Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Why 2020 is NOT a loss

When I first envisioned what I'd write about this week, God put on my heart tips for restarting your goals if the first quarter of 2020 wasn't all you envisioned it to be. Encouragement that it wasn't too late to begin and there was no shame in restarting.

That was before we knew what "social distancing" was. Before EVERYONE'S 2020 wasn't what they envisioned it would be.

So I wouldn't dream of sharing planning techniques and logistics when much of what we had planned for tomorrow is cancelled and our physical, mental, and emotional needs depend on focusing our attention to the present. When people need gentle arms around them right now so much more than a nudge toward the future.

I've been listening a lot, looking to the truth tellers who have never steered me wrong. We are ALL trying to navigate something new here, and it looks different for everyone. But there are a few truths God has put on my heart that stay the same no matter how much our world changes.

God's plans for us in 2020 are most certainly not cancelled. He is not surprised or taken off guard by this global pandemic. Even in the scary and uncertain and uncharted waters, he is unmoving. And he is working. He's still on the throne. (I've had to remind myself of that truth a lot.) The truth is that he has ordained a plan for your life in 2020. We just have to trust in his goodness and sovereignty more than usual.

"Am I being led by love or moved by fear?" One of my favorite Emily P. Freeman quotes is still an excellent guiding question to ask ourselves as we evaluate how we spend our time and what decisions we make. While it's important to be practical and follow our leaders' guidelines to keep ourselves and others safe, someone who is led by love will actively seek to love on and serve others (for example, checking in on a grandma or a single person home alone) opposed to fear for their own future (i.e. a scarcity mentality/hoarding a basement full of toilet paper).

Who we BECOME during this time is so much more important than what we do. If you look around, some people have shifted into action to make sure life looks as normal as possible and they stay on track to meet their goals. Ahem, I'm talking about a friend. They're creating the perfect productivity routine. Researching and crafting a successful homeschooling plan. Starting a side project. Reading the Kindle backlog in its entirety. Training for a marathon and doing all the fitness challenges people are posting on Instagram.

Filling their days with whatever they can in the hope that busyness will equate to purpose.

Sometimes we get so focused on hustle that we neglect our hearts and miss the fact that much of the time, God's direction looks more like moving one step at a time with HIM than sprinting so hard we can't hear anything over the sound of our own breath.

Yeah. Totally talking about "a friend."

The forced stillness, the change of scenery, and the threat to our livelihoods can tell us a lot about ourselves and where our values lie. Some of that will be ugly, hard to swallow. All of it is harder to discern when we're constantly moving, relatively safe, and going about a predictable routine.

But God can use that to reveal the important work he wants to do in us and through us and, most importantly, with us.

Let me leave you with this benediction for 2020, whatever it looks like for us: 

May we focus on who he is with us in the present when we're uncertain about the future.
May hope rise because this doesn't change who God has always been.
May we be led by love instead of moved by fear.
May we listen more than we speak and discern what's TRUE from what's distorted by fear.
May we be more focused on what our hearts and bodies are telling us about what we need today instead of hustling for what we want tomorrow.
May we draw closer to the Father and become more familiar with the sound of his voice.


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife, mom, future RN, and the award-winning contemporary romance author of That’s When I KnewWith No Reservations, and The Long Game, currently featured in the Once Upon a Laugh novella collection. 

She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles.

You can connect with her on her WebsiteFacebook, and Instagram.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

When the World Stops

Where do I even begin?

Our world looks different than it did a month ago. Even two weeks ago, who would have expected this? No matter what your norm is-- work from home mom, traditionally working mom, single, married, etc.-- your life is different.

Sure, there are benefits. Extra time with our families. People crossing over political party lines to simply help one another. Slower pace. More crafts. Cute little driveway chalk drawings. Learning to bake every kind of cookie under the sun...

But if you, like me, are prone to your mental health taking a hit when things get overwhelming, you may also find yourself struggling. One minute you're watching a heartwarming video of people coming together or thinking how glad you are to read with your kid on the couch-- and the next minute you're facing anxiety and depression head-on as it hits you in waves that you have very little control and the whole world is quite literally shutting down.

We can say this realigns our focus on how little we control in life and how gracious and caring God is. That's true, and it does. But there's more than that, isn't there? There's the panic that burns in our chests and the breaths that are hard to catch as we get take-out food and sanitize our hands one extra time, as we cancel vacations, graduations, sporting events, and best-laid plans. Some of you may be facing unemployment. Some of you may have a loved one who has tested positive for the virus. This. Is. Hard.

I've been very up and down this week. I've had some emotional highs of sweet times with my family, and I've also had some anxiety attacks and depressive spirals. I've had too much caffeine and not enough water. I've grown overwhelmed by the scope of the spread, but perhaps even more than that, the scope of the shut down (and I'm very pro-closures, don't misunderstand-- its just hard to wrap your mind around). So I speak from a place of standing right beside you. I need to share these two things God has put on my heart, and I hope they will do a good work in you even as you may find yourself feeling lonely, isolated, or in chaos.

  • We all experience calm and storm, but we have a choice in which seas we set our anchor. I keep thinking of the passage where Jesus calms the waves. "Peace, be still," he says to them in Matthew 8. Contrary to what some people may suggest, the Bible never promises us an un-bumpy ride. The Bible does promise us peace. In other words, it's okay to emotionally fall apart. That's your mind and heart and body's way of processing the potential and actual loss of a pandemic. You're scared. That's healthy. You're sad. That's healthy too. We will never make peace and receive the Lord's word over us if we cannot first look at the waves head-on. Do not live in denial/guilt of how you think you "should" feel because all feelings are fine and good. Instead, spend that guilty energy opening your hands and releasing your fears as they come.
  • Feeling whole and healthy has never been a first step/requirement to do what God has called us toward. Every single one of my writing friends who I've spoken with about this has told me the same thing: I am struggling to write right now. And you know what? So am I. But God has begun laying on my heart the reiteration that in my weakness, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Who says you have to fix yourself or your feelings before you can work in tandem with God? He wants to use you right where you are. Not feeling creative? Maybe lean into that despair as you write. Maybe there's a story in that. Feeling compassion fatigue? Maybe God is leading you to take some small but meaningful step, like mailing out cards to nursing homes or getting someone groceries or even financing school meals. God is our hope, our anchor, and our peace, and He hasn't stopped using us just because we are scared. We cannot take ourselves out of the race simply because we're weary, nor do we have to keep running ragged. God wants to use us IN our weariness through his OWN restorative power. 

Dear writers, if there is ever a time to tell your story, it's now.

Turn your computer back on.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. Her debut novel The Dress Shop on King Street releases December 3, 2020 from Bethany House. 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 also an active member of ACFW. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her website - and while you're there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

tips for staying calm, productive, & healthy while social distancing

Hi, Alley Pals! Laurie here, taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk about being homebound and working from home with the CDC’s new social distancing recommendations affecting so many people.

I’ve been a work-from-home mom for 8.5 years, ranging from full-time to working part-time and taking classes. I’ve also been quarantined for months when one of my kids had some unexplained symptoms, so I know the full spectrum of feelings that can come from circumstances you can’t control + responsibilities that don’t stop when global pandemics occur.

Today I’m sharing my best tips to stay healthy, balanced, and productive when homebound.

First and foremost, actively prioritize grace over fear.

The headlines and the empty grocery store aisles have demonstrated what fear can do in times like this. And fear breeds shame and all sorts of ugliness. So stay smart and apprised of your area’s recommended precautions, but avoid social media for the time being if it’s a source of fear.

If you’re having trouble reconciling fear with faith, I love this recommendation from a pastor friend of mine: When possible, focus on what we know to be true of God through His Word rather than trying to make sense of God through the lens of what’s happening in the world.

And on this subject, my favorite professor always said the best way to alleviate situational stress and anxiety is to turn our focus outward and actively look for ways to help others. Since we’re social distancing, you can order or drop off groceries for others if it’s within your financial means, pray of course, and check in on the most vulnerable in your community. The elderly, the hourly workers, and the children who rely on school lunches may be struggling more than you know. Solidarity and grace are maybe MOST important right now.

Give yourself a flexible routine (and your kids, if you have them!)

On a more practical note, even if you normally balk at the idea of structure (I get it!), let me make a case for a flexible routine. Evaluating all you need to accomplish and then dividing up your day accordingly can decrease stress drastically by reducing the number of decisions you need to make. You don’t need to scramble for what to do with your time because it’s laid out for you.

And if you’re trying to work from home with kids, this keeps them entertained and gives them direction without so many questions. But, again, the keyword here is FLEXIBLE because we’re all about that grace right now.

Give yourself one thing to look forward to every day.

When I was working from home with a newborn, this was the best advice someone gave me. It’s something that gives you life, maybe feels like a little luxury. For me, that would be an hour with a good book, baking with my kids, a yoga video with my favorite candles, or a hot shower with my yummy lemon body wash.

Making a bucket list of things you want to accomplish (fun and work) while you’re enjoying social distancing is another great way to stay on track and keep morale up.

Make space for creativity.

This is not a natural inclination for me, but the second I found out my kids’ schools were cancelled for three weeks, I made a bin and gathered all of the workbooks, coloring books, and play dough around our house so there would never be a shortage of things to do. I also put in a Target Drive-up order for cheap painting sketch pads and watercolors. Doing something with our hands that doesn’t require a lot of brain activity has been super therapeutic for us.

If practical things help ease your mind and alleviate some of your fear, your friendly microbiology student is here for you:

This is a list of things you might not think to do, shared not for the sake of driving mania or paranoia or OCD tendencies, but for those like me who can avoid worry by knowing they’re doing everything they can:

Follow CDC guidelines + the recommendations of your local health department. Regularly clean your cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices. Remove shoes before entering your house. Change clothes after you’ve been in a crowded area. Take community hand towels out of your kitchens/bathrooms and give everyone their own that gets washed daily. Disinfect soap dispensers if you’ve reused/refilled them for a while. Disinfect doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator handles, and other things that get lots of touches.

Take good care of yourself!

You know the science behind this, but now is a great time to get in regular sunshine/fresh air, leafy green veggies, and plenty of water. Colorful foods (and reduced sugar) will not only support your immune system with naturally occurring vitamins, but it will clear your mind and boost your mental health. As will taking a walk outside or doing a yoga/stretching/fitness video on YouTube.

In addition to your rhythms of prayer and rest, regularly check in on your mental health and don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional if you need extra help right now. Being proactive in these ways gives your mind and body the fighting chance they need.

Stay well, my friends. Check in with us in the comments to let us know how you’re doing and what’s been helpful for you!


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife, mom, future RN, and the award-winning contemporary romance author of That’s When I KnewWith No Reservations, and The Long Game, currently featured in the Once Upon a Laugh novella collection. 

She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles.

You can connect with her on her WebsiteFacebook, and Instagram.

Monday, March 16, 2020

4 Musts for Winning Blog Content

Good day! Alley Cat Julia here. Why not grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and settle in for a few minutes.

Are you new to blogging? Or just looking for new ideas to shake up your current blog.

If you have unexpected free time this week, it may be a great time to look at creating a blog for the first time. Or changing something up.

In chatting with my fellow Alley cats and checking in with some expert bloggers I found some tips you may find valuable.

1) Keep on keeping on:

No surprise. Consistency is the number one blogging tip that came up with fellow Alley cat writers.

Mary Vee says, "Without it, we cannot build an audience."

Mary posts once a week on the same day. She finds this is a doable pace.

There are many great tools to help schedule your posts in advance. In the past I've used Google calendar. Another option for those who prefer paper over digital is printable calendar pages. For the content I write for Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies I like to do this so I can see several months worth of social media content at one time. I just display simple printable online calendars above my desk.

Laurie Tomlinson suggests fellow bloggers, "Pick a number that's sustainable even if its just once a week or biweekly."

Anywhere from daily to several times a week is the advice ProBlogger gives. They suggest varying length based on how often you post and finding a routine that works with your skills, personality & schedule. 

Blogger Niklas has produced 40,000 words of blogging content per year simply by creating a daily blogging habit. He has some great tips at Successful Blogging about growing in consistency.

"Producing great content consistently is the hardest part of blogging." He states that 90% of bloggers fail simply because they never make writing a habit.

Classic author William Faulkner claimed, "I only write when inspiration strikes.Fortunately it strikes at nine sharp every morning.

Niklas uses the Pomodoro technique, writing in 25 minute bursts, a strategy that countless authors and other productivity gurus such as Michael Hyatt use to boost productivity. See Michael's post here for more on how to use batching to become more productive.

Do you have a place to track your blogging goals? My favorite app for goal tracking is Trello. Elle and Company has some great tips for using Trello as a blogger. As a visual learner, I'm a bit addicted to color coding which may be one reason its one of my favorite organizational tools to use.

If things tend to slip your mind as they do for me (a bit after my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD we found out where the genetic link was...me!), google alarms may be your friend. Perhaps set alarms around the times you need to write or publish a post.

Habit Tracker is a tool you may find helpful from Coach.me if you are not already using it. A friend and I used this program to send each other reminders and check in with each other.

Huffington Post suggests 80% of people will read headline copy, yet only 20% will read the rest so picking a title that makes readers want to dig further is crucial. Knowing your audience and focusing on the crucial writing guidance to show not tell are some of the hints in "7 Great Tips for Consistently Writing Good Content."

2) Great graphics

Just like we all have judged a book by its cover, readers will make a split-second decision about our blog based on its physical appearance. Winning graphics are a key factor in driving blog traffic to or away from our blogs.

Here are some favorite sites:

The Savvy Couple's List has more ideas for blog graphics. 

Don't neglect copyright regulations, make sure you have the right to usage. 

Alley Cat Laurie is a fan of Canva and uses it to create stunning blog visuals with consistent font and coloring. 

The blog has some great ideas including this post which shares how to create over fifty visuals using their product. 

Canva helped Kim George tap into her creative zone. She shares how to create sidebar images, email newsletter headers and more at The Chic Geek

3) Content that outlasts trends

Is your blogging topic one that readers will be interested in next month...or year? 

Google drive, Evernote, and Trello are just a few of the great tools available for keeping track of all those great topics we think of in the spur of the moment. 

Branding expert Gary Vaynerchuck gives hacks to create up to 64 pieces of content per day. That's impressive! Offensive language warning, however, I was impressed with the way he used one piece of content in 64 different ways. 

4) Keep them engaged and keep engaged with them

To keep readership constant, we have to not only engage readers but connect by responding in a timely manner to comments.

Emotional connection can also be a key to reader's involvement, suggests Hootsuite. In a time when resources are overwhelming in quantity I find I often look to a blogger that adds humor and shares the more personal side of their journey. Vulnerability can be a very appealing quality. 

In an everchanging landscape the key elements of a blooming blog are perennial: consistent content, winning graphics, choosing topics that of evergreen interest and focusing on the reader. Mastering these simple strategies alone is sure to benefit your blog.

EDITED: So sorry due to health issues, Karen's interview will be on the Alley at a later date. But stay tuned!

Want some more great blogging tips? I've followed Money Saving Mom Crystal Paine since she had a smaller personal blog almost a decade ago. Her tips have been transforming for me in the areas of time management and organization. I'd like to offer her blog start-up course to one individual who comments here and an extra entry for commenting on my Thursday evening video.

To be entered to win, I'd love to know your favorite blog and what you've learned about blogging from it. What techniques do they use to keep readers engaged?

Julia Reffner is a magazine columnist, tutor, and writer of truth-filled fiction living in Richmond, Virginia.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Top Tips for Marketing as an Author and Reader PLUS Giveaway

Spring is on our doorstep! A Season for New!

This month on the Writer's Alley we're introducing, discussing, and giving tips for some of those "new" chapters writers encounter. We have a lot to share! Last week, Mary Vee shared her top tips for before and after getting a book contract. Julia Reffner and Laurie Tomlinson will host later this month with great "new" topics for you. 

As I began thinking about this post, I started kicking myself (not really, but kinda really) for saying I'd take this topic. Me talk about marketing? I hate marketing! And I'm still a debut author with my first book published last May, so what do I know about good marketing? Well, I'm going to share some things I've learned here today and Thursday night I'm going to do a Facebook Live on The Writer's Alley and share some of the Alley Cat's best advice for marketing. (Yikes! I said I'd do a Facebook Live too????)

So let's get down to it. First we'll talk about tips for the writer, then switch to tips for the reader.

