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Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes

1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.

 

2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.

Secrets-of-the-Malkin

When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.

 

Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.

 

Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.

 

Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.

 

Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.

 

In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.

 

3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?

 

Both.

 

I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.

 

The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.

 

As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.

 

4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?

 

I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.

 

In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.

 

The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.

 

The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.

 

And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.

 

5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?

 

At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.

 

After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.

 

The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.

 

As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.

 

6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

 

I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.

 

Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.

 

7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?

 

Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.

 

It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

 

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

 

In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.

 

9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?

 

My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.

 

About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.

 

Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.

 

I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.

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Connect with Virginia!

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When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

cover2 with sticker

Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.

 

Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.

 

In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.

 

What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.

 

Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.

 

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.

 

Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.

 

Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.

 

  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny

 

Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1

 

Connect with Nikki:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleRecovery

http://write2empower.webs.com

https://www.facebook.com/Write2Empower

http://write2empower.wix.com/write2empower

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3311275.Nikki_Rosen

http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/in-the-eye-of-deception/9990006606270-item.html

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Do you remember gym class? Outside of the horrifying gym uniforms (think green polyester shorts and a t-shirt with my last name written across my chest with a black permanent marker), the exercises we did at the beginning of each class prepared our muscles for the real work to begin.

These exercises serve the same purpose. Before you start the long haul of working on your latest, soon-to-be best-seller, warm up your creative muscles with one (or all) of these:

1. Go back to the beginning:

Write about the first chapter book you ever read. What do you remember?

Was it a good read or did you not finish it?

2. Take a step into a great challenge:

Imagine you are a first grade teacher and have been asked to include a 68-year-old illiterate man in your classroom. What might come of that situation? Make notes, write a few scenes, or run with it.

3. Go back to the basics:

Print the first two pages of any story you are writing. Circle the first word of each sentence. Are those words similar? If so, re-work the sentences and re-print.

Make these writing exercises more fun – get out of the house, order a cup of hot something (it’s below zero here in Michigan) and write the way you imagine all writers do…over coffee, in the middle of a cute café, capturing the essence of your next character from the personalities walking by your table.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of being an author of a picture book…listen up!

I copied this right from the website so to give you the best explanation:

 For less than the cost of a single conference, picture book writers and illustrators can become members of 12 x 12 and get access to all the benefits of a writer’s conference — learning from experts, craft advice and assistance, the fellowship of community and the opportunity to submit completed, polished manuscripts — without having to travel. You’ll get the motivation and accountability you need to get those drafts finished, all with the support of the friendliest writing community on earth.

The 12 x 12 offer has three different levels of participation: Margaret Wise BRONZE level (write only), the Shel SILVERstein level (write and revise), and the Little Golden book level (write, revise, submit).

Here’s the link to the website:

http://www.juliehedlund.com/registration-for-2014/?hop=cbkinsider

Why you should consider this:

On any level, the accountability to put your butt in the chair and write is increased through the motivation you gain from the other members. If you only write 12 picture book manuscripts, that is 12 more manuscripts you will have to polish up by the end of the year. If you register for the GOLD level, you have input from other writers and the opportunity to submit those manuscripts to agents/publishers.

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

I’m going to go for it. Take a few minutes and read through the website (above). If the idea is intriguing, join me. If you aren’t sure, think about it for a few days. If the lure is too strong to refuse, join me.

Happy Writing!

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You are invited to join a new blog carnival geared toward
parents who are writers

    folks who raise little souls,
    who sacrifice sleep for cuddles,
    who are insanely addicted to the written word.

parents and writers icon

Themes for this Blog Carnival can include: Writing amongst legos, tools and strategies you use to find time to write, resources you’ve discovered, writing for children, writing while children run amuck, and any recipe that is easy to assemble thus giving us more time to write (I’m a huge fan of my crock pot).

For more details, visit the Parents and Writers Blog Carnival Page. Deadline for submissions are the 15th of each month. The Blog Carnival will be posted at this blog on the 20th.

If you have any questions, please email me at JessicaSchaubWrites@gmail.com

Happy Writing!
Jessica

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What a month! Spring has finally arrived in Michigan!
Jessica's Camera Oct. 2011-May 2012 054

As I explored the World of Social Media, I discovered a treasure trove of websites and blogs that have helped me hone my craft, share my writing and amp up my marketing.

