Thursday, January 19, 2017

Writers Boot Camp: Lip Service



Have you ever participated in a sort of boot camp? Right now i'm about halfway through an iron tribe fitness challenge. Which should be synonymous for sweat-like-a-pig-and-look-like-an-idiot torture training. And yet, there's something to be said for putting yourself out there, gritting your teeth, and just going for it. Little by little your strength grows and you even surprise yourself by what you can actually accomplish once you've worked those hibernating muscles. But as much as it hurts, we're all trembling and nearly puking together. 

And that got me thinking about writers who maybe don't have a support group, or perhaps who haven't been sharing their chapters with their critique partners for whatever reason. It doesn't matter how strong your writing muscles may be, there are still times when flexing your stuff feels rather intimidating. When you feel like you're stumbling around on achy legs and relying on clumsy muscle memory. Wondering if maybe you've lost your touch or if certain muscles aren't working quite as they used to. 

Just like those brutal lunges and impossible planks, it's not comfortable at first, and that burn definitely doesn't feel so hot. But nothing will serve you better in the long run than developing perseverance. Because if you can take some instruction and endure that initial soreness that comes from a battered ego, you'll end up lean and mean and stronger than ever.

We all say we want to grow as writers. Often times that's lip service. It sounds good. But wouldn't we all rather just be great already? Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but that is one muscle that needs constant exercise. So if we want to whip our flabby scenes into shape let's talk about a different kind of lip service. Not the smoochy kind I tend to teach about. The smart-mouth, sassy pants, word-play kind. One of my favorite things to write, besides a boiling point kissing scene, is banter. 

I can't tell you how many books I've read where scene after scene pass with gobs of missed opportunities for verbal foreplay or quirky characterization. I'm not implying that it has to be present in every scene, just that it can really amp up the dynamic and intensity of your chemistry on paper. Not just between your characters, but between you and your reader. 

PLUS! It makes your characters more relateable and 3-dimensional.

Let's hit the weights! We all have different strengths and weaknesses and this is the perfect learning opportunity. We will work on a two point system for each entry. Finding a strength and offering a suggestion. Note that these will be just that, suggestions. Like anything, take it with a grain of salt. If it works for your style, apply it. If it doesn't fit, no harm no foul. We're only looking at a tiny piece of the whole picture and writing is anything but an exact science... so lets get some story tidbits flowing and work that inspiration muscle till it hurts so good.

Who's brave enough to play? I'll go first for the warm up!

Boot Camp RULES and REGS:
-Suggestions and encouragement welcome from any and all commentors on each entry. 
-This can be very nerve-wracking for some. Kindness is mandatory, but the best trainers are known for pushing you to the limit. If you submit an entry, keep that in mind. We are rooting for you to succeed and succeed BIG! This is not a critical exercise but an educational one.
-Try to keep your entries about 250 words or under. Just a snippet that is a good representation of your style will work great! We're looking for personality in your dialogue here. If you're stuck for a good example, post a scene that needs whipping into shape. We're on it!
-If there is a large response, check back for your a response this weekend. I promise to get to them all!

I'll give you two examples from my rough draft of the types of verbal volleying we are looking for here: 

Something spunky... 

         Roughened fingers curled around her hand. “Redmond.” He shook with vigor. “Come from a long line of Norwegian blondes. Born as bare as a cue ball, so the hair is purely coincidental. Some say it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
            “And what do you say?” She shook back.
            He smiled; big, bushy eyebrows dancing with merriment. “I say it’s luck. Maybe destiny. Helped me charm the purddiest little redhead into marrying me, and it makes it plum near impossible for people to forget my name.” He released his hand to ruffle his trimmed-up chops. “Losing some of my flair though. Still smokin’ hot, just a bit of ash cooling in the fire,” Red punctuated with a wink.
            Everleigh grinned, feeling like she’d found a kindred with another spunky cock-eyed optimist who rambled just as much as she did. “Definitely unforgettable.” 
(Note: These are not wasted words. They tell you much about your character without a lot of back story dump or internal rambling.)

or something quirky that brings your character to life...


