Thursday, April 27, 2017

Making the Most of Book Fairs & Giveaway

So this weekend I had the pleasure of being in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for SOKY, a book festival. It was a great weekend on so many levels. My oldest traveled with me since she needed to be in Bloomington, Indiana, the day after the book festival. What did she want to do on the car ride? 
Listen to Beyond Justice on audio book. Go to the bottom to enter a giveaway for your copy of this audio book. Can I just say it is surreal to listen to the very words you wrote? The narrator has done a really nice job, and there were several times I had to smile as I thought, "I wrote that!" It's very fun! And I love that she wanted to listen. I kept stopping the CDs to see if she was bored, but she insisted she wasn't.

Read to the end where you'll get an opportunity to enter a giveaway for a copy of the audiobook.  [Tweet "Love #audiobooks? @cara_putman is #givingaway Beyond Justice. Join the fun."] 

SOKY is a book festival. It's an opportunity for readers to meet authors and discover new books. It's also a great chance for writers to have fun together. Look at our smiles. I don't need to say anything else.

So today, I thought I'd share a few tips for how to make the most of a book fair experience.

1) Readers, be sure to bring a bag for all the awesome books you're going to discover. Do you see all those tables behind me and the books in front of me? Those are going home with you. You think you'll be strong, but the books will call your name. My oldest bought three books -- all hardcover. And then I bought a book for those left at home. I purposefully didn't buy any for me...but that only lasted until Bloomington. 

2) Authors, bring comfortable shoes. You really want to be ready to stand and talk to people. It's too easy to disengage when you're seated and let people walk by without a word. You have to be nicely assertive so that they'll slow down long enough to say hello. Next thing you know, they'll be looking at your book. 

 3) Authors, sit with friends. It makes everything much more interesting. You can talk about your friends books and they can point people to yours. Also, be sure to have something to hand out to people. Many people said they were going through once to look at everything that was there. Whether they got back to my table, they now had my bookmark that they could look at from the comfort of their home.

4) Readers, ask to get a photo with the author. You will absolutely make their day. If you've read our books, let us know. If you haven't, tell us what you like to read.

5) Authors, have a SHORT pitch for your book. I had two WWII books as well as Beyond Justice there, so I would quickly state that Shadowed by Grace is about the Monuments Men traveling up the boot of Italy, and Beyond Justice was compared to John Grisham and Joel Rosenberg by Library Journal. Both were quick and let readers know in a moment if these were books they might be interested in.

I hope these tips are helpful. Book fairs are a lot of fun--and exhausting--even for this extrovert.

A reader made this graphic, and I realized it captures probably my favorite thought from this book.

 After SOKY ended, A and I headed up to Bloomington and straight to Panera for sustenance. Across the street from Panera stood a Barnes & Noble, so we had to stop in. Look what I found on the shelves! I may have jumped up and down like a little girl...okay, no maybe about it.

I hope you've had fun looking at the photos from this weekend. It truly was a lot of fun. Now for the promised giveaway: the audio version of Beyond Justice. a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Let God Use Your Trials to Make You a Better Writer

“The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.” -Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero's Journey

Have you had black moments in your own life? The question is pretty much rhetorical.

We can fiddle with degrees but the fact is we've all gone through hard things.

The big C word. Job loss. Miscarriage. Loss of a loved one. Nasty breakups. A myriad of health issues.

I could go on and on, our trials are varying, though heartbreak seems to speak a single language.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.-1 Peter 4:12

Peter says its not weird that we go through these things but God wants to use them to strengthen us. I believe he can use these times to make us a better writer.


  • God uses our words to preach the gospel to ourselves.
Paul Tripp, author, pastor and counselor, says: No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do.

We are all talking to ourselves, but what are we saying?

The first novel I wrote my character struggled to find freedom from fear. I knew her struggles because anxiety is an area where I am still in process. As God speaks truth into my lies, light is shined on the darkness in my heart.

As I walked my heroine's road, I learned so much about myself. God glared a spotlight on my own soul, allowing me to see my need to see and tell myself truth.

As I told my character the truth about what it meant to walk in freedom from that fear, I was preaching the gospel to myself.

Anything that changes our soul will affect our writing life.

  • God uses our trials to help us with our character's black moments. And in turn, as we walk through their black moments with them, we find the light in our own times of darkness.
What have your characters struggled with: depression, grief, loneliness, or anger?

Is your character angry at themselves? The world? God?

We've all experienced all of these emotions and faith struggles.

