Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You Don't Have Time to Read This- A Guest Post By Allen Arnold


Ashley here! Today, I'm excited to be hosting an industry expert and a dear friend of mine, Allen Arnold. Previously the founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson fiction, Allen now leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries. I know you're going to be encouraged by his post today. Please leave any questions or comments you may have for Allen, and help us welcome Allen to the Alley!

Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing - overseeing  the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But those facts don't really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series "Once Upon a Time" and is passionate about helping storytellers write from an awakened heart.

***

If you have more than enough time to read this and an abundance of time to pursue your writing – I’m happy for you. But this post isn’t for you.

I wrote this for those of you who are stretched so thin it’s either read this or brush your teeth.

You don’t have time to write...much less read this.
I get it. I didn’t have time to write this post.

And yet here we both are.
Because God wants to talk to you about writing...and time.

But I have to back up just a bit. See, God plays this odd game with me. Often before I write a post like this – I’m drawn to a movie scene or I get hit with an emotion that pulsates through me... a deep sense of loss or maybe confusion or perhaps joy. I’ve learned this is God’s way of giving me a foretaste of what the people I’m writing to are feeling.  
It’s taking me to the sweet spot of what he wants to go after.
Kind of an advance preview.

As I write, here are the three emotions I’m sensing:
1) overwhelmed, 2) disheartened, 3) alone.

Which is odd. I love to write and God has given me a clear calling to go after the hearts of creators. And when I write with him – I know I am not alone.

So I push in to these feelings. I want a clear read on the thoughts that are circling around me but yet are not of me.

So here is what I’m feeling.

That I have absolutely no time to be writing this.

That God should give me more hours in the day if he really wants me to write...or at least take away all these never-ending distractions.

That I am a loser father for writing this while my family is eating dinner without me.

That no one will read this post.

Because I am getting hit with these feelings now, my guess is that you get hit with them – or something similar – when it comes to your writing.

So that’s why we’re here.

God has given you the gift of words and story. But in what feels like a cruel joke, there simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in your day to pursue it – much less savor it.

You’d love the luxury of hours of writing time at your favorite café as you sip a double whipped, chocolate-infused latte with sprinkles. But you have a full time job. The laundry is overflowing. Young children are spilling things on you. Perhaps there’s an ill parent, an unsupportive spouse or a recurring health issue.

God has called you to write
and yet,
There is no time to write.

Those sentences seem to collide with each other – unable to exist in the same universe. Yet they co-exist in your life.

I sense right now that God wants to breathe life into you.
To speak to your heart. Because it’s impossible to write words of life when you – as creator – are burnt-out, worn-out, or stressed out.

God certainly doesn’t promise us time to do everything.

But it doesn’t make sense that the Creator of time would somehow underestimate the time we need to do what he’s called us to do.

If he’s called you to write stories,
he will give you time to write them.

He doesn’t stir a desire in you to leave it unfulfilled.

That sounds great in theory, right?
But how does it work when there simply isn’t
an extra two minutes in your day?

I don’t know. But that’s okay.
The place where we get to the end of our understanding is one of God’s favorite places to do his magic.
The place where we have no idea.

Stay with me. Actually, forget me.
Stay with God on this line of thinking.

When we give God our days and follow his lead, we live in his abundance. To the Creator of time, there’s no such thing as a shortage of time. He never plays catch-up.

That’s why the psalmist says of God, “You’ve got all the time in the world – whether a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.” (The Message, Psalm 90:4).

Like a good father, God loves to provide for our needs.
To come through for us. In abundance.

So rather than me offering you five tips to manage your time,
l want to invite you to give your calling and
your time back to God.
Think of it as your offering.
Think of it as your couple of pieces of fish and bread.
I want you to give God your fading dream of writing and
your lack of time. It may not feel like much. But I urge you to do it now. That’s why you’re still reading this.

