Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: MRPAuthor (Page 2 of 5)

Cover to Cover – Beyond the Cover

I didn’t make this one part five, because the step in the process takes place before, beside, and after the publishing of your book. It is marketing. And it isn’t as easy as one might think. To find out more, I turned to a person who has taught me a lot in the last few months, Linda Fulkerson. The most recent lesson she’s taught me? It’s that when you ask her for an interview be prepared for a thorough interview! Her interview follows, and though it is longer than my usual posts, I think you’ll come away with a new appreciation of marketing and maybe even some good ideas for marketing your own book!

Thank you for interviewing me!

Can you tell us little about how you got into offering marketing services and the services your company offers to authors?

It’s kind of a long story, lol.

 Back in 2002, my then-agent had been shopping my manuscript for The Prodigal Daughter: Hope for Runaway Christians and Those Who Await Their Return (my first book – a nonfiction memoir-style self-help book). Editors liked it, but wouldn’t offer a contract because I wasn’t well known, and unless you’re a celebrity, memoirs don’t sell. My agent’s advice was, “Go get famous. Then resubmit.” Because I was naïve, I asked him, “How does one get famous?” He told me to start a speaking ministry and start blogging. Very few people were blogging back in 2002. I didn’t know much about it, so I started taking online courses from professional bloggers and learned a lot.

 Fast forward a few years to 2009. By this point, blogging had become a big deal for authors, but still, not many had a blog or knew what to do with it if they did have one. Word got out among my author friends – Linda knows how to blog! I was literally spending at least an hour (sometimes more) on the phone, explaining to different authors how to blog and use digital marketing, (including SEO, social media, email marketing, etc.) effectively. My husband suggested to save time, I should start a blog about blogging. (I married a wise man.) I don’t update it anymore, but all the content is still available online at OnBloggingWell.com, named after the old book, On Writing Well. During this time, I was conducting a popular workshop in several states titled, “Marketing with a Blog.” (Although some things have changed, most of those same principles I taught then still work today.)

 In 2011, I moved to Texas and was hired as the online editor for a daily newspaper. The day after I started, the general manager called me into his office. He told me after reviewing my résumé further, he wanted me to move out of editorial and launch a digital services company for area small businesses. So, after being an editor-for-a-day, I became the Director of Digital Services. We conducted small business training seminars and sold website/digital marketing packages that included print advertising options (it was a newspaper, after all, lol). It was a fast-paced, exciting job, and our client base grew quickly. Plus, I learned SO much!

 I moved back to Arkansas in late 2013. My husband suggested that, instead of getting a job, I begin my own digital marketing company, which I did. I started off by doing cold calls to local mom & pop brick and mortar companies, but quickly the word got out among my author friends that I was building websites now and offering marketing services/consulting. God has blessed my business tremendously. For well over three years, all my clients have come to me via referral. No more begging for business! I still have most of my original small business clients, but today, I offer my services exclusively to authors and speakers. I’m so blessed. J

Why is it important for authors to have access to these kinds of services?

When an author pitches a book idea to an editor or agent, one of the first questions asked will be, “How big is your platform?” Just like a physical platform enables a speaker to be seen by a crowd, an author’s platform gives him or her “visibility” in a crowded marketplace. An author’s platform includes a variety of elements – blog subscribers, email list subscribers, social media followers, author networks, friends & family, local community, and “marketing evangelists,” such as a street team or even reader-fans the author may not even know. Growing such a platform takes a lot of work – persistency and consistency. Like anything, it all starts with a solid foundation – a properly structured website. I call it the author’s “Marketing Machine.”

 The problem is, many authors either (a) don’t have the technical skillset to develop such a platform, or (b) don’t have the time to do so. That’s where people like me can help. Many times, someone will hire me short-term, just to get everything set up, structured properly, and offer training on how to use the system effectively. Then, they take it from there. Others hire me to do ongoing marketing tasks, such as search engine optimization and/or social media management.

 Which service that your company provides is the most enjoyable for you?

I enjoy making video book trailers. The turnaround time is quicker than websites, plus, most authors get super excited when they see their book premise in video form.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

That little four-letter-word: TIME. Sometimes my to-do list can be overwhelming. I have a lot of clients, and frankly, I do my best to spoil them. But sometimes I get bogged down Somedays, when I check my email, every subject line has the word “HELP!” in it, lol. I am blessed in the fact that my kids are grown, so I no longer have the day-to-day duties of a mom thrown in with work. I would like to write more, but I put my paying clients’ work ahead of my personal writing goals.

 At first, that really bothered me. I feel God has given me the gift of words, and I should share them. Today I try to look at it like this – God has also given my clients words to share, and by helping them spread their words, I’m perhaps in a small way helping spread His. (But I still want to write, lol!)

