Blog Tour – Why I Write

July 29th, 2014

When Jessica Schaub invited me to be a part of Blog Tour — Why I Write, I jumped at the chance. It’s only three questions, questions authors are asked again and again, but they are three questions that reveal a lot about the person behind the words. So here are my answers to those three important questions:

What am I working on?

I just finished my second Bible study, Trust God! No Matter What…, and have returned to finish final edits on Master Cat (the third in Toby the cat’s tale). If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Apprentice Cat or Journeyman Cat, be sure to check them out. Master Cat picks up where Journeyman Cat left off and finishes up the story arc. Not to worry, though, there are plenty more Toby and Lorn stories to come.

Here is the description of Master Cat:

Toby, a magical talking cat, has cut ties with the Office of Kingdom Guardianship, intent on finding his long-lost father and avenging his mother’s murder. He thought he left everyone behind, but someone from his past is stalking him. Now he must avoid this strange new menace while he seeks the truth about his family’s dark history, a history that threatens to unravel his sanity and cause the rest of the world to descend into madness. Can Toby reconcile himself with the past or will his inner turmoil allow his enemy to plunge humanity into chaos once and for all?

Check back next month to cast your vote for the Master Cat cover and be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter to be first to find out when Master Cat is available.

Why I Write what I do?

That’s a good question. I’ve been a story-teller since I was a child. When I learned to write, I couldn’t get enough of stringing words together to create stories from the wild imaginings going on in my head. I even self-published two short stories when I was nine  (basically I used brads to hold the sheets together between two pieces of construction paper with a pasted on cover I drew myself). I begged my English teachers to read them and they seemed to like them. I wish I could say I got an A on every story I ever wrote in school, but that’s not true. Still, it was the enjoyment of writing that was the pull, not the grade.

For a short time, I put writing on a shelf and worked in ministry, even working on a Masters of Divinity. It was during that stressful time in grad school that I discovered I wasn’t meant to be a minister in a church setting. My ministry was writing. Through that medium, I can be a tool for God to reach people, to share God’s love and caring. I left school one semester shy of graduating to pursue my career as an independent author and haven’t looked back since.

Today, my mission is to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, to see that God is more than a wrath-filled judge or a magic genie. That is why I write.

What is my writing process?

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.

Who is up next on the tour?

Call me an overachiever, but I found three terrific ladies you’ll want to meet. They are: Kathy Jones, Jansina Grossman and Beckie Laux Carlson. Be sure to stop by their web sites to find out more.

If Cats Could Talk…

February 27th, 2012

I’m so excited this week because Natalie Hartford of Life Out Loud is spotlighting me on her blog. Natalie calls herself an urban redneck who loves all things pink and she’s a real firecracker. Take a moment to hop on over to her blog and enter her contest for a special edition signed Simply Prayer ebook (open internationally) or a signed copy of the paperback version (open to US/Canada).

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to re-vision my blog. By that I mean I’m going to take a short break to brainstorm some great ideas for future posts. I want to make this a place you can stop by to pick up handy tips and inspirational messages to help you in your day-to-day life, as well as catch a weekly laugh.

That being said, I don’t want to just leave you high and dry while I work up a new plan, so I’ll be re-posting some of the best from the last year. Enjoy!

If Cats Could Talk…

I’ve started editing and revising my work in progress, Apprentice Cat. It’s been tough, but rewarding. In the spirit of my main character’s nemesis, I’ve chosen a video about what cats really talk about.

What do you think your pets are really saying?

Ebook Buyers: Can You Afford To Lose Them?

January 29th, 2012

ereader photoI recently read a guest post by Chris Keys, author of The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story and Reprisal!: The Eagle Rises!, about the difficulties of selling self-published books.  According to Chris, he’s only sold about a dozen books.  It seems typical of independent authors, but here’s the catch: I looked for Chris’ book The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story on Amazon and found that he only had it in print. (Update: Chris has now jumped on board and has his books in multiple formats, as well as taking advantage of the Kindle Unlimited program)

What really bothers me about this is that he used CreateSpace to publish his book.  I would think putting out a Kindle edition as well as a print edition would have been a no brainer.  It’s really too bad Chris didn’t go with both because I was poised to purchase an eBook edition, provided the price was right, on the spot.  I wishlisted the book, but that doesn’t mean I’ll remember to go back and buy it later.

I’m left wondering how many indie author sales are lost because of this kind of shortsightedness.  Between earning higher profits on lower prices and the immediate delivery (aka immediate gratification) of eBooks, how can anyone afford not to publish in electronic format?  That’s especially true now that epublishing is free on major bookseller sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon and through 3rd party distributors like Draft2Digital and BookBaby.

I suppose many authors cringe at the idea of formatting their manuscript into eBook format. It’s not as difficult as you might think, though it does take some time. There are numerous articles on the web on how to do this, including “How to Format Ebooks” by Jamie Wilson and “Smashwords Style Guide” by Mark Coker. If you use Adobe InDesign, check out EPUB Straight to the Point by Elizabeth Castro. For basics on Kindle formatting browse Joshua Tallent’s Kindle Formatting web site.

If you still don’t want to try formatting your own book (or find you just can’t wrap your mind around it) then find someone who can. Indie Author April L. Hamilton of Publetariat warns us of taking the cheap route and simply converting a manuscript rather than having it formatted properly. It’s better to spend a little money on putting out a great book, than lose readers due to poor formatting.

Formatting is different from conversion in that formatting standardizes the manuscript and creates any companion files needed for the eBook while conversion is simply loading the work into a program and clicking a button. Conversion is easy. Formatting takes more time and effort.

Regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself or have someone else do it for you, if you want to get your book into the hands of more readers, don’t neglect the eBook format.

How important are multiple formats, especially ebooks, to you?

Photo by The Daring Librarian

Painful DRMs And Ebook Pricing

January 22nd, 2012

ebook photoI am not an early adopter. I love gadgets, but I like to wait until most of the bugs have been worked out. Then I wait a little longer until I’m sure it’s a tool I’m really going to use and not a toy I’ll toss aside in a couple of months. So I was really excited about finally buying an eReader last month.

Alas, my excitement was short lived upon discovering my new gadget couldn’t read several of my previously downloaded books. No problem, I thought. I’d just convert them with this nifty software I’d read about.

Wrong! Until that moment I had little understanding just how DRMs affected me personally. Suddenly I’m faced with undesirable choices: a) pay for yet another eBook version, b) read it on my laptop or smartphone (doable, but not exactly comfortable), c) learn to strip the DRMs from my eBooks, d) forget the whole thing. While b and d are the simplest solutions, I am actually hovering between paying what I considerate an exorbitant amount for an eBook and learning how to “pirate” my own books for my own personal use, which brings me to my topic: eBook pricing.

Traditional publishers have missed the boat when it comes to eBook pricing. In fact, many aren’t even on the loading dock. As JA Konrath points out in his post “Ebook Pricing,” customers want to pay less for eBooks than they would for a hard copy. It’s always made sense to me as a customer, but as a business person/Independent Author I wondered if it was wise to price an eBook low. If Konrath’s numbers are to be believed, however, the lower the price, the better the sales, the more money you can pocket.

With so many eBook avenues opening up to Independent Authors from Amazon’s Digital Text Platform for Kindle to Barnes and Noble’s new PubIt! pricing for high sale volume seems the better choice.

What are your thoughts on DRMs and eBook pricing?

Author generated links:
April Hamilton’s post “Avast Ye Lubbers and Hear Ye Me Pirates” on eBook piracy tells of an honest woman pushed into piracy.

Photo by TheCreativePenn

7 Links To Help Every Writer With Taxes

December 3rd, 2011

 Maybe it seems a little early to start thinking about doing your taxes, but it’s been my experience that the sooner you get on it, the less stressful it can be. Thankfully there are people and web sites out there to help us slot all those numbers in the correct places on the correct forms and keep us from having to visit with a friendly IRS agent because we’ve gotten “creative” with the numbers. Here are 7 links to help you understand how to do your taxes:

  1. The IRS — this one seems rather obvious. It’s their forms, their rules, so it makes sense to check out their site for answers to our questions.
  2. Tax Advice for Writers by Bonnie Lee — simple to read and easy to understand with a great section on hobby-loss information
  3. A Fool And Her Money — depending on when you’ve started getting your tax-related material together, The Money Book may be more helpful for next year’s tax season, but it’s a resource worth investing in
  4. Tax Tips for Writers a guest post by Jessica Monday — more information on what can be used as a deduction including what can happen when you sell your house
  5. Writers by Peter Jason Riley, CPA — a break down of basic deductions and free downloadable checklists specifically for writers
  6. Tax Tips for Freelancers by Julian Block — a short, but excellent article on bad-debts that can’t be deducted
  7. What Every Self-Published Author Needs to Know About Taxes by Helen Sedwick — information on treating your writing like a business and what that entails

Doing taxes can be frightening and overwhelming, not to mention disappointing if you have to pay instead of getting a nice refund, but it’s unavoidable.

I’d love to hear from all of you. Besides checking with a good tax accountant, what other tips do you have for doing taxes?

***

Catch up on the adventure with other books in the Malkin series.

Apprentice Cat CoverApprentice Cat available in paperback and for KindleNookKoboScribd and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Also available as an audiobook on AudibleAmazon and iTunes.

 

 

Journeyman-Cat15percentJourneyman Cat available in paperback and KindleNookScribdiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

Audiobook coming soon.

 

 

Secrets-of-the-Malkin-sidebar-newsletterSecrets of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

 

 

 

Huntress of the MalkinHuntress of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookKobo and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

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How To Capture Ideas When They Come

August 27th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

files photoThere are times in every writer’s life when ideas will come flooding in — but not for the story you’re working on.  You don’t want to forget those little gems because they would be great in another story, yet they’re useless for what you’re doing right now.  So what do you do?

Here’s a few ways how to capture ideas when they come:

Something I learned a long time ago was to keep an idea file.  Ideas come in many forms from quotes we’ve read to pictures we’ve seen to that fabulous new movie we just saw (if you have the time ;)).  Whatever the form, it’s best to capture the idea as soon as possible.

For certain items, such as magazine articles, it’s easy enough to rip them out and file them away in a file cabinet.  For others we have to get a bit more creative.  An example would be a wonderful painting from a museum.  It’s considered a crime to grab the painting and run (and I’m pretty sure trying to explain it away as “needing it for my idea file” wouldn’t get you very far).  Thus we must get creative.  You may be able to photograph it or, barring that, perhaps sketch it.  If you’re art skills don’t go beyond stick men, then maybe you could write a description of it.

One nifty little tool I’ve discovered is Evernote. If you’ve got a smart phone, this application can be very useful. Snap a picture of whatever sparked your story idea, then share it to your Evernote with notes, tags, whatever. Your ideas are readily available to you via the web on any smartphone (with the downloaded app) or computer. You can even do this with magazine articles instead of ripping them out of the magazine. Simply take a picture and file it away.

Regardless of how you get the inspirational item into your idea file, remember to write down the idea that was inspired and attach it.  Sticky notes work great for hard copies (though the sticky does eventually wear off so be aware that your ideas may go wandering in your file).

Writing takes ideas.  Being an Independent Author means being creative in every area of your career.  And so, that’s why it’s important to collect the little gems that inspire you along.

What other creative solutions have you found to capturing story ideas?

Photo by mcfarlandmo

Discovering Passion And Purpose In Writing

August 13th, 2011

fountain pen photoWelcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

I’ve often heard it said that everyone dreams of writing the next great novel. That may be, but few get beyond “trunk writing” and fewer still actually publish something of quality. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because, while people may dream of being a “writer,” only those with a true passion for writing can find the energy to do it.

As I continue work on Apprentice Cat, I am amazed at how much passion it takes to keep plugging along at something I often feel unqualified to write.  I sometimes ponder what exactly is my purpose, not just in writing this book about prayer, but also about my purpose in life in general. It’s given me yet another subject for research and I would like to share what I’ve found.

First, there is the need for passion. If you’re like me, determining your passion can be difficult. I’ve always thought of it as something you eat-sleep-breath (much like my husband’s obsession with Star Wars action figures). That may not be the case for you, as it hasn’t been for me. A passion can be something that you naturally gravitate to, but don’t necessarily obsess over.

In her article Determine Your Passion, Amber Keinath poses several questions such as the obvious “What are you good at?” to the less obvious “What were you doing the last time you really had a lot of fun and found the time flying?” that can guide each of us to determining our own passion. For a writer, those questions can lead to a long list of possible books, essays, posts and even workshop notes on a particular topic.

After passion comes purpose. That is possibly the most difficult question to answer: What is my purpose in life? Some people, called nihilists (see #6 on Dictionary.com), believe we have no purpose. Others, like myself, want to believe we have a purpose (or more than one), but just don’t know how to discover it.

Many a book has been written on the subject of discovering one’s purpose in life and some have become very popular for whatever reason, like Purpose Driven Life. Unlike Rick Warren, however, I like to think that each of us has our own purpose separate from each other. As Albert from UrbanMonk.net said in a guest post to ZenHabits:

Are Your Goals Yours? This statement is everywhere, and yet it is ignored so often that it bears repeating: Your purpose is your own. No one can cramp themselves into another person’s definition of happiness and success and, well, expect to be happy and successful.

That was why I particularly enjoyed Steve Pavlina’s article “How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes.” Steve’s solution is simple: title your blank page with “What is my true purpose in life?”, then write down any answer that pops into your head. According to Steve, the answer that makes you cry is your life’s purpose. Again, as an Independent Author, I can see where finding this purpose can lead to so many new avenues of income from book sales to speaking events.

It’s not always about making money. The money, in my opinion, is a byproduct of doing what we’re meant to do. For this Independent Author, discovering a passion and a life purpose is just part of the journey.

What defines passion and purpose in your life?

Photo by ChrisL_AK

Fear Not: Discovering God’s Promises available

August 12th, 2011

I am so excited!  I just discovered my first book, a Bible study, is finally listed on Amazon.com.  Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Liveswas born from a need in my church for an adult VBS class that had no curriculum.  I spent two months putting it together and then an anxious seven weeks waiting for it to appear on Amazon.

While I’m very excited, I’m also a bit disappointed by Lulu.  First of all there is no preview available.  I hope to be able to rectify that soon.  Secondly, there is supposed to be a download version available on Lulu for about half the price of the printed version, but darned if I can find it.  I can’t even find my own store front on Lulu.  This does not bode well for my staying with this company.  I’m going to do some more research to find a solution to the problem or decide to use another company for the next book.  (See my blog entry “Research Your Publishing Options” for why this is so important.)

And speaking of the next book, it’s in the works.  I hope to be finished writing it sometime in the spring.  The Misadventures of Apprentice Cat: The Secret of the Wobbly Wizard (working title) is a book based on a short story I wrote awhile back called “Apprentice Cat” that received several good reviews.  I fell in love with the main character, a cat going to school to learn how to be a witch’s companion, and decided he deserved to have his story told in a longer format.

As I’ve worked on this book I’ve discovered new and intriguing things about Toby and the people and cats around him.  I think that’s the wonderment of telling stories.  The reader isn’t the only one who enjoys the twists and turns of a good book. I plan out the general direction I want a story to take, but a lot of time my characters take me down paths I never anticipated.  It’s all part of the joy an author experiences.

UPDATE:

If you’ve purchased Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives on Amazon.com, please remember to leave an honest review. Thanks!

I finally fixed the URL to my storefront on Lulu.com.  Here it is: Virginia Ripple’s Storefront.  You can download Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives for $5 in .pdf format in my Lulu.com store.

Research Your Publishing Options

August 12th, 2011

book photoThe second most important thing to becoming an independent author is to research your options. (The first is, of course, to write, but that is an entry for another time.) I spent a lot of time doing google searches for the “right” publishing company, trying to decide whether to stick with a traditional publisher or strike out on my own with a print-on-demand company.

Although I wouldn’t call my writing “niche writing,” I had to acknowledge the fact that most traditional publishing houses (what many Indie Authors now call Dead-Tree Houses) only publish a small percentage of the manuscripts they receive based almost solely on what they believe to be the marketability of said manuscript. By going that route I would spend a lot of wasted time and money submitting manuscripts and waiting (not to mention getting enough rejection slips to paper my office). That sounded less than enjoyable, especially considering most writers harbor enough anxious energy about their manuscripts to power a small town.

That left print-on-demand, which also didn’t please me. After all, didn’t self-published equal poor quality? As I soon discovered through an even longer search on the subjects of independent authors and print-on-demand that wasn’t necessarily true. The quality of the product depends entirely on the energy the author/publisher puts into it.  I was surprised and elated to find that print-on-demand has been quickly racing toward respectability due to an effort of independent authors like myself who refuse to sacrifice quality just to get into print.

The next issue I needed to resolve before making a decision was the difference between print-on-demand companies and vanity presses. Vanity presses require money up front and leave you with boxes of books in your garage you have to sell on your own. Print-on-demand companies don’t require money up front and only print your book when someone orders one, so you don’t have to warehouse them. The print-on-demand company takes a percentage of each book sold to cover their costs. In both cases, though, the author is responsible for marketing the book to the public. For me, I decided a print-on-demand company was the better deal because I don’t have money to spend on a large run of books, nor do I have the space to warehouse them.

From there it was narrowing the choice from a variety of companies with different offerings to one that best suited my current needs. After another long round of research, I settled on a company called Lulu.com. Most indie authors that had used them liked them because their site is user-friendly and they print quality items.

I finished writing (and editing, and revising, and editing, etc. etc.) my first book, formatted it to Lulu’s specifications, designed my cover and finally went through the process of uploading it all to their site. After going over the author’s copy they sent to me (for a low price of $6.07) and approving it for print, I now have a book I’m happy with. The process of uploading and approving the book wasn’t as user-friendly as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a week-long nightmarish struggle, either.

As I continue to blog, I’ll fill in the details of my experiences with using a print-on-demand company, as well as giving some links to resources I’ve found very helpful along the way.

If Cats Could Talk…

August 1st, 2011

Welcome to Laugh Out Loud Monday (aka LOL Monday): because, like my favorite fat cat, I hate Mondays, I thought, “What better way to start the week than with a laugh?”

I’ve started re-working the first part of my work in progress, Apprentice Cat. It’s been tough, but rewarding. In the spirit of my main character’s nemesis, I’ve chosen a video about what cats really talk about.

What do you think your pets are really saying?