Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Writer's Alley Weekend Round Up

Photo by Greyerbaby @
Are you ready for some football???? So you are either in two camps today, the day before the Super Bowl. You are either shopping for your Super Bowl Party food or you are browsing your stack of unread books and un-watched DVD's. I tend to be the latter, but I'm married to someone who is either having a party or dragging me to one. I usually visit with the ladies, then stop to watch some commercials. I do know I will be glad when it is over. ;)

We have a great line up for you this week, so be sure to stop by for some fabulous Alley wisdom.

The Alley Weekly Line Up

Monday - We have Alley Pay, Andrew Swearingen, sharing a post entitled, "Four Things Football Taught Me About Pitching A Novel". I'd say that is quite appropriate after the big Super Bowl game, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday - Laurie is hosting author Carla Laureano today.

Wednesday - Mary is bringing her Character Personality Class #3 today: Composed and Sensitive. You don't want to miss this class. Mary is a superb teacher!

Thursday - With the whole 50 Shades of Grey movie coming out, Krista is taking on boundaries...or lack your writing. How far is too far when it comes writing in CBA or ABA? Knowing Krista, she will have you glued to the screen with her scintillating post.

Friday - Paula Moldenhaur is our guest today. She is an author and speaker and you will be encouraged by what she has to share.

Alley Cat News

Laurie Tomlinson will be a guest at Seekerville on Tuesday, February 3. Stop by and give her a shout out.

The Awesome Link Round Up

7 Tools to Help You Write a Novel (- Free eBook) (The Write Practice)

Corrections Are Good: How to Take Critique Like a Dancer (Writer unBoxed)

How to Write Faster: The Brainwave Blueprint (Write to Done)

Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs-2015 (The Passive Voice)

The Perils of Purple Prove (Live Write Thrive)

Top 50 Writing Blogs for 2015 (Positive Writer)

Friday, January 30, 2015

This Time Around: Breathing New Life into Old Bones

It has been said, often and by many sources, that an author's first book (or books) will likely never see print. This is a polite way of saying you had no idea what you were doing and that story, while probably quite special to you, really isn’t special at all. In fact, it could be a study in rookie mistakes. Probably is, and you’d see that if you had the guts to go back and stomach all the passive language, all the cliché smiles and overloaded adjectives, and all the holes in your rather predicable plot.

Crafting a story is hard work. Brainstorming, plotting, drafting, editing. More editing. Reading. Editing some more. Getting critiqued. Editing ’til your eyes cross. Like most things, we learn best by doing. Classes are great! Critiquing someone else’s work is surprisingly insightful. Reading craft books or other works of fiction are wonderful tools for learning as well. But I truly believe that good old fashioned blood, sweat, and tears on the page will work your writing muscles in a way nothing else can.

In my own writing career (ambitious wording there, but I’m always optimistic) I have seen whatever natural talent I possessed when I first so enthusiastically started vomiting garbage on paper grow and hone and sharpen with each story I have written. Simply put, every story I write is better than the last. Why? Because I am learning from my mistakes. I am finding my voice and embracing my style. Oh, I haven’t arrived. And I doubt I will ever learn all there is to know. But I have found my groove.

I’m not Stella and I didn’t exactly get my groove back, but I did take my groove back to the beginning. Back to those first bumbling, adolescent attempts at story. And let me just tell you, collecting dust can be one of the best things you can do to revive those decaying words. Time and experience can grant a perspective not even the most relentless editing can expose.

So here’s what I’ve learned this time around…

Unearth those lost stories and give them a read, start to finish no matter how much it pains you.

Take notes on the things that make you cringe so you can focus your attack instead of just adding words—which you will be tempted to do more than is wise. After all, you don’t want to bloat your manuscript, you want to give it a good balance of eloquence and movement.

Get to work. Be relentless and meticulous. Your words make your story. What you say and how you say is crucial. Don’t be satisfied with a sentence just because it’s already written. Take it to trial and try to make it better. Be choosy. Trim the fat but enhance the flavor. The time spent will pay off.

And then finally, read like a reader. Just read. Put your editing eyes away and enjoy the story. It still may never be published, but stories aren’t meant to be exiled. Share them. Post them up. Give them away. Most importantly, don’t give up on them.

Talk to me Alley Pals Have you ever read back and caught a rookie mistake? I was (still am) an overwriter but back when I was a newbie my adjective use was atrocious! What was your biggie? Be brave and share. Good reminders for all of us in the thick of editing. Happy Friday!
Amy Leigh Simpson is the completely exhausted stay-at-home mama to the two wild-child, tow-headed toddler boys, one pretty little princess baby, and the incredibly blessed wife of her hunky hubby.
She writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious. And a little saucy! Okay fine, a lot saucy. :) She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and now uses her Sports Medicine degree to patch up daily boo-boos. Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope, raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ, invent an all-dessert diet that works, and make up for years of sleep deprivation. 

She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Being Nice: An Etiquette Guide for Published and Agented Writers

Have you heard about the girl who's caused a huge stir about her decision to stop wearing leggings in public with concern it may make men lust after her?

This post has nothing to do with that. :)

But it is about a similar question: what is the line between being considerate of others' struggles and unnecessarily catering to/coddling them?

Now, please know this post is meant as a fun, lighthearted look at a serious situation. I don't mean to point fingers or offend. I have been on both sides of the map as a writer with a fabulous agent and two published short stories, who is still desperately craving to see her novels in print. Therefore, with one foot in each "camp," so to speak, I feel qualified to look the issue from, well, both sides.

I've noticed that within the past few years, social media has taken a turn towards (sometimes heavy) self-promotion. I get it. Every published author needs to sell books, and aren't we all a little scared of not selling enough? But at the risk of giving advice completely counter to what your publishing house may have told you, sometimes self-promotion makes you sound like that friend who only calls to invite you to Mary Kay parties. There's a difference between building genuine relationships with readers and author friends via social media and using people for sales.

So I thought today I'd write a post that's a little different... some things to consider if you're a published writer as you engage in social media with so many hopeful-heart storytellers still waiting.

Do you remember when you were a little girl and you wore your mother's shoes around the house, wishing they would fit your tiny feet? I can remember this specific towel rack in my parents' old bathroom that I used to look at and think, "When I'm as tall as that, I'll be so grown." Blame Cinderella, but I used to dream about being old enough to go dancing-- really dancing, like learning to waltz and swing. Can you remember things you so badly wanted to do as a little kid?

Now that I'm an adult, it's easy to forget how deeply my childhood heart yearned for these things. In the same way, I think anyone who has been on the writing journey long enough may begin to forget the excitement and longing of those initial stages of writing... as well as the deep discouragement it can bring.

Photo by  khunaspix at
I've heard so many published authors say, "Just wait and see! Things get so much harder after publication!" Please, do not say this to writers who are still waiting. It's like looking at that little girl in those big 'ol shoes and saying, "Just you want until you're grown-- then you'll see it's bills and sleep deprivation and never enough coffee, and really not all it's cracked up to be." But what about all the good things? What about all the travels and the grown-up beauty and the dreams?

I think published and unpublished writers have so much to offer one another, but I've noticed that sometimes unpublished writers get a little gun-shy approaching "success stories." You may not realize it, but if you're published, you're kind of a rock star. Like, really. You are in a HUGE minority. You have written words that are actually printed and in front of other human beings--whether that's a book, a novella, or a magazine. Many... even most... writers never make it to the point of having actual readers! If you do have readers, what an influence you have, what a ministry! Please don't take that for granted.

I write all this not as a critique of published writers, but as encouragement to reframe your perspective. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your deadline, or discouraged by a bad review, take time to remember the big picture. You have the dream in your hands. It may not look the way you thought it would, and it may not be easy. At all. But again, you have readers, and that is nothing short of a crazy, miraculous thing. These stories started in your imagination, and God is using them to touch someone out there in the world--someone you may never meet. Someone who may even be reading your story as you read this post. How cool is that!

I also want to encourage you to be sensitive to your unpublished writer friends and remember what it was like when you were on the waiting side of your contract. Don't forget the doubt, and the tears, and the desperate prayers to God as you wondered if this thing was ever going to happen or if it's a huge failure of a dream. Don't forget that while people celebrate with you because you had lunch with your dream editor or you made it big in a writing contest, with too much detail, these successes will inevitably remind others of what they have not yet achieved... and sometimes that stings. Don't cater to every overly-sensitive individual who needs to get a thicker writer's skin, but do remember that doubt hits every one of us, as well as feelings of insecurity. Do everything you can to encourage the writers around you in their callings and dreams, because you are a success story.

