Are You Still There?

Thank you so much for sticking with me through another book writing. I’m just a few weeks away from letting my editors have their crack at it and then I’ll be all yours for awhile. The fact that any of you still check in is such a blessing.

I’m not revealing any real details about this book, and I won’t until it’s for sale. I do want to tell you that writing it has changed my life. I don’t mean the way pinon coffee or Double Stuffed Oreos changed my life. I mean in a deep down to my soul, waking and sleeping kind of way. I’ve been in the Word more over these last six months that in my entire Christian life combined. I dream in Scripture, and I sleep with the computer by my bed so I can raise a sleepy hand to the keyboard to look up words in Hebrew. I’m not sleeping much, actually, but the refreshment of the Spirit is more than worth it. When this book is finished and published, I’m doing what I said I’d do last time and I’m checking into a hotel to sleep until I wake up.

In the mean time, as I’m sure I’ll still be a little quiet as I wrap up this current project, please keep checking back. I’ll try to update at least once a week and will continue to posts reviews and contests as needed. In case you need a reminder of our review policy here at KT+1, we subscribe to the philosophy that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I just put that in quotes but have the sneaky feeling I misquoted. You never need my permission to send me a product for review (or, ya know, to send me coffee), and I never charge for reviews. Just check the “Contact” link for more information.

Till next time!

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Words

I don’t want to think about how old I was at the time, because it was a very, very long time ago. And I don’t want to admit that it was Sister Act II that stirred me (even though I still have the soundtrack and love it), because I like to think I’m somehow impermeable to the shallow–to anything that swims at depths that require no more than a snorkel. It is what it is, though; it was what it was. When Whoopi Goldberg told her talented music student that what she woke up thinking about in the morning was that thing she was made to do, I knew that I had–I would die if I wasn’t–I had to write and to be a real writer. 

Somewhere inside me is someone so much better (and I mean more talented) than I have the time and energy–the focus, maybe, to be. She speaks to me in those early morning hours when I’m too tired to reach for a pen. Apparently, she requires much less sleep than I do. She preaches violently if not eloquently as I shower, but the revelation leaves about the time I stop dripping. I’m dry. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it quickly–rapidly–do or die. I wrote late at night and through the wee small hours of the morning. I edited while Dora the Explorer babysat loudly in the foreground of my 800 square foot mobile home. Dora, Dora, Dora… I was broken; yet, as I wept, even the oldest scars reopened and then truly healed. I had to share, and I didn’t want to forget it all before I had written it down. So I wrote,  and when it was finished, I hit “publish”. And then I mourned it. I allowed Satan to torment me over it. I had published my first book, and I still didn’t feel like a writer.

If you’ve read 31 Days to Lovely:A Journey of Forgiveness, I hope you’ve received it as truth. It’s just the Bible alongside my meek and simple life. It’s not flowery or overtly pretty. Truthfully, it’s not what I’ve spent the last fifteen plus years hoping my first book would be. It doesn’t showcase me–it’s not about me at all. Still, maybe I wanted it to be about me. I still want to be a writer.

Today, my book received it’s first bad–pot-shot filled review on Amazon. The words that everyone feels sure I can brush off  captured the depth of my secret self-loathing. It’s from there the melancholia is flowing. You see, Satan won’t knock on those doors that are barred and guarded. He slips through the open ones. He knows all about my writer’s envy, it comes from him, and how I have a hard time loving Ann Voskamp (I’m kidding, how could anyone not love Ann?!). But so what if my book lacks the polish I might have found through more time and maybe a little more solitude? What does it matter if my words are simply words and not prose? The message, if received, will change lives. I truly believe that. After all, it changed mine. That’s why He asked me to write it.