Top Tips To Do for the Writer:

  • Begin early to search blogs you can guest post or get an interview on. If you are a member of ACFW and join their mail email loop, people will post when they are accepting guest bloggers on their blog. There are so many supportive authors who want to help you promote your new release. Schedule one a day the week(s) before and after your release. If you schedule more than one a day, it gets super busy and splits your focus. 
  • Create a speadsheet of your author interviews, guest posts, etc. This will help in maintaining deadlines, sending all the required documents (book cover, author photo, book blurb, etc.), and other pertinent information.
  • Use Canva or some photo editing tool to create memes with quotes from your book and do a week countdown with them toward release day.
  • Follow book bloggers on social media and develop a REAL relationship with them - not just to promote your book, but share your love of books. When you have a book release, you can offer up a copy of your book for them to read and hopefully review.
  • Start a newsletter. This was (and still is) hard for me, but as we all know, social media changes on a daily basis and is not reliable in getting our news into the hands of our followers. But an email list is YOURS and you can share book news straight into your interested readers' inbox. 
  • Start a website if you don't already have one. Readers want to know all about the authors they read, so have a page about you, a page for your book(s), and a blog. A blog is a great way to share behind the scenes stuff about your book, your writing life, your reading life, and more. Yes, you can do this through social media too (or instead of a blog). 
  • Gather a launch team. This was incredibly intimidating for me to do. There are many ways to do this and you can google "how to start a launch team" and will get hundreds of ideas. I decided to tell my newsletter subscribers and was able to gather some that way. You could open it up on Facebook too. It is suggested to have a survey or sign up form so that you get serious minded people who will follow through with sharing and reviewing your book that they got for free. Create a Facebook group for them and share memes with them to post, as well as share the blogs you are on so they can spread the word too. There may be some on your team who can host you as well.
  • Hire a company that does blog tours such as JustRead Tours or Celebrate Lit. I hired JustRead Tours a few months after my release and could see an increase in sales. I highly recommend them! They were amazing to deal with and very helpful.
  • Try and set up book signings in your local book stores or libraries. 
  • Have a Release Day Party and celebrate your special day with friends and family. You will sell lots of books, so have plenty on hand. Make it simple. Cookies and punch. Talk a little about your book and how it came to be. It is a fun way to mark an important day in your life.

Top Tips To Not Do for the Writer:
  • Don't try to do everything. You can't do it all and will burn out and not enjoy the whole experience of your book releasing into the world if you are stressed. Pick a few things to do and do them well. You don't have to join every single social media. Find what you like best and do it.
  • Don't focus just on yourself on social media. Try following the 80/20 rule. Share about others or non-book news 80% of the time and 20% about your book news. 
  • Don't follow reader groups just to advertise your book. Social media is about developing relationships and that is the goal, not just promoting your book.
  • Don't spend a boat-load of money on Ads without doing your research. Some say Facebook ads are dead and others have huge success with them. Some say Amazon ads are the way to go and others say it's a waste of your money. Do your due diligence and find out what will work for you.

Top Tips for the Reader:

You might be thinking, "What? Why do I need to market my favorite authors?" Let me tell you, authors desperately need you, the reader! All authors are expected to market their books, even authors who publish with the big publishers. If you love an author's work and want to see more books from them, do your part in spreading the word about those beloved stories. Here's how you can help:
  • Write a review and post on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, and other sites. Reviews matter and help to boost the book in the "algorithms" that showcases books to others.
  • Follow authors on social media and like/comment on their posts. This helps to build their platform that publishers want to see.
  • Share author's news on social media, like new releases, book sales, etc. Word of mouth sells books.
  • Subscribe to an author's newsletter. This keeps you informed of news, but also, publishers like to see an author's growing email list.
  • Join an author's street team and be active within the group. This is huge to an author. They need people who love their books and want to engage.
  • Ask your library to carry an author's book. More eyes on a book gets an author more readers.
  • If you like a book, share about it on social media. Again, word of mouth sells books. 
  • Do a giveaway for a favorite book on social media.
  • If you are on Instagram, do a cute #bookstagram to feature a book. There are so many creative ways to share your love of books. 
  • Nominate a book for your book club. Ask the author to Skype in for discussion. 
There are so many ways authors and readers can help each other in sharing their love for books and marketing those books. All authors were readers first and as a reader, should do their part in promoting others' books besides their own. It's a lot to take in, right? But if we are being honest, sharing our love for story isn't all that hard. Be real and authentic. Just a few lines and a simple photo of your book of choice is all it takes to spread some book love.

In regards to marketing and promoting books, what other ways can you think of to get the word out about your book or your favorite reads?


***Giveaway closed and winner has been chosen.
The winner chosen by random.org is Patti Jo, aka CatMom. She has been contacted by email.***

In the comments, answer the question above for a chance to win your choice of:


Your choice of any Alley Cat book still in print. Go HERE to see all the books!

Winner will be selected Friday, March 13, 2020

Also, stop by Thursday night at 7 pm Central for a Facebook Live talking about promoting books: tips for the author and the reader. 

See you then!!!

BONUS: If you would like to browse through my collection of marketing articles I've found on Pinterest, just go HERE.


Sherrinda Ketchersid is a lover of stories with happily-ever-after endings. Whether set in the past or present, romance is what she writes and where her dreams reside. 

Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her preacher husband. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love.

When not writing, Sherrinda loves to read, paint in her Bible, and play with her adorable scruffy dog, Phineas.

Find her on...

Website: sherrinda.com
Facebook: facebook.com/SherrindaKetchersidAuthor/
Instagram: instagram.com/sherrinda/
Twitter: twitter.com/sherrinda
Pinterest: pinterest.com/sherrinda/
Goodreads: goodreads.com/SherrindaKetchersid
Bookbub: bookbub.com/sherrinda-ketchersid
Amazon: amazon.com/SherrindaKetchersid

Monday, March 2, 2020

Top Tips for Before and After Receiving A New Book Contract

Hi! Mary Vee here. 

Spring is on our doorstep! A Season for New!

This month on the Writer's Alley we're introducing, discussing, and giving tips for some of those "new" chapters writers encounter. We have a lot to share! Julia, Sherrinda, and Laurie will also host weeks this month.

Alley Cats Celebrating a Contract 

In this first week of March, I am discussing the "New Book Contract." The differences between what we expect and what happens. 

The season before we receive a book contract is not easy. I know. We write manuscript after manuscript, pitching our stories to agents and/or editors, study the craft, hone our skills, then write another manuscript. Time passes.

Before Receiving Book Contract Tips:
1. Read more.
2. Choose to set aside time to learn something new about writing. Attend conferences. Read books on writing. Participate in online writing groups.
3. Be open to the critique of others. Join a critique group. I belong to two groups. One is designed for writing, reading our work aloud, and receiving encouragement. The other is submitting a chapter online and receiving content, grammar, and other forms of helpful advice. The key to benefiting from feedback is: listen to your heart, your story, and your characters as you make changes. 
4. Take the time to present only the very best edited copy when sending a query, proposal, or pitching to an agent or editor.
5. Read the Publishing House's Guidelines and follow them completely. A great book can be rejected even at this point.

Thanks to friends and family, our encouragers who hold us up when we become discouraged, we march on, submit, write, and wait. Oh, how we wait for the golden email: an offer for a book contract. When the news arrives at last -- CELEBRATE!! Tell everyone. Laugh. We are about to become an author. 

Like high school or college commencement, this is not the end of our work, but the beginning of chapter two in a writer's career.

Chapter two- After Receiving the New Book Contract Offer

1. The greatest favor you can do for yourself at this point is to have an agent. The wording in contracts is power-packed with legaleese so specific to book publishing that a family lawyer would struggle to accurately decipher the wording. Never pay an agent for this service. Agents are paid when you are paid.

2. Edits. Before and after the contract there will be layers of editing. Content. Line. Fact check. And more. Publishing houses vary in how much they will edit the manuscript. This will be discussed in deeper detail this Thursday night when I interview Ashley Clark. Details below.

3. Cover survey. This is a fun step. The publishing house will send a detailed questionnaire about the manuscript. This information will be used to design your book's cover. This survey is worth every minute you spend filling in the blanks. Years ago, a writer wrote down the wrong hair color for the main character. Fortunately, she saw the problem in the first cover draft, and the artist changed the hair color for the final cover. We'll discuss this more in the Thursday interview. Ashley really enjoyed this step. 

4. Edits. At some point, the publisher will send galleys to you. The galleys have your manuscript formatted for publication. Limited changes will be allowed, however, if you catch one of those crazy errors that always slip through...a homophone problem, a missing letter, etc, these can still be fixed. Be sure to read through the galley carefully. It's the last chance to correct errors.

5. Promotion. Marketing. Who could promote this amazing story about to be published better than the author? We know the story best! This is the time to put on a creative hat. There are marketing classes at writer's conferences, books, and online groups to learn from. Try not to waste time inventing wheels. Why invest in promoting? Isn't this bragging? No. Not really. Think of it this way. Say you went on a trip. At some point, you get hungry. A billboard catches your eye. A restaurant you like is at the next exit. Had the sign, or the ad on the GPS not been there, you wouldn't have known. Marketing simply lets readers who like this genre know the book is available for purchase. 

It's the steps before and after 
that truly bring lasting fulfillment.

*Tackle the steps one at a time. Don't rush. Each one is worth every minute spent.
*Read/follow directions carefully.
*Ask for help from those who have walked the journey before you.
*Share your experiences. There are those who want to walk with you. AND these treasured souls are the ones who will be there to listen, congratulate, and offer advice.  


This Thursday at 8 PM Eastern 

I am interviewing Ashley Clark, one of the writers here on the Alley. Ashley received her first book contract this year! Congrats, Ashley! She is going to walk us through the steps from that golden book contract email to publication. You are invited to toss out comments, ask questions, and give answers/advice to other commenters during the interview. 

In the meantime, what questions do you have? 
Post them in the comments below.


Mary Vee has been a finalist in several writing contests. She writes suspense and mystery stories featuring characters like us. Her stories have gained recognition in the Selah and Phoenix Writing Contests. Daring To Live showcases a woman slipping into the depths of homelessness then discovers the only way to escape is to turn from the lies. Mary's years as a counselor, missionary, and caseworker to the inner city, Crow Indians, and peoples of Central America have strengthen the characters who live in her stories. She currently resides in the north with her hubby and two of her three children. Mary loves traveling, hiking, mocha, movie scores, and The Creator--the giver of our worth.

Mary would love to connect with you! Click the links below!

Mary Vee's Website
Mary's Blending Sites and Stories Blog
Twitter: @MaryVeeWriter
Instagram: @MaryVeeWriter

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Making of A Heroine: A Purrfect Romance Week

Last week, we spoke about My Kinda Heroes according to my own Rom Com DVD collection. I listed several heroes, but one hero that many of YOU mentioned as a favorite was Jack Callahan from While You Were Sleeping.

As I thought about the topic of heroines this Purrfect Romance week, I considered why Lucy Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) made a good heroine. If you recall, she truly saved Jack's brother from a train--becoming a bonafide heroine by that very act, but so much more goes into a heroine than that, right?

No matter if you are watching a movie, reading a book, or considering the women in your life who seem to fit the bill of a "heroine", there are a number of qualities that make a gal a heroine--in her own right--with the hero opposite her, not defining her, but worthy of completing the journey alongside her in the end: a rich back story, authenticity, and redemption are a few fleshed out so purrfectly in While You Were Sleeping...read on, then share your own!

Back Story-Lucy lived alone, ate alone (well, she had a cat), worked on holidays that most people spent with family, and had a dad-shaped hole in her heart. She managed, but we know as the viewer that it wasn't an ideal situation for her. She was enduring, not necessarily thriving in, the loneliness of an orphaned girl in a bustling world. We root for heroines who stumble upon their chance to change the trajectory of their journey from glum day-to-day to life-giving adventure. A girl stuck in a tower has a chance to get out? A servant escapes her step-mother's clutches and visits the palace? Heroines who take the chance on something different win our hearts and the hearts of those they meet along the way.

Authenticity-Lucy Moderatz wore her dad's old coat, held no airs about her as she pretended to be the girlfriend of Jack's snobbish brother (who was in a coma for most of the movie). Lucy tried to hold a mask up, but she just couldn't manage to hide her true, down-to-earth self. When a hero falls for the authentic heroine, we know that her worth is valued above her status, above her actions, above her flaws. We see a heroine being loved for her whole self, and that makes a purrfect romance.

Redemption- When I was first writing, I would write heroines with a hardened heart, thick skin, sour responses--manifestations of wounds-for sure-but not very likeable, and certainly not heroine material for the beginning of a story. These manifestations are redeemable, but the audience needs to realize the wound quickly if they must invest in the heroine. Heroines may behave badly, but only if we understand why, and find hope that ill behavior hints to forthcoming redemption. Lucy lies to Jack's family very close to the beginning of the story. But, we see her reasoning, her need, her chance to redeem the lie and the wounds of her past. We are sold on the fact that Lucy is the heroine, not just of the love story, but of her own story.

YOUR TURN: What do you love about a good heroine? Who are your favorites? Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page  on Thursday and chat with me and Pepper about Heroines! Last chance to win our giveaway...and a copy of the brand new The Heart's Stronghold novella collection!


Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in England. Now living in the U.S. heartland, she's a member of ACFW, sharing about author life with her fellow Alley Cats on The Writer's Alley blog and Facebook page. Besides writing, she is a busy mom of four and works in Adult Ministry. Angie writes historical romance and historical fiction. She enjoys eclectic new restaurants, authentic conversation with friends, and date nights with her Texas Aggie husband. 

Find her on:

Website: angiedicken.com

Monday, February 17, 2020

My Kinda Hero: A Purrfect Romance Week

I have always loved curling up on the couch with a good book. But I'll admit, curling up on the couch with my DVD collection and choosing an oldie-but-goodie love story is a purrfect pastime too.
For Hero week on The Writer's Alley, let's chat about the men in my DVD collection! In the comments, would love for you to share yours...and any CBA/Clean read heroes you can think of that might fall under each of the following categories:

(And don't forget to check out the info below for a fun opportunity to celebrate Heroes later this week and an ADDITIONAL giveaway to the Purrfect Romance Alleycat bundle)!

BOY NEXT DOOR TURNED MAN: They are the guys who’ve always been there. They see their heroine through awkward stages, not-so-great stages, and the woman they’ve become. These men have grown up, just like their heroine, but their soft side for the heroine offers hope in all she’s lost and has come home to find again. From my collection:

  • Matty from Thirteen going on Thirty 
  • Jake from Sweet Home Alabama
  • Justin from Hope Floats 

ENEMIES...OR NOT: It’s always fun to see the trope of a hate-love relationship where the love wins in the end. Whether there is a secret being covered up, or a conflict of interest, the hero finds redemption when his vulnerable side comes out—his family life woos the heroine—or the heroine brings out his own soft side beyond their conflict. It’s always fun to see how the writers will bank on the moments that crack the tough exterior. From my collection:

  •  Andrew from The Proposal 
  •  Ben from How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days 
  •  Joe from You’ve Got Mail 

SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE: They’ve loved before. And they aren’t quite sure they can love again. As an audience member, it’s easy to fall in love with a hero who gave his heart away only to return with a wound. We want to help them in their pain, we want to drag them along and stand them right in front of the heroine and say, "hey, look at him"! These heroes have backstories wrapped up in a different woman, but all they’ve gone through brings them to a new heroine and the love story of a lifetime. From my collection:

  • Bob from Return To Me 
  • Sam from Sleepless In Seattle
  • Graham and Miles from The Holiday

MORE HERO TALK! You can nominate your favorite heroes in CBA or Clean Reads by checking out the pinned post at the Heroes on The Red Carpet Event . Be sure to join in the fun on Thursday night! 

YOUR TURN: Comment for a chance to win the Purrfect Romance giveaway. Any good romantic heroes to add to the list? How about your favorite in CBA or clean reads? 


Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in England. Now living in the U.S. heartland, she's a member of ACFW, sharing about author life with her fellow Alley Cats on The Writer's Alley blog and Facebook page. Besides writing, she is a busy mom of four and works in Adult Ministry. Angie writes historical romance and historical fiction. She enjoys eclectic new restaurants, authentic conversation with friends, and date nights with her Texas Aggie husband. 

Find her on:

Website: angiedicken.com