Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: Steven James and Characters

Today on the Writer's Alley, we focus on character. No matter the genre or the age of the audience, these tips will benefit any writer.
Author Steven James teaches this principle:
To initiate your story, your protagonist will either
1. lose something vital and try to regain it
2. see something desirable and try to obtain it.
3. experience something traumatic and try to overcome it.
Any of these scenarios will set up tension for your story. Whether you write a love story, a mystery, a historical, a children's book, whatever, your main character MUST have tension. A problem to solve. A period in his or her life that we the reader are compelled to turn pages to see what happens next.
When a book's opening pages draws readers into the story and compels them to feel an understanding, a compassion for the Main Character facing the tension, questions are asked. Pages are turned to find out if the character will be safe. Not just physically, but in all manner: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. Will she find their true love? Will he escape? Will she overcome her barrier and get a job? Will the kids at his new school like him? Will she find love, joy, peace, etc?
To put this on a simple scale, think of children's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." A staple for all home libraries. The title alone draws readers to open the cover. And yes, Alexander's day does not get any better for many pages. Tension mounts as we read. Our compassion grows for a little boy who is having one of "those days". The kind we've all experienced. We even laugh, because, yes, we completely understand what he is going through. I won't spoil the ending. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens.
Other great character tension examples can be found in: Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind". Joseph's story in the book of Genesis. Frank Peretti's "Monster". Across the board. Every genre. Every age audience. A great book can be defined by the tension the character experiences and the compassion a reader can't help but feel.
So, test your manuscript. Ask a beta reader these questions:
Do you love/are drawn to the main character?
Do you feel compassion for the character?
What caused you to feel this compassion?
(If the answer to the last question indicates a moment of tension, then you have done your job.)
Mystery/suspense, Christian Fiction author, Steven James taught several classes and spoke as the keynote for one night at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference #BRMCWC last week. He will also be the keynote at #ACFW this year. This is a speaker you will not want to miss.
~Mary Vee (photo by Mary Vee)
#TipfulTuesday #TheWritersAlley
Your thoughts?


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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Insidious Doubts of the Writer

Writers are a weird breed. Stuffed with loads of creativity, a writer's brain can veer off in tangents that can make even the sanest of humans look psycho.

We are powerful wordsmiths. We are the worst writers to ever put pen to page.

We are the queen of the kissing scene. We are the dumbest person to ever have written a love scene. 

We can write 10,000 words in one day because we are inspired. We bang our head on the computer screen, begging for at least one word to put on the page. 

Bah....and then there is the doubt that creeps into our hearts. Even after being offered a contract for your story, you begin to wonder if you are ready. Can you really do the required edits? If there are so many changes necessary, why did they even want to publish the story? Were you wrong to put the story out there before it was ready to see the light of day? Will you ever to learn to write well?

Doubt...it is an insidious evil that all writers must learn to face and banish from their minds and hearts. As Christian writers, this rings especially true. When you doubt yourself, you doubt God. You doubt His ability to use the creativity He has gifted you with in order to speak to someone.

Here is some advice I've been given this past week from sweet Alley Cats when I was overcome with doubt:

  • We are equipped not because of our credentials, but because of our calling from God.
  • Deep breaths and baby steps! 
  • Remember that God has given you everything you need to do the work - it's inside you, waiting to be released. 
  • You are doing something scary, but it is right where God has you. Trust in Him to carry your dreams through to completion.
Great advice from fantastic, experienced writers who have been there and overcome. We all need truth-sayers in our lives who will help us grow and overcome the paralyzing doubt that can creep in to destroy our dreams. Listen to them, but foremost, listen to God, the giver of dreams and the creator of all.

What doubts are you wrestling with, whether in writing or any other pursuit? Who are the truth-sayers in your life?

Photo credit: geralt @ pixabay.com

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: sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

#TipfulTuesday Writing Conferences and Why

Blue Ridge Mountains
Writing Conference held at Ridgecrest

Not every career offers stirring conferences. I've gone with my husband to some of his medical conferences, and trust me, I had the better time during those days by visiting the sites.

Writers' conferences are a whole different experience. No this is not a sales job. Not by far. But this is a: I have done this and loved it/learned from it/benefitted from it SO much I just have to share with you post.

This Saturday I'm leaving for my 10th writer's conference.Why?

*I'm intrigued by the classes offered in my genre this time at this place.

*Among the instructors, a widely published author in my genre is scheduled to teach some of those classes.

*Other writers/authors...men and women who also talk to characters...will be there. Sigh....my people.:)

*I am forced out of my introvert world by one of the few groups I can feel comfortable with.

*I have an opportunity to tell an editor or agent about my work and see what they think about my idea. There is no added fee.

*For these few days, I can soak in writing waters energized with encouraging and stimulating powers.

These are only a few of my favorite things about writer's conferences.