I’m writing this post to break my silence–to speak to yours. I’m writing to every musician who has slaved over a song and then flipped on the radio to hear something better. I’m writing on behalf of every mom who has baked and decorated a two a.m. cake only to discover Pinterest later that same day. I’m writing for every athlete who has given her all only to be beaten by superior talent. I’m writing to every ex-beauty queen who has manually lifted her aging face as she’s leaned a little too close to the mirror. Someone will always be smarter, better, prettier. And that’s OK, sisters, because we are not our gifts. We are daughters of the Most High God! What people think about us cannot touch that. What we believe about ourselves cannot touch that. But what we think about ourselves will effect that we do and in what ways we serve His Kingdom.

I feel silly, like I usually do, admitting tears because one of you doesn’t like me. Maybe, I hope, my silliness will help to heal yours.

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How to Self-Publish (for Free) and Mean It

Quite a few of you have e-mailed me with questions about my book writing process. It seems I’m not the only struggling or aspiring author out there, and I know I only mentioned that I was writing and editing and then announced that the book was for sale–it was a little bit more complicated than that.

Write

I wouldn’t dare give a “how to” on the actual writing. Everyone has their own process, I’m sure. I can tell you how I chose to write 31 Days to Lovely; it may or may not work for you.

First, I wrote a chapter outline. This changed very slightly as I started to write, but it gave me a confident place to start. Because my book centered around Scripture, my outline was primarily Scripture.

After the outline, I began filling in the chapters–just 500 or so words per night. When each chapter had it’s bare bones information and I had written just over 15,000 words, I was finished with an incomplete book. Still, I felt a little too close to the project to be able to improve upon it without some outside perspective.

Focus Group

I have amazing friends; I like to think that makes me an amazing friend, but they truly surpass me in every way. Because you can now set up completely private and secret Facebook groups, I invited about fifteen friends to a group in which we would read and critique what I had written. These were all women whose opinions I greatly respected (some of them were writers, others were avid readers). Seven of them were enthusiastic about helping and were in a time in their lives which allowed it (although most of them didn’t really have the time; they just made it). The “What exactly do you mean here?” “I think you could expound upon this,”  and “You’ve gotta lay off the parenthesis,” comments they returned were absolutely invaluable. I edited according to their suggestions and added another 5,000 words or so.

Edit

I highly suggest hiring or begging two editors for every major project. The first one should be an in depth editor and critic and the second a consummate proofreader. We [writers] all know that it’s almost impossible to edit one’s own work (I’ve often worked as an editor for others and cannot believe the errors I both make and miss in my own work). Likewise, the editor who begins a project may have difficulty finishing it as he/she may also become nearsighted. Before you run off and spend $1000 or more on an editor, see if you can’t hire an equally talented friend  for cheap or free. Both elance.com and ifreelance.com are good places to look for an inexpensive but talented editor. You may very well have teachers or writers among your immediate family and close friends that would be happy to fill your editor positions for free, however. I was lucky enough to have my cousin edit and my parents proofread. And I’m now paying it forward by editing a good friend’s book (also for free). Just look around, and don’t be afraid to ask! I added another 5,000 or so words at the suggestion of my editor, and she was good enough to read through again after I had made the revisions. If this seems like too much to ask of one person, you might consider finding three editors (two editors and one proofreader) to get the job done in sequence–this is the road I plan to take with book number two.

Design

I had a very specific vision in mind for my cover. First, I knew that I wanted my good friend and the namesake of my youngest daughter to hand-draw the word “Lovely”.

 

I pictured it on a background of white roses. I began searching the internet for the picture I wanted (and I found tons) only to realize that purchasing a picture for use in a commercialized project could easily cost me thousands of dollars. So, I dusted off my camera and drove to the store for white roses.

I have a nice camera and decent (for amateur) photography skills. That was enough to get a usable picture. If you haven’t invested in a quality camera, never fear! You are sure to know someone who has! Again, just ask around.

Without my designer, I would have been stuck with a nice picture and a beautiful but unusable scan. I had no idea how to combine these things and begin to bring about my vision. Luckily, one of the gals who’d agreed to join my focus group is a talented designer. Not only did she design the most beautiful cover I have ever seen (and yes, I might be biased), but she acted absolutely thrilled to do so for free.