And let's face it. The world needs to hear more of those.


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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's Your Kryptowrite? 
We all want to be SUPER writers.

Or we want to read SUPER books, right?

But no book is perfect, though there are a few I’d place pretty close to out-of-this-world.
We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people - so we all struggle with some sort of weaknesses....even writers :-)

A recurrent area in which we much strive to improve.

So what's your weakness or Kryptowrite, so to speak - and how have you fought against it to make your writing stronger?

There are more than this, of course, but I’ve picked the most common 10.

1.       Telling? – Telling is necessary sometimes, but if most of your writing is ‘told’ then it’s harder for the reader to get that close connection with your characters. An example:

T: The darkness in the room made her afraid.

S: Fingertips of fear tripped down her spine sending a shudder over her skin.

2.       Grammar? – I’m bad with this one. L However with spellcheck and the right crit partners, it can really help tighten your writing. Your vs you’re? women’s vs. womens’? it’s vs its’ J The list is endless.

3.       The POV shuffle? – Head swapping is painful J But in fiction it can lead to confusion or a disconnect from the story. Most novels keep to one POV and have clear cuts (usually breaks in the paragraphs/or asterisks) if there is a POV change. Of course there are some literary words that challenge this, but those are the exception, not the rule.

4.       Character Dimensions? This does not mean Tattoine vs Middle Earth. How well do you know your characters? How 3-dimensional are they on the page? Sometimes I’ll have a really clear understanding of my heroine but have a foggier perspective for my hero (or visa versa). The best way to woo with words is to write from a clear knowledge of who your characters are – which will then transfer over into believability.

5.       Dumping (info dumps, backstory dumps) this one used to be one of my worst kryptowrites. I thought everyone needed to know all the backstory in the first chapter. NOT! Now I’ve learned how to weave it throughout the story in a more organic way (mostly…I still have dumping-tendencies) J

6.       Inconceivable? How believable is your story? Do you have a tendency to write stories that step over the line of believable? This does not mean real-life. This means, ‘could it happen’. Readers don’t have to believe in elves and dwarves to enjoy reading Lord of the Rings, but they do have to believe in the journey. Are your characters acting in ways that are conceivable? Is your storyworld realistic (for whatever genre)?

7.       Flabby Middle  - Ugh. The dreaded saggy middle! (this hits way too close to my beltline J) Keeping a ‘tight’ story helps battle the flabby middle, when the storyline has the tendency to sag. This is where secondary storylines come in handy, as well as secondary characters.

8.       Overwriting – DEFINITELY my kryptowrite!!!! I’m trying to keep my blog posts under 800 words for this reason. It’s not only in my writing – it’s a personality trait. TOO MUCH! Instead of just simply stating something, I’ll give it legs, arms, eyes, hair, and a vacation home! J

So, for example (taking from the above example)

Icy fingertips tripped a chill down her spine sending a nervous shudder across her skin until her breaths lodged to a solid lump in her throat.

Yes, sometimes less IS more! I write WAY too many sentences like this! Argh. nervous and shudder are redundant. So are ‘solid lump’. And as an aside, making the sentences shorter in an intense scene increases the intensity, usually.

Another example would be overwriting emotions. TOO much! (unless it fits the character)

9.       Black and White Writing? Yeah, writing is usually in black and white when it’s on a screen, but you don’t want your message to stay bland. How do you use your words? Do you color them up? Are your descriptives fresh? Do you stick with cliché’s and similar vocabulary, or do you freshen up the characters and pages with new ones. Variety is certainly a spice of life J

10.   Conflict – building?  If there is no conflict, there probably isn’t much of a story. The greater, more invested, the conflict, usually the better the pace of the story. Some people are naturally good at doing this. They seem to innately understand the concept of storytelling so the conflict is set, a gradual build happens, and then the ‘explosion’. Peppering your story with meaningful conflict is a great way to keep the reader, not only participating, but falling in love with your story.

So…. What is your kryptowrite? How do you fight against the weaknesses? Share your battle strategies so those of us who suffer from such weaknesses can glean from your SUPER knowledge J

Monday, January 26, 2015

Contest Entries: Cleaning Those Babies Up

Hi there! The weekend was filled with swim meets, fundraisers, writing and family, so I thought I would dig up an archived post to resonate with all the contest talk going on right now! 
Happy Monday!
It's about that time. For a few GREAT contest opportunities out there...Namely, ACFW's Genesis Contest and the MBT Frasier.

