Monday, December 5, 2016

Grammarly Giveaway!

November has come to a close, and hundreds of thousands of aspiring novelists face a challenge—to edit and finish what they started. The Writer's Alley teamed up with Grammarly to give away a year of Grammarly Premium to help one lucky writer proofread their novel-to-be.

Doesn't that sound AMAZING!!! I'm totally jealous right now that Alleycats can't enter.

Grammarly is sharing some quick tips for all of us today as part of this great giveaway.

Understanding the Most Frequent Writing Mistakes

Grammarly provided the top five grammar and punctuation issues that often confuse writers. Check out these articles if you’d like to learn more.


4. Hyphen

You can learn more about grammarly on their website at

Leave a comment with one area of grammar you struggle to keep straight to enter for your chance to win :-)

Friday, December 2, 2016

News, Reviews, and Giveaways, Oh My! Plus a Fun Friday Five with Nicole Deese!

First up! Awesome Alley Cat NEWS!!!

Image result for the thorn healerOur fearless leader Pepper Basham has a FABULOUS book releasing next week. In fact, it’s so fabulous it got 4 ½ STARS and was awarded a Top Pick for Romantic Times! Woo hoo!!! Get ready to be wowed! I mean, do you see this cover? And that's only the cover! The best part is inside!

Next order of buisness, we have WINNERS from our Coffee Talks:

Heather Gilbert’s Indie Publishing Handbook: Polaris Northstar
Heather Gilbert’s Reader’s Choice: Amber Schamel
Casey Herringshaw’s Surprise Book: Kelly Blackwell
And Mary Vee’s copy of The Ringmaster’s Wife goes to… Cara Grandle
Congrats! Please email your contact info to Angie at agdicken(@)gmail(.)com.

Today we also have a drop in with one of my favorite authors (and people) Nicole Deese. And since I can’t gush enough about her latest release, The Promise of Rayne, one commenter will win an e-copy of said masterpiece. (Check back in the comments on Sunday night. I’ll announce the winner and how you can claim your bounty) :)

So Nicole, dish….
1. What’s the most random thing in your bag right now?

Nicole: Slippers. Yep, I have a pair of black Isotoner slippers (the same style my grandmother wore) hibernating in my purse right now. They have bailed me out of numerous “ouchy shoe situations” (think super loooong wedding receptions and/or formal Christmas parties when your feet won’t take another step in your way-cute-but-so-not-practical high heels). Basically, these slippers are yoga pants for the feet. Not even kidding. I never leave home without them. (Get these babies on your Christmas list, ladies. You’ll thank me!) 

Amy: Haha! I knew I liked you. I have the same pair in white. Although I do tend to keep them at home. But that's thinking! Emerency slippers is genius!

2. Favorite holiday movie?

Nicole: “Can I refill your eggnog? Get you something to eat, drive you into the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?” — Clark Griswold, Christmas Vacation (1989).

Amy: Well, at least you didn't say A Christmas Story. ;)

3. What are you currently reading?

Nicole: I just finished a great book and I’m about to start my Christmas reads for the season: One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg and Starring Christmas by Rachel McMillan and Allison Pittman. These novellas look adorably sweet and festive! 

4. Any nervous habits or vices?

Nicole: I’d like to say I have no vices, but the mini fridge in my writing office crammed full of every flavor of La Croix Sparking Water would say otherwise. I always sometimes throw a few in my purse if I know I’m going to be out a while … which I guess could be an alternative answer for question #1. 

Amy: You did rather eagerly share your precious La Croix with me at conference this summer. (I think she was hoping to convert me.) It was a... ah... a little strange since it's not sweet, but not horrible. It could grow on me if I gave it a solid chance. And whenever I see them in the store I think of you and your crazy obsession and smile. One of these days I'll pick up a case. :) ANYone else like La Croix?

And most importantly, the world at large needs to know your thoughts on this very critical matter…
5. Chocolate or vanilla?

Nicole: Is this a real question? I feel insulted on the behalf of chocolate lovers everywhere. 

Amy: Poor vanilla. It's just too vanilla. 

About Nicole:

Nicole Deese is a full time lover of humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled fiction. When she's not writing a sweet romance, she can usually be found reading one near a window while drinking La Croix. She lives in small-town, Idaho with her handsome hubby and two sons. 

Thanks for dropping in to chat with us, Nicole!

Alley Pals... be sure you pre-order Pepper’s beautiful book, The Thorn Healer, enter to win Nicole’s The Promise of Rayne (or just go get yourself a copy), and have a wonderful weekend curled up with an adventure!

Happy Friday!

<3 Amy

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Grief of Expectations

If you knew me in my every day life, you might know that I am grieving.

Actually, if you lived in my house, you might know this--I haven't really shared it with anyone but my husband.

The thing is, I am not really mourning anything that existed. I am not mourning an actual loss. Strange, right?

I remember grieving when my grandfather passed away, and then both of my grandmothers. That was this grieving encapsulated in fond memories, the knowledge of all that life finally laying down to rest. That was an expected grieving.

We all expect to grieve the loss of those near to us.

But I didn't expect this grief in my present time.

I didn't expect to grieve such a self-inflicted pain. I am grieving the expectations that have suddenly lost their hold on me--the false hope that has gripped me all these years as a mother.

I remember holding my little son in my arms after that first hour of his life. So many expectations for him, but mostly for me as his mother. And over these years, expectations have been borrowed, imposed, forced, and strived for.

Now, he's fourteen, and most days, I want to crawl in a corner and grieve the shattered pieces of all that expectation for something that will never be. I am not the mom I want to be. Everything is different. It's like I am waking up to someone else's life. And I don't know what to do with it.

Expectations are these tricky things. They kindle hope and excitement when first born in the mind of the dreamer. Now, those expectations are stabbing me with their pointy shards and reminding me that they were more toxic than real. In my grief, I step out of this dead shell and realize that those expectations are just trapping me.

I felt this way last year as an author, when I realized that the book I'd put so much hope in--and even my identity in--to be quite honest--was going to sit stagnant for a good long while. It would NOT be my starting point into a best-seller's career. It would not define me as I may have thought--it was not my entry into the publishing world.

Oh but I just LOVE that story. My heart skips a beat every time I dwell on the plot, and the character, and the theme. Just like my arms tingle when I catch a glimpse of my children fitting the shape of that broken expectation, even for a brief moment.

Expectations are horrible, wonderful things. For the even-tempered, they are nice gauges. But for the over-emotional, wildly-dreaming, perfectionist me, they are my greatest life-stealer.

Do you have a book that is lying there, in a grave of unmet expectation? Is this whole writing thing nothing you hoped for and now you're stuck trying to find breath again?

You aren't alone. It's a tough place to be--this side of dead expectations. I remind myself that I need to wipe away the tears that I've shed as a very fallible mother and wake up to this reality. My life isn't starting over, it's growing toward authenticity and assurance that I can't do this thing alone. God's given me children who are gifts in a different way than I could ever expect. And God's given me to my children. He knows what's ahead, and my only hope (expectation) is in His willingness to guide me and fill in the gaps.

And, oh...there are so many gaps that I leave as a very human mother.

It's just the same as those stories we love. If there is anything we need to expect, it's for the grief to end and new life to begin in a new story with a new purpose. And that God's got this. Our only hope is Him, because He's our breath of inspiration, right? So why do we fall in love with the story more than the Creator of the inspiration? Those crazy human expectations just need to die.

Walking away from the season of mouring, I must place my hope in an ever grace-filled God, knowing that in Him, my future for myself and my family is secure. And I place my hope in His will for that story. While my own expectations for it are gone, the story's not a loss. Just waiting for a gap to be filled.

Just like yours.

All in His time--The only true expectation.

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom 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 historical romance novel, published by Barbour, will come out in November 2017, and her Harlequin Love Inspired Historical novel comes out in Spring 2018. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Come hang out with me on social media!
Twitter: @angiedicken

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Criticism? Who Likes Criticism??

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Criticism is, unfortunately, part of the game when you put your words on a page and then submit them to a critique partner or a contest or a first reader or your mother (well, maybe not your mother… ;-)). It seems to be a dangerous business, writing. I don’t know why it has to be such a land-mine pursuit, but it seems the more we put ourselves out there and write more from our heart and fall harder for our stories, the more criticism we can get. And the harder it gets.

Being told you stink at something is never easy, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a huge fan of it myself. ;-) When you look at how hard you work and how many hours you spend alone pounding the keyboard, only to be told by a judge that your POV is a mess and your characters are flat and unlikeable, it’s enough to plant one’s head squarely in the middle of the keyboard/screen/desk/wall, etc, etc.

But criticism does not have to be all bad. Yes, I know. You’re scowling at me fiercely right now because I’m telling you to actually like being corrected. Well…maybe not like, because who likes that?? But there is much more to be learned from criticism than there is to be learned from praise. While all correction should be taken with a grain of salt, it might be an opportunity to see the big picture flaws we miss when we’re zoomed in too close in our stories.

What is the universal appeal of your hero and heroine? Did the judges or first readers find them fun and entertaining or flat and apathetic?

Look at what you’re aiming for and then see if what and where the criticism is coming from matches up or is moving in the same direction. If you’re aiming for a funny and light-hearted heroine, but you’re being told she’s moody and discouraging, maybe it’s time for an edit—or maybe a change of genre. ;-)
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Is the topic of your “voice” coming up in more discussions or disturbingly absent? Read the comments as one would who has no emotional attachment to your story. If this was your friend’s story or a random book off the shelf would you agree or disagree with the comments?

It’s easy to immediately disagree with everything the critique had to say, but stop for just a minute. Separate yourself from the heart-wounded part and pull up those muck boots to go in for another stomp around and discovery. (Yes, I just went all farm girl on you.)

While it’s never easy to volunteer for criticism or correction for anyone even when the criticisms are so far out in left field that’s it’s not even worth putting the time into reading! Novel crafting is one of the most subjective businesses out there—it’s not even funny how subjective it is. And yes, it’s a near constant lesson in the art of accepting criticism gracefully.

But it gets a little bit easier if you think in these terms: we’re in the place we love. God put us here. This is part of His hands forming our clay. Put’s a little bit different perspective on it, doesn’t it? J


Why you should be ok accepting criticism as a #writer in the 21st century. @C_Herringshaw #amwriting

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, November 25, 2016

Coffee Talk, Part II

GOOD MORNING, FRIENDS! Angie here again! I am still full from yesterday! Thanksgiving dinner was amazing, but I am just going to have coffee for about you? Perfect for this Coffee Talk. 
Last week, there was some great discussion and several entries into our 4 part giveaway. Be sure to check out what's up for grabs at the end of the post, and then comment for an entry. We had three great authors share with us about book promotion at our first Coffee Talk, and we have three more award-winning, multi-published authors here today! 

Sit back and sip your beverage (let us know what you are drinking too), and let's begin our Coffee Talk!

 Welcome to our three authors:
Becky Wade makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children.  She’s the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award winning author of contemporary Christian romances, My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, Meant to Be Mine,  A Love Like Ours, and Her One and Only.

Sarah Sundin is the author of nine historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm and When Tides Turn (coming March 2017). Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California.

Please visit her at

Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse who believes love, laughter and faith are the best medicines. She likens her exciting Mercy Hospital and Grace Medical series to "Grey's Anatomy finds its soul." A native Californian, she is the mother of two and proud grandmother to seven. 

Thank you for joining us, ladies! Here are a couple of questions. We are looking forward to learning from your past book promotion experiences!

First, how soon did you start promoting your book, and what is the most effective way you stirred interest? 

BECKY-I typically brainstorm promotion ideas and meet with my publisher's marketing manager to discuss those ideas 4-5 months prior to release. From then on, I work slowly and steadily, ticking off items on my marketing 'To Do' list. I ramp up my efforts two weeks prior to release, then promote the new book wholeheartedly through its release month.
I think that the blog tours and giveaways that Litfuse Publicity has organized for me have been the most effective at stirring interest.

SARAH- It starts in a soft way as soon as I sign a contract with mentions in my newsletter and
social media, with occasional mentions through the writing phase and a bit more of a push when the cover is revealed and the book is available for pre-order. Real promotion doesn’t start until about three months before the release, gaining steam in the final month before release (to encourage pre-orders) and in the first three months after release. Then it quiets down again. Whew.
I don’t know what the most effective method has been for me. In reality, it’s probably a cumulative effect—email newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, review blog tours, giveaways, contacting libraries, speaking engagements, launch parties, book signings, radio interviews, press releases, articles, and blog posts. Most of this is very hard to measure, but I’m willing to try new things and see what sticks, what I like, and what resonates with readers. Some I cast aside after a trial, and others I embrace.

