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One of the best ways to grow as a writer is to attend writerly events. I’m thinking specifically of conferences, workshops and writing groups.

Conferences are places to network with people with the same passion for words that you possess. It’s invigorating to talk with other writers, to discuss writing and books and publishing.

Saskatoon InScribe Conference 2016

Saskatoon InScribe Conference 2016

Conferences are also great places to learn. You may not profit from every workshop you attend, but you may pick up a thing or three by being there, possibly by asking questions of the presenter.

I like to get to at least one conference a year. My preference at this time is the InScribe Christian Writer’s Conference in Edmonton, AB Canada at the end of September. It’s located within driving distance of my home, and I have a friend from nearby who also attends regularly, so we drive together.

I have also enjoyed and profited from The Word Guild’s Write! Canada Conference in June. However, I don’t currently have the budget for the conference and plane fare, so that’s not an option.

One year I was blessed to attend the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference when it was held in Minneapolis. What an experience that was to meet and rub shoulders with prolific Christian fiction writers such as Angela Hunt, James Scott Bell, Karen Ball, Terri Blackstock, Siri Mitchell, and many more. And then there was the Mall of America.

Choose an event that works for you and go! It’s a shot in the arm, a boot to the butt, an encouragement.

Books for sale at Saskatoon Conference 2016

Books for sale at Saskatoon Conference 2016

I’ve also discovered a lot of online courses that are either free or very affordable. As a member of ACFW, ICFW and TWG,  I see offers of free courses all the time. These focus on everything from point of view to social media for writers, from character creation to plot development and everything  in between.

I’ve even benefitted from free courses that end up being a hook to more expensive workshops. You don’t have to buy the costly stuff, just learn what you can from the freebies.

I also stumbled upon a website shortly after Christmas this past year that consisted of a large group of authors who promoted each others’ work with a huge giveaway of free e-books on writing. Some didn’t actually show up in my download file because of a glitch or mistake on my part, but I still downloaded a lot of good resources.

In my experience, a local writing group is also extremely helpful. Sometimes the best part is meeting with like-minded people, but often I come home with terrific suggestions for the work I’ve brought to the group for critique. It depends on the members, of course, but look around for a group that works for you. Share your areas of expertise with them as they share theirs with you. One important note: if you submit material for critique, make sure you really want it. Don’t ask for input and then pout or leave the group because it hurts your feelings. If you want to improve, listen. You don’t have to accept and use every suggestion, but consider them just the same, especially if you get similar comments from more than one person.

So whether you hop on a plane for a large international writing conference or drive to the next town for a workshop, take in what you can according to budget and time. Plan to bless and be blessed.

51wrxfWrGAL._AA160_Two sisters, two dreams.

Vivian Connor wants nothing more than peace and contentment. She is the generous, caring older sister who does her best to look after her younger siblings and her parents. But her younger sister Virginia—Ginny—“will suffocate if I have to stay in this house one more minute.” Her dreams prove to be much broader and wilder than any of her friends or family can guess. No matter what Vivian says, Ginny cannot be dissuaded from forging ahead toward her dreams.

When Ginny gets herself into more trouble than she bargained for, believing that her “friend” Logan will truly strike it rich in the Klondike, Vivian determines to rescue her, with God’s help. But how can she leave to follow Ginny when her father’s health is failing, and her parents struggle with enormous financial burdens?

Alistair, a young doctor from the town where the Connor family now lives, has also been seeing Ginny and has fallen for her. When he realizes her dangerous situation, he determines to find and give what aid he is able.

Ben McCormack, a local farmer whom Vivian has met in town, has arranged to marry a girl from Dawson City, although he’s never met her. He ends up traveling the same route as Vivian and discovers that, against his will, he has feelings for her.

Author Lisa Flickinger writes a riveting historical fiction set in the time of the Klondike Gold Rush, a time when vast numbers of men—and women—are consumed with greed as they risk all to seek their fortunes. She has done her research well, making the situations and locations real and believable, from the busy and dangerous waterfront, to Dawson City and the desolate tent communities nearby. Lisa writes from a Christian worldview, offering hope in the face of extreme distress.

The main characters in this book are individual and distinct, but they also grow and change as they meet with obstacles in their paths. The wide variance in characters adds to the tension in the book, especially between Vivian and Ginny. How can you help someone who doesn’t wish to be helped?

I think the plot is the strongest element of this story. The reader truly cannot foresee what will happen next. The twists and turns defy imagination. This story kept me flipping quickly through screens as I read, wishing I could warn Ginny, encourage Vivian, applaud Alistair and ask Ben what he was thinking.

I’d recommend this book as a good read for anyone who appreciates historical fiction with a strong plot, a Christian message and a positive takeaway.

