Apr 29, 2017

Why and How To Write Nonfiction

I'm out of, well, country, this week, so here are some notes from a recent workshop I presented: 

Reasons To Write A Non Fiction Book
1. You’re already an expert on ... something. Do you have parenting skills, nursing insights, do your friends rave about your Thai cooking, can you re-seat a rattan chair or keep iguanas alive? 
2. They sell, and, if you find a niche, often earn more money than fiction
3. It’s easier than you think! Just lay out facts, add details, maybe a sketch or two, get a proofreader, and off you go. 
I know it’s effective, easy and profitable. I’ve self-published eleven nonfiction books, with much less angst than my novels, and they’re bringing in significantly more money each month!  My first, a book on cruise vacations, is still selling dozens a week after 2 1/2 years, and has over 310 reviews on Amazon. The much shorter kid-activity series is nothing more than my files from my seven years as a Girl Scout leader and four as a den mother in the pre-Pinterest era, arranged with line drawings. 
The How To:
See A Need, Meet That Need. The best-selling non-fiction books fill a gap, or add a twist to a topic that interests people. Ancient crocheting techniques may not be a best-seller, but How To (almost anything!) books sell like crazy.
Identify Your Audience. The narrower it is, the more successful the book can be, with the exception of a few highly niche markets. A highly-technical topic may require more detail than a book on party games. 
Keep It The Right Length. Fiction books have strict rules about length, depending on genre. Nonfiction can be anywhere from a pamphlet to epic-length. Around 20,000 words is a good starting point. This frees up time; I finished six of my shorter nonfiction books in under three months.
Know Your Competition. The trick is to present it in a way that is relatable, understandable, and utilize your unique voice. Use your voice to fill gaps not covered by other eBooks in your niche. Zero in: “Low carb” is ho-hum but “Low carb traveler” is a unique perspective. Do some research and see what else is already available, then figure out how you can make it your own.
Write What You Know. If you have years of experience gardening with carrots, traveling by kayak, or cooking for a veggie-adverse family, speak up! What talents have you developed through Church activity? Go ahead and research. You don’t have to know it all beforehand, but be familiar with your subject. Readers see right through flim-flam.
Use Real Life Examples to make your book relatable. Unless you’re writing a yawn-worthy college textbook, make it interesting, not dry. Add in personal stories and real-world experiences to enhance your point, yours or other people’s. Your readers want to learn from you, so share!
Read. Research up-to-date information, identify your competition, find gaps and find a way to fill the need. Read reviews on other books in your field. What are reviewers complaining about? Are they getting the same old thing with no unique perspective? Are they expecting more advanced strategies? Use their negative reviews of your competition to fill that gap with your own book.
Watch The Market. Be aware of seasons; Camping and gardening books sell better in the spring and summer, holiday craft books do better in the autumn, be aware of travel seasons if you write travel books. Try to release your book at the proper time.
Humor is Your Best Friend, regardless of topic. Humor relieves tension, spruces up boring areas, and helps your book be more relatable, as well as cementing facts in your readers’ minds. A two-line story can make even papercuts interesting.

Try a search online for “How To Write Non-Fiction” and while you’re there, look up “How To Self-Publish.” I find that works best for   nonfiction.. It’s a faster way to get books Out There, which is especially important for very current topics. 

Apr 27, 2017

Time Enough

by Kari Diane Pike 

Time. I can spend it, waste it, kill it, or use it wisely but no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to find a way to save it. I remember people asking me what I would do with all my spare time once all our children were in school. And again when our youngest left home for college and a mission. That was two years ago and I have yet to find all that spare time I hear others talk about. 

To be completely honest, I do have a little more "control" over how I use my time. I don't often have little ones who need to be fed and bathed and dressed and hugged. My laundry loads shrank from three to five loads a day to just three or four loads twice a week. So yeah. There's that. 

The past two weeks have been stuffed with doctor appointments, tending grandchildren, end-of-school activities with said grandchildren - piano recitals, choir concerts, lunches, etc. all on top of the usual need to prepare meals, shop for groceries, water the garden, and so on. Today is a family wedding, so lots of out-of-town guests, food prep, errands, and more. And no time to write...

What I have discovered however, is that when I tend to the most important things, I have time enough and to spare. Time expands to fill every need and even some of the wants.

How do you find time?

Life is magnificent. 


Apr 25, 2017

Business of Indie Publishing: Print Editions

by Marsha Ward

I’ve just finished taking a course on business for fiction writers. One of the things I’ve learned is that an Indie Publisher should have many streams of revenue. Here a few sales and there a few sales adds up.

