Friday, February 28, 2014

Pucker Up … and kiss like you mean it!

Fair warning: Not a G-rated post… then again, I seriously doubt anyone reading this is under the age of 7 so I shouldn’t upset any delicate sensibilities.

In the words of Meg Ryan from one of my all time favorite movies French Kiss… “A kiss… two peoples’ lips together, their breath, a little bit of their soul…”

I agree with Meg. “A kiss is where the romance is.”

Mmm, there is nothing quite like a first kiss, is there? And I’m not just talking about in fiction. ;) Though, I know most of us die-hard romance readers wait anxiously for the first tangle of lips on the page. But that’s the thing about fiction. It has the power to cross over that invisible plane and find a grip in reality. When the character embraces that first kiss, we can almost feel it as we live vicariously through them, reliving our own memories of budding romances and earth-shattering kisses.

Unfortunately, far too often fiction falls wayyyyy short of the real thing. I mean, come on… we’ve all got swoony romance on the brain if we are writing a love story. Many of us are living in our own happily ever after, and yet… the kiss we pen on the page is stale. Vague. Unrealistic. Utterly unremarkable. 

Well, for today you can call me the kiss doctor because I may just have the remedy to rev up your smooch.

So here is where I kiss and tell: 3 Keys of KISS Perfection!


Oh, I can hardly stand it! The tension. The seductive dance of possibility in that moment of shared breath. Will he? Won’t he? Just kiss the girl! Or for heavens sake, chick, grab that man and kiss him senseless! How many of you know that the moments preceding the kiss are almost as important as the kiss itself. Bringing the reader to their breaking point with a near kiss moment can illicit a hot flash as smokin’ as the moment those sparks ignite in a meeting of lips.

How are you building your tension here? What is your character thinking? Have they envisioned what it might be like? Is that shivery touch pre-kiss a tingling anticipation of what’s to come? Play up your senses in the seconds before. Let your character slip into a moment of fantasy. Sometimes this isn’t even directly before the kiss. Often you can steadily build that slow burn from the first moment they meet on the page. Other times you want the tension to be so tight, so unexpected, so heady at that precipice, we can do nothing but hold our breath and silently beg for that first kiss.


Think about real life. Married or not, do you remember that first kiss with someone special? How many of you can attest--not all kisses are created equal. With the right someone there is more than just woven lips and shared saliva (sorry, not the prettiest picture there) but there is heat, and sweetness, and hunger (oh, yes I did! Kissing: the gateway drug) and don’t forget…. MAGIC!

Hopefully, when you are mid-kiss you aren’t thinking about your enormous pile of laundry, what you’re going to make for dinner, or what your schedule looks like tomorrow. The kiss we want to read about is the kind that transcends a time frame, it transcends rational though, and becomes a bundle of sensations. The first tentative brush of smooth soft lips. The catch in the back of your throat. The butterflies that flutter through your pulse. The feel of his hair between your fingers, the roughness of his jaw scraping your skin. The press of his fingers against your spine. 

Do you remember that kiss? I sure do! I remember exactly what it felt like when my husband made his first move. I remember standing by my car door saying goodnight, I remember the uncertain yet smoldering look in his eyes when he asked for the kiss, the slight smile that curved my lips and trapped my breath before I looked up from heavy-lidded eyes and nodded. The anticipation! And then, BAM! Sensation took over. And I wasn’t just simply feeling his full lips on mine. It was a dance. Our breath tangled and I breathed him in. My arms acted on their own, slipping around his warm neck, testing the softness of his hair. My blood super-heated. Heck, my foot probably would have popped if I hadn't ended up backed against the cool metal of my SUV. I felt new. Alive. I was completely swept away. Each of my senses were honed and heightened by the exploration. It wasn’t tawdry or obscene… and writing a detailed kiss doesn't have to be either. Just because you expound on the experience doesn't make it some clawing, sleazy thing.

A kiss contains romance, and passion… a precursor of things to come. If I can’t see or feel or taste that kiss you wrote in some way, it loses its power and becomes a cardboard representation of something meant to be unforgettable. 

So whether you write conservative romance or more spicy stuff, know that your most innocent details stir your readers response. They give credibility to the emotion of the scene. And most importantly, they put your reader in a moment worth reading about.


Okay, seriously…why waste all that goodness? A kiss doesn’t expire when lips untangle. The memory of the kiss is just as potent as act itself. I hate it when I read a book that belittles the effects of a solid smooch. I mean, if you are really good and kissed there is no way you forget about it, right?

So reach back and draw out those stolen moments. Revisit the sensational reaction of such a simple touch. (Yes, Meg… this is where the romance is. This is where the line is crossed between friends and lovers. Spark!) Is there something that comes back to mind later when they are either desperate to forget it or can’t stop reliving the glorious and long-awaited moment? When you are wrapped up in a swoon-worthy kiss there are often things that go unprocessed at the time. Things that return to us and make us sigh, or blush, or grow giddy as a school-girl. Draw on your own experience, or dare to dream about a kiss that could turn your world upside down. THIS is the kiss to write. This is the kiss we crave on the page. The kiss that reminds us of the magic of falling. And the undeniable connection in a perfect match!

Your turn to kiss and tell! Share one of your kiss scenes—just for fun or for some pointers. Juicy or tame, all are welcome here! (I’m obviously not shy.) So go on… pucker up! Make it count. Let’s wrap up this week with a kiss! MUAH!


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 and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who Will Fulfill Your Calling?

Today's post is for all of you who've been writing long enough to face heartache.

Maybe it's been one week, three months, or ten years in the making.

Maybe you don't even know why you're still doing this, except out of habit.

Maybe you feel like your writing life has become a going-through-the-motions process, a shell of what it used to be.

And maybe, a little part of you wonders if God has forgotten about you, as you sit with your laptop late at night, dreaming of the stories on your heart.

We know how it goes. You remember when you first started writing--the dreams and hopes you carried for your writing's future. You were going to change the world through your stories. Your books were going to be filled with vision and hope, and they would minister to readers as your own favorite books have ministered to you. Then, little by little, things changed. The rejections started piling up. You accumulated a few funny stories of failed pitches. And the stories that were so very close to your heart-- well, you had to tell them goodbye, at least for a season.

Sound familiar?

In my experience, after weeks, months, and years of the ups and downs of writing life, we begin developing coping strategies. We don't spend quite as much time daydreaming about the day we'll finally get to work alongside an editor. We may not be quite as brave about taking chances with our stories. We've been down that road before, and it didn't sell. We wince as we write our rough drafts, hearing the ever-present echo of our own voices saying, "What if you're still not ready?" The overly-harsh contest criticism comes back with a vengeance when we least expect it, and we begin to wonder if our critics were right. If the market is just a little too hard. If maybe we should keep our stories to ourselves, where it feels--let's face it--safer.

I get this tendency, because I've learned that the longer I write, the harder rejection becomes. Why is that? Personally, I think it's because becoming a better writer means becoming more vulnerable to your stories.

But last week, I saw this verse in a friend's Facebook feed, and it really challenged me.

Esther 4:12-13- "When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"


So, to give a little bit of background for this situation, Queen Esther hasn't exactly been a wimp in this story. She's already been selected as part of this large group of women vying for the king's attention, and she gives up everything she knows to ultimately win the king's favor and find such grace from God in the process. But then, a plot arises within the king's court to destroy the Jews, and so Mordecai goes as close as he can get to the king's gate, and he puts on sackcloth and ashes. Through a messenger, he explains the situation to Esther and tells her his plan. He wants Esther to go before the king and petition him on behalf of the Jews. Thing is, the law states that anyone who approaches the king without being summoned will be killed unless the king extends his scepter, and it's been thirty days since the king has called upon Esther.

Her initial response? Um, thanks but I don't think so. She reminds Mordecai of the gravity of the situation. The king could order her to be killed! I'm sure at this point, a million things were running through Esther's mind. Wasn't there any other way for the Jews to be spared?

And yet, Mordecai's response is striking. He says in reply, if you remain silent, deliverance will arise from another place. 

He then goes on to ask, "Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"

See, Esther had a calling upon her life. Her place in the kingdom, and the favor she had in the king's eyes was not by mistake. God put her there and allowed her choices to bring about deliverance for His people. 

But think about it this way. What if Esther had said no?