Bonus Fodder Experiences while I was at past conferences: I've gone zip lining during free time at Mt. Hermon. Walked the streets of musical Nashville. Rode to the top of the St. Louis arch. Saw Chicago's skyline...and its traffic! And more.
There are about fifty gazillion reasons to attend a writer's conference. The cost is so worth saving for. Most conferences have a scholarship program. I applied for one and was happy to get it. You could apply too!

What questions do you have about attending a writer's conference?
Name a benefit you received from attending a writer's conference.
~Mary Vee
#amwriting #conferences#TipfulTuesday#TheWritersAlley

Blue Ridge 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


Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Before You Get New Headshots...

Last week, I had the time of my life getting new headshots done with a local photographer who’s also become a dear friend of mine. We set out for the middle of nowhere for a yellow wildflower field she’d spotted days prior, only to find IT’D BEEN MOWED DOWN! 😂 So we ended up in a random field of fluffy white weeds behind a marble store, and then headed down to a plant nursery.

And you know what? I LOVE THESE PICTURES. They’re everything I wanted in my first set of professional headshots. So before you get new photos made, take my advice! Because, trust me— I knew next to nothing going into this process!

  • Be less concerned about the perfect location and more concerned about the perfect photographer. (Like Megan at Southern Grace Photography in Gulf Shores!) Find someone whose style you love and whose experience you can trust. That’s a sure fire way to know you’ll be happy with your photos.
  • If your writing voice has a regional flair, consider an outside location that pulls in those vibes.
  • Choose colors that are classic so the photos can transition well from project to project.
  • Similarly, choose classy makeup and jewelry. Don’t be afraid to go for a bold lip color or bright blue necklace, but be sure you’re selective about choosing only one or two bold details.
  • Not sure what to wear? Pick what makes you feel most confident. Headshots are so much about the smile and eyes.
  • And last but not least— have fun! Even if you don’t normally enjoy being photographed, consider the session a chance to invest your time back into yourself. Think about all the places these photos will go, and don’t be afraid to smile wide! The most important thing to convey in these photos is YOU!

I want to hear from you! What tips do you have to add to the list?


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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Praying over Your Dream


In the summer of 2012 God answered a deep dream of my heart: as a family we spent two months in Germany.

My husband had spent seven years as a youngster growing up in the Far East, and I wanted to give our kids a taste of that.

Then God did the amazing, and we got to do exactly that.

I left part of my heart in Germany.

And I began to pray almost immediately about whether we could do something like that again. It was a dream, but a back-burner dream. After all, God had already done the impossible once.

 So I started praying. Eric and I had traveled to England and Scotland a couple times, but we hadn't been able to travel as a family. I did something that might make you laugh. I put a Euro in the coin compartment of my purse.  And then every time I got change, I asked God if He would do it again.

The coin became a visual reminder to pray. After we spent our summer in Siena, I added my Italian SIM card to my billfold, and each time I spotted it, it was another reminder to ask if God would do it again.

Last summer, after spending two weeks in Florence, I put this Euro in my nightstand drawer...another reminder to pray.

Last month I spent a week in Jordan, and left another piece of my heart behind. Now a Jordanian quarter has joined the 50 cent Euro piece in my change compartment. Now I'm asking God if and when I'll go back there. Who knows? He's done crazier things in my life.

What are you asking God for? What crazy dream has He planted in your heart?

Is is writing?

What do you have to remind you to pray about it?

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, May 1, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: 15 Minute Appointments

#TipfulTuesday The full value in the fifteen minute appointment is more than you can imagine. 

ACFW has opened registration on line. Blue Ridge Christian Writer's Conference begins in 3 weeks. And there are more conference opportunities yet to come this year.

While the big questions for you may be, should I go? Can I afford to go? Why should I go? 

Let me answer a little question for you.
At my first ACFW conference... it's been at least 8 years, I signed up for an appointment not knowing--at all--what I would say or what would take place in those precious fifteen minutes. What I did know was I wanted to sit across from an expert and learn from them. If the person happened to like my work, well, that would be an added bonus.

I was excessively nervous.

Unable to formulate a word, I slid my material across the desk to the agent. She read a few paragraphs then looked up. She asked a few questions about the story. During this time she said the unheard of comment, "I would like to known more in the beginning. Could you start the story sooner?"

While the topic is not about the fruit of this conversation, my recently published book, yeah!!, our focus today is on the tremendous advice given during conference appointments.

You have an opportunity to sit across from an expert. You can gleam from their expertise. 

Conferences usually offer three types of appointments: mentors, agents, editors. 

A mentor will gladly listen to issues you may have about your story and make suggestions. Ask questions. Offer advice.
An agent will do the same but also consider your work as something they'd like to represent in the publishing field. 
An editor will listen but will also consider your work as something their publisher may want for publication.

Every single time an appointment ended, whether the expert asked to see more of my work or not, I felt I had learned volumes. 

So, to the writers who are reading, if you are able to attend a conference, sign up for an appointment and look forward to learning reams.

To the mentors, agents and editors who meet with us, know that you truly are appreciated, and you mean a great deal. Your words sink into our minds and help us mold better stories.

~Mary Vee

#TipfulTuesday #amwriting #writingconferences 

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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.