - to play a “foreign” game that nobody understands, a game that lasts the entire day, freezing out their kids.

As one angry Little League official demands of Watkins during a confrontational meeting, “You people are in America now. Why don't you play an American sport?” That quote tells you it's a story about a clash of cultures, and that something's gotta give. What attracted me to the game? Because it is a national sport in Trinidad, it was natural for me to pick up a cricket bat when I was old enough to lift it, as natural as an American kid would swing a baseball bat at that age.

And yes, women do play the game, at all levels, including international tournaments.

Marie Gilbert: Is the character Watkins based on you, or someone you knew?

Ewart Rouse: That's one of the first questions I'm usually asked. Watkins and the other characters are composites of people I know ¬- men who are so obsessed with the game they are willing to jeopardize their marriages to play it, and women who have given their husbands an ultimatum: put down that cricket bat and attend religious services with me on weekends or the marriage is over.

It's a scenario with which athletes and spouses in any sport, and readers of any genre, can identify.

Marie Gilbert: Can you explain to the readers what exactly a “sticky wicket” is?

Ewart Rouse: As I explained on my website the expression is akin to “being in a pickle.” For example, try explaining to your boss what you were doing at the casino, where you were spotted, after you had called in sick from work.

In cricket parlance, a “sticky wicket” refers to the condition of the playing surface of the game - the 66-feet-long by 10-feet wide strip in the middle of the field. When it is adversely affected by moisture, the surface - called “the wicket” or “pitch” - is likely to cause the bounced ball to behave in an unpredictable manner. It might pop up, go right, go left, or creep like a rat toward the batsman.

Even the most talented of batsmen - the ones with the sharpest of eyes and quickest of reflexes - can be surprised by such a delivery, end up playing the wrong stroke, and getting out.

The novels' “sticky wicket” titles refers to “the pickle” in which protagonist Freddie Watkins finds himself as he battles the wives and the establishment.

Marie Gilbert: Do you feel that cricket is becoming more popular in the states as more people learn about the game and how it's played?

Ewart Rouse: Back in the mid-1980s, there were seven established clubs in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. Today, with the influx of immigrants from cricketing countries, (New Jersey reportedly is among the most popular destination in the United States for immigrants from around the world), there are dozens of clubs in several leagues. Nationwide, there are now hundreds of clubs.

It has remained a largely immigrant sport, but there is a concerted effort by the United States Cricket Association to get Americans to take up the sport, just as they have soccer, once considered a “foreign” game. That effort includes getting schools to follow New York City's example and make cricket part of the schools' sports curriculums.

Marie Gilbert: Can you tell us about the Lifetime Achievement Award that you received and the proclamation given to you by the Mayor of Camden?

Ewart Rouse: The South Jersey Caribbean Cultural Organization holds an annual “heritage day” festival on the Camden waterfront, with lots of music and vendors selling ethnic foods and things Caribbean. The mayor of Camden issues proclamations recognizing the day and the recipients of various awards. In 2013, I was presented with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of my years as a journalist, teacher and my activism on behalf of the cricket community. It was quite an honor.

Marie Gilbert: You have four books out in your Sticky Wicket Series. Can we expect a fifth one?

Ewart Rouse: Following the mantra “write what you know,” I'm going from the cricket field to the newsroom, from humor to thriller. My next protagonist is a crusading journalist who becomes the story after he loses his moral compass and becomes involved in a number of potentially career-ending, headline-grabbing incidents.

Marie Gilbert: What advice would you give to young people who are curious about trying their hands playing cricket?

Ewart Rouse: There's plenty of info on the USA Cricket Association website.

Marie Gilbert: What advice would you give to young people who are interested in becoming writers?

Ewart Rouse: Take notes about interesting quirky people, their idiosyncrasies, their pithy quotes and vignettes. They might recognize themselves in your stories and threaten to do bad things to you if portrayed in an unflattering light. When that happens, you have your sequel.

Also read anything you get your hands on, from books and newspapers (before they go the way of the dinosaur) to labels on paint. Each contains nuggets of information that the mind will retrieve for just the right spot in your next project. Embellish them, take them to the extreme and, who knows, maybe you end up with a bestseller. Some might call you a dreamer but, hey, as the saying goes, you can't have a dream come through if you don't have a dream.

Marie Gilbert: Thank you, Ewart Rouse for this interview. Too those of you out there who are interested in learning more about the game of Cricket and the men and women who love the game, pick up the Sticky Wicket books. They are available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback here.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mieke Zamora-Mackay's Character Workshop

By Dawn Byrne

After taking Mieke Zamora-Mackay’s popular outlining workshop, I was thrilled she volunteered to cover another writing topic. Saturday, May 28th, I headed over to the William G. Rohrer Memorial Library on MacArthur Blvd. in southern New Jersey’s Haddon Township for her workshop titled, “Crafting Characters That Touch Readers’ Hearts.” Like other writers I know, I’m constantly sharpening my writing tools and looking to improve my craft.

Even with the holiday weekend in swing, the conference room filled with members of the South Jersey Writers’ Group. I wasn’t surprised - Mieke knows her stuff. Mieke’s two brave teenaged children were available to Young Adult Fiction writers for interviews to assist with realistic dialogue and characterizations.

I appreciated the folder of hand-outs to take home. The huge notepad Mieke wrote on not only spoke to my love of old school materials, but was kinder on my eyes than any digital screen I’ve had to squint at from the front or back row.

One of the writing exercises was to create a character sketch from pictures Mieke handed out. Mine was of three young woman dressed fashionably, sitting on padded bleachers. I’ve done picture prompts before but, because of Mieke’s presentation, I notice nuances I hadn’t before when doing one. Kevin Stephany, who also used a photo visual, commented on the SJWG’s Meetup site. “I may have enough material to generate a story off of it.” Me too.

Surrounded by my writing and critique partners, along with new and other established members, artistic energy comingled as our group took in the presentation and utilized the quiet writing time. This always incites me to begin and sustain fresh ideas.

My selfish self is wondering if Mieke will present yet another workshop, and which topic she’ll choose.

If you'd like to participate in one-of-a-kind workshops like this, please look into the South Jersey Writers' Group for more members only events like this.

Special thanks for the photos taken by SJWG members Ewart Rouse and Dawn Byrne

Friday, August 5, 2016

Moonrise by Gail Priest

The South Jersey Writers Group is proud to announce Moonrise, the third in the Annie Crow Knoll series by member and author Gail Priest.

Return once again to Annie Crow Knoll… a place to grieve loss, accept change, and rebuild a life worth living.

Breezy and Jemma, are world-class cyclists until violence at a race leaves Breezy with permanent physical disabilities and kills the man she loved. With her Olympic dream shattered, guilt and shame threaten to destroy her future happiness. Her sister Jemma escapes with only minor injuries, but the psychological damage she experiences shakes her self-worth, her Olympic potential, and her capacity to accept love.

The young women return to Annie Crow Knoll, their childhood home on the Chesapeake Bay, to heal and reclaim their lives, and with their parents and grandparents, struggle to make sense of life after this tragic and irrational incident.

Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise, the third novel in this fiction series by Gail Priest, is a story about the power to reinvent life after surviving loss and trauma. Don't forget about the first two parts of the Annie Crow Knoll saga, Sunrise and Sunset. Though part of a series, Moonrise can be read as a standalone, and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

Gail Priest can be found at her own website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Don't forget to subscribe to her newsletter, and see her in person at these upcoming events.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Steampunk Granny's Bohemian Author Bonanza

By Glenn Walker

On August 14th, author Marie Gilbert will be bringing several other writers together at The Treehouse in Audubon NJ for her Steampunk Granny's Bohemian Author Bonanza.

The event will take place on the afternoon of August 14th, from noon to 3:00 PM at The Treehouse, home of many South Jersey Writers' Group events like our Open Mics and Blogfests.

Among the authors featured will be South Jersey Writers Gail Priest, Laura J. Kaighn, Ewart Rouse, John L. Leone, Krista Magrowski, Cassandra Ulrich, Gregg Feistman, as well as L.C. Bennett Stern, Tracy Farquhar, and Adolphina Shephard, and of course the Steampunk Granny herself, Marie Gilbert. Marie will be selling copies of her Roof Oasis series, including the latest entry, Beware the Harvesters.

More details can be found here. Hope to see you all there!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Travel Writing with Peter N. Milligan

I’m a bit obsessed with travel. I spend my days in my drab cubicle, listening to travel podcasts. I check Instagram multiple times a day, just to see pictures of travelers around the world, and I read a lot of travel books.

For me, a great travel book has just the right balance of humor, philosophy, and heart warm. It should make me want to put it down at least once to check Google Flights to see how much it would cost to fly to the destination (s) discussed. A good travel book should inspire wanderlust.

The first travel book I read in 2016 was Peter N. Milligan’s Bulls Before Breakfast. 

Though I still have no desire to actually run with the bulls, due to my unfortunate propensity for clumsiness, 
I was quite taken with Pamplona, its people, and most importantly, its food. There were a few times while reading about the juicy steaks, tapas, and the peppers that you have to try, that I decided someone should invent a book with an edible cover and pages.
I also have a fascination with sub-cultures, and loved learning about the bull runners and the culture that surrounds the fiestas of San Fermin. 

I thought that Bulls Before Breakfast was a great travel book, so I was very excited when I saw that Peter was on the schedule to speak to The South Jersey Writers' Group.

First, Peter gets bonus points for providing fantastic handouts (and brownies).

Peter’s talk was a nice blend of writing advice and travel inspiration. He shared his four rules of travel.

4 Rules of Travel by Peter N. Milligan
1)  Go anywhere and never with a tour group 
2) Travel with children  
3) Be first (get up early)
4)     The 3 Laws
1)      Eat Well
2)      Sleep Well
3)      Obey

Peter then shared his journey to getting published. He reminded the group of something we hear a lot, but need the constant reminder of, be persistent. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Peter did not give up. 

First write something, and then get it out there. Keep sending out submissions, even when you have reached the Rs in the Writer’s Market book. Peter reached the Rs, though his agent came from the F submissions. 

Next, once you secure an agent, publisher, editor, etc… be ready for some “intelligent compromise.” This was an excellent term for an excellent piece of advice. You can hold your ground on some things, but you should choose your battles, especially when it comes to ticking off sports broadcasting celebrities or excessively inebriated actresses.

Peter also shared some of the unexpected things that can come from finally having your book out there, like jealousy from friends, demands for handouts (aka-why don’t you just give me a free copy of your book), and even death threats.

Everyone learned the term for what many of us already do, book "fluffing." This refers to the act of helpfully reorganizing a shelf at a book store so that either ones' own book, or a favorite book, is turned out, cover forward. This will increase the likelihood that a passerby will be enticed to take the book home. 

Peter's son said this was the best picture and I had to include it. 
Peter’s talk was brilliant. It was fun, entertaining, and highly informative. I think everyone left with a nice shot in the arm of writing motivation, and a nice dose of travel motivation too.

I wish Peter a good run at this year’s San Fermin Festival, and I, as well as many other South Jersey Writers' Group members, look forward to reading his next book, even though I disagree with the publishers, I would not tire of all of the “Ari stuff.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

South Jersey Writers on The GAR! Podcast

By Glenn Walker

Recently here on the blog we talked about The GAR! Podcast recording live at the 2016 Camden Comic Con, and interviewing several members of the South Jersey Writers' Group. You can read about that here (or here), and hear the episode here.

My podcast partner Ray Cornwall and I have recorded live at the Camden Comic Con all three years it has existed, and South Jersey Writers' Group members Amy Hollinger and Robert Repici have each been on the show before, but never at the same time. This year's convention gave them both a chance to join us together for an hour of fun, which we have called The GAR! Podcast speed round, as we hit as many topics as we possibly coul as we chatted and watched the convention around us.

Among the subjects discussed were Amy's wrestling questions, the Undertaker, Mario Bros. on TV, Aaron Paul, Ray's Hulu obsession, Philip K. Dick, the Ultimate Warrior, cosplayers, so many Spider-Men, "Mister Rogers" and "Sesame Street," the world of L. Frank Baum's Oz, the dark side of "Hoarders," name ownership, famous last words, the racism and sexism of "Night Court," and the deconstruction of Captain Cold. Yeah, it's that kind of show.

Amy has been enjoying her retirement as President of the SJWG, and Robert actually ran a creative workshop at the convention, which they also discuss. For our coverage of the last two years at the Camden Comic Con, click here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

No Place to Pray by James Carpenter

"No Place to Pray is located at the creative nexus where Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Richard Pryor converge. Rarely do writers explore, much less depict with insight, irony, and comedy, the endless lower depths of American culture…" - Larry Bensky, Executive Producer, “Radio Proust;” and former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review

Two young men, one bi-racial and the other white, meet in an overnight lockup and begin their shared twenty-year downward spiral into alcoholism and homelessness. LeRoy and Harmon work together, drink together, brawl together, and as Harmon suffers from his final illness, they both bed Edna, a wealthy widow who, out of pity, curiosity, and loneliness, takes them into her vacation home by the river.

Through episodes rendered from shifting, multiple points of view, a series of flashbacks, and LeRoy’s adventure stories - this very smart but uneducated man’s attempts at fantasy writing - we learn of the people and tragedies that shaped their lives and those whose lives unravel along with theirs at the seams of race, class, and religion, and where no one ever quite tells the truth.

South Jersey Writers' Group member and author James Carpenter can be found on Twitter, and you can pre-order the book No Place to Play here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Writers Coffeehouse for April 2016

By Dawn Byrne

Janice Gable-Bashman and Jon McGoran teamed up to lead the Philly Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in Willow Grove PA. Topics? Character Voice and Outlining. They answered questions, and Jon threw in information on marketing.

Examples of distinct voice done well can be found in J.K. Rowling’s books. The very different voices of the alternating main characters in All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, ring distinct in the book’s characters with their similar backgrounds, living in the same place. “Be true to your character,” said Janice. Make sure the similar persons you design are individuals so the reader can easily tell them apart.

Jon spoke of economy in writing. The voice of a character should show the story, so exposition isn’t needed. You don’t want to undermine your character by violating their POV. If you need something explained in your story, let the character bring up the information needed and address it through his/her dialogue or internal thoughts in a way that’s natural and fluid.

Be conscious of how often you switch POV. Color-coding your manuscript is a technique that can identify where each POV character is in the story and how often you’re in that view. The different POV will pop off the page so you can see if there’s a balance. Scrivener and other software work well for this, but so do Post-it notes and 3x5 cards. Outlining helps in establishing your characters. You should understand your characters a bit before writing the outline, but you can find out more about them as you build the outline. Janice, while outlining, sometimes comes up with dialogue for her characters. She stops outlining and writes the dialogue down as it comes to her. A gift! For her last book, it took three months to create her outline, but she did less editing after the story was written.

Having an outline saves time when an editor or agent asks for changes. It also prevents bad surprises for the author by keeping information consistent and easy to check. Make sure when you do those changes that you also reflect them in the outline for later reference. If you’re creating a series, having a record of the completed books in an outline or other form, makes it easier to keep information throughout the series uniform.

But Janice and Jon agreed: “Do whatever works for you.” Steven James swears in Story Trumps Structure that one shouldn’t outline. Biographical character sketches should contain deep stuff about characters beyond their physical form and what they like to eat. Interviewing them can enable you to find their voice. For each character, you should know their unique POV, even if you’re not writing in their POV. Whatever happened in the character’s life before the story will show in their dialogue and actions. Even birth order is important with family characters.

A question about dialect came up. Suggestions: Find a few words to repeat to relay a character’s dialect, but go light with it. Alternate spelling doesn’t look good on the page, it bogs down the writing and tires the reader. The cadence of words spoken in English by a non-fluent character displays their background to readers. But don’t stereotype your people. There’s a fine line with this, so be sparing with colloquialisms and dialects. When sprinkling in non-English words, they shouldn’t need translation because of context.

Keith Strunk joined the meeting as Jon shared information about BookBub. “It’s huge. Seems to be a powerful tool,” said Jon. An email marketing tool for ebooks, BookBub works on price reduction to stimulate sales. Its thriller list alone has 2.5 million addresses. Similar services, like The Fussy Librarian, are smaller than BookBub, which averages 26,000 downloads. So for the prorated cost of their book, some authors have had success. But for ebooks priced at 99 cents, Jon suggested we consider what percentage of their buyers will purchase another book by that author priced above 99 cents. Harlan Ellison believes you should never give your stuff away. That may be what authors who go the 99 cents route with BookBub are doing in hopes of other sales.

MSWL Manuscript Wish List is a 12-hour pitch on Twitter to literary agents. Authors put up a tweet to see who likes their pitch. Agents who are looking to represent an author may request pages of a manuscript. How important, really, are business cards? “Networking is about touch. Lots and lots of touch. And that’s what business cards are,” Keith answered. A card is a memory, so you are “marketing memory” with your picture on the card. It’s about interaction with people, and a card can create a connection. But, “Networking is always a long term thing.”

Jon had a signing for his new book, Dust Up, after the meeting at the front of the store. Janice will be signing at the Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival in Neshaminy PA on June 11th. Look for the many local conferences coming up. A few are ThrillerFest XI in New York July 6-9, the Philadelphia Writers Conference in Philadelphia June 10-12, the Annual Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA May 20-22, and Noircon 2016 in Philadelphia June 15-16.

There will be no Coffeehouse in May, although it resumes June 26th, noon to 2 PM with an additional hour for networking. Thanks for setting up this SJWG road trip, Sir Glenn Walker. Thank you Gail Priest for driving. The Liars are great, and so are you.

Monday, April 25, 2016


By Glenn Walker

This is both a personal message, and a revelation about the South Jersey Writers' Group as a whole, so I couldn't think of a better place to post these thoughts.

For those of you who don't know, I had been having some health issues, and a serious bout of illness landed me in the hospital for several weeks. No exaggeration here, folks, I nearly bought the farm, and I'm not talking about real estate. I don't think I would have made it if not for family and friends, and the South Jersey Writers' Group.

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone - thank you for all the cards, the gifts, the gift basket, the gift card, books, phone calls, and visits.

Thank you to everyone who reached out basically, sent thoughts and prayers, either in person or digitally - especially Marie, Dawn, Robin, Jim, Amy, Loretta, Michael, Jennifer, Doot, Gail, Patti, Kahlil, Mark, Jord, Krista, Rich, Victoria, and Jessica, among others - everyone, in other words.

Apologies if I haven't gotten back to you. My vision was very bad for quite some time, making use of the laptop and phone very difficult. It took a while but my vision adjusted somewhat finally. I also suffered some memory loss during my time in the hospital. I am still discovering texts and Facebook messages I don't remember.

I got home the day before Christmas Eve, and the recovery was, and remains, slow and difficult, but I'll make it, I'm still pretty much invincible, but nowhere near as cocky as I once was.

When I returned to the group and its functions slowly, everyone greeted me with smiles, hugs, and kisses. I had no idea so many folks cared, but you did. I don't know how I survived so many hugs. Seriously, and this is the part where I tear up, this group is so important to me, and I was struck by how everyone pulled together as a community to help me, care for me, and just wish me well.

The South Jersey Writers' Group is not just writers trying to help each other with writing goals, and learning from each other, it's a support group, a circle of friends, friends who may very well have saved my life. Sure, maybe it started as people putting words to paper, but now it is a strong loyal community… my friends. I love you folks.

Thank you so much again. I am so blessed with wonderful friends, especially in the South Jersey Writers' Group.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The South Jersey Writers' Group at the 2016 Camden Comic Con

By Glenn Walker

April 9th was the third annual Camden Comic Con, and for the third year in a row, my podcast partner Ray Cornwall and I have recorded The GAR! Podcast live during the convention held at Rutgers University in Camden. As in the years before, we conducted many interviews with creators in the comics industry, and even some members of the South Jersey Writers' Group. This year, we interviewed so many members, that we dedicated an entire episode to the group.

Episode 134 of The GAR! Podcast features discussion with Marie Gilbert about "The Walking Dead," female protagonists, her upcoming novel Beware the Harvesters, and ghosts; fiction and non-fiction with Dawn Byrne; addiction with Kahlil Weston; Randy Ribay tells us about his novel An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes; and then Steampunk Granny Marie returns with filmmaker Chris Eilenstine to round out the show - she may have even scored a movie deal on air! Listen and learn.

Marie also reported on the 2016 Camden Comic Con here on her blog Gilbert Curiosities. The first installment of GAR's coverage of the 2016 Camden Comic Con can be found here, with more to come, including an episode featuring SJWG members Amy Holiday and Robert Repici, keep your eyes on our website. For our coverage of the last two years at the Camden Comic Con, click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ashes in the Sky by Jennifer M. Eaton

The highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer M. Eaton's Fire in the Woods has been released. This young adult contemporary science fiction (because you can’t get enough contemporary or science in your fiction) novel continues the adventures of a young girl whose friendship with an alien helps to save the planet from an invasion from space. After the Fire in the Woods come the Ashes in the Sky.

After inadvertently saving the world, 18-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and settle back into the familiar routine of high school.

But when she's offered an opportunity to photograph the inside of an alien spaceship, Jess jumps at the chance. After all, she would be crazy to turn something like that down, right? Spending time with David on the ship has definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off.

But when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David's efforts to establish a new home for his people on another planet, neither David's advanced tech nor Jess’s smarts will be able to save them.

Ashes in the Sky from Month9Books is available for purchase at Books-A-Million, !ndigo, IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and Book Depository.

Author Jennifer M. Eaton can be found at her own website, on Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Warrior Heart by Laura J. Kaighn

What if?

What if you’re driving along an isolated, forested road and discovered a body?

What if that victim was injured, still alive? What if the man wasn’t even human?

Thus begins storyteller Laura J. Kaighn's epic science fiction series centered about an unlikely pair of characters: one a human woman from 1999, the other a Vesar warrior from 2105 AD. This is their journey - through time and space, across alien worlds and despite the prejudices their many differences pose...

The G.A.V. Pompeii, a jack-of-all-trades spaceship, serves the Galactic Alliance –a community of three races: humans, Tloni and Vesar. In this first installment to the Vesar Warrior Legacy, the Pompeii’s crew must stop the Orthops from changing history, even if it means single-handedly traveling to the alien race’s homeworld. Their mission: to prevent the giant insects from constructing and using another time machine.

After Vesarius is accidently thrust back in time to Earth of 1999, the Vesar warrior meets a school teacher who rescues Vesarius and helps him return to his universe of 2105. But when Dorinda is subsequently trapped in that future, the pair’s adventures together truly begin. Join Vesarius and Dorinda as they travel into galactic turmoil!

Laura J. Kaighn, of Lady Hawke Storytelling, has been writing and sharing her stories since childhood. Her favorites deal with nature, both human and wild! Combining her loves of science, animals, astronomy and her own American Indian heritage, Laura naturally found herself writing her first science fiction novel back in 1991. Little did she realize, at the time, those efforts would lead to a complete series of ten volumes!

The Vesar Warrior Legacy is the result of Laura’s dedication to story, character and conflict. May Vesarius’ and Dorinda’s journey, dreams and desires make a positive impact in our world today...

On April 16th, check out the official book launch party at the Book Asylum Bookstore and CafĂ© in Blackwood NJ, from 1-3pm. Along with an open reading and book sale, there will be prizes for science fiction fans. Laura will test your knowledge in a fun quiz. On April 23rd, there’s the 2016 West Deptford Township Book Festival at the Riverwinds Community Center in West Deptford NJ, from 10am- 4pm. For Laura's summer storytelling program, check out here website here.

Warrior Heart: Book One of the Vesar Warrior Legacy is now available through Amazon and B&! Keep an eye out for Warrior Spirit, Warrior Trial, and Warrior Fury, books two through four of the Vesar Warrior Legacy, coming soon!