After a trial, redemption is found when we share our stories. After my father died, telling the story was healing. But it became the most life-giving when I was able to share the narrative with others who were grieving. When friends lost parents, it was a "me, too" story.

This empathetic tale-bearing was ultimately grace-filled for both parties.

What is the story you need to share? Sometimes God may call you to tell it in person, other times He may use it to heal another soul u
sing the written word.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”   -Brene Brown

Writing real and raw can be painful, but those ultimately will be the words that speak truth and life.

As we go through trials, instead of putting our guards up, we need to be vulnerable...both on the written page and in "real time."

Through these tests, we can understand the difficulties our characters endure.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”   -Brene Brown in DARING GREATLY

Are you willing to show up and be seen on the page?

Julia Reffner writes words of redemption in both the nonfiction and women's fiction genres. She is a writer and reviewer for LIBRARY JOURNAL magazine and a devotional writer at WONDERFULLY WOVEN. She lives in central Virginia with her husband, two children, and three ragdoll cats.

Friday, April 21, 2017

{{Gone Fishing!}} Friday News & GIVEAWAY!

Hey Alley Pals...

As you read this, Hubby and I are waving from the road as we head outta town for a rare weekend getaway! WithOUT kids! And fine, you caught me. We're not really going fishing. But probably hiking. And hot spring(ing). And enchanted treehousing! Lots of other ings like eating and frolicking. You get the idea. ;)

While I'm away, you have the chance to win an amazing new book and hear all about the exciting happenings happening (ooo, that was redundant) here on your alley.

First up, is Cara Putman's awesome new legal suspense, BEYOND JUSTICE! (PSST... today's giveaway!) This book is hot off the presses and seriously addicting. (I'm currently procrastinating way too many things to keep my nose buried in my, err, kindle app.) Leave a comment by Sunday night telling me about your favorite (or dream) weekend getaway to enter to win. Be sure you leave an email address so I can contact you about claiming your prize. :)

Laurie Tomlinson has a fabulous giveaway happening over on her website Her debut novel WITH NO RESERVATIONS from Harlequin Heartwarming and a KINDLE FIRE are up for grabs so be sure you head over and enter to win all that goodness!!!

ALSO ... Big news for book LOVERS! Especially those who love romantic comedies, Krista Phillips is looking to add some hungry readers to her street team, The Phillips-ians! (PSST... street teams get early reader copies and freebies!) Inquire here!

Pardon me while I scoot on outta here...

Have a blessed weekend! See y'all when I get back!

<3 Amy

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just What Makes STORY for You?

What makes a good story?

Is it the plot?

But a plot without characters is floppy at worst and a really great word-painted scenery at best.

Is it the characters?

But characters without plot is a monologue dragging without purpose or end.

Is it the dialogue?

But dialogue without characters to speak it and a plot to give it purpose is just dialogue for the sake of meaningless dialogue.

What truly makes a good story?

What makes it for you?

I’ve been mulling this fact over the last couple of weeks as I’ve read books I’ve enjoyed…and some I haven’t. Or watched a movie I really loved. Even as I talk with friends about classic stories I could consume over and over again, I’ve paused to consider the talking points that keep bringing me back.

It’s about ordinary characters that are thrust into extraordinary circumstances that demand they rise to the occasion.

That’s really all it’s about, isn’t it?

We see that in ourselves. We project our lives onto these ordinary characters and hope that if we were in their shoes, that we would rise to the occasion. That we would be rescue the damsel in distress. 
That we would speak those words of truth or anger or love. That we would get the prince. That we would stand up for truth and fight for what is right.

Think of your favorite movie.

Got a title? (Share it in the comments so others can explore what you’ve discovered.)

What is the quality in that movie that keeps you watching it over and over again?

For me, it’s Last of the Mohicans. A fairly violent movie that I only watch about once a year, but a
film that keeps me coming back—and for many reasons.

But the main one?

I admire Cora.

An ordinary woman, who within the first twenty minutes of the movie, receives a marriage proposal that she doesn’t accept.

She’s normal. She’s average. The daughter of a British colonel.

And yet, in the face of extreme danger, the loss of a perfect and safe world, she stares danger straight in the face, raises her one shot pistol, and defends her ground. Her safety. Her sister. She’s strong. She’s gentle. She’s just seeking the right place to land. And yet, there are moments of open vulnerability where the viewer sees she is absolutely frightened and at a lost. But she is not overcome.  

I can relate to her. And I want to aspire to her strength and courage. Because I don’t know if I could do what she did in the face of such vicious brutality. But I hope that I would. That I would rise to the occasion like she did.

