Friday, May 22, 2015

Kiss and Tell: Spontaneous Smooching!


 
Dr. Love is on the block this fine Friday! And I’ve noticed it’s been a while since we’ve had a kiss-a-thon. I think I’m having withdrawals. You too? Our last Kiss-and-Tell session was a wildly successful scrimmage of fabulous, sweet, steamy, playful, and passionate kissing scenes pulled from your stories. What fun!!!! I mean, come on, who doesn’t crave a kiss scene from page one, right?

OF COURSE, we have to wait and build the tension, ect. But that right there is my current problem. I’m picking through the initial pages of my WIP, setting up the plot, getting acquainted with the characters, establishing their chemistry, and already I’m itching for a lip-lock between the two! I can just picture it! And I want that kiss. Badly!

So, since I’m so incredibly patient by nature, I went ahead and penned a few kisses that are what I like to call spontaneous smooches. These are dreamed up, out of order quips and clips that will hopefully fit into my story as it progresses. In other words, the mood struck, so I wrote. Be a shame to waste a perfectly good make out session but hey it happens. Oh, how I suffer for my art.

Just in case this doesn’t make the cut I thought I’d kick off this Kiss-and-Tell session with a very rough, off-the-cuff kiss scene that I wrote on my phone at about 1 am last week simply because I wanted my characters to get a-smoochin’ and I couldn’t sleep without that goodnight kiss!

And I’ll need full audience participation to make this fun! Post up a past or current kiss scene in any stage of revision. It doesn’t have to be polished or perfectly thought out it just has to include some semblance of a lip-on-lip action! I can hardly wait to read them!

Alright pucker up, people! There’s no better way to kick off the weekend than by getting your kiss on!

MUAH!

 

I’ll be brave and go first… Here’s some banter and a smooch from Livi Lux and Aiden Reid in my WIP Lady Luck

 ...

“Pfft! New Yorkers are always touting their grit but I'm from St. Louis. Serial killers, rioting, the east side. I think I can handle a little island stroll. Besides, I took a class in Krav Maga, last year. I’m basically a butt-kicking machine. Don’t mess with me." Huh. What do you know? The whole ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ thing? Actually quite satisfying.

Satisfying. But perhaps not entirely convincing if Aiden’s amused expression is anything to go by.

"Oh, so you had a face-off with Vivaldi? Took a gander across the Ead's bridge and enjoyed an afternoon tea with the EL6 crew?"

"Don't be condescending. You might be pretty but that dress does nothing for your figure."

"Pretty?" Aiden growls like a sexy-beast, a playful glint in those steely grey eyes. 

I bat my eyes. "Does that wound your masculine pride, sweetiekins? Retraction. Follow-up. Rugged. You look very rugged in your condescending dress."

He laughs, so full and warm and easy I’m shivering. Figure that one out. And then he's shaking his handsome head. "I always seem to be doing that with you."

"What, cross dressing?"

Stepping forward, he traps a lock of my golden-red hair, rubbing the strands between his thumb and forefinger. "Laughing. Smiling."

He leans in, twining the hair around his knuckle and gently tugging me closer, his words a whispered brush of contact. "Kissing."

And then he's doing just that. Kissing. Which somehow seems too simple a word for what he's doing to me.

Dang, it's just... It's... Wow. It's wow and so much more than wow the words may not exist to expound upon it. Surely as a journalist I could find some. But nope, his lip-lock is literally reducing my vocabulary.

Mmm. I hum into the stupefying kiss, fully surrendered, and add a little wow of my own. 

"Wow." He murmurs against my lips, cupping my face and stroking my cheek with his callused thumb.

Yep, still shivering despite the balmy island climate. And before I'm rendered completely inarticulate I echo my agreement. "My thoughts exactly. More wow, please." 
 
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
 
Amy Leigh Simpson is the completely exhausted stay-at-home mama to the two wild-child, tow-headed toddler boys, one pretty little princess baby, and the incredibly blessed wife of her hunky hubby.
She writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious. And a little saucy! Okay fine, a lot saucy. :) She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and now uses her Sports Medicine degree to patch up daily boo-boos. Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope, raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ, invent an all-dessert diet that works, and make up for years of sleep deprivation. 

She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

5 Ideas for Author Newsletter Content -- A Guest Post by Sarah Forgrave


Ashley here! I am so excited to be hosting my dear friend and former Alley Cat (though once an Alley Cat always an Alley Cat, right?) Sarah Forgrave on the Alley today! Please welcome her back to the blog! :) I know you'll enjoy her insight!

###

5 Ideas for Author Newsletter Content

Has anyone else noticed that Facebook and Twitter can be fickle? With the ever-changing social media landscape, it can be a headache for authors to find and keep our audience. 

My wise agent once advised me to think beyond social media and begin building an e-newsletter. But the age-old question inevitably cropped up: What should I write about?

As I’ve navigated these waters, I’ve honed in on five items that are valuable additions to any author newsletter.

1)   News – (Insert “well, duh” here. :)) This can include recently published articles, upcoming book releases, book signings, or special pricing deals. For the pre-published author, this might include project completions or agent signing news. Don’t forget to share personal news too! If you’ve just gotten married or had a baby or moved to a new house, your readers will love the inside peek at your life.

2)   Photos – Just like web content, you want your newsletter to be visually appealing. Consider investing in a subscription to a stock photo website for access to thousands of photos that can convey the mood you want. Also include personal photos. When I visited Alley Cat Ashley this spring, I included a photo of us in my newsletter. Not only did I get to share a personal side of me, but I got to introduce my readers to a fabulous writer.





3)   Items of interest to your brand – I know, there’s that ugly “B” word. To demystify it, think about unique aspects of your writing that your readers would find interesting.

For instance, author Dani Pettrey writes “Armchair Adventures,” and her newsletters often include a snapshot of a compelling adventure story that relates to her latest book release. In my newsletters, I include a Healthy Habits Corner with nutrition and fitness tips, since I’m a fitness instructor and incorporate health and fitness into my fiction. For a novelist who writes World War II books, interesting history facts might be shared.

Recipes can be a great addition too, particularly if they fit into your brand. Any recipes I share are healthy and simple, Dani might share a trail mix recipe, and a WWII writer might share a recipe that was popular during that time period.


Whatever you share, the goal is to make it interesting, valuable for the reader, and something that sets the tone for your writing in general.

4)   Giveaways – This might include package giveaways related to your books. For instance, Dani Pettrey gave away a Land & Sea Package during the release of her book, Stranded, which centered around an Alaskan Cruise. The package included fun items related to the book’s setting and theme.

You might also give away books (by yourself or authors similar to you) or gift cards. In each quarterly newsletter I send, I give away an Amazon gift card to one of my subscribers. It’s a simple way to say thank you to my readers, and it’s a fun surprise for the winners too.


5)   Free content – At first glance, this might sound the same as giveaways, but they’re distinctly different. Giveaways can include non-book items, and they are a prize given to a limited number of winners that are drawn at random. Free content, on the other hand, is given to ALL subscribers and would involve something written by you.

For example, earlier this year I wrote a romantic e-short exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. Now whenever someone new subscribes on my site, they automatically receive the short story in their inbox. I enjoyed the process of writing the e-short so much, I have another one in the works for later this year. It’s been a great opportunity for me to give readers a small taste of my writing while waiting for my full-length novels to be published.


If you don’t have fictional content to offer, there are other possibilities for free content. Playing off my health and fitness theme, I could offer a healthy meal toolkit exclusively to newsletter subscribers. Author Beth Vogt offers a list of her favorite inspirational quotes to blog subscribers.

Whatever is unique to you that would add value (and, of course, fits within your brand) can be a great incentive to draw in new subscribers and keep current subscribers engaged.

And really, that’s the ultimate goal behind newsletters – to find new reader friends and keep the current ones excited about your work.

By offering unique, relevant content that enriches their lives, you’re building a relationship that will rise above the ever-changing waters of social media.

Enjoy the ride!

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Have you started an author newsletter? What do you like about other authors’ newsletters you follow? Any content ideas you can add to my list?

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Sarah Forgrave is a work-at-home mom whose work has been featured in Guideposts’ A Cup of Christmas Cheer, as well as the webzine Ungrind and the Pearl Girls™ book, Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith. When she’s not writing, she enjoys teaching fitness classes, shopping the produce section of her local grocery store, and hanging out with her family in their Midwest home. To read Sarah’s free romantic e-short, “Running to You,” you can sign up for her newsletter on her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and her not-so-secret addiction—Pinterest.










Wednesday, May 20, 2015

3 Tools to Make Great Images

One challenge writers have is constantly creating content for social media. We have to develop a platform, and that means we need content. But the content has to be fresh, professional and most important of all easy to create. We're writers after all!

Over time, I've found a few tools that help me create visuals like the one above. I'm still learning, but I hope these tips will help you. I'd also love to hear what you use!

1) PicMonkey.com. Tricia Goyer told me about this website several years ago and I LOVE IT! It has truly been a life saver for me. I love that you don't need to register -- though if you pay a bit each month, you get rid of all the crazy ads. Still, if I have to have log-in information to remember one more place I might go crazy. Certainly, my brain will explode and that is simply bad for this homeschooling momma and writer. The website is fairly intuitive, but you'll want to play around for a bit.

On PicMonkey.com, there are several options. You can upload a photo you've taken and add text, edit to change the look, add overlays, etc. Or you can design collages and Facebook headers. You can start with a blank slate and create a quote. I made this book review pull quote on PicMonkey.com. Those with better design skills could make it sing, but I liked it :-) If you're going to do something like this, start with an image that does not have the quote. Then it's super easy to open it, add the quote, and save it as a new image without recreating the basic image each time.

2) Quozio.com: This website is perfect when you want to create a quick quote. Once you're on the website, you enter your text, where it's from/who said it, and hit enter. After that it creates an image. You may choose from approximately 20 backdrops with preset fonts. This is not for those who like to create on their own. You have no design flexibility. However, it is GREAT for quick pull quote images. Download it to your desktop. Upload it to a blog, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and away you go. This verse is one I made on Quozio a couple years ago. It's also great for pull quotes from book reviews. 


3) Canva.com: This is a great resource if you want super professional, pre-made images. You can also create your own if you have the time and patience. Most of the images have an associate fee, but there are many free designs to choose from. The one at the top of this post is free -- and it took me less than five minutes to create the image. Here's another image I created at Canva.com:

BONUS: 4) DollarPhotoClub.com: When creating graphic images, using photos you've taken ensures you're in compliance with copyright laws. But if you haven't taken the right image that you need, the DollarPhotoClub.com is a great place to explore. For $1 per image, you can find great photos that make your verses, ideas, etc., come to life. If you would like an invitation to join, let me know in the comments. Here's an example of a photo I bought at DollarPhotoClub.com and edited on PicMonkey.com:


This final graphic is one I made on Canva.com, and then edited at PicMonkey.com

What tools do you use?
____________________



An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Weird Place I Go to Spark My Creativity.

So its that time of year again. Graduations. School ending. Days getting longer. After living 36 years in New York, the heat is definitely on in Virginia. This week has lots of days in the 90s and high humidity, too.

Its easy for writing time to go by the wayside. Vacations. Summer sports. Kids around more often. Higher noise levels. House visitors. Holidays. Lots of good things that can become distractions.

However, with all this great weather are also great opportunities to increase your creativity. Here's my favorite place to do so, you might think I'm strange and I don't even write suspense!

The cemetery:

 Here are some things I like to do in cemeteries that help my creativity.

-Bring a notebook and camera.

-Sit on peaceful benches and write. What a great quiet spot with lots of beautiful nature around you to inspire.

-Write down names that intrigue me. Many times I have found a great name for a character from looking at tombstones. Also you can get a good feel for what names were popular in particular eras and in your area of the country.

-Look for the big names. Write them down and when you get home do some web searching. You can find out some interesting stories from local "heroes."

-Take a guided tour. We have done several guided tours. You can learn about famous individuals, interesting stories, and strange facts.

-Head into the main building. Here you'll have access to interesting records and those who work in the cemeteries are often very willing to help you find a specific individual. They may have other information about the origins of your town which may help you with setting.

-Take pictures of stones and landscape features. You can certainly tell about the architecture of the time and the economic status of the individuals in a cemetery. What kind of stone is used? Or none at all and a simple marker?

-Observe what is left at cemeteries. We typically think of flowers, but there are so many other more unusual things that are left by stones. Baseballs, scratch lotto tickets, bingo cards, and of course photos are some of the interesting things I've seen. What do these things tell about the relationship between the living and the dead.

Imagine what might a child with a troubled relationship leave at their father's gravestone? What about the mother who has lost a child to a car accident? How about a child who has never met their biological parents? How about a spouse about to remarry? What might they leave and what does that show about their emotions.

-Observe groups of tombstones. Look at death dates, birth dates. What was the family size? Is there a remarriage after a death? Oftentimes a husband or wife dies within a short span of the other? What can you tell about the cause of death? The family health history?

-Read what is written on the stones. I love reading the poetry and imagining the relationship between a husband and wife or reading what a parent has written about a beloved child who died young. Sometimes these bring me to tears I'll admit but they are great fodder for writing.

-Watch groups of people. This may be creepy that I do this, but observing a service from a respectful distance (don't stay too long) can be a valuable writer exercise. You can understand different responses to grieving. Some are noticeable weepers, others wear shades to hide their grief, still others may look unaffected. We all deal with grief in different ways. Picture what the relationship of some of the different individuals with the person who died might be.

-Come home and spend some time observing your notes and photos. Check the internet for more information. 

 Cemetery watching may seem a bit odd, but its been a spark to my own creativity for years. Maybe you'll find a tidbit that helps you discover more about your character and their emotional journey.


Do you cemetery watch? Do you have another outdoor place you like to go for building your creativity?




 Julia lives in Richmond, Virginia area with her husband, two elementary aged children, and three adorable ragdolls. She writes and reviews for Library Journal and is a regular contributor to the site Wonderfully Woven (http://www.wonderfullywoven.com).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writer's Chat: How Do you Begin?

www.freedigitalphotos.net by David Castillo Dominici

Mondays are tough days for me. I just don't know where to begin...so many half-done projects and chores, and such a not-fun day as Monday to kick them all off!

Sometimes, I find myself looking at a new writing project the same way. Like, I have the idea, but the execution just seems a little...stalled.

So, in honor of this ho-hum day, I'd like to open the Alley to discussion...

How do you begin??

Please take the following three questions and choose one, or all, answer them in the comments (as will I), and let's start talkin' to get those writing projects movin'!! Oh...and there is a bonus for commenting...we'll have a drawing from all who comment for the FANTABULOUS book... Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell!

I just love a good chat with writer friends...and especially when I am trying to survive another Manic Monday!!

www.freedigitalphotos.net by Stuart Miles


QUESTION 1:

WHERE do you start your first draft:

A. At a favorite coffee shop with your earbuds and Pandora?

B. In a home office with your piled-high fave craft books nearby?

C. Other??


QUESTION 2:

WHAT do you write? Is it what you've always written? (okay, that's two...)

A. Genre?

B. Indie-Pub?

C. Traditional?


QUESTION 3:

HOW do you start your first draft:

A. Hashing out the dialogue and filling the tags/descriptions in later?

B. Descriptions and firming up the setting and character's internal conflict, then cutting and "talking" in the edits?

C. Other??


Don't forget, all commenters are entered in the drawing! Would love to hear from you, and invite your friends for a chance to win a great book!!:)

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Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets, selling Jamberry, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at www.facebook.com/dicken.angie and her personal blog at angiedicken.blogspot.com 






Friday, May 15, 2015

Should Indie Publishing Be For You?

The average writer is no longer required to only do one form of publishing these days. When I started to investigate the literary world ten years ago, publishing houses just a few years before had started taking queries exclusively from agents and to publish your book without a publishing house was a frowned-upon shortcut for those who didn’t want to do the work on their book to make it publishable. 

Getting an agent to represent you was difficult as there were only a handful in the industry, but publishing houses wouldn’t look at your work without an agents and agents wanted you to come to them with a contract in hand.

Now, there are more agents than editors—all of them with projects they want to pitch to the handful of remaining houses, hoping their well-known or debut author will strike the fancy of the over-worked editor on the other side of the desk.

In consequence, agents are finding it increasingly more difficult to land their talented authors and those that are landed are getting smaller deals or having to settle (which isn’t always settling depending on the author’s attitude) for a smaller house.

Publishing is far from what it used to be. Even as a reader, you can’t help noticing this fact.
So where does this leave the writer who is struggling to get picked up, is consistently being told that their product is good and there is interest, but no publishing house is up for actually buying it? Are you settling to indie publish or are you giving yourself a leg up in a vastly changing industry?

First: It depends on the type of writer you are. Are you a go-getter? Are you fascinated by the publishing process and like having the control in your hands over the cover design, interior layout, editorial, content, price and release dates, just to name a few? Then indie publishing could quite possibly be for you.

Second: Indie publishing should not be your choice just because you haven’t been able to sell in a larger market. While it is often the #1 reason writers investigate this avenue, it shouldn’t be your only reason. Why? Because in our impatience to have a book published, oftentimes we can overlook the major flaws that have caused us to be rejected.  Which leads to my third point.

Third: Find out why you’ve been rejected as best you can. Is it because the publisher doesn’t think your topic will sell right now or is a structure/voice/grammar/ability to write issue? To succeed at indie publishing, you’re still going to have to do the work, which means you better have a darn good product to release. Readers aren’t going to care if you’re publishing with a Big Five house or your own press; you write a poor story, that baby ain’t going anywhere.

Fourth: Be prepared to do the work. There aren’t any shortcuts about this: indie publishing is hard work. But then again, so is traditional publishing. There should be much wisdom taken into the decision to self-publish. If this is for you, I absolutely encourage you to get out there and get it done and I’ll be the first in line to buy your well-done product.

Self-publishing is all about the research. Research is King in this industry and knowing what you’re getting into beforehand, as best you can, is definitely Queen. Do your homework, ask those who have gone before you and succeeded and failed. On both sides of the fence. In doing this, you’ll be best prepared to make the right publishing decision for you.


Question: would you ever indie publish your books? What do you see are the pros and cons? And if you are a published indie author, what do you love or hate about the process?

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a country girl now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado, employed as an administrative assistant at Wordserve Literary.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gotta Know when to Hold 'em, and when to fold 'em.

A self-portrait.... (not really)

Confession: I like to listen to country music.

Ya ever heard the old song by Kenny Rogers, The Gambler Song?

Ya gotta know when to hold 'em.
Know when to fold em.
Know when to walk away,
know when to run.

You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for count'
When the dealin's done.

So yeah, it's about gambling. Not really a normal "Christian" topic on a blog for Christian writers, I know. Bare with me.

I've been sitting here thinking about my crazy writing life right now and that song popped into my head. Last month I'd done this super detailed writing calendar for myself, SO excited that I'd be organized and have daily wordcount goals and all that. It was FANCY, y'all. My turn had come and I was gonna roll the dice on my time and go all in.

Then my daughter got sick. Pneumonia. 5 day hospital say.

BOO!!!

Since then we've had a billion doctors appointments for various reason, I've had my wisdom teeth out, and end-of-the-year school stuff is raging on for all of my kids, as well as a fundraiser for a heart walk we're doing to honor our daughter, Annabelle.

I threw my cards down, dropped my head onto the table, and yelled FOLD a few weeks ago.

I'm not out for the game. Just for this hand--this month. There wasn't any way I'd win with the cards I'd been dealt. To try would have been just plain stupid.

What is NOT in my hand today....
Sometimes you really do just need to know when it's time to fold 'em and set it aside for a bit.

Other times ya need to hold em. Don't up the ante but stay in the hand because you might just come out on top.

Personally, I find myself bluffing a little too much, but that's a whole other conversation.

I was supposed to post today on "money" as it relates to writing. That's why I included the second part of that song above. Because I'm choosin' not to count my money at the table at the moment, because there will be time enough for that later, say, maybe June-ish.

So until then, I'm gonna walk away to bed (no, take that back, I might run!) because this writer-momma is TIRED and needs a few zzz's to make it through tomorrow, another busy day.

Never thought you could learn a few things from a gambler about your writing life, did ya?

Yeah, me neither.

Let's Chat! What's in your hand right now? Are you gonna toss in a few coins and go for it? Or are you like me and need to fold for a bit because there isn't a snowballs chance in Cuba you'll actually come out on top trying to write in this season?

Or are you sitting there thinking, "Wow... that was a stretch, Krista. You must REALLLLYYYYY be tired." It's okay if you're thinking that. It has a distinct possibility of being true!!!

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Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, A Side of Faith, and A Side of Hope. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.