 

Author Lisa Flickinger

Author Lisa Flickinger

Wife of one, mother of three, and grandmother of seven, I live and write in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. My journey to publication began in the stacks of our local library where I devoured fiction as a young girl and created small books out of construction paper.

When I’m not writing or reading, you will find me combing through antique shops, walking in the woods with my faithful Labrador Zeke, or sipping a Creme Brulee latte with friends. 

The release of my first novel All That Glitters fulfills the lifelong dream of sharing the characters in my head with you, dear reader.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

-Nelson Mandela

It’s done! Yes, Sir / Ma’am.
OtherSideOfRiver_cover_5.25x8

 

My first self-published title is available on amazon in e-book and print. Here’s the cover shot. Love the work by Fred Koop Design.

I’d like to say I now know how to format and upload, so the road will be easier next time. However…this time I copied my files from Scrivener, my writing program, to docx and then pdf for print, and to mobi for Kindle (I used Calibre to convert my docx to mobi). That was a stretch!

Next time I want to learn how to properly export the formatted files directly from Scrivener. So it will take a bit of time to figure this out, but once I do, it will save a number of steps in the process, and I can save the settings.

Just so you know, I have enrolled my book in the Kindle Select program, so it will be exclusive to Kindle for the next 90 days. After that, I will be free to upload it for Nook, Kobo and iBooks.

I’m very happy with the outcome of the book, but now I need to let others know. I’d long thought of starting an email list, but I didn’t even know how to begin. I thought it was the same as the list of people who follow my blog. Wrong.

The right way to begin is before the book is out. I didn’t do it that way, of course. But I wanted to learn how to make the email list work, so I took a free online course by Bryan Harris and jumped in with both feet. I made up a brief email note and sent it to every person on my contact list that could be even remotely interested. I asked if they would like to receive email updates about my indie publishing adventure. If so, they could send me their best email address and I would send them a link to my free e-book.

Important Point: You cannot use an email address to sell or give away product, or to send out advertising or blogs, without the express permission of the individual. That’s why even if you know the email address, you have to ask you for it before adding it to your email list.

I should have (famous last words) sent this ad campaign through Mailchimp, with which I have an account. I didn’t. Then the replies began to arrive and I was overwhelmed for several days, trying to keep track of who I had contacted, who had responded, and who had been sent the second email with the link to my free e-book. It was the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice Syndrome.” But that was only my first mistake.

I tend to make spectacular mistakes instead of small, neat ones. I realized, after I’d sent out the link to my free e-book, that it was only free to Kindle Unlimited users (who pay $9.99 or so a month for membership). Now what?

I called KDP in a panic and the rep said, “I think we can help you.” What a relief. I could set my book at no cost for 5 days. I did that immediately and that problem was solved.

And so the journey continues. The expectation of email list building is that you get 100 subscribers in a week, 1000 in three months, and 10,000 in ten months. Forgive me if I don’t have enough faith. But I’ll keep pursuing this at my own speed and see where it takes me. After all, I have a sequel to edit and format and upload…

I encourage any of you who wish to go independent that yes, you can do it. Keep at it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are always solutions to problems.

Till next time, all the best with your self-publishing journey.

NOTE: If you don’t know the difference between docx and pdf, between epub and mobi; if you have never heard of Calibre or Scrivener or Mailchimp, do not despair. You can learn. Take another look at Mandela’s quote at the top of this article.

Scrivener is my absolute favorite writing tool/program. It’s inexpensive (I paid $40 USD a few years ago) and it’s user friendly. I took two online courses, one for general Scrivener use and one for Scrivener compile, and have all the notes. Read more about it HERE and on my blog from January 27, 2015.

 

 

 

I’ll never forget the first time this happened to me. I was writing my first novel, and had decided to use three main characters in order to properly and effectively show three very different perspectives. The third character was actually an afterthought, to fill in events and points of view that would otherwise be lost, but I only planned to use him to introduce these ideas, and then he would “go away.”

But Paul Gregorovich Tekanin would not be put out. He insisted on staying. I couldn’t write him out or kill him off without seriously harming the plot. He stuck around for the entire three-book series, becoming one of the characters that changed the most and proved a true friend. I still grieve that I had to leave him in Russia when the others emigrated.hugs-1328360_960_720

Sometimes there are people in our lives that we don’t know well. They show up but we don’t plan to get involved with them. But for reasons outside ourselves—read: God sees the big picture and knows what and who we need—they don’t leave. In fact, they become our closest friends. They love us and support us when others we thought we could trust disappear.

I’m thankful for the friends who become “closer than a brother,” who stick by us through life’s ups and downs, who prove themselves to be worthy of the title, friend. Sometimes they are real “characters,” but that’s what makes life bearable.

