Thursday, April 26, 2018

Work-Life Balance for Writers + GIVEAWAY {with special guest Kathleen Y'Barbo}

Hi, friends! It's Laurie. Today I have a special treat for you. I was reading the ACFW email loop a few weeks ago and came across a piece of advice so profound and convicting. When I scrolled up to see who had provided such a much-needed dose of reality, I did a double-take. I should have known those words that hit me exactly where and when I needed them were from my very own mentor, Kathleen Y'Barbo Turner. And today, I'm going to share her with you :)

Y'all, she is superwoman. She has multiple books releasing this year and finished this latest one during. a. hurricane. Superwoman, I tell you. Here's Kathleen's response to a budding author asking about the work-life-writing balance. (Shared with permission.)


At last count, I am nearing 100 published books since I got my first contract in 1999. In 2004, when circumstances caused me to become a single mom (of four kids) with a full-time job, I had four novels published. Thus, the rest of those books have been written while I was either in full-time training to get my certification or working a full-time job as a paralegal in a law office.

Here’s the short version of how I wrote multiple books each year and managed a job and a family:

You do what you have to do. Period.

I had to write, both for the financial side of things and for the love of writing. Even on those days — or weeks or months—when I didn’t love writing, I did it anyway. You do what you have to do. Period.

Even as a newlywed back in 2010, I was working and writing. I actually completed copy edits on my honeymoon! Because you do what you have to do. Period.

Last year I wrote five books while working full-time. This year I’ve got three scheduled to complete and several other indie projects calling my name. As witnessed by what I am doing right now—sitting next to my husband as he channel surfs while I type—things can get done in the limited hours you have each day.

A few suggestions: 

1. Plan ahead, but be flexible. I was a pantser for years, but I know that, when I plot, I write faster.
2. Stop being a diva about where and when you write. Acquire the skill of being able to write wherever and whenever you can.
3. Learn how to write fast. There are great books on the topic. Get one. Practice that skill.
4. Value what you do. God gave you this gift. He will give you the time. Ask Him. And thank Him for what He will do while trusting He will do it.

It's Laurie again. I have been struggling with all of this lately, back in school and juggling work and family and studying and writing. Admittedly, I've been a bit of a diva about inspiration and energy and cultivating the perfect conditions to fan my creative flame. So these words were exactly what I needed to stop overthinking and just get. it. done. 

"Value what you do. God gave you this gift. He will give you the time. Ask Him. And thank Him for what He will do while trusting He will do it."


Pasts Collide in New Orleans when a Treasure Goes Missing

Can a former privateer and a determined heiress find lost treasure in 1725? 

Comment with your best work-life balance tips for the chance to win Kathleen's latest book, The Pirate Bride

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tipful Tuesday: Attend A Conference

In 2010, I was about to receive my first major rejection—my entry in the Genesis contest was
SEVERELY lacking in every element that comes with a successful opening to a novel. That book shall never see the light of day. Oh me, oh my. That was also the first year I attended ACFW (a logical next step after very insightful contest critiques). I was in the throes of morning sickness, with a commitment of attending only for one day. Fear (and funds) strapped me to minimal participation.

But, whoa.

What happened? So much happened since that first step into a hotel coffee shop swearing I would just hide my pregnant self behind a book and wait for it to be over. Friends happened. Mentors happened. Networking happened. A year later, I semi-finaled in the Genesis. Two years later, I met my agent. And in 2016, I walked into conference with a book contract signed, and another contract waiting for me the next month.

 In my opinion (and in the opinion of those authors I reached out to before 2010), attending a writer’s conference is the BEST next step for an aspiring writer. ACFW is where I started, and where I continue to go—there is so much to be learned, so many people to befriend, so much community to ground yourself in so your stories can bloom with confidence and encouragement. Any seasoned writer will tell you that conference isn’t about a contract. But if you are sitting there, with words and stories, and you haven’t stepped into a writer’s conference, I’d say this #tipfultuesday take that step in the right direction. My recommendation? Check out

Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in Cambridgeshire, England. Now living in the U.S., she's an ACFW member, a blog contributor to the Writer's Alley, a baseball mom, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Two of her historical romance novels comprise her Fall 2017 debut: The Outlaws Second Chance, Love Inspired Historical, and My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah, Barbour. 