What makes story for you?

Take that. Weave it into the dialogue. The plot. The characters. Focus on that. Let it become what drives your passion and your story. And it will drive the readers’ as well.

Leave a comment…let me know your favorite movie and why. Besides, my Netflix queue is looking kinda sad right now. ;-) 


Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 



Friday, April 14, 2017

Writing Collaboratively

A few quick notes

I wanted y’all to know that Canteen Dreams is FREE, yes free!, for a limited time in all ebook formats. You can access those here. The audio book for Canteen Dreams also just released. It’s currently available on Audible and will be available on iTunes, etc., shortly. Crazy exciting times around here!
And don’t forget to enter the Grove Girls Spring Fling giveaway! Simply click on the image to be magically transported to the post where you can enter.

Good luck! And happy spring!
Tricia Goyer and I are co-authors in a new Guidepost cozy mystery series. We’re both head down writing our first book in the series, and it’s a fun time of exploration. When you write on a Guidepost series, it’s a little different from writing a book for yourself. I thought today I’d take you behind the scenes and show you how these books come to life.
First, I love writing on these series, because they are a collaborative process.  The first two series I auditioned for and either wrote with from the beginning or got brought in when someone had to bow out (Patchwork Mysteries and the Secrets of Mary’s Bookshop). The last series (Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries) I came in to help Tricia while she was under some intense deadline pressure and we wrote three novels and a novella together. It was such fun! Now we’re on the Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard series from the beginning and writing with some of my favorite writer friends including Janice Thompson, Ruth Herne Logan, Deanna Dodson, and Lisa Ludwig.
Second, because these books are collaborative, all of our characters and settings overlap. That means earlier this week I was spending time online trying to orient myself to Tisbury and Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. We have a Facebook group where the authors and editors for the series work together to keep the details organized and flowing together. We also have a series guide so that we can keep people, locations, and descriptions consistent across books written by eight different authors.
Third, I’m writing about a place I’ve never been which means I need to do research. Google maps becomes my friend when it comes to seeing the maps but then photos of the actual streets and locations. I’m a detail person, so I love getting them right. That means I can go a little crazy, like taking screenshots like the one below and uploading them to the group, so we’re all seeing the same things.
Fourth, working with another writer to write one book is like a dance. Tricia and I have been friends almost from the first day  Is tarted writing. I’ve shadowed and done light edits on some of her books and we’ve taught together at writing conferences, so we knew what we were getting into when we agreed to write together. The flow of the who does what changes with each book. With this one, Tricia generated the idea while I worked on another book we were writing. Then I fleeshed that idea out to a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, so we both know what is happening in each chapter. Then I started writing the book, tackling chapters one through four, while she started at chapter five. She’s then editing mine for flow, and then I’ll do the last edit. That means as I have ideas or want to make sure she knows something, I’m adding notes like this to the chapters I write.
This way she knows who I’m thinking of when I write about a character, and she can see the same person. I can also include research details for her, and she can do the same for me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into how a collaboration among authors can work. 
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Writer's Business Plan

Mom: Aww! You drew our family! Annabelle: Um, no Mommy. Those are birds....

As a mom, I've said MORE THAN ONCE the phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Like when I ask them to clean their room but they look at mine, which is pretty much the catch-all most days for the rest of the house and I'm doing REALLY good to walk through it to the bathroom and not trip and fall flat on my face.

Or when I tell them NO POP because it isn't healthy for you while I'm nursing a Dr. Pepper.

Or... well. I think you get the drift. It is easy to know what you SHOULD do, but the execution thereof throws a wrench in things sometimes.

So a few weeks ago, Pepper and I had a little mini one-night writer's pow-wow. We chatted about brainstorming and story ideas and business plans for our writing.

Or should I say.

HER writing.

Between the two of us, we came up with a fun color coded spreadsheet of her next year and a half of publishing with goal dates to finish and yeah. It made the business side of my brain VERY happy.

But then I went home and tried to write out my OWN plan. Because I've been a bit haphazard lately and the idea of being organized like that sounded really nice.

Uh, yeah.

The plan is still unwritten.

Why is it that it's so easy to tell someone ELSE what they should do but so very hard to then do it yourself???


Business plans are funny things though. It's one of the things Pepper and I talked about. I truly believe God wants us to be wise, and making a business plan for our careers is a wise thing to do. Wise as serpents and gentle as doves, right?

That said, we can make our plans all we want, but in the end, we turn those lovely plans over to Jesus and say, "Okay, here is what I came up with. Feel free to tweak, throw it out, scrap the whole thing, if it is crap. Cause I only want this whole writing thing if YOU are behind this, Jesus."