 

Writing Lessons

(previously posted March 12, 2016 on NovelRocket.com)

I was standing in line for coffee (well, in line with others in line for coffee—I prefer the near milkshake version) at a writers conference several years ago. The woman behind me was also alone and also wearing a nametag identifying her as part of the same conference. Feeling a little more extroverted than usual, I asked, “What do you write?”

I expected a quippy response—the kind of single-line identifier writers spend years perfecting. What I got instead was a tirade on the ills of Christian publishing and the narrow-mindedness of some editors not interested in books about missionaries in Africa.

After five full minutes, she harrumphed. “I just don’t understand why God would call me to write this book, when no one seems to be interested.”

I thought that probably translated into, “I had a couple painful editor appointments,” but I didn’t say as much. Instead I gently—I hope I was gentle, anyway—suggested that perhaps God had called her to write the book so He could teach her something new.

To which she snapped, “I’ve already learned the lessons I wrote about in my book.”

Thank goodness it was then my turn to order. Double that whip cream, please.

I wonder about that exchange every now and then. It was years ago, and I probably wouldn’t recognize the woman again if she introduced herself. But I think about what I really meant to say, and if I’m listening to my own advice. You see, I think God uses the very process of writing and editing and pitching books to teach us amazing things. Even on the surface level, I’ve learned some incredible lessons, like perseverance pays off, flexibility is important, and big computer screens can hide bad hair days.

But there’s more to this whole putting thoughts to paper thing. Here are three lessons God has taught me through the course of writing my books.

  1. My worth isn’t in sales or how many books have my name on the cover. Who I am is not how many people recognize me on the street (none, by the way) or what conference I’m asked (or not asked) to speak at. Doing the hard work of writing a book isn’t about making a name for myself or being told I’m a wonderful writer (although that’s nice to hear every now and then). Because in the darkness (I write best at night) it’s just me and my computer and God. That time alone is 95% of my writing life. And in that time, when the enemy whispers lies into my ear (like I’ll never amount to anything or I’m not worthy), I cling to the reminder that my worth is wrapped up in one thing. I am a child of God. And I do what I do because it’s the call He’s given me. I’m called to use my talents and not bury them in the ground. The process of writing reminds me whose I am and whose voice I heed.
  1. God’s good gifts don’t always come in the form of five-star reviews. Matthew 7 talks about how God is a good Father, who wants to give His children good gifts. It’s easy to think that those gifts always come wrapped in red ribbons and blazing with stars. But sometimes the sweetest gifts come in a spurt of writing or an unexpected inspiration. My favorite of his gifts are epiphanies that fill in gaping plot holes I couldn’t fill on my own.

The passage I mentioned in Matthew follows the familiar “ask and it shall be given to you” line. I’ve discovered a joy in asking God for help and waiting to see how He’ll show up. Sometimes it’s through a kind word from a reader. Other times it’s in a brainstorming session with a fellow writer. And then there are the times when it’s a meal made by a friend who knows I’m on deadline and just need real food. When my eyes are open to them, I see His gifts everywhere.

  1. I don’t have to fear rejection. Writers know the acute pain of dismissal better than most. We wrack up rejection letters with a butterfly net and wear them like a badge of honor. But that doesn’t mean they stop stinging. We pitch to our dream editors and agents, hold our breaths, and let out loud sighs when we hear back. “It’s not right for me.” “Your manuscript isn’t quite ready.” “It doesn’t fit into the market right now.” Or a reviewer plants a one-star review on your work, their words harsh and overly critical.

Industry experts tell us these aren’t personal rejections, but how could they not feel that way when we’ve poured our hearts into these stories? They hurt. Even after the 12th and 25th and 99th. (And they don’t hurt any less after you’ve published a book or six.) What I’ve come to learn is that a rejection may burn, but it’s not lethal. It may leave a bruise, but it’ll heal. And in the midst of that pain, I continue to turn to one truth. God has promised never to leave me or forsake me. No matter what pain this life brings, His love is everlasting. I don’t have to fear rejection because He’ll never reject me.

What have you learned through the process of writing, editing, and pitching your work?

About Liz Johnson: By day Liz Johnson works as a marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author of nine novels—including her latest, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with her at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.

 

Image 2016-03-16 at 10.43 AMAbout The Red Door Inn: Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. He wasn’t expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got—and they have to find a way to work together. In the process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.

51xzbYMMWfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This excellent book consists of two stories intricately woven together. One story, told in first person, begins in the United States in 1972. Hannah Sterling’s mother, Lieselotte, has just died, and Hannah wants to find out more about her mother, particularly why she was such a cold, distant person.

The second story is Lieselotte’s, also told in first person, beginning in Germany in 1938. Hitler’s power is building, and Lieselotte doesn’t understand what is happening to her family, to her people, to their Jewish neighbors.