 Another challenge is sometime the technology itself. Things change so rapidly in the digital world. It can be frustrating at times. For instance, there may be a WordPress plugin I’ve used to enhance a website’s functionality that worked fine for months (or even longer), but if the developer doesn’t keep it updated, a new WordPress version may render the plugin useless, or worse, crash a website. Some of these issues are unforeseeable, but can be hard to explain to clients. My motto is, “Technology is great – when it works.” (This is why it’s vital to have a website backup system in place!)

Do you have a project that stands out as a favorite?

I really enjoy book cover design. I’ve done a few for clients, but I haven’t really put myself out there as far as a graphic designer yet. Most people think of me as a website builder or marketing consultant, which is fine. It may be selfish, but so far, my favorite thing I’ve created is the cover for my own book, DEAD BROKE. I’ve had so many compliments on that cover – mostly from people who didn’t even realize I’d designed it. Now I wish I’d entered it in some cover-design contests, but it’s been out for two years now, so probably a little late for that.

 If you could give authors one piece of advice what would it be?

Okay, but I have to share two. Sorry.

 First, realize that marketing is not about you. It’s about the audience. What they want. What they need. The sad truth is, other than your close friends and family, people don’t care about you or your books. People are selfish. Human nature is “what’s in it for me?” If you can (1) discover the dreads/desires of your audience (through effective market research) and (2) help them avoid those dreads/attain those desires, you will become a best-seller. (See the last paragraph for how to do this.)

 Second, understand the various components of marketing and the purpose each one serves. I teach relationship marketing – it’s called the “Know-Like-Trust” system. Basically, it goes like this: If people feel they know you, they will like you. If they like you, they will begin to trust you. Once they trust you, they will buy from you.

 A lot of people attempt to use social media to sell books. That rarely works. The best use of social media is to build brand awareness (name recognition) and develop relationships. Social media is included in the “KNOW” and “LIKE” part of the KNOW-LIKE-TRUST principle.

 Blogging is a great way to improve upon your audience’s like for you, plus, it builds trust. When people see you are knowledgeable about a topic, they believe you are an “author”ity on that topic. Blogging is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. There’s a trend now in the publishing industry where agents and editors are telling authors that blogging isn’t important for fiction writers. I’m not sure where they got that information, but I disagree. I study blogging trends from professional bloggers, not from editors or agents. They know the publishing industry, but pro bloggers know digital marketing. That’s where I’ve learned most of what I know. Those who are most well-known and respected in the blogosphere say blogging is not dead. But, most people just don’t know how to blog effectively, so they’ve made an assumption it doesn’t work. From my experience, blogging can be one of your best marketing tools.

 One of the most vital elements in your marketing toolbox is your email list. The value of an effective lead capture/email marketing system can’t be stressed enough. Most authors don’t know how to build an email list and if they have one, they don’t know how to use it properly. An email list is hands-down your NUMBER ONE sales tool.

 Summing it up: Use social media to build that KNOW/LIKE – getting your name out there. Use blogging and/or podcasting to build LIKE/gain TRUST. Learn how to build and email list effectively as a sales tool.

 Here’s a practical system on how put it all together:

  • Use your blog to provide solutions to your readers’ problems. First, know who your audience is. Then, do some market research and make a list of 20-25 fears/problems your audiences faces. Make a list of 20-25 dreams/desires they long to attain.
  • Write one blog post per fear/problem and one blog post per dream/desire. Now you’ve got about a year’s worth of blog content. Do keyword research so you’ll know what exact-match phrases to optimize for in each post, then optimize your post content for search.
  • Include a call-to-action within each post to join your email list. When someone joins your list, give them something valuable to entice them to join. Then nurture those leads by providing even more useful, relevant information. Useful and relevant are two of the most important words in marketing. Finally, pitch your books via email. But be sure to provide more useful content than pitches. So, every email won’t include a book pitch. A good ratio is somewhere between 4:1 and 7:1, depending upon your audience.
  • Use social media as teasers to lead people to your blog posts.

Thank you Linda for participating in this interview! You can find Linda at lindafulkerson.com. And to see a little bit of what she does, you can click below to watch the book trailer Linda created for Faith’s Journey.

 

Main Character Monday #10

seer

Usually, I review the book before I interview the character. However, since I don’t want to interrupt the Cover to Cover series, I’m going to switch things up today. My review of The Seer by Erin Howard will be posted as soon as the Cover to Cover series is wrapped up.

Today’s Guest is Thea Elliot from The Seer by Erin R. Howard.

Thank you for joining me.

 

What is your favorite book of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament?

The book of Psalms is my favorite, probably because I could always find my dad reading it.

 If you could meet anyone from scripture, not including Jesus, who would it be?

I’ve always wanted to meet the angel, Gabriel. But now Matthias has shown up, so he might be able to schedule a meeting.

Jesus had twelve disciples. Which one do you feel you are most like? 

