Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tuning Out Distractions


Ever feel like you keep chasing down the time to write? Just whenever you get a brilliant idea, your toddler interrupts, or maybe you glance up at the clock and realize you're late for something.

There's probably little you can do about the amount of time you currently have available for writing. But there's probably a lot you can do about the quality of that time. Let me explain.

I've got a Lularoe addition. 😀  I'm kidding... erm... sort of. 😀   But for real, I was just telling the Alley Cats the other day that whenever I get free time, I'm so bad about consignment shopping on apps like Poshmark. Leggings and secondhand Anthropologie are my weakness, y'all! And while there's nothing wrong with the occasional distraction, if I'm not careful, browsing pretty things can become my go-to stress reliever.

Distractions can take on some really surprising forms. Maybe for you, it's sports. Or a television show. The Design Home app (can I get an "amen"?). I don't mean "distractions" in the nefarious super sinful sense here... although those clearly apply as well. I mean distractions that are just that. Distractions. From our calling.

We get pulled in so many directions on a daily basis. We wake up daily to a new promise of God's grace and provision for our day, but everything from news headlines to dead car batteries can pull from our emotional reserves. And before we know it, we may find ourselves with the time to write but with nothing to actually write about.

Can I just encourage you today to guard your heart? As Proverbs says, it's the wellspring of life. If you've allowed yourself to become depleted by the distractions that abound, it's time for a tuneup. Are you giving your emotional resources to the things that matter, or are you waisting your energy on time-suckers and Facebook headlines?

But you guys-- may God give us a vision to see how meaningful, and how vast, and how holy the call to write really is. May we take it seriously, even in its ministry to ourselves. Maybe you've been asking God for emotional healing or hope or a promise from Him... have you considered investing that energy into your story? I know I've written some books that were solely for God to teach me what the heroine was discovering.

The Lord has a tendency to whisper. Have you noticed it? Let me ask you... how loud is the rest of your life? If you practice tuning out those other voices clamoring for your attention, you may just find what you've been looking for... a new sense of depth in your story, and in your life.


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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Best Birthday Ever!

Photo by blickpistol @ pixabay.com
Shhh...do you hear it? Do you feel it? It is almost Christmas and the anticipation of celebration is in the air. You may be frantic with last minute shopping or brushing the sweat off your brow as you pull the last batch of cookies out of the oven, but at some point you, too, will stop long enough to breathe and be touched by the spirit of Christmas.

Being with family, eating mountains of food, and ripping the wrapping off of presents brings a joy that creates memories for years to come. All the work is finished and now you can relax and just enjoy the day of celebration.

After all, it is a birthday party.

It's easy to forget that many years ago a small baby was born and laid in a manger. Wrapped in swaddling clothes protecting him from the prickly straw, his parents looked upon him with love and wonder. Wonder at the miracle before them. A miracle that was wrought by God and bestowed upon the whole world.

This miracle child was... and is... the Savior of the world.

God with us. Among us. Within us.

As we prepare for the holiday, let us not forget that Monday is a celebration day. It's party-time! It's the best birthday the world has ever seen!

So have fun. Love on your family. And may you end the year with thanksgiving and praise for the One who came to love you and those all around you.

Merry Christmas!

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Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother to 4 children. 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.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog: sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda



Thursday, December 14, 2017

There Is No "Other Side"



Don’t worry. I’m not going Rob Bell on you guys. But today I want to chat about something I think is relevant to us all... the concept of the "other side" of the wall.

As humans, we are always reaching for something beyond our selves and our current circumstance. C.S. Lewis once suggested this propensity points to an innate desire for the heavenly, that which is outside of this world.

And as writers, we often reach for that “something” in the form of the publishing world. But have you noticed the “other side” of where you are is ever-escalating and never satisfactory? 

First, it’s “if I could sign with an agent, I’d be so happy.” Then, “if I could get a contract with a publishing house, I would finally feel like a real writer.” Then, perhaps, “if I could land in a larger publishing house, I’d have more resources and be taken more seriously.” And then the ladder continues to grow higher. Maybe you do land at your dream publishing house. Soon you have reviews to worry about, sales. Even if you become a bestselling author and get rave reviews from Romantic Times, and your Kindle sells are off the charts... then you have to worry about your next book. Certainly it won’t live up, right? Certainly you’ll be found a fraud. Comparison creeps in and becomes such an enemy of joy. 

Where do you stand on the ladder? Can you relate? Can’t we all? No matter how high you climb, you've never accomplished enough. 

Friends, let me tell you something. 

There is no “other side,” this side of heaven. 

Let that sink in a minute. Imagine that wall you’re trying so hard to scale fade away like a hologram. 

In God's eyes, that wall never existed at all. 

Now, let me be clear. I want that publishing contract with my dream publishing house. And I want to write for them for decades and hit bestseller lists, and I want my stories to change people’s lives. I mean I really, really, really want it, guys. But in this long journey toward publication, I’ve seen many people get my dream. And you know what? I­­t didn’t make them happy/confident/satisfied if they weren’t that way before the contract. Sometimes, it did the opposite. 

Because purpose and validation don’t come in the doing, but the being. 

If you are called, you are a writer because God says you are. You don’t need contracts/reviews/sales/visibility to prove your worth. 

You are worthy because He is. You are worthy because You are his. 

So let me ask you this. What if nothing taunted you with whispers of inadequacy? What if that “next thing” you’re trying so hard to attain was just another checkpoint in the journey, rather than a turning point of validation? And what if the person you are and will be exists not by what she’s achieved, but instead by who God already is, and has been all along? 

How would your life and dreams be different? Live like that today. Ask God to show you the walls you've built and willingly begun living behind.

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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!


We are thankful for you!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In the Waiting


"I just love waiting an unforeseen amount of time for things I hold really dear to my heart," said no one ever.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm a do-er. When I first started this novel-writing journey--what was it? Seven, eight years ago?-- I thought if I just worked hard enough, I could make it happen. I was valedictorian, a university adjunct by age 24, and a girl with an amazing shoe collection. If I didn't achieve something, I just needed to work harder.

Looking back now, I realize I was such a child, you guys!

Because here's the thing.

Publication never was and never will be benchmark for "making it" or becoming a happy writer.

There is no benchmark for "making it" or becoming a happy writer.

There is only living within God's purpose or not.

There is only a life fulfilled or a life lived with perception of lack.

Now, don't get me wrong. I want to be published. I really want to be published. I want to hit the bestseller lists and my new personal goal is to be interviewed on the Hallmark Home and Family show. ;)

But I've realized something along this journey. That--all of that-- is not what writing is all about.

Writing is about the healing that comes from page to page. The messages the Lord gives you late at night. The friendships and mentorships that make you wiser, happier, and braver.

And that my friends, is why I believe so many published writers are still searching for an "it" factor... a contest win or a winning review or a certain number of sales... to finally give them that feeling of success.

Don't fall into the trap.

Don't tell yourself tomorrow will be different because tomorrow won't be different unless you are different tomorrow.

I hope this song encourages your heart if you're growing weary in the waiting. God has brought it to my Pandora station at some pretty apt times lately, and I know I can't be the only one who needs this message today. :) Because He's not just on the other side of the waiting. He's in it. With you.






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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

5 Tips to Develop Your Public Speaking Skills

This last mod of the Weekend MBA program at Purdue, I’m taking communications. It’s a class that comes fairly easy for me because I’ve spent the last 20 years intentionally working to become a better public speaker. When I graduated from undergrad many moons ago, I knew I wanted to develop as a speaker. I’d had a speech class in college, but the standard was so low, I could literally get up on days when no one else was prepared, extemporaneously give a speech, and get an A. Nice for the GPA. Not so nice for developing real skills.

Because I wanted to develop skills in this area, I intentionally sought a job in D.C. that would allow me to try, fail, and try again. I’m blessed that my bosses at the Leadership Institute gave me abundant opportunities.
I kept looking for them.
Today, public speaking is relatively easy for me. People often assume it’s always been this way. It hasn’t. Here are 5 tips that I hope will help you become more comfortable speaking.
1) Seek opportunities to practice. When the fear of public speaking ranks right up there with death, it’s often the last thing we want to do. Why on earth would we seek opportunities to do something that makes our knees quake, our stomachs tremble, and our vision blur? Because being comfortable speaking is an important skill that opens doors. So push yourself. Join an organization like Toastmasters.  The key is to practice.
2) Develop an area of expertise that you are passionate about. It is much easier to talk about areas where our passions lie. I can talk about the Monuments Men all day. I could elaborate on why I think it is so important to mentor young people consistently. You have areas of passion, too. Tap into those and your voice and gestures will be more enthusiastic and lively.
3) Watch other speakers. What do they do well? What could they improve upon? What can you learn from watching them? How do they engage with their audience? How do they use words and their voice to catch your attention. Imitate what you learn until it becomes natural to you. There are some masterful speakers to study.
4) Read Public Speaking Books. Wait. That sounds an awful lot like non-fiction, and we love fiction around here! There is a place for non-fiction and this is one of them. A lot of really smart people have written books sharing their secrets…we don’t have to learn the hard way. We can jump ahead to a new level of skill. There are a host of public speaking books out there.  A few I have in my library are Well Said by Darlene Price, The Exceptional Presenter by Tim Koegel, and How to be a Presentation god by Scott Schwertly. Others would add different books to this list. The key is to find a couple books, read them, and slowly incorporate suggestions into your speaking. The Exceptional Presenter has great tips on how to move, gestures, etc. Well Said has great basics on every aspect of speaking. Each has a strength. Taken together they form a strong picture.
5) Listen/Watch your speeches. Eric teases me when I listen to the podcasts or radio shows I’ve been a guest on. It’s not a matter of hubris, but a matter of listening to what I said and how and using that information to look for areas to improve. In the MBA class, each presentation is videotaped and we have to review and critique our performances. You should do the same. It’s only when you listen to yourself that you notice fillers (umms, uhhs, etc.) and note the speed you talk. It’s when you watch that you pick up nervous tics you’re completely unaware of. It’s not always comfortable, but it is a great way to learn.
What would you add to this list?

CLICK TO TWEET:

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.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Taking the Guesswork Out of Back Cover Copy




Whether you're about to start your NaNoWriMo journey, are plotting the bones of a new project, or have a manuscript finished and want to know how to position it, writing your back cover copy can be an invaluable step in creating a marketable, cohesive, solid story. 

In my full-time book publicist job, I was responsible for writing several back cover blurbs every day, but I've found it's a completely different thing to remove myself from my own story to write a high-level summary. Can I get a witness?

Both plotters and pantsers can benefit from being armed with this awareness of their story. Let's take some of the guesswork and intimidation out of it, shall we?

Important questions to begin with:
  • What is the big question your story will answer? (Ex: Will the hero get the girl? Can the hero survive in the face of mortal peril?)                                                                                                               
  • What does your hero want or need most in the world? (Ex: Closure, safety, to win his daughter back in a custody case, to defeat the villain and restore peace to the galaxy)
  • What is keeping your hero from getting what he wants/needs? (Ex: An evil overlord, her own self-doubt, a greedy boss, his inability to move on from the past, an expiration date due to terminal illness, writer's block)
  • What will your character lose if he/she doesn’t get this? (Ex: Certain death, unemployment, his biggest hopes and dreams, an important opportunity, her one true love)
  • What must your character learn or do to overcome this? (Ex: Defeat the evil overlord once and for all, come to an important conclusion about his life, overcome her writer's block, accomplish X before it's too late)
The key elements of back cover copy are:

  •       Hook: Grabs the reader’s attention, gives clues about setting/context, and creates reader expectations about what kind of story this will be
  •       Defining Characterization: A defining feature about your main character that pertains MOST to the plot (i.e. age/job/social status/abilities/location)
  •       Glimpse of Old Normal: A glimpse at your main character’s backstory or current normal existence.
  •       Inciting Incident: An incident, change, problem, or invitation that sets the story in motion, begins the adventure, and/or propels the character from his/her normal life (often begins with “But” or “When”)
  •       Adaptation: How the character adapts or exists in the new normal
  •      A twist: Complications that arise and threaten to prevent the character from getting what he/she wants or needs most
  •       Conclusion: What the hero must do to get what he wants/needs most. Often posed in question form.

Let's do an example from True to You by Becky Wade:
After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, (Defining characterization) genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now (Old Normal).

Unlike Nora, (Defining Characterization) former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present (Old Normal). But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition (Inciting Incident), he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother,

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. (Adaptation to New Normal) However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship (Twist). Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another (Conclusion).


If you have your back cover copy written for your current manuscript, share it with us in the comments or let us know some of these elements from your story. Don't be shy! 
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Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her novella, That's When I Knew, released with the Love at First Laugh rom-com collection this spring, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter