Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fun: Author Spotlight on the illustrious Allen Arnold! ***GIVEAWAY***

It is our distinct pleasure to welcome back a Writer's Alley favorite. Our guest today might be a debut author, but you probably know him to be a creative force who helped shape the landscape of Christian Fiction today. As the founding Publisher for Thomas Nelson Fiction, he led in the development of more than five hundred novels and now oversees content for Ransomed Heart ministries. 

A good friend and mentor to the Alley Cats, our guest endured a grueling gab-fest at ACFW with all of yours truly ... and so to celebrate the release of his new book we thought it'd be fun to put him in the hot seat. And if you come hang out with us a bit, there just might be a signed copy of his new book in it for you... to sweeten the deal.

And so, I'll squelch my need to be wordy and announce our illustrious guest without further ado... 

Allen Arnold

Amy Leigh Simpson So Allen, (I feel like a talk show host) tell us a little bit about your new book and the inspiration behind it ...

Allen Arnold Most of us are stuck in a story of without. We go about our tasks and get through our day without much hope, without our dreams realized, without deep friendships, and without experiencing the presence of God. Somewhere along the way, we got focused on doing more rather than being more. The result is that we feel overwhelmed, disheartened, out of time, and isolated. We are striving for validation and success. But even when that happens, it doesn't satisfy at a soul level. We still hunger for more.

But there is a better story. And it all comes down to one simple word - with.

The Story of With reveals how to actively pursue life with God and with a community of fellow creative bohemians. Here is your invitation to breathe deep as you discover how to pursue God from a place of identity, intimacy, and imagination. The book is a fast-paced allegory with some teaching. Because for this journey, above all else, we need our hearts awakened. And stories speak to our hearts in ways that facts alone fall short. So rather than more theories or principles, I offer you a better way to live, love, and create. I hope you'll enter into The Story of With

Ashley Clark What's one thing people don't know about you?

Allen Arnold I'm not sure how many people know I love to drink salsa by the glass. It creates some awkward moments in Mexican restaurants when I'm going through half of their salsa supply. Usually, I'll ask the chef if he can make it more hot. And then ask again. At our recent office Christmas party, we had a talent show...and my talent was guzzling two jars of super hot salsa, followed by a Mountain Dew chaser. I lost the contest but my sport coat did catch on fire. Hey, you asked. I never said it was a pretty picture!   ;  )

Julia Reffner Favorite Bible verse or verses?

Allen Arnold My favorite passage of Scripture is Psalm 27:14.

  “Stay with God!
     Take Heart. Don’t Quit.
   I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.”
   (The Message)

This one short verse contains the essence of life for me. And it begins and ends with the most essential invitation of all. That the main thing is to do life together “with” God! We are his sons and daughters. And like any good father, he most longs for relationship. For us to pursue our hopes, dreams, concerns, questions, and creativity together. Not so we can do more. But so we can be more.

Amy Leigh Simpson After spending your career as a publisher, what has surprised you the most about the "other side" of publishing now that you're an author?

Allen Arnold For me, the most surprising aspect has been the emotional journey that I went on with the characters of my allegory. For instance, I remember weeping as I wrote the Diner chapter of the book. At another point, I was furious for days at a character for what he put Mia through. And I found myself wishing I could join Mia as she created with a group of wild bohemians. 

I also asked God to let me feel a sense of what many of the readers were struggling with as I wrote this book. So I felt a sense of isolation, being overwhelmed, feeling unseen, and disheartenment as I wrote several chapters. These weren't my emotions, but God allowed me to feel them deeply so I could empathize as I described how to escape the                                                                                    Orphan Realm and discover a place of freedom.

Casey Herringshaw What is your all-time favorite activity?

Allen Arnold My all-time favorite activity may sound a bit underwhelming...but it brings me so much life. I love weekends with my wife and kids where we have no agenda and no place we have to be. Maybe that's why I savor unexpected snow days so much - which actually happens a lot here in Colorado. It's the perfect time to start a fire, play games, tell jokes, watch movies, and take long walks around the neighborhood. I think at the end of my days, those are the moments I'll look back on and say, I was such a blessed man.

Angie Dicken Where is your favorite place to write?