Perhaps Thomas would be closest. He had to see the scars on Jesus’s hands and side for himself. I’m sort of the same way. It’s not that I doubt everything, but I like to see things myself.

Jesus says we are to be His light in the world. What does this mean to you?

It probably means to help people or show them the way to go, but I’m not exactly a social butterfly and that would require me to talk to people. Do I have to know what I’m supposed to do to help someone else out?

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Only when we are faced with the impossible, do we find out what we can truly do.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk Chocolate, dark chocolate, I’m not picky, I love it all.

Roses or Daisies? Roses

Salad or Soup? Salad

If you could describe Erin Howard in three words, what would those words be? 

Busy. Crafty. Loyal.

I want to thank Thea and Erin for letting my do this interview. If you enjoy the fantasy genre, head over to Amazon to get your copy of The Seer. It is available in e-book and paperback formats. Though Thea alluded to meeting an angel in the interview, stay tuned for the book review. You’ll be introduced to an unlikely group of heroes made up of a couple humans, an angel, and even a demon. 

Cover to Cover – Part Four

Your novel has been accepted, and the contract has been signed. The cover designer is hard at work putting together the images that will entice readers to pick your book off the shelf and at least read the back cover copy. You can breathe easy. The work is done.

Not by a long shot.

To make your book the best it can be, it will go through at least another round or two of editing. What is there to edit? I interviewed Erin Howard and Pam Harris, editors for Mantle Rock Publishing to find out what they do to help Mantle Rock authors prepare their books for launch.

Erin Howard – Developmental Editor

What exactly does a developmental editor do?

I look at the big picture of the book and then narrow in on the structure of that book. I look at the plot, themes, characterization, POV/voice, pacing/flow, dialogue, landscapes, and style. Not only do I look at the manuscript through an editor’s eyes, but I also get to look at it through a reader’s eyes.  No matter what stage you are in your writing career, everyone needs and can benefit from developmental editing.

What is your favorite part of this job?

I love getting to know my authors, and help them match their vision to a ready manuscript for editing. Think of it like a director in a movie.  They get to work with the cast and crew from the planning stages, to costumes, to the final editing in the studio.  I work with my authors, asking them questions about their thought process, where they envision the story going, and then make sure they are getting to that end goal. It’s very exciting for me. I love watching all the pieces fall into place.

Have there been times when an author is resistant to the changes you suggest? How do or would you deal with situations like this?

Everyone at MRP has been wonderful to work with. I can’t force anyone to take my suggestions, (we are talking about story content) but I look at this like a partnership and not someone dictating what has to be changed. I’m here to help and to look for areas that can be improved on. While there may be things that need to be changed, I expect my authors to ask me questions.  I truly want to know what they were thinking and their goals for that particular section of the book or scene.  I’m here to help them present the best version of their manuscript.

Has going through the publishing process with your own book given you any new insights for your job as developmental editor?

No matter how much you’ve studied or practiced, everyone needs an extra set of eyes editing their manuscript. As authors, we get too close to our “baby” and we are not always objective when it comes to our stories. It’s so much easier to see things in other people’s stories. We all benefit from each stage of the editing process, they are all crucial to the success of the book.

If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call that class?

That’s a hard one, Heather! I would probably call it “The Big Picture”. Every writer needs to know about all of the elements that I talked about earlier and how they are woven together in the story.

Pam Harris – Line Editor

Can you explain what a line editor does in the publication process?

My role is to check for grammar and spelling errors. I prefer to edit in sections. For instance, if a book contains 240 pages, I may edit the first 60, send to the author for corrections or revisions, and continue with the next 60 pages once I receive the edited pages back from the author. I think this makes it easier for the author and for me. Once the author and I have finished our edits, I do a spelling and grammar check on Word. It doesn’t always catch everything, but hopefully between the author, Word, and me, we catch most errors if not all of them.

What pushes you to be the best line editor you can be?

Two things: the desire to have a really good product and my reputation. Unfortunately, some things do get by me, but that’s why the author and I together can find what needs to be corrected. I am a certified English teacher, but there are still things I must research to see how Chicago Manual of Style recommends certain things be handled.  It is a time-consuming process.

Do you ever start to get lost in the story and struggle to keep your focus on the editing process? Do you have any tricks to keep this from happening?

At first, this was a real challenge, because as we read we often read what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. I have learned, however, to read with a critical eye, and unfortunately, that’s the way I read everything now — even cereal boxes!

What is the best part of being a line editor?

Getting to read so many really good books and working with the authors. I feel as though I get to know them through their writing and our communications.

I’ll ask you the same question I did Erin. If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call it?

The title that comes to mind is a session I once did at a writers’ retreat: “Caution, grammar bumps ahead!” The greatest problems I see with writers are the overuse and punctuation errors with “then” and the misuse of commas, colons, em dashes, and ellipses. Those punctuation errors interfere with the flow of the story. A better understanding of them would help writers produce a better book.

