Friday, July 31, 2015

Let's Collaborate! *GIVEAWAY* guest Post with Amy Matayo

Last November I attended a writing retreat with a few friends—some I knew well, and some I had just met. The lake home where we stayed was sprawling and beautiful and on lots and lots of land, but the bedroom situation required roommates. I had three: one who lived near me in the great state of Arkansas (Jenny B. Jones—a good friend whom I had known long time), and two who lived in Dallas (Nicole Deese—my “writer wife” who encourages me through every book I write, and Tammy L. Gray—whom I had just had the pleasure of meeting).

            So one afternoon the four of us were all sitting on beds and working quietly when Nicole said this: “We all seem to get along well and like the same kinds of books. What if we all write one together?” We all looked up from our computers, sat there quietly for a second, collectively shrugged and grabbed notebooks, and then headed to the local Starbucks.

            Thirty minutes later we sat around a table with lattes and pens.

            Two hours after that, we had a plot.

            The next morning, we shot a bunch of author photos together by the lake.

            The next week, we talked book covers.

            And a few weeks after that, we traded finished stories, read through them, and then sent them all off to two very gifted editors.

            Six months.

The whole process took six months from the first idea to the publication date. To say it was a busy time is like saying Mt. Everest is kinda hard to climb. But it was worth it. The stressing and the writing and the crying and the wanting to jump off a building (or maybe that was just me?). It was worth all of it, because I love our stories. I love knowing it’s possible to work with other authors, navigate through different ideas and writing styles, and come out challenged and better for it in the end.

But why am I telling you this?

Because a big part of being a writer is learning how to wait. Waiting on story ideas. Waiting on writer’s block to pass. Waiting for the story to come together. Waiting on editors to tell you how good or bad your manuscript actually is. Waiting on query letters to be read and answered. Waiting on offers from agents...from publishers. And when you’re lucky enough to finally get a contract, waiting on publication dates that seem forever on the horizon.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. It’s what we all do because it’s what we’re all used to.

But maybe you shouldn’t always wait. Maybe you should shake things up and jump in with both feet and try something you’ve never done before. Don’t have a story idea? Write anyway and see if brilliance will strike while you’re typing. Have writer’s block? Scratch out some sentences—even if they’re awful—and push your way through it.  Not sure where to go next? Grab a friend or three and talk it out together. Who knows? If you try those things, maybe you’ll have a book ready to go in just a few short months. The only thing I know for sure is that nothing much happens if you’re just sitting there waiting for inspiration to strike. Inspiration happens at the weirdest times.

At a writer’s retreat. At a coffee shop. Who knows?

Just get to writing. It’s a pretty good way to pass the time.
-Amy Matayo
STEP 1: Share this post on Facebook to help spread the word about Nicole, Tammy, Amy, and Jenny's fabulous new collaboration! 
STEP 2:  Leave your email address in the comments section here AND if you can think of one, name one of your favorite authors you'd LOVE to collaborate with!
STEP 3: I (Amy Leigh Simpson-your AlleyCat Hostess) will draw three names out of a hat and gift the winners an e-copy of JUST ONE SUMMER! The perfect summer read! If we can get a bunch of traffic here I'll bump it up to FIVE WINNERS. Go forth, spread the word! And please, if you read, make an author's day by leaving a quick review. <3
--Four Best Friends. Four Love Stories. Just One Summer. Four college girls, best friends since childhood, have found one constant in their ever-changing lives--summer. Every June the girls choose a destination to reconnect, only this summer is different. This year, each one must face life's challenges on her own, overcome fear and failure, and learn the beauty of falling in love for the first time. --
Amy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune With Love, and A Painted Summer. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don't feel sorry for her--she's super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn't put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.
                                       Twitter: @amymatayo            Facebook:
Award-winning, best-selling author Jenny B. Jones writes romance with sass and Southern charm. Woefully indecisive, she writes YA, New Adult, and women’s romance. Since she has very little free time, Jenny believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits, such as watching bad TV, Tweeting deep thoughts to the world, and writing her name in the dust on her furniture. She can be found at
Nicole Deese is a lover of fiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be
found fantasizing about “reading escapes,” which look a lot like kid-free,
laundry-free, and cooking-free vacations. Nicole is a Kindle best-selling author of The Letting Go series and A Cliché Christmas, book one in her new Love In Lenox series. She writes clean contemporary romance with an inspirational twist, and
lives in beautiful north Idaho with her swoony husband and rambunctious sons.
Tammy L. Gray is the kindle best selling author of the Winsor Series and Mercy’s Fight. She writes modern Christian romance and clean YA/NA romance. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.
Her books are about flawed characters who struggle in today’s world. She loves writing stories that offer hope to the broken, with the intention of taking the readers on a journey where they both cheer for and want to shake the hero/heroine. She aims to depict culturally relevant settings while presenting an uplifting message that will stay with readers long after the book is closed.
When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy L. Gray can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reframing Your Writing Perspective

I spent the day today picking out a variety of frames at TJ Maxx, then filling them with adorable pictures of my newborn son. It's a work in progress, as I can never get everything quite where I want it... do you have that problem too? I find myself shifting pictures around and putting the frames in all different places in the house. This got me thinking--sometimes we need to take a time out to reframe our writing lives as well.
Photo from by adamr

We've all read the blogs and heard the chatter about the CBA market changing. Maybe your publishing house has recently stopped printing fiction, or you're feeling the pressure of harder-than-ever competition for unpublished writers (can I get an amen?).

Let's get real. It seems that lately all the conversation about the publishing industry--unless you happen to write category romance-- is really quite negative. The number of hopeful writers targeting any given publishing house is on the rise, while the number of available slots for books seems to be ever decreasing. We all know about Family Christian Bookstores and have read the effect the closure of brick and mortar stores is having on the industry. Many of us have had our hopes raised by conferences, only to be later dashed by the realities of how hard it really is for a new writer to break in.

After a while, this process gets discouraging. And if we're not careful, we forget our joy. We forget why we create and imagine in the first place. We forget why we're hopeful, and we forget the magic of writing.

That, friends, is a dangerous place to inhabit.

I want to encourage you--as writers and writers of fiction-- to stop believing that your story doesn't matter. Stop listening to those discouraging voices in your mind that no editor would buy a story that starts in such a unique way, or that the success of your book is all about sales numbers of awards.

Our calling is so. much. more.

Reframe your perspective. 

As Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

If you stop running your race, who else will run it? If you stop writing your story, who else will write it? If you don't fight for your readers, how will they ever hear the message God has given you to share?

I get it. I get how hard it is. But creativity makes a hard ministry. We all knew that going in. We as inspirational writers have got to shrug off the victim mentality and realize that if we are called, we are equipped. We do not have to buy into the lie that our stories don't matter.

Maybe it will take you three months to get your first book published. Maybe it will take five years. Maybe it will take fifteen. I am not immune to the struggle of this process. I really thought my favorite story would be published by now. I started writing novels five years ago, and have invested prayers, tears, laughter, hopes, and fears into this ministry. There are days when the dream feels very, very far away.

But the thing is, maybe our stories were never about ourselves to begin with. What if we're called to be stewards rather than owners? What if we reframe the way we look at writing so that we see a ministry that's a gift rather than a failure?

Today, I want to challenge us as writers of Christian fiction to stop bemoaning all the things that aren't going our way, and to stand up for the beauty of our art. If God called you, it matters. Let me say it again. If God called you, it matters. The pieces will come together, even if it's not in the way you expected--and when they do, you'll see an even more beautiful landscape than the one you'd envisioned and grieved. Let's let go of our expectations, friends, and our perceived "rights," and instead, let's learn to write freely.

Let's hear from you! Have you been feeling discouraged lately with all the negative talk about CBA? How do you respond to it and protect your heart for your 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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Growing Patience & Self-Imposed Deadlines

I have written about self-imposed deadlines at the Alley before...I am pretty sure it's a struggle for many aspiring authors. We aren't held to a contract or have an editor pushing us along. But we are anxious to get this writing career going and want to get the submission-ball rolling. At least, that's how I feel most of the time.

Self-imposed deadlines are great goal-setting tools. I enjoy writing toward something; holding myself accountable to my writing time; keeping in mind that near future date so I stick to the story and don't allow non-writing things get in the way (well, the non-important non-writing things like Facebook and retail therapy).

There is another benefit to self-imposed deadlines, though. And that is the flexibility to change the
date if need be. Recently, I surprised myself after a decade of my publishing pursuit, when I met my self-imposed deadline with a complete manuscript...and then..I didn't hit send on that date. I wanted to be sure it was where it needed to be, not when I wanted it to go out.

You know your patience has grown when you pass up a self-imposed deadline to get it right.

It's a fine line to know when to hit send and when to pause for another read-thru. Sometimes, we peck our stories to death and tweak and tweak and suck the joy—and perhaps the voice—out of the story. There's a lot of fear and guts and vulnerability in hitting send. So those self-imposed deadlines can give us that courage.

But, sometimes, that self-imposed deadline should become more of a checkpoint than an end. I took another week after my last deadline and did a read-thru and more tweaking. I am so glad I did. That fear and vulnerability died with my cut lines and deleted commas.

How about you? Do you set deadlines and ever pass them up to get it right?
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 six historical novels and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at, her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Writer's Mind

Are you working on a story? Which "person" do you find most difficult to "be" as you write? 
Have a great Sunday!
Found on The Writer's Circle

Friday, July 24, 2015

Should You Start a Newsletter?

One of the things I do as a virtual assistant for several authors is the creation of their newsletter. In a social media world where all of our reach is constantly restricted by one algorithm or another, reaching readers and our audience is getting harder and harder. As a publishing industry, we strayed from the value we put in newsletters for some time, wanting to reach readers where they are at. But anymore, that’s not always the best way and the buzz in the industry is to get back to newsletters.

So how do you create a really great newsletter that gains you subscribers and gets a strong open rate?

If you’re looking for a secret sauce to build a great newsletter fast…there isn’t one.  Building a newsletter takes time and patience and most of all perseverance to put out a quality product every time. Just like with writing a novel, putting together a newsletter should be a labor of love—a glimpse into your heart and life that makes you seem more “human” to your reader.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while your building your newsletter.

Content is just as important as numbers, because without one you won’t have the other. While building your newsletter, don’t obsess about how many subscribers you have. What you should obsess about is giving those subscribers the very best that you can. The numbers will come.

Keep it short and sweet. Just like with writing a book, give it a beginning, middle and end. One of my favorite newsletters is from Christian romance author, Becky Wade. (sign up for her newsletter in her sidebar). She always starts out with some kind of upcoming book news, includes her latest blog news, a recipe from her sister, a fashion tip from another sister, and a book recommendation from her mom. This works for her genre very well, which leads to my next point…

Keep content relevant for your genre…and a bit about your life. Searching for good content when you don’t have a book sale or new book news? What genre do you write? If you write historical, legal thriller, romance, comedy, whatever it may be, readers are getting your newsletter because they also like your genre. So take something from your research and share a behind the scenes view.

Another one of my favorite newsletters is from Deborah Raney (sign up for her newsletter on her home page) who always includes some kind of news about her family and what she’s reading or what she’s endorsing next. Not all writers are going to be comfortable with this, but share what you can or want. Readers want a peek into your life, so what are you drinking from Starbucks this season? What team are you cheering for in the playoffs? Where are you going on vacation? Your life is interesting to people even if you don’t think so.

Be consistent with your newsletter mailings. If you’re sending out a newsletter every season, make sure you do it. If you are sending out a newsletter anytime there is big book news, make sure you do it. This is your direct line into your reader’s inboxs…now to just get them to open the email.

Have a catching email header subject. The better the “call to action” the better the open rate you’ll get for your newsletter. Something that hints at your content. “New cover you’re seeing first!” “Fiction sale to load your ereader!” etc. Keep it short. Make it catchy.

You’re going to get people that unsubscribe every time you send a newsletter. It’s the nature of the business and it really can’t be helped. Don’t take it personally. It’s more than likely because they are tired of having their inbox flooded with mail (and can you blame them?) But the key to keeping your subscribers is to promise and deliver really great content. Figure out what your readers love and deliver it to them every time.

Maybe that means a giveaway (like Sarah Sundin does in every newsletter) or revealing your new cover to your subscribers first like Beth Vogt did recently.  Your subscribers want to feel special, spoiled and valued.

You’re an author (hear you roar! ;), you have readers who care about you and when your new book is coming out.

So create a newsletter, make it professional (yes, invest in money to have a nice template—it’s worth it), keep it to your brand/genre and then have fun with it. It might not be your favorite part of the journey, but it’s a valuable one.

Take the time to invest in building it and you’ll see the fruits of it over time.

What are your best newsletter tips? 

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a country girl now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado, employed as an administrative assistant at Wordserve Literary.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reasons To Be a Writer

My last alley post gave a few reasons why you should dump this whole writing business into the trash and go sip a fruity drink on a beach somewhere instead...

This post is kinda the opposite.

This is reasons why you should say goodbye to the beach (albeit tearfully...) and sit your booty in a chair and write.

THOSE VOICES WON'T SHUT UP. You know. The ones in your head that whisper to you when you're in the mall and you overhear an amazing conversation that would totally make great fodder for your next book. The ones that are relentless in their torture of your daydreams and the only thing that relieves it is letting their story flow out of you onto the screen/paper/voice recorder, whatever your pleasure...

THAT MOMENT WHEN A STORY CLICKS. For you plotters, maybe it's while you are plotting and you get an amazing idea for your black moment. For you pantsters like me, it's when you are writing and something is missing but you can't put your finger on it until--it hits you and your heart-rate hikes a notch and you can't stop the silly grin that comes over your face as your fingers fly over the keyboard.... The exhilaration of that moment is one that can't be duplicated.

THE CALLING. For me, this is the biggest one. I write because in 2007, God called me to this journey. I'd had the voices before... I'd loved to brainstorm stories before... I even wrote a little off and on, but nothing ever went past a few chapters. I never felt like writing was what God wanted me to do before that summer.

And if I might be honest for a moment, the last month or so, I've been doubting my calling big time. I've always said (and still say) just because God calls you to do something for a time, doesn't mean He won't call you away from it later. Life is full of seasons, and God never promised that we'd be called to be on the same journey from the moment we start it.

Wise people recognize that and keep their eyes on Jesus... not on the path.

So at a time when I'm coming to a new chapter in my personal life (my youngest is starting kindergarten and my oldest starting high school...) I really felt the need to reassess. The Christian publishing industry is shuddering from bad news of bookstores closing, publishing lines ending, and sinking earnings for authors. My own sales aren't anything to write home about (how is THAT for honesty in the form of a great cliche....) and I'm just questioning the large chunk of TIME I'm spending on this while writing thing. Is it worth it? Are my books really doing anything God-glorifying? Is this still what God is calling me to do, or am I so in love with my DREAM of writing that I've been focused more on the path and less on God?

The answer I came up with is this:


I have been focused on the wrong thing. I've let the business side of writing, while important, become a bigger focus than the God who I am doing all this for. I've been doing this writing thing because *I* wanted to do it, and not focused on what God wants me to do.

So I've been reassessing. Seeking God and asking Him what He wants me to be doing. Recommitting myself to walk HIS path, not my own.

No, I'm not quiting writing. I'm just focusing my eyes on Jesus and recommitting myself to walking toward Him, wherever THAT path might lead me.

And as of today, He still has me writing. YEAH. He's still letting those voices go crazy in my head, giving me those fun ah-ha moments.

Could He lead me away from the writing path at some point?

Yup. Total possibility. It might even happen tomorrow. But I could also be a fragile grandma in a nursing home someday still writing my heart out for Jesus. Only God knows our future, but what HE calls us to do is to be obedient to him today.

So has God called YOU to be a writer? Are you walking daily in tune with Jesus and seeking HIS will over your own--focusing less on what he's called you to do and more on the One who calls you to do it?

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Are the Benefits to a Beta Reader? What is a Beta Reader

Face it, we all have gaps in our writing training where we could use a few tips, sometimes a definition. I don't like admitting when I don't know something, but the truth is there are aspects in the writing field I haven't learned yet or simply haven't perfected. My solution? Learn everything I can--then share.

Today's topic is Beta Readers. What is a Beta Reader and what are the benefits to having a beta reader?

Definition: A Beta Reader is a non professional reader who reads your manuscript after the work is done and before the story is sent to an agent/editor/or is self-published.

The Beta Reader is expected to:

1. Read the entire work as he/she would any other book.
2. Jot down overall components enjoyed in the story.
3. Note overall plot holes, character flaws, and theme discrepancies.
4. Return their comments in a "timely" manner. It is okay to let the person know what you expect. I would think two to four weeks is very reasonable.

The Beta Reader is NOT expected to (although he or she may choose to do these):

1. Note grammar errors.
2. Note time/setting/and other descriptive flaws
3. Provide a chapter by chapter, line by line, or other detailed critique.
4. Other critique services.

The Beta Reader SHOULD NOT be a friend/family member (many FB "friends" can be Beta readers):

1. Our critique partners whether group or individual often know what we intend. They also know our voice and have learned to overlook certain components of our writing. Maybe they have mentioned the issue before and figure this is just your writing. These fantastic individuals are not able to perform this duty objectively.
2. Our family members, even the grammar nazies have a heart for us and therefore will not/can not give a complete unbiased evaluation of the story.
3. John Q Public does not know us. We want John Q Public and Jane Doe to buy our books. John and Jane are great Beta Readers.

How Can We Find Beta Readers?

I must admit, I struggled with this question for my own work. My stories are for teens. I preferred to have beta readers in the age range of a teen and was willing to include individuals who were older, but not younger. Here is what I did:

1. I went through my FB friends for ideas. Like you, I have many who are not close friends or family. I found an old college classmate I hadn't seen in years. He had a daughter who fit the description. To make the connection, I asked him to connect us together. One week later she emailed me. I gave her the details, explained what I needed and sent her the manuscript. I was so happy to get this FB message yesterday. (see pic)

2. I thought about the teens in my church and the school I taught in years ago. I found a few on FB and waited for them to accept my friend request. For those who did, I asked them if they would be willing to read my story. I also included the information I needed in terms of time and feedback. One of them responded. Yeah!

3. I considered past co-workers, friends of relatives, teens of writing friends. So yes, I am using the family and friends I know to connect to teens who are not family or friends at this time. One of them responded. Yeah! 

4. In all, eight said they were willing to read the manuscript. I figure, if two or three give me feedback, I have succeeded.

One HUGE advantage to searching for Beta readers who will help you best is you are also building a tribe. You're getting your name out there. So that even if some of the people say no to being a Beta Reader, they have heard your name, know you are a writer, what genre you write and will recognize your book on a shelf or online. Once they see the book has been published, they just might take a chance and read it after all :)

1. What questions do you have about Beta Readers?
2. Have you used a Beta Reader before? Did you find the comments beneficial?
3. How did you find your Beta Reader?

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

photo courtesy of and modified for this purpose.

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, July 21, 2015

The Skinny on Comp Titles

If there's one thing about writing proposals that stumps me, it's the section for comp titles. 

At a writers' conference, an editor at a top publishing house even asked me what the comp titles were for my project. What? Of course, in that moment, I was overthinking. Did I really just tell her I write like Carla Laureano!? Becky Wade!? It felt really weird to say that out loud.

But that's not what it's about. Not really.

Comparable titles, comparison titles, competition titles -- whatever they're called -- are the published novels that give editors a feel for your work's place in their lineup and in the current market (hopefully, if you explain them well). Obviously I have yet to land a publishing deal and welcome dialogue from those who know more about what they're doing, but from what I understand, it's a list of books that are on your potential readers' shelves. It's as simple as that.

Also, from what I've learned, three is a good number to have and you want them to be fairly recent titles that have sold well. You list what makes this book like yours, in style, structure, or content, identifying what makes it marketable. What's worked for other authors and appealed to readers in the past. 

But you also have to emphasize how your book is unique. Hopefully by this point, you've refined the hook that will make your story stand out from others in the genre, what will give readers a different experience when they pick yours up from the shelf. 

Ultimately, you want to show that there are aspects of your book that have proven to be marketable and sell well, but that your book is an original, compelling idea. 

Did I leave anything out? How do you determine which books to include on your comp titles list?

Speaking of comp titles: I'm giving away a prize bundle on my website, but y'all feel free to enter here! It includes two books from a writer I've listed in my own comp titles before, Carla Laureano, along with my favorite planner and a $25 gift card. Check it out below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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

Monday, July 20, 2015

When to Kill the Character...

And when NOT to kill the character ;-)
(btw, Amy Leigh Simpson would probably have some different comments to say about this :-)

I'm on deadline for my second book in the Penned in Time Series so my mental abilities, time management skills, and patience are being tested to the brink.

So before you think I created this title because of the pressures of deadline, I'll put your mind at ease...I didn't, mostly.

As tempting as it might be, in all actuality this blog post evolved from a very real experience while writing a few weeks ago. I needed to decide whether someone in my WIP needed to die or not.

For some writers, it's a no brainer.
If you write books where no one ever dies, this blog post might not pertain to you.
For other writers, lots of people die in their books so the answer to this question might always be 'yes, kill 'em off."

But for those of us who write somewhere in between, there might be a real time when you have a dilemma about whether to kill off somebody or not. Which is what happened to me.

When creating stories we are constantly bombarded with the idea that we need to increase tension and conflict.

Make your hero bleed! Make your heroine weep! Break them until the black moment reduces them to a puddle of emotional puddy on the floor!

And though it's true that conflict increases tension and therefore may also increase the power of your story, there are times when killing off that person or causing that tragedy or increasing the suffering, might be too much.

Here are two ways we can make too much tension...too much!

Playing the Job Card (I struggle with this one so I put it first)

There's something to be said for solid, organic tension. Conflict that arises from your story and makes sense in the overall growth of your characters, is a beautiful sight to behold, but when bad things happen just because bad things happen, or just because you feel like tension is low, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the right time...or the right tension.

The best conflict comes from the natural storyline. In other words if killing off that person grows your character in the direction you want, or moves the story along as it should, then maybe you should kill off that person.

Otherwise, should murder really be in your future?

Bloodbath Analogy

Unless you're writing the next horror bestseller, Game of Thrones remake, Zombie apocalypse 10000000, or sparkly teen vampire romance, then there is a point where too much tension is too much tension.

I found myself at this place a few weeks ago.

I was planning on one of my secondary characters dying in a house fire. To me it would have given my heroine another way to deal with suffering and trust God, deepening her character development. Good reason, right?

The choice would have been an organic one from for her character arc, however I knew the future too. I knew my heroine had just finished dealing with the death of someone she loved and I also knew she was getting ready to face one of the most heart-wrenching battles of her life, so I begin to second-guess killing off another character. Why? Because it was just too much.

No, it wasn't conflict for conflict's sake. It would have given added depth to her growth, but it somehow felt a little contrived because of the intensity of consistent pain (and I'm not a pansy about killing characters or causing fictional pain, btw)

Some people may disagree with me on this choice, because they think any tension must be good tension, but I disagree. Maybe it's just my reading preference but when I get to the point where all I feel is loss, loss, loss in a story, then it's too much for me. Besides, sometimes killing off a person isn't what will cause the best tension. Sometimes, there something much worse that will have great impact to the overall story.

So, how's that for a happy Monday post! :-)

 I'd love to hear some of your opinions about tension, killing characters, and went to much is too much.
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who 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 enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction whenever she can and loves annoying her wonderful friends at her writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn and her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015. Her first contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, released in December. You can connect with Pepper on her website at, Facebook- or Twitter at

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Late Weekend Words

Hope you all are having a nice wind-down to the weekend. Thought I'd post another writer's quote to get us going into the next week of productivity. Happy Writing - Angie

Friday, July 17, 2015

Safeguarding your JOY

Some of you have may heard that I’ve been celebrating a personal victory this past week. After four years of writing and pursuing publication I’m getting my moment in the sun. I’ve signed a publishing agreement with WildBlue Press and will be releasing my first of three books this fall! A romantic mystery about grace and second chances called Beauty for Ashes.

After a long road of building friendships, refining my craft, dodging countless rejections, and growing in my passion for story here is it! The CALL. I should be on top of the world, right?

Well, of course I was/am thrilled to be realizing my dream but how many of you know that the world doesn’t exactly freeze in that moment. And that glow you are basking in can dim pretty quickly when say, the sewer drain backs up in your basement, the air conditioner peters out on the hottest day of the year, and the service light illuminates from your dashboard all in the same day… the day after you announced that long awaited triumph. Pfft! The NERVE! Those everyday disasters have absolutely no respect for your big moment! And it sure doesn’t take long for the crap (sometimes literally) to start piling up and little by little, robbing you of your joy.

But the thing I’ve come to realize as a mother constantly navigating the minefield of life is this…


Do you remember that little jingle we all sang in Sunday School? “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart! I’ve got the…”

We might not have realized it then but that song was preparing us for the truth about joy. Where it’s found. And where it isn’t. Joy isn’t found on our sleeves. Not in that gorgeous new outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. It’s not found skin deep either. It can’t be nicked away by everyday wear and tear. Bills and stress and the daily grind. (Though that can certainly make us weary.) It’s not even bone deep, only broken under the right angle and pressure. The pain that lances here often lingering and debilitating.

It’s deeper, protected by muscle and tissue, skin and bone, the cage of your ribs like a vault safeguarding your heart. And even there, at the source, it’s nested deep down.

Right there where your Savior resides.

Am I excited that God is going to use my words and give them a stage? Absolutely! Is my joy contingent upon it? Is it contingent upon my success? Not a chance. Because lasting joy is only found in communion with the Giver of your dreams. Not because of what he can do for you, but because of who he is.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Everything else, friends, is just frosting. Now, since I have a notorious sweet tooth, sit down and have some cake with me. Tell me, what are you celebrating in your life?
Happy Friday!
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
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, July 16, 2015

Surviving The Labor of Writing

Most of you know that two months ago, I had a beautiful baby boy. While pregnant, my husband and I took childbirth classes that came in handy when the time rolled around to have my baby. The whole experience of labor made me realize there are a lot of similarities between having a real baby and a fictional one! So today, let's talk about how to survive (and cope with) the labor of writing.

It's no secret that CBA is in changing times, and scoring a publishing deal can be a challenge for a first time author. But that doesn't mean we should despair, for God has called us to such a time as this (Esther 4:14). What can we do when the pains of the process come along?

  • Surrender control. One of the first things you learn in childbirth class is that you can't control the process, so rather than tensing up in an attempt to take over, you have to just let things roll. The same is true for the publication journey. You can try everything in your power to make things happen a certain way, but at the end of the day, you have to surrender to the process and roll with the punches, so to speak. If you can learn how to do that well, flexibility will give you a long career in the industry.
  • Breathe. This one speaks for itself. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and relax.
  • Let go of preconceived notions of what you think your publishing life will look like. Otherwise, you're bound for disappointment. If you're attempting a natural childbirth, you'll learn to visualize your ideal birth and shoot for that, but not expect it. I think the same is true for writing. You should set goals and work toward them; otherwise, you'll never make progress. But don't expect everything to go exactly according to plan, or else you'll have a hard time adjusting when it doesn't. 
  • Keep the end goal in mind. When you're having a baby, everyone will tell you it's pain with a purpose. Let me just say, when you're in the middle of a contraction, you don't really care if it's pain with a purpose. ;) But truly, if you keep the end goal in mind, it's much easier to keep each setback in perspective. Your baby--your story--will eventually get there. Each disappointment brings lessons that take you closer to your goals.
  • When you do finally get that contract, rejoice! It's so easy to get caught up in a new set of expectations and deadlines that you forget the big picture... you sold your story! Don't let the exhaustion of the process keep you from the magic of that moment.
Your turn! What strategies do you use to cope with the pains and setbacks of the writing process?


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, July 15, 2015

When the Inspiration Dries Up: Writing Quotes

Sometimes as writers we need fresh inspiration. Sitting down to the keyboard one more time seems like so much drudgery. So we stare at the ceiling. We kick cabinets. We yell that we need something to happen.

On the days like that, here are a few writing quotes that might just inspire you in  your search for fresh wells of creativity.

Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart.

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.
What are you favorite writing quotes? I'd love to read them!