One revenue stream often neglected by Indies is print editions. I’ve heard that I should rectify this situation.

It must be true. Many times I’ve heard one of my friends say, “Well, I’ll buy it when it comes out in print.” Make that two, no, three friends. There must be more who I haven’t heard from.

I’ve always thought, Well, it’s only a novella, and I don’t plan to do it in print. It’s too small.

Always Learning New Stuff

But I’ve learned that nothing is too small for print! Bundling several projects together can make a larger printed product, but it’s a valid idea to have ALL work in print.

So, I’ve taken a bit of time away from writing to do some business “housekeeping.” That is, I’ve been making print editions of a couple of pieces of my work. I will continue to do this in the future.

I also uploaded an updated print cover for The Man from Shenandoah with the correct Book Number, and will do the same with Spinster’s Folly after TMFS clears the process.

Besides that, I’m toiling over new print editions for the last two of the Owen Family Saga novels, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms. Once they are ready to go, I’ll rescind permission for iUniverse to print those books. My relationship with them will then be at an end.

FYI, prices of the print editions for Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, and Spinster’s Folly have gone up a dollar each, but Amazon is holding the line with sales at the lower prices. I don’t know how long that will last, however.

Now In Print:

Newly published is a print edition of Western Stories: Four Tales of the West, with a brand new cover! It’s currently available for $6.99 plus shipping and handling from CreateSpace, Amazon, and BarnesandNoble.com.

Work continues on a mega print edition of The Complete Owen Family Saga. That has been quite an undertaking. I’ve had to change the font and margins several times in order to keep the book within the page limit for the size. At first, I thought I might have to go up to 8 1/2- x 11-inches, but I figured out a way to keep it at the familiar 6-x 9-inches.

It will be a thick book. The minus is that it has over 400,000 words, so the font size is smaller than I would like. However, it’s going to have that stunning yellow cover. I might do it in the silky-feeling matte cover. The five novels within are in the best reading order. Those are big pluses.

I trust these moves will be good for business.

Apr 20, 2017

Anger and Rage From a Writer's Perspective

For those of you who don't know, I have a son with Down syndrome. I've been blogging about him  from the moment I discovered he'd have Trisomy 21. I've discussed Jacob-related miracles, stories from the three months he's spent in the hospital, his open-heart surgery, and numerous milestones that make up his life. As a result, I probably love Jacob more fiercely than my other children because I've had to fight so hard to keep him in our family.

In addition to blogging, Jacob has his own Instagram Account so I can share him with others also touched by people with disabilities. Not only can I share and rejoice with family and loved ones who had a hand in Jake's development, but there are people whose lives are similar to mine. Together, we rejoice in the triumphs, mourn the lows, and pray for miracles as needed.

Today, I experience my first troll on Jacob's account.

Last week Jacob's big sister had a pirate themed birthday party. So, I took a picture of Jake with a patch over his eye, looking fierce. The caption was, "Arrrr! I'm a pirate!" and posted it on his Instagram account along with a couple of Down syndrome related hashtags.

The troll, someone who doesn't follow my account, then proceeded to say something nasty about Jacob, and tag one of his friends to come look at Jake's picture.

Arrr! I'm a pirate!!
In that split second, when I realized what had happened, my blood boiled, ears burned, jaw pulsed, stomach roiled, and heart surged with adrenaline. My fists balled into fists and lips pursed into a tight line. I'm pretty sure I may have suppressed a growl too.  This was an honest-to-goodness fight-or-flight reflex, and Mamma Bear was ready to rumble.

I resisted the urge to hunt that troll to the ends of the earth and inflict unimaginable amounts of misery on them. How dare they say such mean and hurtful things about a child who cannot stand up for himself.  Instead, I blocked the troll and immediately made Jacob's Instagram private.

And then I spent the next several minutes, from a writer's perspective of course, examining that instantaneous reaction I'd experienced. In essence, I dissected my emotional reaction, noting each physical and emotional reaction I'd felt.

It's been decades since I've felt rage. I hope never to feel it again. But, should I have a character in one of my stories who needs to show and feel rage, I now have first hand documentation of what that emotion feels like.

Apr 18, 2017

Kota: the big heart with the booming bark

by Terri Wagner

As many of you may know I did not have the opportunity to have children. So my dogs are my children. And yes I do love them that much. It helps ease the pain of not having children. Each one that passes over the rainbow bridge carries a piece of my heart. Later today Kota will pass over that bridge straight into the arms of my father.