Just say these words out loud to God.
It’s just for the two of you.

“God, I love that you’ve given me the gift of words. I don’t understand why there’s never enough time for me to enjoy this gift with you. I feel overwhelmed, disheartened and alone.

I want to live in the abundance of the Kingdom.
I want to write with you.
But even more, I want to spend time dancing and dreaming with you. It almost sounds too good to believe this could be a normal part of my life.

I pray today that you will give me this daily bread.
Not just sustenance. But my daily portion of time.
My daily bread to savor as a feast of words
and creativity and story with you.
My soul hungers for this.
Give me this daily bread.
I won’t try to make it happen.
Or try to earn it.
It is a gift from you.
I ask for it boldly and expectantly.
Let this gift of time and creative fellowship
rain down on me like manna from heaven.
Mostly, give me you.
Because only you can satisfy me.
And I’ll only be satisfied if we do this together.”


I think that should do it.
If this feels too simplistic, don’t let that throw you.
Psalm 3 reminds us not to try and figure everything out on our own. God can handle our biggest mysteries.

Now, watch expectantly how he provides this gift of time and fellowship. I suspect you’ll notice it in both big and small ways.
But it likely won’t be in the exact way you’re expecting.
I do know this – if it’s from God, it will be far better than what you would dare to imagine.

I sense God is smiling at you right now.
Spend a few minutes with him celebrating what just happened. And what is to come.


You have the time.


***


GIVEAWAY!

Don't forget to enter for our huge giveaway at our Facebook Party, Saturday, August 30! For the big giveaway, we are giving away The Writer's Alley New Design Launch Basket containing the following:

  • $20 Amazon gift card
  • Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg (paperback book)
  • Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • Duchess by Susan May Warren (autographed paperback book)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Squares
  • A Writer's Conference Jamberry PediPack 

Throughout the day of our Facebook party August 30, we will be giving away the following:
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (ebook)
  • A Home At Trail's End by Melody Carlson (paperback book)
  • $10 Amazon gift card
  • Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (paperback book)
  • The Writer's Toolbox
  • Showdown by Ted Dekker (paperback book)
  • Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (paperback book)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (paperback book)
You can enter for a chance to win HERE. Just scroll to the end of the post and enter through our Rafflecopter giveaway widget!


Have a great day!

How your personality type affects your writing

Image by Mr Lightman, freedigitalphotos.net

Before we got married, my hubby and I did a relationship course written by Gary Smalley, in which we learned about the four different personality types. A lot has been written about the four basic temperaments, but of all the explanations I’ve heard, Smalley’s is the clearest.

He compares the four personality types to animals: the lion, otter, golden retriever and beaver.

The lion is a natural leader: bold, confident and assertive.

The otter is the socialite: playful and optimistic.

The golden retriever is a loyal companion: calm and gentle-natured.

The beaver is the details-person: organized and analytical.

For us as a young couple, this knowledge was an eye-opener, and something we’ve carried with us for over a decade of marriage. I learned that I’m a golden retriever/ beaver, while my husband is a lion/ otter. What do they say about how opposites attract?

Each personality type has its particular set of strengths and weaknesses, and knowing these has helped us better understand and appreciate each other, instead of rubbing each other up the wrong way.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how else my personality type influences my behaviour – in particular my writing.

It’s become obvious to me that each temperament has strengths that will benefit our writing, and weaknesses that will make our journey more difficult.

Each person usually has one or two dominant temperaments. Reading over what I’ve just shared, you may instantly recognise yourself in some of these descriptors. If, however, you’re still unsure of where you fit, you can take a quick personality test here (you’ll need to scroll to the bottom of the page). We’ll wait until you get back. 

Got it figured out? Good. That’s the first step. Knowledge is power. If you’re better aware of your writing strengths and weaknesses, and understand that they flow from the core of who you are as a person, you’ll be able to stop fighting them and start working with them.

That means maximizing your strengths and developing strategies  - in line with how you think, what makes you tick - to compensate for, or overcome, your weaknesses. Remember, no one personality type is “better” than another. They’re just different.

Let’s take a look at how this works for each personality type.


Image by John Barker, freedigitalphotos.net

Lion

Writing strengths:
Lions are confident and determined. They love a good challenge, are goal-oriented, and have a “just do it” mentality. While a dozen other writers are still nervously plotting, talking about writing, writing about writing, and doing everything BUT write, Lions have already finished their first book and are onto the second.

Writing weaknesses:
Lions have an arrogant streak, which means they can be unwilling to accept feedback. Their boredom with details can be a hindrance when it comes to painstaking work such as research or line editing.

Self-help strategies:
  • Focus, in your quiet times with God, on developing humility. Even the Lion of Judah, the greatest leader this world has ever known, served others by washing their feet.

  • When you receive critique, instead of becoming angry or dismissing the criticism, give yourself an exercise. Tell yourself, “She’s probably wrong in what she’s said, but I’ll just humor her a little. I’ll back up my original version, then try implementing the suggestion, just as a theoretical exercise. If it stinks, I haven’t lost anything. If it turns out great, well, there ya go.” Approaching critique with such a mindset can help a Lion to embrace change without fighting against their own personality type.

  • Those pesky details: Lions are great problem-solvers and incredible leaders. Why not harness these traits to enlist the help of others? Ted Dekker pays college students to research his books for him. Many published authors corral support from others when it comes to tasks of administration and marketing. If your Great Aunt Mildred was an English teacher for fifty years, and would love nothing better than to pore over your manuscript weeding out punctuation errors – turn her loose with a blood-red pen. Show your appreciation in a way that truly honors your helpers. Then do what Lions do best, and turn your attention to the next project.
Image by Bernie Condon, freedigitalphotos.net

Otter

Writing strengths:
Otters have the ability to splash words onto the page with a carefree zest that many stodgier writers envy. They have vim and flair. They take joy in their craft. Otters also make the best social networkers. They have no trouble building a tribe of fans, because they love people, and people in turn are naturally drawn to them.

Writing weaknesses:
When the task becomes hard, otters quickly lose momentum. Their computer files are littered with the corpses of unfinished manuscripts that started strong and then fizzled. Otters can be disorganized, and have no patience for “boring” but essential tasks such as editing. If it ain’t fun, it don’t get done.

Self-help strategies:
  • Keep it fun. Set goals that have rewards attached. Social rewards work well for otters. For example, fifteen minutes play on Facebook after writing for an hour. A Skype chat with your writing buddies once you reach chapter ten. A chick flick and coffee with a friend for pushing through that sagging middle. A girls’ weekend away once you finish editing your MS.

  • Harness peer power to keep you motivated. Ever heard of #1k1hr? Next time you sit down for an hour-long writing stint, jump on Twitter first and announce your plans to the world. Use the hashtag #1k1hr, and you’ll soon rally a group of eager writers who can cheer you on and celebrate with you when you reach your 1000 word milestone.

  • Give editing a social, interactive element by joining forces with a critique partner or group.

  • Beware of distraction. Social networking is your strength, but spending hours on Facebook each day won’t get that manuscript written. If you’re all play and no work, consider using an app to limit the time you spend on social media sites.
Image by puttsk, freedigitalphotos.net

Beaver

Writing strengths:
The writing world is full of beavers. Highly creative, organised and meticulous, beavers like to have every detail mapped out before they begin writing: each twist and turn of the plot, the intricate backstory of their MC going back two generations, and the height/ eye colour/ favorite ice-cream flavor of each supporting character.  Beavers thrive on research. They set high standards for themselves, and consistently produce quality work.

Writing weaknesses:
Beavers may become so bogged down in their systems and plotting that they struggle to begin. Beavers are perfectionists, and highly self-critical. For a writer, this can be crippling. A beaver can become paralysed by an empty computer screen, a harsh critique, or a sense that their book is not where it should be. Writer’s block is a common malady for the beaver, who often takes an all-or-nothing attitude – if they can’t make it perfect, they can’t bring themselves to try. Beavers may produce very slowly, because they cannot help but edit ruthlessly as they write. When it comes time to submit, a beaver may fret and worry over perfecting every final detail of a manuscript, and struggle to ever hit send.

Self-help strategies:
  • Don’t forget to play. When you feel yourself floundering beneath self-criticism or getting bogged down in details, find ways to recapture the joy of writing. If you usually hole up at home to write, shake up your routine by taking your laptop to a crowded café and doing some people-watching.

  • Try taking frequent short breaks in which you do something else creative to engage the right side of your brain – painting, scrapbooking, pottery, playing music. 

  • Sometimes the best thing a beaver can do is to step away from their project for a time to regain some perspective. Immerse yourself in reading for pleasure alone. Do something that inspires you, like wandering through an antique bookstore or taking a fun research trip. But don’t let yourself stay in limbo. Give yourself a deadline, and get back into it.

  • Loosen up before a big session with the technique of free writing – perfect for shutting down that picky, left-brained internal editor beavers struggle with so much.

  • Don’t isolate yourself. Engage in community with other writers.
Image by Photokanok, freedigitalphotos.net

Golden Retriever

Writing strengths:
Relaxed and easy to work with, the Golden Retriever is every editor’s dream. A Golden Retriever is calm, dependable, and doesn’t stress out under deadline.

Writing weaknesses:
Laziness can be a real problem for the laid-back temperament of a Golden Retriever, who may lack motivation to initiate tasks or carry them through to completion. The Golden Retriever can also be very stubborn, and dislikes change in any form – both of which are bad news when large-scale edits are required.

Self-help strategies:
  • Get an accountability partner who will be tough about holding you to your goals. Golden Retrievers are people-pleasers and dislike confrontation, so if the accountability is genuine, they’ll rise to the challenge.

  • Appeal to your easy-going nature by making it easy to write. Rather than setting a lofty word-count goal, which all sounds like far too much work – especially when your favorite show is on TV – give yourself a goal of 500 words, and try to hit it twice a day.

  • Because you struggle with change, approach edits as an open experiment. Save the whole document with the file name “Original” and the title, and make a new copy entitled “Experiment.” In this new document, take any suggestions you’ve been given and simply give them a go. If you need to reassure yourself that nothing has really changed, click back on over to your original document, still safe and sound and untouched right where you left it. In this way, you’ll give yourself the freedom to play, knowing that any changes you make don’t have to be permanent. Chances are, you’ll find once you’ve actually made the changes that you like it better that way anyway.


So, that’s it from me – the four personality types as they pertain to the writer’s life.

I’m interested to hear your take on this. What is your dominant personality type, or types? Do you have any tips to add that have helped you in your writing journey?



GIVEAWAY!

Don't forget to enter for our huge giveaway at our Facebook Party, Saturday, August 30! For the big giveaway, we are giving away The Writer's Alley New Design Launch Basket containing the following:

  • $20 Amazon gift card
  • Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg (paperback book)
  • Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • Duchess by Susan May Warren (autographed paperback book)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Squares
  • A Writer's Conference Jamberry PediPack 

Throughout the day of our Facebook party August 30, we will be giving away the following:
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (ebook)
  • A Home At Trail's End by Melody Carlson (paperback book)
  • $10 Amazon gift card
  • Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (paperback book)
  • The Writer's Toolbox
  • Showdown by Ted Dekker (paperback book)
  • Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (paperback book)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (paperback book)
You can enter for a chance to win HERE. Just scroll to the end of the post and enter through our Rafflecopter giveaway widget!

Have a great day!







Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 50,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on TwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Let Your Colors Fly...

Right-brain? Left-brain? What's your Kiersey temperament?

Right now on the ACFW course loop (a benefit I highly recommend taking advantage of if you are a member of this wonderful group), Janice Hanna Thompson is hosting a course entitled U.N.I.Q.U.E.

As I've been hiding in "lurkdom" I've spent a bit of time reading the comments and pondering the way God wires us as individuals and as writers.

For instance, I found I'm almost evenly split between left brain (51%) and right brain (49%).  I love making lists and I love plotting my stories.  I have notebooks of story ideas.  I think this is the left brain side of mlle.

I can't make sense of commas.  I love thinking of new and different ways to teach an idea.  Yet I am the ultimate klutz when it comes to putting those ideas together in a practical way.  Yes, most of the elementary school students can put together a simple craft better than I can.

One thing Janice talks about is allowing our strengths and weaknesses to naturally influence our writing.

Personality wise I'm a melancholy.  How can I use that to influence my writing?  This means I have to seek out encouragement at certain times.  When I'm feeling discouraged about my writing I take out a letter from someone who has helped me with my writing.  I can also channel these melancholy times as when I'm introspective sometimes I'm able to best explore my characters.

What comes naturally in terms of writing time?  This is a busy season of life for me as I homeschool my children.  We all go through different seasons.  Something that works for a while may have to be changed.

Distractions?  Can you deal with them?  Are you a sit down in the midst of it and take a minute here writer?

My children are constantly on the go and I am not one who can write well with children jumping on my lap, begging for another cup of apple juice, or asking me to sound out a word for them.  In different seasons writing may fall at different places on our priority lists.

Right now what works for me is half an hour of uninterrupted writing time when my kids are in bed.  I tried to utilize large blocks of time several times a week and implement a word count.

My word count has been higher since I ditched the word count and changed my routine to something that seems to work well for me.

What kind of space do you like to write in? While taking a class this spring I found out that I'm a very visual writer and love to write outside or at a coffeeshop.  Nature is a great inspiration for me and I look forward to taking my laptop to the park this summer. 

I realize we can't always hit our ideals.  Most nights I write at home in a big brown chair.  But my husband is across from me and the house is quiet.  A cup of tea has become a writing ritual that helps me keep focused. 

Here are some fun links to test your personality or your characters' personalities. 


I'm not a psychologist and make no claims on the accuracy of these tests, but they are fun and can give you insight into your writing style.

How does your uniqueness influence your writing?








GIVEAWAY!

Don't forget to enter for our huge giveaway at our Facebook Party, Saturday, August 30! For the big giveaway, we are giving away The Writer's Alley New Design Launch Basket containing the following:

  • $20 Amazon gift card
  • Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg (paperback book)
  • Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • Duchess by Susan May Warren (autographed paperback book)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Squares
  • A Writer's Conference Jamberry PediPack 

Throughout the day of our Facebook party August 30, we will be giving away the following:
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (ebook)
  • A Home At Trail's End by Melody Carlson (paperback book)
  • $10 Amazon gift card
  • Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (paperback book)
  • The Writer's Toolbox
  • Showdown by Ted Dekker (paperback book)
  • Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (paperback book)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (paperback book)
You can enter for a chance to win HERE. Just scroll to the end of the post and enter through our Rafflecopter giveaway widget!

Have a great day!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Top Ten Ways to Know You're Married to an 'Alley Cat'

First time ever...we are letting an Alley Cat Spouse post, I think....Hmmm...will it be the last? This is my husband, Cody. Enjoy! 
-Angie Dicken
****
I don’t know much about Twitter, and even less about blogs. But one thing I do know, is that the number of ‘followers’ you have is a precious statistic in either of these virtual worlds. It’s the barometer of how solid your content it; how much impact you are making in near infinite battleground of the blogosphere.
One day this week my oldest son was telling me some things he learned about his Mom’s blog, “The Writer’s Alley”. He told me they had 650,000 followers. 650,000?!? No way. I’m proud of the 19 I’ve got on Twitter. And Garth Brooks only has 21,000 followers.  
So we were together in the pickup and I thought I’d ask how many she actually had. Now I don’t remember the answer, or if I even got one. But somehow I was dumb enough to open my mouth and suggest that I could come up with a post describing the husband’s perspective of an ‘Alley Cat’. So It is my privilege to put pen to paper for the purpose of sharing a fresh and daring perspective in these hallowed halls with my first, and almost certainly only, guest appearance on the “The Writer’s Alley”.
I don’t have very much experience writing blog posts, or really writing anything other than my name on the bottom of a speeding ticket. But I do have an eye for the posting format that hits the ‘sweet spot’. Where you maximize the reader’s interest, while at the same time minimizing the writers need to think and organize.  Yep, I’m going with the tried and true ‘Top Ten’ list.
So without further delay, I present to you the faithful Writer’s Alley followers, all 650,000 of you, the Top Ten Ways to Know You’re Married to an ‘Alley Cat’.
#10: For 45 minutes to an hour a day she clasps her iPhone tightly in her hand texting away with her ‘Crit Partner’, grinning from ear to ear, continuously giggling, and periodically snorting.
#9: It doesn’t matter where your favorite college football team is playing, how good the fishing report is, or if your job calls you on a business trip. The third weekend in September she will be out of town to the ACFW conference and you better just be ready to spend the weekend babysitting, buddy.
#8: At least once a year, and possibly twice, you will be asked to provide ‘tech support’ to ensure that the house’s WiFi is fully functional and that the latest version of Skype is installed to facilitate a 4-hour virtual laugh-fest that just really gets going around 10:30PM when the Australian girl is good and awake.
#7: Your favorite NFL team will most certainly be playing NBC’s Sunday Night Football each and every time it is her turn to post the Monday morning blog. You know this because you will miss the third quarter, and the most important play of the game, while you proofread her post for her.
#6: When you see her working away on her latest entry for the ‘Genesis Competition’, you know to keep your head down or else you will be summoned to read the chapter she is working on…for the fourth time.
#5: If you you’ve ever been to Kinko’s twice in one day to print the same 300 page manuscript…because the page numbers were 1/32nd of an inch too far to the right.
#4:  You have come to expect that when you are on a long car trip she will ask you if she can read just a few pages to you.
#3:  You have come to accept that when she asks you if she can read just a few pages to you, she really means just a few chapters.
#2: Your conversations at home include the characters in her stories so often that you start to think they are real people. And you actually start to miss them a little bit when she moves on to the next book.
#1: If she has been too busy and exhausted coordinating getting four kids through the first week of school, you will be asked to write her post for her on “The Writer’s Alley”.


GIVEAWAY!

Don't forget to enter for our huge giveaway at our Facebook Party, Saturday, August 30! For the big giveaway, we are giving away The Writer's Alley New Design Launch Basket containing the following:

  • $20 Amazon gift card
  • Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg (paperback book)
  • Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • Duchess by Susan May Warren (autographed paperback book)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Squares
  • A Writer's Conference Jamberry PediPack 

Throughout the day of our Facebook party August 30, we will be giving away the following:
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (ebook)
  • A Home At Trail's End by Melody Carlson (paperback book)
  • $10 Amazon gift card
  • Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (paperback book)
  • The Writer's Toolbox
  • Showdown by Ted Dekker (paperback book)
  • Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (paperback book)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (paperback book)
You can enter for a chance to win HERE. Just scroll to the end of the post and enter through our Rafflecopter giveaway widget!

Have a great day!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Writer's Alley New Design Celebration With Giveaways!


Welcome to the new and improved Writer's Alley!

We are thrilled with our new look, done by the fabulous Designer Blogs. It's clean, bright, and oh-so-chic. We even have our very own alley cat in the upper right hand corner of the header. We are so excited about our new design, we have decided to celebrate with a Facebook Party next Saturday, August 30, 2014, from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (MDT). There will be giveaways throughout the day, with a grand prize at the end of the party. There is a Rafflecopter Widget at the end of the post with instructions for entering for the giveaways.

But first, let's take a tour of The Writer's Alley.

TABS: Just under the header are five tabs that will lead you to what The Alley has to offer.

  • Home - This is the place where our latest blog post will show up
  • Meet The Alley Cats - This is the page where you can find out who the Alley Cats are and what they are all about. You can see what they look like and there are links to their personal blogs and social media platforms.
  • Our Books - This is the special place where you can find the fabulous books the Alley Cats have published. Hopefully one day, this page will be full of books by every Alley Cat.
  • Categories - This page lists six categories that all of The Alley's posts fall under. You can click on the category link to see the latest posts in these areas.
                    Writing Craft - Covers the nuts and bolts of writing: plot, characterization, dialogue, conflict,                                            self-editing, story structure, etc.
                    Publication - Covers everything involved with getting published: query and proposal writing,                                           pitching to agents, one sheets, self-publishing, etc.
                    Marketing - Covers building platform, social media, and selling your novel once it's been                                                  published.
                    Inspiration - Any post meant to encourage or commiserate with others on the writing journey.
                    The Writer's Life - Covers topics such as time management, organization, packing for                                                         conferences, best apps for writers, favorite books, etc
                    Author Cafe - Interviews with authors.

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You have officially been given the tour of our beautiful site and we hope you will come back often. As our tagline says, The Writer's Alley is a place where friends and stories meet. We hope you can make a home here and enjoy the journey of publication with us.

We've got our line-up for next week and awesome links for you to enjoy. And above all...don't forget to sign up for the great giveaway below!


The Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Angie has got a great Top 10 post for you...something about spouses and writers. Should be awesome!
Tuesday - Julia is going to be talking about how vulnerability leads to creativity. Can't wait!
Wednesday - Karen's post for the day is all about how your personality type affects your writing.
Thursday - Ashley is hosting Allen Arnold at The Alley and is sure to please.
Friday - Amy will be bringing more of her sunny self as she shares something wonderful for us to learn.

The Awesome Link Round-Up

Become A Better Writer With 51 Mind-blowing Resources (Positive Writer)

10 Quotes to Kickstart Your Inspiration for Writing (Write to Done)

Are Your Writing Dreams Unrealistic? (Aliventures)

Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing (Kristen Lamb)

Why Writers Self-Destruct and 5 Ways to Thrive Instead (Positive Writer)

GIVEAWAYS!

For the big giveaway at the end of our Facebook party August 30, we are giving away The Writer's Alley New Design Launch Basket containing the following:

  • $20 Amazon gift card
  • Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg (paperback book)
  • Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (paperback book)
  • Duchess by Susan May Warren (autographed paperback book)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Squares
  • A Writer's Conference Jamberry PediPack 

Throughout the day of our Facebook party August 30, we will be giving away the following:
  • A Side of Faith by Krista Phillips (ebook)
  • A Home At Trail's End by Melody Carlson (paperback book)
  • $10 Amazon gift card
  • Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund (paperback book)
  • The Writer's Toolbox
  • Showdown by Ted Dekker (paperback book)
  • Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz (paperback book)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (paperback book)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, August 22, 2014

The Power of the Black Moment in Man of Steel

My repertoire of weird movies has significantly grown since I moved away from home. I’m not sure if it’s a Colorado thing or a moving away from home thing or just the bad influence of my friends thing. We’ll go with the latter. ;-)

One of those “weird” movies ended up being Man of Steel and I have to say I actually enjoyed myself. (Plus, it helps that Clark Kent has to be the best looking Superman—ever. ;-) Can I just say, if I’m going to sit through a movie with science fiction and more explosions than what can be kept track of, at least give the romantics a kiss? Even a hug would be nice. Man of Steel followed through nicely—very nicely on the former. I’d watch that movie again just for the kiss. Ahh…

Where was I going with this?

Oh right. The black moment.

If you haven’t watched the movie, you might want to bookmark this post until you’ve had the time. And I have to say, I think it’s worth it. There are plenty of points to draw from for writers and even some strong symbolism for the Christian faith.

Clark Kent’s character is tormented. He’s been dropped from outer space. His family is not really his birth family and he realizes with the older he gets, the more he is different—special. But he doesn’t necessarily view himself as “special”. There is a great deal of growth that has to happen to his character for him to embrace this level of change. But I could go on about different points of his characterization and never get to the real point of this post.

Man of Steel’s black moment has to be one of the finest I’ve seen in a movie because of both the internal and the external conflict.

Quick scene synopsis: Clark is riding in the pickup with both of his parents and he and his father are fighting. Clark’s father has been adamant that he not show the full extent of his physical power. Clark doesn’t understand this request, his father’s desire to protect his son. A tornado is brewing and sweeps down on the packed highway of cars, threatening all their lives. Clark’s father is directing everyone under the overpass, shoving a child in Clark’s arms, yelling at him to protect his mother. But he doesn’t get out in time. Clark stands under the overpass, ready to charge out and rescue his father. But instead his father holds up his hand. An entire conversation happens in this moment without a single word. He’s not to show the level of his power. Clark’s father does not want Clark to rescue him. At the risk—the loss of his own life—he believes he is doing what is best for his son.

Breaking down the black moment:

Internal: Clark is warring with his father about protecting his Superman abilities. He’s filled with a deep-seated need to protect, but he’s cocky and reckless and his father knows this. And their last conversation is a heated argument.

External: The tornado is bearing down on the cars. Threatening their lives. It’s a life-threatening, very real threat and it’s going to destroy them all if they don’t get to safety.

Internal: Clark’s father shoves a child in Clark’s arms. Tells him to get his mom to safety and his dad stays behind to direct people to the underpass. You can watch the conflict across Clark’s face. He wants to be in the center of the chaos, directing order, but the rush of the moment and the respect he does still have for his father thrusts him toward the underpass.

External: His father is now in the direct path of the danger, trying to rescue their dog. Cars are being flipped, pinning Clark’s father under the wreckage.

Internal: Clark is ready to charge. To rescue the man who has raised him, when his father gets free.

External: Time suspends as his father stands in the street, seconds, seconds before cars flip like matchsticks through the air, heading straight for him.

Internal: His father raises his hand. Palm out. The message is clear. Do. Not. Rescue. Me. Protect how these people see you. You can do nothing supernatural—even if that means sacrificing myself.
It is truly the ultimate black moment. We have watched this father and son relationship grow through this entire movie. It’s been thinned, fighting against all that Clark doesn’t understand in what his father is asking him to do—and not do. For a superhero, he can’t not rescue and save and yet that is what his father is asking of him.

How do we build to such a climatic black moment? We might not have tornadoes and explosions, but we do have those elements on a minute level in our stories.
·         Build the back backstory. Weave what brought them to this moment.
·         Show those relationships.
·         Have INTERNAL and EXTERNAL conflicts
·         Pit the hero’s best and worst asset against each other.

There is nothing more painful than watching that scene and knowing that Clark’s last conversation with his father was an argument. An argument about him saving people, about being who he was created to be. And yet, it was pivotal to his growth.

It’s powerful. Watch it once for the moment. Watch it again with a notepad. And this is just the black moment. The entire movie is worth the rental fee—you’ll fill a notebook with characterization, action, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more ideas.

Not bad for being one of those “weird” movies. ;-)

Have you watched Man of Steel? Do you agree or have something to add to my thoughts?


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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a total country girl, now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado.