Tuesday, January 31, 2017


After finishing a humongous writing project, I wondered which story to take on next. Oh yes, definitely, at least fifty ideas popped in my mind...BUT

Only one lingered.

The characters called to me from afar. Their voices barely audible. In fact, they sounded muffled. 

A character called out again, "Me. Help me. Please."

I recognized his voice. He lives in a story I'd shelved long ago. Buried beneath the dust in the drawer. Suffocating in the stifling air. "I can improve. I promise! Just please get me out of here." 

He did not deserved to be rescued. Why I bothered to let the ink fade instead of letting the trash man haul the measly creation not worthy of a binding, I didn't know before this moment.

There are and were rules to refinement. Rules meant to be followed and never broken. The story had been nurtured, given time to grow, and taught the proper acceptable ways, yet it waxed sentences with poor structure, repetition, inferior writing unworthy of the reading populace. Had it not been for the one or two redeeming components, the MC would have never graced a ray of light again.

But today the story called out. Begging for a second chance. 

Did it deserve a moment's glance? Schedules were made for a reason. Deviation is weak. Still, the voice called. 

1. Would the words conform to new teachings learned at conferences, from books, and critique partners and become refined? 
2. Would the audience intrigued by this genre long to welcome it's pages?
3. Is there enough of a foundation to rebuild a solid story or has the wind blown away too much declaring the substance to be nothing more than chaff?
4. Do the characters and their plight still tug at the heart robbing writer of sleep until the story finally becomes refined?

The answer is yes.

While this story babbled in infant stage, a writer I'd not personally met before, read chapters. She laughed, saw potential, and invited me to join a writing group and become a contributor.

A school teacher in another state read the story. She read it to her students for several years.

An editor took the story to her publishing house where, after a step or two, the manuscript was rejected. 

Face it, MC, the story is the ugly duckling's twin. 

"But I have redeeming qualities. I'm ready to tell the story to readers."

You're saying pride won't stand in the way of refinement?

"Yes. You'll see. I've changed and am ready and willing to stand the test of refining."

You realize all the words will be crushed. Reformed. No glue can repair what is needed. Pages will turn white and new ink will stain the paper. The story will change. You will change. You will be refined.

"Yes. I understand. I'm ready." He offered me a cup of tea and grinned. "I'm ready. Do your worst."

Mark my word, I will. 

I set the pathetic words on my writing palette and read, cringing at the sentences and the flow. What flow? Who was this supposed writer pretending to use my name and claiming this was a good story all those years ago?

I crushed the story, keeping only the core plot, main theme, and characters. The despicable skeletons shaming this story were pulverized into dust. 

No fear. 


MC's story would no longer please my selfish spirit, but would grace the hearts of readers with poise, witticism, action, courage, and victory.

And become refined

So Alley friend, do you have a story shoved in the back of your drawer begging to be refined? You've learned a lot since then. Is this the next story waiting for your pen?

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Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary has a new release. A Virtual Tour of Italy. If you have ever gone to Italy, plan to go, or wish you could, this virtual tour will take you there. Color photos. Videos. And more! Click here to learn more

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fun Friday: Alley Pal Hangout!

Hi All!

Author Crystal Walton
Angie here. Thank GOODNESS it's Friday! Phew! I've been busy on rewrites, and WIP crafting, and basketball and baseball, oh my! Youth sports and novels...fun fun!

Crazy week, but so glad to be on the Alley today.

We have had a great kick off to 2017. Lots of good posts on the Alley! This week, Laurie hosted author of Begin Again, Crystal Walton who gave a beautiful reminder about where we get our worth as writers, even in the face of a difficult review. I'm bookmarking the post for my own future sanity!

Check it out HERE.

We have GIVEAWAY news!

The winner of Tina Radcliffe's book giveaway, Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe and Classified Christmas Mission by Lynette Eason is....WINNIE THOMAS!

Congratulations, Winnie! (Please email Mary at maryveewriter@gmail.com with your address.)


So, what else is going on? Around the Alley, January is always that time when we start dreaming about ACFW, get-togethers, and Skype chats. When we are trapped inside avoiding cold blustery days (well, maybe not Ashley and Karen), there is nothing better than day-dreaming about hanging out with friends!


Today, we want to have a virtual HANG OUT with you! Please answer some or all of the questions below, and share with us! We love learning about Alley Pals!

Hope to hear from you. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The One Review You Need to Make it {Guest Post with Author Crystal Walton}

Hi! It's Laurie :) I just met a new-to-me author and couldn't wait to introduce her to you. (I've apparently been living under a rock.) Anyway, I absolutely love what she has for us today. Take it away, Crystal! 

"If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die by their rejection."

Ahem, excuse me while I go dig that arrow out of my chest. :)

That stings, doesn't it? We naturally desire acceptance. It's one of those built-in battles we all wrestle. And in case the vice isn't challenging enough on its own, the publishing industry steps it up ten notches by constantly measuring an author's value in neat, quantifiable metrics. Rankings, sales graphs, a convenient list of endless rejections from Bookbub, the number of hurtful reviews in the “place that must not be named” (*cough* Goodreads) ;) The list goes on and on.

Man, I know the pain of this struggle. When a careless comment in a review broke my spirit recently, my husband rested a tender hand on my arm, and in an equally gentle voice whispered, "You're remarkable to me."

I wanted so much to cling to his words and separate my identity from my work. But it’s hard, isn’t it? Our work is a part of us. And when we're thrust into a world where success hinges upon others' opinions, it's easy to end up staking our worth in those mass opinions and metrics (or lack thereof).

Which One Do I Listen to?

Before I dove into publishing, I remember reading an open letter to aspiring writers about things we should expect to encounter in the business. The author candidly warned that positive reviews will bolster our confidence but only for about a day. Negative reviews, on the other hand, will crush our spirits and be remembered forever. Ouch.

Lysa TerKeurst once shared about crying in a parking lot while scrolling through a website where readers debated her like she was a product on a shelf instead of a person with feelings. But while the criticism and rejection pierced deeply, she clung to the truth of her identity.

At a conference, she brought a stack of reviews to the platform and read them off, one by one. The first was a glowing remark about how amazing her work was and how profoundly it'd touched the reader's life. The next was a slam to Lysa's writing skills and a harsh critique of her theology. Back and forth, on and on it went. After several, she held them up and asked the audience, "Which one do I listen to?" The answer? Neither.

Ooh, that’s hard. But here’s the thing. Despite how much value the system places on reviews and outward accolades, the bottom line is this. There's only one review worth listening to. Ready for it?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. By design. On purpose. With gifts to share and a voice that matters. Your value does not increase or diminish based on reviews or publishing metrics. You are loved unconditionally and irrevocably by a Father who puts His arm around you when no one else does and whispers, "You're remarkable to me."

When we ground our identity in that truth, the winds of rejection don’t relent. Doubts still thunder. Comparisons still taunt. But through it all, we continue to stand, anchored. Not in a quest of seeking affirmation, but in a journey of learning to abide in our calling.


Author Bio: Crystal received her bachelor of arts from Messiah College in PA, married her exact opposite in upstate NY, and earned her master of arts from Regent University in VA, where she currently resides with her husband, David. Crystal writes contemporary clean romance fueled by Starbucks’ venti green teas. She’d love to connect with you at crystal-walton.com and Facebook.

Connect with Crystal:

Facebook: http://facebook.com/crystalwaltonwrites
Free Book: http://crystal-walton.com/new-release-mailing-list/ 

Check out her upcoming release: Begin Again: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NAQDA8K

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bursting with Info Friday on the Alley with guest Tina Radcliffe and GIVEAWAY

Today is Inauguration Day in the United States.

In other news, the Alley Cats have a lot to share, so much so we are bursting with info here on the alley. We'd like you to join us in sharing your news, too. Two commenters will win a prize!

And here we are--all different places in the writing process. A total spectrum.

So, you see, we understand and feel wherever you are in the writing process, because we are there, too. Ready to walk alongside with you. Teach. Listen. Be an example. Cheer every single step.

This week, Amy wrote a piece on Writers Boot Camp-Lip Service. In it she talks about missed opportunities in our stories. Also, Ashley wrote a piece on The Story Within Your Story, which talks about morals. Scroll down to read these exciting posts.

Speaking of being an example, have I a treat for you. I've notice Tina Radcliffe's FB posts and had no idea that a regular Jane, like us could do what she's done. And for free. What she is about to share with you is well worth a cup of coffee and chance to sit. After reading her words, I was ready to seek out my local place and go where I had never gone before.  

Here is Tina:

One of the Best Writing Resources is Right in Your Backyard. 
Your local citizens police academy. 
And it’s free!

Five-sensing refers to digging deep into the five traditionally recognized methods of perception: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing. How can you walk a mile in your character’s shoes if you don’t even have a clue what shoes he or she is wearing?

My medical background is of no help when I am trying to write a romantic suspense or even a sweet or inspirational romance with fire and/or law enforcement characters. I’m not a LEO (Law Enforcement Officer). My understanding of how cops, FBI agents, firefighters or members of an elite secret intelligence organization functions, is limited by my perception and experience.

Fortunately, there is an amazing amount of resources out there to enhance your perception. These resources allow you to step into the world you have created and steep in the taste, sight, touch, smell and sounds of the LEO’s world.

One of the best resources is right in your backyard. Your local citizens police academy. And it’s free!

At the Phoenix Police Department Citizens Police Academy, I observed a Taser demonstration, toured the crime lab, fired a Glock 49 (standard issue) at night, got up close and personal with the K-9 dogs, and participated in a use of force training- live video scenario-where I had to make split-second decisions on whether to draw my weapon. The most memorable part of this six-week course from a writer and citizen standpoint was a dialog with the victim of an officer-involved shooting, and the opportunity to hear and see photos of that officer’s incident.

Currently, I’m taking a 12-week course with Glendale, Arizona Police Department where I will get hands-on experience with the tools and equipment they use. This will include firearms training, a ride-along, and an inside look at SWAT, K-9 and crime scene investigations. This course will also delve into gangs and the role of the police chaplains.

These classes are part lecture, and part hands-on, and not only provide the sensory details for our stories, but trust me, ideas for GMC start hitting at a fast and furious rate. Have a notebook ready!

The ultimate sensory experience, however, is obtained with Writers Police Academy, where you live fire and police scenarios for hours on end at an action-packed conference. The conference sites have changed, and I need to remind anyone interested to keep your eye on the web page as it fills up fast as does the lottery opportunities for special classes.

From the WPA website: “The Writers’ Police Academy offers an exciting and heart-pounding interactive and educational hands-on experience for writers to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and forensics.”

Here’s a taste of what I experienced at the WPA I attended in 2015. My first day, I arrived at 5 pm and did a ride-along with a female officer from seven p.m. until midnight. It included a mental health stop, that included transport to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, a one-on-one opportunity to learn more about the officer-worn camera and weapons, meeting the K-9 officer and his dog (this was not a class scenario, it was two officers, myself and another student), which included a live demonstration of the canine at work.  I also observed a full DUI stop.

My next days at WPA were just as action packed and included classes with the medical examiner, FBI agents, the local SWAT team, and Firefighting 101. How valuable are these classes? Valuable enough that even the special guest speakers, and New York Times best-sellers, Allison Brennan and Karin Slaughter participated. Students Margaret Daley, Terri Blackstock, Debby Giusti and Terri Reed, who have written dozens of best-sellers, were also my fellow classmates.

If citizen’s police academy or a conference is not in your schedule right now, don’t forget the many online opportunities with the RWA Kiss of Death-Mystery and Suspense Chapter. They provide online Coffin classes held via a Yahoo Group online.

Currently, I’m taking Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers with Instructor: Lee Lofland. Lee is the mastermind behind WPA and blogs at The Graveyard Shift.
Here are some upcoming classes that I’ve earmarked:

April: Going Undercover With Police Special Operations Instructor: Scott Silveri
August: Elements of the Cozy Mystery Instructor: Lisa Rameriz
September: Plot Layering for Romantic Suspense Novels Instructor: Terri Reed

Have I missed any resources you’d like to share? Have you participated in any local citizen’s academy classes? Have I made you think about signing up for this opportunity?

Tina has a two-pack giveaway to share with one commenter. 
A copy of her latest release, Rocky Mountain Cowboy
and Lynette Eason’s Classified Christmas Mission.  

Love Inspired author Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. She has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests in her career. Tina is also a short story writer and has sold over twenty short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She currently resides in Arizona where she is working on her first romantic suspense. Find her at www.tinaradcliffe.com