Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I Don't Write...But It's Why I Should.

By Ambro on

Why I don't write:

1. Every time I open my WIP, I remember the last rejection, the sting of those critical words, and wonder, can I ever prove myself better than that?

2. It hurts too much to write, because I fill with hope in the newness, and fear the pain of being dashed again.

3 The stuff of Life consumes my brain, and while I try to focus on the 16th century setting of my novel, my brain just fills with the 16 things I need to get done on my to-do list.

4. My heart's not right with God. It's just so beat up and bruised, how can I take pleasure in something as frivolous as writing?

5. I allow myself to believe the lies above, and forget... why I SHOULD write!

IT is the rejection and critical words that fuel my attempt to grow and write better.

It is the hope that grows, even if it seems dashed for a moment, it is rampant always with ever forward step. I haven't found hopelessness to take residence for very long, so why would I allow it to stop me from my dream?

Life will always throw a million things to do. It is the downfall of this busy culture. Taking time to pursue the stuff of my heart won't put a dent in all the time I spend in the busyness of life.

I find healing in writing. It's a gift from God, so why would He put stipulations on it? Only when I am happy and content with my walk can I write? No. It is when my heart hurts most that my writing shines with truth and emotion.

So what stops you from writing? Have you ever thought maybe that stumbling block is actually a place to dive off into your writing instead?


Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has an Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one sheets, selling Jamberry Nail Wraps, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at and her personal blog at 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Writer's Alley Weekly Round Up

It's the week before the ACFW Conference and many of The Alley Cats are gearing up to attend. Packing. Ordering business cards. Shopping for "the dress". Polishing up the One Sheet. Making last minute babysitting plans. And on and on it goes. Does it sound familiar? Are you excited? Or are you like me, staying home, hoping for some texts and some pictures from my friends, and praying for their success throughout the conference?

Well, we have a fabulous week for you at The Writer's Alley! Stop by and be blessed by the words of wisdom from these gals.

The Alley Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Angie's post is "Why I Don't Write...But It's Why I Should". I'm sure we can all relate to this one!

TuesdayJulia will be posting about the challenges of being an introvert while attendinga writing conference....particularly the ACFW Conference just right around the corner.

Wednesday - If you are attending the ACFW Conference next weekend, you definitely need to stop by and read Karen's prayer for those attending (and those who aren't).'s wonderful.

Thursday - Ashley is sharing ways to deal with the exhaustion at a writing conference and the importance of finding time to recharge; then you can look for ways to encourage others

Friday - Amy has returned from a long vacation and has a great post lined up for you!

The Awesome Link Round Up

It's Okay If What You Write Stinks (Kaye Dacus)

Writers As Casualties of Commerce by James Scott Bell (Kill Zone)

Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary (Brain Pickings)

First Ever Write To Done Flash Fiction Contest! (Write to Done)\

Author Conference of the Future (JA Konrath)

3 Essentials That Determine Your Writing Success (Positive Writer)

FREE Book Download: Writing Naked by Marcy McKay (Mudpie Writing)


This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Authentic Marketing

Ugh. The big, bad “M” word. It’s not one of my favorites and truly, if there were less letters in it, I’d be labeling it a four letter word.

In fact, just so I feel better, let’s go ahead and label that “M” word something not-quite-so-delightful. Imagine it as a dart board and we’ll send flaming arrows into it…


As a writer, you can never get away from marketing. You will always have to market yourself, because only if you become Richard Castle, Dan Brown, or Janet Evanovich, will you never have to market yourself again. And I’m pretty sure those writers all got to be who they are because of good marketing.

Publishers don’t have as many dollars and the ones they do have are being stretched thinner and thinner.
So how do you authentically market yourself without burning yourself out and turning everyone away from your product? Here are a few things I’ve learned and have proven helpful in my journey to market myself.

Let Twitter/Facebook fan pages be your mouth piece for promotional work. Personal facebook pages (different than public, fan pages) are viewed more as a way to connect with friends and family—not market your product. Once in a while is fine. More than that and people start to ignore you.

Get on social media now. Not later. Not when you have a book contract. Not when you finally have an agent or finish that book. Get on it now. You’ll have less pressure to get out there and learn it all at once and instead can take in small bites.

Mix personal with professional. Everyone likes to know a bit about a person, beyond just the fact that you want them to buy their book. Be relatable, but learn the balance between oversharing/posting and posting what people are going to be interested in.

When in doubt, don’t post it. If you’re unsure if you’re oversharing, posting too many times in a day, etc…then don’t post. It’s better to post once in a while with something witty and fun to read than every hour with a long, drawn out diatribe.

People are visual, so find images that market your brand and share them in your status updates, tweets, etc.

Realize you are becoming a public figure. People will start to recognize you at conferences. Will read your content and have a connection with what you are saying. No matter if you are doing this because you like to blog—and people are really like what you have to say—or you are doing this because you are trying to build an impressive audience, you are becoming someone people will notice. Don’t be noticed because you’ve been annoying, but be noticed because you’ve been authentic. Think about a door-to-door salesman or the salesman at the local car dealership, the cashier at your favorite grocery store—do they make you want to have repeat encounters with them? Why or why not?

Be personable. Be unique. Be authentic. I can’t stress that last word enough. It’s the only way to stand out in social media and on the marketing platform.

Nothing in marketing is a fast process. It’s a slow growing yeast, mixed in a little bit at a time until you look back and see what an audience has been built in you just being…you. Taking time to get to know and invest in other people’s interests, promote them. Show unabashed support for your fellow writers. You’re in this together and together you’re a mighty force to reach readers.

What are your best marketing tips?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a country girl now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What are you REALLY trying to say? (Guest post by Sherri Wilson Johnson!)

Krista here! I'm so excited to host fellow indie-author Sherri Wilson Johnson today!! We've known each other a while know but rubbed elbows again in an indie-author loop we're on together (I was posting massive amounts of questions in preparation for the release of A Side of Faith... I was--am--GREEN I tell ya!)

Sherri has some GREAT books out, including her most recent, To Laugh Once More. Check them out on Amazon!!


What Are You Really Trying To Say? 
Writers are experts at talking to themselves. They're also experts at hearing voices in their heads. No, we're not crazy! We're just creating.

While we hear the voices in our heads and masterfully put them down on paper (or into the computer), do we really write what we've heard?

Recently, while editing for the umpteenth time my new release, I decided to try the text-to-speech feature on my computer. I often write using the voice-to-text feature on my phone, so I thought I'd give the reverse process a shot.

Boy, was I surprised! Quite often, I didn't type what I meant to type. And even though I'd read over the text a gazillion times and even had readers read it, none of us caught these errors. Even on my final run-through before hitting PUBLISH on Kindle, I found another missed mistake. I pray there are no more, haha!

After I write the first draft of a novel, I wait a month or so before I begin editing it. I call this the crockpot stage. I let the novel sit in my computer and cook a little while. When I come back with a fresh pair of eyes, it's easier to find my mistakes.

After the first round of edits, I print out a chapter at a time and do manual revisions. Then I have readers check out the story to see if they like it, and I ask them to let me know of any errors they find.
Then I start the process of catching "taboo" words and phrases, the words or phrases you shouldn't use if you're looking for a deep point of view in your story. I keep this list beside me, and I go one-by-one to check and see if they're in the story. If they are, I rework those places.

After that, I convert the Word document to a PDF and begin the process of letting the computer read the manuscript to me. For a PDF, you go to VIEW, READ ALOUD, and ACTIVATE READ ALOUD. Then you go back to VIEW, READ ALOUD, and hit READ TO END OF DOCUMENT. Some versions of Windows have this feature also. Mine doesn't. But you can find out how to do it by doing a quick search of your computer for the text-to-speech feature.

While the computer is reading, I keep my Word document open so I can make changes as I HEAR the mistakes I've made. It's amazing what you see with your ears that you don't see with your eyes. With my latest novel, I read the manuscript probably fifteen times. I was surprised when I let my computer read it to me with my earphones in my ears to block out all other sounds. I found even more errors.

Spell check wouldn't have caught these errors because the words were spelled correctly.

Check out these examples: 
  • The man behind the counter wore a white shirt, black plants and black suspenders.
  • Her eyes bugled.
  • Mother would've washed her mouth out with lye soup for listening to Marigold's gossip because there wasn't much of anything she could do to her ears for hearing it.
  • I'll send an initiation to my dear sisters to come for a long visit. 
  • The man behind the counter wore a white shirt, black PANTS (not plants) and black suspenders.
  • In the second example, I typed BUGLED instead of BULGED in the first example. I can't even imagine what it would look like for someone's eyes to bugle.
  • In the third example, mother would have washed her mouth out with lye SOUP not SOAP.
  • In the fourth example, she was going to send an INITIATION to her sisters instead of an INVITATION.
It's easy to make mistakes that spell check won't catch and that you and your readers won't catch either. The reason I didn't find these errors was because I knew what I wanted to say. I read what my mind said I was saying. I read it before my eyes even saw it.

Next time you edit, why don't you try to let your computer do the talking for you?

Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, a speaker, and a former homeschooling mom who’d rather have laugh lines under her eyes than worry lines across her forehead. She lives in Georgia with her husband, her two children and her Chihuahua, Posey. Her favorite thing to do when she’s not with her family is to curl up with a good book or work on her current work-in-progress. She loves to dream of visiting romantic places and is passionate about the Lord, motherhood, homeschooling, and writing. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More, Song of the Meadowlark, and To Laugh Once More. She is a columnist with Habits for a Happy Home and Choose NOW Ministries.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Twas the Week Before Conference And All Through the Writer's Houses

This year the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conferene (ACFW) will be held next week in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Alley Cats are excited to see you there, to cheer you on, encourage you, and pray for you. Be sure to say hi. We love to chat.

If you are unable to come, there is an "At-Home-Conference" available for all ACFW members. Click this link to register: (if you attended last year, it will say you're registered, but you will still need to update your information).

After you register, if you want to participate in the Facebook group, let Karen Beery know at and she will send you an email invite to the group.

Between now and then let's talk about what we can pack to make our time at the conference smoother.

One HUGE lesson I learned was: prayer should be the first thing I pack. Not as in hide inside my suitcase, rather it needs to be the foundation for my packing. Talk to God without ceasing. He will prepare your heart and help you to remember to pack exactly what you really need.

Some of the things you will want to remember to pack for this trip are:

1. Empty space -  That sounds weird, right? But it's true! You will be receiving free books and have a chance to purchase books signed by authors in the bookstore. You will need space to pack them. Fear not, though if you're like me and find yourself sitting on your suitcase trying to zip it shut, these books can also be mailed to you.

2. Clothing suitable for a job interview - When we meet with an agent or editor, we need to show our genuine interest in pursuing our writing career. In many respects this is a job interview. On the other hand, the interviewers (editors and agents) you will meet at this conference have your best in mind. They really care and want to talk with you. They are real people with hearts for God. So dress to impress, but don't be afraid.

3. Money for Friday night dinner - This meal is not provided. The purpose is to give us a chance to network with friends and other writers. There are many restaurants in the area ready to handle our crowd. This doesn't mean there won't be long lines, but the food and company is sure to be good.
4. Business Cards - I give my business cards to everyone, even people I know. My business card has my email address, my website, and my photo. I love looking at the stash of business cards I've received from others at the conference when I get home. I spread them out on my bed and think about the people associated with them. Not only are these cards a great tool to remember friends and network, they also serve as a tool for your appointments. An editor, agent, or mentor may not have the space to carry your one-sheet, first chapter, or proposal, but they are willing to take your business card. Be sure to have a photo of you included on the card. Names run in and out of our head, but a photo speaks a thousand words.

5. One Sheets - A one sheet contains a short blurb about your book, maybe a related picture, your name and contact information and basic information about what you plan to pitch. Do a separate one sheet for each project you plan to pitch. The purpose of this fantastic gem is it works the same as a safety net for a tightrope artist. Walking into an appointment all prepared to tell the person on the other side of the desk all about our book is easy, until we suddenly forget everything--even our name! Having your one sheet ready to set on the table reminds us of information we planned to say or we can hand it to the agent-editor to look at. I have been saved several times by my one sheet. If you would like help making your, Alley Cat Angie Dicken offers this service. You can contact her at

6. A nice outfit for the Saturday night Gala - Conferees will dress in a range of clothing ideas for the Gala. This is a dress up time. A time to feel pretty or handsome. There will be dressy pantsuits, floor length, calf length, knee length dresses. Some will be Sunday best, others will be glittery. Jeans are not suggested. Several have found the perfect dress at Goodwill or a consignment shop. You don't need to spend boo-koo bucks.

7. A fun outfit for Thursday Night's Genre dinner - This is the night we get to dress like one of our characters. Sorry, no weapons real or fake allowed. Hotel security will not be happy to see these. You can dress like a victorian mistress of a manor, an alien, a superhero, even a villain. HAH I just remembered Wednesday Adam's costume in the Adams Family. She said "I dressed like a homicidal maniac. They look like everyone else." Have fun!

8. Camera, medicines, Bible and any other necessities.


9. Optional-exercise clothes. There is an exercise room in the hotel.

What to leave home-

1. Scented perfumes, lotions, etc. The conference is fragrance free due to many coming who have allergies.

2. Your entire manuscript. Feel free to bring one chapter, a one page, and business cards. Editors and agents don't have the space to take the entire manuscript and will ask you to mail or email it to them instead if they are interested. Consider bringing a flash drive with any information you want to have. The hotel has a business office complete with computers, copiers, and etc.

If you are able to go, this will be a great time to learn more about the writing craft, pitch your work to agents and editors, network, and just be with others who completely understand why you would want to have a conversation with one of your characters.

If you are not able to go, you can still benefit from the classes by getting an mp3 recording. Also, we will be focusing on helpful writing topics here on the Writers Alley. Stop by each weekday for a new writing concept.

Your turn: 
1. If you are going to the conference and have been there before, what are you looking forward to seeing, doing again?

2. If you are going to the conference and have never been there before, what do you hope to accomplish and what question do you have that we can help you with.

3. If you are not going to the conference, what topic would you picked for a class. We will address this topic here on the Writers Alley.


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

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

Photo Courtesy -

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Setting Wow: Making Your Setting as Important as Your Plot and Characters

Hi, AlleyPals! Laurie here :) Today it's my privilege to welcome one of my dear friends, debut author Sally Bradley. She recently celebrated the release of her novel, Kept, and I couldn't be more excited for her. You guys are in for a real treat today :)  
Setting has typically been a weakness for me. I always used specific locales and even explored the area so I could write knowledgeably, but when people talked about the setting being another character in the story, I knew I wasn't there. Then came Kept.

Kept takes place on the edge of Grant Park in Chicago. I've been there a number of times, but it wasn't an area I knew. Yet somehow, in this book, the setting mattered in every chapter. It affected everything, and readers who know the area said I captured it well. So I got to thinking. What did I do differently? Why did my setting have such an impact on the story? Better yet, how could I do this again? After much thought, here's what I came up with.

1. Adore your setting.

Like... seriously. Take that adoration to the nth power. I'm a Chicago geek. I grew up in the suburbs and loved every moment my family spent visiting museums or parks or driving by the skyscrapers. If I had to pick, I'd totally live downtown. In fact, I'd live in the exact luxury high rise that Miska Tomlinson, my heroine and no relation to Laurie, lives in. I realize now that was key.

Photograph (may or may not be digitally edited) To me, Chicago is a gorgeous, glittering magic that I can never get enough of. And Metropolitan Tower, on the edge of Grant Park with incredible views of Lake Michigan and Buckingham Fountain, captivated me. I wanted to know what it would be like to live there. My fascination with my setting helped me not just include it, but also bring it to life. Find that one spot that makes you passionate, the place that maybe no one else even knows you love so intensely -- or are curious about. That fascination, that love will keep you tied closely to your story, always wanting more. You'll strive to do it justice, to make everyone else see the same beauty and value.

2. Make your setting truly visual.

Do you make up a town? Use a real one? Since Chicago is my MO, I went for reality. When my characters were arguing beside the lakefront, I hopped on Google Earth, went down to street level, and stood where they stood, took in all the views they did. When my hero chased my heroine back to their building, I traced his path along the streets and showed details that mattered -- the crosswalk signals that kept him from catching her, the revolving door of their building that she went through. In essence, I didn't have to make stuff up. I looked at what was there and made sure it got onto the page. You can do this too, even if you make up a location. Find a real place that matches your imagination and get every image, video, picture that you can. Surround yourself with them so that at any moment, you can look at what's real and draw inspiration from it. Of course you can make stuff up, but having something visual helps you include details you'd forget otherwise. And if you can see it, odds are so will your reader. Also find the one thing about your setting that matters most. What do you really love or want to play up? For me, that was Buckingham Fountain. I wanted Miska to have a view of this massive fountain. (Tell me that's not stunning!)

Because I loved the fountain so much, I looked for opportunities to not just include it, but to highlight it and make it come alive for the reader. You become an evangelist for the setting because we want everyone to catch our passion, right?

3. Connect your characters to the setting.

Kept Endorsement
In the past, my characters were ambivalent about where they lived. But not this time. In fact, the whole plot revolves around Miska's love for her home's location and her determination to day anything (seriously, anything!) to stay there. Dillan, the hero, likes the area too, although not as intensely. Early in the book, he makes a comment about Buckingham Fountain that makes Miska think he loves it the same way she does. It's that innocent comment that makes her first take notice of him. How do your characters feel about their setting? Do they hate it? Love it? How can that feed your plot? Your characters' motivation? Figure out how it affects them. And if it doesn't? Maybe that story isn't right for this setting.

Met Tower 4. Use the setting to create action and characterization.

We don't want our setting to just be a stage; we want it to play a role in the book -- in the characters and in the plot. That's why it's so important that your characters have strong feelings about their location. Like I said, Miska will do anything to live by Grant Park. But as her character arc evolves, she begins to react -- and behave -- very differently toward the setting. It's that change that conveys how deeply her character has changed.

I also used setting to play a role in the plot. I'd love to tell you exactly how, but I'd have to give the ending away to do it! But go back to what fascinated you about your setting. Go back to your visuals and the details you uncovered as you explored the area. What can you use literally in the action of your book? What aspect of the setting can twist everything around for your characters?

5. Don't force the symbolism.

During the rough draft, I spent too much time on the fountain, park, and lakefront. I overwrote about them big time, but it was so fun. When I began editing, I kept coming back to Buckingham Fountain. There was some symbolism there; I just knew it. But I didn't know what it was. What did it mean? What did it signify?

It wasn't until the fourth draft that it dawned on me. The fountain had a spiritual significance to my heroine. Now I never tell the reader this. In fact, I'd like to think that it's very subtle and that a lot of people will miss it. But I think deep in the reader's subconscious, the fountain's symbolism creates a continuity between Miska and her character growth. The setting connects her to her internal goals and arc. I'm so glad that I didn't censor myself or force anything during those early drafts, because it would have been obnoxiously in the reader's face. But something was going on in my own subconscious, tying the things I loved to deeply personal moments in my character's life. Letting it happen naturally was worth the forehead wrinkles. 

So there it is, my list for setting success. Next up for me is a rewrite of a book I loved... but had no connection to the setting. I'll be taking time to figure out exactly where this story should take place. And I can't wait to see how it changes everything.


Bio ShotSally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things like good pizza and White Sox games. A freelance fiction editor, story has been her passion since childhood, and she's thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. You can find Sally at her website and Facebook page and can check out images for Kept on the book's Pinterest board. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo and will soon be available at iBooks.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Agents Are Looking For and How to Pitch to Them with Julie Gwinn

What This Agent is Looking For (An ACFW Primer)

For the last decade or so, I have worn many hats, first as a marketer and then as editor for two different publishing houses. In my new role as a literary agent with The Seymour Agency, I have noticed that the query letters and pitches coming from prospective authors are the same but what I am looking for has changed. Hopefully my explanation will help you hone your pitches for ACFW.

As a fiction editor, I was looking for a great story with strong characters set in a unique location or situation to make the book stand out in a crowd. I wanted strong writing but was willing to work with an author if I could see there was potential. I came to writer’s conferences and ACFW with my matrix in hand so that I knew exactly what I needed to round out my publishing plan by genre. The ideas that fit into that plan were given priority. I was looking at the short-term.

As an agent, I am still looking for a great story with strong characters in a unique location or situation that makes it stand out in an increasingly saturated market. The difference for me though is now I am looking beyond the one book to see if the author has other ideas as well.  I am now looking long-term.

I am looking for an author/writer who has a lot of ideas beyond book one and who needs my help setting priorities based on the current market to put those ideas into a strategic publishing/writing plan. I am excited at the prospect of finding someone I can guide and nurture and help grow. Personally, I want someone with a passion for their message and for learning everything they can about their craft. I am looking for a great writer who captures me immediately or a good writer who is willing to learn.

I am also looking for a business partner who is willing to work as hard as I will to see their project published and then marketed and sold into the hands of readers. Someone who understands the role discoverability plays in becoming successful and is interested in cultivating a following of fans and readers to help with that important component.

Ultimately trust is key. The author needs to trust me, my experience, my knowledge, and know I have their best interest at heart. And I need to trust that the author will be open, honest and do their part in making this a successful venture.

So as you set appointments for ACFW, know that pitching to agents is different than pitching to editors, and tailor your message accordingly. The appointments are like speed dating and each one is wanting to hear something specific, but in general we are all there to hear from you!


Thank you, Julie, for letting us in on what agents are looking for. We are thrilled to have you at The Writer's Alley.

Does anyone have any questions? Thoughts? Things to add?


Pepper Basham writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She writes a variety of genres, but enjoys sprinkling her native culture of Appalachia in them all.  She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she works with kids, searches for unique hats to impress her friends, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends on The Alley. She is represented by the amazing Julie Gwinn.