I just want to share how this decision and the conference talk Kari mentioned has eased my pain. This past summer, dad and I noticed our then 12-year-old Labrador Retriever, Kota, was having walking issues. We took her to the vet who assured us her lungs and heart were clear and strong, but her arthritis was getting worse. We changed the regime she's been on for a couple of years to help ease some of that pain. It helped. So much so she passed her 13th birthday and stayed around during my dad's decline. Now it is her turn. The arthritis is winning, and her daily walks only cover 20 feet or less depending on a good day or a bad day. I tried to ignore it, butt the Spirit gently told me to let her go.

I called the vet as soon as I heard those words so I couldn't back down, but they couldn't schedule her until today. I thought great 3 days to spoil her rotten. And I have. But what I didn't expect was an onslaught of conflicting feelings. It's not that bad. She's having a good day. She can handle a few more months. I need her.

In the past, I always had my dad to talk it over with and make a decision. This time it is all up to me. Over the course of a few days, I have prayed so hard to be firm and follow that first prompting. It has been both horrible and wonderful. Every time I wavered, someone would step forward and say something to me that was sweet confirmation. I cannot tell you how grateful I have been for those confirmations or how many times I have tortured myself with second guesses.

As for Kota, she came to us because of a divorce situation with strong hints there had been abuse. I only know she opened her heart to every creature animal or human that has come into our home. She would comfort crying babies and even let the toy Yorkie literally run in and out of her open mouth when he was a very small pup. She also has a booming bark. No noise ever escaped her. And I always felt safe. She sounded like she would tear you from limb to limb, but I saw her walk away from confrontation again and again. My house will be very silent without her in it. But I am so very grateful for the prompting and the confirmations. And the testimony I have of where she's going and who will be there to greet her.

Apr 15, 2017

Wrong Words, Part Two

Wrong Words, Part Two

     As I mentioned a while ago, I’m taken in  by words, and I especially like offbeat usages. Often I’ll read a word or phrase that’s just plain not correct, but funny. I keep a running list of the best (worst?) ones.

         A letter-writer insisted she had to get in her “two sense worth” on the  subject. I’m not sure which of her senses she meant. The topic was heated; perhaps she meant touch, and taste?

        The same writer said, “farbeit for me to interfere...” I’m not sure what a farbeit is, but she did go on to interfere, with gusto. She concluded with, “if this is not fixed, it will happen moor and moor off in.” Suddenly, we’re into geology.

    Perhaps, as I read in a novel, she just had “a skewered view of things.” I love skewered foods; I wrote a whole book on edibles prepared on a stick. In this case, I don’t think she meant impaled. More likely, off kilter, as in skewed. 

Another novel talked about the crime scene being secured, “for all intensive porpoises.” As opposed to the casual ones? And did you hear about the camping sea mammals? Yup, a call went out to "all in tents and porpoises."
        A character said she was so scared, she “had an outer body experience.”  I’m not sure what that looks like, or, again, what the opposite might be.

        In the same novel, an enraged character “emitted a scream of furry over a problem even she couldn’t phantom.”  A cute little furry scream sounds adorable, but not if a phantom’s on scene. I'd scream, too.

         Later on, I read in a tabloid, “He’s diluted if he thinks that!”  Really, that’s a risk? If we think certain things, we can be watered down?

      A man in a novel I read had a “sorted passed,” but really, what can you expect from a guy who has a Southern brawl and wears denim overhauls.

        A leader was written up as having a “lazy fare” style of leadership, which has more to do with lunch than power.  

       In a court transcript, a young recorder transcribed the lawyer’s description of the plaintiff as being a “pre-Madonna.” Not quite!

       In the same transcript, a professor “got her ten-year at the university.” That’s a very long degree, and I somehow doubt the transcriptionist had the same education.

        I’ve read several times about angry people getting their gander up. I, too, have a flashpoint temper, but I never feel like waking a goose over it.

       Some of the funny things that catch my eye have to do with positioning, such as putting  the cat before the horse, developing a pier-to-pier network, a fog so thick the man can’t see his hand in front of his foot, and rockets that jettison us through time and space. Ouch!

          A man wrote the person he was interviewing “was very nervous and kept covering his hands with his mouth." If nothing else, that’s awkward.

        Foodstuffs find their way into wrong-word lists, such as a team of horses that’s evenly yolked, finding a leek under the sink again, and having a rye sense of humor. Cheese grader is a legitimate job description, but what’s it doing in the utensil drawer?

         Some  are simple misspellings that change the meaning quite completely. A teen who pours over the textbooks has a mess to clean up. An admiring man who puts a woman on a pedal stool had better be prepared to help pedal. Wealthy folk often have access to better medical care, but are they the only ones who are well healed? 

          "Manner" and "manor" seem to cause a problem, every time. I can understand “to the manner born” because I believe in etiquette, but does my necklace have more value because it was “packaged in a manor”?    

      I read an article that referenced a local "flee market". I don't like them, but I'm not that melodramatic. Or fast.

        How did the bad guy get away? “Must have had an accomplish” makes sense; had he failed, there’d have been no getaway at all.

        A colleague, told about a problem, mused, "I'll have to put my thinking tap on," which makes good sense for initiating the flow of solutions, right?

        A man in a book confessed to being a secret "drug attic.” Wow, I’d like that kind of space.

       In this political climate, I’ve read about protestors who insist their freedom includes the right to "impose their fews on others." Sadly, I suspect that’s all they have to offer. On the other hand, they’re entitled; it’s their dew, after all.

      Not all of these will be flagged by a spell-checker, so as you write, ask a friend to look over your work. You have a friend, right?

Apr 13, 2017

General Conference Tender Mercies

by Kari Diane Pike

Every six months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a general conference during which "the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other General Authorities and General Officers of the  Church...deliver messages of inspiration and guidance..." (https://www.lds.org/church/events/october-2017-general-conference?lang=eng).

I look forward to hearing these messages because I know from experience I will be enlightened and be given answers to questions and solutions to challenges I face. The 187th Annual General Conference was no exception. In fact, I can't think of a conference I have enjoyed more. At the end of each talk I kept thinking, "Wow. That is my favorite talk." Every single time. I laughed. I cried. I felt the sweet whispering of the Spirit witness the truth of the messages shared. And I rejoiced. I rejoiced to hear that our brothers and sisters in far away places will get a temple close enough for them to get there safely. My heart sang with the choirs, the songs I can longer sing with my own voice, but that I can feel in my heart.

The week leading up to General Conference, I challenged my early morning seminary students to pray about any questions they have and ask Heavenly Father that they might find answers as they listened to the talks given. I promised them that if they did this with sincere intent, they would be given answers. A little part of my mind chided me for making such a promise, but I knew it was true. I also knew that I had my own questions that concerned how to reach each of those incredible young men and young women.

One student proposed a question during class that I felt I hadn't answered to her satisfaction. The subject was off topic and caught me unprepared. I prayed that I would find an answer during one of the conference sessions. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, Elder Choi answered the question directly. I couldn't wait for seminary on Monday so that I could discuss the topic with my students.

Sunday evening after General Conference we chatted online with our children and grandchildren. I loved listening to everyone share the thoughts that inspired them most. The only child we couldn't talk to was our youngest son, currently a young volunteer in Moscow, Russia. Here's a little bit of what I wrote to him:

I was particularly touched by Elder Rasband's admonition to listen to the Spirit and act on impressions the first time they come. When we second guess ourselves, we question the Spirit and may lose opportunities to be an instrument in the Lord's hands (not Elder R's exact words...but what I got out of it). Anyway...I set a goal to listen and act the first time. Oh boy. I have so far to go!
Well, Thursday, a friend's name to my mind while I was preparing my seminary lesson for Friday. For a moment, I thought, Yes, I will send her a text as soon as I finish this lesson. I don't want to get distracted from this important thing. I want to magnify my calling. Instantly, I had a strong impression that the Spirit had brought her to my mind and I should text her that very minute.
So I did. "Thinking of you and your family. How did the dr. appt. go yesterday?" hugs~   and this is how she responded just a minute later: " The hard stuff is today. Thank you. This text was an answer to prayer. I asked the Lord to allow friends to show forth love to me today and this is my third contact, perfectly timed. Thank you."

Another experience shared...[One friend's] nonmember daughter-in-law watched conference with her Sunday afternoon. The dil's been slowly taking the discussions. She sobbed during Elder Costa's talk. She said it felt like he was speaking directly to her. So she must have told the missionaries this, then they shared it with someone and now...Elder Costa and his wife visited their home!
Over the past several days other family members and friends have shared experiences with me how their testimonies of Jesus Christ have grown as they've exercised their faith and put into practice the messages and admonitions they heard during General Conference. So much evidence of the Lord's promise:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my aword shall not pass away, but shall all be bfulfilled, whether by mine own cvoice or by the dvoice of my eservants, it is the fsame. (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38)
 Tomorrow is Good Friday - a remembrance of the day that Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died and gave everything He had so that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father again someday. Not only did He save us from the bands of death, but He redeemed us. He made it possible for us to become more - more like the eternal beings Heavenly Father created us to be - more like Him!

