Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing Rush Hour

I've got a problem.

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

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

Do you ever feel that way? Behind?

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

But have you ever felt the same about your writing?

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

What happens as a result? That same anxious heart.

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

Do you remember your passion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow down.

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

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


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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Fun {Featuring Author Christen E. Krumm!}

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

Alley News

Friday Five with Author Christen E. Krumm

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

What's the most random thing in your bag?

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

What are you reading right now?

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

What do you order at Starbucks?

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

What's your favorite recent discovery?

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

What are you currently working on?

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

What can we pray for?

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

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



About Christen:

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Created for Love Stories


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

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

What was the first love letter you received?

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

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

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

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

“You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will rescue you and keep you safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Reffner

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Five with the Fabulous Krista Phillips!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Favorite weird food combination?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Manuscript Reunion Revisited

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she writes historical, historical romance, and dabbles in contemporary romance. Her first two novels come out Fall 2017. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Come hang out with me on social media!
Twitter: @angiedicken

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

NO GUILT ZONE: Will You Take the Pledge?

I’m a striver.

(Is that a word? It is for today, just roll with me)

I’m someone who has to make a goal and press hard into making that goal happen. Whether it’s personally or professionally, I am an extreme perfectionist and I’m not satisfied until everything is done right—or rather, to what I perceive as “right”.

And we all know that standard is a subjective line that will never truly be attained to perfect satisfaction.

In other words: I don’t give up easily. And I don’t let go very quickly.

And if I do either of those above two things? Well, just cross stitch me a sampler with “Guilt” as the focal point and I’ll magnet it to my fridge.

I have a question for you. One that I had to ask myself and one, that if I were honest, I could not answer right away.

Do you guilt yourself into writing?

Now, before you scoff at me and click out of this post because I would dare to ask you such a thing, when you’re obviously created within the very fabric of your DNA to be a writer, I want to urge you to think about this question.

Not in a condemning way.

Not in a way to make you feel guilty.

Just in a way that makes you pause and consider your day.

Do you feel guilty when you sit down to write because you’re ignoring your family or the laundry that needs to be folded?

Do you think about your book and the next chapter you need to bring to critique group and the fact that you haven’t written in two weeks and thus have nothing to show up with?

So instead of sitting down and writing that next chapter, you put it off. Shoving it to the side, because let’s be honest, there’s more pressure now. And no one likes to write under pressure.

Do you look at other writers as they glory in how much they love to create and look forward to spending time in that story world and realize that you have to pull teeth to find the motivation?

Maybe this isn’t you every day. Maybe this is only you once a month.

But is there a small part of this that you find relation to? A small part of yourself that wants to sit
down, grab a cup of your favorite hot drink and swap war stories?

Pull up a chair, my friend, I’m ready to listen and unburden a bit of my heart as well.

You’re a writer. It’s woven into the fabric of your DNA. It’s your passion…or maybe it’s not. (Another post for another time.)

So why are you doing it? Why are you writing?

And why are you allowing yourself to feel guilty by it all?

Have you let expectations override your desire for craft? For time creating? For production instead of adventure?

These are pointed questions. I get that. I’ve asked them. Mulled over them. Chewed on the impact of my answers.

Are you striving for an end result that isn’t leaving you fulfilled?

Here is something that I encourage of you this week within your writing or maybe even your own everyday life: strive for what fulfills you. Fills you up and leaves you running over. Put the book aside if that’s not that project this week. Hands off.  (and I do mean, hands off)

Find that passion. Find that joy.

Find it.

Claim it.

Allow yourself to be filled up.

Because you can’t write from an empty well. And an empty well is an invitation to be filled up with things, emotions, guilt that only lead toward meaningless striving.

Don’t guilt yourself this week.

Who’s with me?



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. 



Friday, February 3, 2017

Vacations and Books & Giveaway

It's the beginning of February, so your thoughts may be wandering to thoughts of vacations to warm places. That's probably especially true if you live somewhere cold and grey. Last summer I taught in Siena, and this summer I'll be back in Florence for a couple weeks with another group of college undergrads. Add in trips to Colorado, Kentucky, New York City, and Dallas for writing conferences I'm teaching at, and the year is already looking really full.

As a writer, one of the things I'm always doing as I travel is looking for the details and nuances of a place. Everything can become a research trip. In fact, I've been known to fall in love with places and set a book there so I would have an excuse to return! Because it's the weekend, let's talk about two things:

1) places you've been that you'd love to turn into the setting of a book, and
2) books that have felt like a vacation.

For the first, I set a book on Mackinac Island so that I could return there. It's such an incredible place to visit, that I knew the first time I visited it would be the perfect place for a book. Italy I did backwards. I wrote the book and then I visited.

For the second, I love books where the setting is a vacation. I'm including a few links to books that fit that bill that are on ebook sale right now. Enjoy!