Allen Arnold My favorite writing place is wherever I sense God inviting me to spend time with him. And man, he’s taken me to some wild, unexpected places to create. I want to be as intentional as Moses was in Exodus 33 when he says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “God, if you’re not in this, let’s call the entire trip off.” If I don’t sense his presence, I’ll call the writing time off. Otherwise, my words would have no spark of the eternal. I don't want writing to ever be a solo project for me. Success isn’t hitting a word count or bestseller list. It's simply this - did I create with God? If the answer is yes, it's been a successful writing time. 

As an aside, I'd love to write from a remote beach cabin overlooking the ocean, the waves crashing rhythmically as I create with God. I'm expectant that opportunity will come soon! I think it will because it's God who has given me that desire...and desire is always a prelude with him to fulfillment.

Laurie Tomlinson We are creatures of habit who all battle the enemy and Liar. How do you guard yourself from slipping back to the old m.o.?

Allen Arnold I've found that when I stay fascinated with God, the enemy shrinks in his power and his effect.I remember who I am - a Son of God - and who he is - a fallen created being who has lost everything. So I lean into my Father. I stay by his side. And when the enemy tries to break into that relationship, I declare that "I am not that man anymore." Then I command him - in the authority of God - to flee. When we do that, God promises that the enemy will flee. 

Bottom line - no matter what the enemy throws at me, I use it in a jujitsu-like move to draw me even closer to God. Even more into his presence. It's awesome! 

Krista Phillips You talked about the "old" you when you speak... stepping in front of an Airplane because you were a "get it done" kinda guy. Was there a turning point or catalyst that made you the easy breezy guy you are today?

Allen Arnold I was such a driven, productivity-focused man. And the problem was - it was working really well. I was receiving promotion after promotion. But it came at a high price. When you base your identity on performance, you are only as good as your last achievement. So the latest victory just raises the bar for the next hurdle. That's a soul-numbing way to live.

The turning point came about 15 years ago when my supervisor invited me to lunch and proceeded to reveal my toxic effect on my work team. I knew in that instant I could either choose offense at his words and defend my actions - or swallow hard and realize this wasn't the man I wanted to be. Thankfully, I took his words to heart and left that conversation a broken man. But broken is good when you've built the wrong foundation. It's actually the first step to starting anew.  I describe that scene and transformation in much greater detail in the opening pages of The Story of With 

Mary Vee Some Christian writers/authors wrestle with the required marketing big-bang-explosion of our work in today's world of publication. It rocks against what we've been taught in God's Word. Be humble. Can you help us? 

Allen Arnold It really comes down to this - do you believe God has given you the gift of words and story? And if so, do you trust him to see that dream through to its completion? If so, it relieves so much pressure to make something happen. The problem with self promotion is that it has to be sustained with self effort (a loose paraphrase from Bill Johnson, pastor at Bethel). If you believe that in the end, it is all up to you then you either sink or swim by your own efforts. Which either leads to ego if you succeed...or shame if you fail. And surprisingly, either outcome creates distance from God. Because if you succeed in the short term, you may feel you can rely more on a formula than God. And if you fail, it can cause resentment that somehow God didn't come through.

But if you stay with God and pursue your calling at his pace, then you absolutely can rest easy. He will see you through. And let me tell you, the result of that transcends any big-bang, man-made marketing plan. True, it may not look like you expected it too...but God never promised to be bound by our limited expectations. He dreams much bigger than we do...and he invites us into that journey.

Pepper Basham Allen, you have a picnic basket filled with your last meal!! What would that meal be? :-) On a more serious note, in your many journeys among authors, what have you found to be the most encouraging advice to give and receive?

Allen Arnold
Last Meal – Easy! Sizzling steak fajitas (we’ll need a special picnic basket to hold them without burning up!)  Plus generous portions of salsa, guacamole, jalapenos, grilled veggies, and black beans. Beverage of choice - strong black coffee.

Most Encouraging Advice to Give – Don't chase Success through your gifting. Chase God (the giver of your gift) and let the gifting become the doorway to greater intimacy with him. A chance for you to co-create with the Creator on the playground of ideas.

Most Encouraging Advice to Receive  I was reminded recently that the Journey of With is two-fold. Yes, it means "with" God. But it also must be "with" Others. So many writers describe themselves as introverted. They miss doing life, in all its messiness, with others. Yet we can't write a better story than we're living. And sitting at a laptop writing is good - but it isn't getting out and experiencing real life. I'm convinced we must surround ourselves with a small fellowship of bohemians with wildly different backgrounds. Not just people like us but people who stretch, encourage, and inspire us at a soul level...and who we can do the same for. 

Alley Pals: We hope you've enjoyed getting to know more about Allen and his inspiring new book. We know it will a blessing to a great many people... maybe even YOU! Allen has so graciously offered an autographed copy to give away today. So here's how we're gonna do this... Leave a comment with your name and email address to enter. If you would like your name to be added to the hat TWICE (to improve your chances) give this a share on Facebook or twitter to help spread the word (and make sure you mention "shared" in your comment so I know to look for it before I draw a name on Sunday evening.) :) 

Do you have a question for Allen??? He's hanging out with us today so pull up a chair, grab a cup of java (or salsa!), and lets have a chat! 

Happy Friday! <3

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Story Never Dies

In 2011, I semi-finaled in the Genesis contest. While I didn't advance any further, I thought, wow, THIS story is something. And I was told by other authors, “You'll be fine in your ACFW appointments, you're a semi-finalist”. I felt like my story was the golden ticket to catching the eye of that agent who'd take me to publication.

Well, imagine the sob fest--and there absolutely was one in the St. Louis hotel elevator area where I'd called my husband--after I heard over and over again, “This will never sell.” And imagine the mourning that took place for those dear characters who'd become my greatest friends?

I felt like I walked away from the 2011 ACFW conference laying to rest a story that I had loved and cherished, but was as good as slush to everyone in the industry.

Fast-forward to present day...FIVE YEARS LATER. Most of my stories are sitting stale and quiet in the bottom of my “drawer”. And it's not for lack of trying. Some have been thoroughly shopped around by my fantastic agent, and while we've had some close calls, we're still waiting on “the” call for most of them.
If you'd have told me that I might have a chance with those stories that went in and out of editorial meetings, I'd have told you, “It doesn't work that way”. We've all heard that there are no second chances in the land of publishing, haven't we?

But we've also got a BIG God on our side as Christian writers, and my God IS the God of second chances. And just because we're told the finites of a story advancing through, or being tossed out by publishers, doesn't mean that our story is dead forever.

It just means that its first chance is over.

Don't say farewell to those characters yet. Just remember God had you write that story for a reason. And sometimes, His timing has nothing to do with the moments after you hit “send”, but it might be planned for months—or years—after The End is written.

I am here to tell you from recent experience. I'd laid a story to rest—thinking that it might only be one for my children to read some day. And suddenly, FOUR YEARS after I'd written this particular story, the publishing industry swung open a random door, and an opportunity arrived that made this old story seem like a perfect fit.

Yes, folks, that old story is seeing some movement. It's catching an eye. Even after it had been shopped, and its first chance SPENT, long ago.

This is the season of second chances for me. When I was a newbie writer, I didn't know there was such a thing. I was skeptical of the advice given by many experienced industry professionals, “Write what's on your heart, not what the market wants. Who knows what changes are ahead for the market?” It didn't make sense. If I took a story and sent it out and it was rejected, that's it, right?


I suggest you DO write what's on your heart. If God's shaping a story there, then write. Don't worry about details like market and publishing. There's a reason you've been called to write it. And you'll find out the first time around, or in God's perfect second chance.

If this resonates with you at all, check out Laurie's post Write the Story Anyway. Don't give up!
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 novels and has recently sold a story to Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Check out her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken

Monday, September 19, 2016

Writers: Are You Asking for Help?

We’ve talked a lot about writing with community. Surrounding yourself with a group of people that you can trust your heart and writing with. People that become your friends beyond this writing journey and support you in nearly every aspect of your life.

They are your warriors. Your champions. The people that hold you up in prayer when the going is rough and the people you in turn laugh and cry with when they are joyful or struggling.
This is your tribe. These are your people.

But I was challenged recently for how often I actually come to my tribe—my people—and ask for help with my writing.

Allen Arnold has talked and ministered to many, many writers about not writing in a vacuum. About not being the “orphan” that writes alone, creates alone, processes alone and instead invites the Creator into the creative. Instead, invites in the people that the Creator has given the creative to form this story that He has laid on their heart.

It’s shockingly few and far between that I ask for help.

I don’t want to inconvenience someone. Take away time from their projects they need to be doing. Make them obligated to say “yes”, when they just really need to say “no.”

