Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Memories and character sketches .

Memories are great fodder for stories, settings, and character sketches. The following is a journal item I wrote several years ago. I re-discovered the piece just last week, and it reminded me why it's important to journal. I submitted the entire story to a literary journal, and it was accepted. What follows was the first page of the story of an authentic wedding:

photo by Jeff D. Johnston

“Mark called,” my mother said without looking up from her crossword puzzle the moment I got home from work.
“Oh?” A rush of love coursed through me. I couldn’t keep from smiling.  My first born.
“He’s getting married.”
Panic obliterated the rush of love. The urge to wail rose in my throat.
I gulped and croaked, “When?”
“They haven’t set a date.”
“No. I meant when did he call?”
“About an hour ago.”
“Oh.” That certainly didn’t give me time to intercede. I was in Detroit, Michigan, Mark was in Mobile, Alabama, and I could be reasonably sure his relationship with his future bride was longer than an hour old.
“What’s her name?”
“He didn’t say.”
I looked at her in utter exasperation. Swedes can be so cryptic. “I hope she’s not some barefoot cutie he found in a field picking cotton,” I muttered as I punched in my son’s phone number.
My mother lifted her brilliantly white coif and smiled. “I have a picture of you doing that very thing.”
“Mom! That picture was taken in Texas more than four decades ago. I was three-years old.”
“And your point is?”
“Hi,” I said when I heard the lilt of Mark’s baritone reverberate in my ear. “Grandma said you called.” My voice trailed into thin air because I was still choking on the “m” word.
“Mom, are you sitting down?”
The word “No!” strobed like a neon sign in the back of my head.
My legs couldn’t hold me, and I collapsed onto a kitchen chair. “I am, now.” I leaned my forehead in my hand. It’s true, I thought. My baby’s getting married. “Grandma says you might have some wonderful news.”

“No might about it, I’m getting married.”

I remember that I was a blathering idiot for several minutes after those words. But the marriage was and is perfect, as is the daughter-in-law. But if I hadn't found that piece of journal, the exact memory would have been lost. Do you journal? Have you used the memories in a story? Let me know, won't you?

You all-guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same. 


PS: The picture of a Dauphin Island, AL, beach sunset is by Jeff D. Johnston

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing for Magazines by C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark
Lyrical Pens welcomes C. Hope Clark to our site today. A household name among writers, Hope has helped writers find routes to writing, editing, and publication through her Funds for Writers newsletter, a site I've followed for over ten years. Author of the popular Carolina Slade Mystery Series, Hope is a very busy woman. Attuned to the changes in our industry, she shares her expertise on writing for magazines. Welcome Hope!

Why Every Writer Should Write for Magazines

By C. Hope Clark

I’ve watched the writing world do such an about face in the last decade. Once writers used to be pleased writing for magazines, making a decent living at it, too. Today’s writer prefers to sell a book. Self-publishing has tossed open the barn doors, and a herd of horses (writers) has escaped the confines to run into the world, with dreams of publishing books, dancing across the fields with all that freedom and opportunity. But if you always notice, a horse or two sticks around, realizing that the oats and hay are, um, still in the barn?

If the barn doors are open, why can’t we go back and forth and do both? Frankly, my opinion is that every writer can, and should, write for magazines. Regardless of who you are, or what you write, stop and think about the pros of writing for periodicals.

More people will read your one article in a single issue of a magazine in one weekend than will read your hard-fought book in a year.

 The odds are greater that a new author will make a better annual income writing a couple of articles a month than selling their book. This is especially true when you deduct the hours of investment from the gross proceeds.

With a magazine article, you see yourself in print much faster than a book. That is, unless you throw a book together WAY too fast and then self-publish it. There’s something rewarding about a byline, and seeing one every month (along with a check to go with it), sure gives you that sense of instant gratification that keeps your engine revved.

 Advertisers say that the public needs to see a brand, name or title repeatedly for it to stick in a person’s brain and draw interest. That’s why you can hum commercials, or recite an actor’s one-minute performance without missing a word. If you repeatedly appear in print, people soon remember you. If you appear once a year as the author of a book, the chances are quite minute that you’ll be recalled from the millions that populate Amazon.

 The more people see you write, the more they appreciate you as a writer. If you write, say, about  horses, then the more people see your name in a byline about horses, the more they consider you an expert on the subject. If your bio says you wrote one book, people wonder what else you’ve done, because trust me, the average person has no clue how long it takes to write a book. They can be just as awed by your fourteen magazine appearances as they can from your book.

 Of course you can write both magazine features and your beloved books. There isn’t a writer alive who enjoys just sitting down to write on that one novel each and every day without some sort of diversity thrown in. That’s how people fall prey to Facebook, Words with Friends, and Solitaire.

Best of all, that credibility and name recognition you acquire from magazines may help you sell books. That diligence poured into a dozen magazine articles may convince an agent or publisher that you are serious about this writing business, and know how to spread your name.

Why not write shorter works in between your long chapters? Better yet, why not write pieces that pay? And if you say you don’t have time to write magazine articles, then how in the world do you think you’ll have time to write a book? Just saying . . . It’s a win-win success.

C. Hope Clark is editor of, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 13 years. Her Friday newsletters go out to 45,000 readers. She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. The third in the series, Palmetto Poison, was just released to eager readers who’ve already enjoyed Lowcountry Bribe and Tidewater Murder. Dish Magazine’s review stated: Hope’s intensely lush and conversational writing will keep you turning the page almost faster than you can read them. See more of Hope’s work at and


 Read and Enjoy Hope Clark's wonderful new characters in these tension filled books.

Please give Hope feedback your experiences with writing for magazines.  I plan to try once again and I'll let you know how I fare.             Mahala

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Taking Ownership . . .

Strawflower in Water Droplet by Jeff D. Johnston
Author Pat Conroy credits, no, make that, lauds the “genius of” his English teachers for instilling in him a love of the English language.  As he is quoted on Goodreads: “I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language. ” ( ).

Me? I was too business-oriented to get that inspired by my high school and college English teachers (who were, nevertheless, inspired, and wonderful). Despite my apparent lack of interest in writing during those years, I have loved reading for as long as I can remember because I was, am and will always be fascinated with words and syntax. I love, love, love the task of putting words together to create a story so full of pictures and emotions that readers can see and feel what I do when I’m writing. I especially like to lure the readers into conjuring up the images in their imaginations. I want to make each of my stories their own.

But what really draws me to Mr. Conroy today is an excerpt from something he wrote in his memoir My Losing Season: A Memoir: 

“Do you think that Hemingway knew he was a writer at twenty years old? No, he did not. Or Fitzgerald, or Wolfe. This is a difficult concept to grasp.  . . .  But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it's necessary.”

That’s what it’s all about. We have to learn to call ourselves “writers.” That’s a grand title I long hesitated to give myself despite having been published in several genres (and been paid for it) for several years. Now that I’ve done it, guess what? It feels good and natural. Try it. Celebrate it. Say it: “I am a writer!” I bet you’ll like it too.

I’d love to hear how you decided it was time for you take ownership of the title you earned through study, discipline and determination. 

This St. Patrick's Day wish is a wee bit tardy, but sincerely given:
      "Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love."
You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roger Bull Book Signing

Join local author and techie extraordinaire, Roger Bull, for his book signing at Page and Palette Bookstore  next Thursday, March 27th. His bio on the back of the new book is material for a novel - maybe several -  within itself. An accomplished man who has eclectic tastes in jobs and life, the event promises to be a fun and interesting.