I want to thank Erin and Pam for telling us a little bit more about the editing processes that go into getting a book ready for publication. Erin and Pam have had experience from the editor and author side of publication. You can find both Erin’s fantasy book, The Seer, and Pam’s historical fiction, Aimee (as well as her other books) on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. 

Cover to Cover – Part Three

After writers write their stories, their job continues. Now, come the re-writes, the first phase of editing the story. Yet even after they’ve gone through each word with a fine toothed comb picking out all the best ones and cutting out the ones that bore, the editing process has only just begun. The story has merely been prepared for the next step of the publishing process. So, after researching the best publishers and agents, preparing a professional sounding query letter, and writing an attention grabbing synopsis of the story, the complete manuscript is (hopefully) requested and the next big editorial hurdle approaches. Yes, your story has made it to the desk of the Acquisitions Editor.

But what does an Acquisitions Editor do? Kathy Cretsinger, Acquisitions Editor for Mantle Rock Publishing, took time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions that give insight into her part of the editing process.

What is your job as an acquisitions editor?

Proposals come to me first. It is my job to read them and decide if they will fit our publishing company. I look at the market analysis, check Amazon it make sure it is a new book (not previously published), check out everything I can find out about the author and their writing.

Everyone has favorite genres and styles of writing they prefer to read. Do you find it hard to get beyond your natural inclinations as a reader when presented with a book outside your chosen genre/style?

At this moment, I love Romantic Suspense, but I love all writing. I’ll read just about anything, even the backs of cans and jars. We have an idea of how many of each book we publish each year. I have no problem reading any proposal if it is well written.

What is the hardest part of your job as an acquisitions editor? The most rewarding?

The hardest part of an acquisitions editor is rejecting a book. I should be getting used to it now, but if I can see a good story which needs some work, I’ll probably take it. The most reward? Seeing a book completed, ready to put on Amazon.com. I love to see a finished product with good content and a good cover.

What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen from potential authors in their submissions?

The biggest mistake from most authors is not having their manuscript edited before I see it. I’m not the best in grammar and spelling, but I know if I see a red squiggly line under a word it is misspelled. I know I need to change it. Another big mistake is not learning the craft. Head hopping is a big error I see with first-time authors.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Learn the craft. Read all kinds of books. Read books on writing in addition to fiction. Read the submissions page of each publishing house and agent. All are different.

Kathy’s desk is the first of many stops for a manuscript published by Mantle Rock Publishing. The story will change through the process that lies ahead, and the author might too! But here, with the acquisitions editor, is where the book is accepted or rejected. It is where an author first finds out their work was chosen.

There is a lot of emotion that comes with finding out your manuscript has been chosen for publication. It says someone believed in your story and ability enough to take a chance on your work. It can be exciting and scary at the same time to know in a few short months you will be a published author. It is a privilege and a responsibility. And knowing that the acquisitions editor sees something of worth in what you’ve written is encouraging to the author who put so much time and energy into the manuscript.

Being chosen creates powerful emotions in all of life, not just publishing. Deep down, everyone wants to belong. They want to feel like what they have to offer is worth something, that they are worth something to those around them. Even those who have known what it is to be accepted on a regular basis, still struggle at times. Some feel they have to keep performing in all the right ways to keep the acceptance they crave. Some feel they can’t ever reach a level of belonging. So, they act out in rebellion to prove they don’t need it even though it goes against their desire for unconditional love. The world is full of broken people who haven’t ever felt that feeling of being important to someone else.

It’s sad because each person has access to the greatest source of unconditional love ever. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much He gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Romans chapter five assures us that Jesus’ sacrifice came while we were enemies of God because of sin. How much more unconditional can you get than someone dying in your place even though you’re their enemy and want nothing to do with them? God’s love for us isn’t based on performance. Scripture tells us God loves us because God is love.

And it goes beyond being loved. We are chosen. 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a chosen generation. When we accept God’s gift of forgiveness and enter into relationship with Him, scripture tells us God adopts us into His family. Children who are adopted are children who are chosen. God chose us to go out and make a difference in the world for Him. God wants us. We are chosen.

By the Book: God wants each of us. As believers, we know the freedom that can come when we truly believe that we are chosen by God. But we don’t need to hoard that love and acceptance. There is enough for everyone. What difference could we make in the world if we started showing others God’s love in practical ways each day? Consider how your actions today could help someone else feel what it’s like to belong. In doing so, they may come to understand God’s love and realize they are chosen too.

Cover to Cover – Part Two

In Cover to Cover – Part One, I posed a question. Which of the five covers shown is your favorite? (If you haven’t shared yet, stop reading. Go to Part One. Decide which cover is your favorite. Post it in the comments!) When I interviewed Diane Turpin about designing book covers, I bravely asked which covers were her favorite. I say “bravely” because Diane designed my cover. What if my cover wasn’t one of her favorites? Well, it wasn’t. But that’s okay. None of my favorite covers made her list. Why? Because we’re two different people.