1972:  Hannah goes through her mother’s things and finds a stack of addressed but empty envelopes that reveal family still living in Germany. She decides to travel there to find out anything she can about her mother. With the help of a driver her grandfather has hired to show her Berlin, Hannah investigates clues that lead to startling and disturbing discoveries. Nothing is as it seems, and danger lurks with every secret Hannah uncovers.

1938:  Lieselotte works secretly with others to help those targeted by the regime. The risks are extreme. Discovery surely means death or a concentration camp. Her newly admitted love for her childhood friend, Lukas, must also be kept a secret for everyone’s sake.

I won’t incorporate any spoilers; I urge you to read the rest for yourself. This book is riveting and disturbing. Besides the superbly researched content, author Cathy Gohlke crafts a well-balanced and carefully arranged book that will leave its imprint on readers. Characters are complex, the plot unpredictable, the settings vivid, and the mood intense.

One of the startling things Hannah learns in her investigation is that even though the war is long over and Hitler is dead, not all Germans are remorseful for their attitudes and actions toward Jews. Nor are Jews confident that it won’t all happen again.

Introduced late in the book is the blessedly famous Corrie Ten Boom, who models forgiveness of our enemies. This is one of the most challenging aspects of this book, not only for Hannah but also for us as readers.

I highly recommend Secrets She Kept to anyone ready for a challenging, fulfilling and memorable read.

 

“Whatever you may have heard, self-publishing is not a short cut to anything. Except maybe insanity. Self-publishing, like every other kind of publishing, is hard work. You don’t wake up one morning good at it. You have to work for that.”

Zoe Winters, Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author

A short-cut?

A short-cut?

Indeed! But, as I’ve mentioned before, this is an adventure. (Bilbo Baggins’ definition of adventure, paraphrased: Adventure is a nasty thing that makes you late for supper.)

Since my last Indie-related blog on March 8th, there’s been a bit more water under the fridge bridge.

* I have completed my manuscript edits for Other Side of the River, including a painstaking review in “non-printing character” mode (on my MacWord there is a backwards P (known as a Pilcrow or paragraph mark) at the top of the Word page. It shows me where all the spaces, returns, indents and page/section breaks are).

I also spent many nasty hours trying to figure out how to make my footers and headers engage independently, and although I’m still not clear on this step, I managed to get page numbers to show up on every page while having different odd and even headers.

Thanks to Ruth Snyder who suggested using Master Pages, and Pat Gerbrandt who consulted a family member and offered feedback.

I am consistently humbled by the people who go out of their way to help other writers. I’m also thankful to those non-tech people who listened, albeit with glazed eyes, as I described my formatting challenges.

Professional services are beyond my price range at the moment, and these services do not set out to train authors to do their own interior formatting. Rather, they offer fee-based services. And who can blame them?

But enough of the format fiasco.

* Bottom line is that my book uploaded to CreateSpace without any glitches. As soon as the cover arrives in my inbox, I will upload that as well. I would add that the CreateSpace method of creating a print book isn’t too difficult to follow. Once successfully uploaded, my virtual book allowed me to page through it, making sure all my front and back matter appeared on the proper pages (recto/verso).

News Flash: If you are a Canadian using CreateSpace, you no longer need to apply for an EIN tax ID number. Simply fill out the non-U.S. form for a W-8BEN, which is part of the sign-up, and include your SIN number. That’s it!

Another Note: If your sole address is a box number, as mine is, fill in the Permanent Residence box with your physical land description instead. Your box number can be used in the Mailing Address section. Then keep a copy of the form for when you fill out the same thing at Kindle Direct Publishing! No reason to completely re-invent the wheel.

* The next step for me has been to sign up with KDP and re-create the adventure to format my e-book versions. This will require a few more Youtube videos and referral to notes from Janet Sketchley and Valerie Comer, but I think I’ll mange, with a little bit (or a lot) of help from my friends.

* Another essential element of this adventure is to choose keywords/phrases, and then write a book description that features these keywords, if at all possible. An excellent resource for keywords and Search Engine Optimization is C.S. Lakin’s blog, Live Write Thrive. I’d recommend this site for anything from writing to editing to marketing. Suzanne also offers classes, for a fee. If you have the budget for it, sign up.

* I think the best takeaway I can leave you with today is that although self-publishing is not a short-cut to getting our work out there in the big wide world, it is an excellent route.

It is doable (read: if I can do it, anyone can).

It is affordable, as long as you take time to consider what you can do yourself and what you definitely need someone to do for you. Since I don’t possess a single visual arts skill, I could not manage my own covers.

It is easier the second time around. I’m counting on this! I’ve taken copious notes on this process to make the next book format adventure more straightforward.

Until next month, keep your fingers on the keys and don’t give up. The end result will be worth all the work.

 

 

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