But I’ve been stuck on my story now for about a month and a half. Only written about a thousand words between family being in town, ACFW national conference and then more family being in town. It’s been a great month of fellowship and reconnection, but also a month filled with the trepidation of the next thing I have to do: which is dust off that story and start writing the next scene.
Only problem is: I have no idea what that next scene is.

Minor detail is all.

So the other night, at my writer’s mentoring meeting, I decided to pipe up. Gulp back any feelings of worry that I would put something beyond their time in helping me, and asked for help in outlining my story.

See, outlining your story might not be a big deal to you. You might love it. Get inspired from it. See new plot twists and scene ideas.

I hate it.

I’d so much rather sit down with my laptop and just write. Except then, I write myself into a corner and oops, I don’t know what happens next.

It’s not a complicated project, this request that I’m making. A lot of the work has already been done
in a previous brainstorming session. This is just me, needing a friend to join in writing these scene ideas out on 3x5 cards and inspiring my love for this novel all over again—and putting me back on track to do the work.

Once the words are said, it’s not hard asking for help.

It’s hard getting to that place where you have to ask for it. Invite someone else into your story world; let them take your hand and journey with you in this process.

Don’t get stuck in your cave. The answers don’t all lie in what only you are capable of doing.
So invite someone in. Let them take partnership with you. Don’t be ashamed, but let yourself be motivated and encouraged.

Because remember that tribe of friends you’ve formed? Yeah, they are here for you in this too. And you’re not alone. By a long shot.

What are you needing to ask help for in your writing today? Have you done it? 

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, September 16, 2016

A Writerly Interview with Melissa Tagg

Today I am delighted to introduce y'all to one of my favorite writer people, Melissa Tagg. Melissa has this infectious joy that simply makes her a delight to be around. She is bright, incredibly gifted as a writer, and has this heart that is after God. I love her! Can't you just see the joy in her smile? Anyway...She has a new book, Keep Holding On, releasing this month, and here's a link to the first chapter. I asked Melissa if she would join us for a quick Q&A. She graciously agreed. So without further ado, here's Melissa.

We're going to start with an easy question: what's your favorite writer fuel? 

 Okay, this is going to sound terribly cliché but it’s the truth: coffee. Actually, beverages in general. I like to have a glass of water and a cup of coffee and then when I get stuck, I trade in the coffee for a Diet Coke with Lime. I’ve been trying to be more diligent about drinking water lately, though, so I generally don’t allow myself a second jolt of caffeine until I’ve finished off a couple glasses of water.

You're so healthy! What's the one thing you wish you had learned early in your writing career? 

That I am not a girl who handles deadlines very well. LOL! But seriously…when I suddenly went from writer to contracted writer, this writing gig took on a whole new flavor. And because I have a full-time day job that’s also very much a calling for me, dealing with deadlines got…not so fun. But honestly, I think it’s good to learn these things about ourselves. Because once I realized why I was struggling so much, I was able to make some decisions to help smooth out what had become a very wrinkled and exhausting schedule. I had to take some risks to change things up, but I feel like a different person now than I did earlier on—i.e. I’m healthier and happier and don’t come into work looking like a zombie anymore. And frankly, I think my writing is better for it.

Also, I wish I’d learned earlier that it’s okay to do things differently than other authors. I think I spent a lot of time trying to perfectly shadow others, write and market and just be exactly like them. And in doing so, I was pushing against the kind of writer and woman God wants me to be.

That not copying others is hard! What's your favorite book of all time? Other than the Bible. 

Oh man, that is SO hard to answer. I don’t know if I can truly pick just one, but one of the books I have read over and over and over from childhood to adulthood is Christy by Catherine Marshall. In fact, it’s been a couple years, so I’m pretty sure I’m due for a reread.

Now for some writing book related questions. Do you have a favorite writing book? What is it? Do you have a fight favorite writing tool? What is that? 

My favorite writing book is any craft book by Susan May Warren. She has this awesome way of teaching that just works…doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter or pantser or smack in between like me, you can incorporate her teaching and truly grow in the craft. I also love every writing book I’ve read by James Scott Bell, including Plot & Structure and WriteYour Novel from the Middle.

As for my favorite writing tool, it’s an app called Freedom that turns off your Internet for however long you specify. It’s such a great tool to help me focus. (Although, sometimes I just go super hard core and turn off my wi-fi completely and hide my phone in my garage or walk-in.

