Saturday, February 28, 2015

March Release Madness!!

It’s time to celebrate March Release Madness!!

Here at the Alley we love to read, write, eat, fellowship, and encourage other authors, so at the end of each month, we are going to feature a celebration of upcoming releases and news!!

Who doesn’t like a party, right?

So here are a few March releases that have popped up on The AlleyCats radars!

 Our very own Krista Phillips’ second novella is set to release in March. A Side of Hope.

Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green

A Horse for Kate by Miralee Ferrell

Jaded: A Novel – Varina Denman

Then Sings My Soul by Amy Sorrells

The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem – 3/17

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd - 3/17

By Your Side by Candace Calvert

Dauntless by Dina Sleiman

After a Fashion by Jen  Turano

Stranded by Debby Giusti

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

If you’re looking for a new story to read, March has plenty of choices for you!


Carol Awards and Genesis entries end on 3/15, so send in your published
novel or polish up your prepublished manuscript before then.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Story in the Detour

**Naptime hasn't gone well for the past few days--and I'm more than a little delirious at this point--but this old post hit me just right! Please forgive the re-post.**

Has life ever thrown you a curve ball? Ever felt like you were thrust off course?

The detours God puts in our path don’t usually take us on a road that is wide and paved and easy. Most often those detours not only intrude on our plans, very often they derail us down to the core and challenge who we really are. What we believe. Where our strength really comes from.

Often times when I am writing a story there comes a point (okay, sometimes more than once) when I feel like the characters or the plot starts to veer in a dangerous direction. Someplace uncertain. Scary. Not what I had planned at all. How will I find my way out of that mess? How will the characters navigate the challenges without completely falling apart.

Whether in real life or in fiction, this is where we test our mettle and see what we’re made of. THIS is where the story really lies. 

I’ve shared recently about an unexpected twist in our family plan. Life plan. Survival plan. Now, it’s hard to see a baby as anything but a blessing. Especially when the circumstances are so miraculous (God is quite the storyteller, is He not?) But what could be seen as a life-threatening detour, is really an incredible adventure. An amazing story of God’s work in my life. A challenge that is testing me in so many ways and proving that my story isn’t yet over. That God’s plans, however different from my own, are ALWAYS for my good, even when the road is rocky and uncertain.

I'd love your perspective: What adventures in your own life have been birthed from an unexpected detour? Or when you write, whether you're a plotter or a pantster, do you venture into those unknown fissures of uncertainty, or do you stick to the roadmap you’ve meticulously planned? And in which instance did you find the beating heart of your story?


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, February 26, 2015

Writing with Hope: Part 1

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers- that perches in the soul- and sings the tune without the words- and never stops- at all-"
 Emily Dickinson

Once, there lived a girl going about her normal life when God gave her a dream. A big one. So she sat down at a computer with a giddy heart and a mind bursting with story ideas, and she set to work. She wrote and wrote and wrote at every opportunity until she got the story out. She reread it, and polished, and edited, until with a contended sigh, she considered it done. She was so proud of her story, so sure of her calling, that she submitted it to agents and publishers and immediately started to work on another book.

She was a writer now.

She had a calling.

And she loved it.

She went to conferences, and studied craft books, and kept writing and rewriting.

Yet, the roadblocks began to come. Rejections. Life distractions. Discouragement.

Until eventually, she learned to protect herself. She still believed in her calling. Well, sort of. She believed enough to keep writing, which was something. But truth be told, with each new project she began, she wasn't so sure anymore that someone else would read it. She wasn't so sure that anyone else would really even care. These sorts of questions entered her mind:

  • Will I ever be published?
  • Will anyone else ever be encouraged and challenged by the stories God has put in my heart?
  • Will I write another book for another round of rejections?
  • Will the discouraging numbers of traditional fiction publishing take their toll on my story?
  • Did I mishear God all along? Did I ever truly have this calling, or did I make it up?
  • Does all this energy, time, and emotional investment even really matter at all?
And gradually, she stopped writing at every available moment. She stopped dreaming of what the next steps may look like and instead began dreading the inevitable disappointments. She hesitated to tell people about her manuscript and began keeping it closer and closer inside her own heart.

Her hope began to fail. Her heart began to grow hard.

Sound familiar?

Last week, I began to realize that at some point along this writing journey, I'd grown skeptical about whether the "dream" would really happen to me.  I absolutely believed God could do it. I'd seen Him open miraculous doors for other people, and I'd had so many God-moments along the writing journey. And I absolutely believed He'd called me... to something. But--probably as a means of protecting my heart--I'd begun to doubt the link between the God-sized dream and my own life.

You should know I'm not the kind of person to lose hope easily. I'm generally confident and persistent. I generally keep believing and keep pushing on until I see things through. But writing had wormed itself so deeply into my heart, I put up some emotional walls to keep from further disappointment.

So last week, I asked God to renew my vision and re-establish the "big dream" in my life. I'd been to a Bethel show, and one of their pastors had said, "If you can accomplish your dream on your own, it's probably not big enough." So I prayed for the God-sized dream, and I prayed God would re-establish my hope in that dream.

Well. Several days later, I walked into a room full of Alley Cats who had come from all over the country to throw me a surprise baby shower and to have a writing retreat. Talk about an answer to prayer, right? I sensed the presence of God so deeply and His affirmation of my calling. 

He hadn't forgotten me. He hadn't forgotten my stories. He was still at work in them, and in me. Perhaps more than ever before.

At one point over the weekend, I sat down at a table outside overlooking the beach, and I found one word written in shells.

I've come to realize this past week that hope (as well as the dwindling of it) affects everything. When we try to carry on without hope, we hobble along. But when we do hope in the Lord's dreams for us, we find supernatural strength.

We mustn't guard our hearts against our calling. While that may feel safe, it's actually quite the opposite-- that guard will eventually strangle our dreams. We mustn't stop believing God is for us, trusting He won't forget us.

As I spent some time letting this idea stir in my spirit, I realized a few things about hope and why it's so important:
  • Hope translates faith to our individual hearts. Maybe you believe God is working in other people's journeys. But do you believe He's working intimately in your own? Hope has a way of translating faith to make it personal. Faith becomes natural when we hold on to God-rooted hope.
  • Hope helps us trust. When we hold to hope, we can face the day with expectation of God's control. We naturally rest in Him and His goodness to us, instead of trying to protect ourselves from disappointing outcomes.
  • Hope casts out fear. Because when we hope we also trust, we then find no reason to fear when we rest in God's calling for us. Even if the timeline doesn't match up with our own or things don't go as expected, we still have reason to hope.
  • Hope in the Lord renews our strength. "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:31
  • Hope leads to praise. "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." - Psalm 43:5

If you've found yourself discouraged lately about your calling, or maybe even downright skeptical, I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to reaffirm your dreams. Ask Him for fresh vision and renewed hope. And then remember that hoping in the Lord is a choice. It's active. It's a decision every day to look at struggles and challenges and remind yourself God is good, and He is working at an intimate level in your life. We have a reason to praise Him, and a reason to write good stories.


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, February 25, 2015

4 Ways to Identify Your Place in Publishing

If you're an unpublished author, one question you will need to answer in proposals or in appointments is "Where do you fit in the publishing landscape?"

Publishing is changing almost on a daily basis...still you have to know the answer to this question whether you're talking to an agent, editor, or readers. So how do you begin? Here's how I start:
  1. Write. You have to write a chunk of a book or two or three before you know what your style is. What kind of characters do you write? Is there a tone to your writing? Are your stories light and funny? Heavy and serious? Single point of view or a story with multiple characters sharing the limelight? If you can't answer some of these questions, then you're going to have a hard time identifying where your books fit.
  2. Read voraciously. What kind of books are you drawn to? Who are the authors you constantly read the moment a new book is released? Review your bookshelves. Look for patterns. What made a book a keeper versus one you passed on? Etc. Do  you want to write books with similar themes, time periods, etc.
  3. Analyze your favorite novels. There are probably elements in those novels that draw you back time and again. Read a few of them intentionally. What about the pacing works? What about the characters? Which genre are they in? These are the elements that you might want to pull into your novels. If you do, these books and authors are now comparables that you can give to an agent or editor to show that you know the market and you are aware where you books fit.
  4. Weave these elements into your books and be able to articulate the similarities and differences. If there's a best-seller, how are your books similar yet distinctive? Analyze and understand the differences and similarities and you'll be far ahead of most unpublished authors.
What would you add to these ways to find your place in publishing?
Cara Putman is the award-winning author of 20 books. You can connect with her online at her websitefacebooktwitter, and more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guest Post: Lacy Williams, Editor at Redbud Press on Boutique Publishing

I had the chance to spotlight some new presses in Christian fiction at Library Journal and these new options caught my attention. It is no secret publishing is undergoing rapid-fire change, both in the CBA and ABA industries. Lacy Williams is here today to offer a spotlight on boutique publishing, one recent trend.

 1) How did the idea arise to start a new publishing company?

My two business partners and I were on our way home from a writers’ retreat and started talking about authors who had told us they wanted to publish more books but were nervous about self-publishing. (There were a lot of them). The business aspects of being an independent publisher can be daunting—not only are you in charge of writing the book, but also marketing and all the business stuff. 

We wanted to give authors like that another opportunity to reach their readers. I had experience with the business and marketing side of being an independent author and we all three bring different industry connections and talents in the editorial process. 

Ultimately, we felt God was opening doors for us, and after a lot of prayer, we just went for it!

2) What does Redbud offer that is an asset to the publishing marketplace?

Most legacy publishers put out one trade-length book per author per year. As a reader, I know if my favorite author had five books out this year, I would buy all of them! Redbud Press wants to bring more books from readers’ favorite authors into the marketplace. We have different marketing strategies from the large legacy publishers and different pricing strategies too, because of our digital-first model. 

3) Your website says Redbud is a boutique publisher. Can you explain what that means?

Think about retail stores. You have the big-box, sell-everything discount stores, and you have boutique stores that have a single focus. Women’s clothing. Baby clothes. Accessories-only. 

Redbud Press isn’t trying to sell everything to everyone. Our target reader is the mom who loves romance and wants a good book to curl up with after the kids are in bed and she has her hour of freedom. We are a boutique publisher because we have that single focus.

4) Can you explain to us about the digital first model? Do you think this option is a good one for new authors? Established authors? 

Our books will be published in ebook form and print-on-demand (paperback). 

I think authors need to educate themselves to find the right publishing path. Legacy publishers are changing. Advances and print runs are getting smaller for the midlist author (and some of those contracts can have terrible terms). How can an author survive when their income is disappearing? Maybe a better question is how can an author achieve the most exposure? If that is partnering with a legacy publisher (and the author has the talent and connections to get in to that market!), great. If the author can publish with a small press or do it themselves to increase their exposure, great.

What I’m finding is there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all publishing path for any author. 

5) How is the digital first model changing the face of publishing? 

I don’t think the digital first model is what is changing the face of publishing. Legacy publishers are facing all kinds of difficult things. Mergers. Lines closing. Editor turnover. A changing market that wants lower-priced ebooks. Competition from successful self-published authors. 

The entire market is changing and the best we can do as authors is discover the best way for us to reach readers and make a living at it.

6) Under this model, how does marketing work?

I couldn’t say for every publisher, but at Redbud Press we aren’t spending big bucks on buying ads. We’re taking more of a grassroots approach. Building our email newsletter list. Asking our readers to be involved in spreading the word about our books. And utilizing connections with online retailers to find new readers.
7) What trends are you seeing in digital publishing? 

Contemporary romance is hot right now. Amish continues to be popular. And series sells.

8) Can you share with us as readers and writers what the imprints you have are and how they are distinctive?

Our HOMETOWN ROMANCE imprint is comprised of frontlist books (never-before-published) that have a small-town feel (or community feel even if they are set in a big city). They are all inspirational romances of between 45,000 and 65,000 words. We have authors like Kathleen Y’Barbo, Rene Gutteridge & Cheryl McKay (co-authoring), Gayle Roper and Camy Tang writing for this line. 

Our TIMELESS imprint brings new life to authors’ backlist books that have gone out of print. We are in the process of signing some contracts for this line, so I can’t mention names, but I think readers will be excited to see these books again (or for the first time). In addition to straight romance, these books can be women’s fiction or romantic suspense as long as they have a strong romance thread.

9) What does a typical day look like for an editor at a small press?

Every day is different. I may be negotiating contracts, working on line edits for a manuscript, creating cover art, or balancing the checkbook. I also have small children at home so life is an adventure every day. 

10) What are some distinctive releases upcoming this Spring for Redbud? 

Out in March, Saving Justice by debut author Susan Crawford tells the story of entrepreneur Nash McGuire returning to the poverty-stricken neighborhood where he grew up. He finds his life overtaken by schoolteacher Kinley Reid and one of her at-risk students, and must decide between risking his heart or walking away.

Also out in March, Secondhand Cowboy by yours truly is the story of a former rodeo cowboy Callum Stewart who comes back to the one place he promised to avoid forever: his hometown. When Callum needs help, it’s his high school girlfriend who steps in—and claims his heart all over again.
Available at: 

Also upcoming:

The Art of Falling and Kiss the Cowboy by Julie Jarnagin (exclusive pre-order at iBooks)

And we’d like to let your readers know that we’re offering two novellas free if they sign up for our newsletter list: Kissed by a Cowboy by yours truly and Out of the Flames by Cheryl Wyatt. Readers can sign up at

Thank you for hosting me! Readers can find our entire author list and other information at our website .

Monday, February 23, 2015

Secrets, Sisters, and Stories

What happens when seven Alley Cats secretly conspire to knock the socks off of one first-time mother-to-be sister?


Greetings from Florida! We have had such a great time showering Ashley with gifts and motherly advice (snicker), brainstorming each other's stories, sharing praises and prayer requests, and just refreshing among sisters of the heart!

Happy Monday! Enjoy a glimpse at our weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Becoming an Editor Clients Trust by Paula Moldenhauer

Editing other people’s books wasn’t something I set out to do. In fact, after my first paid editing job I said, “Oh, no! I didn’t want to like this!” But I couldn’t help it. Taking someone else’s raw work and making it shine brought satisfaction.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve discovered a talent for polishing other people’s words. Maybe you’re considering hanging out an editor “shingle” to help support your writing habit. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1.       Before accepting or bidding a job, ask for a couple of chapters. It’s a good idea to get the first chapter as well as something from the middle or end. Many authors have a polished first chapter, but as the story or non-fiction book progresses it falls apart.  Browse the chapter and ask yourself questions. Does he have a basic grasp of good writing craft? Does she make a lot of grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors? Do the paragraphs flow in logical sequence? How many awkward sentences do you see? Use questions like these to ascertain a realistic estimate of how much time the project will take you. If the writing needs a lot of work consider billing by the hour instead of the project.

2.       Know yourself. What type of editing are you good at? I tell my clients that I’m great at content editing and line edits, but will not be responsible for proofreading, data checks, or detail oriented feedback.

3.       Have honest discussions with the author. What is the end goal? Some writers want to self-publish; others are honing their craft for traditional publication. Some want a general content edit while most want a line-edit as well. If you intend to also be their proofreader, make that clear. Many clients won’t know there are different stages of editing and proof-reading, so you’ll need to educate them on the process as well as how much each piece will cost them.

4.       If your client is honing craft for traditional publication, he needs to expect professional, deep editing. Talk with her about your plan to edit strong. Ask how much experience he has with critique. Use that to gage your approach. If the writer is not used to feedback, consider a more gentle approach. If she has more experience it’s likely she will better handle your feedback. For either approach use track changes and comment boxes to explain what you are doing and why. It might help to edit one chapter and then dialogue about what you’ve done. Observe your client. How are they handling your suggestions? Resist the urge to rewrite your clients work. Point out what needs to be fixed and leave it to them to fix it. Explain craft issues once or twice. After that highlight them and refer to the comment that explains what the problem is.

5.        If your client plans to self-publish, you need to know their end goals. Some who self-publish want it to read with industry standards. Others just want to tell their story for family or friends. Pay attention to the clients understanding of the industry and ask enough questions to sense their expectations. Dialogue enough to be sure their expectations are realistic.

I had one client who simply had to tell her story. As we talked I learned that she had no further dreams of being a writer. I knew from looking at her manuscript that she had not studied craft, and I had a lot of work to do to make her story flow in a logical manner that would impact her readers. I also sensed that if she saw all the corrections I made she would become overwhelmed and discouraged. We agreed that I wouldn’t edit with track changes. She gave me freedom to rewrite as long as I kept her intent. I also had permission to reorganize her book by sentence, paragraph, or chapter if necessary (I knew it would be). As I worked I made a concentrated effort not to lose her voice as I made my corrections. I contacted her only with sweeping changes. I rewrote her awkward sentences and moved some paragraphs to completely different chapters. The chapters didn’t stay in the same order, either. I put a lot of work into her book because she had a powerful story that would impact lives. In some ways I was more like a co-author whose name wasn’t on the front. I worked harder than the amount of payment we agreed upon, but that was my choice. It was one of those projects where my reward came in her joy in the finished product and the knowledge that the work I did was sure to have eternal impact.

Another editing project I did for a man who was self-publishing had a completely different feel. He was a good writer, but it was his first book. It was quickly apparent he wanted to learn craft and planned to continue writing. The teacher in me was thrilled. I used track changes and line edits and treated him as if he were seeking traditional publication. He wanted his book to be professional and follow industry standards. I took the time to explain to him what I suggested and WHY so he could grow as a writer. As we worked together he began to catch his own craft errors. He needed to see and approve every change. It was HIS baby, and I emphasized to him that I was only the editor. He had the right to reject any of my suggestions.

At first I estimated much less time that I actually needed for the project because his writing seemed clear and concise. However as I got deeper into the project it became clear it needed major restructuring. With his permission I slowed down the line edits to do big-picture thinking. We deleted several chapters and rearranged others. While he gave me a lot of leeway and trust, he also expected to be kept in the loop and had full veto power. In the end we were both thrilled by the final project, and I billed based on a set hourly wage.

6.       No matter who your client is, make a point to point out good writing. A comment noting why something works well or is particularly well down encourages your client. Even a smiley face is enough to help them handle the myriad of suggested improvements.

Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets. Her first novella, “You’re a Charmer Mr. Grinch,” included in the inspirational romance collection, Postmark Christmas, was a Carol Award finalist, and her first historical novel, Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal, continues to earn five star reviews. Once a public school teacher, Paula loves helping others learn to write. She blogs about writing, motherhood, weight loss, and life at For information on her books or speaking topics visit:

Thursday, February 19, 2015


My whole "author"  life, I've been plagued by something.

The FEAR of marketing.

I was taught all my life that JESUS needs to be the center, NOT ME.

That selfishness was BAD, selfLESSness was good.

That letting your good works be done in private means you get your crowns in heaven instead of on earth, and I don't know about y'all, but heaven's crowns sound MUCH better that the cheap imitations we have here.

But then God called me to be an author.

No longer was I to sit behind the scenes. No longer was I to just support other people's callings, but I had my OWN calling, and that involved pesky little things like my name on a cover, my picture on the back of a book, and having to put this very personal thing that is a book that I'd written out and ask/hope/plan on how to get people to purchase it.

And I get it. I've been in the business world long enough to know that marketing is important.

Does a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it actually make noise if there are no ears to hear?

And does publishing a book even matter if no one actually reads it?

Some people are called to write, and that is all. If that is your calling, FABULOUS, because God's callings are so very important. HE wants glory from that writing, regardless of how he chooses to use it.

But some people are called to publish, and that's where, at the moment, I live. God has called me to make my ministry also my career. And that, my friends, is where my problem starts.

How do I market my book according to traditional business principles and stay selfless? How do I put the focus on GOD when my name is blaring on the cover instead of his? How do I not come across as some greedy person who is using God's name to make money?

Because none of those things I want.

What I WANT is to use my gift for God's glory. What I WANT is for God to give me stories to write, and to be obedient and write them so they can be used to further his kingdom.

That is my heart.

A few weekends ago, I went to a women's conference at a local church in our area. It was an IF:LOCAL group, where we broadcasted a live feed from the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas.

To say it was impacting and life changing is a massive understatement.

I honestly had zero expectations when I went into it, just knowing that Spiritually I'd been a bit "meh" lately and even in my writing, everything was feeling forced and NOT blessed by God.

I could write for hours on all the things rolling around in my head, but one phrase that really struck me I knew immediately I needed to share with all my writing friends.

I don't even remember whose section it is to give it correct attribution (but you can download the whole conference for $35 at if you'd like, which I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend...) but this is what she said.

"Be more concerned with GOD'S MARK than man's marketing."


Here me: I'm not saying marketing isn't important or necessary. I don't think the speaker was saying this either. (She's an author herself, I believe!)

But in that moment, it hit me.

I've been trying to market my books given the world's view of marketing.

I write for Jesus. I publish for Jesus. But I've always viewed marketing as something carnal, for myself, and thus, I use man's measuring stick and man's advice on how to approach it.

What would happen if our FOCUS was on seeking GOD'S face in both our writing AND our marketing? What would happen if our books were laid before God and given HIS mark of approval before we ever put them on the market before God?

The mark of God is worth far more than any endorsement by man. 

I'm not preaching a new marketing scheme, y'all. Don't go away from this blog post trying to strategize how to achieve God's mark so you can sell more books. If you do, then you're missing the whole point.

My prayer is that you go away from this blog post seeing the importance of seeking God in everything, your writing and marketing included.

Because none of this should be about us.

Not one thing.

It should all be completely about Jesus and bringing him glory. It's the difference between buying in to Jesus and being SOLD OUT for Jesus.

I don't know about you guys, but I'd love for my shelves to be bear and people ask, "Hey, where are all your books?" And my answer can happily be, "Oh, sorry. I'm sold out for Jesus!"

Discussion: Have you struggled with the idea of marketing because it felt selfish?  What do you think about the concept of seeking God's mark vs. man's marketing?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romanceand A Side of Faith. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Character Personality Class.4 The Thinker.Organizer

The advantage to figuring out what kind of personality your main character/s has or have is: you will better understand what he/she will do in every scene in your story. 

We cannot make these things up. There is a rhythm that makes sense and flows. If we step outside of what is expected for a given personality, the readers will no longer trust the story and may put the book down.

For example, no matter what wonderful person a Joker/Scarlett O'hare character dates, he/she will not be satisfied with a bouquet of flowers or other traditionally sentimental object for a gift. Could Brett have won Scarlet's affections with roses? No. Would Joker be touched by a home cooked meal? No.

Knowing what is typically in the heart and mind of a character will give validity to your character's actions. The reader will engage in a story that makes sense. And don't be afraid to let your character be true to himself. If he is a jerk but also an introvert, make sure the specific jerk behavior matches what an introvert would do.

Before the story begins, the writer needs to get to know their character and determine their personality. This knowledge will not only help when blank pages face you, but also will make the story believable. In the last three classes we have discussed three different character types. There will be a total of sixteen. A list of previous class links is at the end of this post.

Today we will look at the "Thinker" character.

He has an unbelievable drive to finish whatever he starts, even if forced to do something he doesn't like. Against his will, Jack Ryan had to give a presentation to a board of VIPs, he had to ride in a shaky military helicopter, etc.

He is logical. Lives to make plans. Organizes things. He is focused on the one task at hand and notices things others do not--like Sherlock Holmes 

She is serious. Tasks and goals are accomplished in a clear path.

If she has to be at a party she will find ways to not engage in the social aspects. She may pick up a coat and put it away-not because she is helping or likes to do behind the scenes work, but because she is looking for an excuse to get away from the crowd. She may also be in the corner using her cell phone as the reason she isn't talking. "I have a message."

She is a hard worker.

He is no nonsense and has a head for details

He prefers utility not fashion.

Likes trivial pursuit, computer games, watching sports events, and pursues physical fitness. Plays solitary sports like golf.

He is most comfortable in familiar surroundings.

He values predictability over imagination and wants to maintain social order

He likes clear guidelines and follows them.

Likes to stay out of the spotlight and doesn't like to be recognized for doing what simply needs to be done.

Can be an administrator, work in finance or medicine. But he is shy when called to supervise others.

Knows where he belongs in life.

Frustrated by those who like to do things different than the norm.

Do you have a thinker/organizer in your WIP? 

Reed Richards from Fantastic 4 struggled to stay focused in his relationship. He dated the gorgeous girl, the one everyone else loved. But ideas for projects popped in his head all the time, yanking him away from even his wedding vows! 

Professor Henry Jones' relationship with his son didn't include tossing a baseball or going to activities together. Instead he'd tell Indiana to say the Latin alphabet--backwards and then return to his own work.

Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan decided she reached the age when her clock would be ticking. She decided she needed to have a child but didn't want to have a relationship. This was something humans did and needed to be checked off her list. Just have the child, raise it. Get the job done. No emotions.

The thinker/organizer is sorely lacking in social skills and sadly is rather clueless about it. These characters, the Sheldons from The Big Bang Theory and others, are ripe for comedy. This character honestly just doesn't get it when social interaction is involved. He or she also does not understand why others are not on the same thinking plane as they are. 

If you need a comic relief, a spark of humor, infuse in your story a thinker/organizer. He doesn't need to be the main character. He can be a bookbinder, the detective, the medical examiner, the teacher, postal worker, etc. This person could literally hop into any career, any place because hard times even fall on the very intellectual.

Ready to play a game?

1. Which would the thinker/organizer most likely do:

a. go to the Super Bowl with his friends
b. go to a church potluck
c. walk on a beach, take her shoes off and enjoy the sand between her toes
d. sniff a flower handed to her and analyze the chemical components rather than say thank you.

2. What is the thinker/organizer's favorite sport?

a. Hockey
b. Rock Climbing 
c. Soccer
d. Baseball

3. What is the thinker/organizer's favorite meal?

a. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich
b. Steak
c. Lunch? In a minute.
d. Whatever's in the fridge

4. The thinker/organizer's caring family kidnaps her for a sunny weekend at a Gulf condo on the beach. Despite their best efforts, she...

a. spends her time working on a tan
b. working in the kitchen with Mom and Sis
c. sleeps in
d. is up at 5 am walking on the beach, assessing the height variance and duration of different waves.

How did you do? Here are the answers:Answers: 1. d  2. b  3. c  4.d

Links to previous classes:
Class 1: The Outgoing.Observant.Outspoken. Joker/Scarlett O'Hara character 
Class 2: The Life of the Party
Class 3: The Composed and Sensitive Personality

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

Question: Why would a Thinker.Organizer be a great addition to: (pick one)
A church
A bible study
A romantic dinner
A vacation

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...sorry about that. 

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, February 17, 2015

Instagram for Writers

There’s a new social media sheriff in town: Instagram. And it’s not just for teenagers. Here’s how you can utilize this valuable platform to connect with other writers and potential readers – over 200 million of them.


If you're familiar with Twitter, you know these are links preceded by the pound sign. (For those who existed after the age of landline telephones, I’m talking about the # symbol. ;) ) The #amwriting hashtag is one of the most popular among writers from all stages of the game, a great way to connect and see who around the world is currently working right now.

For published authors or authors who plan to go indie, creating a hashtag for your latest book or series title can connect current and future readers. There’s nothing like community, and I’ve noticed that’s especially true among readers. Hashtags are the virtual equivalent of sitting next to someone who’s reading the same book on an airplane. You instantly know that person is awesome because of his or her great taste. Hashtags are how you can use social media to help turn your readership into a community.

Behind the Scenes

On the subject of community, it’s a beautiful thing when writers post behind-the-scenes glimpses of their process. From images of a historical writer’s research findings to a real-life snapshot of a hot mess of a desk to a picture of an author’s kid holding a debut novel, readers love to see this.

Of course, there’s a fine balance. You don’t want to give away all of your trade secrets. And you certainly don’t want to jeopardize your privacy – or the privacy of your loved ones. There’s just something about a little glimpse of an author’s humanity to connect and endear him or her with readers and give context to the characters and worlds they love reading about.


Approaching release day? Running an eBook sale? Posting an article on your blog? You can make graphics, even on your smartphone (I don’t have enough room on my laptop for Photoshop, so I use the Rhonna Designs and A Beautiful Mess apps on my phone) for announcements, blog post graphics, and other promotions. In today’s digital age, having an attractive image or graphic to accompany your content greatly increases your visibility, not only according to the algorithms of major platforms like Facebook but based on people's natural tendency to gravitate toward what’s visually appealing.

I’ve also known authors to run promotions on Instagram and other social media platforms (sometimes with their own hashtags). For example, around release day, they will run giveaways inviting readers to post a "selfie" with their copy of the book or the book on the shelf at a store in exchange for prizes.

{Tip: Since hyperlinks don’t work in Instagram, changing the link in your Instagram profile will give readers direct access to the link you're working with.} 

{Two writers who are doing it right}

Mary C. Weber, author of The Storm Siren Trilogy (Instagram: @maryweberauthor)


If you follow Mary Weber on Instagram, you'll see everything from news about giveaways to extras from her books to pictures of the author at work to funny quotes from her kids. As you can see above, she recently used Instagram to alert readers to a special Valentine’s Day promotion for her eBooks. She used the hashtag #kindle, so people who happen to click on that hashtag looking for books on kindle will see her graphic and be aware of her book's special price. 

Mary is definitely one who is doing her social media promotion right because it doesn't seem like promotion. It's a fun gathering place for her readers with a really inviting sense of authenticity. The middle screenshot is from a video she made talking about her Storm Siren for Schools program. And the one on the far right answers the number one question readers ask about her first novel. Love it!

My only complaint? How much she likes to TEASE readers about her enticing upcoming sequel, Siren's Fury. :) 

Jenny Bravo, author of These Are the Moments, writer behind (Instagram: @blotsandplots


Jenny Bravo is an indie author and one who is spot-on, in my opinion. If you visit her Instagram profile, she is doing a phenomenal job preparing the way for her self-published novel by posting enticing snippets, being transparent about the process and the valuable things she's learning, and inviting readers into a gorgeous yet cozy space. She is nailing the hashtag game with consistency too, with the abbreviation #TATM for her novel, the #TATMtent for her amazing writing tent, and #TATMTuesday for {usually handwritten} quotes from her book.  

Like Mary, Jenny offers authenticity to her readers. And I think the biggest thing I can commend her for is what she gives back to her readers. Obviously a lot of people who follow her blog and Instagram are aspiring authors themselves, perhaps a good percentage who wish to go the indie route. She gives great writing tips, selects gorgeous quotes from her book to feature, and again fosters that sense of community by offering snapshots of her personal process. Her posts don't feel gimmicky and don't have the sketchy undercurrent of self-promotion.

Whether Jenny knows it or it just comes as second nature to her, this is excellent strategy for a self-published author as she anticipates her release, opposed to some who just slap up their finished product on Amazon and call it good with no marketing legwork.

Instagram is pretty easy to use

If you’re apprehensive about having one more social media platform to manage, know that you can connect Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. A few little clicks and you can instantly post your image and caption to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, foursquare, or all of the above.

It also has built-in cropping and photo editing capabilities that are as easy as sliding through a range of lighting/color filters and picking the one you like most. Once you get used to Instagram, it’s super easy and takes no time at all. 

What have you heard about Instagram? Is anything keeping you from taking the plunge? 

Are you already on Instagram? Link us to your username and tell us how you like to use it.


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business. 

She's 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