Many of you might be tidying up those babies for contests as you read this. I know I am! And many of you might be reluctantly looking at last year's feedback, planning to tweak your entry based on “some” of that feedback.

Are you just “tweaking”?

lots of messiness in my house!
Do you go in with the mindset of taking the grammatical suggestions, the edits here and there...Maybe a misplaced comma or changing a word that's been used in the sentence above? Kinda like dabbing at a baby's food-caked face, but not really scrubbing away the mess?
Are you willing to make that BIG change...possibly rearranging entire scenes, OR, Heaven forbid, DELETING a scene altogether? Getting that big super-duty washcloth and start scrubbing? Maybe, your last feedback is a sign that the scene you love and hoped would attract the judges' favor, is not the scene for that moment in the not what hooks the reader after all. by pod pad
Now don't get me wrong, I have certainly had some bogus feedback over the years. Don't go slashing away at your entry according to everything a judge says. You may have scrubbed that baby's face clean, and that scrutinizing mother-in-law type will still criticize (and to be clear, I have two of the best mother-in-laws, so this is pure third-party metaphor ;) ) No need to listen to that type of feedback...unless, of course, it rings true to you (insert cring and gnashing of teeth here).


Do consider BIG changes, and DO brainstorm different starts of your chapter. This last entry I “tweaked” had me delete the first TWO scenes of my manuscript and start with a different character's POV. UGH!!!!! It was hard to do, but deep down, after receiving critiques and contest feedback over the past year, it had to be done. AND, I love it now! And I thought I LOVED it then, but just because it came out that way the first time I wrote it doesn't mean it has to stay that way.
It is art, after all. by jomphong
We can start to mold the story and keep it in the perfectly simple shape that our hands first squeezed it into...OR, after smoothing it down, sloughing away the excess, we can create something more... evolve our creation to an even more beautiful work of art.

In other words...
Let's not coddle our baby so much that it never gets the chance to succeed to its fullest potential!

Let that baby GROW!!

Comment below and tell us the latest BIG changes you made to an entry or your manuscript. Have you reaped a contest win by using feedback from a previous year? Please share!

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets, selling Jamberry Nail Wraps, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at and her personal blog at 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Writer's Alley Weekend Round Up

Photo by Andi_Graf at
Ahhh...the nice brisk feeling of winter. Can you believe January is coming to a close? The good thing about that is February is right around the corner, and you know what that means?!?!

It's time for some ROMANCE! February, the month of love. The month of heart palpitations. The month of kisses. The month of dreaming of your future beau. The hopeful anticipation....sigh. It is going to be a great month here at The Writer's Alley.


Make sure to stop by this week for some incredible posts from our Alley Cats. They are working to bring you great advice and lessons that will help you along your writing path.


The Awesome Link Round Up
Get Rid of On-the-Nose Dialogue Once And For All (Helping Writers Become Authors)

The 100 Best Website for Writers in 2015 (The Write Life)

How to Give Constructive Writing Criticism (That Actually Helps)  - (Positive Writer)

How Susan Orlean Writes With Evernote (Evernote)

15 Reasons Not to Become a Writer (Helping Writers Become Authors)

10 Steps to Express Yourself Better in Writing (The Write Practice)

10 Key Factors That Will Determine the Future of Google+ (Copyblogger

Repetition, Redundancy, and Overused Punctuation - Oh My! (Live Write Thrive)

Friday, January 23, 2015

New Year. New Goals.

It’s a brand spankin’ new 2015. Promises are new and crisp. Dreams are being fleshed out and goals ironed crisp for the new year. It’s so refreshing to look into a new year and only see a blank slate in front of you. The past year is behind you. The future is ahead of you. And it’s a beautiful thing.
So how do you go into 2015 with intention? Intention that is all about hitting those 2015 plans? Here are 4 tips for you.

1: Put some kind of calendar together. If you aren’t a Type A person and the thoughts of putting things in print for your plans for the new year, makes you want to twitch and go clean your toilet, can I help you possibly reconsider this bias? Getting general goals in print and tacking them on a sticky note, to your computer monitor, always keeps something in front of you to aim for. A date and a goal. That’s all I ask. And for my friends who love their schedules and calendars: new day planner is all I 
know you need to hear. ;-)

2:  Allow yourself room for accident forgiveness. And allow yourself room to improve within the goals you have laid out. Try to beat that goal of editing 50,000 words by June 1st, but allow room for life to happen.  When we set goals in the new year, we often get caught up in the fresh newness of it all. Working, working, working every day to make and exceed that goal. But that often leads to burnout and a quick fizzle after a strong start. Work slowly, building up to a strong, maintainable habit.

3: It’s all about that habit, ‘bout that habit, no slacking. Going into a new year we get really, really excited and then eventually fall off the bandwagon about the second month in. A way to make the habit process last, is to work on your goal a little bit each day. Don’t put massive responsibilities on once a week or every couple of days—you’ll become overwhelmed and pretty soon will sucking up dust bunnies to avoid working towards those end goals. If you plan out your day, or your week, in smaller slices, you are better able to achieve success and will see a great return at the end of your working time.

4: Be thrilled with what you did do, not upset about what you didn’t do. By focusing on the entire year ahead of you with this goal, burnout and discouragement is such an easy option—a great out. But don’t let yourself get sucked into that downward spiral. So even if you don’t meet your daily or weekly goal, work to meet it next week and the week after that. It’s a matter of perseverance. This will be a long year ahead of you if you start hot and heavy and fail to keep it up. Start reasonable. Build up. Work slow and steady. It will all come together. I promise.

New goals and new years are like fresh presents—unwrapped and waiting to be used. They are awesome things. Great motivations. It’s all up to you to make them happen and I know you can!

What is one of your goals for the new year? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oh The People We Will Meet

My daughter and I... definitely crazy people!
Show of hands:

Who goes to Starbucks/Panera/**insert local coffee/sandwich shop here** to write?

Since I have four kiddos at home, and the youngest has a hatred of me being on my laptop when she is awake, I've taken to leaving home to write more often than not.

Panera is my space of choice, but I also frequent Starbucks because it's closer and the library because I'm not so tempted to splurge and eat things I shouldn't.

The fun thing about writing in public is that you meet all sorts of interesting people.

And when I say meet, I mostly mean eavesdrop on their conversation while you are busy typing. Because all writer's know that those two can be done simultaneously.

In the last few months, I've met--

- A fascinating elderly lady (that I actually did talk to) who, in her youth, used to travel the world as a photographer, particularly all over Europe. I'd LOVE to meet up with her again and chat about all her adventures!

- A lady who talked to the dead as well as her unborn children. (Evidently her 4 children she had been told she would have liked to visit her in her sleep....)

- A man who was typing, sleeping, and snoring at the same time. Now THAT was some multi-tasking, folks!

- One very interesting pre-marital counseling session.

- A LOT of Bible studies, which I think is pretty amazing, especially one group of 4 young college-aged guys in particular who were, if this married woman might say so boldy, HOT. And listening them talk about the Word of God and encourage each other to be courageous men of God was just, yeah. I had to refrain from asking to take their picture so I could use them as future hero material!

I've tucked all of these fun snippets into the back of my brain for future use in books, even if not for a main plot, but to add depth and spark ideas. Except maybe the talking to the unborn thing. I just--yeah. Not sure I can use that one.

So, while I'm not, like, telling you to invade people's privacy... not REALLY anyway... keeping your ears open can absolutely be a GREAT way to add some flavor to your novels. Because, as they say, truth can be stranger than fiction, right?

Discussion: Oddest person you've ever met while out writing! 

And just for kicks, am I the only one that ever wonders of people post on Facebook about ME while I'm out there writing?

I can see it now...

"I'm totally at Starbucks, and there is this crazy chick over there typing away and all the sudden, she bursts out laughing then stops. Two seconds later, I swear I see her wipe a tear from her eye. Then a few minutes after that. she's stomping her foot like she's mad at the world. I'm a little scared of her...."

Hmmm... maybe I'm fodder for someone ELSE'S book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Character Personality Class.2 The Life of the Party

In today's Character Personality Class we will discuss the character who is the life of the party. We'll see how characters from movies and TV shows demonstrate this characteristic and use this information to deepen our own characters.

