Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Conference Prep, Editing, and One Sheets

Anyone prepping for conference?

Appointments with editors and agents are great opportunities to let your stories shine. One thing that calms my nerves in those appointments, is having top notch materials to share. An eye-catching one sheet and a stellar synopsis are the best ways to give "audition" to your story! Sometimes though, it can be overwhelming to gather everything you need, as well as getting yourself ready for conference in general.

 I want to suggest to you conference goers: Outsource! We would love to help you with your needs for conference season this year. Fellow AlleyCat Laurie Tomlinson and I have been to multiple conferences, and love helping with authors get ready for a stellar experience. Check out our services in the ads below.

What conference are you planning on going to this year?

Click here for more info

Click here to for more info

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Welcome, Becky Wade! + GIVEAWAY

Y'all. Today I am thrilled to pieces to be hosting one of my all-time favorite authors, Becky Wade. If you haven't read her newest release, Falling for You, what are you waiting for?! :) It is AMAZING. And the perfect summer read. (If you're wondering, the first book in the series, True to You, is spectacular too.) So without further adieu, let's get this interview started! -- Ashley

Ashley: Welcome to the Alley, Becky! I’m so excited to chat about Falling for You. 

Becky: Thanks so much for inviting me to join you here!

A: Becky and I thought it’d be fun to talk about who would play Corbin and Willow if the book were made into a movie. (Just to clarify— the movie is only happening in my dreams!) What are some thoughts you have, Becky?

B: I find this conversation — the Who could play these characters in a movie? conversation — endlessly interesting!  I definitely have thoughts, which I’ll share at the end of the post.  But since I love to find out from readers who they envision as my characters, I asked for input on my Facebook author page.  Here are a few of their suggestions for the role of ex-NFL-quarterback Corbin Stewart:

 Karen Klepsteen said, "In my mind, Corbin has to be someone who looks good in a baseball cap (since one is mentioned in the book). Therefore, I give you Chris Evans.”

B: Well, in my book Chris Evan is never the wrong answer.  To any question.  He does indeed look good in a baseball cap. He’s six feet tall and Corbin is taller, but the muscles are right.  There’s a wholesomeness about his look that I adore but that might not be quite right for a hardened rascal like Corbin. What are your thoughts, Ashley?

A: And Corbin is indeed a hardened rascal. I think it's a fair point. But then again, you don't get the title Captain America for nothing.

"Corbin should definitely be an actual football player, in my opinion, and my favorite is JJ Watt,” said Jessica DeCoster.

A: This guy's got some good publicity behind him, donating to charitable causes, just like Corbin! And it's hard to beat the fact he actually plays football. But I have to admit, I like to picture Corbin with a little bit more scruff. Anyone else?

B: Jessica makes a good point! It's hard for a professional actor to play the part of professional football player. Hmm. I wonder if JJ would be interested in the role? Look at those arms! Be still my heart.

"For Corbin: Travis Fimmel,” suggested Stacy Simmons.  

B: I have to say, I see a lot of merit in Stacy’s choice!  I’ve seen Travis in Vikings and his charisma, inner forcefulness, and determination are right in sync with Corbin’s.  Also, his age is about right.  And his features are hard, as are Corbin’s.  Ashley, what do you think?  

A: I don't know, y'all. There are pictures floating around the internet of Travis with a three inch long beard. Would Willow let Corbin neglect his manscaping like that? ;) Trim up that beard, though, and I can definitely see it.

Here are a few of the women who readers nominated for the role of Willow Bradford, professional model:

"My pick is Julianne Hough for Willow,” said Nicole Cook.  

B: Yes!  Julianne’s face and hair look very, very similar to my vision of Willow.  The only drawback…. Willow’s 5’9” and Julianne is 5’3”.  Hmm.  Perhaps a pair of stilts or crafty camera angles would solve this dilemma.

A: I LOVE this choice. Because I could totally see Willow starring in a televised production of Footloose or having an alternate career as a ballroom dancing judge. (Did I mention I love Dancing with the Stars?) Seriously-- the hair, the facial features... it's a great match! 

Jen Wade said, "I can totally see Carrie Underwood as Willow.”

A: Ohhhh... this is a great choice too. I like to say I'd nominate Carrie Underwood to represent women everywhere because she's just so darn likable. And gorgeous. And a little feisty. As an added bonus, I could completely imagine Willow keying Corbin's "four wheel drive" in the beginning of the book. Sorry, y'all. You knew I had to go there.

B: Carrie radiates a Willow-Bradfordesque calm for sure. Also, her make-up is awe inspiring. Never in my life has my make-up looked even half this good. Never.

"I would pick Blake Lively or Rosie Huntington Whiteley for Willow!” said Natalie Pawlak.

B: Blake definitely does have the right sort of classiness and composure.  There’s something mature and thoughtful about her and both of those qualities reflect Willow’s personality well.

A: I agree. And I like how she has something unique about her persona and features. I imagine Willow to be that way too. There's almost a whispy-ness about her, which I realize makes no sense at all. But I completely see her fitting in as a model.

B: Before we wrap this up, I thought I’d open my computer files to you so that you can see the people I chose for the roles of Corbin and Willow.  Confession: I don’t base my characters on any one person.  I often have a few inspiration photos that I glance at from time to time, but I much prefer to “build” my characters in my imagination.  I want to see them more clearly in my mind than in a photograph.  

(Quick interjection from Ashley-- I love Becky's approach here because it keeps us from falling into the trap of simple description, instead pushing us into deeper levels of characterization. Let that be a lesson to us all, because Becky is a master at characterization!)

That said, Bethany House always asks me to submit photos of my hero and heroine to the art team because they reference them when deciding on the models to hire for the covers.  Thus, there comes a point in time with every novel, when I select a photo that best reflects my hero and heroine.  For Corbin, I sent in this picture of Jason Lewis.

In other photos, Jason doesn’t look like Corbin to me.  But in this particular picture, with the short hair cut, the two dogs, and the intense expression, he does.  Does this jive with the Corbin of your imagination, Ashley?

A: YESSSSSSS. Especially with the strong jawline. It's hard to resist a hero hugging an old dog. I mean, really.

B: For Willow, I submitted this photo of Amber Valetta:

The crisp bone structure, the cool and regal beauty, those almond-shaped eyes!  In my mind, Willow has those same qualities.  Thoughts?

A: Regal is such an appropriate word for Willow, because she really is! I loved how you gave her such a grace, while also writing her with accessibility. We typically see models as flat characters, but Willow has a charm about her that is very relatable. I will say, I pictured Willow's hair much lighter and a little more sass in her smile, more like the model on the cover of Falling for You.

So that's it, friends! Thank you for stopping by today, and a huge thank you to Becky for the chance to chat about her wonderful characters. If you haven't read Falling for You, believe me when I say you need this book in your life. And today just may be your lucky day!

Becky is giving away a copy of her newest release to one of our readers! For a chance to win, simply comment below and help me welcome her, or tell us who you think should play Corbin and Willow in a Falling for You movie!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: It's Just Plain Tacky When...

After building my contacts for several years, I've ended up with a good amount of email each day. I don't have a problem with that because most of these can easily be grouped. The group I have time to read today will be read, the others will be filed in related folders for when I do have time.


This morning, I opened my email and found several newsletters. Ones I had not subscribed to. So tacky.

With the recent uprising about privacy notifications, spamming, and ensuring only those who signed up for a newsletter remain on the list, I hardly expected this.

I mean, really? These people added me to their newsletter list without asking? Yes, I took the time to unsubscribe myself and didn't send a note to the person, I was nice, but...really? Who has the time for that?

If we want people to engage with us as writers, become fans, loyal readers, and know we are worth the time invested in opening and reading our letter, is adding their name to our newsletter list without asking worth it? Can I hear an AMEN?

Yes, we need to show great numbers to agents and editors. Yes, we need to get the word out about our books.

No, we should not drive away our readers.

So. How can you build your newsletter list?

I'm sure there are many suggestions, and I hope you share yours in the comment section. The one I have been using is: I posted the link to my newsletter signup form and wrote ad copy to entice readers to click. I did this ... oh... a couple of months ago and left it on my author facebook page. 

Readers have stumbled onto my page, scrolled through the posts and saw this link to m newsletter post. They clicked and chose to receive my newsletters. Almost every day, at least one person has signed up. No pressure. No stuffing posts on newsfeeds. I posted it and haven't touched it since.  I add other content regularly, which intrigues readers to my page, which causes them to scroll down and see this newsletter invitation.

I gotta say. One of my favorite emails is the one from my newsletter provider saying someone else signed up. Better than a cup of coffee in the morning. AND I wasn't tacky.

So, how have you invited readers to sign up for your newsletter? Let's share and help each other.

~Mary Vee

#TipfulTuesday #Thewritersalleyblog #amwriting #newsletters
background photo credit:

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Do You Hear Wedding Bells?

We have some exciting news in The Writer's Alley!

Our very own Casey married her Prince Charming this week.

Pepper, Ashley, and Krista got to witness the nuptials firsthand! They provided live-action video and pictures for the rest of us who were swooning at home.

We will not apologize for how excited we are or how very little chill we have. We have loved watching Casey's love story unfold, this picture of God's goodness and faithfulness to two amazing people! Stories like theirs are BETTER than fiction. 

We love you, Casey and Nathan!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: The Best Place to Find Character Names

Cemeteries are the PERFECT place to find unique names. 
This is not an idea to pooh-pooh.

See the center stone in the photo below? My daughter just returned from a trip to the UK. She spent a day at Edinburgh, Scotland, and stopped by this cemetery where she took this photo. This is the place where J.K. Rowling went to find names for her characters! This is the stone for the real Thomas Riddell, a name used for one of her characters. She found other names in the cemetery as well.

So why not just Google websites with names?

Because those are lists of names every other writer is searching through. I've also found the same names appearing in most lists. No variety. Nothing that ... pops. The one name that best fits YOUR character could be in a cemetery. The one that will be a memorable name for all readers now and in the future.

Because these are true local names. Visit the cemetery where your story takes place. Search for the time period your character lives. Mix and match amazing names. You will be pleased.

Once upon a time, we could go to libraries and search old phone books. Now, you have to pay to view these lists online. And while that cost is less than traveling to your setting, think of the many benefits of visiting that local! The sites. The smells. The people. 

Cemeteries aren't morbid places. They celebrate lives that have contributed to society and history. I challenge you to find your next character's name in one.

~Mary Vee
Photo Credit: Carly Vaitkevicius and Peter, photographer

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Importance of Setting in Fiction

I read another chapter of Donald Maass's book, The Fire In Fiction, and it was all about setting. When I think about setting, I usually think about the place and the details, but Maass says it is oh-so-much-more! You "bring the setting into the story in a way that integrates it into the very fabric of your character's experience." Easier said than done, I know. But he gives suggestions on how, like:

LINKING DETAILS AND EMOTIONS - Take a childhood home, for instance. Describe the place and let your character experience the feelings the place evokes. Together, details and emotions make a place a living thing.

MEASURING CHANGE OVER TIME - Tangible things in your scene can bring out passage of time, such as ice cream trucks, crew neck sweaters, leaf blowers, Popsicles, swim suits, scarfs, snow plows, etc. Of course, these things can evoke emotions as well, to enhance the experience of your character.

HISTORY IS PERSONAL - Historical detail is a good thing, but a story doesn't have to be chock full of it. Creating a sense of the times is not just about the details (or even coupling them with emotions). The times are also enhanced by infusing a character with strong opinions about both the details and the emotions. What does the character feel about historical events? What shapes his views?

SEEING THROUGH CHARACTER'S EYES - Use different POV characters to "see" the setting. Each character's personality will see with different emotions and from a different perspective.

CONJURING A MILIEU - Yeah, I had to look that word up. (*blush*) It means a social or cultural environment. It is not necessarily a "place", but something like the world of pro-baseball players, or the life of stage actors, etc. This is what Maass said about it: "A milieu exists not in a time or place, but in the mind and hearts of the characters who dwell in it. Their memories, feelings, opinions, outlook and ways of operating in their realm are what make it real."

SETTING AS A CHARACTER: A setting may participate in the story, like a blizzard, drought, or nature. It can be a place of significance, like The Boardwalk on Coney Island. It could be the place where your husband proposed and you spend every anniversary at. You make it real by making it significant to the character.

As always, Maass gives many examples of each point from many different author's works. It is very helpful to see how others are doing it.

Setting is one of my weak points in writing. I like dialogue and action best, so all the details slip me by. I am trying to incorporate setting with each new scene, but I am definitely a minimalist. :)

Do you love to build your story's world? If not, how do you make yourself write the setting? What tools or rituals do you use?

**Originally posted at on 6/22/09
**Photo by schwoaze at

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother of 4 children, and works part-time as a bookseller at Amazon. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories. Her first book, tentatively The Lady's Masquerade, will release April 2019.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: Steven James and Characters

Today on the Writer's Alley, we focus on character. No matter the genre or the age of the audience, these tips will benefit any writer.
Author Steven James teaches this principle:
To initiate your story, your protagonist will either
1. lose something vital and try to regain it
2. see something desirable and try to obtain it.
3. experience something traumatic and try to overcome it.
Any of these scenarios will set up tension for your story. Whether you write a love story, a mystery, a historical, a children's book, whatever, your main character MUST have tension. A problem to solve. A period in his or her life that we the reader are compelled to turn pages to see what happens next.
When a book's opening pages draws readers into the story and compels them to feel an understanding, a compassion for the Main Character facing the tension, questions are asked. Pages are turned to find out if the character will be safe. Not just physically, but in all manner: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. Will she find their true love? Will he escape? Will she overcome her barrier and get a job? Will the kids at his new school like him? Will she find love, joy, peace, etc?
To put this on a simple scale, think of children's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." A staple for all home libraries. The title alone draws readers to open the cover. And yes, Alexander's day does not get any better for many pages. Tension mounts as we read. Our compassion grows for a little boy who is having one of "those days". The kind we've all experienced. We even laugh, because, yes, we completely understand what he is going through. I won't spoil the ending. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens.
Other great character tension examples can be found in: Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind". Joseph's story in the book of Genesis. Frank Peretti's "Monster". Across the board. Every genre. Every age audience. A great book can be defined by the tension the character experiences and the compassion a reader can't help but feel.
So, test your manuscript. Ask a beta reader these questions:
Do you love/are drawn to the main character?
Do you feel compassion for the character?
What caused you to feel this compassion?
(If the answer to the last question indicates a moment of tension, then you have done your job.)
Mystery/suspense, Christian Fiction author, Steven James taught several classes and spoke as the keynote for one night at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference #BRMCWC last week. He will also be the keynote at #ACFW this year. This is a speaker you will not want to miss.
~Mary Vee (photo by Mary Vee)
#TipfulTuesday #TheWritersAlley
Your thoughts?


Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.