SB-The-Copper-Box-Front-Cover-360x570When I saw the cover for The Copper Box, by Suzanne Bratcher, I was instantly drawn to it. The colors appeal to me, and the look on the woman’s face is intense, foreshadowing drama. I was intrigued by it. I wanted to read the story to find out what made this woman look like that.

not whatDiane chose to highlight two other covers. Her connections to them go beyond the images on front to the process she went through to get them to the finished product. She focused on a personal connection to the process of the covers’ creation. Her criteria for choosing a favorite is different than mine, but it’s no less worthy than my own sight based appeal.

Isn’t it amazing that we serve a God who not only understands our different personalities and preferences but also purposefully created them in us? That alone is a great gift, but it goes further than that. While salvation is one size fits all, with each person who comes to Him having to come by way accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection as the payment for their debt of sin, our relationships with God are each very personal.

All scripture is meant for each one of us. God promises that scripture is good for correction, teaching, and encouragement for all believers, not just ones with a certain personality. But even in this shared method of communication between us and God, He has not ignored our differences.

I relate to the verses that speak of Jesus going off alone for time with God. I’m drawn to them, because I’m a person who understands the need for silence. Imagining the kind of public life Jesus led wears me out. I can’t imagine how exhausting it had to be for Jesus to actually live that way!

My husband likes alone time sometimes, but he is really much more of a people person. He loves to be around people, and anyone he’s ever met is his friend. For him, the stories of Jesus teaching the crowds and attending dinner parties are probably more appealing. He can find himself in those stories.

Some people are drawn to praise filled verses. Prophecy entices others. I love the books that read like a story. Other people, though I couldn’t begin to guess who, may like to read the lists of laws or genealogies. Just because every word in scripture is meant for every one of us, doesn’t mean we aren’t attracted to one thing more than another.  And isn’t it great that our God has provided for us from cover to cover in His word.

By the Book: What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why is it your favorite? Share your answers and a favorite verse in the comments below.

Cover to Cover – Part One

Usually you find a book review/devotion or a writer’s life/devotion on By the Book each Wednesday and Saturday. For the Cover to Cover series, we’re going a deeper into the process that takes an author’s manuscript and turns it into the book you purchase. Of course, we aren’t going to neglect the spiritual either. So, you’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the publishing world and some spiritual encouragement too.

Diane-headshot

Today we welcome Diane Turpin.

Diane Turpin is the cover designer for Mantle Rock Publishing and her own company, Diane Turpin Designs. Since 2014, she has created book covers in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, suspense and most recently, fantasy. She is the wife of a professional Boy Scout and mom of a musical daughter. In her spare time, she sharpens her crafty skills with watercolor painting and sewing.

 

  1. What prompted you to get involved in designing book covers?

My mother. Doesn’t it always start with your mother? Mom formed Mantle Rock Publishing and had published a couple of books before asking me to design covers for her. I was very active in the digital scrapbook world and had all the skills needed to create covers. I had used Photoshop extensively with digital scrapbooking and also at a previous job in a printing shop.

  1. How do you decide the best way to portray a book in its cover design?

Actually, it comes mostly from questions I ask the author. I want the author to have a cover they are proud of, so I ask them what book covers they are most attracted to. I match those responses to what genre they have written in and start from there.

  1. What do you feel a well-designed cover does for a book? How important is the cover to the book?

A well-designed cover says, “This book is worth your time investment to read it.” It should look intriguing enough to make the reader want to read it without telling the whole story. It sets up the framework for the reader to know what they are reading, whether it’s location, mood, era, romance, mystery, and so on. I think, next to a well-written book, it’s the most important thing…wink!

  1. Writers get writer’s block. Do you get cover designer’s block? How do you get over it?

YES! Especially when it’s the first cover I’ve done for an author. It’s hard for me to judge you from a questionnaire and a few emails. So, I worry that the direction I’m headed may not suit your style. After all, I want the cover to portray your writing, not necessarily my design style. Sometimes I get stumped. What do I do to get over it…usually, I do watercolor painting. It helps me get my creative juices flowing in a different direction to get the spark I need to finish up a cover.

  1. Authors have compared writing to childbirth and the finished product to their children. Do you feel that kind of connection to the books you’ve designed for?

Sure, but it’s more like kids I’m adopting out. LOL. I do have covers that I’m prouder of than others, mostly first covers or covers where I really stepped it up a notch.

  1. Is there one cover that stands out to you as a favorite?

Irish Encounter by Hope Dougherty is one that stands out because I worried about it so much. I don’t remember if she wanted her main character featured or not, but I couldn’t find anything that resembled her character in clothing that was appropriate – she’s a middle-aged lady traveling in Ireland. I stepped out and went with my gut and the cover turned out great. It was one of my first covers, and I’m still proud of it.

Not What He Ordered by Laurean Brooks for a totally different reason. I met Laurean in person before I did her cover. In fact, we were at two retreats together, so I knew how funny and silly she was. We had so much fun creating her cover just because of our friendship. I also went out and photographed a historic train depot or two to add to her cover. After I got the depot on the cover, I realized I had to remove all the electrical conduit and light fixtures from the building. I had thought about the light fixtures when I took the picture, but the conduit was painted to match the siding and didn’t really jump out at me until I started working with the picture in Photoshop. All that hard work really endeared that cover to me.

When people ask, what my favorite cover is, it’s usually the last one I created. And just like your kids, I love them all.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your designing process?

I work primarily from stock photographs. I enjoy hunting for the perfect images to combine into a cover. Some covers, like the cover of Faith’s Journey, only take a couple of images to portray the right mood. Other covers, like Aimee by Pam Harris or Keeper of the Flame by Mary Kay Tuberty, take multiple photos in layers to get the perfect final image. My goal is for it to look so natural that you have a hard time picking out the individual photos that created the image. A Light At Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker has clothing from one model, face from a second model and hair from a third. Not to mention that I created the sign for the title. It truly is more than just finding the right photo and adding some text. It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.

Special thanks to Diane Turpin for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us insight into the process of designing book covers. You can find out more about Diane at dianeturpindesigns.com.

By the Book: I love what Diane said, “It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.” Comment below on some of your favorite cover designs. While you’re at it, I’ve included some of my favorite Diane Turpin designs and pictures of the two she mentioned. Which of these are your favorites?My Favorite

Diane's Favorites

Main Character Monday #9

carolina dream

 

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Sarah Jane Crawford from Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me, and welcome to the beaches of South Carolina! It’s been an exciting year for me!

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

That’s easy! My life verse is Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. That has certainly been true for me. I used to think that made God kind of a “genie in a bottle,” granting wishes and desires, but now? Now I know that when my heart is in tune with God, HIS desires become MY desires. What a wonderful promise He fulfills every day!

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

I guess that depends on the situation. Many times I feel like Martha – always trying to do the right thing, making sure everyone is taken care of, and not enjoying sitting at the feet of Jesus. This year, I’ve felt a little like Esther. She was placed in the right place, at the right time, and that’s how I feel about my broken engagement and the inheritance that brought me to South Carolina. I wanted to be away from home because I was hurting, and this was the perfect excuse for me – and in the process found that BEST that God had for me!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

That’s a very interesting question. I would say my biggest difficulty lies with loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind. My biggest struggle is in trusting Him implicitly, because I try to solve my problems on my own. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a “fixer” and a “planner,” and I’m much more confident when I have a schedule in front of me and know what’s going to happen. I love Him, but I try to take over for Him quite frequently. I’m learning, though! Moving to a new state? Meeting a new love? Considering a new job? Without God, I would be a total wreck!

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I would ask God for inner peace. By nature a worrier, I’m working toward letting the past stay in the past, and realize that it’s just a part of my life from which I needed to learn more about God and my relationship with Him.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Do your best to “delight yourself in the Lord.” He delights in you, and wants nothing more from us than to love Him and glorify Him in all we do!

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? BOTH! I never met a flavor of chocolate I didn’t like.

Autumn or Spring? Both, but Spring has the benefit of coming after dreary late Winter! At the beach, they’re all perfect!

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Coffee. I like Hot Cocoa, but given the choice, I’d pick a Mocha Latte! The best of both worlds!

If you could describe Regina Rudd Merrick in three words, what would those words be? Smart, funny, and a little self-conscious.

Thank you to Sarah Jane Crawford for joining me for this interview. And special thanks to Regina Rudd Merrick for allowing her to be part of Main Character Monday. If you’d like to know more about Sarah Jane, you can pick up Carolina Dream on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. 

Nature Speaks

For my husband, I believe it was the first time he saw the ocean. Our family went to South Carolina on a rare family vacation, and I can remember his face the first time we went to the beach. Being from southern Illinois, he hadn’t known what to expect. The beauty of the beach, the size of the ocean, and the sound of the waves were beyond what he’d imagined.

After listening to her describe them, I believe it would have to be the Rocky Mountains for my mom. When I tell her I don’t understand her fascination with them, she tells me it is only because I have never seen them. She may have a point, but I’m not wavering in my choice.

If I were to choose that one place that caught me unprepared for what I was going to see, it would be the Smoky Mountains. I know it isn’t the rugged grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, but there is a beauty that cannot be denied in the Smoky Mountains. We passed through them on the way to Charleston, South Carolina for that family vacation to the beach. We have hills, trees, and cliffs in southern Illinois. They’re beautiful, and I love them. But seeing the Smoky Mountains rise up in front of me, covered in vibrant greens took my breath away. I’ve gone back through the area a couple times since then, and it still amazes me. One day, I intend to visit in the fall. I love fall. And I feel at peace even imagining myself wrapped up in a blanket on the front porch of one of the cabins nestled high in the mountains, drinking hot cocoa and looking out over a riot of colors for inspiration as I write. I can’t imagine anything better.

That feeling of contentment and awe was instantaneous for Sarah Crawford as she set eyes on the beaches of South Carolina in Regina Rudd Merrick’s novel, Carolina Dream. Being one to call Kentucky home, she first experienced that feeling on a family vacation. Returning years later to get more information about an unexpected inheritance, those feelings only intensified. As she spent her days walking the beaches and enjoying nature in the area surrounding the southern mansion her family inherited, Sarah was amazed time and again by the beauty she saw and the contentment she felt.

Even in the midst of difficult decisions about how the family should proceed with the inheritance of the mansion and a portion of a real estate business, Sarah could find peace in her surroundings as she met with the One who created the landscape she enjoyed. As partnership grows to friendship and friendship teases the possibility of a more personal relationship with the real estate firm’s other partner, Jared Benton, time spent together on the beach and mansion grounds helps draw them together. No matter what is going on or what questions Sarah wrestles with, God uses the serenity of His creation to encourage her to not only seek Him but to also listen to what He wants her to hear.

It doesn’t matter where we are, God can use His creation to bring us closer to Him. I don’t have to be in the Smoky Mountains to feel His presence, though I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to experience that feeling of complete amazement at what He’s created. Right here, in southern Illinois, even in my own backyard, I can enjoy the presence of God and get to know Him better through His creation. There is a single tree, apart from the woods behind our home, that brings out that feeling of peace and contentment in me every time I pull up in my driveway or look out my kitchen window. I’m not sure why that tree is so special. Nothing happened there. It’s just a regular walnut tree, but I can’t deny there is something about it that speaks to me.

God’s creation was meant for that. Job 12:7-10 tells us nature knows exactly who its creator is. And we think we’re the smart ones! There are several scriptures about nature praising God. I think it’s this unheard song of praise that we respond to whether we realize it or not. One of my favorite nature scriptures is from Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When we look at the world around us, we see the kind of God we serve. We get to know Him better. We see more of what He values. We can stand in amazement at His awesome creativity, provision, and power.

Knowing the One who created everything our world, it’s no wonder we often stand in awe as we drink in the natural world around us. It’s not surprising that we feel contentment and peace. And when we take the time to acknowledge His hand in each of these amazing scenes of beauty, we will also begin to feel His presence right where we are.

By the Book: Where have you found yourself in awe of God’s creation? Thank Him for those experiences, but don’t limit yourself to times when you can travel to new places. Take time to get to know God through His creation in the place where you live.

Together in the Journey

In less than a month, I’m going to the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. I’ve been to other conferences, but this will be my first one as a published author. In some ways, it feels different. But if previous conferences have taught me anything, it doesn’t change as much as you might expect.

I remember my first conference. I had passion for writing and a manuscript ready to go. What I didn’t have was a published book. I struggled with feeling like I might not belong. Could I stand up and say, “I’m a writer”? Whether they had books or articles in their writing resumes, other attendees were published. Would I feel unworthy of being there with them?

I didn’t need to worry. From the first session of the first day, the speakers made it clear we were all there because, published or not, we were writers. In fact, the main speaker made us own it out loud. And it wasn’t just the speakers. Other attendees were friendly and open, sharing their experiences and encouragement. They didn’t parade their publishing successes in front of the newbies. They never hinted at being real writers while the rest of us were wannabees. They accepted all the new comers into the fold. We were all writers. Some were just a little further along in the journey than others. That acceptance meant a lot to me.

I know I’m not at the end of my writing journey. I’ve just taken another step forward. As next month’s conference nears, I look forward to continuing to learn from those further along the writing path. I’m eager to find encouragement in speaking with those who have more than one credit to their name. And maybe, I will have the opportunity to make others feel as welcome as I was at my first conferences. Maybe I’ll get to be the one to help them own the fact that, published or not, they are writers.

These lessons that mean so much to me in my writing ministry mean even more in my spiritual life. Hebrews 10 impresses on believers the need to gather together in order to encourage each other and grow in our faith walks. Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians all speak about each believer being gifted to grow and encourage other believers and to work together to reach out to those who aren’t in relationship with God. The book of Acts tells multiple stories of believers coming together with one purpose and God accomplishing great things through their unity and willingness to work together. The message is that we are meant to work together under the single banner of faith in Jesus. Like the conferences I’ve attended, our churches are filled with a variety of people at different stages of the journey. Each of them is in a different place. Some have been living lives of faith for a long time. They’ve experienced things the rest of us are only starting to discover. Others are just starting out. They don’t know much more than the basics that sin separates us from God, Jesus died to take our sin’s punishment, and believing this is the way to find forgiveness and begin a relationship with God. Some don’t even know where to start.