Be sure to scroll down for  Krista's post this week, A Writer's Insecurity and Mary's post Refined

Mary Vee's new release, Andiamo, Let's Go to Italy is available. Return to Italy in this virtual tour. Taste the food, visit the sights, laugh with friends, hear the bell towers ring, touch the vineyards, olive trees, sea, and so much more. Today you can go back. If you haven't been to Italy but always wished you could go, take this virtual tour-no passport or suitcase required--and know this is a country worth seeing. FULL COLOR PHOTOS

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Writer's Insecurity

I might be weird.

Maybe I'm the only one who does this.

Totally possible.

But let me give you a tiny peek inside my brain.

I'm going to use this blog post as an example, but take this and change a few details and you'll get the picture of how this plays out in the general "publishing" world for me too.

So I sat down to write this blog.

I'm thinking -- what should I write about, right?

Sometime other writer's might identify with. A good how-to post, maybe?

Eh, maybe not. I mean, who am I, right? I am no expert writer. Who is little ol' me to tell other writer's how to write? I mean, I'm not a HORRIBLE writer.

But there are So. Many. Better. Ones. SOOOOoooo many.

So tips on writing--maybe another day. Maybe after I learn something from someone else and can pass along the message or something.

What about the writing journey? OHhhh, yeah, maybe something about how I--

How I.....

How I what? I mean--I've probably written a hundred posts on juggling motherhood and a day job and writing. How much more could people want to hear from me? There are SO many people who do it better. GEEZ, just look on the Alley at all the other cats. Cara -- multi-published author, homeschooling mom, LAWYER, ACFW board member? Just to name a few? SHE should write about that. And Pepper. Holy cow, she does it so FLAWLESSLY too. Me? I'm sitting here trying to write this STUPID post with heaps of paper piled around me, an empty Dr Pepper bottle, a dirty glass that has probably been there for three days, a plastic baggy full of my daughter's dirty clothes they had to change her out of in school last week (I might just need to throw that away....) kids crayons, books, a hairbrush, the baggie of books I'm supposed to be reading with my youngest but haven't in over a week because I've been busy and honestly I'm just now seeing it peeking out from under the mounds of paper, and my Bible that I REALLY REALLY need to read more.

So yeah. Not talking about juggling unless I want to say how much of a failure I am at--I guess I could post a picture (I'm not...) to make y'all feel better about your own juggling.

Okay, so if not that then -- what?

 I sit here and am all like, Lord, what in the world am I qualified to write about on this blog?!?

I have this picture of him smiling in my head and being all like "Well, you're SUPER good at being insecure about yourself. Might try taking a stab at writing THAT."

Ha. Ha. Ha.

But then I almost started to laugh. Because how right he was.

So I'm going to crack open that Bible that's been underused, sitting on my desk, and share a few verses.

Romans 12 (NLT) - And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."

I LOVE this scripture. Seriously. If y'all haven't read Romans lately, go do it. The whole thing. It is awesome! 

As I was thinking about the topic of insecurity, this verse played in my head. Low and behold, I picked up my Bible and I SERIOUSLY opened to this page. Not lying. I made red the two verses I think really apply.

God wants to CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK. And I think that includes the sometimes incessant  need to put ourselves down and focus on all our flaws. We're humans. We aren't perfect. NONE of us are. But I know for me, I look at my writing and at my life and feel so very unworthy of this calling. I don't feel good enough, and I'm right. I'm NOT good enough. But God is. I think for me that's where my changed thinking comes in. To remember that even though my offerings might seem meager and imperfect to my human eyes, they are pleasant aromas to God, and he can use them in greater ways than I could ever dream. 

And then on the opposite side, I do think it's important to be honest with ourselves. Our insecurity can easily swing the pendulum to arrogance in thinking we are AMAZING and everyone needs to read our stuff because we are SO STINKIN' AWESOME!

So if I'm honest with myself, and try looking at things through God's lens and not my own, I can say --

I am not a perfect writer. But God has gifted me to be a good writer and has called me to use and hone that gift.

I am not a perfect singer. And God hasn't gifted me to be a good singer so I'm gonna sing for fun but you won't find me in front of a church, singing in the choir.

I am not a perfect mom. But God has gifted me with four beautiful daughters and has called me to lead them and guide them and help mold them into women of God.

I am not a perfect house cleaner or organizer. And God hasn't gifted me in that matter either. I'm gonna take an hour this afternoon to try to clean up the mess that is my desk/dining room table--but I know in a week or two it will be crazy again. And I'm okay with that.

I am not a perfect wife. But God has gifted me with a husband who loves me and cares about me and I will aim every day to be a better wife than I was the day before, and am so thankful by the grace of God and through the hard work of my hubby and me, we have a strong marriage.

So that's me.

Not perfect.

A little insecure--but trying to be realistic about it.

What about you? Do you have insecurities in your writing/life that you could use a honest, fresh look at?