Connect with Angie at

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cultivating the Heart of a Writer

For many of you, Spring has taken its time in coming. You are still shoveling snow or are watching the weather channel with baited breath, wondering if possibly...maybe...perchance...hopefully...the snow has done its final dump and a thaw is in the forecast.

Some of us have been more fortunate and are sitting on the back porch, writing away in the glorious warmth, among the spring flowers that are bursting with color. Yes, I just said that and you may hate me now.

Seasons come and seasons go, and during these comings and goings, a person needs to cultivate and prepare for what is ahead. In the gardening world, you must prepare the soil for seeds or seedlings so that your plants will flourish.

The same is true for our hearts. How are you cultivating your heart in preparation for your career as a writer? Here are some ideas for cultivating the heart of a writer in whatever season you may be entering:

PRAYER: Prayer should be the number one priority for a writer. As told in The Story of With by Allen Arnold, when we sink into the heart of God and collaborate with Him, the story within you is the story co-created with God. The story you co-create with Him will be a story worth writing. It will impact readers and bring glory to Him, the creator of the greatest story ever told.

RELATIONSHIPS: Do you have a group of people you can connect with about your writing? About your spiritual walk? About your life? Writers spend a lot of time alone in front of their computer, but they also need human engagement. We need people to speak truth into our lives and help us through the hard times. If you don't have someone to pour your heart out to, pray that God will send you someone to connect with. You need them.

GOD'S WORD: I know you know this, but writers need to be in God's Word and let those words saturate our lives. God is a great storyteller and we can learn much from His Spirit whispering words of encouragement while reading scripture. You can always find words to live by in His Word.

BOOKS TO INSPIRE: Writers need to find books that inspire and encourage them in their own writing journey. Whether it is an amazing piece of fiction that sucks you in and won't let go or a motivating non-fiction book that inspires you to be courageous in whatever you put your hand to, reading great books will help you in your journey.

What have I missed? What do you do to cultivate your heart? What helps you to grow as a person and as a writer?

**Photo credit: fietzfotos at

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother of 4 children, and works part-time as a bookseller at Amazon. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories. Her first book, tentatively The Lady's Masquerade, will release April 2019.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda

Instagram: @sherrinda

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What About Him (or Her), Lord?: Fighting the Battle of Comparison as a Christian Writer

"Lord,what about him?" Peter asks.
"Jesus answered, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to You? You follow me!"-John 21:21-22

Why her? That's the title of a book by Nicky Koziarz I've been studying through Proverbs 31 Ministries.

And the truth is its an unspoken question on our lips. Will you be brave enough to admit you've been pulled in by this struggle a time or two?

Why her? The mental line that follows: why not me. Perhaps a secret whine in our prayer closet. God can handle it. We can be honest about our battles and temptations knowing that the Jesus who created it all, controls tempests, sky and billowing sea sees the deep dark ugly of our heart and yet loves us enough to pull us out of that place.

Because when we ask why her? We are really asking why not me? And the hissing lie in our soul, does God REALLY have the best in mind for me, is what we whisper. Will we admit it?
Turn to the New Testament and you'll see Peter wrestling with the same comparison struggles. As he speaks with his resurrected Lord, Jesus tells Peter of his future. When you're old, you will be taken where you don't want to go.

He was telling Peter he would have a martyr's death and we know from the early church fathers he was in fact crucified upside down, because he did not consider himself worthy to be put to death in the same manner as his lord.

As we are often apt to do, Peter is looking around and sees his friend and fellow apostle John.

"Lord,what about him?" Peter asks.

Instead of looking around, focus on me. You let me worry about my plans for him. You don't need to concern yourself with that.