 “Put me down.”
“What? No.” Rivulets of sweat tracked down his neck and disappeared beneath the collar of his shirt.
She started to wriggle loose which awakened the shock-addled nerves in her leg. Oh oww. She sipped a breath through gritted teeth. “Jase, really. I know I’m heavy.”
He barked a laugh, holding her tighter until he found the right door and entered the darkened room. “It’s not you.”
“Ha! That line is still out there, huh? Brutal.”
She felt him shaking his head as he leaned down. Shockingly cool granite hit the backs of her legs where he deposited her on a counter.
The instant loss of his heat was replaced by a flood of light. She shouldn’t have looked but it was instinctual. A deep red stain had soaked through the fabric tied around her thigh. Tributaries of blood wove a crimson web down her leg like liquid fishnets. The entirety of her robin’s egg canvas shoe awash in a glaring garnet.
“Ohhh.” Swaying, she smacked her head against the mirrored wall. “Oh geeze. Umm.” She pinched her eyes shut. “Baby giggles. First kisses. Breakfast Blend. Stevie Wonder. Fresh baked bread. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Singing in the Rain.”
One big hand cradled her skull and kneaded the offending spot. Another pried open one eye and struck her retina with a flash of light. “What are you doing?” His voice scraped over her skin.
“I’m finding my happy place so I don’t face plant in the sink. What are you doing?” She batted at his hand stretching her eyelids oh so flatteringly.
            “Just making sure you’re still with me.” 

(This is a very tense scene that peels back another layer of the characters identities and struggles. The playfulness is a much needed reprieve for the reader after the previous action sequence. Use that dialogue to your advantage. Make it work for you. Don't make it filler!)

Let's see what you got?

<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 writes romantic mysteries with honesty and humor, sweetness and spice, and gritty reality covered by grace. When she’s not stealing moments at naptime to squeeze out a few more adventures in storyland, she’s chasing around two tow-headed miscreants (Ahem)—boys, playing dress up with one sweet princess baby, and being the very blessed wife to the coolest, most swoon-worthy man alive. Amy is a Midwestern-girl, a singer, blogger, runner, coffee-addict, and foodie. Her Sports Medicine degree is wasted patching up daily boo boo’s, but whatever is left usually finds its way onto the page with fluttering hearts, blood and guts, and scars that lead to happily ever after.

Check out her NEW romantic mystery novel FROM WINTER'S ASHES! Available NOW!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Story Within Your Story


When I was in college, I was taught that stories structured according to a plan and moral were formulaic and lacked the organic honesty necessary to a great work of art. What I learned how to do was write beautifully symbolic imagery, fragmented from any sort of larger purpose (and we could launch into a whole discussion of academia and postmodernism with that, but let's be honest, I would be the only one interested in it. :) ).

Then, I went the other direction. When I fell in love with writing romance for CBA, I was finally free to write those moral-of-the-story scenes my heart had longed to put on the page. What I ended up writing then were overly-formulaic sequences wherein the characters came across flat and predictable.

Now, I realize-- all great stories need both honesty and morality.

If you try to hard to actively push a moral or agenda, you do not have a story. You have instruction, preaching, and perhaps, some metaphor. But you don't have an honest and gripping story.

But if, on the other hand, you follow where your whims take you and write compelling scenes with absolutely beautiful imagery that do not advance any kind of larger plot and structure, you do not have a premise. And therein again, your story probably stinks.

Ever wonder why no one really enjoys reading literary fiction? Even us book nerds who "get it"?

BECAUSE THERE IS NO STORY! You guys, it seems to painfully obvious to me now. I don't know why I didn't figure this out ten years ago, when I thought I might want to write "literary fiction."

If you haven't read Stanley Williams' book The Moral Premise, you absolutely need to buy and read it ASAP... it's probably the most helpful text I've ever read for writers. And in it, Williams essentially says that every strong story--every story that resonates with readers or viewers-- upholds some sort of moral premise. Even a tragedy. Think about Finding Nemo and the questions it presents to us of identity and home. Or It's A Wonderful Life, and its themes of contentment and community. Or Jane Austen's preoccupation with class structure and gender power relations.

