Saturday, May 23, 2015

Latest Fiction Loves, Writing Update, A BIG Thank You, & Winner Announcement

Whew! Despite the horrendous title I've bestowed upon this post, I assure you the content will be sweetly succinct--or at least as much as possible. Hey, we are talking fiction loves here. Give a girl a break.

Movie Love:
Big Hero 6. Loved the depth of this animated film, as well as the amount of laughs. I've watched it twice already. P.S. to writers: after watching the film, watch the beginning again. Marvel at the intricately detailed setup and foreshadowing courtesy of Disney's screenwriters. Watch and learn, my friends.

Book Love:
I'm judging a writing contest--which I shall not name, so I've been reading those books instead of the ones on my TBR pile. (BTW, I'm thinking of changing TBR to PFL--Potential Fiction Loves. Hmm. Feel free give your own suggestions for renaming my TBR pile in the comments.)

Anyway, several books I'm judging are ones I've read before. Since I don't have anything new for you there, I'm pulling out an old one--as in 136 years old--which I really liked (It's FREE for Kindle or the free Kindle app.):

Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes is a clean read, written in 1879 with SO many ironic parallels for our day. Seriously, if you can read the book and not think of modern text message conversations, then you're not reading the book. The characters were varied and fun with a touch of old fashioned class. :D

Also, to make up for my lack of recent fiction loves, I'm sneaking in some non-fiction loves with the promise I shall have some truly authentic, non-sneeky-faker, all-out-fiction loves for you soon. *heart*

Non-fiction Loves:\

  • Get Lost by Danna Gresh
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Union and Communion by J. Hudson Taylor (FREE for Kindle)
  • The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer (FREE for Kindle) -- My current non-fiction read, which is all at once amazing, poetic, enjoyable and convicting.

10 Second Writing Update (depending on how fast you can read):
I've got 12 scenes left to revise. (Hopefully by the time you read this I'll have them finished, but I'm afraid I've saved the harder ones for last--not intentionally, though; I'm revising chronologically & those endings are HARD.) Working my way through Rock Your Revisions, and I'm about to dive into the surface editing part. YAY! Copy editing's my favorite.

A BIG "Thank You"
to everyone who filled out my Improvement Questionnaire! Y'all have given me all kinds of great ideas. Expect to see them implemented bit by bit in the coming weeks! Keep those opinions and suggestions coming!

WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT: The happy winner of Jo Huddleston's sweet, Southern historical romance, Wait for Me, is Patty. Congrats! We'll be in contact with you shortly!

Your turn to talk:
What are you doing this Memorial Day Weekend?
Are you grilling out with friends and family?
Staying in to read a book?
What are you reading right now? I'd LOVE to know!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Jo Huddleston Interview

Hi, Jo! Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.

I write sweet, Southern historical romance novels. I am a born-and-raised Southerner and I love to write about the settings I know and the kinds of people who populate them.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, light, witty, humorous, adventurous?

Poignant, sensitive, heart-warming

What is the name of your latest book?

Wait for Me

What inspired you to write this story?

When I wrote my latest novel, Wait for Me, I had been to a real coal community only one time. One memorable time. I went home from college with a friend for a weekend. Her home was in the coal mining region in southern West Virginia.

We had arrived at my friend’s home after dark and I did not see any part of the coal community until the next day. My friend took me to the company store. When we left the store and stood on the porch, I saw the coal mine’s tipple. An imposing structure towering above all else around it.

The memory of that tipple engrained itself deep within my mind. I’ve always had a desire to write a book about a coal camp, including its tipple. This first book in the West Virginia Mountains Series is that book.

Using any celebrity, past or present, whom would you cast as your main characters?

A young Elizabeth Taylor and a young Montgomery Clift.

Oh, those are two of my favorites! A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?

Book 2 in the West Virginia Mountains Series. I don’t have a title yet. I usually pick my titles from a scene or chapter in the book.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

Late Bloomer, But Worth the Wait

Fun! :) If you were in your heroine’s shoes when the story starts, would you react differently than she? How so?

Yes, I would have reacted differently. Julie, in my story, knows what she wants and won’t stop at anything until she gets it. At her age I was not that decisive and determined. I was more of an observer of things happening around me instead of the one causing things to happen.

I love seeing this insight into your character! Now, I'm dying to know, what does your writing space look like?

I have a heavy executive-style desk in the corner of a bedroom, anchored by a laptop, printer, lamp, and stacks of paper. It’s the same desk I used at home when I was in high school.

Wow, that must bring back a lot of memories! What better way to fuel writerly emotions!

What do you do for a fun break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures?

I zone out and read. When I read for pleasure I’m able to turn everything else off.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.

Yes, I have two blogs. One is where I highlight Christian authors and their books, with a book giveaway each week ( The other blog is my inspirational blog where I share my thoughts and insight on varied topics (  

What are you reading right now?

A Light in the Window by Julie Lessman

Oh, I loved reading that one. Can't beat a sweet historical romance for a good read, right? Thanks so much for being here, Jo. I really enjoyed getting to know the lady behind the craft,and I know everyone else will, too.

Author bio.

Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. Her debut novels in the Caney Creek Series and her latest book, Wait for Me, are sweet Southern romances. She is a member of ACFW, the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and holds a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Jo lives in the U.S. Southeast with her husband, near their two grown children and four grandchildren. Visit Jo at or on her Facebook page.

Book blurb.

Can Julie, an only child raised with privilege and groomed for high society, and Robby, a coal miner’s son, escape the binds of their socioeconomic backgrounds? Set in a coal mining community in West Virginia in the 1950s, can their love survive their cultural boundaries?

This is a tragically beautiful love story of a simple yet deep love between two soul mates, Robby and Julie. The American South’s rigid caste system and her mother demand that Julie chooses to marry an ambitious young man from a prominent and suitable family. Julie counters her mother’s stringent social rules with deception and secrets in order to keep Robby in her life. Can the couple break the shackles of polite society and spend their lives together? Will Julie’s mother ever accept Robby?


Jo is generously offering an eBook for Kindle copy of Wait for Me as a giveaway to one amazing commenter! The winner will be announced this Saturday, the 23rd!

Winner of last week's Surprise Book Giveaway is Library Lady (Janet E.). CONGRATULATIONS, Janet! I'll be in touch with you soon! :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Mother's Day and 101 Posts!!!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

I was standing in the Mother's Day card aisle yesterday, frustrated that no card said exactly what I wanted to say to show my Momma how much she means to me. Then I realized it's no wonder none of them could sum it up--there are no words that can. I thank God for my mom.
Mom loves us at our sweetest . . .

. . . and our craziest.
On a somewhat related note:

This is The Sweet South Blog's 101st blog post! Thanks to my mom for making it all possible. ;)

In celebration, I'm giving away a surprise package of 3 Christian romances (trade paperbacks published within the last couple years) to anyone who comments on this post! To enter, simply comment. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL. Other wise I'll have to hunt you down on Facebook, and knowing me I'd accidentally find the wrong person and give your book away to someone else lol! Follow the blog and mention it in your comment for an extra entry. If you already follow, mention it for an extra entry.
If you refer a friend to this blog, and they follow, write the name they followed with in your post to get 5, yes that's FIVE, extra entries. Giveaway ends Sunday, May 17 at 9pm. Winner will be announced in a post on Monday, May 18.

Don't forget: if you haven't looked at my Improvement Questionnaire, take a quick second to click on the "I Need Your Opinion" button on the right sidebar at the top, under "Reader Survey." With your feedback, I can make this blog a funner place to hang out. Thank you so much for following me on this fun blogging journey. I'll do everything I can to make sure the next 100 posts are even better and brighter!

Hugs. :)

P.S. I leave you with these gratuitous pics of adorable rabbits and a parting question:

What is one thing you're grateful your mother taught you?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Encouragement for the Waiting: Waiting Is a Time for Prayer

Last year around this time I was hopeful.

See, the American Christian Fiction Writer's conference takes place each year in September, and I was planning to go. One of my writer friends were also hoping to go. I was so excited. I knew who my roommates would be, and I even knew what I would wear. But circumstances fell through, and neither me nor my friend were able to attend the conference. Bummer.

But we prayed and kept working hard on our writing, and we both entered ACFW's Genesis contest, praying our stories would do well. To be honest, I forgot about my prayer for a while. I got busy with writing, family, church, work...

Then things started happening.

I got an email saying my name was drawn for a free conference registration with ACFW's "The End" program. A couple months later, my friend text messaged me, saying she'd applied for a scholarship to the writer's conference and won! This week, we both found out we're semi-finalists in the ACFW Genesis contest. Some people might think that's just a result of chance or fate. I choose to believe that God answered those prayers.

Sometimes God answers our prayers sooner than a year. Sometimes it takes longer than a year. My mom, for example, prayed for over 28 years that her mother would come to know Christ. Eventually, God answered.

What I'm trying to say is, prayer is a powerful thing. Prayer can get you through your time of waiting.

· Prayer involves Seeking God.

Psa 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 

Psa 9:10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Psa 105:4 Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. 

James 5:16b The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Psa 63:1 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Do you hear David’s desperation in that last verse? He feels so dried up and desperate, if he can just have another taste of God’s presence he can make it… Wow, if we could only get to that place in our lives where we’re so addicted to the presence of God that we’d thirst for Him like a thirsty traveler in a desert.

While it’s wonderful to be able to ask God for things, we should also seek God for Who He is, not just what He can give us.

“Many seek God, but only for His hand. They don't want God as much as they want something from God, such as a man, happiness, or a family. . . . Would you want someone to say he loves you just so you would do something for him? Seek God's face. Seek Him for who He is, not just for what He can do for you." -- from Lady In Waiting by Jackie Kendall and Debbie Jones.

Anybody else love Here’s a quote I found on Pinterest for you:

God loves you and wants a deeply personal relationship with every one of us. Seeing His power and His love and affection for us, we should pray as a first resort instead of a last resort. Pray, just to talk to God sometimes, without asking Him for anything. Tell Him how your day went.

"Girl Talk With God,” by Susie Shellenberger comes to mind here. It’s an imaginative look at a girl’s prayer life where Susie writes out God’s responses based on His Word. It’s a great way to encourage your own growing relationship with God.

You can’t have fellowship with someone you don’t communicate with. It’s important to talk to God.
Jesus is a person. We should never think of Him as less than God, but we should never think of Him as less than a person, either. Three persons, in fact. He’s more than just a vague spirit or an idea. He's the God who can be known. He’s the God-man who walked this earth and felt pain and hunger and loneliness just like we do.

Having experienced this earthy life, He knows what we’re feeling and wants us to come to Him and communicate our needs and desires and wishes. As we become aware of this, sometimes we need to come to God in prayer just to bless Him. Just to see what we can do at that moment to make Him happy.

Note of advice: While you’re getting to know God, keep a record of your prayer requests. It may be a list or a notebook or a shoebox with little pieces of paper in it. (Read a post about my Prayer Box HERE). When God answers a prayer request, write it down and date it. You will be amazed at His faithfulness, and watching Him work will grow your faith.

Pursuing and loving Him is an ecstatic adventure in itself. A side perk is that the things we want so desperately, the things we're waiting on that seem to take forever, all fade into shadows when we're delighting in His luminous presence. Oh, we may still be desperate and needy, but spending time with the Lord reminds us of His eternal plan for us. Cares of this life begin to crumble into unimportance, and the balm of His sweet fellowship soothes the sting of our earthly struggles.

Is there a specific time God answered a prayer for you? 

Do you remember a time you got so lost in conversation with God that the thing you were praying for began to seem insignificant? 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Writing Sisters: Naming Characters

Natalie, here. I'm so excited to have The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers on the Sweet South Blog today! My own sister helps me a lot in the plotting stages, and I just love the notion of sisters writing together! Betsy and Laurie are sharing how they came to name the characters in their book, The Shepherd's Song. 

The Shepherd’s Song has a cast of characters and all those many characters meant many names.  Each name provided us with a challenge. Like choosing a name for a baby you want it to be just right. 

Names are important.  We want each name to be memorable and to fit the character.  You tend to remember well-named characters, like Atticus Finch or Cruella Deville.

The main character of The Shepherd’s Song, started out with the name Candy McConnell.  Although her name is now Kate McConnell in the book, we still refer to her as Candy.  The name came with the first chapter there was never any second-guessing.  For us the name implied good and sweet. 

It wasn’t until later we began to realize that it might not appeal to some of our readers.  Our editor helped us see that a name that has appeal to us might not have a broad appeal.  The hunt was on.  We used our favorite resources – One Hundred Names to Name Your Baby, our online search for the meaning of different names.  We compiled lists. We typed different names into the manuscript and read it aloud.  Finally we decided on Kate and it fit perfectly.

Sometimes we try to show something about the character through the name.  Marra means sorrow and was the perfect name for the young girl in the book fleeing from an abusive relationship in a tattoo parlor.  Her abuser who is pursuing her was a challenge.  We decided on Lobo, which means wolf.  It seemed to capture his stalking nature.  Both of these names helped the reader to understand the characters.

Some of the characters were named after people we both knew and liked – Chris, a friend of Laurie, or  Cornelia, Betsy’s neighbor.  Other names were chosen to reflect the nationality of the character, like Francois, the French art restorer, or Kioni, the Kenyan runner.

We can play with Biblical names.  In one story a man wrestles with God at night under the stars.  The perfect name:  Jacob. 

Sometimes a character seems like the type of person who would have a nickname.  Tater was our favorite nickname in the book and became a soldier in the second story.  Lou and Frankie showed the casual demeanor of the brothers in Italy while Roland, our business man, would never go by anything other than his given name.

As we develop each character of the book, the names become a part of who they are. As we write, a name helps us to know our character better. If a character is well-named the same is true for the reader.

The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song,  is being released in paperback  April 2015.
You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at  and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Follow the incredible journey of one piece of paper—a copy of Psalm 23—as it travels around the world, linking lives and hearts with its simple but beautiful message.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…

Shortly before a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote down the powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper for her wayward son. Just before she loses consciousness, Kate wonders if she’s done enough with her life and prays, “Please, let my life count.”

Unbeknownst to Kate, her handwritten copy of Psalm 23 soon begins a remarkable journey around the world. From a lonely dry cleaning employee to a soldier wounded in Iraq, to a young Kurdish girl fleeing her country, to a Kenyan runner in the Rome Invitational marathon, this humble message forever changes the lives of twelve very different people. Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God changes lives, even through the smallest gestures.

With beautiful prose evocative of master storyteller Andy Andrews’s The Butterfly Effect, this story will touch your heart and remind you of the ways God works through us to reach beyond what we can imagine.

Do you have a favorite character name in fiction?