Monday, September 30, 2013

Memorable Characters - The Basics

Over the next few months, I’m going to tackle the heart of good fiction. Characters! Now, I know a lot of you plot-driven writers might disagree, but most of our best fiction is memorable because of the characters who make up the stories.

1.       Lizzie Bennet
2.       Scarlet O’Hara
3.       Atticus Finch

To name a few – are memorable because  of some basic components.
In the coming weeks I’ll go over 9 different traits for compelling characters. Some of the tips will come from Michael Hauge, some I gathered from James Scott Bell, and a few I tagged on myself. But let’s start with an overview of what GOOD characters do for us.

They cause us to C.A.R.E.

In one way or other, we are impacted by them. That's why we remember them. How do well-developed characters do this?
1.       ConflictGood characters have conflict – and cause conflict in the reader. I can’t recall one character who didn’t have to deal with some sort of conflict to make it to the end of the story. Probably because those types of characters are not memorable. “Nothing” happens to them – therefore “nothing” happens to the reader.

      When a character can cause the reader to feel conflict – then we remember them, good or bad. They do something we don’t expect. They respond in a way that is conflicting to our natures. They cause us to see the world from a different perspective or strengthen our own resolve and choices. Something to leave a mark on our minds as we read– and so we are more likely to remember them.

2.       Arc – This is very important. Memorable characters have an Arc. What does that mean? All great characters grow. Michael Hauge refers to this as a character moving from his identity to his essence. I’ll talk more about this next time, but it basically means that a character goes from not really knowing who they are (showing a certain ‘identity’ to the world) to realizing/accepting their essence (who they are at their core). It's usually part of the internal goal for your character. I can’t wait to talk about how the romantic relationship touches on this element of character development.

3.       Relate – At some point, great characters are relatable. I’m not saying you will have a super power or have to time travel to the Civil War, but what the character cares about, their struggle, their goal, their dreams, their life – will somehow be relatable to the reader. We may not live in Regency England, like Lizzie Bennet, but we can relate to her because she wants a love that is more than what her parents, or even society, expects. I can't travel to Middle Earth, but the strength of friendship, and desire to serve others through sacrifice, makes Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee memorable. We can relate to those things...with or without hairy feet :-)

      Btw, even bad-guys need to have these traits. The BEST bad guys give us a way to relate to them (which causes conflict in us and emotion). They may not have an arc, but they usually have the other three components.

4.       Emotion – Much like conflict, great characters cause us to experience emotions. We read fiction because we want to experience what the characters are experiencing . We want to fall in love as they do, laugh as they do, embark on an adventure, solve a crime, hyperspeed to another galaxy, fight dragons, or destroy the one ring….like the characters. But the journey is remarkable because of the emotions we experience through the characters along the way - and because of those emotions, we remember the characters.

How do you make your readers CARE about your characters? Do you have conflict? Is there a clear arc? Are your characters relatable in some way and do they evoke emotions in your readers? Those are the starting points for developing strong characters.

Next time, I’ll go into a little more detail about ARC and then we’ll begin going through the 9 Character traits for memorable heroes/heroines.
As a teaser, here they are:

C - Complex
H – Heroic/Courageous/Hopeful
A – Able/Adept/Resourceful
R – Raw Wound
A – A bit unpredictable within their predictability
C – Craving/Ache/Yearning
T – True/Noble/Honorable
E – Emotion/Passion/Purpose

R- Redeemable (even if only a little)

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 Johnson City, TN where she works as a university instructor, searches for unique hats to impress her friends, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful AlleyCat friends. You can find her on her personal blog, Words Seasoned With Salt¸ or at her group writing blog, The Writers Alley. She is extremely blessed to be represented by 2012 ACFW Agent of the Year, Nicole Resciniti.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's Up the Street Next Week?

Fall is here!
And as usual, I am compelled to post pictures from the beautiful Appalachian mountains of home. The way God paints these mountains during the Autumn is truly a spectacle of beauty. A quilt of color.
What's something you enjoy about Autumn?
The cooler temps?
The scent of apples and pumpkins?
The crunch of leaves under your feet?

As you ponder these thoughts, here's what's coming up next week.

Monday - Pepper starts a series on Writing Compelling Characters using tips from Michael Hague, James Scott Bell, and a little original thoughts sprinkled in for good measure.

Tuesday - Sherrinda has something inspiring and encouraging to share with us today.

Wednesday - Mary brings some more insights from James Scott Bell with "Always Include the Unexpected"

Thursday - Stop by and get a laugh from Krista today as she talks about "How to write a novel while standing on your head backwards, chewing gum, and texting at the same time." Perhaps she'll provide a photo demonstration :-)

Friday - Get into writing rhythm with Casey as she talks about Sentence Rhythm in your writing.

Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend and join us next week for more great tips and encouragement....
From our Alley to Yours

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Ways Committing to a Career in Writing Will Change Your Life

In honor of her debut e-book The Disappearing Key, we have the lovely Wendy Paine Miller back on the Alley this week for a sneak peek into her new book, and her dazzling mind.

Here's Wendy:

Ah, the life of a writer. The best job in the world. But did you know the second you align yourself with a writing career you’re signing up for life transformation? How you say? I’m about to tell you.

Humble Pie
You’ll taste it, you’ll swallow it. Heck, you’ll probably even roll in humble pie a time or two if you remain with your BIC (butt in chair) long enough. And although it will feel like it, this is never a bad thing. Because you’ll remember the days of rolling in humble pie when you’re making millions on all twelve of your books. It’ll protect you from getting an Oz-head.

Devotion Meter
There’ll be moments you’ll pound the keyboard out of frustration, moments tears will stream down your face as you challenge yourself to come up with a single answer for why you give homage to the craft. Nothing measures your level of investment better than being tested. If it were easy everyone would do it. But not everyone is called. The called stand out from those who dabble when words begin to hide, rejections stack up, and online reviews keep shining a faint solo star. The called don’t quit.

Clarity of Intentions
As a writer, you’ll think more. About words. About how you spend your time. And then you’ll have to make some decisions. Commitment to the craft of writing has a way of sharpening your outlook. Ask anyone who has gone through their manuscript over seven times and they’ll tell you. Whether it’s word selection, discernment learning to say no, carving out midnight hours to plot, or a grueling editing session, allegiance to this vocation forces you to clarify your goals, your words, your time. . .

Spike in Resourcefulness
You’ll begin to scratch your head in wonder at the realization story ideas can spring from anywhere. A doctor’s visit. People-watching at the park. Witnessing an exchange at the zoo. You’ll grow scrappy and eager. No interaction is wasted. No relationship is safe from your writer brain massaging it into malleable material. Oh, and you’ll ask more questions. Don’t ask me, it’s just part of it. Trust me, if it you haven’t begun to pepper strangers with questions yet, you will.

Writers get something. Not even going to try to guess chicken or egg on this one? Do writers write because they see beneath the surface 24/7 or because writers spend copious hours crafting stories are they more prone to notice small nuances?
Either way, you’ll begin to see a story in every person. Experiences will be imbued with greater meaning.
Who knows, you might even begin to judge less and empathize more.
Ah, the life of a writer. The best job in the world.

Have you noticed any specific (perhaps unexpected) ways your life has changed since becoming a writer?


Check out Wendy's book!

Gabrielle Bivane never expected parenting a teenager would be this hard, but she never expected stillborn Oriana to live to see fourteen, either. The night of Oriana's birth, Gabrielle and her husband Roy fused their genetic and engineering geniuses to bring back all that was lost to them—at a cost.

The secret must be kept.

Oriana Bivane senses she’s not like the other girls her age, but the time has come for her to change all that. She’s tired of secrets, but does she confide in the wrong person?

The life-giving key, suddenly missing, must be found.

Wendy is a native New Englander who feels most alive when she’s laughing, reading, writing or taking risks. She’s authored nine novels and is currently writing what she hopes will be your future book club pick. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies and online sites. Wendy lives with her husband and their three girls in a home bursting with imagination and hilarity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The View from the Sky-- Learning How to Wait Expectantly

This year, my ACFW conference experience did not go as expected.

You may have seen me like this:

Or with my handy crutch:

I actually don't have any pictures of my black boot because my friends knew better than to take any full-length shots! But you can use your own imagination. We're talking shin-length, black padding, lots of velcro. Much better than a cast. Much more disappointing than regular shoes.

I tried to make the best of my broken foot. Really, I did. I hobbled around to workshops and appointments, and my sweet Alley Cat friends got me ice and pushed me around in that wheelchair any time we went outside the hotel. I smiled a lot and tried to pretend everything was normal.

But let's face it. You can only ignore a broken bone--any kind of brokenness, really--for so long.

After a day or two, the fatigue began to catch up with me. I felt tired, worn-down, and weary. I just wanted the whole typical conference experience. I wanted to walk up to my editor appointments like a normal person, and to sashay down to Starbucks afterwards with a spring in my step. Not an ill-balanced hobble.

This general fatigue began to affect my usual fighting attitude. I generally take challenges head-on. But brokenness began to get the best of me, and doubts crept in. Did I pitch my novel with enough clarity? Did I inspire enough enthusiasm? Did I leave an impression with those I came into contact with, aside from being known as the broken-foot girl?

The problem with all these questions is they're I-centered.

Have you ever noticed that brokenness has a way of zapping our strength? That it blatantly attacks the promises of God in our lives? It tells us if we keep reaching toward our dreams, we may end up even more broken. Before long, we start considering whether we've really got what it takes to get all the way to our dreams. But the thing is, we don't have it in us.

We can not accomplish the will of God in our lives, the dreams He has given us, on our own accord. They're too big. Too full of beauty. That's the whole point. So it's no wonder we get tired trying.

What if the point of this whole writing gig isn't doing it well enough, but being the person God desires us to become? What if He isn't asking for results, but for intimacy with us?

Now, flash forward a few days to my trip home. I had this brief moment in the airplane when I looked out the window, and felt a stab of panic about being stuck in the air. I'm not usually one to get super nervous on airplanes, but for some reason, the idea of being stuck inside of one made me so uneasy. I wanted out. I wanted to get where I was going.

Are you feeling panic about your writing, like you may be "stuck in the air," so to speak? Let me encourage you that just like airplane travel, you're not actually stuck at all. Just because you're not "there" yet does not mean you're not making progress. Sometimes the landscape below is just difficult to discern. But God has your journey mapped out, and He knows where you're going next.

You are in transit. You may not be there yet, but you are on the way. You're a little closer now than you were yesterday. And that's something to get excited about.

Learn to enjoy where you are in this journey. When we recognize the beauty all around us--the beautiful heights of the sky we're flying through--we can look to the future with expectancy.

If we're always hanging our hearts on achievement, we will never feel satisfied. But if we allow hope to fill our expectations, we can enjoy each step of the journey as we recognize the beauty of our moments.

Though this conference experience was different for me, and though I came away with a foot that was still broken, I learned something very important, and that is this: God is comfortable with our brokenness. He really doesn't mind. See, He can work through it, even when we feel like we're at the end of our rope. So if you are feeling tired today, or your heart is weary, don't try to keep going on your own strength. Instead, give it to Him. Allow Him to take the responsibility of making His promises happen. You were never created to carry such a heavy burden yourself.

Have you ever found yourself weary or discouraged about your writing journey? How do you fin beauty in the journey and wait expectantly for the promises of God to come to pass?


Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy 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 blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keeping a sweet spirit from the sidelines

Some of you went to ACFW and had successful agent and editor appointments, requests for material, and positive feedback on your work.

Others of you attended, but felt that your meetings did not go well. Perhaps you bungled your pitch; maybe the agent wasn’t interested in what you had to offer, or the editor felt your genre was already over-represented at their house. Whatever the case, you came away deflated and feeling the sting of failure.

Still others weren’t able to attend at all. You watched from the sidelines as your friends went and returned, glowing with their successes and accomplishments. Your role has been a cheerleader, and although you’re glad to celebrate with your friends, a deep-down part of you wonders when it will be your turn., image by photostock

For those who fall into the last two categories, this post is for you. How do you keep a sweet spirit when it seems as if everyone is being promoted around you and you’ve been left far behind?

Here are some ideas.

1. Pray a blessing over those who are doing well.
Bless them? Aren’t they the last people in need of your prayers?! They’re already being blessed!

Perhaps, but this exercise has more to do with the state of your spirit than the state of the person you’re praying for.

Praying a blessing over someone else in their time of success is the best way to do spiritual warfare against jealousy. (click to tweet.) The enemy wants you to feel jealous; to compare yourself and feel like you come up short. When you turn this on its head and pray for God to heap blessing on the person you envy, Satan’s attack on your heart loses its power.

So pray, even if – especially if – you don’t feel like it. Pray for those God has blessed, for even more abundance, for favour, for new and better opportunities, for success overflowing.

The more you exercise this sort of spiritual warfare against resistance, the more God will transform your heart, bringing it into line with the words you’re praying, until you forget about yourself and genuinely desire the success of others.

2. Focus on the kingdom picture, not the glory of self.
We say our motivation in writing is to bring glory to God, but nothing tests this assertion like moments when there is no glory for self to be found. (click to tweet.)

Is your heart for God’s kingdom to grow? Meditate on this. Spend time in the word, reminding yourself daily of the bigger picture at stake. All our accomplishments will one day pass away, but God’s kingdom will last forever.

When our heart is in tune with God’s heart, our focus naturally shifts away from ourselves and toward kingdom values. Competition is replaced with teamwork. We’re all working for a common goal, so the success of another is your success, too.

Praise God for any way in which his word goes forth, whether it’s carried by you or someone else. The important thing is God glorified., image by Sura Nualpradid

3. Rest in God’s good plan for your life
Striving ties us up in knots and brings dissatisfaction.

It says, “I don’t trust God to work this out, so I must make it happen on my own.”

And when you can’t make it happen, or things don’t go the way you hoped, you feel depressed and lose your confidence.

Hebrews 10:35 says: “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” (NLT)

This type of confidence doesn’t depend on attending a writer’s conference or having agents and editors request your work.

It’s a confidence rooted in your deep soul-knowledge that God loves you, that he wants his best for you, that he has ordered your steps from before you were born and is daily working out his purposes in your life.

Don’t throw that away to lean on your own striving.

Confident trust brings peace and rest and joy in the journey, no matter what the outward circumstances look like.

Be blessed, take heart and take joy! God has you in the palm of his hand.

 Did ACFW leave you elated or deflated? What is God speaking to you through this experience?

How to keep a sweet spirit from the sidelines of the writing life: Click to Tweet

Celebrate the success of others without jealousy or comparison - here's how: Click to Tweet

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia. When she's not chasing after her three preschool-age kids, she spends her spare minutes daydreaming about the intricate lives of characters who don't actually exist. Find her on her website and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Believable Characters: Applying Personality Types

Have you ever taken an enneagram test?

As I've been thinking of some of my favorite characters and my own characters, I've come across a site called the 9types.

Thinking about the personality types can give us some new insight into our characters. Click here to take a free short enneagram test.

 You might want to test yourself first, then think of a character or two. Personally, I find these lots of fun and have learned new things about my characters, although it is important not to let the test box in your characters.

Similar minds is a site with even more tests, which can yield different insights. Lots of fun.

Whether you chose to take the test or not, here are some ways pesonality type application can be one tool in your box for creating a more believable character. I will attempt to show a possible goal, motivation, and conflict for each type of personality type in order to spur you on to think of believable goals for your own characters.

Then using literature, I will share some fun guesses about some of our favorite literary characters and what their personality types may be.

I want to note that I found studying the loop diagrams to be very helpful to understand the healthy and unhealthy patterns my character might find themselves in.


See here for a great diagram if you are a visual type learner.

The reformer believes the world is an imperfect place. Often a perfectionist, the reformer's main goal is to make things perfect. They strongly desire to be right. Yet, reformers can be highly fearful of other's opinion and the thought of suffering condemnation at the hands of others.

If your character is a politician, world leader, lawyer, cult leader, or policeman its possible they might draw high scores in Type 1.

I was fascinated with the thought that basic correct desires can create healthy character arc movement. By the same token, the main fear can create an unhealthy loop that continues.

GOAL FOR A TYPE 1/REFORMER: Make things perfect.

An example would be Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. Javert has a very strong sense of law. He is a highly perfectionist individual whose life goal is to create a more fair world. Hence, he chases Jean Valjean throughout France.

MOTIVATION FOR A TYPE 1/REFORMER: Can be motivated by a desire to be right, yet also are often motivated by other's opinions.

Javert is motivated by his desire to be right or bring justice to the world. His mother was a prostitute and he never knew his father. He believes he will redeem himself from his past somehow by capturing and punishing others for their deeds. Javert himself tries to live by his own sense of the law. He is also a great example of how fallen man sinks to legalism.


Inspector Javert's main inner conflict is between justice and mercy. As a non-believing character he believes the lie that he can fix himself, fix his past, make up for his mother's sins as well as his own. Yet he has no true understanding of mercy or the love of God. I believe he represents an unhealthy loop Type 1's can fall into, correcting others because he feels condemned himself.

Do you have a type 1 reformer? 


Loop diagram  here shows healthy and unhealthy cycles. 

A type 2 Helper might be a counselor, social worker, teacher, policeman or woman, firefighter, nurse or paramedic. They are labeled as a giver, caretaker, helper, nurturer, advisor, or manipulator.

A Type 2 Helper likes being depended on and needed. He or she wants to be loved and conversely their biggest fear is being unloved.

GOAL FOR A TYPE 2/HELPER: helping others

One of my favorite characters who I think would fall into this category is Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady or the play Pygmalion. Higgins goal is to teach a poor flower girl to be a lady of course and boy does he have lots of challenges along the way, from Eliza's cockney accent to her money-grubbing father who tries to use the situation to his advantage.

MOTIVATION FOR A TYPE 2/ HELPER: desperate need to be loved

In the end, though all Henry Higgins can tell Eliza is "fetch me my slippers" the satisfied viewer knows something deeper is going on. Henry's desperate need to be loved has been fulfilled in Eliza. Higgins perhaps is not even conscious of this need, but it is obvious to the reader. He begins his task to prove a bet, but realizes along the way, his motivation has changed. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" he sings.

CONFLICT FOR A TYPE 2/HELPER: often controlled by feeling unloved

"Pygmalion" syndrome has been created as a term to explain the phenomena that greater expectation equals greater performance on the part of the other person. Higgin's jealousy at Eliza's excellent performance at the ball leads him to arrogantly conclude that it was his triumph, not hers. He is so consumed with creating success for someone else and helping others that he often becomes inherently selfish in his actions. He often fails to recognize his own need for love and fails to recognize it when it is given to him.

Do you have any type 2 characters in your story? How can you widen their character arc?


For a chart of this type, go to 9types.

The motivator is a champion, because she believes the world values winners. She longs to be admired and despairs of being rejected.

Common names are: motivator, performer, achiever, producer, or status seeker.

They are goal oriented and often seek attention. They are often viewed as self-motivated, confident, ambitious and also arrogant. Type 3's love having a high status, prestige and are very concerned with their appearance. Also they are natural born performers.

Possible career choices might include: CEOs, actors, singers, performers of any type.


This one was harder to come up with for me. One idea was Tom Riddle/Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. I haven't read the entire series, but I do think Voldemort might fit this personality type.

Tom Riddle was a start student and head boy. He overcomes some difficult circumstances in order to attempt to reach his goal. His main goal is power over all and to gain immortality.


Voldemort is consumed with working hard to improve himself and succeed. He is desperate to achieve his own form of success. He wants to be admired, but also feared by others.

CONFLICT FOR A TYPE 3/MOTIVATOR: can be fear of being rejected

A common conflict for this type is fear of being rejected. I believe Voldemort's greatest conflict is inner and is the frustration between who he is and who he wants to be. He must be dependent on others to achieve his goals because he needs to use the life energy of others.

Does your story have a type 3 motivator? How can you strengthen his arc?

What type are you or one of your characters? Or what do you think they might be? Do you see them in any of these three types? (I'll be returning next time with more types). If you want something to check out in the mean time, here is a great link on Enneagram Personality conflicts between couples. What is the compatibility between your hero and heroine. 

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 Library Journal, The Title Trakk, and Christian Library Journal.

Monday, September 23, 2013

His Perfect Pace at ACFW

Wow. Has it already been eleven days? It seems like yesterday that I was turning onto the highway toward my fourth ACFW conference! And this year, it came full my first conference was in the same place...Indianapolis. It is at that first conference that I pitched the same characters (cannot call it the same book, now,after three years of rewrites), met the first of my many friends and co-Alleycats, and basically fell in love with the writing community.

The difference between the last 8 hour drive to Indy in 2010, and this one, is I drove it alone this year...didn't drag my family of five(was expecting our fourth), and pawn them off at the Indy zoo, while I ventured to the Hyatt. This year, I was alone with Jesus, listening to His music, and anxiously looking forward to wrapping my arms around my sweet sweet friends.

As I crept closer, my foot grew heavy though, and I sped along the highway, fighting off the old anxious ways of the newbie I once was, and ignoring the signs that were telling me to slow down. I noticed the $375 minimum fine in the work zone, and I saw the orange cones. I kept up with traffic though, surely I wouldn't get caught. It was just a scare tactic...that big chunk of change. I was on a mission to get to ACFW, I wanted to get there fast and feel the happiness of being among friends and writers, and the thrill of showcasing what God has done, to editors. I kept my foot on the pedal, continued at a consistent distance from the car ahead, and slammed on the brakes when the roadside digital display of my speed showed I was 9 miles over and a flash indicated a photo had been taken.
I thought I could beat the odds, because I didn't believe they were really keeping track. My biggest excuse being that I was keeping up with traffic...were they going to ticket all of us? But in the end, the ugly truth flashed in front of me and I was not keeping up with the expectations of the law enforcement. I had raced ahead, only to feel the big fat EXPENSIVE slap of defeat.

After attending four conferences, and looking back over how far I've come (maybe not to publication, but to some sort of maturity in the process)...I realize how that traffic incident is a mirror of the writing journey as I first embarked upon it:

Beat the odds: When I wrote my first story, and began to dabble in the writing circles, I honestly thought I would not fall into the "norm" of a long journey toward publication. I poo-pooed the idea of putting my first book in a drawer never to see the light of day. And I thought, "I will show them" when it came to the extensiveness of such an endeavor as publication. Just like my zipping by the warning signs on the road, I zipped by the words of mentors and authors who said, "Writing is not for the faint at heart."

Keeping up with traffic: When I first stepped into an ACFW conference, and pitched my novel, and compared my notes with others, hearing what agents and editors had asked for, wondering why I didn't get asked for that...I began to try and keep up with the traffic so to speak. I decided to write something else, to enter contests, to put that long list of awards beneath my name, to be sure I stalked the white board at the appointments desk each year and rack up the requests. EVEN IF MY STUFF WASN'T READY...I was not going to be left behind without success.

Facing the Ugly truth:  And that truth, just like the failure of maintaining the expected speed on the highway, the ugly truth of my writing journey before this conference, was that all those attempts, all those written words, ALL those rejections, pointed to the truth that I just wasn't ready. I didn't meet the expectations of the editors, and I paid the price of a wounded ego.
This year, after much rejection under my belt, I realize that the ugly truth of trying to beat the odds and speed along in striving toward publication, the ugly truth that I tried to keep up with "traffic" or the success of others, and facing the ugly but WONDERFUL truth that I just wasn't ready before, has led me to a place where cruise control in God's plan is so much more satisfying. I continue to see the lessons he had taught me during the self-induced race before. And now, I am ready to shout out and claim this journey as uniquely my own, at my own God-induced speed!

This year, I leave behind another ACFW conference knowing the importance of abiding, giving my journey to God, and realizing that publication is not the proof of my gift, but a fruit among many on the writing branch in my heart. Yes, there is always that niggle of comparison, that shadow of regret, but if I shake it off, point my heart toward the LIGHT of God's Grace, and release the pressure on that gas pedal toward success, He'll guide me down this road of my dream at His Most Perfect Pace.
Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous, mothering days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across historical cultures and social boundaries. Angie is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's Up the Street Next Week?

Okay...last weekend of ACFW pics.
Can you handle a few more?
I'm sure that many of the gals who attended the conference came back with some new blog posts to stir your interests and teach you - especially if they attended James Scott Bell's CE course. AWESOME!

However there were so many more!

And as usual the best part was hanging out with and old. Jeanne T and Deb Marvin were there as some of our fabulous Alley Pals. Not to mention BFFs Lindsay Harrel and Gabs Meyer. And of course the lovely Katie Ganshert who won a Carol for Debut Novel!!

There's a cool connection that happens to people to love the same God and have the same gifts - especially with writing. Who else can understand that you talk to people no one else can see? And you listen to them too?

By the way - we gained a few honorary members last weekend. Janice Thompson and "Tom Cat" Casey Miller to name two.

Now let's chat a bit about what's up the street next week.

Monday - Angie is taking her inspiration from ACFW and chatting about it today

Tuesday - Julia continues her series about what GREAT books can teach us by focusing on believable characters (one of my favorite topics!!) In honor of believable "characters" I've included the final picture in this post.

Wednesday - Karen will bring her usually beautiful lyrical writing for her post today.

Thursday - Join the lovely Ashley for her post, The View from the Sky-- Learning to Wait Expectantly

Friday - Amy welcomes former Alley Cat, Wendy Paine Miller, to discuss her new book and the crazy world of self-publishing.

Lots of Love from our Alley to Yours!!

(anyone else afraid???) :-)

Friday, September 20, 2013

An ACFW Recap In Pictures...and a Bit of Wisdom

 You know that feeling right?

That feeling like you're forgetting something? The proposal? The cell phone charger?

Your boarding pass. That was pretty much me the entire time I was traveling. Thankfully this niggling feeling of forgetfulness was never fulfilled. ;-)

Aside from the fact that there was no bookstore and I felt lost without the normal hangout place to go, ACFW Indy, proved to be the year that God was waiting for me to show up. The one year I actually did not glean mega-information from the classes, was the one year that God was beckoning to meet Him in the prayer room. In the halls. In the worship sessions. 

Can one really allow themselves to spend so much money to further their relationship with God instead of the level of their craft?

Yes. For me, it was definitely worth it. I couldn't do it anywhere else on my own and God knew that. God knew I needed to be surrounded by friends that knew my heart's desire only better than I know it myself.

Yes, Brandilyn Collin's sentence rhythm class was am-a-zing.

The pitches (surprisingly) went really well and I'll be heading into the rounds of submitting soon.

I got to squeeze so many friends who have been amazing to me online and reconnect to those friends that only grow more precious as the years go by.

In the next couple weeks I will be gleaning from my notes to share with you here, but for today I just wanted to share something God taught me while at ACFW this year:

We often don't know why He has brought us to the place He has. We often can't fathom why our grounds are allowed to be shaken and our faith in what we are sure we should be doing (ie: writing a novel) is tested. 

But God is GOOD through it all. 


From the people you chat with at the registration desk who don't even hesitate to let you know you are right where you are supposed to be. 

To the people who send encouraging Facebook messages and tweets saying they want to meet you. All these people show Jesus and my place where I am right now. Doesn't mean that will change slightly or the goals will shift to a different direction, but one thing I do know: God has a reason for it all. 

The valleys allow you a better appreciate for the mountaintop vantage. The struggles, the depression against the spirit as though it will never lift and this writing thing isn't really for you, all to point to a God who is mightier than it all. 

It's all FEAR. 

And FEAR is to be defeated. Identified as what is. Fear masquerades as so much: insecurities, worry, self-doubt. Rebuke it. Battle against it in the name of Jesus. 

Allow His children to speak truth over you. Pray for you. 

Lesson learned this year: SPEAK what is on your heart.

We so often hide this doubt for fear when aired for our close friends to see we will be judged for it or they won't understand. 

But fear is not meant to be kept in the darkness for Satan to continue breeding these emotions that will only kill any and all desire for what God has laid on your heart. Be honest. Trust in the faithfulness of your closest friends. I was given some of the best moments of the entire conference when I was honest about where I was and what I was struggling with.

Stop being willing to say "fine". Answer with the truth and allow your friends, the people God has place in your life, to do their divine purpose: form a blockade against the evil one and rebuke your fear in the name of Jesus.

Never doubt the place God has you. He has you there for a reason, even if you aren't sure what that reason is in the beginning.

Share your best conference memories...I would love to hear about them! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Value of People

Do you ever have a time when God puts exactly the right people in front of you at the right moment?

Yeah, I had that this last weekend.

ACFW was different for me this year. Funds were just NOT there to go, so up until a few weeks ago, I had no plans to go at all. And I was fine with that... until Facebook and Twitter and blogs and email loops started lighting up with every ones exciting planning. Then I just felt bummed.

But then a sweet author friend of mine (Kaye Dacus) suggested that I still go. I laughed very hard, knowing the status of my bank account.

Her suggestion though was just to go to "hang out" with people but not attend the actual conference. A group was carpooling, they had room for one more and would gladly welcome me to join them. Kaye was rooming by herself and didn't mind me crashing with her. I could go and spend very little money but still get to spend time with some of the greatest people on Earth: WRITERS!

So I went.

And oh-ma-goodness. You have NO idea how glad I am that I went. The weekend was about renewing my passion to write. Enriching my relationships with friends that I hold very dearly. And learning to trust God in all the uncertainties.

Now, I'll admit. I totally missed the "actual" conference. That I didn't get to hear Robin Jones Gunn speak was a total bummer!

But I still got my FAVORITE part of conference.

And that was PEOPLE. Hugging hold friends. Making new ones. Putting faces to names. Sometimes that little Facebook profile pic is just NOT enough!! (and then you have people like me who frequently have my kids up there instead anyway!)

Writing is a solitary effort many times. It can even get a bit lonely.

So my tip to you today is.... remember the value of PEOPLE. Both in networking, in challenging your brain beyond its comfort zone, and in just making you smile and laugh.

My favorite conference moment was arriving in the lobby... with something super heavy on my heart, and our sweet Pepper looking at me and saying, "Come on. I need to pray for you." And proceeding to hug me and pray for me right then and there.

A God moment for me, and exactly what I needed to calm my nerves and frazzled brain!!

Yup. People rock:-)

(and yes, this post is devoid of conference pictures because I've been SO BUSY since I got back that I haven't had time to look at them or really, barely breath! Thus the reason this post is late this morning too.... Krista's head NEEDS to get screwed back on straight!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Inundated With Ideas

Frank Peretti and Mary Vee
In all truthfulness, I am dog tired but bursting with information to share.

I will spare you by not spilling this wealth of wisdom presented to us at the ACFW conference in one post. (Go ahead and sigh a thank you :) ) I don't know that I could write a lengthly cohesive theme until I catch up on my sleep, anyway.

Like a pinball machine, I changed direction for this post several times before asking God to help me land on the one ideal He wanted me to share with you today. I am so excited to read the comments and find out if this little kernel of truth helped.

During one of the meals, a friend sitting at my table pointed out Frank Peretti. Yes. Frank Peretti. My kids have read all his books. In fact, if we were in a store at this very moment, my children would each choose one of his books for their purchase. Unfortunately, they'd finish reading the book before we reached the house.

I set a goal. I wanted a picture of Frank Peretti to show my children.

I waited a long time to speak with him, enjoying the conversation he had with others. He  was personable and tailored his conversation to each person.

At long last, I had a turn. I rambled something about my children enjoying his books, but then thought, he'd probably wonder if I enjoyed them too.

If you didn't know, Frank Peretti writes scary books. The kind that are best not read when you are home...alone...on a dark and stormy night....when the house is creaking...and the back door blows open slamming against the wall.

I did read one of his books for adults. After three pages I slammed the book shut, knowing the story would creep into my dreams. My curiosity forced me to peel open the cover and turn to the next page. 

A half page later, I stopped. Turned to the last page and saw that the character survived. Relieved, I turned to page four and continued reading.

I turned to Frank and told him about my experience. "I love reading your books; I just need to read the last page first to know all ends well."

He rubbed his beard and said, "Then I will think of you when I write my next book."

My thought at the beginning of the post centered around our need to consider our audience to the point of modifying our work if we can.

Now that I'm at the end of the post, a thought occurred to me...what if he meant he wouldn't reveal the character's outcome on the last page in his next book? What if--my heart is pulsating--what if the answer is hidden in the prior pages. 

No!!!! I'm hiding under my blankets.

My teen daughter proofed the post and said, "So the point of this post is to never give Frank Peretti ammunition"

Not exactly....

photo by Mary Vee

This blog post is by Mary Vee

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 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