CANDACE- My Tyndale House team is really so amazing. We have a conference call about 6 months before the release of each new book to go over the marketing plan and toss around ideas—they really encourage author input. I’ll have my book image/blurb/first chapter up on my website 4 months before release, and we’ll make plans for blog tours and discuss ARCs for key reviewers and influencers. For my upcoming release, Maybe It’s You, we’re trying some new things like author videos, short little films to give readers a “glimpse behind the scenes” at the making of a story. My talented videographer is also my daughter and we have a great time; it goes without saying there will also be some silly outtakes. I seem to have a particular talent for bloopers.

Okay, book signings, launch parties, online launch parties...what was your favorite way to promote your book? What are a couple of things you did during that time to encourage readers?

For the last two releases, I've done both a launch party/book signing at Barnes & Noble and I've done a Facebook launch party.

For the launch party at Barnes & Noble, I send out postcard invitations. The night of the event, I offer cookies and scones from the Cafe to snack on. I give a Power Point presentation followed by Q&A time. Then I chat with everyone and sign books.

As nice as "real world" launch parties are, Facebook launch parties are my favorite. I've had Facebook parties on my publisher's page, I've had them on event pages, and I've had them on my own author page. I prefer to host them on my author page because, when I have a party there, readers don't have to go somewhere separate to attend. Also, each post that I put up during the party has a chance to be seen by a wide number of people over the next few days (whether or not they were able to attend the party 'live'). I prepare every post and graphic ahead of time, so I'm free to spend the party interacting with readers. I encourage readers to come by: A) Giving away a lot of great prizes. B) Making the party (hopefully) fun. I never say 'buy my book'. Instead I ask a lot of questions about themes and careers and settings that tie in with my book in some way.   

My all-time favorite promotion was the launch party for Through Waters Deep. It started as a simple “book signing plus” at my local Barnes & Noble. We planned to have a reading and refreshments and do some fun giveaways. But it grew. We added nautical decorations to go with the WWII Navy theme. We played big band music overhead. A high school musical group performed. Barnes & Noble agreed to donate profits to Homes for Our Troops, which aids wounded veterans. Best of all, my agent, Rachel Kent at Books & Such, came and taught swing dancing! We were literally dancing in the aisles! Not only was it a blast and a fun way for me to give back to my reader friends, but it ended up creating some publicity buzz.

To encourage readers, I try to focus promotion efforts on them. First, I try to respect their time and honor their trust by not inundating them with emails and Facebook posts and tweets. Moderation and restraint. Second, I try to make promotional events educational or inspirational, to provide “added value” to the reading experience. For example, I went to Hawaii earlier this month and visited Pearl Harbor. Since my readers are interested in World War II, I’m planning a blog series in early December for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I’ll share photos, plus I’ll give away commemorative items I bought there. It’s “promotion” because it stirs interest in WWII and in my books (I hope), but more importantly it will provide information, time for reflection, and gifts someone will treasure. I love doing things like that.

While book signings and local parties are fun, online venues reach a much larger number of readers and accommodate folks across the country—and the around the globe. My Tyndale House social media team (ARC podcast, @crazy4fiction) are wonderful at cyber hosting for upcoming releases. We’ve already had a “Sweetest Day” feature (using some of my favorite recipes!) and are planning several fun reader-interactive opportunities that will include book-themed giveaways—we love those giveaways! Meanwhile, my Facebook author page is a happy gathering place; it’s great to have a chance to chat one on one with folks there. And (hint) it’s where I recruit early readers, aka story “cheerleaders” (pom poms optional, somersaults not required).

OOh, wow, such great ideas brewing for me now. How about you? Thank you so much ladies! 
Now it's your turn! Please share in the comments! What have you found to be a great marketing tip as an author? What questions might you have? Any author that has input, feel free to answer! We love to converse here at the Alley...and give

All comments will be entered in drawings for these FOUR FABULOUS PRIZES (we will draw consecutively for these prizes, except the first one will be from those indicating they are on the indie road to publication) We will share the winners on DECEMBER 2nd:

  • Indie Authors! Last week's featured author Heather Gilbert has her own Indie Publishing Handbook ebook that she'd like to give a copy to one of our indie-journeying authors! Indicate in the comments if you are interested in the Indie route! 
  • Reader's Choice Prize! Heather is also generously giving away a reader's choice of one of her Fiction ebooks (check out her books here ).
  • AlleyCat Surprise! Our dear Casey is giving away A BOOK FROM HER STASH...who knows what amazing novel it shall be...but we know Casey's taste is impeccable so be very excited!
  • AlleyPal Book! Mary Vee is amazing, and will also be giving away The Rimgmaster's Wife by the lovely AlleyPal, Kristy Cambron.

Thursday, November 24, 2016



We at The Writer's Alley wish you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We are thankful for you ALL year long and hope you have a wonderful holiday full of turkey, good books, laughter, and thankfulness!

God Bless!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Characters We're Thankful For and Why

Tis the season to be thankful.

As a writer, I am thankful for characters both real and imaginary. 

Consider the characters who have willingly shared a life they've stumbled through--well, not by their choice because we writer's put them through it--and survived to say good bye for now on the last page.

Scrooge from Scrooge-bless his heart. The man who reminds us to not be greedy. To be kind to employees. To help those with physical needs.

Dorothy from Wizard of Oz- The girl who reminds us there's no place like home. To seek to improve ourselves and find courage, knowledge, and love.

Jean Valjean from Les Miserables- Forgiveness wins.

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter- Stand up for what you know. Defend the underprivileged. Stay true to your friends.

Mulan from Mulan - She sacrifices herself to save her father and ends up saving the country.

Drey from Karate Kid the remake - Apologize when insulting others. Be willing to leave your world behind and accept new surroundings. Adapt. Work hard to achieve.

Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible - Our mentors are not always who we think they are. Be wary.

Noah Calhoun from The Notebook - Love never fails.

Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Don't sweat the small stuff.

Henry Roth from Fifty First Dates - Infirmity can not hold back love.

Wesley from Princess Bride - What do you have to live for? True Love.

David from A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Search, no matter the obstacles, for love and family.

There is an endless list of other characters I could add. The point is, every good story is about a character who goes on a journey. One journey per story. One issue.

So if your character struggles with feeling alone, plunge her initially into the pit of loneliness. Right on page one. 

The story is her journey out of that pit. If she only crawls halfway out...she is still in that pit. If she finds a divot big enough to rest in along the way, she is still in the pit. As she works to crawl out of the pit, search for ways to heighten her matter what that misery is. Be brave enough to write realistic scenes.

Is her struggle desperate for love? Ways she could try to climb out of this pit could be satisfying this need with a pet, a career, an addiction, masochism (bulimia, cutting, etc). Ways she falls is believing no one can love her, until.....

Show the problem in 3D words. Show how she tries this way and that way to get out of the situation. 

Perhaps the way to the surface is revealed by God, or a godly friend, or a godly man. 

Her journey out of the pit is the story. Once she steps on the surface...the story is basically over except her joyful response.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas for comments today. It'll take only a second to share and we love to hear from you.

1. In less than ten words, tell your character's overall journey for your current WIP.
2. Write a note to your character telling him/her why you are thankful for them.
3. Write a note from your character telling you the author why he/she is thankful for you. (have fun with this one :) )

To get you started here is a thank you note from Scrooge to Charles Dickens:

Dear Charles,
I've put an extra coal in the fire just for you before dipping my quill in the ink. I understand you're feeling under the weather, and so you should after forcing me to endure the three ghosts. I've forgiven you because I've I think the far better word is felt. Yes, felt reasons, solid reasons for treating my employees with kindness. Tiny Tim visited me the other day. The lad left me a sticky piece of butterscotch candy. Hah, I hadn't tasted one since my own impish years. Quite delightful. 

I've taken to avoiding beef, apparently my stomach has problems digesting this food. All in all, I am grateful for the Christmas I spent with you. Although, I am also thankful we haven't had a second.

Thank you again, old chap
And Merry Christmas,

Ebenezer Scrooge

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

Help others--tweet or FB share this post


Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

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

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her new short story an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website or:  Join the adventure!