If you want your story to be successful, it needs to present a consistent moral. But how does that happen? Do you go out and say, "I want this story to be about faithfulness... or love... or grace... or forgiveness... or fear"? Well, maybe. Some people do. But usually, that gets you into dangerous territory because you start to force your characters.

There's another way I want to suggest.

Know yourself.

Pray.

And then recognize within yourself the themes that are important to you.

Allen Arnold often says in his workshops that the enemy preemptively attacks areas of God's greatest glory in our lives.

Are you afraid of failure? Then why? What do you have to lose? Could it be that your fear actually stems from a great passion and purpose that you need boldness to step into?

Are you angry? Bitter? Then why? Do you need to forgive someone--even yourself-- to find the healing God has extended to you?

 Struggling with insecurity? Why? Do you feel the dream God's given you is just too big to actually come true?

Dig deep. I know it's not always easy. Be honest. And I'll bet you'll find something amazing-- that the moral of your manuscript is already within you.

See, your characters don't have to preach to one another in order to speak God's truth.

I dare you to do something braver.

I dare you to tell your story through the themes of your manuscript. To not hide behind forced dialogue attempting to prove your point. But instead, to write the struggles that you have faced--that others face-- in all their complexity.

Then you will discover the story within your story.

So, be brave, friends. Dig deep. Because the world needs to hear that story!




###



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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Five Feature with Mesu Andrews

Happy Friday the 13th, People!! One of my favorite days of the year.

We are celebrating with a Friday Five Feature with author Mesu Andrews!! YAY!!


So, Mesu, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet you at ACFW for the first time in 2016 and then share a delightful lunch with you! Your publishing story is pretty amazing, but also your unique historical writing period.

1.       What draws you to the Biblical history genre?

Well, I actually started my journey as a speaker and Bible teacher. I was an off-the-charts extrovert and never sat still long enough to write a note, let alone a book. When I was diagnosed in 1997 with fibromyalgia, my speaking ministry slowed down, and I began journaling and writing devotionals that I emailed to family and friends. In 2002, I had a health crash that put me in bed for six months. That’s when I wrote my first novel—biblical fiction—because my first love is deep research into Scripture. I’m a library nerd that loves the ancient texts and original languages!

2.       Your journey to fiction publishing started in nonfiction, right? How did the transition go and do you still enjoy writing nonfiction?

Oooops! I guess I sort of answered some of that above, but the transition was ugly. I was determined to write something I called “Deep-o-tionals,” one-page mini-studies that were deeper than a normal devotional but short enough to get through in twenty minutes or less. Publishers didn’t want them because retailers wouldn’t know where to put them on their shelves—study or devotional? I had one of the best agents in the CBA knocking on every door, but no one was interested. I nearly gave up on publishing altogether.

Then a friend said, “Why don’t you teach with fiction?” I was a little offended. I mean, I was a SERIOUS Bible student. I’d never even read a Christian novel! She then pushed a little harder. “Do you think you’re a better teacher than Jesus? He taught with stories, you know?”
Ouch! That’s when I started learning the fiction craft. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do—and I LOVE it!

3.       Deep-o-tionals? Really? And what a wise friend to challenge you!!

As a blog for ‘newer and not-so-new- writers, we’re constantly trying to glean wisdom from other authors. What advice would you share with a new author…or one who just really needs to hear some encouragement today?

I guess my advice is, Don’t give up, but listen for God’s change in direction. If I hadn’t been listening for His change in direction, I’d still be knocking my head against the wall with Deep-o-tionals, and I wouldn’t have discovered how much I love writing fiction. He may not ask you to make as drastic of a change (from non-fiction to fiction), but He may ask you to consider contemporary instead of historical or YA instead of contemporary.

And, BTW, I still think I’ll publish Deep-o-tionals someday. I may even publish Bible studies. But it will be when God opens the door, not when I have to shove it open with a crowbar. I’m still learning to watch for His road signs and follow the path He leads me on…not the path I make for myself with a bulldozer.

4.       Wise woman!! You’ve recently moved to the mountains of North Carolina (GREAT choice ;-), what have you enjoyed about the move and what has been an unexpected challenge?