I will be honest – I don’t like marketing. I didn’t become a writer so that I could learn to market. But, such is life. The more I’m learning about this aspect of writing, the more comfortable I’m becoming with it. The real trick for me is balancing the marketing with writing and being a homeschooling mom of four. I don’t have that all figured out yet. In fact, the only reason I have time to write this post is because my youngest is asleep, my older two are studying Latin together, and child #3 is upstairs stuck in a book. The house is oddly quiet – and I love it! Let’s see how much I can accomplish before this bliss ends :)

1. Kimberly Grabas wrote what I will call “The Essential Website To-Do List for Authors”. I’ve been working on my website, slowly adding and changing things as I learn. Now, thanks to Kimberly, I have a whole new list of ‘musts’ to do.

2. I joined Pinterest recently and thoroughly enjoy the eye-candy. As a visual person, I have to be strict with myself to not over-indulge. For writers, there is a way to use Pinterest for Marketing, as Joanna Penn shares in her excellent blog. Btw, if you don’t follow Joanna’s blog or haven’t ‘Liked’ her facebook page, I highly recommend it. I’m just sharing information – she’s writing it!

3. Author Media is another blog & facebook page to follow. While they are many writers and I am one, I find their posts to be extremely helpful in my writing and marketing attempts.

4. How about a blog post about helpful blogs? Click here. But don’t forget to come back here :)

5. If you are launching a non-fiction book, C.S. Laskin has the post for you. I write fiction, but still found this post helpful.

6. Do you Tweet? I’m still learning and Author Media makes my list twice this month with a list of 100 things authors can tweet. Remember, of all the things you tweet about, 80% should be about other writers and 20% about your own writing. Why? Because those who help others are well, helpful. Those who market only themselves are selfish. (follow me @JessicaSchaub1)

7. Back to writing… there are big No-No’s to avoid in writing. Rob Hart share’s 10 story-telling cliches to avoid.

8. I took a marketing class through <a href="“>SkillShare with Laura Pepper Wu and loved it. I know have a 12-point marketing plan and the assistance of other writers I met through the class. I plan on writing a full post about this in the near future.

Well, I did it! The baby is still asleep and the Latin studying has moved onto History.

Have a peaceful day!
Jessica

www.BooksByJessica.com (I haven’t added all the recommended changes to my website – I’m taking it nice and slow :)

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It’s the same old story…I have an idea, I toy around with a scene here a plot sequence there. But until I grab the stack of post-it notes and start plotting, I have nothing. I can picture the beginning and the end, but the journey in the middle is hazey.

I’ve committed to make 2013 the greatest novel output of my writing career and so, in this 2nd month, I’ve implemented three things:

1. Scrivener A program for writers that has a corkboard, index cards, endless supply of paper and an outlining process that makes sense. Despite past bad reviews, the folks at Literature and Latte dot com have fussed and fixed the program. I love it!

2. Story Elements by Larry Brooks. This book, while quite wordy initially, has been invaluable to me this month. It set out on a platter the key pieces of a story, what they look like and where they belong. Blueprints to a best seller! With the Scrivener program and this book, I’ve plotted out an entire novel. Now I just have to finish writing it.

3. I unplugged when it’s writing time. In clicking the button “disconnect from wireless” I have connected my brain to my goals. The world wide web is a perfect distraction from everything we want to acheive. Sure, I will use it to market, to meet other writers and parents, but when it’s time to write, I will write scenes for my latest novel, not facebook updates. Clicking “Like” will not get with work done!

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Visit the Writer’s Digest Website to read the details of the 13th annual “Dear Lucky Agent” contest.

What do you send?

The first 225-250 words of your sci-fi or young adult manuscript.

What can you win?

A critique of the first double spaced 10 pages of that manuscript by agent Victoria Marini.

All the info you need is one the website – click on ‘Writers Digest” above. Good luck!

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What is a blog carnival you ask?

A blog featuring a variety of blog posts. You’ll have your choice between non-fiction posts, fantasy, literary, poetry, steampunk…you name it.

Why visit a blog carnival?

Unlike a traditional carnival with performers, a blog carnival entertains in writing. Contortionists don’t always live in tiny boxes. Writers, especially emerging writers who are using their blog to find readers, are finding their niche. Not wanting to be confined to a box, we stand on that box and shout out stories, ideas, and themes. The blog community is a network of people seeking an audience, ready to lend a hand to another emerging writer, giving feedback, encouragement and reblogging, retweeting and FB-friending well-liked posts. Blog carnivals are a means to find new voices, new friends, new writers.

Third Sunday Blog Carnival is posted on – you guessed it – the Third Sunday of the month. If features a range of writing and this month, my blog post featuring the first chapter of Circle of Pride is included.

Third Sunday Blog Carnival: January 2013.

Have fun, explore new writing, and don’t forget to comment on, like or share writing you enjoy!

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When people learn that I have four children, they smile. It’s more than the average two kids and far less than the typical Catholic family of ten. When they learn that I homeschool my children, they are impressed (or worried that my kids will be social freaks). And then when they discover that I also write, they slap their forehead and walk away. “How can you possibly do all that?”

Easy! The same way anyone else manages to do the things they love. I make time for it.

Step #1 – Set Weekly Goals.
Know what you want to accomplish. Personally speaking, I include writing, exercise and household chores into one list. My favorite part of accomplishing the goals is crossing them off. It’s a little thing to do, but it means that my time has been well-spent and I have something to show for it.

Step #2 – Schedule Time to Achieve Those Goals
I can’t tell you how many people will tell me that they want to do this or that, but they don’t have the time. I want to lose ten pounds…I want to be a writer…I want to homeschool…I want to train for a 5K…but I work full-time, I get home too late, I can’t afford it, I can’t.
Bah! I say! Those are lame excuses and they need to be tossed out like last year’s trash.
Wake up 20 minutes earlier and read or write. 20 minutes isn’t going to completely deprive anyone of sleep, but using that time effectively can bring about great results.
Have an hour for lunch? Walk for 30 minutes or write for 45 minutes.
Do you watch 2-3 hours of TV every night? Quit. Work toward your goals instead.

Step #3 – Accomplish tasks/goals in ‘Chunks’ of Time.
There are times when little snippets of time are all you have. (see Post-it writing for more). To truly make progress toward your goals, you will need to invest time.
I’m very good at planning meals and I can grocery shop on a dime, but when it comes to actually making the meals I fail. The solution for this came to mind as I looked at how I schedule several hours a week to write; therefore I should do the same for meals. I now plan a week’s worth of meals based on the sales at our local grocery store and shop. When I come home, instead of putting the meat in the freezer (because at 4:00pm on any given night everything will still be frozen) I put the meals together then freeze them. Luckily for me, my family loves casseroles and crock pot dinners, but mostly, I think they are just happy to have regular meals. I spend hours planning, shopping and preparing meals, but making the meals ahead of time keeps my afternoons free. It takes a few minutes to turn on the oven and slid a 9×13 in than to start from scratch.

Step #4 – Professionalize Your Goals
Every professional has business hours. Writers, parents, homeschoolers, and any one striving to accomplish a goal needs the same. I have every Thursday afternoon to write. It’s a guarenteed 3-4 hours of uninterrupted writing time. When I set my goals for the week, Monday through Wednesday include writing tasks that will make Thursday more efficient.

Step #5 – Have Fun!
If writing is your goal, then keep it fun. If you are a parent, it’s not like you can quit. Just find the ways to keep it fun. Same with exercise. Change up your workout. Jog on Monday, lift weights on Tuesday, swim on Wednesday, yoga on Thursday…you get the idea.
The enjoyment-factor of any task helps keep motivation high. For example, one of my least favorite tasks is changing out summer clothes for winter clothes. To put much of the work on my children (it’s their clothing!) and to keep it fun, I pull out the new season of clothing and set up a store in the living room. They all ‘shop’ for what they want, but have to turn in clothing for GoodWill – a one-for-one exchange. They shop, the closets are cleaned out, everyone is happy.
In writing, the enjoyment comes when I schedule in weeks to not write, but to read as many books as possible. My record is 8 books in one week.
When I’m trying to keep my writing fun, I will switch up stories, read something I wrote years ago (and laugh), or find a new place to try writing – libraries and coffee shops are great, parks are more interesting, in the middle of the mall during Christmas is a blast! So much drama :)

And remember, there are 24 hours in each day. Minus 8 hours of sleep, that leaves 16 hours of productive time. Use it well!

tick-tock...this is only a caption. Stop reading and start working on your goals!

tick-tock…this is only a caption. Stop reading and start working on your goals!

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