Friday, December 9, 2016

As the Ink Flows! Welcome!!

It is my absolute pleasure to welcome a group of ladies with hearts for ministry.

In August 2016, I had the lovely opportunity to meet (and worship with) Melony Teague at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat in Nashville, TN and through that connection I was introduced to the authors of the devotional, As the Ink Flows - a book that keeps a writer's focus on the soul of our stories. Jesus.

As an Alleycat, I've enjoyed the beautiful fellowship of other authors who love Jesus, so it's so sweet to see other groups combine their knowledge and talents in a way to spread good news to others.

I am excited to introduce these ladies to you today!

They are offering a giveaway of their devotional to one lucky commenter - so stop by and share :-)

Now...let's meet these gals.

Glenda, Melony, Carol, Claudia, and Marguerite, welcome to our alley :-)


(Q1)  I love to see a group of writers come together to create such a thoughtful and beautiful project. What brought the five of you together for As the Ink Flows?
Carol Ford: Our writers’ group was formed in 2012 and we are now in our fifth year of regular meetings. Our common connection was The Word Guild,[i] and while attending the annual Write Canada conference, we discussed the idea of meeting together, as we all lived relatively close to one another. At our first meeting we listed our goals for organizing a writers’ group, and by the next meeting we had picked our mission statement: To prayerfully support, encourage, and inspire one another in our writing goals, to the glory of our God.

From this beginning, we chose a name for our group—“Friends in The Word”—and have been offering each other support, prayer, editorial critique, and creative ideas for writing, publishing, and marketing ever since. We also thought that a devotional for writers would be useful for ourselves and others.

It was Glenda Dekkema who put the project into motion, and we all made contributions to the book. When we finished, we knew that As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers would offer readers a unique approach to meditating on God’s Word and responding in writing.


(Q2)  Each of you have a unique writing experience. Would you take a few lines to share your writing journey with our readers?
Melony: Looking back, I realized the signs were there, but I never recognized them. I loved English Lit. at school and was inspired by my English teacher, Mrs. Prinsloo (with whom I am still in contact today). She coached me when I entered a Speech contest on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As a teenager I was the secret author of a high school gossip column for our local newspaper. (This has remained a secret all these years!) Then I went on to do other things in other fields, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I realized what I wanted to be when I grow up. A writer. I then began pursuing a writing career with the support of my family and friends. It wasn’t easy at first, but it has been worth every minute. I am so blessed to be able to do what I love and love what I do, and contribute to the finances of the family. At first, when I was doing research as to which direction my writing career should take, I thought I might write fiction, but inspired by Letters of E. B. White by E. B. White, I realized I was far more interested in nonfiction, real stories. I have up until this point primarily written nonfiction, but I anticipate branching out to fiction in the future, when my children are a little more grown-up and self-sufficient. I have loved every second of my freelance career, and I love the variety it brings. Each project is unique, whether I am doing an article on a celebrity, writing a profile for a sports star, or doing work for clients (editing, teaching, or coaching). There is always something new to learn about people and about this industry. Being part of our writers’ group “Friends in The Word” has played a pivotal role in my success. I would not be where I am without their support, prayers, and love.

(Pepper commentary here: I LOVE how teacher's can inspire us!!)


Carol: I never thought of myself as a writer, but I have been coaching and writing job search documents (such as resumes or cover letters) for several years. I have also been a corporate trainer for over twenty years, and this requires me to take a lot of information and pare it down for presentations and handouts.  I notice that this experience has helped me be more direct and active in my writing style. I enjoy writing smaller articles and short stories, but I need to complete my memoir about adoption and finding my birth family.


Claudia: My interest in writing started back in 1977. However, it took me until 2010 before I began to seriously contemplate writing my memoir. Initially, I wanted to write this for my grandchildren. I wanted each of them to know about my childhood struggles and how I overcame them as an adult when I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I signed up for an online creative writing course and found myself enjoying the assignments, as well as getting feedback from my instructor and my fellow students. After the first course, I signed up for two more—all on writing a memoir. It was during the last course I took that I decided my story needed to be shared with others who may possibly be helped in dealing with forgiveness. Prior to this, I had become a born-again Christian at the age of forty-one and soon after was able to forgive my alcoholic dad. In 2012, I took my writing to another level and connected with an editor. My book was picked up by a publisher and released in 2015. In the meantime, our writers’ group decided to write a devotional for speakers and writers. Our group was an ongoing support with prayer and encouragement for one another throughout as we progressed in making As the Ink Flows the best it could be!

(Pepper commentary: Claudia, that is definitely a story to share with the world. Your healing. God's forgiveness! Wow!}

Marguerite: I have been interested in writing all my life, and I even worked as a technical writer for a few years, which gave me a really good grounding. However, after a while I moved to other jobs. Years passed, and I guess I started to feel a nudge to get back into writing, especially from a Christian worldview. Then one day, a member of my Bible study group told me that there was an association of Canadian Christian writers called The Word Guild. The moment she mentioned this, I knew that this was exactly what I needed. I needed other people to help me get moving, otherwise I would be forever dreaming of writing and get nowhere. Thanks to this writers’ association, I have been able to contribute to five different books. It is also thanks to The Word Guild that I met the other writers in our wonderful small group “Friends in The Word.” For me, being part of a network of writers has made all the difference.


(Q3)  What do each of you hope As the Ink Flows will offer to readers/writers?
Glenda: I really hope you take the time to do the writing exercises at the end of each devotion. We would love to hear your feedback. Come back to our blogs/websites/Facebook pages and let us know what you think.


Melony: I hope that writers who are discouraged will have their passion for writing renewed. I pray that whether they have been in the industry for years, or are just beginning their journey, they would understand the value in what they do, not only in terms of the publishing industry, but in light of the Kingdom of God. An author’s job is not an easy one, one pours a part of one’s self into each project.


Carol: I hope that readers and writers will be encouraged to pick up their pens or go to the computer and write short responses to the devotions. I also hope that these prompts will spark creative ideas that will blossom into published work or powerful talks.


Claudia: My hope is that our book will encourage writers to use the devotional along with the Bible on a daily basis, in order to be refreshed and enlightened with respect to the significant way in which God may guide them as they write.


Marguerite: I agree with all these great answers. I hope especially that the readers will sense heartfelt support for their work, whatever their level; and also a sense of freedom to be creative and to try something new for them—perhaps poetry, drama, or songwriting.

(Pepper commentary: I hear the words encouragement, support, creatvity, passion, devotion - all beautiful words to inspire us! Thank you!)


(Q4)  The writing journey is not for the faint of heart or spirit. What is one important piece of advice you’ve learned through your process that you’d would like to share?
Glenda: If you have something to say... say it! Even if it may have been said before, only you can say it in your unique way, with your unique experiences and your unique talents. Go for it!


Melony: I think you have to believe in your dream and go for it no matter what comes along. You have embrace your strengths and recognize your weak areas. Be prepared to learn, develop and know it is a process, a journey and you just have to keep chipping away at it, keep moving forward. And, you really can’t take things too personally.


Carol: Don’t rush the process. I tend to write something and want to share it before I have done enough editing. Often after I have sent something and reread my work, I see so many ways I could improve it. I think the best way to avoid this is to let my work sit for a day or two.


Claudia: To continue with confidence in your goals with respect to what you would like to achieve. If discouragement happens, for one reason or another, spend time in prayer and ask God to keep you focused and determined to complete what you have begun.


Marguerite: If I have learned one thing, it would be the power of partnerships—especially partnerships with other writers who share your faith. There is something very special about connecting with others on a regular basis, especially if you can pray together as well as discuss your writing projects. Moreover, it is much easier to prepare a contribution to an anthology or to a devotional than to write a whole book!


(Q5)  Many of us struggle to make the time for devotions in our days, let alone writing. What is some advice you’d give on making time for both count?
Glenda: You may think you don’t have time for devotions, but you probably do have a few moments every day to slip away from the chaos and spend it reading a devotion and praying. It may be the most important time of your day!

About writing: if you want to make a career out of it, you’ll have to devote time and energy to it every day. You will need to stay glued to your chair and write, whether or not you feel like it at the time. I believe there's no such thing as inspiration without dedication.


Melony: We recognized this dilemma when we were writing our devotional. It is for this very reason that we kept each piece short and to the point. The devotional is broken into sections according to theme, so that at a glance you can pick from a section which appeals to you for that day. I believe it is hard to be creative, to pour your efforts into writing when your spirit is dry. You have to take care of your spirit, soul, and body in order to write from a place of inspiration, life, and health. This goes for any kind of writing you are doing, whether it is for the Christian publishing industry or not.


Carol: This is definitely a struggle for me. I continue to work at a specific time for my personal devotions and protect that time. However, I find that my commitment to a weekly Bible study helps me keep a focus in God’s Word.


Claudia: I find that getting up earlier on the days I plan to write is an essential component to accomplishing both my devotional time and the time I hope to set aside for writing. It has become my habit to do my devotions before I attempt to do anything else. I also keep a notebook beside my bed with a schedule for writing the following day. For me, I find I have to be disciplined in how I divide up my day and determined to stick to it as much as possible.


Marguerite: What helps me is following a book, even if I end up reading it many times. I always discover something new. And being part of a group is an incredible motivation, too, whether for a Bible study, for prayer, or for writing.

Pepper: I love all these answers and the 'heart' of your stories. Thank you for being with us at the Alley today and I really appreciate, particularly, your encouragement!!

Thank you to Pepper Basham for hosting us, we are delighted to be included! 



[i] As described on its website (www.thewordguild.com), The Word Guild is a community of “Canadian writers, editors, speakers, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other interested individuals who are Christian. From all parts of Canada and many denominational and cultural backgrounds, [members of The Word Guild] affirm a common statement of faith and are united in [their] passion for the written word.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas and My Favorite Christmas Movie Lessons


moviesEver since I researched 1940s Hollywood for Stars in the Night, I've been a bigger fan than ever of classic movies. Growing up, my favorite movies were from the 30s and 40s...that hasn't changed. There's something I love about the simplicity of that time that shines through in movies that make me laugh and feel. So today I thought I'd share a few of my favorites and writing lessons from each.
[Tweet "Love #Christmas? Have you seen @cara_putman favorite Christmas #movies? #traditions"]
White Christmas: I adore this relatively simple story set during the post WWII years. I love the theme of honoring those we admire...even at great cost to ourselves. The ending scene with the general makes me tear up every time. And hearing Bing Crosby croon White Christmas? And Danny Kaye is the perfect comedic foil. Sing with me "Sisters, Sisters...." Perfection! My family adores this movie. 

  •  The writing tip? Slapstick comedy of Danny Kaye paired with a story of making assumptions about intent, this story makes you feel. And that's what readers want: an emotional experience. What can you do to add emotional layers to your story.
Holiday Inn: This is more than a Christmas movie because it features 13 Irving Berlin songs that are set around the holidays. Fred Astaire's fire cracker dance has always been a favorite of mine, but I love the theme of letting a loved one go so they can chase their dream. Happy sigh. 

  • Writing Tip: Add Fred Astaire to Bing Cosby and the movie is unstoppable. But it's the backdrop of music that adds life. What are you doing to add the senses to your scenes? 
It Happened on 5th Avenue: I shocked some folks last year, because I'd never seen this movie. Oh my! They were all right. I love it! It's the story of a rich girl who stumbles on some homeless men who are living in her father's seasonally abandoned mansion in NYC. She joins them and their friends, and before long her dad and mom have joined them -- while pretending to be people other than they are. This is a story of realizing the hold things and money can have on us and turning instead to the value of people. A beautiful story.  

  • Writing tip: How can you take characters that people have pigeon-holed and flip their presumptions? Can you put them in uncomfortable positions and watch the sparks fly?           
It's a Wonderful Life: I have to admit that I watched this so many times growing up, it lost some of its appeal. But my husband loves this movie, and it's growing on me again. Who hasn't felt like their dreams died and in the process their life didn't matter. I love the way this story shows the long-lasting impact we can have on people without realizing it. The imagining what life would be like without us. It's a definite keeper and one to watch each year for the reminders that we do matter -- even when we feel like our story has no meaning or value.  

  • Writing tip: Your characters will have blindspots just like George Bailey does about what they add to the world around them. Have you highlighted those? Can those become plot points?
Christmas in Connecticut: Here's another classic that we've recently discovered and enjoy as a family. A woman in post WWII America is desperate to keep her job as a domestic column writer. Her readers think she knows everything about cooking and child-rearing. But she isn't married, has no child, and doesn't cook. It's not a problem until her editor decides to join her for a perfect Christmas. Then the fun begins. This is a comedy that the whole family can enjoy. (And I'm giving away a copy!) 

  • Writing Tip: How can your characters get caught in a web of seemingly white lies? Can they extricate themselves from it? On the romance side, is there a third person to make a love triangle with all the plot opportunities that entails?
So these are a few of the classic Christmas movies that my family loves to watch. I'd love to know which ones are part of your traditions. Is there a favorite holiday go-to movie in your family?
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

GUEST POST: Marie Benedict, Author of The Other Einstein

Excited to feature debut author Marie Benedict here! Rave reviews have come in for THE OTHER EINSTEIN from PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, ROMANTIC TIMES BOOK REVIEWS, KIRKUS and BOOKLIST, among others. I was intrigued by the subject of this book, Einstein's brilliant wife, an acclaimed physicist in her own right and a contributor to the theory of relativity. Research is an important part of the writing process for all of us and  Marie's guest post is a fascinating look into her journey. -Julia


Research. Careworn, leather-bound books piled around me. Copies of letters and pictures too delicate for libraries to loan stacked around me. Arcane scholarly articles brightened with post-it notes. This image of getting knee-deep in research draws me to historical fiction. But I know it would give many people the shivers.


For me, falling into the rabbit-hole of the past is one of the primary lures of authoring books like THE OTHER EINSTEIN. In writing this book, I stepped into the academic world of nineteenth-century Switzerland, where Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s first wife, studied physics after making a heroic ascent from the far reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where it was illegal for girls to attend high school. To make that transition, however, I had to immerse myself into the challenges faced by girls and women in this time period, the ever-changing science and politics of fin-de-siecle Europe, and most of all, the tumultuous scientific and romantic partnership of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric.

But how to research a relationship, once very real but now long past? While still keeping in mind that I’m writing fiction?

While many biographies of Albert Einstein and his life exist (among them the wonderful EINSTEIN IN LOVE by Dennis Overbye), for all aspects of my research—especially for an aspect as intimate as a relationship—I seek out original source material. Not the words of a historian but the words of the historical person themselves, if I can find them. This was particularly important in researching THE OTHER EINSTEIN because, while the book is unequivocally Mileva’s story, her relationship with Albert figures prominently in it. I did not want to rely only on anecdotal stories nor did I want to base my story exclusively on another historian’s interpretation of what might have passed between them.

Fortunately, I came across ALBERT EINSTEIN/MILEVA MARIC: THE LOVE LETTERS by Jurgen Renn and Robert Schulman. This compilation of the letters between Albert and Mileva spans the beginning of their relationship in 1897—when they were classmates only—through the early years of their marriage in 1903, and it was discovered in 1986 with the assistance of Albert’s granddaughter Evelyn Einstein. The letters reveal the young lovers to be enamored of one another and with science—physics and mathematical developments figure prominently in their conversations—and uncover the rather challenging early years of their marriage. In reading the young couple’s own words, I could envision the youthful, mercurial Albert and simultaneously brilliant and insecure Mileva. And in my mind’s eye, I could see the unfolding of their relationship in a way that no secondary re-telling could ever convey.

Filling in the gaps in my understanding of Mileva during this time period and beyond were the letters compiled by Milan Popovic in IN ALBERT’S SHADOW: THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF MILEVA MARIC. The author had in his possession letters between Mileva and his ancestor Helene Kaufler, a dear friend of Mileva. These missives showed another side of Mileva, one that explained her willingness to stay with the relationship as it declined and that showed her sadness at the loss of her scientific ambitions.

Taken together, these original source materials—the letters of Mileva, her very words—helped me form her voice and understand her world. This research served as a critical piece in writing THE OTHER EINSTEIN and giving another life to a woman whose astonishing story deserves to be told.



Be sure to check out Marie's website.

Her facebook page.

Or pick up the book. There is currently a $2.99 deal on the ebook

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grammarly Giveaway!



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

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

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





Understanding the Most Frequent Writing Mistakes

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

Grammar:

Punctuation:
4. Hyphen

You can learn more about grammarly on their website at https://www.grammarly.com/

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

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

First up! Awesome Alley Cat NEWS!!!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

2. Favorite holiday movie?

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

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

3. What are you currently reading?

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

4. Any nervous habits or vices?

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

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

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

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

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



About Nicole:

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

Thanks for dropping in to chat with us, Nicole!

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


Happy Friday!


<3 Amy