My two greatest joys in this move are being closer to our daughters and their families (love those grand babies!) and the folks at our new church. We’ve found an incredible sense of “home” already, and I’m so grateful to my Heavenly Father for that.

The challenge (and it was actually expected) has been juggling family and new church responsibilities with writing full time. While we lived in Washington State, we were empty nester “old farts,” who had no family around and only our careers and friends at church to enjoy. I could work fourteen-hour days and not feel as though I was cheating anyone. Not so with family and church family around! I’m still praying for godly wisdom to juggle all aspects of my new blessings well.

5.       Please share with us about your most recent release and anything you have in the works for the future.
My most recent release is Miriam, the second of two installments in The Treasures of the Nile series. Here’s the back cover blurb:
Buzz Line:Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know. 
Back Cover Copy:At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name Yahweh and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?

My upcoming release, Isaiah’s Daughter, is scheduled for Fall 2017. It tells the story of Hephzibah, wife of Hezekiah—the most righteous king of Judah—and mother of Manasseh—the most wicked king of Judah. Jewish legend says she was the prophet Isaiah’s daughter, and my research has revealed some amazing things about her. I can’t wait for folks to get to know Hephzibah, my favorite name in Scripture—“God’s delight is in her.” I want to be Hephzibah every day of my life! How about you?

This sounds GREAT!! What a wonderful gift you have to bring the stories/culture of the Bible to life through fiction! Thanks so much for being a part of our Friday Five Feature, Mesu!!!

You can learn more about Mesu and her books on her website at http://www.mesuandrews.com/ 

If you missed out on the posts for this week, it's not too late to glean the wisdom and encouragement.

Julia has a beautiful post about Kissing Frantic Goodbye

And from author Cara Putman we have a helpful post about how to write More than 1 Book at One Time...WOW...feeling that right now!!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 Ways to Write More than 1 Book

I have often written multiple books at the same time. It's a part of life when one of your hats is professional writer. But it can also be a real part of the writing journey when you're getting started writing. The challenge is learning how to juggle the multiple characters, plots, and timelines.  Here are a few tips I've developed over the years to let me do exactly that:
[Tweet "Need to write more than 1 book at a time? Overwhelmed? @cara_putman offers 5 #strategies. #amwriting"]
  • Use different music to signal to my brain that I’ve switched times/genres/etc.

Right now I’m writing suspense to an Avengers/movie soundtrack channel I’ve built on Pandora. As soon as it comes on my brain settles down. I use different music for cozy mysteries or WWII historicals. This has worked really well for me over time which is why I listed it first. There's something about the music that lets my mind know immediately which book to focus on in that moment. 
  • Always stop mid scene so I can easily get back into what I was thinking when I stopped writing.

One way to smooth out this process of transitioning from book to book is to make a few bullet point notes of where I saw the scene heading before I end for the day. That alone saves a lot of time and helps me get started quickly when I start the next day or week or whenever I can come back to the story. It also allows me to end knowing that I know where to begin, alleviating the blank page syndrome.
  • Edit what I wrote the day before to get back into the story flow.

This is a great way to get right back into the story. It also helps me to let go of the editing details while I'm writing. If I know I'm going to come back the next day and clean up the spelling and grammar issues, it lets me focus on words on the page. It also helps me get immediately back into the story.  
  • Occasionally I will alternate days, but I don’t always have the luxury.

My friend Lenora Worth does something like this consistently. I loved how she put it:
When I'm working on more than one project, I compartmentalize them. I might work on a suspense in the morning and a romance in the afternoon. Or I pick days and stick to that--suspense on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, other things on Tuesday and Thursday. For a while, I wrote novel length books on weekdays and turned to Indie novellas on the weekend.  Or I'd work on longer books all day and save one precious hour for other projects at the end of the day.
  • Research one while writing the other. 