If there is not a willing designer in your circle, never fear! Fiverr.com is the place I run for many, many of my design related issues (blog, book, and logos for clients). Just hop on over and look around. There are designers, coding experts, and all around creative people galore! And amazingly, they will do most small jobs for $5 (check the Fiverr’s rating before hiring). Be sure to let your designer know that they are working on a commercialized project so that they can choose their fonts accordingly.

Format

I knew I wanted to publish my book both in print and for Kindle. However, formatting my MS Word document for Kindle was far outside my scope of understanding. After a full day of frustration and about an hour in tears, I remembered Fiverr.com. I would highly suggest not even trying to format your own document unless that is your area of expertise. I paid $10 (because I tipped) to have my document prepared for Kindle publishing. It might also be wise to hire someone to format your print version. This was my very first publishing expense.

Publish

After quite a bit of looking around and reading reviews online, I decided to publish my print version with Create Space. For the most part, I’ve been extremely happy with their printing quality and their customer service. They walked me through the publishing process step by step. Also, Create Space (an Amazon company) makes it easy to sell your self-published title on Amazon. They have a Kindle publishing walk-through, though I chose to bypass this and to hop over to Kindle with my formatted version in hand–therefore skipping the wait and fee that would have been associated with the Create Space to Kindle option.

Create Space is a print-on-demand company. This means that books are not printed until they are purchased. There will never be a minimum amount of books for you to buy; and, like I said, I’ve been predominately pleased with the job they do. I did receive some misprinted books last month, but Create Space replaced them free of charge. Create Space has a completely free option, and because I had already enlisted an editor and designer and was taking and formatting my own interior pictures, free was the option for me. Create Space allowed me to choose from standard book sizes and color options and also allowed me to set my price based on the royalty I wanted to receive.

Royalty rates are higher for self-published authors, because you are the one solely responsible to…

Market and Sell

I’ve read in several publishing articles that the average self-published title sells about a hundred copies [ever]. That hardly makes it worth all the work! No matter how well-written or relevant your book is, it will not sell if it is not marketed. Publishing on Kindle is an essential marketing strategy for a self-published author. In fact, you may decide not to publish a print version at all! When publishing on Kindle, you’ll have the option to sign up for their Kindle Select Program–you want to do this! One of the features of Kindle Select is the option of listing your Kindle title for free (for up to five days). Not only do you want to take advantage of this (whether your title will be priced at $2.99 or $9.99), but you’ll want to use up all five freebie days. There is simply no better way to market, and every single free download will be counted [for ranking purposes] as a sale. In other words, even though my book has only sold a few hundred copies to date, Amazon ranks it as though it has been sold over 14,000 times (I gave away 14,265 Kindle copies).

Because your five freebie days do not have to be used in succession, I highly recommend taking a quick step backward once you are ready to sell on Kindle and before you go live with your print version (I didn’t do this, so you’re learning from my mistake). Activate a twenty-four hour freebie day, but do not advertise it. Instead, send the link to close friends and family, only, letting them know that you’d love it if they would preview your book and point out any errors that might have been overlooked in the proofing or formatting process. Also, ask them to review your book on Amazon, and ask them if they can do all of these things within a specified amount of time (you only have 90 days to use your freebie days, so keep that in mind).

If it becomes necessary for you to make changes to your file, you can simply upload a new file to Create Space. You’ll need to have your Kindle file formatted with the changes. Again, I recommend that you hire someone to do this.

As soon as you’re ready, contact the freebie sites (both miscellaneous and Kindle)  and let them know that your book will be listed for free for four days (give them exact dates). You can find the relevant sites by googling, “Freebie Sites,” and “Kindle Freebie Sites”. Don’t worry about contacting every single one. Just pay attention to the top three or four listings, the rest will take their cue from them.

That’s about it…I won’t say simple, but it’s definitely something you can do. Let me know when you publish so that I can review your book!

