Friday, February 24, 2017

FUN FRIDAY -- With the Love at First Laugh Crew!

What a fun week we've had here on the Alley!

Ashley chatted about The Writing Rush Hour -- encouraging us to take a breathe and slow down a bit.

Then Pepper kicked of a series she's doing about character arc--which she is SO GOOD at!!

And TODAY I have the excited honor of hosting the women of Love at First Laugh! a year ago, God planted this dream in my heart--to step out of my comfort zone and try to start a box set focusing on "funny" romances aka romantic comedy. There were LOTS of box sets out there--contemporary romance, historical romance, suspense, etc. But I hadn't seen any in the Christian realm that focused on romance with a comedic flair.

I was chatting with fellow author Heather Gray about the matter, and she got excited about it!! IMAGINE THAT!! So together, we prayed about it and put out feelers and God brought us a FANTASTIC team of authors.

Since the set is now on preorder and releases March 6th, I thought I'd take today to do a FUN interview of my fellow Love at First Laugh authors --- and TWO of them are fellow alleycats!!!

FAVORITE romantic comedy book
Pepper: "Oh goodness!! AHHH!! Okay....Miss Invisible by Laura Jensen Walker"
FAVORITE Romantic comedy movie
Marion: "My Best Friend's Wedding"

FAVORITE Valentine's Day gift you've received
Laurie: "My husband and I started dating ten years ago this Valentine's Day. I was in a chemistry lab until late, but I knew he was the man for me when a Chewbacca holding roses popped up in my email. I have never felt more known and loved by someone who was "wooing" me."

FAVORITE writing how-to book
Jessica: "Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld"

Romantic hotel room overlooking the ocean -- or secluded romantic cabin in the mountains?
Heather: "Summer? Give me the ocean! Winter? Secluded cabin in the mountains - definitely!"

FAVORITE writing spot!
Elizabeth: "Wherever my five year old can't climb all over me and pepper me with questions about what I'm doing and why. This usually ends up being the dining room table."

Would you rather -- receive flowers or chocolates?
Christina: "Flowers over chocolate, mainly because other people in my house consume chocolate and I'm left with nothing. "

Most memorable date!
Laurie: "My husband and I went to San Francisco, and after exploring the city and eating at these famous restaurants, we stayed in a beach house in this cute little town called Stinson Beach. We listened to music as we made lemon spaghetti with all the doors and windows open. And that glorious simplicity was more memorable than the acclaim and bright lights of the city 🙂"

Best piece of writing advice you've ever received 
Pepper: "Write....and remember the reason you love writing in the first place:-)"

FUNNIEST joke you know 
Christina: "When I was a kid I was in the hospital a lot and spent a good deal of time in the blood drawing room. They had a cartoon on the wall of two mosquitoes. One was blown up like a balloon, and his friend said, "Pull out! You hit an artery." I thought that was hilarious at the time, but in retrospect it was all I had to look at besides medical posters. And I was ten."

How did you meet your spouse? 
Marion: "Our parents were church friends, and I used to play in his tree house when we were about ten. Our first date, I asked him out (as he thought I was out of his league so wouldn't), and then I promptly fell into a mountain stream and spent the rest of the date freezing and wet. He did warm me up later LOL."

MOST embarrassing moment 
Jessica: "My most embarrassing moment was that one time I sort of cheated on my church...during service...(longer version of the story here!)" (Krista: You are in for a real treat... I seriously have tears rolling down my eyes reading this!!)

When did you fall in love for the first time? 
Elizabeth: "I dated the same boy for two years in high school and at the time, I would totally have said we were in love. After falling in love with the man who is now my husband, I can look back and see that high school romance for the vague shadow of real love that it is,'s probably still the most honest answer."

Why should people read Love at First Laugh? 
Heather: "I'm biased, of course, but when a group of authors come together and work corporately to create something that honors God and encourages His people, it's worth the read. The bonus here is that there's romance and laughter involved, too - both things I like."

Let's Chat!

Feel free to take any of the questions above and YOU answer them in the comments today! I'd love to hear YOUR answers!! (or ask any more questions and one of us from the set will be happy to answer!)

And be sure to check out Love at First Laugh releasing in March!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Character Arc - Part 1 - The Basics
Have you ever read a story where the characters clung to you long after you closed the book?

Somehow your thoughts turned a little fuzzy from the whirlwind of emotion, drama, humor, or danger which propelled these characters through a palpable discovery or change which your mind cannot release? Been there?

Oh, I have. It’s a wonderful, and sometimes painful, release for some of the very best stories.
But what are we mourning or celebrating in this fiction-filtered fog?

Usually…it’s characters.

Dynamic characters.

A quick reference in your handy-dandy Webster’s dictionary will tell you that the word dynamic means “marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change” (bolded for emphasis)

This is not to say that all that continuous and productive change is for the greater good, but any memorable character (whether hero or villain) becomes more potent when they’re dynamic.
Dynamic can mean large changes or small ones, but there ARE changes, nonetheless, and they impact not only your character, but usually the characters around them.

Some of the most memorable stories are made up of dynamic characters – and one of the main tools used to create these dynamic characters is the development of the character arc.

I really like how Wikipedia gives a simple definition of character arc: “the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story”

Pretty straight forward, right?

Well… what does ‘transformation’ really mean? Or for that matter, if we go back to the definition of ‘dynamic’, what does ‘productive’ mean?

Both answers might look different based on our character, right? A ‘productive’ change for the Joker is going to probably look different than one for The Dark Knight, right?

Aha, so…here’s the hallmark of a character arc.


The best character arcs are those so entwined uniquely and personally with the character’s personality, past, plans, and progress, that the change is logical, believable, and realistic.

So, to write a solid arc, you need a good idea of who your character is…and where you want them to go.
There are three possible directions your character can go with an arc.

1.     He can transform – a move from a weak, nobody to a hero of the known world J Or…Beauty and the Beast (both figuratively and literal change in this one)
Does your character become a whole new person by the end of the story? From dark to light?
Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Zuko in Avatar the Last Airbender (animated series), George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Can you name a few?

2.     He can grow (and arguably the most common in popular fiction). The basic heart of the character doesn’t change/transform, but the character grows from a weaker person, lesser understanding, undecided, etc. In most novels, we read, the character arc is a growth from a lesser developed character to a more developed one due to growth…not necessarily a big change. Lizzie in Pride and Prejudcie really stays the same person, but has grown in her understanding of herself and Mr. Darcy. Peter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe grows to become a braver, stronger, humbler Peter, but the main component of who Peter is stays the same. Jane from Jane Eyre grows in her understanding of who she is and what she can do as an independent woman, but her core personality doesn’t transform, it grows.

3.     He can fail – the one I don’t like to discuss because I’m a happily-ever-after girl ;-) This is your usual tragedy. Romeo and Juliet. The character goes from an area of strength, knowledge, understanding, and declines throughout the story. Personally, I felt that Henry VIII in the movie/book The Other Bolyen Girl shows this arc brilliantly.

What about YOU?

Next time I’ll talk about what aspects SHAPE a character arc but for now, can you list some books where you’ve seen an example of a certain type of arc? Maybe an example of all three??

Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing Rush Hour

I've got a problem.

I can't-- no matter how hard I try-- get anywhere on time.

Everyone close to me knows it. And it's strange, because I'm generally so reliable. Like, over-the-top reliable, perfectionistic, and thorough. But every single time I think I'm actually going to be early to something, by the time I get in the car, I glance at the clock and realize I'm already ten minutes behind.

Do you ever feel that way? Behind?

We all know what happens next. The speeding down the road, the irritability at those slow drivers that seem to have come out of nowhere, and the anxious heart that tends to stick around even after you've finally arrived. You know the feeling.

But have you ever felt the same about your writing?

Maybe you're on a deadline for your editor or agent. Or maybe you just promised yourself you'd finish this book by a certain day, and that day is fast approaching.

What happens as a result? That same anxious heart.

Today, I want to encourage you to think differently about writing. Remember when writing wasn't a job? When it was a dream in a young girl's heart or a knack for storytelling before you even knew how to type? Remember when God first called you-- when you first came up with the idea for your current project?

Do you remember your passion?

I'm always telling my literature students that academic writing takes time, many drafts, and a lot of thought, and that they can't rush the process. But you know what? The same holds true for any type of writing.

Why do we expect art from our stories when we aren't even taking the time to let the canvas dry?

We live in such a rushed society, it only makes sense we want to rush our writing too. But what if we took a step back and looked at writing truly like a work of art?

What if the only thing keeping your sketch from becoming a masterpiece is more time?

Most of us probably pray before we write, that God will bless our words to His purpose. But what if, instead of saying, "Here's what I'm offering, God-- please bless it," we asked, "God, where are You in this story today, and what can I learn from the process?"

My last story took me two years to write. Two years, you guys! And I don't know if that beautiful little manuscript will ever even see the light of day. But do you know what? I learned so much through that process. My writing grew to a level of honesty and (hopefully) lyricism I never knew before. And most of all, that story changed me-- not just my writing.

So, today I want to encourage you to ask questions of God. Ask Him to guide your story. Ask Him His purposes for that writing time. Actively invite His presence into that space.

Slow down.

Slow down until all the traffic noise in your life stills to the beautiful hum of art.

I want to hear from you! How do you dig into those deeper layers of your stories and keep yourself from getting caught in writing rush hour? :)


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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Fun {Featuring Author Christen E. Krumm!}

Happy Friday, friends! We hope you had a wonderful week and felt lots of love.

Alley News

Friday Five with Author Christen E. Krumm

Today, we have the immense privilege of hosting the talented Christen Krumm! She was kind enough to answer a few fun questions to help us get to know her better:

What's the most random thing in your bag?

A bottle of BioFreeze. My brother ran a 1/2 marathon, and I was the cheerleader (and had BioFreeze for his knees after the race)

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the second Inspector Gamache novel, A Fatal Grace; Hidden Figures; Katie Ganshert's Life After; Kristy Cambron’s The Illusionist’s Apprentice; and Sara Ella’s newest, Unraveled.

What do you order at Starbucks?

Grande Vanilla Soy Latte or a Coconut Mocha—depending on what I feel like

What's your favorite recent discovery?

Coconut oil + a teeny tiny bit of chocolate in my coffee (and cream). It’s like a coconut mocha (only you’re getting the health benefits from the coconut oil!)

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the first draft of book two in my duology and playing around with an idea for a serial series.

What can we pray for?

I’m querying agents—it’s kinda daunting and overwhelming.

We've been there and are so proud of you! May the odds be ever in your favor :) 



About Christen:

Christen Krumm has organized the jungle of blog tours for the past five years as a publicity coordinator and now works as a virtual assistant helping authors maintain their sanity and sobriety. When she's not making up new stories or digging her way out of her massive TBR pile, she finds more adventures running after her three kids, sniffing out crimes with her detective husband and trying to maintain culture in small-town Arkansas.

You can keep up with Christen's journey to publication by following her here!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Created for Love Stories


"...should I draw you the picture of my heart it would be what I hope
you would still love though it contained nothing new. The early
possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have
obtained over it, leaves not the smallest space unoccupied."
-Abigail Adams to John

"I shall cork up all my kindness--yet the volatile essence may fly off
in my walk--you know not how much tenderness for you may escape in a
voluptuous sigh, should the air, as is often the case, give a
pleasurable movement to the sensations, that have been clustering
round my heart, as I read this morning--reminding myself, every now
and then, that the writer loved me."
-Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to William Godwin

What was the first love letter you received?

I still carry fond memories of the notes written in black sharpie by
my mother on a folded napkin in my Strawberry Shortcake metal lunch
tin. The note and the accompanying homemade brownie or other goodie
brought a smile to my face even as I opened these notes with sly
abandon on my lap, sneaking a glance and hoping nobody would notice.
These were the years you didn't admit you had parents. When I would
stage whisper, "Mom, please get back in the car..." when my mother
waited for me outside our 8-seat Buick wagon. Mom used such classic
phrases as Love 4 U before twitter shortened the American attention
span for the written word.

I have a wooden jewelry box stacked with college-ruled notebook paper folded into quarters, relics penned from my husband during our university years. I take them out periodically and when I need a smile.

Yet in reality, every romance and every love letter is a shadow pointing us to the glory of the bridegroom and his love for the bride.

Everyone loves a wedding story, I think its in our DNA. After all, whether we are married or single we can rejoice as we prepare for the ceremony yet to come. I’m reminded of one of my favorite worship songs.

“You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham

When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
You're beautiful

Story reminds us we are made for a different world. Just like the crest of the black moment in our favorite novel, it somehow leads to an HEA ending though its impossible for the reader to see in the moment. It is difficult to even see how the heroine could come through her latest trial, yet she somehow does. And sometimes it is difficult to believe we will get through the loss of a loved one, the unemployment or…fill-in-the-blanks…

The Psalms are full of tender moments between God and his people. Here’s one of my favorites.

“… If you love me and truly know who I am, I will rescue you and keep you safe. When you are in trouble, call out to me. I will answer and be there to protect and honor you.”-Psalm 91:14-15

If you love me and truly know who I am. The maker of the universe woos us and wants our love. He wants us to know who he is. We all cry out to know and be known. We all want someone to know us inside and out and love us still. The best romances contain but a shadow of the unconditional love of our God.

The cry of our hearts is for intimacy, with man and with God. We know we are not meant to be alone. Whether single or married we seek out community.

I will rescue you and keep you safe.

Popular recent releases in CBA include K-9 rescue dogs, a military hero struggling with PTSD, and the sheriff of a small Western town just to name a few. Yet Jesus was the ultimate rescuer.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. -Matthew 9:36

When we were helpless in our sin, he came to rescue us. We were harassed by Satan, nothing we could do could save ourselves.

We love stories that dangle danger, yet in the end we long to sigh with relief as the heroine lives to see another day. We look for security in other relationships, in earthly things, in temporary circumstances…just as the heroine is lured by the same temptations. God uses story to show us how others have endured struggles and we find the hope that we can persist on in a life of faith.

Its no accident that God gave us a love for story. A heart that craves after words, a soul that begs for intimacy that can only be fulfilled by our Heavenly Father.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.-Jeremiah 31:3

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.-Hosea 11:4

***Speaking of love stories...everyone loves a good surprise! Cover reveal on Pepper Basham's blog for her upcoming release JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. Stop here...****

Julia Reffner

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Five with the Fabulous Krista Phillips!

Today we have the delightfully sweet and seriously funny fellow Alley Cat, Krista, in the hot seat! Ready to dish some randomness...

1.  Do you have a writing ritual? Favorite spot, mood music or silence, kinda thing?

Krista: Favorite spot - Panera in a neighboring town, side room, back booth. I don’t go there often but it is by far my favorite spot!! 
Mood music – honestly I usually play praise and worship music, but when I wrote my Christmas novella in July, I was rockin’ some Christmas carols and with my most recent book that comes out in a novella box set next month, I was rockin’ some country music because the hero is a drummer in a country rock band :)

2. Writer’s brain food (and/or drink) what’s your poison?

Krista: *rolls eyes* Dr Pepper. And anything sweet and chocolatey. In other words, super healthy! 

Amy: Hey, chocolate is basically a bean. Legumes are healthy, right? Perfect brain food! I comcur!

3. Juggling writing life and home/mommy duty can be a daunting task. Often times I feel like I say the same things over and over again, ad nauseum. For example: Hands to yourself! No hitting! Pick up your toys! (and yes, all of those require exclamation points as my children suffer from poor listening skills.) If you could record one phrase you use exhaustively at home and play it on repeat, what would it be? ;)

Krista: WOW. There are so many. “I know it isn’t fair. I don’t care. Life’s not fair. Get over it.” 

“What?” (this more points to MY poor listening skills since it is usually said after they have said mom 100 times and I just then heard them…)

“Do your chores.” OHHHHH. That one. I choose that one. HANDS DOWN!!!!!!

4. Top five favorite authors to read…. (Tough, I know! You can do it!)

Krista: Uh--- I mean. I’m gonna say all my alleycats but because there are more than five of us, let’s just say that is assumed so BESIDES my amazing alleycat sisters ---

Tamara Leigh
Jody Hedlund
Becky Wade
Francine Rivers
DeeAnne Gist
(there are so… SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOo many others!!)

5. Favorite weird food combination?

I don’t really have one. I like normal, mostly not healthy food. I dip my McDonald’s chicken nuggets and fries in honey. Does that count?!?

Amy: Totally! Super weird! And while I've got you here, tell us about your upcoming books!

Krista: I’d love to! I have TWO of them, actually. My next novella, A (nearly) Normal Nanny, releases in a BOX SET along with 7 other AMAZING authors (2 of them are fellow alleycats) in March! It goes on PREORDER next week! Look for it—Love at First Laugh!

THEN my next full length releases with Barbour in November, The Engagement Plot! SO STINKIN’ EXCITED about that!!! 

The (in progress so subject to change) blurb:
Six months ago, William took Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that.

But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.

William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality TV show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him and—pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

Despite the crazy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off rises to the surface. Could this love run deeper than a price tag, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?

Amy: Love love love! Can't wait! <3

Alright Alley Pals... who has a favorite Krista Phillips book??? I'm going with A (Sorta) Southern Serenade! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Manuscript Reunion Revisited

I just had to pull this oldie and post it today. I am trucking through that 2013 manuscript...going through my second round of edits...and let me tell you...IT. IS. A. CHORE! I love the story one minute, then wail about it the next. I just feel like I need to find a cave and stay there until it's to my expectations--but then again, my expectations might be a teensy bit unreasonable!

Would love to hear from you all today! Ever dusted off an old manuscript? What challenges did you face?


I can't stop my smile from growing when I hear a friend's voice on the phone or receive a piece of mail from a friend who I haven't seen in a while.

A couple weeks ago, I had a full day of smiling as I received phone calsl back to back from TWO AlleyCats and a note from another Cat that afternoon! Wow, talk about feeling loved. At least once (sometimes twice) a year, many of us AlleyCats spend some quality time face-to-face, reminiscing, brainstorming, supporting each other, and building special friendships of a lifetime.

In perfect writerly fashion, I am going to use our little reunions as a segue to my most recent encounter with an old manuscript that is suddenly rising from the drawer it was stuffed into.
I feel like I am reuniting with old friends as I remember the characters who I spent a a a a a LOT of time with three years ago.

While my AlleyCat sistas and I seem to mesh upon first squeal, there are differences with my fictional friends who make that manuscript reunion not only reminiscent, but a teensy bit awkward...and even deflating.

Have you ever picked up an old story and reacquainted yourself with the characters? What did you discover?

Did too much time pass by that you no longer have anything in common with your imaginary friends? I mean, do they seem shallow and flat and just a reminder of how much growing you've done while you were apart?

How about things that may have seem like scars or wounds in your characters' lives, now seem small in comparison to the real life experiences you as their creator have endured?

No matter how disappointing I might feel with the 2013 version of Angie's made-up people, it's a good thing in a way, because it reminds me that I am growing in my craft, my experience, and my knowledge. I look back and regret the failed submissions and unfruitful queries LESS. I get that 20/20 hindsight that I simply wasn't ready to introduce the world to those characters back then, and I now have the opportunity to develop deeper "relationship" with my people after all I've learned.

Writing is a beautiful thing when we grow, we learn, and remember our footsteps to creating a beautiful story, a perfectly flawed character, and find a most opportune chance to touch an audience--in perfect timing.

 I am just thankful that in my non-fiction life, I have friends like the AlleyCats who push me further down the road as a person, a writer, and a friend, so I can make my fiction shine even brighter.


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 first two novels come out Fall 2017. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Come hang out with me on social media!
Twitter: @angiedicken