I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. I know that He is my Savior. I know that He restored the fullness of His gospel to the earth in these latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that we have a living prophet (Thomas S. Monson) and Apostles on the earth today and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized just as Christ's church was organized in His day. I know that The Bible (the word of God given to His ancient prophets and apostles), and The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ (given to His prophets in the ancient Americas) are the word of God.  

I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and I do love Him. And I love all of you - even though we may have never met in person. I know that you are magnificent because you, too, are of divine heritage. God loves you. He is there for you. And it's never too late to reach up to Him.


Apr 4, 2017

Random Thoughts

by Terri Wagner

Dealing with the practicalities of dad's death has put me in some weird zone...I can't finish a formed thought before another takes it place. So today here are some of the random thoughts in no particular order that are taking up space in my head today.

Why did President Monson say so much in such a little bit of time? How can I ignore his soft voice asking me (a prophet asking) to please read the Book of Mormon every day? But I just taught that last year in Gospel Doctrine. I like church history better. But a prophet asked me...I can't ignore that.

Is Daisy sick? Has the cancer spread? Is she eating enough? At least I know dad will be there to take her over the rainbow bridge. Who came up with the rainbow bridge? Is Kota ok? Why does my stepmom keep telling me to put her down? She's got arthritis but she still wants to walk, run, comes up and down the stairs. Do I have to worry about this right now? Is leaving Jasper with the stepmom during the week right? Is he ok? Is his cancer progressing?

Do I have to change all the bills to my name? Will I have to pay deposits if I try to change them? (Tears filling my eyes putting in dad's old email account and passwords.) Can I just pay them this month and deal with this later? Hmmm, wow, this is one is already in my name?

School closed because of bad weather? It was just a bad thunderstorm thank goodness. More coming tomorrow? But we are testing. It. Has. To. Be. Done. Breath just breathe.

Wait maybe I can do one of those "read the BOM in a year" where it's already figured out, and I can just follow the formula? Why did the TV dvr conference in two separate places? Why did Family Search send me relatives and then make it so hard to connect them? Where is the Sunday am session? This was ALL of President Monson's talk, not just a piece of it?

I need to get back to school and charge up computers in case something goes wrong. Wait, it doesn't matter if I'm starting the BOM chart on April 5. I can just call it January 1st.

It's Monday I have a whole day to think about my ANWA post. Better check on it. Wait it's Tuesday, we were off Monday due to the bad weather that didn't happen.

Wait I have a talk on the Atonement April 23rd, didn't someone speak on the Atonement and say something about us saying it wrong???

It's Tuesday FHE is tonight, do I have to do anything? Maybe the prophet meant people who haven't read it recently??

That's my life right now. Hope I made you chuckle.

Apr 1, 2017

I Can Do Hard things

 I Can Do Hard things

        I recently visited my son’s young family for a week. Their little boys are four and two years old, delightful little people. Their parents teach them, “We can do hard things.”  Their concept is good; make the effort, stretch a little, do something harder than seems doable, then revel in the sense of accomplishment that inevitably follows. 
         However, little boys are clever things, and they find ways around their parents’ mantra. “Put your dish in the sink when you’re done eating/pick up the pillows/go brush your teeth.”
      “No, that’s an easy thing, and I only can do hard things.”
      Their mom shared a book of quotes she’d written on her mission years ago. One stood out to me: We Didn’t Choose The Picnic. I love picnics of all forms, which is unfortunate, because I live in western Washington where picnic season is very short. Alas, I digress.
       I asked, “What does this mean?” and my cute daughter in law explained that it means the same thing; we choose to do hard things. While many others in the world seek nothing beyond entertainment—the latest movie, the biggest boat, the most exotic vacation spots—they choose to focus on building a strong family, and a secure financial future, a strong spiritual life for their children and posterity on down generations. They have fun, but it’s not their sole purpose on earth.
       As a writer, I sometimes feel marooned by Hard Things, as well as easy things in time-stealing costumes. I’m currently working on a novel, which I planned to publish in November 2016. It’s now March.  I have four other books in various stages of research. I just returned from a trip, still haven’t caught up from the previous trip, and I leave in three weeks for another jaunt. I realize that All Caught Up is a mythical place, but I’m seriously swamped here. Every January, I choose a word to focus on during the new year. This time, I chose Balance. I had in mind I’d learn to calmly do what needs doing, picking up joy along the way like Easter eggs in a field. Instead, I feel like a tightrope walker in a hurricane.
        While at my son's home, I had time to lazily read three whole novels, something I haven't found time to do at home in months. I remembered how much I love to read, and how easy it felt to lie in the sunshine, soaking up words that I had not written, sentences I had not composed, plots I had not crafted. 
      Nevertheless, I can do hard things, and I go onward.