Where would deliverance have come from? Would we be reading of another woman's story in the chapters of her book? Because the verse clearly states that deliverance was coming, one way or another.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on fulfilling my calling. Like Esther, each of us have been called to a particular place and season in life, and in the writing journey. If you have stepped out in faith and started writing a novel (or perhaps you've just finished your 11th book and are experienced in this journey), then you have stepped into the king's palace, just as Esther did, and that's awesome. But see, here's the thing. Esther's initial act of faith and obedience isn't enough. She has to approach the king and put it all on the line in order for the Jewish people to be saved. And in a similar way, we as writers must wholly give our hearts again and again and again to our stories. When the rejections and the criticism and the negative reviews begin flooding in, it's not enough that we just keep writing. We must gather up the pieces of our disappointment, and learn to be brave, because each of us is where we are for such a time as this.

I hope you're encouraged as you look at Esther's story to dream big dreams again for your writing journey. Don't give up on God's calling for your life and ministry, because He hasn't given up on you.

Do you ever feel beat up by the rigors of the writing life? What keeps you pressing on toward your calling?


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.

Writing space makeover reveal!

Welcome to my brand-new writing space!

I've been burning the midnight oil to get this home office area made over in time to reveal on the Writer's Alley today. You may remember that two weeks back I launched a 2-part series on writing spaces, starting with an open-home tour of where the Alleycats write

I also promised I'd be back with a reveal of my own writing area - which at that stage, looked little better than this (yes, that bare space on the left with the wires hanging out of the wall.) The rest of the room had furnishings by then, but the study nook next to the kitchen remained sadly untouched.

So with a two-week deadline, it was time to get cracking! I began by stencilling the wall with paint (and yes, it was as tedious as it looks!) and then installed some Ikea floating shelves. The study desk was installed by our builder at this point as well.

I added a new replica Eames chair and a cute and comfy cushion for back support:

Spray-painted my gray mesh accessories turquoise for a pop of colour:

Then DIY-ed a set of mail-sorting baskets using three $5 cleaning caddies from K-mart. (If you're interested, you can read about how I did it here on my home-making blog.)

I added some magazine-holders, Ikea boxes and mesh baskets as storage on the shelves. These will hold everything from paperwork to scrapbooking supplies.

When I designed our house plan, I included a recessed area to the left of the study space to hold a filing cabinet. This is useful for filing away household paperwork as it comes in, as well as for storing novel research and story notes within arm's reach of my writing space.

One of the things I most wanted to incorporate into this work area was some writing inspiration in the form of graphic art quotes. I bought some Ikea frames and DIY-ed these prints in Photoshop. 

I love the "dreams" quote on the left, which is a great reminder that fulfilling a dream comes down to hard work over the long haul. The frame to the right holds my "One Word" for 2014 - FAITHFUL, which I arranged to look like an eye chart because I'm digging that look right now.

On the next shelf down I created a monogram with my initial, just for fun. This is the first time in ages I've had a space which is "just for me", so I really wanted to make it mine and fill it with colors and objects and art that inspires me.

One of the key verses God has given me for this year to go alongside my One Word, is this:

It's not the most usual piece of Scripture to have on display, but it's very meaningful to me. I love the story of how King Solomon took the time and care to make his surroundings beautiful, both in the Temple and the Palace. As an interior decorator, that gives me assurance that God is pleased when I use my creative gifts to honor him. King Solomon took on a vast number of building and beautifying projects, and he completed them. He followed through and carried out his plans.

This really speaks to me as I launch out this year with my brand-new home-making blog. A project-based blog takes an ENORMOUS amount of work, and it can feel discouraging to pour endless hours into something and then receive no comments on a post. But God reminds me that my task is just to remain faithful (there's that word again!) and follow through on my plans.

Writing a novel is exactly the same - a LOT of hard work over an extended period of time, perhaps with little encouragement along the way. The important thing is to keep going, and finish what we started.

My writing space is at the heart of our home. When I planned our house, I knew that I wanted this area to be right off the kitchen - for starters, so we could use it as a "command centre" to corral paperwork that otherwise ends up dumped on the kitchen counters - and secondly, so that I could snatch moments throughout the day to write/ blog while also keeping an eye on the kids playing.

The layout has worked beautifully for us so far. In this season of my life, it makes sense to have an open-plan writing space, because if I was tucked away from the family, writing would seldom happen.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of my new writing space! If you've enjoyed this makeover, you may be interested in following along over at my new blog, a house full of sunshine. My tagline is "the art of making home", and my posts center around home decorating, organization, creative kids' activities, recipes and inspiration for Moms.

Thank you so much for letting me share! Your turn - do you have dreams of making over a writing space? How would you describe your ideal writing area?

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she juggles writing with being a SAHM to three small kids. She's had short stories published in two literary journals and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on her website, Twitterand getting creative on her home-making blog, A house full of sunshine.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Soaring in Your Writing Time for This Season of Your Life and GIVEAWAY

Busy, overloaded, and stressed?

Perhaps you need to fit more writing into your schedule.

What, did I mishear you? I'm working 80 hour weeks, going through stuff in my marriage, my toddler is keeping me from sleeping through the night.

Here's why you NEED to fit writing into your schedule.

"You may be stressed out but you have to fight it. Find those few things that make you feel energized and invest your time and effort into them." -Crystal Paine, Money Saving Mom blogger and author of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life

About two months ago, I started working out five times a week. I've really learned more about the "runner's high." My energy levels are higher than they've been in years. I wondered how would I fit bicycling into my already stuffed schedule. It was an excuse that kept me from exercising.

I work out around an hour, yet I have gained back this hour in the energy I bring to homeschooling and most any task I do. Life is less overwhelming.

The things we choose to do can also sap or increase our emotional energy. Time and money management expert Crystal's advice is spot on for those going through trials or difficult times. Making time for writing isn't being selfish, its using the gifts we have been given for God's glory and it will strengthen us.

Have you allowed writing to create some more "white space" in your life? Time to ingest a deep breath.

I've learned a lot from Crystal's blog Money Saving Mom about making the most of what you have in terms of finances, time, and life in general. Here are some insights both from Crystal's blog and from my own life about how to find time for your passion no matter what life season you are in.

  • Get your "peeps" on board.
Crystal says her number one help to keeping on task is her supportive husband. The same is true in my own life. Its great to have a motivator in your home.

My husband can be the "writing fuhrer" reminding me to keep on task, all the while being a gentle, Gandhi-like supporter. Contradictory? Neh, that's what love does, spurs us on toward our best. Look at Jesus, he loves us enough not to want us to stay mired in the depths of those sins and weaknesses that hold us back.

A friend can play the same role in your life, reminding you to keep up with your writing.

"But I don't have those kind of people in my life. My family thinks I'm wasting my time and my friends call getting published a 'pipe dream.'"

1) Pray for God to provide that type of support for you.

You are never going it alone, God is always on your side. He gave you these gifts and if he wants you to use them in this season he will find a way for you to do so.

2) Consider: am I neglecting my family's needs when I write? Are the times I pick honoring to my family? For instance, if your husband works an active job and you are often writing when he comes home delaying dinner...perhaps this could be why you're lacking his support.

Think about the best times to write, taking your family into consideration.

3) Can your family see the benefit?

This is probably one of the #1 reasons my husband is so supportive of my writing. He sees that it helps me keep my emotions in balance, brings me personal fulfillment and is intellectually stimulating in a season where I often don't talk to a single adult until my husband walks through the door each evening.

  • Consider that not all seasons are created equal.
If you are working full-time and looking for time to write:

Is there a quiet corner where you could retreat with a pad and paper during your lunch break?

Can you voice record your ideas on your long commute home?

Can you break your writing into fifteen minute chunks throughout the day?

If you are staying home and have small children (or homeschool):

Think about teaching your kids to have a quiet time of their own. Consider making it a family writing time and buying your children pretty journals to use.

The quiet pre-dawn and late hours are sacred space for stay-at-home moms.

As a nursing mom, I learned to type a few quick notes during a feeding.

If our children see us fully present with us the rest of the time, they are more willing to understand that writing time helps us be more in the moment with them later because our own cup is filled.

This season is not forever. Find a solution that works for now. Be willing to revise your plans on a regular basis.

  • What can you take off your plate to allow time for writing, while keeping your priorities still in line?

Are you wasting too much time on Facebook or Pinterest? (OK, I admit I'm preaching myself under conviction on this one.)

Can you multitask by writing on a treadmill like Pepper and Mary do or writing ideas in a notebook while standing in line?

Crystal has social media free Sundays. This frees her up both to spend time with her family and to have more creative energy. How can you create margin from these technology distractions? I know one of the Alleycats doesn't use a computer on Sundays and it frees her up to enjoy more quiet.

  • Have goals and stay accountable for them.
Writing my goals on the calendar in the form of daily word count is a helpful reminder.

An accountability buddy can be even better and it doesn't even have to be a fellow writer. Just someone who will ask you the hard questions.

Knowing a friend of mine is checking in with me every Friday has sure made it easier to keep on track with my workouts and the same is true with writing life.

Reward yourself in a small way when you make your goal for the day or week. Maybe an hour this week rereading a favorite book or a cup of coffee.

So, let's hear from you. Share your best time management tip for your writing life and I'll enter you to win a kindle edition of Crystal Paine's 21 Days to a More Discplined Life. I'm willing to bet, you'll be blessed by Crystal's time management tips. Please include your email address to be entered in the drawing.

Julia writes contemporary fiction to mirror truth. A former assistant librarian, she now channels her card cataloguing skills into homeschooling her elementary aged littles and writing for Library Journal. She has reviewed for a variety of websites for several years.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Preparing Your Plot For His Rain

on by federico stevanin
I may not always be a plotter in my writing life, but I've often been a plotter in conversation. Come on, we all do it, I am sure. We think about what we are going to say next time we meet that hard-to-love person...decide what "zinger" we might spout off to defend ourselves, or what Scripture we might quote to pridefully convict say I am not the only one?

For the past three months, I have been in the Scripture on a daily basis more than ever before. I have developed a deeper prayer life, and have grown closer in my walk. It's funny, well...not-so-fun funny, how this season of rain in my spiritual walk has me dredging through the desert in my earthy one. In many areas of life. I choose not to expound, but some of you who know me, know what I am talking about.
on by chayathonwong2000

God is certainly working behind the scenes in this desert of mine, and when I face a whipping sandy wind or one of those "needs plotting out" conversations that I think I'm not prepared for, my reservoir from my spiritual rainy season, bubbles up and pours truth into my earthly desert--without my own plotting. A supernatural spring of words flows into my conversation that I never even knew was there.

And it comes from roots fully nourished in the prepared gardening (or Scripturally-sown) soil of my heart.

I think, sometimes, as writers, we over-plot--not necessarily our stories, but the truths we hope to show. They get scattered into our writing like seeds on rocky soil, little nuggets we may have read or know in our head.  But is it what God has sown deeply in our hearts to blossom in our words for purposeful truths according to HIS PLAN?
on by adamr
Do you know what I mean?

Do you sit and write a story fully trusting God to pour out the truth HE WANTS TO SHOW in your words, or have you pre-conceived truth that will play out in your story?

In my recent encounters in the desert of life, God has presented conversations that have pulled truth from my heart through my lips that I didn't even realize was significant when I read it earlier in His Scripture...

I crave the next time He allows for this harvest to occur in my life. But, I also hope that He meets me on the pages of my story.

How do we even hope for this in our writing?

First, just as we do for real life circumstance, we must prepare the soil of our heart, saturate it with Scripture on a daily basis.

Second, we must listen. We must listen to the growing murmurs of our heart (um...the Holy Spirit??) during every sentence we write. We must not be stuck in our own plotting scheme, but wait upon the more effective plotting of our Lord.

on by winnond
Have you ever read a book that presents a nice glossy sheen of God's truth on the surface of a well-plotted story? How about a book that tills deeply, and magnificently sprouts a thriving vine of fruit without any gloss, but with the glistening dew of God's truth reborn?

Let's not just write to be read, but write prepared for His rain on a plot uniquely planted to become a rich garden of His truth.

What truths do you hope to weave into your stories? 

Has God ever changed the words you planned to write, to reveal a truth deeper than you plotted?
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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What's Up the Street for Next Week?

You want to post this sweet little number on your website or blog, don't you?

Well, you won't have the chance if you don't submit your entry!

'Tis the time of year to be polishing those entries until they gleam and then sending them in with great fear and trepidation.

But no mountain to be hurdled was ever an easy climb and you won't win if you don't at least try!

I've made it easy, the links are right there, now go enter them! ;-)

What's up next week?

Angie will talk about preparing your plot...for HIS rain on Monday.

Ever have a hard time finding the right writing routine? Figure out the best one for you and your life with Julia on Tuesday.

Writing room makeover! Our resident designer, Karen has affordable ideas to re-create your writing space on Wednesday.

Thursday, Ashley will be talking about the question, "Who will fulfill your calling?" and approaching Esther 4:14 from a writer's perspective.

Pucker up! Amy has tips on...well...I think you can guess ;-) on Friday.

What contest do you plan to enter this week?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Chocolate Cafe with Janet Dean

The first time I met author Janet Dean from Seekerville I there's southern class at its finest. She has a whole lot of southern charm too, kind of like our own Ashley Clark. Must be all that sweet tea those ladies drink ;-)
Anyway, I am thrilled to welcome Janet to the Chocolate Cafe today.

We're having an unwholesome combination of Sticky Buns (for National Sticky Bun day yesterday) and dark chocolate milk. We've even thrown in a bowl of fruit to negate any calories from the Sticky Buns.

Now, let's see what the lovely Janet Dean has to tell us about one of her most memorable characters:

I love Callie Mitchell, the heroine in Wanted: A Family, a woman of courage and conviction, not afraid to do what's right in the face of strong opposition from friends, family and even members of her church. A pregnant widow, Callie faces the daunting task of rearing her child as a single parents and relates to unwed mothers, often alone and desperate. Callie's best friend died at her own hand, rather than subject her family to the disgrace of pregnant unwed daughter. Determined to prevent such tragedies, Callie opens her Victorian home as a refuge for unwed mothers, not condoning or judging, just giving these women her support.

In order for Callie's motivation for unwed mother's to be strong enough to withstand the opposition of people she holds dear, I made the issue personal and emotional by adding Callie's best friend's tragic suicide. Hopefully this issue in Callie past helps readers to put themselves in Callie's shoes and not only understand her motivation but also sympathize and root for Callie's goal.

Wow - what a story, Janet.
And it was beautifully done in her book, Wanted: A Family.
Thanks for sharing with us today!

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.
- Orison Swett Marden 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Social Media Monopoly






What else have I missed?

Photo Credit
There are so many social media sites out there and it only seems to grow “worse” with every new day. The thing with social media is it’s always changing. Always. We get one thing mastered—for many it was Facebook and Twitter—and now Instragram is on the scene as one more way to stay in touch and market/promote ourselves.

Newsletters are almost becoming obsolete because we stay in touch with our favorite authors and companies through Facebook and Twitter and get real-time updates. Even trying to reveal a book cover to only your newsletter subscribers can be tricky with there being so many ways it can leak out to the public early. We get one thing figured out and the trends have rotated and it’s time for something else.

Social media is not for the faint of heart or those who don’t like to change and adapt. You have to go where the crowds are and then make a place for yourself on the stage. This often is harder than it seems, but many also make this harder than it needs to be.

One of my biggest tips? See if the social media sticks around. Like buying technology the minute it hits the market, give it a couple years and let the company perfect their product. While we don’t usually give that amount of time to social media, I think it is wise to stand back and watch how quickly the fad comes and how soon it wears off.

Pinterest is going strong…and only getting stronger. It might be a good time to jump on that bandwagon. More publishers and publicity campaigns are utilizing this site to reach readers. The average American is on Pinterest and it’s a place to meet them.

Twitter isn’t for everyone. Yes, it’s a place to primarily promote and spread the word about a new book release or a blog post or a signing, but it’s also a great place for conversation. I’ve met and gotten to know good friends through Twitter. It’s not just a giant advertising billboard.

Instragram is a site I have taken to using yet, simply because I don’t take that many pictures and I don’t have a smart phone to automatically post to that site. But look into it. See what kind of readership you can connect with. Not as trying to push what you have to sell, but getting to know your readers. What do they post about, like, enjoy? What do they do on the weekend and read at night? A picture is truly worth a thousand words.
Photo Credit

Social media is not a time to mass promote your book sales. Though there is certainly a time and a place to do that. But balance your promoting with your relationships. These connections you make with real live people, like yourself, should be your number one priority. When the self promotion takes away from the relationships, it’s time to throw the self promotion out the window.

Social media is not about you.

Social media is not about you.

Social media is about what you can do for someone else. How can you help promote their new book release? How can you meet their needs? Get to know them as friends? In cultivating these solid, meaningful friendships, you’ll find a tribe of people willing to return the favor and help you out…without having to ask.

Social media is less about quantity and more about quality. Do one site really well before you join another. And if you’re succeeding where you are, stay there. Test the waters of other sites sure, but make sure what you do, you do well. That is the heart and key to social media.

So head to Go! Collect that $200 and let’s get started.

What social media do you plan to join or get better at in 2014?

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We've all had those moments, those snippets in time when we look at what we've written and think, "Wow, that's amazing!"

But I'd venture a guess we've had about 100 times more moments when we've looked at those words  we just poured our last drop of blood into and thought, "Holy crap. That is AWFUL!"

I've had a lot of those moments. More than I'd care to admit.

The first one was after I finished my rough draft of my FIRST novel in 2007. I was SO INCREDIBLY excited.

But then I started to edit the thing. What I found was a nice story written by someone who hadn't a clue how to right a nice story. My writing was HORRID.

Fast forward to another time... May 2013. One published novel under my belt. I was carpooling with fellow Alleycat Amy to our first (hopefully annual!) Alleycat retreat. Amy and I thought it'd be fun to read our storys aloud and give each other tips.

But Amy was driving, so that left me to read.

I read hers. It was AMAZING. Her prose was perfect. I was in awe of her elegantly fantastic descriptions.

And then I took mine out. First, I found at least 3 spelling/grammar issues in, like the first page or something crazy. (In hers, I found NONE in the whole thing.) And in the whole scene, I don't think I "described" one dad bloomin' thing.

It was like comparing her Picasso to my stick figure I use when playing hangman with my kids.

How could it be that *I* published a book when this fantastic lady hadn't yet? And what in the world had my editor been thinking to give me a contract??? My writing was AWFUL!

Fast forward again to a week or so ago. I'm in the middle of editing a novella I wrote as a sequel to my first book. I've never written a novella, though, so am trying to figure out timing and all the things that are "different" from writing full-length fiction. I was reading my first chapter for the 1,000th time and thought... wow. This is pretty much on the level of horse manure right here.

But here is what I'm realizing...

#1. I am not Amy. I mean, outside the obvious hair difference and weight difference and the whole Amy's-prego and I only LOOK like I am since I'm still carrying WAY too much baby weight...... I AM NOT AMY. I don't write like her. Our voice is totally different. She's a suprano and I'm an alto. She has these fantastic descriptions and my voice focuses a bit more on sarcasm and humor and action. Does she write better? She'd say no, I'd say probably, but I'd also say more than that, we write DIFFERENT.

And different is GOOD.

#2. All unedited writing stinks. Some of us *ahem--amy--ahem* do a fantastic job of editing as we go, thus our first drafts look more polished. I'm not one of those. My first draft is wordy vomit on the page that sketches out a plot. Edits are what make it shine. Smooths--even chops off-- edges and paints pretty colors and makes it presentable. Just because I edit at the end and not as I go, doesn't make me a bad writer. It makes me pretty normal actually.

#3. Being vain is overrated. You know, if we all sat down and read our books and thought, "Man, wow, we ROCK as writers---We got it going ON...." we'd all sound like a bunch of self-absorbed writer pricks. No--humility isn't a bad thing... only when we get stuck on the negative and don't let it spur us onto greatness.

Discussion: Do you ever struggle with self-doubt about your writing? How do you rise above it instead of letting it control or defeat you?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance . She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Justification for Entering Writing Contests

I absolutely loved watching the Olympics. An added benefit to my viewing the competitions this year was watching two incredible stories ripe to match today's topic.

USA men's skater, Jason Brown, went to the ice as a 19-year-old representative of our country. He knew he couldn't do the quadruple jumps to earn a medal. He also knew the competition would help him learn many new skills. When Jason received his scores and learned he placed ninth, his face shined. He smiled and hugged his coach. He didn't medal, but his delight in the experience radiated and the crowd cheered him on.

Russia's men's skater, Evgeni Plushenko, skated Monday in the team competition helping the Russians to earn a gold medal. During the days that followed, Evgeni skated the short program and did well. He then warmed up for his long program on Thursday and fell during practice, injuring his back. He was given medication to help him endure the pain for the performance that night. His country depended on him to win another gold. 

During the time between his fall and the evening's performance, Evgeni considered what to do. For whom and why would he risk his health by skating the long program? Later in an interview with ABC he said, "I think God is saying, 'Evgeni enough, enough with skating.'" The crowd cheered as he stepped out on the ice. He waved. He scanned the adoring audience then turned and approached the judges table to withdraw his name from the competition, stating he was retiring. It was a very difficult decision to make.

I have a feeling Evgeni will be coaching many children on the finer points of skating in the years to come. His career is long from over.

As successful writers or aspiring to become successful writers, we have our own style of Olympics. We enter writing contests. First, we enter small competitions then move to larger contests. Why? Why should we spend the money and work really hard to enter a writing contest?

Benefits for Entering Writing Contests:

1. One of the most beneficial and hardest components of entering a writing contest is to accept/receive the criticism. Confession: I entered a contest last December and have received the scores and comments/criticisms. Two of the three scores were exceptionally high. The third was rock bottom. I had to dig a hole in the ground to see the number. Despite the two great scores, I couldn't bare to open any of the comments because the third score broke my heart.

I gave myself a day to have a pity party then assigned a day in the future when I would open all three score sheets and learn. I wish I could have smiled and been excited at the two high scores like Jason Brown. Hugged my coach (God) and been thankful for all He's done to bring me to this point as Jason did with his coach. This is my new goal in my endeavor to become a successful writer.

2. Time management. There are many things in life that steal our attention away from what we should be doing. A theme in my house is do the hafta dos before the wanta dos. Plushenko used the time between his fall in practice and when he stepped out on the ice to consider the best choice for his life. 

The strict requirements given for each contest are great practice for agent/editor submissions. If you receive a contract, you will be expected to adhere to specific deadlines and specifications. Time management skills learned in the process of entering a contest prepare writers for publication. 

3. It forces us to examine/edit our work. Both Jason Brown and Evengi Plushenko arrived early and stepped out on the ice before their performances. They tested the ice. Practiced their most difficult jumps. Skated the arena and noted where the judges tables were. They watched other skaters, listened to their coaches, and took deep breaths.

The only work ever written perfectly the first time was the Bible. Like the skaters, we need to step into our arena, examine our words, listen to critique partners, read other writer's works, note what the judges/editors/agents are looking for, rework sentences to improve quality and move our manuscript to a higher level of acceptance. Use the time before pressing the send button to make your manuscript medal worthy. Perfecting our work for a contest prepares writers for publication.

Reasons Not to Enter a Writing Contest:

1.  The prize money. Generally speaking the prize isn't more than a token over what you paid to enter. We may not receive a gold medal, but successful writers use the affirmation of a contest win to press forward to the high calling by God to become a published writer.

2. Capture the glory. We may wave to the crowd cheering to us in appreciation (usually on FB and locally) but that glory will not last forever. Some gold medal olympic winners have faded from the eyes of the viewers. Successful writers note the success of a contest win on a resume, a query letter, or proposal as validation of their skills in order to earn a contract. The goal is not the contest. The contest is simply a tool to prepare writers for publication.

3. Because other writers are entering. This turns the contest into a fad and takes away every benefit. A successful writer doesn't need to please others, they need to please God. Imagine what might have happened if Plushenko had taken to the ice for the long program as his coach and others wanted him to. Most likely he would have fallen or injured his back during a jump. He may have been carried off on a stretcher. He chose, instead to withdraw because it was the right thing for him to do. The last skating memory the audience will have of him is his excellent short program and the gold medal performance for the team. As it should be. The goal is not to gain the attention of others in the field, but to prepare ourselves for publication.

Many writers have won writing contests and have never been published. Winning the contest does not guarantee a published book. It does not guarantee an editor will read your full. 

Competing in a writing contest does guarantee to be a process in which your skills and your manuscript can be honed to a quality worthy of what it's original intent--for publication.

Are you planning on entering a writing contest this year? 

Here are a few writing contest websites that are open for entries at this time:
My Book Therapy The Frasier Contest
American Christian Fiction Writers: The Genesis
American Christian Fiction Writers: The Carol
Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Contest: BRMC Writer's Contest

Why are you/would you/have you entered a writing contest? Your answer may help a reader with their decision, so please comment.


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, 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