What surprised you most while writing Keep Holding On?

This shouldn’t have surprised me because it legit happens with every. single. book. And yet, somehow it’s still a surprise every time…and that’s the moment when I realize exactly why God has me writing this story at this time. It’s usually because he’s working on something in my heart. I know, I know, the appropriate author sentiment to express is that we write to uplift and inspire readers…which, of course, I do. But truly, deep down…I write because that’s how God communicates with me. He just does.

Somehow, in journeying with my characters, He whispers (or sometimes shouts) exactly what my heart needs to hear and what my mind needs to process. And in the case of this latest book, that thing I needed to hear and chew on and really truly grasp is that God keeps holding on. I don’t know about you, but I have seasons where my passion dries up…my faith gets all dry and dusty. And then I feel guilty. And then that ugly mix of apathy and guilt just sorta builds a wall between me and any kind of intimacy with God. And yet…God keeps holding on.

Even when I’m on the brink of letting go, he’s still there holding on. That is a life-giving, soul-quenching truth and something I’ve very much needed to spend some time dwelling on. Funny thing is, I had no idea that’d end up being such a personal journey for me back when I titled the book Keep Holding On.

What's your favorite Needtobreathe song? Just had to throw that one in there for fun.

Oh my goodness, this is almost even harder to answer than the favorite book question. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!! People think I’m joking when I say I want to just quit everything and become a roadie and follow them around the country…but I’m about 75% serious. If I HAD to pick a favorite song, it’d probably be Wasteland. I first heard it during a hard season in my life and I felt like it’d been written just for me.

What's your favorite kind of coffee or writing beverage? 

Coffee-wise, I love hazelnut coffee. I drink it straight black. Oh, and a good Americano makes my heart soar. As I mentioned above, I also love Diet Coke with Lime.

At what point in the book did you hate it? And at what point in Keep Holding On did you go oh my gosh I really can write? I know when I'm writing I usually have one or the other if not the same weekend.

You know what’s crazy? This is probably the first book I’ve written where I didn’t actually have a moment of hating it. Some big things changed in my life while writing this book that removed a lot of previous stress, so I’m sure that’s part of it. That said, I ALWAYS struggle with two specific chapters in every book (I won’t say which two ‘cause I don’t want anyone to read them and go, “Yep, I can see why she doesn’t like these ones). And that was definitely still the case this time around. I wrote and rewrote those chapters and they still don’t feel entirely right to me. But there comes a point when you have to just say, “Okay, whatevs. It’s done.” LOL!

As for a moment when I thought, “Oh my gosh, I really can write”… that actually happened while writing the very first scene, which is super unusual for me. But I just love the first scene of this book! It’s the first time I haven’t drastically changed my opening from first draft to final draft. What you’ll see on the page now is very close to exactly what was on the page when I first drafted it. And I feel good about it. Which is nice.

Thanks so much for joining us, Melissa. Folks, I love her books. She writes such fun contemporary romance, you really need to try them if you haven't. You can find all her books listed on her webpage or anywhere books are sold.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Blank Page

Every writer has that moment.

You know the one I'm talking about? It's that moment they look at a page--or a screen--and see nothing.

Just an empty page of white. Or maybe if you're doing it old school, a page of lines.

It's our blank canvas, so to speak. The words we write will create pictures not on the page, but in the imaginations of our readers.

I'm starting a new book this week and was struck by the wonder of the blank page. I can literally create any story I want right now. The sky is the limit, only bound by the reaches of my imagination.

The ideas swirl around in my head as I stare at that page. My fingers itch to start typing. My characters are fighting around me, demanding their story fill those pages RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

But there is an innocence about the blank page. It reminds me of the 5 times I held a child in my womb. I would sit there, a hand to my swollen belly--seeing their life stretch out in front of them just like that blank page, a story to be lived, a story that would have bumps and mountains and cliffs and valleys, joys and sorrows, black moments and hopefully, a happily-ever-after. Even though I know there will be pain, it also never ceases to capture my breath at the wonder of it, the exciting expectation of their story to be lived. Even the one baby who never lived to take that first breath... her story was still just as dear to me, even though it was a very short one.

My suggestion to you today is to enjoy that blank page for a moment. It's the moment of conception of your BOOK baby! (I really want to make a joke here about that... but I'm going to refrain. You are welcome!!) Let yourself get EXCITED about the process and pump yourself up about digging in. Don't look at the blank page with a scowl. Look at it with expectancy of story you're about to create on paper.

