Friday, April 17, 2015

The Blank Page Battle

Ask a writer to list the most daunting thing they have to face and I bet 9 out of 10 would say: the blank page.

It’s a screen of white and it’s filled with the possibility of everything that could go right.

It’s a screen of white and it’s filled with the possibility of everything that could go wrong.

It starts with Once upon a time…

And concludes with The End.

It induces panic.

It insights creativity.

It’s the most marvelous of beginnings and the most desperate of starts.

But it’s just a blank page.

And it’s only blank as long as there aren’t any words on the screen. Because once you put fingers to keyboard and type anything at all, that blank page is no longer blank. And one filled page spills over to become two and two becomes three and three becomes an entire novel.

What is writing? One blank page on top of another blank page, filled with words that string together 
to tell a story.

I don’t think it’s the first page that is the hardest for me to fill. To be honest, that one is easy, because the story is fresh and new, bubbling forth with excitement and climax of words pushing for release.

It’s the middle of the story when the blank pages still to be filled overwhelm me. Doubts start to surface and I don’t think I can reach THE END. I don’t think that I can squeeze more one word from my parched mind as it struggles to put these characters through their paces.

This is where doubt and fear begin to have their way in my heart and my fingers freeze on the keyboard. Lies bombard my mind telling me no matter what I write, its trash. Only fit to be burned in the rubbish heap.

Lies.

Lies.

Lies

But as writers we too often believe them, instead of rebuking them in the name of Jesus.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been writing. It doesn’t matter how many books you have to your name—published or not. These lies are attacks straight from the enemy’s quiver.

Why? Because you are doing something that will have eternal impact for the kingdom of God. 
Whether your book is read by one person or ten thousand persons, God promises that His word cannot go out into this world and come back void.

And the enemy wants nothing to do this with promise. In fact, he wants to attack everything about this promise and completely thwart its forward progress.

And the easiest place he can start is you staring at the blank page.

Do you prepare yourself for battle when you sit down to write? If you have been called to write, you will feel this pressure. This fight. But in all things, all things God promises to strengthen us to do this task through the will of Christ Jesus.

Including filling that blank page.

Because it doesn’t matter how many times you have to rewrite. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to rethink and edit those words.

A blank page won’t impact a life. A blank page won’t fight a spiritual war. A blank page won’t change the outcome of your dream.


Only a filled page can and will. So don’t allow the lies of the evil one to crowd out this one, steadfast and honest truth: you. are. capable. 

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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, employed as an a

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Through All of It...

I'm an avid listener to Christian music through Christian radio (shout out to WAYfm and Klove) and there is a song playing right now that I L.O.V.E.

It's from Colton Dixon....

The chorus goes a little something like...

I have won
and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

I was listening to this last night and thinking about the WRITING journey, and how appropriate this song is for both life as a whole and this crazy ride we are on.

We win some. We get that contract. Publish that book. Sign with that agent.

But we lose some too. That rejection. Lose an agent. Crummy book sales. Readers who aren't so fond of our books.

I KNOW I can say about my books that I've gotten it right on occasion, but man, sometimes my look at what I write and think, yeah, that's not it.

This WRITING life is a journey. You'll have joy, and I can promise you'll have regret. But here is the BEST part. God's still our God through all of it. He is walking beside us, through the good times and the frustrating ones. Through the times of crazy busyness like our sweet Pepper is experiencing right now, and times of disappointment and frustration, and times of waiting.

Sometimes it's good for me. To stop and remember that all this is normal. It's indicative of LIFE as a whole. And that regardless of it all, God is always my God. He loves me. He is God OVER all this "stuff."

It's such a simple truth yet so profound.

If you've never heard the song, I highly suggest it. Linking to the Youtube video below for you.

 When things are wild busy or frustratingly not... take a moment to sit and remember.

Through it all.... God is there.

He is present.

He is with you.

And that's enough.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How DOES A Walk Tattle-Tale Our True Thoughts?








Many children will aim straight for a puddle. What I find amazing about this photo is the little girl is not stomping to create a splash or kicking the water into the air. She is going somewhere and won't let anything get in her way. This young lady is determined and ready to tackle whatever is dealt.


I always knew when my mom was mad at my dad. She didn't need to say anything or even look at him. How then did I know?  Heavy placed steps boomed with a distinct rhythm throughout the house. Mom was actually walking from one room to another, but I knew that negative spirit thump without seeing or hearing her. I bolted to my room or slipped outside to play.

Our characters walk a lot in our stories.

They walk to the store, walk in the store, walk out of the store, walk to their car, from their car, in their house, to the kitchen, and at the end of the day they walk to their bed. Ho hum.

The word walk and some of its synonyms can drag the momentum of a story to a snail's pace. 

Walk is hardly descriptive other than to communicate a living creature moved from one location to another. What real benefit is that to move a story forward? 

Imagine treating this vague, nondescript, four-letter word as the diamond it's meant to be. A time to tattle-tale a person's emotion. Now we're talking.

Consider the devious thrill you, the author, will have when lighting a spark to a sentence by revealing the secret emotion behind the movement.

This topic popped in my mind when hubby and I toured Columbus, Ohio. Hubby and I waited at the light to cross the downtown street. A crowd of pedestrians from the other side stepped into the street when the light turned green and moved toward us. One young man, about college age, swayed side to side with his hands stuffed in his pockets. His baggy shirt covered the waist of his jeans which sagged lower than his hips. His shoulders took the lead, left, right, keeping a cool, tough, beat. He squinted, keeping his gaze forward. 

Then IT happened. Whoever he put this show on for must have passed. His eyes popped open to normal. His gait leveled as if strolling in the park. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and let them swing normally with his stride. I knew I had witnessed fodder for our characters. 

I had so many questions. Who did this young man want to impress? Why did he feel the Joe Cool walk would impress the person? Why did he change his gait after the person passed? See how this clarity of the young man's walk deepens our understanding and adds questions about him? 3-D material to the max!

Proviso: Getting wordy is not the answer. Purple prose, waxing eloquently, and pages of boring words do not help us understand a character. Being clear with our words is the answer

Think of killing two birds with one stone. So we invest a few extra words to communicate the manner in which a person moves and at the same time infuse what is conveyed by that style of movement. This could be a goldmine! 

Today I'm going to discuss a few styles of walk and see how we can help our characters show their emotion/thoughts in their movement.


Photo by Mary Vee
1. The cowboy walk. This phrase is used in many books today. What does this mean? After living in Montana, I've seen quite a variety of cowboy walks.

*We love to read about the handsome cowboy whose boots resonate on the floor, one step to every ten beats of our heart. Swoon
*What about the cowboy who walks off the arena after being thrown in a rodeo? His steps are wide to accommodate the chaps and planted firm in the dirt. The poor guy is embarrassed and hurtin'. 
*Consider the cowboy who found the missing calf tangled in brush and has to carry the injured animal to safety. The weight is heavy. His steps shorter. He is leaned back. His heart is filled with compassion. Sweat drips down his neck. 

The only thing all these cowboys have in common with their walk is their bowed legs.


Photo Courtesy

2. Maneuvering through a crowded area takes concentration.
Add to the mix: 
*A stroller. How many people's heals will be bumped? Space is a big issue. What if there is no elevator and your character has to tackle the escalator?
*Packages. 
*The slow moving person in the way when your character is in a hurry. Of course the slow mover slides in the exact direction your MC wants to go, compounding the problem.
 I haven't seen too many happy/bubbly people moving in a crowd like this.




Photo Courtesy


Slipping sandals off and strolling on a beach with your man is romantic. 
But, a sandy beach can be difficult to maneuver.
*An unexpected wave can send our female MC running to dry sand. To avoid getting her clothes wet, she crosses the foot in the water over the other before taking another step. She might trip. This doesn't upset her, though. She'll break out in laughter.
*Bare footed walkers curl their toes and tip somewhat to keep their balance. Calf and thigh muscles are strained. She is focused. Can be distracted from a conversation by a jelly fish, or stepping on a pebble.
*Beach walking is a workout and can cause her to become winded during conversations.
*Breaks are sometimes taken to watch ships, etc.
*Losing track of where one started is a common problem on the return stroll. 





Photo Courtesy

Walking is so much more than moving from one place to another. Our characters are using this action to communicate

*small steps are taken when concerned (ice, stilettos, obstacles, pacing)
*long strides are taken when angry, in a hurry, motivated
*one foot is placed in front of the other (like in the picture) when having fun or following an intentional path. Children walk on cracks. Adults follow colored stripes in hospitals.
*hips sway when female characters call attention to themselves, shoulders sway when male characters want attention. Think of models or when we parade a new outfit.
*slow steps are used when contemplating, relaxing, sad, lost, lonely, reflecting,
*hard steps with intention are used when confident, angry, in charge.   



Consider one of your scenes. Most likely someone is walking at some point. How can you demonstrate what the character is feeling, thinking, sensing, etc by their movement? Can you substitute some clarity where you have the word walk in this scene?


Photo Courtesy for top photo: MorgueFile.com by hotblack-photo modified for this use. 

 *******************************************************************************************************

If you found any typos in today's post...sorry about that. 

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 young adult mystery/adventure 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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Break Up With Your Book {with Special Guest Jaime Wright}



Hi, everyone! It's Laurie. I'm still on maternity leave, enjoying my nine-pound boy cub born on March 30. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to host my writing sister Jaime Wright to The Alley today. She is a historical romantic suspense writer, selfie queen, coffee aficionado, NEWLY CONTRACTED WITH BARBOUR (!!!!), and one of the people I'm most grateful to do life and writing with :) Please give her a warm welcome!



I went through a bad break-up a few years ago. It was the best decision of my life. I broke up with my novel. Ended it. I determined that while I still loved it, being in a relationship with it was not the wisest decision. Because I couldn’t see straight. My vision was blurry. And any criticism I received became super personal.

Ok. Maybe that’s a horrible analogy, but you writers get my drift? When it comes to criticism, negative or positive, it can become an attack. A rampage on our personal ability, on a character we bled over, on a plot we thought was layered and deep, on a word we chose for just that perfect emotion. And then the red ink that drips off the page…

Criticism can be difficult to accept. Especially when we are so in love with our work that it consumes us. Once, a critique partner, one of my dear writing sisters, hacked an entire chapter from my book. The remark came back with (moderate paraphrase): “This slows it down. It confuses me why it’s here. In fact, this is a completely pointless chapter.”

Another writing sister puts remarks in the comments section with: “Blah, blah, blah”, “Omigosh, MORE questions? Can’t this character think for herself?”, “Bored. So bored.”, and “You’re going to need to kill off a character to make me keep reading this drivel”.

Ouch.

Or is it ouch? When I was married to my work and thought it was oh–so-wonderful, that would have been painful. But now, I see my work as … imperfect. Flawed. And I need relationship counseling. To make this novel be the best it can be, to strengthen it, to hone it, to maximize on its potential, I need to be open to looking inside it and identifying its weakness.

This means three major implications:

Develop Relational Boundaries: My book does not define ME. When a critique partner, an agent, an editor, or God forbid, my DAD, points out a flaw or an area of opportunity, it is not a reflection on me. No one is pointing past the book to me and shouting “YOU STINK!” Ok. Maybe that one negative reviewer that should be banned from Amazon ‘cause they’re a complete jerk, but otherwise, most people tend to give honest feedback with the intent to help. That’s why it’s called feedback. They feed back to us information we can take, disseminate, and implement. All to create a novel that grows from its good foundation to a better foundation.

Accept the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: In any relationship, there are aspects that are good, some that are bad, and some that are downright horrendous. Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, there’s that disability in our novel that screams “FIX ME” and yet sometimes we can’t see it. But others can. Unfortunately, we often want to focus on our vision on the good and maybe some bad, but going to that ugly means scraping off the scabs and causing us to bleed. But it’s necessary. Like cutting that boring chapter that put my critique partner to sleep. Best. Surgical procedure. Ever.

Embrace Change: Change is important in any relationship. In the writing world, that doesn’t necessarily mean jumping genres as much as it embraces the concept that as you exercise your writing vocal chops, your writing will change. And it should change. Change is a good thing and should be a welcome thing. When the editor asks you to change your heroine’s name, weigh it out on the scale of importance. Really. Is that name worth arguing over? When the critique partners suggest cutting several paragraphs of scene-setting descriptors, ask yourself: will this change positively affect the outcome? 

Too often, we bristle. Don’t they know how long it took me to research wallpaper in 1892 and the exact pattern that would have been popular in a New Jersey Victorian home? Instead of: Okay, so I enjoyed the research, but maybe three paragraphs of explanation regarding Victorian wallpaper is a tad too much.

Last but not least, it’s also important to remember that breaking-up with your novel doesn’t mean you can’t get back together. Sometimes the best relationships are forged through adversity. Not to mention, sometimes the best perspectives are formed by looking from the outside in. Fresh eyes, new ideas, and critical thinking can take a good book and make it a great book.

So, avoid that life-sucking relationship with your novel that keeps you from growth and pushes you toward the uncomfortable. It’s in the uncomfortable you sometimes find that masterpiece awaiting you.

---

Professional coffee drinker Jaime Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Her day job finds her a Director of Associate Sales, Development & Relations. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting youth pastor, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl and a Sippy cup-drinking baby boy, and completes her persona by being an admitted Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogspot junkie.

Jaime is a member of ACFW, enjoys mentorship from a best-selling author, and has the best critique partners EVER! (Yes, that's an exclamation point.) She was a semifinalist in ACFW’s 2013 Genesis contest and that alone encouraged excessive celebration over extra espresso with hazelnut syrup.


In her "down time", Jaime reads voraciously, socializes incessantly, drinks coffee addictively, and overuses "-ly" words excessively.




Links:

Twitter: Jaime_wright
Pinterest: jaimewright01


Monday, April 13, 2015

Conflict, Craft, and Finding your Vision!


What’s the one word we keep hearing from all the best writing teachers?
What’s the one thing all of our books MUST have to survive?

CONFLICT.

And we, as readers, love it! We thrive on the story of someone overcoming the obstacles of their storyworlds and fulfilling their goals. We are hooked by their struggles, cheering them on, and celebrating with them when ‘the end’ comes with beautiful resolution.

But, many times this is NOT the case in our REAL writing worlds.

Conflict doesn’t always  come in with guns blazing like a Mary Connealy novel. Lots of times the most powerful conflicts in our lives are the subtle whispers or ‘unassuming’ doubts.

A dear friend and I were having a conversation about this recently. She has a tender heart, ready to find God’s direction in her life and her writing. The writing world is a tremulous place – a world where comparisons are made, dreams are supplanted, and ‘publication’ seems to be the measure of all that is good.

And I think that’s where a lot of dreams falter through time. Though publication is a wonderful goal, and certainly something many of us would like to see happen at some point in our writing career, when it becomes the standard by which all other things in our writing are measured….we’re inevitably going to become discouraged.

If you’ve lost your vision, try to remember the joy of your writing, before the murky monster of doubt crept in. Go back to the moments of pure creation, for the sake of creation, and remember the God who called you.

My friend said, “If I could have an hour of free time, I’d write.”

That spoke chapters! It proved the call in her life. If the pressures and expectations were removed and all that was left was the dream, she’d write.

I believe that too many times we lose sight of God's call for us to write and get lost on the quest to publication. It is certainly an exciting goal, but not the heart of any Christian writer. God uses us - in our big and small writing- to minister to ourselves, our families, our friends, and others, but most of ALL to glorify Him. I'm pretty sure that all of us struggle with the pressures of productivity.

But real productivity comes from the inner workings of the Holy Spirit as He refines us through whatever means God uses.

My point? To encourage you.

Remember your first love.

Find joy in the journey.
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Pepper D Basham is a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate. She enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of Seymour Literary Agency.
Her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, arrives on May 7th 2015 in paperback, but can be purchased in digital form on amazon now. Her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, is slated to release later the same year. You can find her at www.pepperdbasham.com or follow her writing antics on her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham or Twitter at https://twitter.com/pepperbasham
 
 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Freebie Friday!

Check out these freebies by some amazing authors!


Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong
 

She's learned you can't count on anyone--but she didn't count on landing in Last Chance.

The red warning light on her car dashboard may have driven Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico, but as she meets the people who make this one-horse town their home, it's her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life--especially since she's on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.

Yet in spite of herself, Lainie is increasingly drawn into the small-town dramas and to a handsome local guy with a secret of his own. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?
Click to link to freebie download


 
Shattered Rose by Tammy L. Gray

“For any girl who has struggled to love herself.” –Tammy L. Gray

Avery Nichols knows how to wear the mask. Perfect student, perfect daughter and perfect friend. Nobody would ever guess that inside Avery is a prisoner to her own self loathing.

Then she meets him…and everything changes.

Handsome, charming and self assured, Jake Matthews sweeps Avery off her feet in an effortless fashion. Avery knows that Jake is everything she needs and all she has ever wanted.

She would destroy herself to be loved by him…until he walks away.

Broken and lost, Avery meets Parker. His genuine, caring nature reaches past the mask and the shattered pieces of her heart slowly begin to heal. But just when Avery starts to feel whole again, she faces the impossible truth.

Jake never really left.
 
 
With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin


They know everything about each other--except their real names.

Lt. Mellie Blake is looking forward to beginning her training as a flight nurse. She is not looking forward to writing a letter to a man she's never met--even if it is anonymous and part of a morale-building program. Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa, welcomes the idea of an anonymous correspondence--he's been trying to escape his infamous name for years.

As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts?

Combining a flair for romance with excellent research and attention to detail, Sarah Sundin vividly brings to life the perilous challenges of WWII aviation, nursing--and true love.
Link to freebie download



Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

Ava Kingsley and Seth Walker might be the most unlikely friends ever. The only thing these two polar opposites have in common is a knack for wordsmithing. Back in college, they were known for their written sparring in the campus newspaper's popular "He Says/She Says" column.

At their ten-year college reunion, they pick up right where they left off. Except this time their squabbling leads to a surprising turn: friendship and a year-long exchange of emails. So when Ava approaches a crossroads in her athletics department career in Minnesota, Seth is quick to offer the open apartment above the restaurant he's been remodeling in Maple Valley, Iowa.

Ava doesn't know where her career will lead her next, but she's starting to suspect she might see Seth as more than a pen pal. Which would be exciting...except for the fact that he only sees her as a friend.

As Maple Valley grows on her, Ava wonders if there might be something here for her even though Seth is unavailable. And maybe, just maybe, after all the words the two of them have exchanged over the years, they'll finally be able to say the three that matter most.

Link to freebie download



 All for Anna by Nicole Deese 
 
 

If guilt is a prison; Victoria Sales has given herself a life sentence.
Held captive by regret, 23 year-old trauma RN, Tori Sales, has seen the reality of many nightmares. But there is one nightmare she will never wake from—her last memory of Anna.


Her efforts to save the little girl were not enough; she was not enough.
After a year of living alone, Tori is forced to return home—a place where heartache, loss, and broken relationships lurk around every corner. Isolation is her only solace; running is her only escape. But she cannot outrun the truth forever.


When a handsome, compassionate stranger enters her world, Tori is inspired to deal with her past and focus on the future—one she never believed possible. But before her quest for closure is complete, a new revelation surfaces, tainting her world yet again.

 
 
 
The Unveiling by Tamara Leigh
 
12th century England: Two men vie for the throne: King Stephen the usurper and young Duke Henry the rightful heir. Amid civil and private wars, alliances are forged, loyalties are betrayed, families are divided, and marriages are made.

For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind—to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed it worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy after all.

Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.


 
 

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

Who am I? 

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die. 

I'm buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I'm lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won't stop shaking.

Some will say that I m not really here. Some will say I'm delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I'm the one buried in a grave. 

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen. I'm about to die. 

So who are you? 

In a return to the kind of storytelling that made Black, Showdown and Three unforgettable, Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern day parable about how we see ourselves. 

Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally. (Young Adult)




Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater
 
Can you ever get a second chance at your first love?

Jenna Callahan Colby thought she was content. A partner on her father's successful ranch, she is surrounded by family and friends. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town--the first guy she ever noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago.

And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever.

Jenna's cowboy has some healing of his own to do, though, after two tours of duty in the armed forces. With the help of good friends, strong faith, and a loving family, he hopes to put the horrors of the past behind him--and become the man Jenna deserves.




Necessary Proof by Camy Tang
 

After opening his heart to Jesus in prison, Alex Villa has left his criminal past behind him. However, his efforts to take down a gang producing meth in Sonoma have made him a target. Set up to look like he's being bribed by the gang, the police blame him for the death of a cop. Only the evidence on an encrypted laptop can prove he's innocent.

Software engineer Jane Lawton has been betrayed by the men closest to her, including a God she thought would protect her. She won't let Alex down, because she knows what it feels like to be disbelieved and abandoned.


However, the men after them have orders to repossess the evidence and make sure Jane and Alex take their knowledge to the grave. Can they prove Alex's innocence before time runs out for them both?
 
 
Happy Friday! Feel free to share any freebies that I've missed! Read on.