This last one works well. I like to let my brain think about one book by writing another. It may be researching an idea, reading background books, locating sources, but it's a different kind of creative work that writing. It also allows me the break from an intense focus on one book and allows my subconscious to work on the second book. This process works really well for me. 
If you're feeling the pull to work on two books or have multiple deadlines, I hope these tips help you make that process work. Do you have a different way for writing multiple books? I'd love to read about your tips and strategies. Be sure to leave them in the comments below! Thanks for joining the conversation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kiss Frantic Goodbye: The Backwards Path to Increasing Creativity


A cuppa is a great start to a slow moment...
Word count goals. Deadlines. New Year’s writing resolutions. We put a lot of focus on productivity and that’s a good thing.

Don’t ditch those plans. But what if the answer to growing in your writing life this year is slow:

Doing less doesn’t mean lazy, even though sometimes it might feel that way.
Doing less doesn’t mean doing nothing, even though that might be nice sometimes.
Doing less doesn’t mean giving up on life, even though you probably feel that way right now before you even start this habit.
Doing less will actually make you more productive.
Doing less will add energy back into your days — not to mention many other positive emotions, too.
Doing less is a way of life, a practice and it begins right here, where you are right now.
(from Savoring Slow by Shawn Fink)

In 2016, my family and I faced a number of trials and struggles. Everything from financial difficulties to hospitalizations. My heart was raw and my jeans frayed at the knees, my voice hoarse from crying out to the Lord.

Something had to change. My stress levels hit an all-time high. The busyness of my everyday life combined with these trials brought me to near-collapse level. Like many I wore busy like a badge. Family, homeschool, church, ministry obligations, etc. It all came to a halt the second time my husband was hospitalized.
Frantic and I needed to break up. It was a long process and still continues in some ways. In the last few months I’ve found myself misunderstood by friends for whom busy was a way of life as I learned to say some hard no’s.

No to that small group that wasn’t benefiting my heart. No to that obligation that was good but not best. No to what was taking time away from my priorities.

After busy and I said our goodbyes, he would pop up daily to see if I was ready to give the relationship another shot. Was I always strong? No, but I had someone new in my life and he was changing me. I might join busy for an hour or two but I began to miss my new sweetheart, Slow.

As I started my day with Slow he changed my life, from the inside out. Instead of rushing through a half hour devotional I found myself waking up earlier and earlier without the alarm. Slow was growing my relationship with the Lord and I couldn’t get enough. With unrushed time at my father’s feet, Joy and Peace came to visit on a regular basis.

Slow and I took moonlit walks, had time to throw snowballs at my daughter even when there was work to be done, enjoyed the spotless appearance of freshly washed dishes, and pressed our faces on the dryer warm towels.

After Slow and I had been together for a while, I noticed something new. I was reading books for fun not just for review. When I read the news, I was fresh with ideas for a story.

Is Frantic frustrating you? Damaging your writing life and creativity? Frantic is a slave driver and you may find your productivity increased for a little while, but only at great cost to your health, mental well-being, and sanity!

Here are some ways to SLOW down and increase your creativity that are working for me:

1)      Come to him and find rest.

"'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'"-Matthew 11:28



Don’t rush your time with God! Are you tired in your writing life? Deadlines bogging you down? The publishing journey doesn’t look like you expected? His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He gives true rest.



Why do we work in our own strength, not bringing it all to his feet? Yes, he wants us to work hard but he is the one who gives us strength, creativity, and everything else we need for our writing journey.



How can we expect him to fill us with His words when we are not intaking His words? As we read his word and stop relying on our own strength in our writing life, He will bless our words.



2)    Prune your life in view of what matters.



“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”-1 John 2:17



What is the desire of your heart? Everything of this world will pass away. What are we valuing in our writing life?



To worship and glorify God, to serve my family are the first priorities of my life. Everything else comes below. To use the common analogy of the rocks, I don’t want to spend a majority of my time on sand or pebbles. Instead I want to put my big rocks into the jar first.



For me my writing is a way God calls me to worship and glorify him. But what writing activities fall under that purpose? That’s where I need to be prayerful. Not every opportunity is a blessing from the Lord as it could be a temptation pulling me away from the most important things in my life.



As I filter my life through my priorities I find it is easier to let go of busy. Some of the things we find most stressful may be something we are NOT called to do. It may be a good thing but not our best so we need to seek the Lord. There is little more stressful than doing something in my own strength and little more peaceful than walking in His.



For me this meant letting go of a club and a ministry. Both of these were good things, but pulling me away from the best.



3)    Give it all to Him.



“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7



What makes you anxious in your writing life? Do you worry about the market growth? Wonder if there’s a place for your story? Afraid you won’t get published traditionally, at least on your timetable?



God cares about all the little details of our writing life. ALL. Pray about all these things.



One of my favorite places in my city to savor God's beauty
Keep in mind that a SLOW publishing journey may be giving you time to savor the process. Just as our children grow up in a blink, we should be making the most of these moments of our writing life instead of letting them pass away. When we wish for a new stage for our child we are missing the small pleasures along the way. LOVE the whole journey.



4)    Creativity is built in the quiet moments, as we focus in on his world.





“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10



Enjoy his creation in the people and nature around you. Spend time smelling the fresh bread rising in your oven and enjoying cambric tea in your violet mug.



When we write we are told to engage all five senses in our scenes. Well, this is good advice for savoring and enjoying life. As we engage in life with all our senses, our writing will flow from the richness in our life.

In the slow, quiet moments of our life we find our creativity fueled as we sit at his feet, savor the everyday blessings of our senses, and find the joy in the world our Savior has created.



How do you savor slow in your writing life?



Julia Reffner is a child of God, wife, mom, and lover of words. She enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction and makes her home in central Virginia with three sweet ragdolls.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Five with PEPPER BASHAM!

Hi, friends! I'm up for the Friday five today, and I got to thinking-- who would be better to interview with these fun questions that our very own and dearly beloved Pepper? I hope you get to know a little bit more about this extraordinary woman through my short interview with her, and be sure to comment to let her know how much you love her too! So without further adieu, here's Pepper!


1. What’s your favorite recipe to make?

Well, I really like making The Dark Knight Chocolate Torte because I can taste test often 😉  It also lasts a long time in the fridge because you have to eat it in small slices because its so rich 🙂

2. What are your hopes for 2017?

World peace? LOL. I think we have to wait for Heaven for that one. In writing, I'd LOVE to find my publishing home with a 'dream' house who really believed in my writing (whatever genre 😉 )

I'm really looking forward to stepping into the Indy world  in 2017 with a March novella and an April novel. 🙂

3) What led you to want to start the Alley?

Well, I saw what a blast the lovely Seekers had together in their fantastic community of Seekerville, so I hoped to build a similar community except for newbies like I was at the time. It's been such a wonderful experience and making these Alleycat friends has gotten me through so many struggles both personally and professionally, as well as just been a sweet fellowship. I love being able to offer something to new writers out of the overflow of what we've cultivated here at The Alley.

4) What has surprised you most about publishing?

Where do I begin? Well, I think we all have this Cinderella image in our head of how things are going to go when our book finally makes it into print, and it's very different. There certainly are fantastic blessings - holding your book for the first time, getting readers' responses & encouragement, having someone come up to you in a store and tell you they loved your story...those are AMAZING - but the other side is the constant challenges to meet deadlines, keep up marketing/promoting. Easily the biggest struggle for me - that I thought might rectify itself once I was published, is my confidence in my skill. Despite having published 4 books and getting some great feedback on those, I think we naturally struggle with wondering how to improve. How to get to the bigger pub house? How to increase sales? How to encourage more reviews? Ultimately though, the problem isn't with the publishing world - but my own heart and my need to fall into the arms of the God who gave me the stories and skills to write. When I'm walking in His calling for my life, 'success' has a very different definition - and THAT's where my heart needs to dwell instead of looking for that 'success' outside 🙂

5) Tell us a little bit about your new projects!

 I have 3 projects I'm super excited to share!! As many of you know, my historical romance, The Thorn Healer, released last month. This story is dear to my heart because of its location (Blue Ridge Mountains of NC), its swoony hero, and the incredible true events related to a WW1 German internment camp hidden away in the mountains. RT made it a Top Pick AND gave it 4 1/2 stars. It's the third in a series but can totally be read as a stand-alone.


Upcoming, I have some fun fun surprises in store! In March, my first novella will arrive in a compilation with some amazing romcom authors. So if you like to laugh, get ready, because Second Impressions arrives in March and then....oh boy THEN...my FAVORITE novel comes out in April- Just the Way You Are. It's a Rom Com of Brittalachian proportions.  Can you tell I'm a little excited about this?





Pepper, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these fun questions about you and your writing! I hope our readers learned more about you. And let me just say, I read half of Just the Way You Are, and I LOVED it too! Can't wait for it to release!



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why The Wait?


Timing.

For a person with a deficit in patience, this word, timing, is haunt-worthy. Timing can make my insides quiver so much with anxiety and fear that I won't wait long enough for perfect timing, but that the wait will be too long for me to stay sane.

With the tick of the clock a hair past midnight this last Sunday, I entered the year of my debut as a published author. Timing becomes a magnificent, frightful word as I think of all that needs to be done before my first book hits the shelves. I must time my writing and edits to be ready by deadlines. Working with two different publishers, I pray the timing of each edit and authorly duty lines up in a somewhat manageable way. Timing seems to be a fragile piece of my existence right now.

And I am totally okay with that. This is my dream. This is where I hoped to be at some point in my life. This is it. But mostly, I am okay with the magnitude of timing in my life because I've seen how God has used timing in a most perfect way to get me to this place. I reflected on my recent years, 2013 (when my first manuscript was shopped and rejected) up to the present day, and I wanted to share some things that I've learned during my wait, and maybe it's why I had to wait.

1. My Community was Built. I fell in love with my writer friendships. A bit dramatic? Maybe, but it's the truth. I connected with ladies who knew my heart as a writer, and allowed me into their lives in an authentic, Christ-loving way. I found hope in the writing journey because my friends held my hands and rubbed my back when all seemed lost. And in this, I grew not as a writer, but as a heart. My heart became soft for the needs of others and the value of authenticity in this short, precious life.



2. There was a Pride Monster, and He needed to kill it. Oh, Lord, if ever there was a pride monster, it was me. My gut reaction in every rejection, every criticism, every other person's success was a measurement against them according to me. Yuck. Do you know what the best way to kill a Pride Monster? Starve it. Even though I had my sweet friends and my agent encouraging me along the way, my heart was set on publication and I was not getting that. I wanted it so badly that I turned ugly when it seemed to slip through my fingers with every rejection. And I spiraled and I came up for air to those authentic friendships speaking Truth in love. God knew what He was doing when He built my community, and He knew He would use it to lift me up and tear down my ugly.


3. The Darkest Valley Was Ahead. Everything stood still in 2014. My personal crisis gave me little room for any true focus on my writing success. If anything, it made the effort seem petty. When you go through your days wondering if you'll make it to the next morning without a complete mental breakdown, you can't really dream. My dream in those moments was to crawl out of my skin and run away. This was not about my writing, this was about God's faithfulness to someone who was losing faith--in the person she loved, in the life she constructed, in the heart that was broken. Looking back (I did climb up and out of this valley), I needed this valley walk (or crawl) to happen when it did--without a book on the shelf, without confidence in something that I had accomplished. I needed brokenness to become stronger and know that my strength has nothing to do with me.

These are just three obvious reasons why I waited...why He made me wait (snicker)...I am sure there are more, actually, I can think of more, but I am sure there are more profound reasons for His timing to obliterate my own.

What if things went according to my plan? What would I do without these pieces along my timeline, refining me, preparing me, and growing me? How could I ever think that my plan and my control was adequate?

And as if I needed to be reminded about that fragile thing of timing and how it truly is not my own, even the publication dates of my novels seem to show Who is really in control.  Go over to my extended post on this at my personal blog here, and learn the rest of the story. ;)

Have you ever looked back on your journey, and discovered just how perfect God's timing is? What are some instances that He's used to give you a glimpse at His plan for you?

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Angie Dicken is a mom of four children and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she writes historical, historical romance, and dabbles in contemporary romance. Her debut, The Outlaw's Second Chance from Harlequin Love Inspired Historical releases in September of 2017, and her novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah from Barbour, releases in November 2017. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. 
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