And as writer's who loves Jesus, look at it as the beginning of a journey creating with God. Where will God take you? (A shout out to Allen Arnold's new book, The Story of With, which I will be reading VERY VERY SOON!!)

The journey isn't always easy, but oh, what a journey it is.

Enjoy the ride, my writer friends!!


My novella, A (sorta) Southern Serenade, released in a box set this week, Falling For You! You can get it for only 99 cents for a limited time! 

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and writes romantic comedy. Her latest book A Side of Love, released February 29, 2016.  She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript

Many great books and lecturers teach steps on how to edit our manuscripts. Like a diet plan, each one can work for the writer who is willing to follow the steps.

Today's post: The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript introduces an idea that is crucial for any editing method you use. 

I think we've all asked ourselves, "Why hasn't my manuscript been accepted? I've checked every word. What more do they want?"   Right? Today's suggestion may be the one idea that will help reveal issues, improve the quality, and potentially bring success.

I came home from the 2016 ACFW writing conference in Nashville excited to put into practice what I'd learned. I had a mashing of puzzle pieces gathered from Ted Dekker, Erin Healy, Jim Rubert, Allen Arnold and other instructors I sat under floating in my brain. My goal: I wanted to write and edit my manuscript with a depth that would suck a reader into story and not let go until the end. 

Notice the words, write and edit.

I'm going to present this information backwards because many of us have a finished manuscript. Let's start with the editing component.

Erin Healy, editor and author, stated in her class, "Always edit your manuscript using a different medium than you first wrote."

What she meant was:
If you key your words into a computer do not read from the same style screen when editing.
If you handwrite your words on paper, do not read the same paper when editing.
If you dictate your words do not listen to the text when editing.
Photo Courtesy

Our minds are easily tricked. We see, hear, feel what was intended, not what is actually there. For example:

You're walking along a dark road at night when leaves and branches suddenly crackle behind. A snapping rhythm mimics footsteps. You turn. Why? Because you know someone or something is there. You see nothing but are not convinced. There is someone there. Your hearing told you so. Your mind believed it. Your heart responded. Panic sets in, and the belief system set in stone.

When edit our manuscript using the same tool we used to write the words, we often become blind to errors. By the last page, we're convinced what is on the page is the best and is ready to send to crit partners, beta readers, contests, agents, or editors. To our surprise, red ink with suggestions for new content, grammar corrections, and character description errors are sent back. Ugh! Disaster!! 

The sad part is, after making these changes more hidden issues hide in the ink on the page. We can't see them. Why is that? 

We need to follow Erin Healy's advice: edit using a different medium. Preferably, and this is key, one that matches our learning style.

Some of us are audio learners, some visual, some kinesthetic, and some learn best by combining two or more of these. I knew I was a visual learner. One I see something, it sticks.  Or so I thought. Turns out, a second learning style happened at the same time to make information really stay in my brain. Without it, failure.

When Erin presented the idea of using different ways to see/hear/engage in story, she and classmates brainstormed ideas like: 

*Send the manuscript to your kindle-the change in formatting helps to reveal errors.
*Send to the kindle and turn on the reader.
*Scrivener users have a speech reader program that will read the manuscript.
*Word apparently has a reader (but I haven't found it yet. If you know how to turn this feature on, please tell us in the comment section)
*View on a desktop computer
*Have someone else read the manuscript to you.

My favorite new idea was Scrivener's speech reader. It took a while to find (Go to edit, choose speech, select start) After hearing only a few sentences, better words popped in my head, pieces of missing story world unveiled themselves deepening the story. The characters seemed to come alive and spoke through the reader's voice breathing life into the words.

So... this happened because some monotone male voice read my story? No. I really needed to experience the story in a different format than I wrote it.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Seeing/hearing/sensing my story in a different format is only helpful if and only if I have a deep sense of my MC's journey. 

Author, Ted Dekker said, "Storytelling is different than writing. Storytelling is a series of events involving worthy characters who change as a result of those events. Readers long for an escape from life and they search in our novels for another way."

As I listened to the monotone male voice read my story, I walked about my house, envisioning the action, MC's distress, her momentary successes and failures, her choices and changes in plan, her journey and the forward movement to the last page. And when the words hit a speed bump, I stopped my monotone friend from reading and rewrote words, sentences, and paragraphs, slicing and dicing, adding and modifying, drawing out a swirling depth that engaged me to the heart. Wow! What a terrific feeling.

Allen Arnold, Jim Rubert, Ted Dekker all said writers need to cry, laugh, shout, basically spill emoji while engaged in writing/editing a story. This is an experience writers not only give to readers, they give to themselves as well.

Allen Arnold said, "Many writers burn out because they weren't sustained for the journey." He also recently share this meme:

In the depths of your writer's soul is a story waiting to be told. Vivid words that transform each main character from the first page to the last. Don't trust an edit from the first means used to write your manuscript. Step into the reader's shoes and join them through the pages of the main character's journey by using a unique tool to edit.

Happy creating!

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

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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!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Fun and Author Spotlight: Katie Ganshert

Angie here! Another fabulous week at the Alley has come and gone. I am so thankful to have such great support from our Alley Pals, and to always learn from my dear Alley Cats as they share pieces of their journey on this road to publication.

Week in Recap:
Our week started with an oh-so-fun topic-KISSING-as Pepper Basham shared about her time on a kissing panel (yeah, you really need to check out the post, Kissing Panel Notes: #smoochy#smoochy)

Laurie's post's Write That Story Anyway is a great reminder to hold our stories dear, even if they aren't on shelves yet. All you writers out there with a heart story that just might not fit the market mold...yet...(me!) should check out her post.

Now for our Author Spotlight:

I am so excited to welcome a fellow Midwesterner, Katie Ganshert to the Alley today! She has been such an encouragement to me at ACFW over the years. And this year, she won a Carol for her book, The Art of Losing Yourself! It was such an exciting moment, and her heartfelt acceptance speech resonated with me greatly. 

Katie, tell us about your award-winning book, The Art of Losing Yourself. What inspired you to write it?

It’s a story about half-sisters, Carmen Hart and Gracie Fisher. From the outside looking in, Carmen has it all—the perfect marriage, the perfect image, the perfect job. But from the inside looking out, her world is falling apart. Her dear aunt has dementia, and that same aunt’s pride and joy—a beloved motel called The Treasure Chest—is in serious disrepair. Not to mention Carmen’s silent battle through infertility, and the toll it’s taking on her and her husband, Ben. This is Carmen’s world when 17-year old runaway, Gracie Fisher, enters the scene. Gracie is caught squatting at The Treasure Chest, and Carmen is left with no option but to take the troubled Gracie in.

It’s a story inspired by the passage in Ezekiel 37, when God shows the prophet a valley filled with dry bones and asks, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” God’s asking the same question here, only the dry bones are more metaphorical—a woman’s faith, a woman’s marriage.

It was impossibly hard to write at times, but I’m so glad God called me on the journey.

Such a powerful passage, and an amazing testimony to God's call to write. What are you reading right now?

I can never only read one book at a time. Right now, I’m finishing up Eleanor and Park on audio. I just started Joanne Bischoff’s The Lady and the Lionheart. I’m also reading Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

Love that you read more than one book at a time. I am the same way. 

Ok, now for some fun questions, Alley-style...

What is the most random thing in your bag?

Three small Star Wars-inspired Angry Birds. I have a 7-year old son.

Your movie snack of choice?

Popcorn, of course! At least, when I’m at the theaters. If I’m at home watching a movie, I almost always get Culvers frozen custard.

What's your favorite recent discovery?! Oh. My. Word. It’s an app you can download on your phone and it’s dangerous as all get out. Basically, it’s the best (and worst) thing ever for people who like cute clothes and bargain deals but HATE shopping. Every day you will find new boutique clothing items (plus accessories), all super budget friendly. The problem is, the items go fast, so if you see something you love, then you have to be a quick decision maker. It’s maybe not the best thing for impulsive shoppers.

If you could go back in time to the beginning of your writing journey, what advice would you give yourself?

Enjoy the early part of the journey. You may think all your dreams will come true when you sign the contract, but really, it’s just a new type of challenging, with all the familiar insecurities and unknowns (granted, they may shape-shift a bit), but with more stress! As cliché as it sounds, it truly is about the journey, not the destination.

This is such wise advice for aspiring writers and newly-contracted authors too! :)

Thanks, Katie, for being a guest today! We are so excited about your Carol win!

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.