Twice in John 21, Jesus tells Peter to follow HIM and isn't that the answer to all our mental comparison games? Stop looking around at her contract, his award, her job promotion. Keep your eyes on me and I will keep you from stumbling.

Peter's friend John on the other hand, called himself the beloved disciple because he understood the depths of the love Jesus had for him. When we can see clearly how much he loves us and how great his goodness towards us is...why her stops mattering. Because we know a God who bled for our sins can only have a plan that's for our best. And that frees us up too to be genuinely able to celebrate when our friends have fabulous news, with our whole heart.

A former librarian with a passion for words, Julia Reffner is a columnist for LIBRARY JOURNAL and writes to mirror truth. She lives in Virginia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

TipfulTuesday- Eleanor Roosevelt


Today's famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt seems really appropriate for writers.

In the course of submitting our work, we receive comments that deflate our inspiration, what we feel is a harsh critique, maybe a rejection letter, or a 1-2 star Amazon review.

These words, No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,  bring us back to our calling. They remind us to stand strong and be courageous, do not tremble or be afraid, for truly the Lord our God is with us. Joshua 1:9

So, Writers, take a deep breath, and create story. 

~Mary Vee

Lead Photo by Mary Vee

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Can You Expand Your Network?

You’ve heard it said over and over again. You’ve probably said it yourself.

“The book business is hard. The market is impossible right now.”

Believe me when I say I get it.

But you know what ISN’T hard about the industry? Particularly if you’re involved in CBA?

The community. The comraderie. The kinship.

Because as hard as it is when a house you love has, realistically speaking, one debut author spot available every one to two years— the fellowship you can find among other writers makes up for the longevity of the challenge.

Are you making the most of this fellowship? Of your network?

Today I want to talk about three main ways you can expand your networking reach (in more corporate terms)— regardless of how many, if any, books you’ve sold.

  • Network up. I don’t mean suck up. These relationships need to be organic to be effective. So find authors— even editors and agents— whom you respect, and make yourself teachable. Useful. I have honestly lost count of the number of authors— some extremely well-known— who have cheered me on, picked me up when I’ve faced disappointment, and have also taught me practical skills and industry knowledge. So write reviews for people. Sign up for paid critiques at conferences. Don’t fake it, but if you loved an author’s story, tell the author!
  • Network out. No one understands the ups and downs of the industry like someone in the trenches with you. That’s why I am so thankful for the Alley Cats. I really can’t kmagine this journey without them. Do you have a group of peers you go to for thoughts, empathy, celebration? Or do you spend most of your efforts networking up— or perhaps targeting readers? If you don’t have a group of writing friends, try going to a conference or joining a critique group. This journey is just too challenging to attempt solo.
  • Network down. No, I do not mean that as condescending as it may sound. 😂 But as you walk this journey a while, you begin to learn things. Remember the authors further down the road who helped you out? Be that author to someone else. Ask God how He wants to use you to mentor and encourage someone who needs it— someone, perhaps, unknown and brand new to writing. Keep the good vibes going.

I’d encourage you to consider where you spend most of your networking time— up, out, or down. Could you diversify to expand your own audience and help others in the process? 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tipful Tuesday: Emily Dickinson

The spoken word is more powerful than we might ever hope for at times, and it is a tool for change and healing in the most powerful of ways. To consider it dead as it hits the listener, is definitely something I cannot align with, just like Miss Dickinson.  Our words can destroy, lift up, empower, motivate...the list goes on. Words are the life between us and around us. might this relate to our written words? Is it so for those FIRST words of a first draft? Do we write them as if they are dead and will be slashed in the end? Or do we write them as if they are the very cells of an organism of grand potential?

Sometimes we forget that our words are the first sign of life in our characters, in our stories, in our purpose. I see authors struggle with writing that perfect first line, or that satisfying last line. But what if we looked at each word as a living thing, a breathing thing that is the root for the next one and the next one and we just keep writing until we have poured life onto the pages? What if we don't look at our words as something as dead and boring as count (sorry...I am all right-brained...numbers=boring to me), but as new life for that next growth?

Just a thought.

But. Hmmmm. I went back and read and reread my 92,000 words in my last story before sending it off. And, while I deleted bunches, as if they were just boring numbers needing to be wiped off the blackboard, the ones that stuck--ESPECIALLY the ones that I figured would die with the first draft--those that still made it on the page--can I just say...WHOA...? Those words took on life and purpose in my story like I never imagined them to do.

Consider your words bringing life about. See how much of your life you can breathe into their first day of existence. Write that first draft without too much weight on it all sticking, but write that first draft as if you are CRAFTING. There's power in that, there's art in that.

Happy Birthday, all you words!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Organization? Spring Cleaning for Your Writing

Six inches on April 1st? Really??????
The calendar says it's April 3, but Indiana is a bit confused. This is the scene I woke up to yesterday morning. By four p.m. the six plus inches of snow had melted, but it was a bit shocking to have that much snow on Easter.

Despite the snow, I've been feeling the itch to spring clean. That means I've been tackling a drawer here and a hutch there. I pulled all the out-grown kids clothes from various stashes and separated them for four families. Crazy!

There's something wonderful about the feeling of order coming from chaos. The fact that everything has a place that it belongs. There's also something therapeutic about throwing old things away that truly don't serve a purpose anymore. It's hard to do, but it's good.

What does this have to do with writing?

This is how I want all of my spaces to look. A place for everything.
Great question.

Sometimes our writing needs a spring cleaning. We've hit a point where we just need to go through and cut some words. We've gotten a little flabby with our sentences and need to exercise the delete key.

Maybe there's a character that needs to be punched up. A scene that's unnecessary. A chapter that needs to be enhanced.

We need to take a fresh look at what we've written and critically evaluate it.


Maybe it's time to read an award-winning or much talked about book in your genre. How does that writer craft their story? What can you learn from them?

This is how many of my drawers look: Chaos!
Or it's time to crack open that craft book you purchased years ago and remind yourself how to put tension on every page or create three dimensional characters.

Could it be time to pray over your writing and ask God how you're doing?

Or maybe you need to step way back and take a break from writing. Try another creative endeavor. Give your subconscious a chance to noodle the plot points that are giving you fits.

Whatever you do, take a few minutes or hours to spring clean your writing.

An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Tale of Two Options #TipfulTuesday

A tale of two options. #TipfulTuesday

After writing half of my goal words today, I hit the blank screen. It happens. We've all heard fabulous ways to tackle this problem. Like a diet, any of the ideas CAN work, but for some crazy reason, not all do for you or me. Right? We have to find the one that is best for us. 

Oddly enough I found an idea to share in two Easter photos I took.

Hubby and I went to Israel last year. We learned there are two places celebrated as the site for the tomb where Jesus was buried and rose. 

One is a beautiful spacious garden where individuals can walk through winding paths, smell fragrant flowers and end their journey at the tomb. There are three gathering places, spaced from each other, designed for groups to assemble, sing (ooo the international praises still play in my memory), share, and have communion. The photo is on the left.

The other is a beautiful, ornate structure built inside a large church called the Holy Sepulcher. Swarms of people press together in a spaced roped off, funneling visitors into a single line through this celebrated space where the tomb is said to be. Tall columns, Majestic. Scarlet. Ten individuals are permitted at a time into this silent area, where no photos are permitted, and allowed to ponder with absolutely no speaking for about two minutes before ushered out.

There are many benefits to both places. The intent for both is to remember and focus on the great gift Christ gave.

Two vastly different places. One purpose.

Back to the ideas for writing and blank screen problem. There are times when I need to walk in the field out back and chew through what my characters are doing. I take my phone and turn on the audio recorder, dictating my thoughts for when I get back to my writing desk.

On the other hand, there are times when I need to drive to a coffee shop, spread my laptop and coffee on a table, and let the pieces of conversation, the piped-in music, and the activity in the room help me create story.

So, when you are stuck, find your idea maker location, and go there. By the way, where is your idea maker location?

~Mary Vee
#WritersAlley #amwriting