Tell Us About Your Southern Man!

Rated R -- for Readers

My novel, Southern Man, is about a sweet Alabama woman, Patty, who loves her Tennessee man, Troy, with all her heart. She loves his "all-American body and movie-star face," but her devotion goes far beyond his physical appearance.

She loves how he faces down his weaknesses, overcomes them and is a stronger and better man for it.  She loves his strength, his smarts, his self-confidence, and his sense of responsibility to her and their children, to his company and his community and, ultimately, his God. He is his family's protector and provider, as he and Patty believe God intended him to be -- and he's as devoted to his children, in his own masculine way, as Patty is.
Late Wednesday afternoon there was a rally at Verona State in support of Shearwater-Ingram’s "anonymous sexual harassment victim." Sponsored by the Women's Assistance Group and held on The Commons, it was a small gathering, no more than twenty people, but nevertheless a vocal, loud and angry event.

It had been hastily organized at noon, and the Stevensons didn't find out until someone at church told them. They saw the probable fallout from it as soon as they got home.

Troy had steered the station wagon into the garage and the family had emerged just as several cars rolled down Live Oak Street, slowing dramatically as they reached the red brick rambler. Slurs shouted in both male and female voices echoed through the night—Patty easily made out "Sick bastard!" and "Sex predator!"—and she looked at her husband in alarm."Take them and get in the house," he ordered, walking toward the driveway.

"Where're you going?" she said shrilly.

In the faint orange glow of the street lamp, he turned a face like thunder toward her and barked, "I'm gonna shut the g’rage door, now do what I tell ye, git’n the house!"

Patty herded the children indoors. Two steps into the kitchen, she heard the rumble of the garage door closing followed by several loud, sharp pops that cracked the night and tore into her soul. Terror such as she’d never known ripped through her and she screamed, "TROEEEE!"

She streaked back into the now darkened garage. By the light of the kitchen slanting into the shadows, she saw him walking to her.

"Oh!" She ran to him and slammed herself against him, flinging her arms around him, burying her face against him and crying hysterically in great, gulping sobs. "I thought ... you'd been ... shot!"

His arms went around her and held her as tightly as she held him. He was trembling violently, whether from fright or rage, Patty couldn’t tell. Perhaps both.

"Hey, now, I’m all right. Calm down. Bastards threw firecrackers in the driveway." He shushed her and kissed her forehead. "Let's get inside."

The terrified children were huddled together in the kitchen when their parents stepped through the back door. They ran to their father wailing, "Daddy!" and he knelt down to hold them a moment, murmuring words of comfort. "I’m okay. Don’t worry."

He stood, nodded toward the family room and told Patty grimly, "Take them in there and stay with them."

He went through the house turning off lights except the night lights in the kitchen and hallway, then disappeared into the shadows of the hall and emerged moments later carrying a box. He sat on the coffee table, put the box beside him and looked at his children through the dimness.

"You know what's in here?" He tapped the box.

Their heads bobbed and Randy said, "A gun."

"That's right." He gazed at them with such intensity his eyes seemed to burn. "I can’t lock it back up. I’ve got to get to it quick if I need to, so I’ve got to leave it out. Now listen to me. I've never hit either one of you." He focused on Randy and a flash of pain and regret crossed his face. "Not on purpose. But if I ever see you even touch this gun, I will wear you out. Do you understand me? I will wear ... you ... out."

Round-eyed and open-mouthed, they whispered, "Yes, sir."

"I bought your mama a gun, taught her to shoot for self-defense and I'll teach you when the time comes. But right now this is dangerous for you. It could kill you. And if that happened, your mama and I might as well die, too."

In the silence that followed Troy's admonition, the faint sound of a car engine revving up and yelling voices came to them, though they couldn't make out the words.

"Should we call the police?" Inspired by the calm and courage that had settled over Troy after his initial fright, Patty tried hard to control her alarm, but she was still caught in the trauma of terror and it came through in her trembling voice.

"If it don't stop soon, or if any cars pull up in the driveway or people we don't know come up in the yard, we’ll call."

He left them, walked through the darkness to the foyer and flipped light switches beside the intercom. The front porch light came on, along with rarely used corner floodlights that bathed the driveway and front lawn with light. He opened the front door and stood quietly in the shadows of the darkened foyer, scanning the yard and street.

After ten minutes passed with no further disturbances, he closed the door, set the alarm and secured the house for the night.

Is there a Southern man in your life? Use the COMMENTS to tell us a little about him. Thanks!

The MacLachlainn Saga, Book Two, out now!

Rated R -- for Readers

I'm excited! The second volume in The MacLachlainn Saga, Deep In the Valley, is available now as a Kindle e-book. Here's a summary:

Niall MacLachlainn drinks to escape the bitterness borne of resentment toward his father. But instead of providing an escape, a bout of drunkenness ushers a nightmare into Niall’s life...a nightmare of torture at the hands of unscrupulous men who lust for the gold on Cherokee land. And the wounded soul of a boy becomes the scarred shell of a man.

When he finds love with Meli, he hopes to leave his past failures behind. But heartbreak finds Niall again through his infant son.

Can he ever receive forgiveness for his failures? And will his father ever give him the approval he craves?

Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous years of the American Revolution, Deep in the Valley continues the saga of the Ailean MacLachlainn family, whose fortune and future is tied to the fate of the new nation.


Find Deep In the Valley HERE and visit Tommie Lyn's website HERE.

A bittersweet romance short story just published

Rated R -- for Readers
........................ A Family At Last

Raised together in a group home for orphaned and abandoned children,
Vandi and Nicole's love was inevitable. But their marriage was a casualty
of progressivism -- shattered before it began. Nobody could know their
love was strong enough to last through time, deceit and separation.

An electronic short-short story for the Amazon Kindle. Also available at Smashwords in a variety of electronic formats. Flash fiction of only 1,600 words, you can read it in minutes.

Here are the Product Details for A Family At Last:

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 17 KB
Price: $0.99
Publisher: Brasstown Books (May 4, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
Lending: Enabled

Confederate History and Heritage Month

Rated G

The CSA was a bid to form an independent nation out of a region that had a common enemy and some collective regional identity. But the CSA comprised many sub-cultures (a few of them didn't want to be there), and it had a leadership that sometimes confused self-interest with public policy. It had its fair share of charlatans and profiteers and criminal opportunists. It had some brilliant generals and a great many men in uniform who would be the pride of any army in human history. It was committed to 18th century republican values that were incompatible with fighting a modern war, and it had internal social conflicts that the war aggravated.

In nearly all of this it was entirely like the American Revolutionaries. The colonists in 1776: one-third for independence, one-third against, one-third uncommitted. That must be the standard for legitimacy, or else our United States lacks it. The CSA fought a much larger enemy than George III, mostly on its own soil, without a Dutch loan or a French fleet to aid it, and the majority, in spite of internal divisions, put up a herculean effort, won spectacular victories, made shift with what little it had, and held out till the place was literally gutted and blood-drained by its foe.

The four-year history of the CSA is not necessarily the place to seek an example of the values Southerners sought to uphold. Any nation fighting for survival from the cradle, invaded and blockaded all its life, doesn't get a chance to express the finer points of democracy and civil culture. If all we knew of Americans was how they actually behaved from 1776 to 1783, we wouldn't think much of our sense of "democracy" or commitment to "personal freedom."
~ Douglas Harper

Storm Surge Dedication

Rated G

To the unsung heroes of emergency management
and disaster preparedness,
the first responders, the volunteers,
those who donate equipment and supplies,
and neighbors who help neighbors,
when disaster strikes.
The world is a better place because of you.

Storm Surge will be released April 15 by Desert Breeze Publishing.  Purchase information will be posted soon.  Meanwhile, visit the novel's page at Desert Breeze by clicking HERE.

Also, to celebrate the release of Storm Surge, the Kindle edition of Southern Man will go on sale for $.99 from now through the end of May. 

The E-book revolution

Rated R -- For Readers

Readers may or may not be as aware as writers are of the great shifting of the tectonic plates of the publishing industry wrought by the digital revolution. But most of you surely aren't unaware of it.

In 2008, alternatively published books (including e-books) outnumbered conventionally published ones, for the first time in history. They were published for you -- readers. You've purchased Kindles and Nooks and Sony Readers by the millions.

My Kindle for PC loading....

Although sales of traditional dead-tree books still outnumber sales of e-books, the balance is gradually tilting. As has been noted many times and places, paper books will never entirely go away. Probably. But readers of the future will read electronic books, magazines and newspapers. 

Southern Man on Kindle for PC
If you're undecided about buying an e-reader (I don't own one, yet --but my sister owns two, a Kindle and a Nook) you can still read e-books on your computer. Many e-publishers offer books for downloading in .pdf format. All that's required is the installation of Adobe's Acrobat Reader.  It's free, and Adobe is wonderful about keeping the software updated with the latest capabilities.

Get Adobe Reader

You Amazon addicts will be happy to discover (if you don't know already) that Kindle emulating software is available for download and installation on your computer. You can purchase Kindle books and download them in seconds.  And many, particularly classics, are free! It's hard to beat free!

Get Kindle for PC software

There's also Kindle software for your iPhone, Blackberry, iPad and Android.

Check it out, and join the digital reading revolution. Happy E-reading!

Screenshot of portion of Kindle for PC showing
Prologue from Southern Man and reader controls

Stuff that's been happening....

Rated G -- For General  Readership

I've resumed my weekly essays about gender issues at the False Rape Society blog. Many thanks to Pierce and Steve for the opportunity to vent my spleen over the excesses of radical feminism. I guess a 120,000- word novel taking rad-fems to task just didn't get it out of my system.

I have a new link in my wavy menu bar at the top of my pages -- Fun Stuff. Have a look. Jigsaw and crossword puzzles, hangman and word search games, all with tie-ins to my novels. And off-site links to more games and puzzles, for more fun.

I continue to work on my writing in progress -- my somewhat-paranormal romance featuring the Southern Sasquatch, aka skunk apes (Google 'em); and the Georgia series. But as I've noted in several blogs and groups and loops and elsewhere, I belong to the P.J. O'Rourke school of writing. My methodology is to procrastinate as long as possible....
"Writing is agony. I hate it. ....When I'm writing, I spend a lot of time thinking, 'My, doesn't the top of the fridge look dirty'. It takes for ever. I like thinking about writing. I like having written. But actually sitting down and doing it ..."
-- P.J. O'Rourke, journalist, writer and political satirist,
to Christopher Bray of the U.K.'s Telegraph, 2005
All you jigsaw puzzle freaks, click the graphic links below to go to the puzzles made from my book covers. Have fun!
,,,,  ......................

Storm Surge Cover Art the talented and accomplished Jenifer Ranieri. Click HERE to see the cover full size. (Use your browser's back button to return here.)

Justin thanks you, Jenifer! Briana thanks you. And I thank you.  The cover is wonderful!

Storm Surge will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing April 15, 2011, in e-book format. It will be available at the Desert Breeze Bookstore,, Barnes & Noble and various other online outlets. Check back here for links when the book "goes live" in April!

Taglines, Teasers and Blurbs, Oh My!

I've been reading recently how these devices are used for promoting novels, movies, TV shows, even products like beer and insurance. I've participated in great discussions online about excerpts before, and learned a lot, but the other devices are important, too.

Blurbs, of course, are what you'd find on the back cover of a book. This one is from Sharyn McCrumb's The Songcatcher. "Folksinger Lark McCourry is haunted by the memory of a song. Passed down through generations, it carried her ancestors from a Scottish island, through the pages of American history, to western North Carolina. Over the years, though, the memory of the old song has dimmed and Lark's only hope of preserving the legacy lies in the mountain wisewoman Nora Bonesteel, who talks to both the living and the dead."

Taglines are short, punchy, memorable. They don't tell much about the plot or characters. They're more thematic.  Some recognizable samples -- "In space, no one can hear you scream." "Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water." "Space. The final frontier." "The truth is out there." "You're in good hands with Allstate." "Great taste. Less filling."

Then, there are teasers -- very short (one or two sentence) summaries such as you might find in a TV Guide listing. Here are some examples taken from my Cox TV Guide:

From NCIS: "A murder prompts the reopening of one of Tony's old investigations, leading Gibbs and DiNozzo to reverse roles to solve the case."

From The Fugitive: "A U.S. marshal hunts a doctor on the run who was convicted of murdering his wife."

Househunters (on HGTV): "A former Navy flight instructor searches for a home with character in Savannah, Ga."

The Great Gatsby: "Jazz Age bootlegger learns the hard way about the wages of sin."

The Old Man and the Sea: "An old Cuban fisherman's dry spell is broken."

I've had writers tell me that these devices are more difficult to write than novels themselves, but if it doesn't come to you easily, it's just another one of those skills you'll have to develop. It was years before I developed good taglines, teasers and blurbs for Southern Man, but eventually, I got there. In fact, I managed to come up with several each for use in promoting the novel.

Taglines --

A story of love and betrayal in the sultry South
Chronicles the pernicious fallout of the sexual revolution
Reveals the dark underbelly of radical feminism.
Teasers --
"A family man is targeted with a false sexual harassment accusation by an amoral young woman and her uber-feminist mentor."

"A corporate executive is targeted with a false sexual harassment complaint by an amoral young woman and her uber-feminist mentor with harrowing consequences for himself and his family."
Blurbs --

Short (129 words)
In 1983, in moss-hung Verona, Georgia, the tender and tenacious love between a hardworking man and his adoring wife is tested by sudden adversity.
Corporate executive Troy Stevenson must confront his nasent alcohol abuse or he risks losing the wife, daughter and son he deeply loves. When his latent destructivness impacts his family, he moves to their weekend cottage to come to grips with his personal weaknesses.
Southern Man takes readers from the hills of Appalachia to the University of Alabama during the Paul "Bear" Bryant era; from staid New England to drug-drenched and sex-saturated Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love; from the glittering skyline of Atlanta to moss-hung south Georgia -- and reveals what can happen when a good man becomes the object of lust and the target of vengeance.
Long (173 words)
In 1972, they fell in love at first sight. He was a college football star -- good-looking and smart. She was sweet sixteen -- pretty, artless, chaste. A year later, Troy Stevenson and Patty Ayers were married.
But in 1983, in moss-hung Verona, Georgia, as they plan to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, the tender and tenacious love between this hardworking man and his adoring wife is tested by sudden adversity.
Now a corporate executive, Troy must confront an old family secret that underlies his nascent alcohol abuse or he may lose his wife and the son and daughter he deeply loves. When his latent destructiveness is unleashed and impacts his family, he moves to their lakeside cottage to come to grips with his personal weaknesses.
But busybodies at his company assume he left home because his marriage is in trouble. Encouraged by the assumption, co-worker Brooke Emerson, an amoral, 1980s material girl romantically obsessed with Troy, attempts to seduce him, setting in motion a chain of events with harrowing consequences for him and his family.
I freely admit these aren't the best examples of taglines, teasers and blurbs, but considering that it hasn't been all that long ago that I was absolutely clueless about all three, I do believe I've made some progress.

And so can you! 

Writers, I'd love for you to leave samples of  your taglines, teasers and blurbs in the comments.

My very own quick and tasty pizza snack recipe!

Snacks for writers ... and others

Visit my HUB PAGE For the low-down on my lo-cal, lo-carb pizza snack recipe!

This snack is great for writers who get the munchies in the middle of the night -- or any time in the middle of a writing session. They take me about 30 seconds to assemble, another thirty seconds in the microwave and -- voila! -- pizza snack in a minute!
The Wasa Crisp 'n Light 7-Grain crackerbread gives a hint of unusual flavor to the old, tried and true tomato sauce + mozzarella combo.

If you try it -- even if you're not a writer -- leave a comment or send me an email and let me know what you think!

In other news....

Word Slinger Boutique is slated to GO LIVE on Valentine's Day!  If you're an indie author or publisher, small press or otherwise in need of author/publishing services, stop by.  We're giving discounts and freebies through June!

Beautiful Book Covers ~ Simple but Effective Website Design
Eye-catching Video Trailers ~ Interior Book Design and Typesetting
Static and Animated Banners ~ Promotional Items

Head-hoppin' and author intrusion -- my way

Or...when rules should be broken

Probably to the horror of writers, editors and other POV purists everywhere, I write in what I call modified omniscient POV. That means the POV switches between an invisible, impersonal narrator and one character per scene. That's what keeps it from being head-hopping.

Photo by C. Ward
I think I developed this method from being a boomer, i.e, first generation TV watcher. My impersonal narrator is like a video camera. The reader sees what's going on through the camera's lens. Usually it's in a neutral location and can pan and cut between characters. It can zoom into microscopic level and zoom out all the way across the universe. Now and then during a scene, it moves to the POV character, above or beside his head, so the reader sees what that character sees; and when the "camera" is there, the reader can know what the character is thinking and feeling.

Follow this link for an example of a scene told from this dual viewpoint: The Candidate Excerpt. (Use your browser's back button to return here.)

In this scene, the impersonal narrator is the one describing the three men's physical appearance. The narrator shares POV with Randy. We can see what he's thinking (he wants his friends' help and support with his run for Congress). The camera/narrator never tells us what's in Shelby's or John Mark's head. We have to interpret it through their words and actions, as seen by the camera and/or Randy.

As a reader, I find blatant head-hopping as annoying as anyone else, but subtly switching the POV "camera" between the impersonal narrator and one character per scene isn't head-hopping, in my opinion. And it removes what I consider to be an arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive "rule" that engenders some workarounds and remedies that can be as annoying as the original headhopping.

Being omniscient, the impersonal narrator also knows things the POV character might not know--or knows but might not be thinking of at the moment. The narrator can pass along information that the reader needs in those circumstances. Here's an example of narrator-supplied information, also known as author intrustion (in bolded and italicized text). Purists no doubt hate it, but I've never had a reader even mention it:
When his plate was cleared, Troy checked the lunch bag to see if a small dessert was tucked in there somewhere, but there was nothing. Patty must be planning a high-calorie dessert for supper if she was depriving him at lunch.

His attention was caught by a piece of paper protected in a plastic sandwich bag and he took it out. It was a small, cream-colored envelope, cool to the touch from having been in a compact refrigerator in his office all morning. Inside was one of his wife’s notecards, a pine bough and her first name printed in gold on the front. The cards were blank, for writing personal messages.

This one had no written message, though. When he opened it, a smaller folded paper about the size of a business check fell out and barely missed his plate. He unfolded it, looked at it a few moments, cut his eyes away and stifled a smile.

“What is it?” Max said, bristling with curiosity.

“It’s a gift certificate.”

“She’s kinda jumping the gun on your birthday a little bit, isn’t she? Anniversary, too.”

The Stevensons’ tenth wedding anniversary was coming up at the end of June, and Troy’s thirty-third birthday in early July.

“She wouldn’t give me a gift certificate for either one of those.” He put the certificate and card back in the envelope and slid it into his inside breast pocket. “It’s a no-occasion gift certificate."
From Southern Man by Connie Chastain              

Story-telling isn't mathematics. There isn't a formula that must be followed. It is an art form, and when the rules create a solution worse than the problem, that's when rules can be, and should be, cirumvented.  In my ever so humble opinion

Gettin' serious about blogging

It's about time...

For a while now, I've been studying blogs, particularly the blogs of writers, to see what I needed to do to breathe some life into my blog. I've noticed some interesting things.

First, I note that big-name novelists don't have blogs. Nicholas Sparks doesn't have a blog. Nora Roberts, Vince Flynn, Debbie Macomber, Sherilyn Kenyon -- nary a blog among them. What they do have is websites with frequently updated content. Of course, when you're a big name novelist raking in the royalties, you can pay somebody to keep your website updated.

For lesser known authors, including the unpublished aspiring ones, blogs are more common. What I've noted about these blogs is the frequent ambiguity of who to blog for -- readers or other writers.

When an author blogs about show-don't-tell, POV and headhopping, GMC (goal, motivation, conflict), passive voice... that author is blogging for other writers. These are subjects of great uninterest to readers -- at least, by these designations. What they're interested in is story and characters and sometimes where you get your ideas.

Of course, other writers can also be readers.

That being the case, I've decided to blog for both. For writers on Mondays, for readers on Wednesdays and Miscellaneous on Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays may -- may -- find me making short posts such as quotes, interesting comments, tweets, etc.

Due to, um, circumstances (how's that for vagueness?) this new blogging schedule may not fall into place until sometime in February. We'll see.