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Dear Jesus,

What do I say? What can I write to the One who knows me far better than I know myself? I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m physically cold. Winter is on its way and I’m just not ready. But this morning, I pointed a space heater at the toes of my squinty-eyed children. I opened the fridge and poured cold cups of milk. I turned on the faucet to rinse out five glasses. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I am silly and selfish, and sometimes that revelation hits like a bus. But when the tears do come, I welcome them. They leave a puddle of perspective for which I am so very grateful.

Out of true perspective comes immediate action; and when I feel the gut-wrench of helplessness, my only obtainable action is heartfelt prayer. So I’m coming to you today on behalf of Sabajit, Rodrigo, and Basu. They have parents who are struggling even to feed and to clothe them, Lord. I know a little about how that feels. Their sons sign their letters as my sons, and I count that as the greatest privilege of my life. Please pour your mercy and grace upon them . They’re heavy on my heart today, Jesus, and I ask that you abundantly bless them–bless them as they’ve blessed me. I’m asking you, on behalf of my five children, that you bless us, too. But more than your blessings, please grant us the perspective necessary to truly know that we’ve already been blessed.

Please help me to raise children who possess open palms. Help us to lay down any luxury for the sake of life. And when it is called for, help us to lay down our lives for the sake of life. Thank you for birthing me, and for birthing my children in such a way as would prevent us from looking downward, so that even in the privilege of our birth, we grasp our equality with those scorned and despised. Thank you for your careful teaching. I acknowledge that any gift worthy of receiving comes straight from you. When we become your hands, our hands are blessed. And when we withhold with clinched fists and worldly judgment, we curse ourselves and refuse your heart.

I ask you to expand my reach and to bless many more children through me. Thank you for the blessings that are poured out, dumped with a drenching force, just through the privilege of serving you. It is such an honor to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have not yet experienced the blessing of a sponsored child, I urge you to be moved with compassion. I promise you, you will never regret it.

The Proof!

It’s a little bedroom, bigger than mine, but one of the smaller rooms that they’ve had. But is it too small for five kids? Thanks to Wal-Mart.com, nope. It’s just the right size.

I haven’t put up their curtains, yet, but I plan to use the same ones we’ve been using for awhile. And I’m ordering canvases so their walls can feature their own artwork. When it’s all finished and cute, I’ll post again.

Here’s the bed. It’s a twin over full bunk. But there is also room to slide another full mattress right underneath. So, now, it’s a twin over full over full. I think I’m a genius (and Lula thinks so, too).

The bedding is also from Wal-Mart, but we would never be able to find it in our small town store. That’s what makes Wal-Mart’s free site-to-store shipping so awesome. Big city bargains delivered straight to our mountain Wal-Mart! Can’t beat that!

The closet is still unfinished. I really hate sliding closet doors, so I’m thinking about redoing the whole inside with shelves and rods. Maybe something like this. Or a bunch of these. But I really like this, which would leave room for shelves on each end. If you’ve redone a closet, please let me see. When I look here, all I see is wasted space. Which, of course, we can’t have!

But that’s what we have, for now. A very clean and workable bedroom–with just enough stuff and plenty of room for all.

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(Parenthesis)

If you’ve started reading my book, you’ve probably noticed the startling lack of parenthesis. OK, no you haven’t. The lack of dashes? Commas?? Ummm…nope. Fine, I admit it, I like punctuation. I like it a lot. Except exclamation points, I have to force myself to use those. Well, not on Facebook. When on Facebook, I wink and exclaim like a mad woman.

Like a mad woman, I tell you!!!!!   ; )

The reason my book is not drowning in parenthesis is because El was one of the first to read it. She kinda set me straight with the whole, “This is a book, not a blog,” line. And alright, she didn’t really say that. I was inferring the parenthesis.

But y’all know I love ’em, parenthesis (saying what I really mean inside of what could have been a shrouded yet punchy sentence). I just didn’t realize how much I loved them.

I’m also pretty crazy about italics.

This week, though, I had a very eye opening experience while brushing my teeth (meaning I couldn’t answer, I could only nod).

“Hey Mom,” Bay Bit sneaked up behind me.

“UH! Uh-uh,” I mumbled through foam.

“How many days until our date?”

“Hhee,” I held up three fingers.

“Oh, OK,” she smiled. “I thought it was two days (cause yesterday you said it was three days). Remember when we went last time and I got macaroni (well, we said we wanted a steak but then we decided it was too expensive so I got macaroni) and it was really good?

I nodded.

“Well, I liked the macaroni (even though we really wanted steak), but next time I want something different (but I know we can’t have the steak). Are we going to go to the same place (I liked that place but you said we might not go there next time)? It’s OK if we go somewhere else (I know it’s really fun to just go out without the other kids, I was just wondering), are we? Also, are we going to have pancakes for breakfast (cause Lil Prince says he wants pancakes, but I like oatmeal, and Tiny Dancer wants cereal)?

I spit. And I smiled.

Like mother, like daughter (I guess).

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Buy the Book (pretty please)!

It’s here, that day I’ve promised you for the past few months–the day I’ve dreamed of for the past eighteen years, I guess (except that,  back then, I never dreamed I’d be writing non-fiction). You do what God asks you to do, though. At least that’s the goal–the plan. So, God told me to write a book. In one month. And what’s available now is a result of the bare bones book that was built in those thirty-one days. But it’s not only a result of that month. After the book was written, I did what every self-publishing author should do. I hand-picked the dream-team of focus groups and started my own publishing company.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my team.

Ashley is a mama to twin girls who are nearing two. She’s a firecracker and a sweetheart all rolled into one. She’s currently working on a book of her own which Whatever is Lovely Publications is eager to release when the time is right. For now, you can be blessed and encouraged by her blog.

Tiff is also a twin mama and is the mother to four. She is my “bulldog of faith”. When I begin to doubt or stumble, I approach Tiff with fear and trembling–and she proceeds to knock me around a bit (in love). If you don’t have a friend like Tiff in your life, go find one. And you can find Tiff herself on her deeply hilarious blog.

Ellyn needs no introduction, as you all probably know her at least as well as you know me. She’s the mother to six (five on earth and one in heaven), and she just remarried her one and only. I was honored to have her write the foreword to my book. You can find her blog here.

I’ve known Renee for the past six years. And unlike the three above, I knew her in real life before we were bloggy friends. Renee is upbeat and encouraging and fun. You can read about her life with her two adorable Latin men on her blog.

Danielle is a homeschooling mama to four. I think she brings a little sanity to the group, though she’s too nice to admit it. Danielle was one of my very first bloggy friends and has been a tremendous source of encouragement to me. Like everyone mentioned above, Danielle read, critiqued, and prayed over my book. But Danielle also gave of her time to design one of the most gorgeous book covers I have ever seen! Danielle designs and blogs. You can find her blog here.

Of course, Danielle would be the first to admit that she couldn’t have designed my cover without Cammie’s handwritten contribution. When God first gave me the book title, the word “lovely” immediately made me think of one of my very favorite people and the namesake of my youngest daughter. Cammie is the foster mother to twin girls and her and her husband are on staff at The Prayer Room in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Beth, oh, Beth. Beth is my first cousin once removed (did I get that genealogy right, Grandpa?!) Beth is a homeschooling mom and a real teacher (English Major). She’s a fellow grammar geek and was the only person I would have trusted with my book editing. Now, you can’t blame Beth for the final outcome of the book because her stubborn younger cousin held tightly to “the final say,” but 31 Days to Lovely is about 5,000 words longer and 100% better because Beth was kind enough to critique and question every weak area of the book. You can find Beth’s blog here.

And there you have it! Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Whatever is Lovely Publications’ very first book–my first book: 31 Days to Lovely!! 

31 Days to Lovely is now available in Kindle and print formats. I recommend the print version complete with journaling pages, because this book is truly designed to be a journey. If you’ve already downloaded and read the Kindle version, please review it on Amazon!

 

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