So over the next few weeks, I'm gonna be trying to work on my own business plan. I'll even color code it like I did Pepper's cause ya know? Colors make us ALL smile.

And then I WILL follow my own advice and lay that puppy down at Jesus feet and let him do with it, do with ME, what he likes. It may end up looking nothing like my plan, but what I'm sure of, is if I'm obedient to God and follow Him, my plan will look like a kindergartner's drawing in comparison to what actually happens.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sometimes Inspiration Catches Us Unaware

There are times I can stand on top of a mountain top and not sense inspiration. 

There are times when I can stand on a crowded city sidewalk with pedestrians bumping into me and feel the enveloping power of Jesus and story.

You too? Weird, huh?

Doesn't it seem like we can try so hard to call up inspiration and yet feel so empty? Without a puff of an idea. A thought. A word. 

Other times we are bowled over by something so small that it mushrooms into the perfect book?

So, story time: Last month I went to Israel with a tour group. With all my heart I wanted to have a spiritual experience, not a touristy--souvenir--bragging experience. You know, inspiration. I was kinda leery because this trip was hubby's idea and it should have been mine too...but it wasn't. He wanted a historical trip. I wanted a fulfillment of "the trip to Israel." Friends asked how I felt about going. All I could say was I felt like I was standing on one side of a closed door with Israel on the other. I don't know. I can't see it. I have no clue.

The flight to Germany alone was incredibly long. I couldn't sleep. I was cramped. I wanted to wiggle my legs. I was thirsty. I'd been awake for 25 hours. 25 cranky hours. And I didn't know what I was doing. 

THEN The plane decelerated. I opened the window shade and saw land on the east side of the Mediterranean. It was Israel. I blinked my eyes and looked again. This was Israel.

I grabbed my camera, shot photos, poked my husband and pointed. Look! Israel.

Then I realized.

I was going to Israel.

I would see places Jesus went. I would see, hear, smell, touch, taste, breathe in Israel!

On my own I could not have begun to imagine the magnitude of this trip even with all I had been told ahead of time. A Palestinian Christian, a very godly and historically trained man, was assigned to our group. As we drove to each place, he'd pick up the microphone and say, "Remember in the Bible where we are told..." he then would point to the area around us. This is where it took place.

Then I knew I was in Israel. The place where godly men and Jesus, the Son of God walked.

Photo by Mary Vee, the setting for the Good Samaritan
The tour guide merged historical and cultural information to make Bible events so vivid for us. One day the bus drove away from the rich green valleys to the dessert. The guide pointed and said, "This is where Jesus set the Good Samaritan story. See the desert and the hills? No man should have walked by himself in a place like this. Thieves could hide in so many places. There is no water. No shade. What was he doing here? 

"But the Good Samaritan didn't ask that question. Instead he helped the man."

I could write pages more on what our tour guide revealed to us. How he opened the images and words of the Bible stories and made them real. How God used the things the guide said to touch our hearts and bring God praise.

When I came back home I was asked which place meant the most to me. I thought long and hard considering the many places we visited. The answer would be the same as if I had walked through a beautiful garden where flowers bloomed along the walkways and trees blossomed filling the air with fragrance. Could one spot be picked as the best? No because each inch had its own unique inspiration. God's story infused.

That's when I realizedI that inspiration comes not by my asking, nor by my desire, but by my openness to engage in what is in front of me.

What better time than Passion week to receive inspiration.

1. You'll find it in nature.
2. You'll find it in people.
3. You'll find it in worship.
4. You'll find it in music.
5. You'll find it in Scripture.
6. You'll find it in family.
7. You'll find it in art.
8. You'll find it with your eyes closed or opened.
9. You'll find it in the air you breathe.
10. You'll find it in a baby's giggle.
11. You'll find it in colors.
12. You'll find it in clouds.
13. You'll find it away from the computer.
14. You'll find it in cooking.
15. You'll find it in the mail.
16. You'll find it in a cemetery.
17. You'll find it in a flag.
18. You'll find it above you.
19. You'll find it under you.
20. You'll find it around you.
21. You'll find it inside you.

Inspiration is waiting for you walk away from concerns, worries, trepidation, doubt, and negativity and engage in what God has for you.

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post

Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

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

Mary has a new release. A Virtual Tour of Italy. If you have ever gone to Italy, plan to go, or wish you could, this virtual tour will take you there. Color photos. Videos. And more! Click here to learn more

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!