Thursday, July 20, 2017

Top 10 List of Ways Writers Can Utilize Their Time

I've been participating in a writing sprint this week with a group of writers. We have a leader who is incredibly encouraging and good at spurring us on toward our word count goals. She sent us a link to a past blog post on the Seekerville blog entitled Writers Write. Everyone Else Makes Excuses, by Tina Radcliffe.

In this post, she gives so many encouraging quotes on doing the hard part of writing. Putting your behind in the chair and doing the work of writing. It takes time. It takes sacrifice. It takes discipline.

We all have to find the "thing" that helps us - that motivates us - into writing when it's hard.

Life gets in the way. Your car breaks down. There's a funeral, a lunch date, FAFSA to fill out (can I just say UGH?), hair cuts, and...dare I say it?...toilets to clean.

So what do you do to make the most of your time, and feed your writerly self? Everyone has to decide for themselves. No one can do it for you, because only YOU knows what will work for YOU.

I decided to complete the exercise Tina suggested in her post, and this is what I came up with - in no particular order.

Top 10 Ways to Utilize Your Time

1. Use a diction app and dictate a scene on your way to work, or while doing dishes, ironing, etc.

2. Listen to a craft book or podcast in the car while going to work or hauling kids to school.

3. Carry a Moleskin notebook in your purse to write down ideas for your story, prompts for short stories, or blog post ideas.

4. If you get stuck in your story, move on to another project. (I stole this from Tina because it is so helpful.)

5. Stay up 30 minutes later to write. (I get up at 5 am already....can't go earlier!)

6. Read a chapter of a craft book at lunch.

7. Email a chapter to your Kindle so that it is there when you are in a waiting room, carpool line, etc. Highlight things that you need to change.

8. Alternate cooking nights with your husband so you have more time to write.

9. Make a date with yourself once a week and go to the library, coffee shop, or park to write free from responsibilities at home.

10. Purchase a cute timer or use the one on your phone to write in 30 - 60 minute increments. Then set the time for 15 minutes and clean a toilet or make the bed or do a load of laundry. Then get back to writing.

Nothing on my list is new. Many have already figured out the best way to get the most out of their day. But some of us need reminders that we can carve out extra time, and every minute we garner gets more words on the page.

What things have you found to help you carve out time and up your word count? 


Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother to 4 children, and secretary at public elementary school. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Present Over Perfect

If you could see my house right now—the overflowing number of Birchbox samples and Lord forbid, my closet—you might think I was completely carefree. And unorganized. (The latter of which would probably be true.)

But in reality, the notion of perfection has always been an inner dialogue for me, and sometimes, it can become paralyzing. So that I could throw the fiftieth hairspray sample away, but would if I needed it next week? And the mountain of shoes accumulating in my closet probably does need attending, but where would I even start? The Pinterest image in my head is too far away from reality, and so I just . . . don’t.

Been there?

The problem is, when the stakes are higher, so is the fear. (See where I’m going with this?) So that maybe you’ve got your first real deadline from a publisher, or an agent, or maybe you’re just bound and determined to meet your own deadline of finishing your WIP before a writing conference this year.

So you sit down at your computer, and one of two things happen. Either you spend countless time staring at the blinking cursor, or you madly dash toward an arbitrary word count, just to get those pages filled.

And either way, you come away dissatisfied. Unsettled. Because all your striving . . . well, it just wasn’t enough.

What if there was another way? A better way?

Lately in my writing, God has been teaching me to wait on Him for cues. We all say we want to wait on Him, and that’s fine and dandy until we need twenty more pages for our word count goals. But I’m learning that I could sit down for hours, writing away for the sake of achievement, all the while, spinning in circles. I can let fear of the unknown and rejection paralyze me from writing at all (--Is that where you are today? Because I’ve been there too.).

Or, I can wait on Him.

I can invite His presence into my story, and move when He moves. I can wait for those organic AH HA! moments to fall into place. And the funny thing is, I’m realizing I’m vastly more productive when I do.

Today I want to encourage you to be present over perfect. Because perfection and striving will leave you dangerously reliant on your own strength. Become more aware of the monologue inside your own mind and heart. What standards are you holding yourself to, and how do those align with the Spirit of God? Has your perfectionism become a stumbling block to the greater things God has called you toward? Are you so afraid of being imperfect that you’re afraid to move at all?

Let me hear from you! How do you manage to stay present with God rather than focusing on perfection?


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.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Freedom for Writers

This week we celebrated the Fourth of July, and over on the Facebook group we talked about how it's a great time to be a writer because independence is achievable. I wanted to expand on those tips and see what you would add.

1) Know your goals. Why do you want to write indie? What is motivating that decision? The same questions should be asked if you're pursuing traditional publishing. For me, I'm pursing indie for my books where I have received the rights back from the publisher. It's been a huge learning curve, but I know these are good books and there are readers who haven't discovered them. Indie publishing is a way to get them back out there, update them and more. I love traditional publishing, because I love the partnership aspects. I know they have a platform I don't have on my own. They have the team to help me with all the elements that are overwhelming to consider on my own. That's why I love being with the big houses.

2) The most important relationship is between reader and author. Regardless of how you publish, you have to think about how you will build that relationship. Part of it will be writing more, great books. Then there will be websites, social media, booksignings, etc. you will have to think deliberately about how you will build this relationship. It also requires you to know and listen to your reader. Involve them in the process. Help them acquire ownership of your books. How can you help them become your biggest advocates?

3) Hire an editor. This step is so often overlooked. If you are traditionally published, then you should have three rounds of editing: macro/story edit, line edit, and proofing. If you are indie, you need the same. Even though the book I have put up were edited at least three times, I still hired someone to proof each one. It's amazing what is caught each time. The quickest way to lose a reader is to have a poorly edited book. Don't skip this step. It is worth the expense to make the book is done well. As James Scott Bell says you're best marketing is the book the reader is currently reading.

4) Don't rush. Let's face it. We all get important. But let's not rush into print before we're ready. I have friends churning out 4-6 books a year. I can't do that with everything else going on in my world. Three is about my max; four if I'm writing two with Tricia Goyer. I know that's my pace, and I know this after writing 27 books. What's your pace? How fast can you write and still do a good job? Seriously stop and think about. How much time do you need to make sure you're going through the rounds of edits and putting out a great book? Is your first book really ready for the world to read?

What would you add?

An award-winning author of more than twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Five: With Sensational Historical Romance Author AMBER LYNN PERRY

It is my great pleasure to introduce a very dear friend and fantastic author! This girl is a DYNAMO! I absolutely LOVE her novels (and that's saying something because historical is not my preferred genre)... But sometimes the beauty of the writing and the mastery of story is all you need to get lost. (And don't even get me started on her covers!)

I was lucky enough to get to read an ARC of Amber's newest release So True a Love... and here's why you should too!

About the book:

Since the night her dear uncle gave his life for hers, Hannah Young is determined to risk everything by spying for the Patriots in order to seek retribution against the British soldier who killed him. But when her former love, Joseph Wythe, insists on ensuring her safety, she must decide if the vengeance she seeks is worth the danger of his nearness. For the love she once felt is liable to grow deeper and more threatening to her heart than it ever was before.

Leaving his young ward to join the fight for liberty is the hardest thing Joseph Wythe has ever done. Nearly. The most difficult happened ten years past, which he tries his best to forget. Seeing Hannah Young again after all this time does something frightening and wonderful to his soul. Though her determination to spy for the Patriots is honorable and brave, he will never allow her to take such a risk without him to protect her, no matter how she protests—and no matter how he knows he will ache all the more for the thing he always wanted and still could never have.

My thoughts:

A magnetic glimpse of history, heroism, and espionage, all entwined with a forever, young love that's endured time and deceit and loss, Perry continues to change my mind about dusty historical fiction, instead painting a vibrant landscape of early patriotism with its unsung heroes of our nation's past. I love how seamlessly and poignantly Perry unwraps the era and yet tangles me irrevocably in the high-stakes suspense and heart-quaking romance of this second-chance love story between Joseph and Hannah. Seriously, don't miss this one. Or any of the others in the series. They're simply too good to pass up! ~AMY LEIGH SIMPSON, author of When Fall Fades and From Winter's Ashes

And now... let's get the dirt on AMBER...

1. Do you have a writing ritual? Place, time of day, writer quirks? 

ALP: I have no writing ritual as far as time goes. It's "git 'er done whenever the heck you have five minutes." LOL! You writer mom's know what I'm talking about it. I mean, sometimes in the evening I will sit down to write, get my headphones on and boot up Amazon Music (I like to listen to amazing movie soundtracks like Belle, Last of the Mohicans, John Adams, etc.) and crank out the word count. But let's be honest. I'm not someone that can stay up until even 11:30 without writing pure gobbledygook--I need my sleep! The only constant, is that I write on my bed, legs out, laptop on my little "lap desk" and *maybe* some HotTamales near by. 

2. What's your writing brain food (or drink)? 

ALP: Do I have to pick just one? Other than the aforementioned red hot candies, I was just at a conference with Laura Frantz and we had some basil lemonade, so now I'm a bit obsessed. HAHA! And that's saying something because I'm not usually a fan of basil. You've got to try it--that drink is ridiculously delicious and SO refreshing on a hot day!

3. Most random thing in your purse... 

ALP: LOL! My purse is a dark and frightening abyss. Even I'm scared to look in it sometimes! The most random thing I found recently was one of those little green army men. (Toy Story comes to mind...HAHA!) I was like, "Where in the world did this guy come from?" But one of my daughters quickly claimed him before I could carelessly toss him into the trash.

4. Do you have a hidden talent? 

ALP: *stares off pensively* Hmmmm...Does this have to be like an awesome talent or can it be a sad "I-try-but-I-always-fail" kind of talent? Cuz the first thing that comes to mind is that I can't seem to keep a plant alive for the life of me. The flowerbed is ok, but the garden and any potted plant--any living thing that goes in there has a bleak future. I have the *opposite* of a green thumb. But I'm the kind of person that doesn't let accidental mass murder of innocent vegetation get me down. I keep trying and I will say....I've only killed a handful of things this year, so I think I'm improving. LOL!

5. Tell us why you are passionate about your genre? 

ALP: I love American history, and liberty in particular. I never cease to be inspired by the stories I read in my research and I want to share those amazing bits of history with other people. I really hope to live up to my little personal tag-line: penning the past to inspire tomorrow


AMY here! Hey Alley Pals... if you haven't yet become acquainted with Amber's books, here's your chance! Because I am such a HUGE fan of this series, and the newest book JUST released last week, I'm going to buy someone an e-book! Here's what you need to do... leave a comment with your email address below. (And to make it more fun, answer one of the questions I asked Amber in your comment.) If you're feeling motivated (and generous... because word of mouth helps SO very much!) share this post on your wall and I'll enter your name twice. I'll draw a name Sunday night and announce it on here (and on FB). SHARE away and happy reading!!! 

Amber Lynn Perry lives in Washington state with her husband and two daughters. A homemaker by day and writer by night, Amber loves to study the Revolutionary era of American history. Through these books Amber hopes to not only give readers a chance to escape into the past, but to instill in them a lasting love of liberty.

Connect with Amber on Facebook and twitter... and be sure to check out all of her gorgeous books on Amazon.

<3 Amy

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Wall

My one year anniversary of working on staff at my church is coming up in a couple weeks. As an adult ministry associate, for the most part I have thoroughly explored some pretty solid research in discipleship. Mostly, we have discussed the stages of faith that a disciple walks through to grow in their faith, in their community, and intimately with God. While I won't go into detail all this involves, something has resonated with me during our exploration of the stages--THE WALL.

When a person begins to look into God and faith, they step on the discipleship path that will lead to belief and learning and centering on God. But we all know there are moments in life that we don't feel like we are going forward, that we actually feel stuck in old patterns that have stopped working for us. This is a WALL. It stops us from growing out of one stage to grow into the next.

Perhaps someone has walked along and gone through the motions of a good believer, they've gathered the knowledge from Bible study and wise teachers...they've felt God's Spirit and set a quiet time..and raised their family in the church...and ...and...

Suddenly a tragedy hits, and even though they were grounded in the Word, understanding all that God is, their eyes have been pierced with circumstance and everything that moved them forward before just seems so...small. Everything they did before stops working for them because their journey is completely hindered by the tragedy.

They are up against a wall and hope is nowhere to be found.

Ever been there?

I have. I have been up against such a monstrous wall before that I couldn't see past the brick at my nose. All seemed lost, and all I could do was depend on others to start knocking the wall down for me.

You may think that those of little faith hit those walls...but I would like to suggest that those who God is calling to go deeper with Him might just find a wall coming up soon.

I would say, the wall, while it is painful and dark, might just be the greatest blessing. In my brokenness and humility, I did two things at that wall that saved me--

I got rid of my pretenses and depended on others--a lot.

I evaluated my perspective of God, and doubted...and found that I had been stopped for good reason.

The wall was my protection to not go so far into a false idea about who God was that I would be trapped by a cultural version of Him.


That's what I got from hitting the wall.

I am sure you may have guessed how this relates to writing. Ever hit a wall there? Maybe in that story that you just can't move forward with, maybe in that next step toward publication?

If you are on this writing journey out of calling, then may I suggest that you have something wonderful ahead. That the wall might be your chance to re-evaluate, depend on community, and come at your writing with a new perspective--one that might only be prayerfully discovered?

The wall, in faith and in writing, is a place where the old way isn't working and a new way is on the other side. There is work involved in climbing up and over that wall. Or just knocking it down. Two things I know for sure, we aren't meant to do it alone--lean into the writing community, and God is much too big to only fit in our present perspective--let Him work alongside you as you write...and maybe, your stories will be a place where bricks might just come tumbling down.


Angie Dicken is a mom of four children 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 debut, The Outlaw's Second Chance from Harlequin Love Inspired Historical releases in September of 2017, and her novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah from Barbour, releases in November 2017. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. 
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Twitter: @angiedicken

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Finer Points of Great Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most important functions of any good story.

“Tell the story between the quotes.” These wise words from Rachel Hauck always make me stop and pause and consider what all is being said through the words of our characters. Dialogue should be magnified by body language, interaction with setting, and even sometimes by what is not being said.

 How do we go about creating great dialogue?

1: Remove everything you and I would say in everyday life. Unless it speaks for what the character is not saying, dialogue such as “are you doing” shouldn’t occur in a novel. You want dialogue that drives the plot forward. There are exceptions to every rule, but as a general idea anything you or I would say in normal everyday conversation shouldn’t be included in good dialogue.

2: Go for the zingers. Those pops of dialogue you wish you had come to your mind at the perfect moment…but instead showed up three hours later. This is the great reality for every author. We have the opportunity to let our character say it! With that being said, be careful to avoid dialogue that is stilted and overdone. So how do you create those moments where your character has the best comeback? It has to fit with their characterization. If you have a sassy and sarcastic character give them all the zingers you possibly can. But if your character is more demure and quiet, their words need to have the most impact for when they speak. (Perhaps this is the character that is your voice of reason for your other characters.)

3: Make sure your dialogue fits your character. It's important that what you write fits your characters. To learn how to best do this, I would suggest the ever socially unacceptable option of eavesdropping. Airport eavesdropping is great for this, as you really can’t help but overhear, so you might as well take notes (wink). Listen for how people talk. The tone of their voice, the inflection, the words that 
they use. How would you put that into a story?

Dialogue is an opportunity for our readers to view your character from a different angle. To see their knee-jerk response and reaction.

Dialogue should be accompanied by a few key elements: the tone of their voice, the inflection they put behind their words, and their body language.

4: Body language is a huge asset to every author—and not just in dialogue. How is the character standing-- what direction are they facing? Who are they looking at? Are their arms crossed? Is their
breathing labored? Are their hands extended in supplication or plea? All of these things paint a picture for how the reader will visualize the character.

5: Much can be said by what you're not saying anything at all. By leaving a question or statement unanswered or unfinished, you speak for that character’s thoughts and emotions more than words ever could. Don't underestimate the power of a nonverbal.

6: Subtext. This is one of my all-time favorite uses for dialogue. Subtext is not what is being said, but what is being understood through the dialogue that is being spoken. This is a tricky concept to nail and even harder to write. Think of subtext as something you are trying to communicate, but will not be overtly mentioning to the other character. Subtext is a natural way to create tension, as what is unsaid is also left open to interpretation by other characters. Which can lead to false understanding and even discord between characters.

 A great way to hone your dialogue is to find some of your favorite books and read only the quotes. 
By studying your favorite authors’ dialogue, you are able to see what techniques they are using, the length of their sentences, their word choices, etc.

Who are some of your favorite authors that do dialogue well? Share in the comments who they are and why you love them. Or share some techniques you have found that you really love for your own books. I would love to hear your take on what aspect of dialogue you love to read or write.

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Advanced Basics-Street Team Marketing Tips

Street team marketing is a gift to today's writer. Seriously. Even writers need time for coffee in the morning, and the only way we can squeeze marketing into our already overloaded schedule is to garner the help of our genre's community.

1. To build your team from zero (or how ever many you currently have) send out invitations. Take your time. Design this like you are throwing a gala party. Simple. Sharp. Colors. Clear. Concise. 

Include appealing information. Just enough to pique interest. Then send a follow up that has the details. Sending invitations is a great control. You really don't want to send out an open call to the world because there are expectations on you as well.

Confused yet? Yay! That means you'll keep reading!!

2. Once you have your team make a point to regularly show your appreciation. One Alley Cat sends a call out to the whole team to say happy birthday to a team member. She acknowledges new members of the team and asks everyone in the group to say hi. These simple kudos help team members know that you care about them as individuals.

3. If possible, get to know the city where your street team members live. Using Facebook can help us be connected, but there is nothing better than meeting the 3-D individual. If you are traveling you could link up with a street member at a coffee shop, a library, a park, anywhere to take some great selfies. Post these on your group site.

4. Speaking of group site, make a closed group for just your street team. This way you can discuss ideas, present new material, ask them their thoughts about new story ideas, plan promotion parties, etc.

5. Expectations- Rewinding just a tad, make sure you inform those interested in becoming street team members what your expectations are and what they will receive in return. For example, tell them about your future publications, that you need them to read advanced copies and plan to post reviews. Find out their gifts and interests. Perhaps one loves to make memes, another might like to plan parties, another loves to read and post reviews, they all will have gifts. Know these and delegate your needs to them. In return, plan to lavish the group with appropriate kudos, birthday greetings, Amazon/Starbucks gift cards, etc.

6. Kindness - I once said yes to be on a street team for a critique partner a couple of years ago. I was asked to read the book, no problem, write a review, no problem - but then she said she didn't like my review and asked me to make certain changes. Then she sent me personal notes of tasks she wanted me to do. It went on and on and on. And seriously, I said enough. She asked too much. She needed a team. And she needed to appreciate me.  The honey /vinegar thing comes in very handy here.

7. Keep conversations open and solicit the team's questions. Let them ask questions. It's amazing what seems unclear to one individual and crystal with another. This, again is where the group page comes in handy. Team members will answer each other's questions building a camaraderie. It's amazing how the super planners will step up to the rescue. 

8. One other idea is to ask your street team to join you in giving shout-outs to other writers when one of their books is released. Talk about a viral idea. Street teams helping each other. It can't get any better.

So these are only a few of my favorite things I've seen in other street teams. Hop on board, and share what you have learned, tried, or have seen done.

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

Help others--tweet or FB share this post

Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

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

CLICK HERE to learn more

Mary has a new release. William Worthington Watkins III and the Cookie Snitchers.  Someone took the cookies from the church's kitchen and William wanted--no he needed to know who did it. Who isn't telling the truth? Mystery. Junior Fiction. Humor.  Click here to learn more. A GREAT READ FOR THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR OR SUMMER.

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!