And just like I was at the first conference I attended, there will be people in our churches who doubt they belong. They will look at the spiritual superstars and feel like they simply don’t measure up. They will fear others seeing them as less Christian and less worthy of being there. Some may even let that fear or a misguided word keep them from being part of the group of believers.

Let’s protect what God has given us. None of us is “there” yet. We need to keep the correct perspective. There are others further along the journey we can learn from. There are others just starting out that can find acceptance, encouragement, and greater understanding from us.

Being accepted into the writing world solely on the basis of having a passion to write meant a lot to me. It gave me the confidence I needed to keep trying, even when I failed. Acceptance by other believers in our spiritual lives, based on faith in Jesus instead of how proficient we are at living the way we should, can be even more powerful. It can give us the confidence and tools to keep living out our faith. And when we fail, it can give us the strength we need to start again.

By the Book: Thank someone who helped you in your walk of faith. Give God praise for putting that person in your life. Ask God to show you how to encourage someone else in their walk.

By Sweet Design

bakery2Growing up, it was a frozen yogurt place. Too bad it was before the frozen yogurt craze. It didn’t last too long. After that, it housed various pizza places. None of them stayed around too long either. People blame it on the location, sitting on the fringe of the town’s business area. I think the location could be a success with the right business.

I think the cute little building would make a great bakery. I love to bake. And since the last pizza place moved out and the newest For Sale sign went up, I’ve imagined it as one. A fresh coat of paint would give it new life, as well as covering up the graffiti on the lamp posts. A good cleaning would allow the windows to sparkle. It would be fun, yet comfortable. Inviting. People would stop in each morning for traditional pastries as well as clean eating options. Regulars would provide a solid base to keep the doors open even when the students left the nearby university each summer. It might not make the owner rich, but it would provide a decent living. I even know what I would name this imaginary bakery, By Sweet Design.

I have it all planned out, and the building still sits empty. It’s been that way for a couple years now. There’s no fresh paint. There’s not a brand new sign sporting a fun cupcake and the name of a bakery. The windows definitely don’t sparkle at this point. I don’t own a bakery, and I never will. But my planning wasn’t completely in vain.

By Sweet Design has come to life. The color scheme and décor are everything I dreamed they would be. The sign is quirky and fun.  And customers love the pastries, from the brownies to the scones and everything in between. It’s a relaxed atmosphere that draws people in and invites them to stay a while.

Want to know the best thing about my bakery? It’s never going to go out of business. The empty building and my own bakery ideas are the inspiration for Austin Blake’s bakery in my book, Faith’s Journey. I even kept the name the same. Austin didn’t mind. He loves the way people like Erin and Katie hang out after a girls’ day out. He knows his regulars by name, and treats each customer like they’re his best customer.

Through writing Faith’s Journey, I’ve gotten to create my bakery. I’ve gotten to see it become everything I knew it could be, and I love it. It may not be the way I imagined when the idea popped into my head, but my plans for By Sweet Design add life to the story of Faith’s Journey. My time spent daydreaming and planning weren’t a waste. And though I didn’t see it at the time, I know God did.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises there is a plan and purpose for our lives. It’s not our plan. It’s Gods. And it’s comforting to know His plans are for our good. It doesn’t mean they won’t surprise us though. And it doesn’t mean we’ll understand everything as we go through it.

I didn’t know why I had such a clear vision for a bakery I would never own. Now, I do. A woman I know dreamed of being a missionary. Her husband didn’t share the vision. Her desire to go into all the world never wavered. Years would pass before she began taking youth groups on mission trips throughout the United States. It wasn’t all the world, but she was sharing the gospel outside her immediate vicinity. More years would pass before she started blogging. Her blogs share the truth of scripture and a strong gospel message. Her followers include people from around the world. God has brought her to the realization of her dream of world missions.

Does it look like she expected it to look? No. Blogging didn’t exist when the spark to reach others was first lit inside her. Computers and the internet were not in most homes. Now, they are, and God is using them as the vehicle to take her into the world.

She could fight God on it. She could refuse to see this as God’s fulfillment of her dream. She could gripe about how this wasn’t what she meant when she said she wanted to impact the world for Him. She could do these things and lose the gift God has given her. She could miss His purpose and plan because it doesn’t look the way she thought it would. Instead, she chooses to embrace it. She sees it for the blessing and provision it is. She chooses to live by faith, trusting that each step of the way has been planned by God’s sweet design.

By the Book: When has God worked things out in your life in surprising ways? Have you embraced His plan or do you fight it because it doesn’t look the way you envisioned?

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