Sunday, May 21, 2017

Writers4Higher family member Marina Brown releases new novel!

Marina Brown

A member of our Writers4Higher family releases her new novel Lisbeth.

Congratulations, Marina!
Here's what Marina has to share:

Can the quest for revenge remain alive after death?

On Buena Vista, a small Mississippi property, Claire Elliston finds herself compelled to rebuild the house her mother inhabited 40 years before. But the past and its evils come alive as the ruins are disturbed--laying bare the sins of a time when Jim Crow ruled the South, when depravity took place behind lace curtains, and when cross-race love could get you killed.

The unexplained arrival of a German doctor in the small community breaks open the past's layered secrets as Claire is torn between two allegiances —and perhaps two personalities. Dotted with colorfully naughty Southern humor, this strange saga leaps time and place as a black and a white family discover their shared need for retribution and their capacity for fidelity and love.

There is something about the South, isn’t there. Something that through its charm, its languid days and soft nights, the cadence of its drawls which are more like forgotten songs… that is… let’s be honest, a little scary.

Maybe it’s what used to happen there in oak groves where dark shadows played against white cloth. Where manners were the fabric covering naked cruelty. Where the tilt of the head or a fingertips’ graze could have somebody readying a rope. Yes, the possibility of something scary was always there.

At least that’s how I’d perceived the South. And I think much of that mystery, the unsettling part you sense when you pass cotton fields rimmed by rows of abandoned cabins or an unpainted building with a listing steeple….is still there. But there’s so much more.

In my stays in Mississippi I met women, lots of them, young, old, middle-life women who were hilariously funny, intensely generous, and utterly sincere. I heard their worries and their fears and the ways in which they supported one another— doing it within some sisterhood of the South they may be unknowable to the Northern-born. They did it with gentility and class, no matter their strata, and perhaps no matter how they really felt. These were Southern women who knew how to keep on ‘keepin’ on.’

Even though my last book, Land Without Mirrors, takes place on a mysterious Caribbean island, a land of lepers, the Mississippi of Lisbeth is no less exotic. And that is how I’ve attempted to chronicle the people and the place, the depravity and the decorum, the secrets of two generations that have come to life again.

So proud of you, Marina Brown. Godspeed on your writing!

Rhett DeVane 

webmaster/southern fiction

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Writers: Write like you are dying.

Write like you are dying? What?

Recently, I attended a beautiful, uplifting memorial service for a friend close to my age. Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying accompanied one poignant video celebrating his life: his true love, his children, and his passion for adventure.

Each time I am present to wish a person safe passage to wherever they go when they leave here, reality taps my shoulder—is it the left one, where the Grim Reaper hangs out? I forget.

Someday, I will die. Worse, my “people” will die.

Taking Tim McGraw’s words a step further, which I tend to do, shouldn’t I also write as if I were dying? Meaning, write as if that story, novel, paragraph, or blog post could be the last time I represent myself on this planet, in this particular universe.

Seems I am in a rush, like most folks, bunching experiences without pausing to feel, to absorb.

My generation never particularly warmed to “selfie”-satisfaction. If you spend every pivotal moment grinning into the smartphone screen with a scene behind you, I urge you to put the dang device down. Turn around. See, feel, smell, and immerse yourself in the place and time. Later, you won’t need that selfie to recall what you saw. Better, you will add to a wealth of sensations to juice up your art, and your life. For once, you will be smarter than that phone.

Hold up a sec. I need to stop and listen to some Motown. Lift myself from the sadness that drapes me each time I ponder mortality.

There. Better. Fast-paced music does that for me.

Now, where was I headed with this dissertation?

Writing as if I were dying.
·         Producing a chunk of work to be proud of, to leave behind if it is indeed the final snippet.
·         Necessary revisions after the new-love blush of the first draft.
·         Proofing and polishing until the result glows.
·         Finding experts for information when your personal experience is lacking. Don’t rely on Google exclusively.
·         Producing the best work possible. Not perfect—even the top books have an occasional typo. Those pests are eventually routed to the door. But sound—something worthy of being the last great work.

To my friend, I wish you joy wherever your spirit travels. Thank you for the reminder to live, and write, as if I am dying.

Rhett DeVane, southern fiction author and blog master

Friday, March 24, 2017

Time to let another book go...

The breathless part of releasing a book—hitting “place order.”

It’s a bit like holiday shopping, this book creation deal. I never really feel as if I finish; there’s a point when I just have to stop.

Oh there will be a typo or two or three. No matter that I have gone through the copy a gazillion times, or that I have a jam-up editor, or that I have proofed the advanced copy to find a few last-minute things to tweak.

They lurk, those minor glitches, all na-na-na-boo-boo. Keeping me human. And humble. And imperfect.

In the end, I know I have to release it to the world or never have time to write yet another piece of fiction, to revise and revise and edit and edit.

But my mama speaks up: the expert on everything and anything; the little, kind voice I hear in my head when self-doubt keeps me awake at night; the leader of my cheering section no matter that she’s not on this side of reality now.
“Do the very best you can do, honey. Then rest easy.”

To that end, I nudge my latest novel, Parade of Horribles, into the world. It’s not perfect but it’s mine.

Good travels, little book. Go forth and touch the people you need to touch. I will remain behind, ready to let the muses take over once more.

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Writers4Higher features author Pat Stanford

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features

Pat Stanford

Hi, Pat. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.   Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

While I was born in Philadelphia, my farming family moved to Delray Beach, Florida when I was one, looking for year-round growing seasons. I lived there until a brief stint in the Air Force took me to California.

I graduated Florida State University with a Secondary Education, which was never used for its intended purpose. I have been writing poetry for as long as I could hold a pencil, and have poems published in several anthologies. I won second place in the 2004 Seven Hills Contest with my short story, Divorce Sale, and am working on other short stories for publication this year.

Fixing Boo Boo, is my first novel length work, and is a creative non-fiction account of what happens when a brain-injured sibling comes to live with a sister who doesn’t know what that means.

After being introduced to growing roses by my father, I created my own rose garden and frequently photograph them to share in social media. I served as President of the Tallahassee Area Rose Society and am a bronze medal recipient with the national organization, the American Rose Society.

I live in Tallahassee, Florida with my husband and two cats and am currently working on an adventure novel set in Mongolia, as well as ghostwriting a book of non-fiction.

2.   Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I began the book I am working on now over ten years ago, but got bogged down in research, so I put it in a drawer. After publishing one book, I think I have better tools to complete it. The characters began talking to me again and I hope it will see its own publishing date in the near future.

The things I learned in the research were interesting enough, but the real challenge is making the story I want to tell seem real and the characters living, breathing people you care about. Of course, having a critique group who are unafraid of ripping the story to shreds and having to look at what you are doing a second and third time, also helps!

3.   How do you use your talents/time to help others?

With the publishing of Fixing Boo Boo, I begin a whole new chapter of helping people who are not disabled understand what they don’t understand. I have partnered with the Brain Injury Association of Florida and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association in order to help them in their annual public awareness events and have information at my signing events to help people with questions on disability.  

In my role as Tallahassee Writers Association Critique Group Coordinator, I try to find a group for members needing one. This will help them take their writing further than would be possible on their own.

I volunteer at the Goodwood Museum Gardens, propagating new roses for use both on their grounds as well as making roses available to the public. Although lately I have only been chief weed-puller.

Would you like to find Pat Stanford?

Check out the links to this talented author:

Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Diane Sawyer

Hi, Diane. Welcome to Writers4Higher.

1.   Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

Diane grew up in Greenport, a small resort town on the eastern tip of Long Island. She graduated from SUNY at Albany, Seton Hall University, and Fordham University, where she received a Ph.D. She married her college sweetheart, Robert. They lived in Tallman, New York, near New York City, and raised a son and daughter. She taught French, Latin, and English, and for several years was the Coordinator of a K-12 district-wide English as a Second Language Program.

Tired of shoveling snow and raking leaves, Diane and her husband made a big change in their lives. Fond of beaches and dramatic sunsets, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. No more snow, but plenty of leaves. She split her time working as an Educational Consultant and writing, but as soon as her first novel was published, she turned to writing full-time, and her long-time dream became a reality. Her short stories have won awards; her novels have been published internationally. She is a frequent guest speaker at writing groups and workshops.

The Tell-Tale Treasure is Diane’s first novel for SYP, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. Others will soon follow. Her five previous novels—The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, The Tomoka Mystery, The Cinderella Murders, and The Treasures of Montauk Cove—were published originally in hardcover by Avalon, then in paperback by World Wide Mysteries, and recently in hardcover, paperback, and e-book by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery division of Amazon. She writes a newsletter/blog to family, friends she grew up with, neighbors, fitness friends, volunteer friends, writing friends, and people she meets as she travels the world seeking adventures that often make their way into her stories.

2.   Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I can’t even begin to predict where my writing will take me.  A story begins forming when I learn something new and different (such as the haunting sound of a musical instrument called an erhu, sometimes called a Chinese fiddle or Chinese violin), then I research the topic to learn much more, and, most interesting of all, I create characters who will live that story and possibly help solve the mystery that is taking place. At that point, the hard work begins: writing and rewriting, discussing my critiquing partners’ advice and, of course, monitoring the characters, who, in every novel I write, seem to vie for a bigger role. That’s when I have to ask myself: who is in control?  Is it me or is it the characters?

For a long time, I reached into my past for memories of Long Island, where I grew up. I branched out to the New Jersey shore after I saw a painting entitled The Woman by the Sea, and created a story. Two years ago, I traveled to Guatemala on an adventure trip, where my group climbed high pyramids, swam deep rivers, learned how to shoot a blowgun, and journeyed through the jungle and onto a balsa raft to travel down an Amazon tributary. I recorded everything and turned it into an adventure story that should be in print next year. I didn’t know what I was writing until I got home and put it all together. So, I don’t know where my writing will take me—and that’s the biggest adventure of all! 

3.   How do you use your talents/time to help others?

Volunteerism plays a very important part in my life. Currently, I volunteer as a Friend (and Secretary) of the South Community Library in St. Petersburg. We organize all the donated books, sell them once a month at a very popular books sale, and with the funds we buy summer programs that take place at the library for the children of all ages. The programs are educational and fun. Most popular this past summer was the “Ranger” who arrived with boxes of every size (with air holes), housing animals that he discussed. The favorite was the amazingly long, bright yellow python.

I also teach creative writing to the Teenage Book Club at the library once a month. I am a docent at the Dali Museum, where I give tours in English and French.

Annual events also occupy much of my time: The Great American Teach-In where I teach 6 classes of creative writing in one day, once a year: First Night (New Year’s Eve Celebration) where my husband and I serve as information people and sell tickets to our popular event for all ages. Over the years,  I have also volunteered at Bayfront Hospital, The Fine Arts Museum, and the Florida International Museum.

Readers can connect with me at my Amazon Page:

My books are available from my publisher:

Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing:

              Also, online at these vendors:

      and   www.barnes&

Best to you and your writing, Diane!

Rhett DeVane, blogmaster
Southern Fiction Author

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Rick Burnham

Hi Rick. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.     Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I am originally from Jasper, Fla., a small town about an hour or so east of Tallahassee. That is where my heart is, and that is where a few of the fictional towns from my book are located.

The Air Force took me away from all that – at least for 22 years. But I was able to see the world, and visit places that I would almost certainly have missed otherwise. Korea. Panama. Portugal. Washington, DC.

Education came a little later than most. I have a couple of undergraduate degrees: Psychology from Saint Leo, and English from Valdosta State. I absolutely enjoy the classroom. Just a little weird like that, I guess.

I also enjoy writing, obviously. My first attempt, “Lute Casey, Redneck Vampire,” is a curious little cross between Stephen King and Jeff Foxworthy and was more fun to write than I care to admit. The second took a more serious turn. “Moon Over Berlin” follows my father’s trek through WWII, with a nice little fictional jaunt thrown in for fun. It was my intent to get it into his hands while he was still here, and I was very happy to achieve that.

The plot of my third and current book, “Hank: The Storyteller’s Story” is a bit more involved than the first two. At its core, I guess, “Hank” is a love story, though it is more about the bonds of family and friendship than romance. Sorry, no “50 Shades” this time around.

I currently live in Cairo, Ga. with my wife Stephanie, and work at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. I have been there for two-and-a-half years.

2.     Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

My job at the Department of Elder Affairs gives me the opportunity to meet and talk with a great number of elders living in the state of Florida. I mention that because I believe our elders to be a tremendous source of inspiration. They are an absolute treat to talk to, and their stories and experiences are a veritable treasure trove of material. If there has been one theme with my books, it has been “old folks talking.” I intend to explore that path a bit more thoroughly.

3.     How do you use your talents/time to help others?

A couple of ways. Through the newspaper of the Department of Elder Affairs (The Elder Update), I am able to tell the stories of a few of our citizens here in the state. I enjoy doing it, and if my work brings an enhanced sense of pride and satisfaction for the people I write about, along with those who read my stories, then I have done my job.

Also, I have been blessed with a very (very) vivid imagination, and if the stories I put down on paper offer any respite at all from world events for my readers, then all the better.

Readers can connect with Rick at:

Thank you, Rick. 

We wish you the very best!

Rhett DeVane, author and blogmaster

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Waletta Dunn

Hi Waletta. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.     Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I was born in Bossier City, Louisiana and received my undergraduate degree from Texas College in Business Administration and earned a graduate degree in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. I’m an established professional in the Human Resources Department at Florida A&M University, where I have been employed for the last ten years. Before joining the staff at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida, I  worked for 12 years as a higher education counselor for the military while traveling with my husband before he retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. The breadth of my personal and professional experiences have contributed enormously to my writings. A rich slice of American life is brought to light in my debut novel, More Than Sistersas it moves the reader through the full range of emotions – joy, pain, laughter, tears, and triumph! I am grateful that More Than Sisters was recently ranked among the top 100-rated African American Christian Fiction, Kindle Edition. 
I have been married for 30 years to now retired Marine, Donald Michael Dunn. I am the proud mother of two young, adult children, Michael Stewart Dunn and daughter, Ashley Elaine Dunn.
I was originally interested in journalism until I took my first accounting class in college, which catapulted my career in a different direction. However, inspired by my award-winning sister, screen and play playwriter, Judi Ann Mason (“Sister Act II; Back In The Habit,” ”A Different World," "I'll Fly Away"), I never lost my love and passion of writing.
Set in Bossier City, Louisiana, More Than Sisters, is the story of three siblings, twenty-year-old Olivia, eight-year-old Gayle, and eighteen-month-old Dani.  Olivia promises her dying mother that she will help her father care for the two younger siblings.  Years pass and their father dies of a sudden heart attack.  A series of unexpected occurrences draws the sisters into adverse situations and they struggle with a dark secret that could drive the family apart and test their faith in God

My second novel, Faithful Father, will be available on Amazon October 15, 2016, It begins when a new girl, Danielle Ferguson, comes to the Texas College campus, her sudden arrival piques the interest of Edison Hamilton, a handsome member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Even as he begins to fall in love, Edison seems determined to guard his heart. He struggles with the pain of abandonment … a pain that has haunted him since his father deserted him and his mother years ago.
Despite his reservations, Edison slowly lets down his guard. Within months, he marries Danielle and enlists in the United States Marine Corps.
With the love and support of his wife, Edison draws closer to God and is determined to live a righteous life. After years of no contact, Edison unexpectedly receives a letter from his estranged father asking for help. Now he finds himself at a crossroad between the man he used to be and the man he's becoming.

The Marines transformed him into a new man.

Faith transformed him into a new creation.

When the new man meets the new creation, will forgiveness be the bridge that reconciles his past to his future?

2.     Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I pray that my writing will take me beyond my wildest imagination.  I hope to write many more novels that bring hope, faith and love into the lives of my readers.  

3.     How do you use your talents/time to help others?

I write stories that make a difference in the lives people.  I want to share my experiences in ways that will benefit hurting people so they will see there is always a way out and that there is always hope.

Readers can connect with me at:


More Than Sisters is available at
Faithful Father will be available October 15, 2016

Waletta Dunn, Author


Thank you, Waletta! Best to you and your writing.

Rhett DeVane, author and blogmaster