Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Speaking of Southern...Dialects

Speaking of Southern...Dialects

By Vicki Wilkerson

One of the most identifiable characteristics about Southerners is dialect. I’ve noticed that many people beyond the Mason-Dixon Line, however, believe that this characteristic is pretty much generic—as evidenced by Hollywood’s bungling of the Southern brogue in numerous movies and television shows (and some even believe that Southern speech is accompanied by a slight…dulling of intellect—but that is another blog article entirely—and one which I cannot wait to address).

To most astute Southerners—and linguistic professors—the myriad dialects identify very specific geographic locations and demographic factors. I am particularly attuned to the numerous variances around the Charleston, South Carolina, area. That’s right. There is not a single accent in any given city. In the Charleston Lowcountry one can find the downtown gentry brogue, Geechee, Gullah, rural South, redneck South and—what I call—university Southern (where one’s education dumbs down one’s dialect), among others. Each of these vernaculars can be pure, or they can be—and many times are—combinations of several of these. To figure out how many different dialects can be found in one particular area, we’d have to pull out some logarithmic equations—and we just don’t want to have to do that because we’ll get a headache.

Each city or area in the South has a unique combination of dialects, speech indicators, and speech patterns that include distinctive phonological features and lexical differences. It could be an exhaustive study to categorize them all—fascinating, but nevertheless, exhausting. Authentic Southern writers are able to discern and communicate some of those nuances in their books and are able to add depth and layers to their stories by imbedding those tones, gradations and distinctions on their pages. One can only wish that Hollywood would follow suit—or at least do just a little homework.

Southern dialects developed mostly because of geographical isolation and economic practices. Think about it. Why don’t we hear the Southern dialect above the Mason-Dixon Line? Because they weren’t engaged in plantation economics. Plantations were geographically isolated—for the most part—and required slave labor to flourish. Many Southern dialects were directly influenced by the African-Americans who worked on those isolated acres. And because those workers came from different parts of Africa (and the plantation owners came from different parts of Europe), dialects across the South combined to create precise identifiers of the people who spoke in particular areas.

The more successful plantation families were able to send their sons to fine schools in England, and much of their speech was refined there, and they brought those influences back home. The amount of time spent in cities and in American schools also influenced the Southern dialect.

With the advent of television, speech is a bit different today. Even the most severe of dialects gets affected by the generic Midwestern pattern that the mainstream media values and tries to emulate. Travel, education, geographic location, and media exposure affect Southern dialects today.

No matter, however, how far one travels, how well one gets educated or how much CNN one watches, traces of Southern dialect can be detected if one listens quietly to the lilt, and rhythms, and pace of words. And if you care to, you can ascertain much about Southerners by appreciating the beauty and history bound up in their language.    

Monday, February 24, 2014

What is Bliss, you ask?


Releasing February 24, 2014
Bliss Sampler
Price: Free!
Entangled Bliss has something special for readers this February.  Download the Bliss Sampler which is absolutely free and contains sample chapters from every single Bliss title.


Take a peak inside two of the upcoming March Bliss releases, Her Summer with the Marine by Susan Meier and Stealing the Groom by Sonya Weiss.

Also included are never-before-seen deleted scenes from Robin Bielman, Cindi Madsen, Tracy March and Roxanne Snopek!

Pick up your free copy of the Bliss Sampler and fall in love one small town hero at a time.
Buy Links:

I'm so honored to be included!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pregnant, Midget, Vampire Brides? Hmmm...

Pregnant, Midget, Vampire Brides? Hmmm…

So, what trips my trigger when it comes to romantic story lines, you ask? Really?

No. Really. Yes. Reality. For me to totally immerse myself into a story, I’ve got to find it believable, like it could actually happen. To me. I’m on board for the author to take me anywhere if it can truly happen. But if you offer me a story line about a secret baby who has amnesia (and got amnesia because she’s also a fairy who fell from the sky), well… Not so much.

Please don’t throw rocks. I know there are readers out there who like that sort of thing. Heck, I have author friends who write that sort of thing. And they have lots of readers who love to read that sort of novel. But you asked me, “…what trips my trigger...?” so I answered honestly.

Give me a “boss/employee” story, or an “opposites attract” tale, or a “friends to lovers” book, and I will give that author many hours of my time to entertain me. My time is an investment, and I want a payoff that I can believe. I love to read how ordinary people with ordinary lives can end up happy and fulfilled. I can substitute myself for the heroine and imagine that I, too, can experience a love like that.

Not so much when an author tries to feed me a line about a handsome, ripped billionaire tycoon who falls for an ugly duckling who snorts when she laughs and dribbles Coke out the side of her mouth when she drinks. The author can try—if she’s really good at storytelling, but the moment my little brain says, “Really?” I’m done. It’s that “jump the shark” moment. I mean, have you seen photos of attractive billionaire tycoons’ wives? Seriously. They are freaking gorgeous! All of them. Well, almost. At least they started out cute, and they might end up average after some road miles, but for a billionaire tycoon—who could have his pick of almost any woman out there—to fall for Cruella Deville? It could happen…but it’s probably not going to.

That brings me to my next point. Connectivity and probability. Again, I am discussing what I like, not what my neighbor likes. Connectivity and probability play a big role in what I read and in what I write. Take the whole “royalty” or “sheik” story line. I’ve never met—or have even seen in person—one of these types of people. And the probability of a prince falling for me… Well, let’s just say, it’s not going to happen. That’s why I don’t read or write a “royalty” trope. And do you know how many Navy SEALs there actually are out there? Not that many. The Navy doesn’t just train anyone who signs up, so the probability of running into one of them and him falling for little ol’ me is slim to never going to happen.

So, what are the kinds of story lines do I write, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t ask, and I’m going to tell you anyway—if you don’t mind.) My first book in the Summerbrook Series (a series about girlfriends from a small, Southern town) is Bikers and Pearls. It’s a healthy opposites attract story, with a prissy Southern belle as a heroine and a biker hero. They both grow from learning about each other’s very different worlds. The next in the series (probably a May 2014 release) is Sweet Tea and the Enemy and has a strong enemies to lovers trope. It’s kind of a “two dogs/one bone” story. Somebody is going to lose everything, and then, how can there be love? The third in the Summerbrook series is Fireflies and Lies (coming winter 2014), a story about the heroine overcoming her emotional problems, only to find a forbidden love (and then doing what is necessary to hold on to him). The last in the series is Swamps and Soirees (coming spring 2015), which is an across the tracks story. It’s about a Southern guy with a blue blood name and a girl whose family heritage is tainted and sketchy—at best.

Yes, I acknowledge the fact that some readers like to be completely taken away by werewolves and vampires, and some want the fantasy about their uber-wealthy playboys, but I want something grounded in reality. I want to realistically place myself in the character’s shoes and believe that “happily ever after” could actually happen for her—and for me.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Giveaway "Love 2.14"

I love Valentine's Day! It's got to be my favorite holiday. No gifts required...just romance. I'm a romance author, so it's so apropos, right?

Anyway, in honor of my favorite holiday, I'm hosting a giveaway for the entire month of February (2014) to tie in with the first book in the Summerbrook Series from Entangled Publishing: Bikers and Pearls. The contest rules follow:

  • "Like" my facebook author page.
  • Post "Love 2.14" on my facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/vickiwilkersonauthor
  • For every 50 peeps liking and posting, I will draw for A Set of Three Faux Pearl Earrings (pictured). So, if I get 300 (new likes and posts), I'll be drawing for 6 winners!
  • Drawing will be held on February 28, 2014.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Speaking of Southern...Names

Speaking of Southern…Names

What’s in a name? Well in the South it’s everything. It precedes a person and tells others a little (or a lot) about the background of the person and about his or her family. Names in the South are weights, and those weights can be positive or negative. It’s really hard to explain to people from other areas of the country just how impacting names are below the Mason-Dixon Line.

First of all, if you’re born with one of those my-family-signed-the-Declaration-of-Independence surnames, well…aren’t you one of the lucky ones. A good name in the South opens doors and gets you respect like you wouldn’t believe. Admittance to the right private country clubs (ones that most people have never even heard of), seats on prestigious boards, and invitations to all the happening parties are at your disposal. So…if you have one of those venerable last names like Rutledge or Harrison or Jefferson…well, “Bless your heart” (Prolific Insincere Southern Statement—P.I.S.S.).

But you just cannot rest on your laurels and hope that you are born into the “right” family. You’d better hope that your parents have the good sense to bestow a proper given name also. In the South, that starts with looking at your ancestors. And the best place to begin is with your mother’s maiden name. Yes, people…in the South, our sons’ and daughters’ first names frequently come from their mothers’ maiden names. It’s where we get unusual first names like Drayton, Ashley (now overused), Smith and Tradd. And, of course, it’s always okay to use simple, respectable ancestral first names like James or Thomas or Mary or Elizabeth. Just stay away from names like Kylie or Apple or Rocket (they’re so Hollywood—and so looked down upon by snooty people you don’t care about).

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to end up with a name like James Jefferson Middleton or Elizabeth Anson Rutledge, it’s acceptable for your family to give you an approachable nickname. Try Sissy or Skippy or Peaches or Beau, for example. They must be an equal part Southern and an equal part cute to make it through the Southern name police.

And then there’s the other part of the South—the people who make up the majority of the population—some would say…the real people of the South—people with names like Skeeter and Shrimp and Queenie and Flossie—people who don’t give a rodent’s rear about those private country clubs or those prestigious charity boards. They are the people who won’t bother saying, “Bless your heart.” At the first hint that you’ve let your illustrious Southern name go to your head, they’ll just say, “’Prolific Insincere Southern Statement’ off!”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Signing is Fun (and a lot of work)!

Book Signing is Fun (and a lot of work)!

So…what’s it like to do a book signing? In a single word—fun! Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like…going to the movies fun. It’s more like going to a picnic with all your friends fun.

At the movies, you just show up. They have all the entertainment lined up. They have the seating, the popcorn, the soft drinks—everything. At a picnic, YOU create the fun. You bring the tablecloth, the picnic basket, the wine, the food. You think of the games and entertainment. Heck…you ARE the entertainment—you bring the balls, or the horseshoes, and the Frisbees. You set it all up and then have fun with your friends. It’s a lot of work.

Book signings are like that. They are a lot of work—before you ever sign one book! Yeah, your host will probably have the desk and the chair (but I’d always ask—just to be sure). They may even order the books ahead of time. But again, you need to touch base to make sure this is true and talk about just how many fans you expect might show up. You wouldn’t want to be caught with too few books—or too many.

To make your book signing organized, think ahead about what you may need. If the book store is going to collect the money, you may not need to worry about the moola; however, many book signings today are held in libraries, specialty stores, restaurants, clubs, book fairs, etc. If a signing is held in such a venue, you will need a box or zippered bag to hold the bills, and you will need change…lots of it. Oh, and BTW, I like to bring my gorgeous niece along to collect the cash, so that I’ll have more time to talk to my readers.

 You’ll need several pens—and try them out before you begin your signing. Many authors like to use colors other than black to make their messages and signatures stand out. Personally, I prefer black. It’s just hard to mistake a signature from type.

If your book is available digitally, try ordering some rack cards to sign for e-book customers. It’s a way for them to participate in the signing, as well. For myself, I no longer buy print books if digital books are available. I’m a bibliophile, but I love reading at night from my Kindle that much! I also bring stands for my rack cards, my business cards and one for a book (to display). Your table will look better if everything isn’t resting “dead” flat on the table.

I also purchase “Local Author” stickers and “Autographed Copy” stickers. To me, they are dimensional decorations for the covers and make them pop to the customer—especially if you are leaving stock in the store for sale. It’s totally unnecessary, but I also like to have a very small, short vase with a few live flowers in it—just because that’s how I roll.

I also have a really nice sign that I display on an easel that says, “Book Signing Today!” You can put it outside the shop to draw customers. My sign has my name and a tag that says, “Authentic Southern Fiction” to let customers know what I write so they’ll know whether or not the book might be their cup of tea.

Finally, when you sign, try to keep your message as personal as possible. It’s very interesting to talk to fans, so chat them up if there’s time and try to use something you discussed in your conversation in your message to them—personalize it. Even if there’s not time to get to know your fan, you can say something like, “It was great meeting a fellow reader at “Random Shop Here,” and I wish you many smiles as you turn the pages of “Your Book Here.”

Book signings are fun in general—all the excitement and anticipation—and sometimes even the wine and cheese. But the most special part of the signing will be meeting your readers. They are extraordinary people who are committing their money and time to you. Though book signings are fun, they should also fill authors’ hearts with gratitude. Mine is bursting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

From Writing Break to Breakneck Writing

From Writing Break to Breakneck Writing

Sometimes a writer just has to take a break. And I did over the Christmas holidays. Sort of. Life has been a whirlwind since the release of Bikers and Pearls with all the promotions and blog tours. And then I had another book due right after the big push for Bikers and Pearls, so I also had to work on that. In the middle of it all, my readers wanted to hear more about two of the secondary characters in Bikers and Pearls, so, of course, I’m going to make my readers happy, so I started writing Jenna’s and Hogan’s story. What fun that has been.

I worked on it until the week before Christmas and then realized I’d fallen behind in the “life” stuff, so I closed my laptop and started doing the Christmas thing, baking cookies and treats, wrapping gifts, decorating, going to parties and visiting friends and family. You know, Christmas stuff.

Every night, however, when the whole house was quiet, and nothing was stirring, not even a mouse, I hopped into the heads of my characters and plotted what they were going to do and say when I opened up that file on the new Summerbrook novel. I came up with some really great ideas and plot points and hoped I wouldn’t lose them in the interim before I started writing again. I was worried.

This morning my worries were alleviated. I opened up that file I had not touched since the week before Christmas, read the previous whole chapter where I’d left off, and started typing. And you know what? It was all there. All the voices, thoughts, and actions I had imagined for my characters were still there, waiting to be typed.

The break had invigorated me, given me time to choose the correct moves and plot twists for my new book. And I had had sufficient time to think about those things, so there was no concern or trepidation about writing myself into a corner. The book was plotted and finished in that break. All I have to do now is get it on paper (or really, on my computer screen). This morning when I opened the file, the words came faster than I could hardly type. I went from a writing break to writing at breakneck speeds!

So, for you writers out there, if deadlines allow, you can take a short break with little or no consequences if you keep actively making decisions about your plot and characters during the break. And for you readers, I cannot wait for you to read about the laughs and perils that await Jenna and Hogan!

I hope you all had a marvelous Christmas break! Now, let’s get back to what we love—stories that inspire and entertain!