Remember, each class is independent. However, adding the last class to your notes to complete the class will be beneficial to you. Here is the link for the first class: The Outgoing.Observant.Outspoken. Joker/Scarlett O'Hara character

Photo Courtesy
Anna from Frozen
By having a basic understanding of each characteristic, you will be able to write deeper characters and avoid cliche descriptors. For example, last night I watched a recent Forever episode. Abraham, the older man, goes to the funeral of his best friend from grade school. He dresses up in a nice suit and drives to the cemetery. He searches for the widow, whom he also knew, and when he sees her he says, "There she is. Fiona. What a tomato." Fiona has red hair and was the first girl he ever kissed--and planned to marry from childhood. The show ends with her stopping by his store to say hello. Not your typical funeral scene. But very much in Abe's character.

See how this funeral scene played out different from a serious, weepy typical one--as in Sleepless in Seattle.

The Life of the Party character has these characteristics:

Photo Courtesy
Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
 Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Fun-loving. He loves to be in the middle of the action. 

He is playful, open, and has a sense of humor. 

He is friendly, likable, but hard to get close to.

Reluctant to be serious or talk about anything negative.

There isn't enough time in the day to do all he wants to do.

He has a zest for life and makes decisions based on a gut feeling.

Photo Courtesy
Mary Clancy in Trouble With Angels
Fred&George Weasley in Harry Potter

She lives in the moment, enjoying what life has to offer. Mary Clancy had scathing brilliant ideas, and the Weasley brothers were practical jokesters.

She is spontaneous and energetic. She prefers hands on activities and is focused on the external.

They like to draw out other people to enjoy themselves.

They do not plan ahead, and often become overextended when there are too many exciting things to do.

Photo Courtesy
Porthos the Pirate in The Three Musketeers
Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H
He hates doing nothing and would rather find the action or stir up action.

He is tuned into facts and details of his environment and especially when it involves people.

He is observant of others needs and responsive in offering assistance (although it may be done in a light manner.

Likes to help others in practical tangible ways (Porthos saves the king, Hawkeye saves the injured).

He enjoyed participating in the community and being with friends and family.

Photo Courtesy
Lydia in Pride and Prejudice
Rizzo in the movie Grease

She takes the lad to get everyone involved in a diversion to bring a spark to the moment. 

She is up on the latest trends and she likes to be the first to tell everyone around her about new things. Lydia always wanted the latest and best ribbons for her hair, and the status of marrying a military man. Rizzo was cool, she led the pink ladies in ruling the school.

Photo Courtesy
Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet
Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac
He is witty, warm, and talkative

He can charm and engage those around him.

He is a vivacious entertainer.

He enjoys sensory things around him like food, nature, animals, and especially people.

Has a packed social calendar, us positive and upbeat. He avoids conflict, preferring to turn the situation into something light hearted.

**Important to note- the life of the party appears to only be interested in having fun, yet each one I've mentioned above did something unexpected. Here are a few, can you see a pattern? Porthos the Pirate was the only one to shed a tear when d'Aartagnan's received his musketeer cape. Mary Clancy was the only one, besides the smart girl, to choose to stay at the convent and train to become a nun. Rizzo chose to keep her unplanned pregnancy to herself rather than "be cruel to the father". Anna from Frozen saves her sister with a single movement of her arm. Although they don't seem to show it on the outside, they have a deep conscious that cares on the inside. At the right moment, this component will show in an unexpected way. 

Let's see if we understand who The Life of the Party character personality is:

1. From the Importance of Being Ernest which character is best described as the one discussed today-- The Life of the Party:

 Jack Worthing (aka Ernest) or Algernon Moncrieff (aka Ernest)?

Think about you WIP or a previous work. Do you have a Life of the Party character? If so, re-examine your character's scene for a moment in your mind. Is there one or more responses to situations you could deepen knowing the above information?

Here are examples to help: 

2. Say a group of people stood by a bus stop and the bus was now late by fifteen minutes. This character is in the group and is very excited to get to a party. The bus is no where in sight. This character would:

a. Hail a taxi to get to the party.
b. Pace with the other unhappy bystanders.
c. Do something silly to make everyone laugh.
d. Go inside the coffee shop behind him and purchase something to drink.

3. Our character has met a girl he truly likes. He brings her a dozen roses and hides them behind his back. She opens the door. He:

a. Hands her the bouquet and says tender words to make her heart swoon.
b. He hands her one flower at a time, watching to see if she grins with each additional stem.
c. He become caught up in her beauty, stumbles with what to say and for a moment forgets to give her the flowers.
d. He waits to be invited inside/or for her to come outside and hopes she asks "What are you hiding?"

4. Which one of these characters would not be the life of the party character personality?

a. Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
b. Donkey from Shrek (Shrek's sidekick)
c. Sanka from Cool Runnings (the Jamaican Bob Sled team in the Calgary Olympics)
d. Hans Solo (Star Wars)

answers: 1. Algernon Moncrief/ 2. c/ 3. b/ 4. a

What would happen if The Life of the Party personality discovered a secret code? Tell two things the character might do. Can you see how this personality would treat the discovery of the code completely different from Joker/Scarlett personality we discussed last time? You can review the first personality here:  Joker/Scarlett O'Hara character

Would this character be in any of your WIP? If so, take a moment and consider their scenes.  Did he or she respond/think true to their personality? Can you deepen the scene by modifying or including something, even in the smallest measure, only this personality might do? This is the writing that will make your story stand out.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section! I hope to see you at our next class in two weeks.

Information for this series has been gathered from sources focusing on Carl Jung's personality assessment works and include: 
Myers. "The 16 MBTI® Types." The Myers and Briggs Foundation. The Myers and Briggs Foundation, 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.;
Smith, Daniel. How to Think like Sherlock: Improve Your Powers of Observation, Memory and Deduction. New York: MJF, 2012. Print.
Myers, David G. Psychology. 10th ed. New York: Worth, 2013. Print.


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

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 young adult mystery/adventure 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, January 20, 2015

Bravery, That Judge, & Other Thoughts on the Genesis Contest

Are you on the fence about entering the first 15 pages of your finished manuscript in the Genesis contest? Let me give you a little perspective that may help you make your decision.

I'm going to preface this post by admitting up front that my experience with the contest is beautiful and life-changing, but very unique. Yet I think that no matter what outcome you achieve, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  • You get invaluable feedback on your finished manuscript. This is the chance for you to see what experienced writers have to say about your work. And the semifinal-round judges are published authors in your field who know what it takes to get the attention of an editor. Confession: before I entered for the first time in 2013, the only people who had seen it were my mom, husband, and a select group of friends. Having unbiased input from someone who isn't your adoring critique partner can show you ways to add dimension to your work and accentuate your writing strengths. 
  • Granted, there always seems to be That Judge who doesn't really get what you're going for and gives you a score that's way different than the others. Still, that perspective is helpful to see -- and it helps you practice taking criticism for your passion-poured work, which you'll get even when you're published. You have to develop thick skin and discern what's truth about your work and what simply doesn't resonate with one person's experience. So take it gracefully, even if it seems out of left field, and get a second opinion if you need to. :)
  • It helps you bond with others in the same stage of the publication process. Your fellow Genesis entrants know the roller coaster toil to The End that you battled and won; they've been elbow-deep in the same trenches you've wrestled through. When the first list of semifinalists came out, I friended some of them on Facebook, and that led to some of my most treasured friendships and writing partnerships to this day. 
  • If you final in the Genesis, you instantly get your work in front of agents and editors. The final round judges are all editors and agents. Even though I already had an agent last year, I had two inquire about my representation to the Contest Coordinator. Plus, if you attend conference, people see your semifinalist or finalist ribbons and take notice. The agents and editors with which you have appointments may sit up in their chairs a little because they know that you entered the Genesis contest and are serious about your work. It's hands-down a fantastic and attention-grabbing attribute in a query, one-sheet, or writing resume. 
  • Because even if you don't place in the top 10, the bravery it takes to enter will launch infinite more acts of bravery in your writing. I maintain that pressing send on my Genesis contest entry was the bravest thing I've done to date in my writing journey. It's the moment I can exactly pinpoint my mental shift from thinking of myself as a wannabe writer to believing in myself as a pre-published author. That alone is better than any plaque or scoresheet anyone can ever give you. 
What doubts are holding you back? Still think your writing isn't ready? Reluctant to invest the contest fee? (The Genesis is fair and comparable to other contest fees, even contests of a far lesser caliber.) 

For those of you still on the fence, can I show you how much I believe in you? I'm going to give away a free contest critique (one-page synopsis + first 15 pages of your manuscript) in the Rafflecopter below. Good luck to everyone, and know that I'm ridiculously proud of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who enjoys stories of grace in the beautiful mess. 

She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and received the Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance). 

Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:

Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson

Sunday, January 18, 2015

At the Feet of the Storyteller

As many of you know, I’m an Appalachian girl. I grew up in the Southern Blue Ridge Region of Appalachia, which includes southwest VA and northwest NC (as well as some parts of TN and GA).
Now if you know anything about Appalachian culture, we are a mesh of mostly Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, French … with some German and Native American sprinkled in too. The larger influence is from Scottish and Irish – and with that influence came the wonderful gift of oral storytelling.

My grandmother was a master storyteller. She’d sit on her front porch or at her kitchen table and recount family stories back six or seven generations, and they weren’t boring ‘history’ lessons. They were the types of stories that made you draw closer to listen. Some made you wonder if she was telling the truth or spinning a tale with a little more flare than usual, but her stories ….were true! That’s what made them even more amazing!

Horse thieves, moonshiners, mountain preachers, midwives, shotgun weddings, tragedies, and hilarious mountain antics spilled from the rise and fall of her soft voice. It was mesmerizing and exciting. The call for story pumped to life as I sat by Granny’s knee and listened. The stories stirred my imagination and reminded me how God’s thread of redemption made it from different parts of the world to my heart – and the stories inspired me to do something about that amazing truth.

Now, my grandmother was a pretty amazing storyteller, but what spoke to her hearers the most, was the grace, peace, love and purpose within her stories and her life. Though many captivating moments weaved through her tales, the Truth printed on the pages of her heart brought a deeper fascination into the stories she told. Family members, neighbors, friends far and wide, came to talk with her, and usually, at some point or other, she ended up telling a story.

She never aspired to be a writer, but she’s the first person who called me one, and nurtured that gift as only a lover of stories could do. No, she never did anything the world would recognize as grandiose with her stories, except share them with her family and friends, as reminders of God’s grace throughout generations, but she kept telling them. Her whole life. Even on her deathbed she shared with me about having to brush her teeth with ‘pinebrush’ because they’d never had toothbrushes. J (Humor was a very important hallmark of a storyteller too, btw)

She was a storyteller because of her culture and upbringing, but she was an amazing person because of her imitation of the Ultimate Storyteller.  You see, she lived the Truth she explained in her stories. Her kindness and generosity bled into her everyday choices and words because she recognized the Grand Story of life was about our need for Jesus and His plan to save us. Hope, even in the midst of incredible pain, always found a place in her stories. Why? Because she knew what perfect Hope was and abided in the Giver of Perfect Peace. She'd be the first to tell you that there was nothing amazing in her, but God's grace empowered her to love, be kind, and choose forgiveness. And that's what people saw in her life and heard in her stories - God's grace.

I was convicted by this truth over Christmas as I worship and thanked God for his miracle, because as writers we are storytellers. Our tales may be great or small, but they reflect our hearts and our purposes. The beautiful thing about storytelling is that it can be refined, just as our souls are refined to become more and more like Christ.

Storytelling is the avenue Jesus chose to bring understanding and change hearts. Why? Because our hearts beat for hope, and all the best stories provide it – the very best give the answers for how to find it :-)

What do I want my stories to show to readers? As a Christian author, my ultimate desire is to bring Light into the Darkness and Hope into Despair by sharing the love of The Storyteller. Whether in overt ways or subtle brushstrokes, I hope the stories I pen will give readers a taste of something beautiful, something life-changing. From comfort, to laughter, to joy, to knowing that someone else understands – stories provide an avenue to the heart other methods can’t create.

How do we, as Christian authors, bring beauty and hope to our stories? How does the Light of hope shine into our words even when we’re not trying?

By drawing closer and closer to The Ultimate Storyteller. As we sit as his feet, learning of his love and grace, it shapes our lives … our stories into something worth telling. He birthed the gift in us, now He bids us to make it grow.  As we learn more about Jesus, rest more in His care, understand His love more deeply, His story writes itself into our lives and becomes our story.

And THAT is always a story worth telling :-)


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 is represented by Julie Gwinn and is debuting her first novel in May. You can follower her on Facebook: , Twitter: @pepperbasham, or visit her website: