Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What is the Publishing Process After I Say, "I Do?"

I have successfully completed my manuscript and am ready to take a vacation. Yet while walking down the beach I wondered what would happen next to my story. Dungeons, dragons, and headless horsemen came to mind.

Sitting on the unpublished side of the fence, the greener grasses beyond are as foreboding as the Great Wall of China. But when I sat in the Write to Publish class taught by Nancy Lohr, Acquisitions Editor of Journey Fourth, I felt like a curtain opened letting me see what actually happens next. 

Ignorance, in this case, has not been bliss. Not knowing drives me crazy. I feel like I'm trying to scale a fortress and alligators are leaping up to bite my foot off. You, too? 

Today I am going to share the publication process. The secrets from behind those chilling gray walls where chutes and ladders send our story back to us or up to the next level. Knowing how far my manuscript rose to a certain level is something I find encouraging.

So, thanks to Nancy Lohr, here is the inside scoop-the basic route our manuscript takes after we say, "I do."

1. Submit the manuscript to an agent or directly to a publisher.

     A. If sent to an agent, the agent will then send the        
         manuscript to appropriate publishers.

2. A contract is negotiated.

3. The publishing house will set up a schedule and budget to complete the project.

4. Arranging and acquiring needed artwork. This may include extras like maps, and other drawings.

5.  Editing - developmental editing

                    copy editing

6. Communication with author for changes and review of proofs. Many of today's busy authors end up combining exercise with corrections.

7. The actual production of the book!


                       Page layout

                       Proofing (author may be asked to review)



8. Final Approval Given

9. Marketing/Publicity

                     add this book to the house catalog

                     add to house website

                     book signings

                     author interviews

                                  blog visits

                                 social media parties

                                 and so much more

10. Sales Wouldn't it be nice to have the graph to the left represent our sales? I think so, too. Although there would be the usual dips, the overall is increased sales. This really works best when the author jumps in and helps with marketing with both feet. We know our books better than the publisher. We also know the audience better. Recently I saw a commercial that had these words on the bottom of the screen: actor used to portray symptoms. Seriously? Duh, I knew that. That's why I hit the remote to change the station. For me to buy the product, I would first listen to a friend or someone I knew share their positive experience. Wouldn't you?

Sure this can seem overwhelming. But if you're like me, knowing the mountain is in front of me makes the journey easier. I can set goals. I can understand what is happening at each step.

Do you have questions? I'll be here and some of our published Alley cats and pals can hop in and answer them. Maybe Nancy Lohr will have a chance to pop in!

YOUR TURN: Have you traversed the publication mountain? What was it like?
Are you at the base of the mountain, ready to go? 
Have you packed your bags and heading there? Isn't it exciting?


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When Inanimate Objects Become Characters

Some of my favorite characters in a story are the ones who can’t even talk. And no, I’m not talking about some kind of magical realism or fantasy (at least not in this case). I’m talking about the nonhuman elements of a story that add layers to characters, depth to the plot, or create powerful symbolism that gives the central themes a huge punch. 

You may not have realized or put words to this technique, but it can do great things for your story! So, let’s talk about a few examples of this in play:

Objects as Symbols. Think of the pants in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. The dress in Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress. Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away. The One Ring to Rule Them All. Authors often use objects as a way to represent history, a common thread between characters, a goal or dream that pulls at the heart strings.

Off the top of my head, I can think of articles of clothing, family heirlooms, and other possessions that mean a lot to characters and their journeys on a deeper level. And if done correctly, readers become really invested in what happens to these objects.

Settings. The Island on LOST was a character in itself--and a villain at times. Big, creaky mansions can be full of secrets and irony. Sometimes even a particular landscape can be a character like a choppy, unpredictable ocean for a boat full of fishermen or a sky rumbling with tornadic activity above the people farming the plains.

Locations are a great way to add context to a story, spice up a plot with tension, and reveal important aspects about your central characters.

Animals. I include pets in this list because, while technically animate, they’re not human. They don’t talk unless you write fantasy. But they serve as confidantes to characters, calm them when things are rough, and can definitely smooth some rough edges.

In my second manuscript, my hero has a female black Lab who often tags along with him in the back of his truck. She brings out his tender side to the heroine, showing there’s more to underneath his polished, professional exterior.

Rides. Fonz and his hot rod. Han Solo and his Millenium Falcon. John Wayne and his noble steed. Marty McFly and the DeLorean. Some characters’ rides are just as much a part of them as their own hands and feet. They pamper their rides, they commiserate about them, they know just what combination of kicks and maneuvers will get their “bucket of bolts” back in working order. A person’s ride can definitely add dimension to their characterization.

Fun fact: I got the idea for this whole post when my beloved Nissan Xterra died on me after 13 wonderful years and I realized how deeply this car was associated with some of my favorite memories. Never mind that I named her and considered her a sidekick; if my life were a movie, that car would have had her own billing :)

Objects as Trademarks. Along the same lines, a character can be associated with a particular object to reveal a lot about them. Or simply to create some kind of effect (often comedic). Pigpen of Peanuts fame wouldn’t be the same without his signature cloud of dust. Nor would Alfalfa without his rogue cowlick. Maybe your heroine can’t survive without a cup of coffee in her hand. {Oh wait, that’s my critique partner, Jaime, in real life :)}


As I said above, I think an object truly becomes a character in a story when readers develop a sympathy for it, when they care about what happens to it, when they wonder if it’s going to pop up in the following chapter, or what kind of trouble it will get our hero/heroine into next.

Think about how this technique can amplify your current work-in-progress. Does your hero/heroine have a trademark object? What are some of your favorite inanimate object characters in the fiction you love?

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom who writes stories of grace in the beautiful mess. When she's not writing, she enjoys car singing, baking, and going on adventures with her husband and little girl. 

Her first book won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award (Contemporary), and her second is a current finalist in the 2014 Genesis Contest (Romance). She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie at or

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Swell of the Senses with Inspiration from the One Hundred Foot Journey

It’s safe to say that new GREAT movies are becoming harder to find. That’s why when the movie One Hundred Foot Journey featuring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte le Bon, came to theaters I was a little skeptical. Could it be as good as I’d heard?

This movie was based on the novel by Richard Morais and is a story about a displaced Indian family who start a restaurant in southern France…just one hundred feet across the road from Madame Mallory’s exquisite fine dining experience. Every restaurant before the Kadam family has gone out of business because of Madame Mallory’s competition, but Madame as never met Papa Kadam, who is just as stubborn as she is. The food war begins and the amazing talent of Papa Kadam’s son, Hassan, begins to stir up the interest of the community…and beyond.

It’s an amazing movie about overcoming culture clashes with mutual dreams, overcoming prejudice with forgiveness, bringing redemption out of bitterness and hope from pain. I highly recommend it to anybody who enjoys a poignant and uplifting story, but something that was done particularly well was the way the viewer was drawn into the story by the senses. Somehow, as only the best directors and actors can do, the visual was used to convey other senses…like taste and smell, in particular. There is one scene where Hassan makes an omelet for Madame Mallory. No words are used. It’s all done nonverbally, and yet, the viewer senses the intensity of the moment and the delight of the tastes.

The movie not only left me with an afterglow of a sweet storyline, but it also left me hungry! Wow - the power of the senses!

It’s one thing to make a movie tickle our senses, but how can we as writers do the same?
As writers we’re pretty consistent at using the visual sense. We describe what is seen- the color, shape, age, size. The attractiveness or not.

Or we describe the feeling something has on us. We cringe, or are drawn toward. We experience an attraction or revulsion, or a memory.

But how do we engage the reader’s other senses? What about taste and smell? Touch or hearing?
In the book Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan she uses some examples to assist in writing scenes inspired by smell and taste.
Let’s start with smell.

Do you remember old cartoons when the characters smell something delicious? I have a great memory of watching Scooby Doo and Shaggy rise up in the air and follow the scent of something delicious into the next room. That’s the kind of experience we want to give to our readers.
Here are two tips from McClanahan’s book:

Describe a scent in comparison with something else to which the reader can relate. For example, when we use words like ‘floral’ scent or ‘the zing of tropical fruit lingered in the air’. If the scent is something new, compare it. "Her perfume matched her personality, sweet and tangy, like fresh lemonade."
2.       Deliberately take away the other senses and try to describe the scene with only one (not sight). This can be used for any of the other senses, btw.  (I did this when two of my characters found themselves inside a dark closet…great way to describe scent, taste, and touch ;-) McClanahan even uses an example to describe the smell of a freshly washed baby as ‘the scent of innocence.”
 Smell and taste are closely related, so much so we usually use similar descriptions for both. May times as writers we may resort to a simple naming of the food. We might even add a description like ‘warm chocolate chip cookies’. But can we do better? Can we help the reader taste the cookies?
It does require incorporating more senses- usually touch and taste combined, maybe even with smell too.  For example, ‘the warm combination of butter, sugar, and melted chocolate flowed over my tongue, a sweet epiphany from Granny’s kitchen.”
When writing about food, McClanahan says that “Atmosphere - time, place, mood, and surrounding details – is an important element in the enjoyment of any food.”

So to describe taste well, we must set the scene for the senses

Use the environment to key in the senses and add depth to your writing.

Okay, this was a fairly quick overview, but I’d like to hear from you. If you’re a writer, how do you use the sense of taste and smell to enhance your writing?

If you’re a reader, have you read any books lately that sent your senses on a journey with taste or smell?
Let’s share…and then eat some great chocolate in celebration of Labor Day! :-)
Pepper Basham writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She writes a variety of genres, but enjoys sprinkling her native culture of Appalachia in them all.  She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she works with kids, searches for unique hats to impress her friends, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends on The Alley. She is represented by the amazing Julie Gwinn.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's Party Day at The Alley: Giveaways Galore!

Photo by Open Clips at Pixabay

It's Celebration Day here at The Writer's Alley! Today is our Facebook New Design Launch Party, so make sure you head over there throughout the day for a chance to get your hands on some awesome prizes. Also, today is the last day to enter for our Grand Celebration Prize! You can go HERE to enter. (scroll to the bottom of the post for details on what is included in the prize.) Deadline for entering is 6 p.m. MDT.

The Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Pepper's post is titled "A Swell of the Senses with The One Hundred Foot Journey". She'll be using tips from the newly released movie to talk about how the senses draw us into a story.
Tuesday - Laurie will be sharing about how inanimate objects can become characters in your novels.
Wednesday - Mary is giving us a post entitled "What Is The Publishing Process After I Say I Do?".
Thursday - With the release of her novella, A Side of Faith, Krista has marketing on the brain. Stop by to see what wisdom she has gleaned in her research.
Friday - Casey is ending our week with an excellent post called "The Do's and Don'ts of Creating Authentic Online Relationships".

The Awesome Link Round-Up

These Writing Tips From George RR Martin and Robin Hobb Are Just Epic (Buzzfeed)

E-Reading Has Adverse Effect On Plot Recall, Says Study (The Bookseller)

Twitter for Writers: 7 Quick Tips (Small Blue Dog)

How Having No Talent Can Actually Be a Good Thing (Go Teen Writer)

Overcome Procrastination With These Easy Strategies (Write To Done)


Don't forget to enter for our huge giveaway at our Facebook Party, today, August 31! Deadline for entering is 6 p.m. MDT. 

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 fabulous LONG weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Get on with your BAD self!

Ahh, villians! Such royal pains in the keester and yet so vital to the story. Even our own.
I’m mean, one can’t easily develop muscle without resistance. So most often character is honed and forged through trials. You can hardly have conflict in the plot if there isn’t an antagonist of some kind throwing a wrench in the plan here and there.
And yet, villians come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes your villain is as dark and creepy as your worst nightmares. A murderer, a stalker, someone with a dangerous edge or volatile temperament. Some have warts and slime and are easy to recognize for the toads they are.

Other times it’s the devil in disguise. (Ever thought about the term Handsome Devil?---deception and second guessing are keys.) A meddling mother or a jealous best friend secretly unraveling things behind the scenes. A boss, an ex, a bully. Ever been bullied? Boy, I have! And I’ve got to say those people aren't generally inclined to leave you alone. They insinuate themselves into your story. They pick at your insecurities, they taunt, cheat, lie, manipulate, slander mercilessly. Sometimes we can see the devil in that villain without question. Other times they are right under your nose and you don’t even know it! There isn’t exactly a mold for what a villain should look like so how can you be sure your pest pulls the right strings?

Here a three things to think about for creating an adequately BAD bad guy…


Your villain must (MUST) impact the plot in some way.  I’ve seen it happen… some flimsy little antagonist is lurking in the shadows with a threat or some kind, making the hero or heroine shake in their boots but ultimately, the villain doesn’t move the story one iota. They are hardly a character. Evil is relentless. Bullys bully. Make your words count. Sure, throw in a red herring here and there, use subtly, be clever and intentional, but make an impact with each character that has significance. Do it by tossing some surprise twists on the page. And be sure your put your villain there as well. Trust me, those pages will be a turnin’! It’s not enough to have your villain tucked away, bring him out to play and let the games begin.

The willies…

Whether your reader knows who the villain is or not, there should be a check (however small) in their gut when the villain waltzes onto the page to dismantle a scene. How do you respond as a reader? It’s that little curl of dread.

 Oh, that pesky ex is annoying, sure, but what if they ruin it all? That stab of fear plunges deep, what if it all falls apart with that one vindictive strike? Or, what if that girl in the alley turns her back at just the wrong moment and you know he’s waiting there…

The reader empathizes right there at that anticipated encounter. The TENSION says it all. When that antagonist walks in, you FEEL it on the fine hairs at your nape, the shiver trips over your nerve endings, dread balls up in your stomach. You become the hero or heroine right then. And all of your long buried bullys and demons resurrect in your mind. You shield yourself against the hurt that comes barreling out of nowhere. You prepare to fight for the happy ending. Just like you had to do in real life. (How awesome are stories, right?) The willies evoked in sympathy put you in your characters shoes and you walk through the battle because of what the enemy makes you feel. 

The imagination is a powerful thing. Be sure you utilize your senses on the pages so it can take you places. And so your villain can adequately give your reader the willies.

The fall…

Whether there is vindication or forgiveness, a battle to the death or turning the other cheek, the conflict has to peak and your villain should be present in most cases. The climax has to pack a punch and what better way to do that than to draw out your hero’s greatest fears or doubts. Shake them up! Step into the villian’s shoes for a moment as a writer and do a little tormenting yourself. Sadistic? Perhaps. But stories without the right tension fall flat and lay limp on the shelf. And your villain is the puppeteer pulling all the right strings.

So go on… get on with your bad self. Your story will be better for it because let’s face it… villians are real and we face them every day. Suit up and battle through your own story. The battle isn’t easily won but it’s absolutely worth it. 

Lets dish and do a bit of brainstorming: Tell me about your current villain? What makes them effective in creating conflict in your story?

Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers, one pretty little princess, and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.


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!