Saturday, December 31, 2011

What's Up the Street For Next Week- NEW YEAR'S Edition


How are you celebrating the coming of a new year?
What is one of your writing resolutions?
What is one of your personal resolutions?
How are you going to bring Jesus into your New Year? :-)

Starting a New Year gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and I'll HAVE to say that one of the highlights of this year was getting to meet some of my fellow Alley Cats at ACFW in September. WHAT. A. BLESSING!!!

It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the fabulous Seekers from Seekerville as well as some of our fabulous Alley Friends.

So what do the Cats have up for you this week?

Monday - Pepper takes a recap from her Sizzling First Encounters series to ring in the New Year. She'll provide some 'first encounters' examples from published authors that will get the new year started off with a BANG!

Tuesday - Sherrinda jumpstarts our creative flow with a 'What if' Day.

Wednesday - Cool post by Mary this week entitled the Privelaged Class - Misconceptions of famous published authors.

Thursday - Casey gets us ready for the new contest year with The Low Down on Contests, Should I? Shouldn't I?

Friday - Our soon-to-be-published Krista Phillips brings a fabulous post this week (assuming she survived her edits from last week ;-)


Genesis 2012 opens this week! To learn more about it go here -
And stay tuned for next Monday, Jan 9 when Angie invites 2011 Genesis finalist Naomi Rawlings to give some helpful tips about entering the Genesis.

Casey starts Operation: Encourage and Author this week. Stop in a check
Now from all of us to you - Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
pictures courtesy of:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Websites for Writers

It may not look it to some outsiders, but writing is hard work! It also takes a lot of focus. I don't know about you, but sometimes I need a little break between long spells of writing. Sometimes that's getting up and walking around but other times that's distracting myself with the Internet in some kind of creative way. That could mean e-mails or blogs, or other websites that are geared more toward writing but still give me that break I need. Here are some I've come across that you might enjoy.

is pretty popular and not only fun for a writer but helpful, too. You copy any amount of text into their text box and it will mix all the words, making a word cloud with colorful words from your text, all twisted and turned in different directions. It's helpful, too, because the words that are used the most will appear the biggest and ones that are used a lot will appear on there as well. That way we writers can see what we use most and help avoid repetition.

Name Generators

Sometimes I need a little help in coming up with a unique name or a suitable name for a secondary character. If you ever get blocked, here are two sites to visit that will help with names. The first, Be a Better Writer, has some great everyday and popular names, like Becky Stone or Carlton Donnovan. The second, Language is a Virus, has more unusual names you could use for fantasy or if you just like unusual names such as Tayten or Ady. You can also find pet names.

Writing Prompts

For those times we get writer's block or want to free write or use a prompt to get the creative juices flowing again, here are a few sites I've found. Oneword is very basic. It gives you a one word prompt, and you write what you can in sixty seconds. Simple, easy, and quick. Creative Writing Prompts gives you real life scenarios or beginning lines, and you can create a story or free write from there.

Random Writing Fun

Protagonize is one I haven't tried but heard about. You can connect with other writers here, and also develop stories or join in on continuing a story some else already started. Language is a Virus, mentioned above, also has writing prompts, exercises and games, character generators, and even something for poets. It's an unusual one, but there's some fun stuff there, too.

I love a good distraction and at least these make me feel like I'm still sticking to writing in some way. Have you ever tried any of these sites or found any interesting ones of your own. Oh, and if you're up for a challenge, paste your entire WIP in Wordle (you don't have to publish it to the site if you don't want, so it's still safe) and share some of the more unusual words in your word cloud. Mine are Bigfoot, Aspen, and Whimsy.


Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kissing Class 101 - From the Pros

Okay….did YOU have opportunity to celebrate Christmas with a little MISTLETOE??

Smooching by the fire’s glow?

Kissing 'neath the falling snow?

Well, if you’re lips haven’t been warmed up enough, I’ve brought a post that should do the trick!

Last year I had a special blog series about writing ‘kissing scenes’ – and some fabulous authors responded – sharing their special tips to make those tantalizing scenes lip-smacking good!

I’ve posted some highlights, so get your fans ready or a handful of snow, because it’s gonna get a little toasty inside :-)

Award winning historical author, Laura Frantz, had this to say about what makes a good kissing scene:

Hmmm…what makes a good kissing scene? Good question! First, every meeting that leads up to that first kiss should simply sizzle with romantic tension. There must be *sparks* long before that first embrace. You need to hear the reader cheering in the background for the hero and heroine to come together. Then, pour on all the sensory details you can – scent, taste, touch, sight, etc. Contrast their differences. My upcoming hero is a distillation of leather and the outdoors and my heroine of lavender water. He’s tall and hard as granite beneath her hands, she’s small and has the feel of silk. Little details like these bring the scene to life. The reader should experience that kiss right along with the fictional couple.

Historical and contemporary novelist, Kaye Dacus, says this about kissing scenes:

For me, a great kissing scene is not about the kiss itself—it’s about the emotional and intellectual tension that leads up to the kiss, especially a couple’s first kiss. The best kissing-scene writers create such an air of expectation and anxiety in the reader (and the characters) that the reader sits on the edge of her seat, every muscle tight, every nerve tingling—like a pressure cooker at full steam—waiting for the only thing that can release that pressure. Then, when the characters’ lips meet, releasing the tension, salving the anxiety, and meeting the expectation, it’s a blissful experience. And it’s one of the main reasons why I read and write romance novels!

Denise Hunter adds this:

There are many elements that go into a great kissing scene, but everything that comes before it is just as important as the romantic scene itself. Building the hero’s and heroine’s back stories and motivation, ramping up the conflicts that keep them apart, and showing why the characters are drawn to each other are crucial. No matter how well-written the kissing scene, the reader won’t be moved if you haven’t done your work leading up to it.

Renown author, Liz Curtis Higgs, had these thoughts to share:

Ah, the kiss! Anticipation is everything. Where and when and how and why the characters kiss must be chosen with care. The longer such a moment is delayed in a story, the better. Readers should sense it coming and be standing on tiptoe, waiting for that tender expression of affection. Time seems to slow down as the characters move toward each other, and every detail matters. Do their eyes meet or are they closed? Do their hands touch or does he cup her cheek? Do they simply lean toward each other or does he take her in his arms? Whether the moments leading up to the kiss are hilarious or heartbreaking, they must be emotion-packed. It’s a huge step forward in their relationship when characters kiss, so our charge as writers is to make it count!

The Kissing Queen herself, Julie Lessman, added this:

Oh, honey, there are SO many things that make a good kissing scene in my opinion, but I think one of my favorites is when there is high drama involved (such as anger, for instance, as in the scene I’ve chosen). I mean, let’s face it, as women we ALL love a man who won’t let a heroine ride roughshod over him, right? My editor likes to refer to it as the “Taming of the Shrew” mentality, which she isn’t overly fond of but I happen to like, so she does let me get away with it every now and then.

Let’s end with the lovely, Siri Mitchell:

A great kissing scene has to incorporate the personality of both the kisser and the kissee. I could envision the most wonderful of kisses and describe it in the most romantic of terms, but if it fails to respect the characters of the people involved, then it won’t produce any sighs or butterflies on the part of the reader. Like any other scene in fiction, a kissing scene has work to do. It has to move the plot forward, introduce or solve conflict, reveal character, and/or deepen a theme. That’s a lot to expect from a kiss!

Oh boy, oh boy –

SO what do YOU think makes a great kissing scene?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Post-Holiday Plan for Writers

If you're like me in the wake of Christmas, you've passed along more presents than you can count, eaten more cookies than you can count, and gained more pounds than you even want to know.

Not to mention most of us set aside our writing (or at least scaled back) during this season so we could enjoy time with friends and family.
But as the holidays come to a close, it's time to re-motivate and refocus. I know, I know. It's just as painful for me as it is for you. (Anyone getting flashbacks to childhood lectures from Mom and Dad?)

Here are a few tips to help us battle the post-holiday blahs.

1) Write down a plan. Evaluate your schedule and make realistic goals based on the time you have. Don't try to be Super-Writer here. Look at your pre-holiday schedule and pattern your new one after it, with a little extra challenge thrown in for good measure.

2) Look at your goals and pick one to work on first. Alley pal Keli Gwyn had an awesome post about the concept of going singular when you work toward your goals. To read her wise words, go here.

3) Keep yourself healthy. Y'know those extra pounds I talked about at the beginning? They're going to weigh you down, both physically and mentally. And that means you'll be less effective in working toward your writing goals.

I plan to do a cleanse and detox at the beginning of the new year to rid myself of all the junk I've consumed over the holidays. You don't have to go that extreme, though. Just getting up and exercising a little bit every day will clear your brain of the post-Christmas cobwebs. Grab an apple instead of a Snickers, and you'll be another step closer to working at your best.

4) Enlist support. Accountability isn't a new concept, but how many of us actually do this? Whether it's enlisting support in our health goals or in our writing goals, we're much more likely to succeed if we know someone is breathing down our, checking in on us...once a week, or whatever timeline we choose.

So who's with me on this? Anyone care to share your goals for 2012? What's your post-holiday plan?

*Cookie photo by Paul /
**Diary photo by Idea go /


Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her personal blog at:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year, New Goals!!

"Resolution" conjures up thoughts of the workout plan that lasts two weeks, until you miss a day...then three...then a month! At least for me.

In our writing life or in any other aspect of our life, it's not resolutions that get us's baby steps and perseverance. Continuing to run the race.

Just as Jesus sanctifies us in our walk with Him, finishing a novel is a day-by-day labor.

Talk about baby-steps. I started my novel about a year and a half ago. I made agonizingly slow progress...editing as I went.

But baby steps add up. Finding the time to write every day just wasn't realistic for me, nor was writing in large chunks. But if writing didn't become a part of my routine, it didn't happen in my busy life.

This winter I will finally finish that novel! I know, I know. Some of you have been known to write 50K words during NANOWRIMO or finish your novels in 3 months. Maybe you can't relate. But I'm betting at least a few of you can.

These are some of the writing lessons I hope to take with me in the New Year:

Keep accountable.  Find email accountability partners. Find a real-life group to hold you accountable. Preferably both. The embarassment of havnig nothing to bring to a critique session keeps you going if nothing else does. So does the fact there's someone on the other end of the computer waiting to hear my word count totals.

Don't belittle the little accomplishments. Every word is important. Every time I hit a 10K milestone I will often excitedly mention it to my husband or family. Just repeating the small victories to myself helps me to persevere to the next 10K.

Dream about what's next. No, I don't mean that you're going to land the agent of your dreams and get published this year. (Not that it wouldn't be great if that happened...). The closer I get to writing "the end", the more time I spend thinking and reading about my next character so I can keep the momentum going.

If you get discouraged, remember the growth you have made and will continue to make. At a recent writer's group session I brought an excerpt from my manuscript written about a year ago. I was immediately asked if it was written a while ago. The commenter said they were used to a different level of quality in my writing. It encourages me to know that in little baby steps my writing WILL grow.

What do you need to do to tend your writing garden this year? What do you need to prune back in your writing in order to grow? What are your tricks to finishing well?

Wishing you and your manuscript a happy New Year!

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys reading and reviewing books for The Title Trakk, a Christian review site.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Dreaded Writer's Break

Really, what can I say?
Flickr Creative Commons

I am in the thick of it.

Yes, no matter how much I try to end this dry season and type at least a sentence, the cries of a babe or the repairs of a new house refuse to allow me to move forward.

I tried to fight through the distractions. After all, a couple of agents and an editor requested my stuff. How could I wait any longer? And I tried to ignore the boxes and mess when the baby was sleeping, so I could write. But just as the dishes piled high and the packing paper flooded the rooms, my anxiety grew and I knew...Life had to trump the dream...for a bit. It wasn't easy. I wanted to throw a fit—to scream out, “Why now!? Why, when I might have a fighting chance at going somewhere with this, why do I have to set it aside?”

During the first days that I declared my life too demanding to dedicate to writing, the heavy weight of defeat and self-disappointment gave way to the little devil whispering in my ear:

This was just a hobby anyway

If you can't get your submissions out now, what makes you think you can meet deadlines later?

It was all a pipe dream

And for a while, I allowed myself to believe it all. I continued on with life as normal—sleep-deprived nights with an infant, unpacking and organizing a family of six, adjusting to a new town and new people. In the back of my mind I wondered,

Do I even care about writing?

How easy it is to ignore that writing was ever important to me.

But my characters are alive. Their pulses still throb and wobble my thoughts. Their ever-so faint words spark some hope that their story will be told. My story haunts me. Writing isn't what I once did, it is who I am. With a firm flick, I knock that little devil off my shoulder and grasp onto the dream.

Perhaps, life will ease up. This drought will end and I can finally splash the last scenes upon the page. Oh how I wish that to be so! Perhaps, life isn't ready to give me room yet. And I think I am okay with that. Not happy about it, but alright. One day, I'll find the time. I'll sit and conjure up sentences and fill the pages. I will take the advice of William Wordsworth, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

One day.

Have you taken a true break from writing? How long was it? What were your circumstances?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's Up the Street For Next Week- CHRISTMAS Edition


What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Christmas this year on the Lord's DAY! Let's give you the lineup and then a Christmas poem for your devotional pleasure :-)

Monday - Angie talks about Taking a Break from Writing - when to consider a break.

Tuesday - Ready for a New Year's Writing Resolution? Stop by and see what Julia has to tell us.

Wednesday - Along with all of the post-Christmas cleanup, Sarah writes about "Post-Holiday Plan for Writers"

Thursday - Pepper offers a mistletoe inspired post straight from some of your favorite authors - tips on writing 'kissing scenes'. Yum....

Friday - Cindy gets you ready for New Year's web surfing with fun and helpful links for writers.

Stop by and enjoy the fun! Bring your ideas! We love visitors 'round here :-)

So - to keep you in mind of the reason for the season, here's a poem:

Twas the Night Jesus Came

Twas the night Jesus came and all through the town,
Not a person would guess The Messiah came down.
The earth gave no warning to speak God’s intent
But this magical night I would never forget.

The streets were all busy with strangers from far;
No time to hear singing or see the bright star.
As my young friends and I kept our watch o’er the flock
We had no idea we’d soon get a shock.

When out of the darkness there rose such a light,
I sprang from the hilltop to gaze at the sight.
An angel came shining as bright as noon-day,
More fearsome and brilliant than I’ve words to say.

At first he said, softly, “There’s no need to fear.”
Which I found hard to do since this host first appeared,
But he said, “Be of Joy! I bring you great news!
Your Savior is born, there is no time to lose.”

“This babe wrapped in cloths has no crib for his bed,
But rests his sweet head in a feed-trough instead.”
And then other angels, more than I can know,
Rejoiced through the dark with their songs and their glow.

Like millions of stars dancing down to the earth,
They lifted their voices in praise of his birth-
Singing, “Glory to God.” Through the stillness of night
“and peace to all men,” then they flew out of sight.

It didn’t take long to break out of our shock.
We ran down the hill leaving our field and flock,
And found the sweet baby inside a damp cave,
But could this be Christ – the whole world to save?

The donkeys and horses had left a foul smell.
The straw was all muddy, the manger as well.
But everything was as the angel had said,
A babe wrapped in cloths in a crude manger bed.

Then I know – it was clear. Where else would he be?
The Teacher and Healer to make the blind see.
The Savior who’d carry the sins of us all,
Where else would show love than an old cattle stall?

This baby, The Christ, would clean up all our messes.
He’d take on our curses and give us His blessings.
So as I adored Him, God’s Son, the true Light,
God seemed to be whisp’ring to all a “good night”

copyright 2009 Pepper D. Basham

Merry Christmas from our Alley to yours. God's blessings on you and yours.
May you know the wonder of His grace and the unfathomable richness of His love.


pictures courtesy of:

Taking the story elements of her Blue Ridge Mountains’ heritage, Pepper  Basham writes a variety of fiction seasoned with grace and humor, including contemporary romance and fantasy. She’s a pastor’s wife, mom of five, university instructor, and a 2011 double Genesis finalist. She can be found causing mischief at her group blog, The Writers Alley, or at

Friday, December 23, 2011

It is Finished

I still am pinching myself.

It's done. I've pushed send. No more staying up all night working on it. No more whining to my alleycat friends, my mom and my husband.


My edits were extensive. They required a pretty decent rewrite and some big changes, so much so that part of me is saying, "Why the heck did they want to publish this in the first place???"

But they did, and I tried my best on the edits, and that's all we can do, hm?

I would not be surprised in the least if they come back with more changes needed. And as long as that is after Christmas, I'm totally good with that! My desire is for my first book to be the BEST that I can possibly make it.

A special thanks to Mrs. Alley-cat Sarah, who in the last two weeks, read EVERY SINGLE ONE of my chapters as I edited and gave me FABULOUS critiques that I could not have pushed send without. (well, and felt GOOD about that send button!)

She even down to the wire, read 70 pages that last day.

I still need to catch up on sleep. The last few weeks I've stayed up late most nights, but Monday night, I didn't go to bed until 4 a.m., as I needed to have them DONE so I could spend Tuesday doing one last read through. Said read through took me all day Tuesday, as well as all night, until 6:09 a.m. when I was able to push that blurry send button.

And Christmas... I've put off "baking" with my kids so many times, that I know they are wondering, "are we actually going to do some today?" as today is the day I've promised we'd inundate ourselves with Christmas cookies. Yes, my children, TODAY IS THE DAY, because... edits are DONE!

Oh, and there is the little issue that I have yet to wrap even ONE of my children's presents. They are getting worried... we usually start putting them under the tree about two weeks before Christmas, and they trickle with more and more. Santa, of course, brings one big gift Christmas morning.  Considering we have 4 kiddos... that's a LOT of presents to wrap.

But, I'm determined to enjoy these last few days before Christmas.

Today, we PARTY!!!! It's an edits-are-finished party and Christmas cookies all around to celebrate!

Discussion:  What's your FAVORITE type of Christmas cookie???

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Point in Your Novel You Realize You Should Be a Baseball Star

Sometimes we have to write even when we don’t want to. We drag ourselves to the computer and plunk our fingers in an order that makes no sense (at the time) into words on the screen.

I usually hit this period right about the middle of my  novel. Where is my story going? Do I even still want to be writing? Why didn’t I pick something easier to do like pitching baseballs in the major leagues?

But it would probably be safer for all involved if I stuck with my writing and torturing my characters, because I’ve got terrible hand-eye coordination.

So what do you do when you don’t want to write anymore, have a deadline (real or self-imposed) pressing down on you and seemingly nowhere to look for those little lost words?

Writing sprints

Don’t you dare open up Facebook or emails, set the timer for 15 minutes and write as fast as you can. Don’t think hard about what you are writing, just write.

Find an accountability partner

Fellow Alley Cat Julia and I write three days a week together and for that hour, we write. And in that hour, our goal is to reach 1,000 words, but if we happen to hit that goal early, we don’t stop…We. Keep. Going. In doing that, I challenged myself to not settle for “just good enough” and realize just how much I could get done.

Little rewards

Write a hundred words, answer an email. Write another hundred, stand up and stretch. Etc.

Don’t just focus on what is “wrong”

Don’t let the defeatist attitude attack you. Yes, you have hit a block that is making your progress slow, but the longer you sit at that computer and stare at the words, the worse it is going to get. And the harder it will be for you to write again tomorrow. Don’t settle. Don’t.


I don’t know about you, but I work better when I know I have to reach a goal in a certain amount of time. I’m very Type-A and I need to reach a goal to make me feel as though I have actually accomplished something worthwhile. Whether you give yourself an hour deadline of a thousand words, or a fifteen minute deadline of two hundred. Stick to it. I had a deadline to finish my novel by the end of December. I finished by December 16th. What kind of deadline power can you give yourself?

When it really comes down it to, don’t give into the lies that you can or cannot finish this section, your writing sucks or you should have been a major league pitcher (don’t be delusional, we all know this isn’t true. ;-)

It’s being willing to pull yourself up by the boot straps and forge ahead, not looking back and not listening to the voices that tell you can’t do it. Because you can. You’ve come this far, you can go the rest of the way. Push through the block, it gets better on the other side.

What suggestions do you have to move past the “no inspiration” faze?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mentored: Water to Wine

Our mentor today is Jesus:

Sit back a spell and enjoy this telling of a real event by John.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it.

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

John 2:1-11 ESV

**The Best--Even For the Last**

The road to publication is like an expressway with many rest areas. Rest areas afford opportunity for edits, conference/training, contests, critiquing, networking, marketing, proposals, queries, and a myriad of other needs prior to publication. 

Generally speaking, time at these rest areas is spent on the first chapters of our work. Writers toil over each page, paragraph, line, sentence, and word of those golden first chapters hoping to push their manuscript to the publisher's desk. 

The focus on the beginning is good. But the last chapters hold the same importance. (Of course the middle is important but that would be another post)

**Satisfying Endings: 
The master of the banquet expressed his pleasure and satisfaction of the wine served at the end of the banquet.

Endings need to not be abrupt. Following the climax of a story, readers like a satisfying ride to the end. They want to savor the closing pages of a well written story. Sometimes stories have one to two pages following the climax. This jerks the reader to a screeching-slam-on-the-brakes ending. Despite how wonderful the rest of the book may be, the reader is not likely to read the book a second time, pass the book along, or recommend the book.

**Quality Endings:  
The master of the banquet honored the bridegroom by expressing his satisfaction to all who attended.

Readers notice the grammar problems and other editing faux pas in the ending chapters. While he/she enjoys the content, their satisfaction wanes because of errors. These errors reflect on the quality of future stories by the writer.

**Respectful Endings:
Sufficient portions of the excellent wine was available for all.

Every word, sentence, line, paragraph, page of the book's ending needs to respect the reader and God. Pack these pages with power. Take the time to entice the reader to buy another copy of this and your book.

Our focus needs to not only 
be on the first chapters of our book, 
but also on the last chapters.

What tips do you have for writing endings?


Image by:

This blog post by Mary Vee

Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes Christian young adult fiction (pirate tales, missionary and Bible adventure stories).
She thinks of writing as: Stepping into Someone Else's World.
To learn more about Mary, visit her blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Awesome Gifts For Writers

Tis the season for gift giving, but what do you get for the writer in your life. Okay, those of you reading this are probably THE writer, but you can always print this post out and slip it under you loved ones' nose as a hint! Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky and actually get one of these awesome gifts some day.

1. A writing magazine or journal, such as The Writer's Digest, Writer's Journal, and The Writer. Full of great articles on the writing craft and the road to publication, these magazines will inspire and instruct writer's everywhere.

2. Ergonomic Pens and Pencils! The Writing Pen Store has a good selection of strange ergonomic pens for those writers who like to write by hand. They also have a new selection of fun, colorful "normal" pens to choose from.
3. Writing Journals: The Celery Street has some really cool writing journals to choose from. From artistic to handmade, you will be able to find some unique journals for your writer.
4. Jewelry: There are some sites to browse for jewelry geared toward writers. Zazzle has a huge selection of necklaces for the writer...up to 700 necklaces! I also found an AWESOME charm bracelet that I just love on Etsy. You can get cute typewriter key necklaces on Etsy too. And check out this cool ring at Modcloth.
5. Manicure: Writer's don't spend time on themselves. They are holed up with their laptops and more often than not, they have short nails due to all that typing they do. A manicure will spruce up those fingers that fly over the keyboard.

6. Massage: While we are talking about pampering, let's not forget the massage. Many hours spent hunched over the computer create knots in a writer's shoulders, shooting pain up and down the spine. A nice, indulgent massage will rejuvenate those tight muscles like nothing else!

7. Bookshelves: Oh yes, a writer is a reader, and most writers have tons of books. Check out this INVISIBLE bookshelf at B&N! You can take a peek into some very creative bookcases HERE for inspiration.
Just a few fun ideas for the writer in your life. Of course, you can foward the blog post as a hint to your loved one! What would you add to the list?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Special Guest - Jeff Gerke

It is my pleasure to welcome author and editor, Jeff Gerke, to The Writers Alley today!

For the past two years at ACFW I've made it a point to sit in on Jeff's teaching- and let me just tell you, I've not been disappointed. This year I had the added bonus of having fellow AlleyCats Mary Vee and Angie Dicken to sit with me - AND THEN I had the wonderful opportunity to have an appointment with Jeff.

Great guy! Very encouraging - AND a fabulous teacher.

Where the Map Ends, features some great resources for developing your craft straight from Jeff's ACFW presentations. Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist and How to Find Your Story are two of them.

His newest release, The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up for Success came out at the end of November. You can learn more about it here.

Known for publishing books that step on the fringes of reality through Marcher Lord Press, Jeff's guidance is for both the "expected" writers and those who think out-of-the-box :-)

He's also a fellow Mt. Dew drinker...just sayin' :-)

Without further ado - heeerrrrreeeee's Jeff:
1. Could you tell us a little about your new book The First 50 Pages and how you expect it to help aspiring authors?

I’m very excited about this book. I think it has the potential to help any novelist begin his or her book with excellence. I repeatedly found it odd that I could write a 200-plus-page book on 50 pages of a novel, but that’s what happened. Those first 50 pages are doing so much and bearing so much weight. They play an inordinately important role in whether or not any novel is going to be a success.

I was very pleased with how well Writers Digest promoted the launch of the book. I’m hoping it can help a lot of people better do what it is they’re wanting to do with their fiction.

2. Marcher Lord Press publishes books that are ‘outside the box’ types of books. What do you think some of the challenges are for authors who write in genres that the Christian market is just becoming open to? What are the benefits?

There have always been Christians who would read great Christian SF and fantasy (and other weird genres) if the books were there and if the readers knew about them. The problem had been that the books hadn’t been there. The problem now is that many Christians don’t know that such an animal exists.

So long as the traditional Christian book publishing industry serves the core Christian fiction demographic—white, Evangelical moms and grandmoms—they will continue to do best with books that appeal to that demographic as a group. Mainly bonnet and buggy books, but also the occasional female-oriented mystery, chick-lit, or contemporary women’s novel.

The corollary of this is that books that don’t appeal to that demographic will continue to be spurned by traditional Christian publishers. And so it should be: You don’t stay in business if you keep offering something your market says it doesn’t want.

Before this publishing revolution we’re now in, the biggest challenges for speculative authors and writers of other “unusual” genres was to get published at all. Now, with the old model sinking and the advent of all the indie presses (like Marcher Lord Press), suddenly the previously marginalized novelist is now in demand. The model is new, the money is lower (at first), and the sales numbers are lower (at first). But what they’ve always wanted—access to readers who desire exactly what they write—is now being handed to them.

And without a traditional house taking a 90% cut of the profits, the writer stands to really win. It’s a good day to be a novelist.

3. What top three tips would you give to aspiring authors who are beyond the ‘beginning’ phase?

1) Challenge yourself. You probably sense the areas where you are weak, and you probably shy away from story ideas that would reveal that weakness. Instead, create a challenge project for yourself that will make you master that area or the whole thing will fail. For me, at least, that’s the only way I get better at anything.

2) Keep learning. If you’re someone who can learn from books, then I have three fiction craft books that will help you [shameless plug!]. If you learn better from listening to someone teach, attend the larger writers conferences. ACFW is the best for Christian novelists. Also, I’m soon to launch, which will be like getting a complete Jeff seminar online.

3) To your perseverance and craftsmanship, add prayer. Yes, you should work very, very hard to improve your craft. But at the end of the day, you must lay your writing career at the feet of Jesus. Work hard to grab it by the tail. Pray hard to let Him do with it what He wants.

 4. In your class at ACFW you mentioned thinking of unique ideas for stories. With that in mind, what advice would you give to someone who has a unique story premise…but is told they’re a little too unique? Any marketing writing advice?

Yes: Stick to your instincts. Write the book that ought to be out there but that no one else is writing. Then go to the micro-presses—or even self-publish—to find ways to connect that book with the group of readers who will love it.

Those old voices that have kept the “odd” novelist marginalized for so long are now going away, and the world is better for it, imo.

Earlier this year I still heard traditional publishers looking down on small presses and self-publishers. Then at a writers conference last month I heard someone from one of those traditional houses say, “Contrary to popular belief, traditional Christian publishing is not dead.” I was secretly delighted, because it represented an acknowledgement that the old power bloc had lost control. Now the cat’s way out of the bag, and it’s not going back in.

Fun question and right up your sci-fi alley ;-) “If you were a bionic toad that needed to find a radioactive mushroom in order to turn into a giant half-unicorn, half-man warrior to save the world of Ganderthol… how would you go about locating the mushroom?”

I would already know where all the mushrooms were, because I’m a bionic toad with a penchant for organizing and cataloguing. So I’d go right to the correct mushroom. Besides, I’m toad-ally awesome.


Thanks, Pepper!


Thanks so much for stopping by the Alley, Jeff. May you have a Toad-ally awesome Christmas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?

Photo Credit
Our weather has been cold here lately, I just wish we had some white stuff to go with it.

Yes, you heard me right. If I'm gonna be cold, I want something pretty to look at. :-) What about you?

But it certainly isn't cold here on the Alley and we've got a great line up of posts for you. Sure to warm your heart and fire your enthusiasm for that cold WIP.


The famed Jeff Gerke is Pepper's guest on Monday, be sure and not miss the chance to drink from his wisdom.

Tis the season for giving and Sherrinda has gifts right up a writer's alley on Tuesday.

Mary continues her mentoring series on Wednesday with turing the Water to Wine.

Finishing your word count even with no inspiration. Casey is your hostess on Thursday.

Give a shout out to our Krista as she finishes up her edits for Abingdon Press!! She will be posting on Friday

Sidewalk Talk...

Pepper continues her Christmas song series on her blog with the poem Twas the Night Jesus Came on Saturday.

Beth Vogt launches her new website

Casey made her vlogging debut yesterday on her blog. If you're brave, check it out. ;-)

Keli Gwyn continues her Copy-Editing with Keli series on her blog

Want to add humor to your writing? Check out this post.

Photo Credit

Friday, December 16, 2011

What is Your Novel Missing? A Sense of Time, A Sense of Place

Hey there! This is the final installment of this series, one that I still struggle with and have since I started writing. Fortunately, I recognize the problem more readily now, and can fix it before I get out of control. (If you missed any other posts in this series, you can check out Senses, Deep POV, Hooks, and Strong Verbs/Unique Words.)

Today we're talking about what I like to call Grounding Your Characters in the Scene. This is basically giving your reader a foundation for the scene, aka, the setting.

There are two areas where this can be an issue. At the beginning of a scene or during a scene. Yep, simple.

Pretend I just started a new scene in my story, and you're the reader:

Harper knew it was her fault. She might bat her long lashes and flash that coy smile but anyone with half a brain could see she was behind the whole thing.

So fine, if she wanted to play her game, he would play one of his own.

First, he'd steal the colorful little gnome from her front garden. Yep, sneak it off one night never to be seen again. Then he'd...

All right, I could go on with all of Harper's thoughts about how to get back at this mystery woman. But the point here is that this scene has been started in Harper's head and hasn't ventured out once. Sure, it's fine to start off a scene with a character's thoughts or dialogue. But don't take too long to ground your characters in this setting. Without that, you leave your readers hanging.

They don't know where your characters are or when they're there (how much time after the previous scene).

It can be a simple change, like:

Harper knew it was her fault. She might bat her long lashes and flash that coy smile but anyone with half a brain could see she was behind the whole thing.

He peered through the kitchen curtains at his neighbor, grinding his teeth. She pruned her roses with delicate snips that mocked him, like she had no idea what she'd done this morning.

Fine, if she wanted to play her game, he would play one of his own...

See? We're giving the reader a sense of where Harper is, and even when, so they have a foundation for this scene.

Now, this can also be a problem when there's too much exposition, or during a scene when you either have several paragraphs of character thought or even a long run of dialogue. If your characters are sitting at a restaurant eating and bantering back and forth, give them a break here and there. Like:

"Putting your elbows on the table is so rude," Maggie mentioned, mischief in her eyes.

"No ruder than chewing with your mouth open," Shawn countered.

"I don't chew with my mouth open!"

"Yes, you do." He reached for his napkin, lowering his voice when a quick glance around the room showed several customers glaring at him.

This isn't the most amazing example, but the point is, every once in awhile, you need to ground the characters in their setting. Make them part of their setting, even have them interacting with their setting. There will be scenes where your characters will be walking together or driving together, some kind of movement and you need to keep your reader updated. You don't want your readers to say, "How did they get from the mall to her house?"

Okay, so when you're doing your edits, make sure you're not in your character's head for too many paragraphs at once, and make sure your readers know where your characters are here and there, especially if they're doing a lot of moving around. Simple as that!

How about you? Are you like me and start off a scene with a whole lot of character thought before grounding your character in the setting? I'd love to know I'm not the only one!


Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twelve Ways of this Business

If you’ve been running a mile a minute like I have, then you likely feel this way…we need a little humor right this very minute.

I’m here to deliver. (Here’s to hoping this gets a laugh out of you.)

The Twelve Ways of this Business

On the first day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

partridge (partial title of one of my novels) in a contract…wee! (Just playin’. No big announcements to share.)

On the second day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

new platform love & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the third day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

seven mochas brewing, six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

eight pencils breaking, seven mochas brewing, six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the ninth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

nine chapters prancing, eight pencils breaking, seven mochas brewing, tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the tenth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

ten verbs-a-sleepin’, nine chapters prancing, eight pencils breaking, seven mochas brewing, six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

eleven editors Skyping, ten verbs-a-sleepin’, nine chapters prancing, eight pencils breaking, seven mochas brewing, six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love, & partridge in a contract…wee!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my agent gave to me…

twelve bloggers blogging, eleven editors Skyping, ten verbs-a-sleepin’, nine chapters prancing, eight pencils breaking, seven mochas brewing, six tweets-a-sayin’, five cell phone rings, four stalling words, three agency friends, new platform love & partridge in a contract…wee!

Merry Merry!
And to all a good night!

*photo from Flickr


Wendy Paine Miller writes women’s fiction, crafting stories with the hope of poking brains and moving thoughts. She graduated with a BA in English from Wittenberg University, where she earned an Honor of Distinction for her accrued knowledge of literature. Wendy feels most alive when she’s speeding in a boat, reading, writing, refurbishing furniture, running, and trusting God. To interact with her, visit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Google Searches of a Writer

When I first got the crazy idea to write a book a few years ago, I decided to Google, "How to write a novel." I was promptly introduced to Randy Ingermanson and the Snowflake Method.
Little did I know that was just the beginning of my profitable relationship with Google. We all have research needs as writers, and while Google doesn't always provide the most official answers to our burning questions, it's a great place to start.
Here's a sampling of Google searches from my writing journey thus far. 
1) Is a caveman the same as a Neanderthal? Inquiring minds want to know.
2) How deep is a casket buried? Just in case I get buried alive some day.
3) Tools at a lumberyard. Never hurts to learn a new skill.
4) What does a flooded basement smell like? I'm looking for a new scented candle.
5) What's a nickname for big ears? My son needs a nickname for the neighborhood bully.
6) How do the Amish heat their homes? My furnace is on the fritz.
7) Marathon training schedule. Just in case I get motivated to run more than a mile.
8) Drainage pipe codes. My hubby's got an outdoor project planned.
9) How long is an industrial dishwasher cycle? Looking to replace my residential one.
10) Commercial real estate license requirements. I need another career option in case this author thing doesn't work out.
What's your favorite research tool? Do you have any unique Google searches to share?
*This post originally published on Hoosier Ink December 13, 2010.
 **Search photo by Master isolated images /

Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her personal blog at: