17 November 2017

Update on NaNoWriMo

We are half-way through the month of November, and my word count for NaNoWriMo is 26,268. So, technically I could still write 50,000 words by November 30. As the days move forward and as my story develops, the probability of that happening gets smaller and smaller.

I received the edits for Incorruptible and Corruptible. So, I have been spending some of my writing time doing the last edit on my super-long third novel. Naturally, I want to move to the next phase and send it off to be formatted and then published. Book four will, therefore, be neglected, I'm sorry to say. But, that's how it has always been. Vocation was neglected when A Future Spring was published, and Incorruptible was neglected when Vocation was published.

I'm not going to say I won't write 50,000 words, but I will say I won't write 50,000 words just to do it. It has to be quality for me not quantity. And sometimes I just can't write 2,000 words in one day. Sometimes it is a 300- or 400-word day.

I can safely say that NaNoWriMo has been a success for me. I think I only took one day off from writing since November 1st. So I have developed better writing habits, and that has been my real goal from the beginning.

08 November 2017

NaNoWriMo Statistics

Here are my statistics as of today. I am still holding my own. No one is more surprised than I am. I give credit for my success, so far, to an amazing character who has a lot on his mind and loads of caffeine.

06 November 2017

Day Six of NaNoWriMo

Today is day six of NaNoWriMo. I'm actually surprising myself. My total word count is 11,268. That is pretty good for someone who doesn't write every day and usually writes one scene and doesn't touch the manuscript until the next scene is crystal clear in her mind.

However, as I suspected, I am beginning to lose my momentum because, to tell the story I want to tell, I need more scenes and more characters. Right now there is no way I will get a full-length novel out of the characters and scenes I have on deck. That's fine. That has happened in the past. You kind of have to search around until the right character in the right scene helps the story along.

However, when you are on a 30-day deadline, things are much different, and you can't sit and wait and think and ponder over your plot. You don't have time. So I have to decide. Do I shoot for the word count or shoot for the plot. I won't be able to do both.

If I shoot for the word count, I will have a full-length novel that won't be very good. That's okay, because afterward, I will have however long it takes to fix it.

If I shoot for the plot, I will have a good manuscript but lose the challenge. That's okay because I will have a working manuscript to improve, and when you get right down to it, it is about the writing, not the word count.

I am not a prolific writer. I have always been precise and to-the-point with my writing. In school whenever we were assigned a 10-page paper, I would always fall short. I would usually have all the main points, but not the pages. I would have to actually add words to meet the requirement, and I always thought that made my writing weak.

So I'm just not sure which I will choose--the word count or the plot.

There is one more unlikely scenario. Since this is my fourth book, I am a better writer. If I look at my first book and compare it to my third, there is a world of difference between the two. So there is a very slim chance that the plot will come out of this novel more quickly than it has in the past, just because I have more experience.

We will see. 

Yesterday while I was writing two plot twists developed. Now, I have more to play with. If that keeps happening, day after day, maybe the unlikely scenario will win out.

04 November 2017

NaNoWriMo Update

I don't outline. I just can't. But I am at the point in my story where I need to make notes so I have some direction. Since I'm trying to write 50,000 words by November 30, I need to have some sort of road map or I will surely be lost. The main problem with my writing style is that I edit as I go. You can't really do that when you have to get the draft down in 30 days. You can't play with words. You just need to get them on paper. NaNoWriMo is really challenging me to break away from my usual writing habits. I'll be honest. I don't think I'll do it, but the challenge will push me to develop better writing habits.

01 November 2017

The Last of Its Kind

Here is my last paperback copy of A Future Spring with the original cover design. I left it on a park bench in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Hopefully, someone found it and took it home. It felt good leaving it behind. It felt as if I were leaving behind my inexperience, too.  I've learned a lot since I published my first book. Now, I can move forward with the "chance for a new beginning" that Scott James preaches about.

31 October 2017


One more day until I begin my fourth novel during NaNoWriMo. I am anxious to get started. I’ve been really eager to get to the plot of this story, and any trepidation I've felt about writing a novel in one month has been overshadowed by the need to get down to writing. I have returned from a week-long vacation, so I am rested and ready to go.

During my vacation I hit the yarn stores, which was a very bad idea. I have skeins from New York City . . . 

and one from Philadelphia.

I’ve already started a scarf with one of the skeins from New York, and it is probably the worst timing ever. I don’t see how I can knit a scarf and write a novel in the month of November, but I will just see what I can do. When I hit a block in my writing, I’ll pick up the knitting.

In the meantime Incorruptible is being proofread. I expect it back in about two weeks, so I have a LOT going on. After the big proofread, I will send it off to be formatted. Maybe a January publishing date? We will see. I am really proud of this novel. It is a breakout novel in many ways. I can't wait to publish it, but over these years I've learned to be patient.

07 October 2017

New Business Cards

I decided to order myself some business cards from Vistaprint. That is where I get all my promotional items. Not that I have tons of promotional items!

It may seem odd for an author to carry business cards, but many times I've been caught off guard by someone asking about my books. In the past, I've directed them to Amazon. Now, I'll have a card directing them to my blog.

I've had bookmarks and postcards printed before, but they are only good for book giveaways and book signings. They're not really something you would carry around in the event you meet an inquiring mind.

Here is my new business card design. I should receive them next week.

06 October 2017

My Tagline and God's Grace

I’ve been working hard on my branding. I’ve read a lot, but I’ve observed a lot, too. With a subject like branding, you learn more by observation than reading.

I’ve been perusing the Twitter and Instagram pages and the websites of various authors. I’ve seen what I like and what I don’t like. I see how some branding hits you immediately, and some, not so much. I’ve put myself in the role of reader instead of author, and I’ve tried to see what works for me—what would prompt me to read a book from an author I’m unfamiliar with.

My own author branding has been difficult to build. That is, until I took a step back and tried to see myself from the viewpoint of a potential reader. What would I like to see on a webpage? What would invite me to take a closer look? What would I want to know about this author besides the fact that she writes from a Catholic perspective?

So I decided to add a tagline. I’ve been wrestling with this idea for a while, but I finally decided in favor of adding one. The phrase comes from my first novel, and it has stuck with me throughout the many phases of my writing. I always seem to go back to that simple (perhaps redundant) quote from Scott James, the wounded and scarred police officer in A Future Spring. At a point in the novel he tells Ginny, “there is always a chance for a new beginning.”

And that is what grace is about. God’s grace gives us new beginnings all the time. But, it is up to the individual to embrace it. And that is the main point of my writing, I think, grace, handed out to my characters. Ultimately, it is up to each character to take the chance (to embrace it or not) and to write their own endings. 

05 October 2017

Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

It was announced today that Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Usually, I don’t care about things like this. But, the news made me happy. Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors and The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books. I’ve read almost all of Ishiguro’s books, and his prose is beautiful. His writing takes me back to days past.

They say people are surprised by the Academy's choice, and I guess I am too. In an age where everything is commercialized and everything is a popularity contest, he does seem like a surprising choice. But, I am overjoyed, just the same. 

Congratulations to him. 

03 October 2017


Today is October 3rd. It is time to get myself ready for NaNoWriMo. I did a little research this weekend, and I jotted down a few ideas for scenes--things that are popping up in my head. Whether these scenes and ideas will end up in the novel, I don't know. 

Right now, I have two main characters that are driving the story. I found, however, that once you get down to writing, all that can change. Other characters find their way into the story, and before you know it, the plot has taken on a whole new direction. Sometimes characters pop up from nowhere. So I'm leaving a lot  to chance. 

50,000 words is the goal. Right now, that seems easy. Incorruptible is well over 100,000 words. Of course, it took about five months to write the first draft. But I am hopeful that by the end of November I will have a solid draft for book 4. 

28 September 2017

Blog Design

The last few weeks I’ve been working hard on getting my blog just the way I want it. I’ve been perfecting the color scheme, adding pages, choosing fonts, and designing graphics. If you usually view the blog on a mobile device, take the time and view it on a PC. The mobile view doesn’t show you everything! I am very picky, and Blogger can be limited, so I've had to compromise here and there, but I can say that I'm pretty happy with it now.  

I’ve added a FAQ page. You can check that out to get a better insight into my writing.

The next thing on my to-do list is to have a new author portrait taken. It’s time, and I hope to do that in the next few week. I also need to begin focusing on marketing. I've been reading a LOT on the subject, and that is one area I've been neglecting. This year, it's time to step up and focus. 

And . . . I'm gearing up to begin research for book four, getting ready for NaNoWriMo!

That's all for now. 

25 September 2017

Should an Indie Author Offer Free Kindle Books?

This is something I have struggled with. I have held giveaways on Goodreads for paperbacks, and I have offered my Kindle novels for free on Amazon.  Some authors keep one Kindle book free all the time in the hope that it will spark interest and build readership. There are pros and cons to this, and ultimately, it is up to the individual author to do what feels right for him or her.

Here is my personal take on it.

To make these kinds of decisions as an author, I think of myself as a reader. What works for me? I have downloaded many free Kindle books, and I have read very few. Those that I have read have usually been short stories. It gives me a taste of the author’s style very quickly, and short stories do reel me in. Novels don’t. My to-read list is long. Unfortunately, these free books are pushed to the back of the list, and I never get around to reading them. 

Why would it be any different with my books?

If a book sparks an interest in a potential reader, they can always download a sample onto their Kindle or Kindle app. If they don’t have a Kindle, they can always read the short sample offered on Amazon. So I don’t see the need to offer books for free.

There is the argument that if you offer free books, even for a day or two, it pushes the book’s ranking higher, making it more visible to other readers. This is true. It happened with A Future Spring, when I offered it for free for three days the first year it was published. However, I never got reviews or additional sales, and most likely, A Future Spring is sitting on hundreds of Kindle clouds unread. 

What was the point?

There is also a great deal of competition now. Everyone is offering free books.  The latest trend I’m seeing is, if you follow someone on Twitter, they respond by offering you a free copy of a book they’ve written. I take them up on the offer, but honestly, I have no idea when I will get to read it. So it sits on my Kindle waiting. Waiting until when? Who knows.

So, for this indie author, free Kindle books just don’t make sense. 

19 September 2017

The Big Reveal

So here is the cover for book three, Incorruptible. I think it turned out beautiful. I can't wait for publication . . .

13 September 2017

To Be a Writer You Must Be a Little Crazy

I’ve decided to join NaNoWriMo this November. For those of you who do not know what NaNoWriMo is, it is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a worldwide challenge for writers to write a full-length novel in 30 days.


A full-length novel in 30 days.

Crazy, right?

The challenge begins on November 1st, and the goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words by 11:59 pm on November 30th. That is crazy, and in past years, I wondered why anyone would put themselves through such a rigorous challenge. Yet, here I am about to embrace the challenge, and I’m really excited about it.

Why did I decide to do it?

First, it is perfect timing. Incorruptible will be with my editor, so I will be free to work on book four.

Second, the plot for book four is already developing, and I’m ready to get the story out.

Third, I need some discipline in my writing life, and a rigorous schedule for one month might help develop some good habits.

Fourth, the world won’t come to an end if I don’t reach the goal, but I will definitely have a good start on my next novel, no matter how many words I write in November.

Fifth, it will bring me in contact with other writers, and I’m always looking for support and tips from the writing community.

Sixth, it actually sounds like fun.

So, I am going to do it. I can use the month of October to begin my research. Novel 4 is not a contemporary novel. It will be historical fiction, so I will need to do a lot of research.

And some updates . . . the new cover for A Future Spring is being designed as I write this. I am so excited about it. I was never quite happy with the cover, so I can’t wait to see what my cover designer comes up with. 

Finally, the last draft of Incorruptible is finished. It will be off to the editor in October. The challenge I face now is to NOT touch it again until it is edited. 

08 September 2017

How Political Should An Author Get on Social Media?

I joined Twitter back in January. I find it to be a little better than Facebook. Not much, but a little. I've had very little success with social media, but I find Twitter to be the best so far. It is a great place to connect with other authors--and other like-minded people. I've learned a lot from what others have "tweeted." And I can't see ever going back to Facebook.

The main focus of this blog entry, however, is a question that has cropped up for me: how personal should you be on your professional Twitter page or in any professional outlet for that matter? It seems like a question out of left field. But today, social media is a big part of marketing. And if you want to get your service or product out there--beyond your local market--then you have to engage in some social media. Where do you draw the line? I'm speaking for myself. Where does public author Catherine start and private citizen Cathy end? Anything I've ever read about author branding says the same thing: in order to find your own brand, you must combine your personal with your professional. How does that work on social media?

I am an indie author with few followers on Twitter (179 on last count). So, it probably doesn't matter what I tweet about. No one is paying much attention, anyway. I'm not going to turn away readers with my rants about the latest political outrage. Am I?

Well, maybe. Who can really say, but I can give you my own personal thoughts.

I have found people on Twitter offering editing or proofreading services, who have turned me (a potential client) off because they have ranted about something. When I go to a professional's social media page, I expect to find information pertaining to their services, not their outrage over North Korea, DACA, or Melania Trump's latest choice in fashion. Yes, I am a conservative. But I would have the same feeling if I were exposed to rantings about Hillary Clinton and her missing emails. If you are linking your Twitter account to your professional website, I expect to find your Twitter account to be professional.

So, when is it okay to mix your politics with your professional platform?

Well, Stephen King has 3.77 million followers on Twitter. J.K. Rowling has 12.4 million followers on Twitter. Both rant about politics all the time. I guess when you've become that popular and make that much money, you can risk it. But I don't follow either one on Twitter because they don't teach me anything or even entertain me. I'm new to the author world, and I'm eager to learn. I have no interest in how much the two of them hate Donald Trump. It kind of wastes my time. I know they both hate him. I don't need to read a tweet everyday confirming that.

So, I've decided for myself to never rant about my political views on Twitter, unless it is part of my branding. I may post a picture of Melania Trump praying in front of a statue of Our Blessed Mother, and I won't stay silent on the need to defund Planned Parenthood. I brand myself a Catholic author, and both examples fall well within my author platform.

What about blogs?

I think blogs are freedom. They are open enough to rant about anything you want. I follow certain blogs, and I know what to expect when I visit them.

Anyone who reads my blog knows what they are in for.

22 August 2017

Advice From This Indie Author

I’ve mentioned here before that I have not been happy with my first two book covers. I went out of my way to purchase beautiful graphics, but when it came to the actual design of the covers, I didn’t have the knowledge or the proper software to create professional covers—something striking—something that pulls people in. Besides, I’m a writer not an artist. Designing covers is way beyond my capabilities. I just don’t have an eye for it. I know what I like, but I can’t achieve it on my own. So, I had to rely on the template provided by Createspace. For my first book that was okay because I never expected to write a second book. I never expected to have a blog. I never expected to start building my author platform. And I never thought about branding.

Now that book three is almost ready for publication, I had to rethink things. It was time to take my writing and my branding more seriously. So, I hired a professional to design (or redesign) my book covers. She has done an amazing job with Vocation and Incorruptible. Once she redesigns A Future Spring, I will reveal all three. Then you will see first-hand exactly what I am talking about.

I now have a strong piece of advice for other indie authors who may be just starting out: hire a professional—for proofreading, for editing, for designing your book covers. If you don’t have the money, save up or ask for a payment plan. Invest in yourself and your writing.  Most people in the industry are freelancers and are eager to work with you, so hire a professional. Of course, it has to be the right professional, so shop around. But, hire a professional. It pays off in the end.

I’d like to expand even further. Don’t rely on friends or family for services. I can’t emphasize this enough. Why? For many reasons, which I won’t get into here, but I will give you one very good reason not to rely on friends or family: you want a professional job. And it keeps things simple. You pay for services rendered. Most friends won’t take money or they argue about price, or they just don’t know how much to charge. Then you have the added burden of trying to determine the cost of a service for yourself. Sometimes that works out; usually it doesn’t. When it comes to your writing (all aspects of your writing) you want a professional who will give you honest feedback and who receives honest payment for an honest job.

Last, reach out to other independent authors on social media. There is a wealth of information out there. One of my online friends led me to my book designer. Make connections--network. 

In truth, as an indie author, you are limited. You don’t have a team of people to do your marketing, branding, publishing, and designing. Everything comes down to you. You have to create your own team. In some ways that is empowering. You get to make all the executive decisions, but you also have to take all the blame when things don’t turn out quite right.

Over these past four years of my writing life, a lot didn’t turn out quite right. But, that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot! 

17 August 2017

Update on Incorruptible

This week, I’m having the cover of Vocation redesigned. It comes at a good time because I’ve been asked to write a short article about my writing for our library’s newsletter. I would like to use the new cover for the article.

I am almost finished with the re-writes on Incorruptible. I deleted a whole scene this last pass-through. Now, I want to read it one last time, as a reader, to see if the story flows. That is next to impossible. I have read the story so many times that I really can’t read it with new eyes, so I am considering hiring a developmental editor. The plot of this book is complex, and I want to be sure there is consistency throughout the book. I am thinking of getting a few quotes for this service. I’m hoping to get a general critique of the story, skip hiring a line editor, and move to a proofreader. I’m still undecided, though.

After the new cover for Vocation is finished, I will have the cover for A Future Spring done. Then all my books will have a professional, uniform look--all part of that branding.

Oh, and I’m almost ready to send Incorruptible off for its copyright!

14 August 2017

Everyone is Adolph Hitler These Days

We seemed to have lost our sense of history. Or perhaps, it is better to say that we have lost our senses. Everyone is Adolph Hitler these days. It is a comparison that is thrown around so easily that it denies the true evil that was Adolph Hitler. The latest comparison to Hitler is, of course, President Donald Trump.

Let me tell you a story.

There once was a Catholic priest who loved God and his neighbor. He was born in Poland on January 8, 1894 to a German father and Polish mother. His life was spent spreading devotion to Our Blessed Mother. He was good and kind.

When Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939, this Franciscan priest was arrested. A few months later, he was released. Yet, he remained in Poland,where he and his monks continued their ministry and provided shelter to refugees under Nazi persecution. On February 17, 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo, and in May of 1941, he was sent to Auschwitz.

While in the death camp, this Catholic priest ministered to his fellow prisoners, and suffered harassment and beatings by the camp guards.

Then in July of 1941, three prisoners escaped from the camp. As a punishment, 10 men were chosen for starvation as a deterrent to future escapes. One of the chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek cried out for mercy. This Catholic priest volunteered to take his place. The commander laughed and then agreed to the request.

During their confinement, in an underground bunker, this priest led his fellow prisoners in prayer. After two weeks without food or water, he was the only survivor. Too impatient for him to die, the guards gave him a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe was murdered on August 14, 1941. Today the Catholic Church celebrates his Memorial.

It is strange that 76 years after the death of Maximilian Kolbe, the atrocities inflicted by the Nazis are taken so lightly. Now, anyone who disagrees or has a different outlook is called a Nazi or Adolph Hitler.

In light of the death and destruction perpetrated this weekend by clashes between Antifa and the Alt Right, it is fitting to remember a Catholic martyr and saint who preached love, compassion, and faith. He gave his life for another. Love overcomes hate in the end. Those who embrace hate will ultimately be consumed by it. 

Millions of people were systematically murdered by the Nazis. Estimates rage from 13 to 20 million people. Do we really need to throw around the Adolph Hitler label? We have lost our sense of history, and perhaps we have become numb to human suffering. 

I will leave you with a quote from St. Maximlian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr. "No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depths of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves defeated in our innermost personal selves?"

St. Maximilian, pray for us. 

08 August 2017

Incorruptible--the Synopsis

The cover for Incorruptible is finished. It is beautiful and I can't wait to show everyone. But, I am going to wait until the new covers for A Future Spring and Vocation are done. Then, I will have the big reveal. 

I will share the synopsis with you . . .

I am shooting for a winter release for the novel. Although, I have learned through these past years not to set deadlines. Let's just say a winter publication is my goal. 

03 August 2017

Book Cover Design

As I write this, the cover for Incorruptible is being designed. I have hired a professional designer for this book, and I would like to explain the process and why I decided to go with a professional this time.

First, with A Future Spring and Vocation, I had commissioned an artist to create the graphic for the cover. I told her what I wanted, and she created the artwork.  But the book covers were designed in Createspace using a template. When my books were published, I loved the covers, but now, to me, they look amateurish. And they are. You are very limited with design in Createspace, and I never achieved the quality design I wanted.

So, this time I decided to go with a professional because I have learned a lot and I understand my author platform better. It was time for a change.

My whole approach with book three is different. Here is how . . .

For my third book, I didn’t commission the graphic. I purchased a painting that fit the mood of my book. I saw the painting, and it hit me. I had to have it.

Then, I hired a photographer to take a high-resolution photo of the painting to create the graphic I will use for the cover.

I then sent the graphic to the cover artist with some ideas of what I might like the cover to look like. I’m really excited about it, and I can’t wait to see her drafts. It is so much fun to see a book cover come to life.

I will then have the same artist redo the covers for A Future Spring and Vocation. She will use the same graphics, but give the covers a more professional appeal. I would also like my books to have the same look—it’s part of the whole branding thing.

When everything is done, I will have the unveiling of all three covers.

I’ve learned a lot since writing and publishing my first book, but the most important thing I have learned is patience. Right now, I want to show the world the graphic we are using for Incorruptible, but I have to be patient. Trust me. It will be worth the wait. 

28 July 2017

One Man's Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from? Well, the short answer is—everywhere. If you observe the world around you, you are bound to find inspiration for a character or a plot or a scene.

I happened to stumble onto this article the other day. It recounts the inspiration behind ten famous horror flicks. Read it, if you have the time. It’s interesting. What really caught my attention was the last entry, number 1 on the countdown—Alien.

Alien is one of my favorite films, for a number of reasons. I could write a blog about that, but today is not the day. What I was focused on was the inspiration behind the film’s most famous scene, the chestburster scene. I could never quite understand why it is referred to as that—the chestburster scene. The alien really comes from Kane’s stomach, not his chest!

The screenwriter for Alien was Dan O’Bannon. He died in 2009 at the age of 63 (way too young). His death had a real impact on me. First, because he wrote one of my favorite films. That in itself was a reason to mourn, but then I found out what his cause of death was—complications from Crohn’s Disease. I was diagnosed the year before his death, and I remember having mixed feelings over the whole thing. I shared something with the screenwriter who wrote one of my favorite films, yet that something was awful and took his life.

So, of course, the chestburster scene took on a whole new meaning. I just knew it could not be a coincidence. And sure enough, it’s been confirmed over and over. The scene, and the whole concept of how the alien kills it's host, was inspired by Dan O’Bannon’s own experience with Crohn’s Disease. Inspiration? You could say so.

So, is the chestburster scene a good portrayal of the pain of Crohn’s? You bet.

If you can’t stomach (pun intended) the real chestburster scene, watch the tamer YouTube LEGO version here. It's amazing. 

27 July 2017

A Title For Book Four

A strange thing happened yesterday. Out of nowhere, the title for my fourth book just materialized. That has never happened before. Well, maybe it did for Vocation, but the plot and title for my second book kind of went hand-in-hand. They became one entity. Not so with book four. It has a title, but no real plot, yet. When these things happen, I have learned to step aside. It feels like I am being led somewhere, and I imagine I am. Most likely the title will inspire the plot. 

What's the title? 

You'll have to wait and see.  

25 July 2017

Time, We Ought to Use It Wisely

It’s funny how time can pass, but then it seems like no time has passed at all.” That is a quote taken from my second novel, Vocation. The speaker is Bridget Landry, and she is commenting on a reunion with a friend from her past.

Bridget Landry has a lot in common with her author, and I imagine this is what it will be like, if and when, we make it to heaven. It will be as if time has passed in the blink of an eye. After all, there is no time in eternity.

I had breakfast with a friend this past Saturday. She and I have a lot in common, and we haven’t seen each other in a very long time. I’m guessing it’s been close to two years. The conversation was good, the food was good, and the company was good. But, more than anything was the good feeling that came from being with someone who wanted to share her time with me. 

Time is a rare commodity these days, and soon it will pass away.

I’m reaching the age now where I begin to wonder where has all the time gone. I imagine time flies more quickly when you have more time behind you than in front of you. But then again, none of us really knows how much time we have left.

Lesson learned: time is precious, we ought to use it wisely.  

18 July 2017

What's It All About--Branding (Part 2)

My plan for Part 2 of my discussion on branding was to explain my own branding and how it came about. Then I got to thinking . . . shouldn’t my brand speak for itself? I mean, isn’t that the point of branding in the first place? Isn’t it supposed to communicate on its own? So, I thought better of the whole idea. If I have to explain my branding, then it’s actually a failure. Some things are better left unsaid. 

So, I guess I will give an update on book 3. I don’t imagine it will be published until next year some time. I am still working on the story, but I am almost finished correcting the plot problems. After that, it will need a final edit by me before I send it off for the final edits and proofreading.

My next task is to get moving on the cover. I have the graphic, but with this novel I am going to a professional cover designer. I am planning to have her design the cover for Incorruptible and maybe redesign the covers for A Future Spring and Vocation to match—again, that pesky branding.  When all that is done, I can look to book 4.

That’s about all for now.

11 July 2017

What's It All About--Branding

Everyone who is anyone in social media tells you, you must have branding. All those in the know in the publishing world, tell you, in order to sell your books, you must have branding.

So, what exactly is branding?

I cannot for the life of me tell you.

I have spent the last year reading and researching how to brand your product (for me, that would be my writing), and I still have no clue how to brand myself or what my brand even is. I recognize branding when I see it on the websites of other authors, but I can’t figure it out for myself. 

For anyone who reads my blog, you have probably noticed that I have changed my theme and color scheme over and over and over. I was trying to find my brand. And on that task I have failed miserably. I don’t know what makes my voice unique or what draws my readers. So I have been stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out what my brand is and how I can convey it to my readers.

The experts mention fonts and colors and using them across all forms of media. I’ve read about it all. They discuss combining your business persona with your private persona, and inevitably, if you do what they say, you will discover your own brand. I did the quizzes and read more. I collected pins on Pinterest, leading me to blogs that have distinctive branding, with colors and fonts and phrases and graphics, but I still couldn’t figure out what my brand was.

Then, I thought, maybe I just don’t have one. Yes, maybe I just don’t have a brand. Or even worse, maybe I just don’t know who I am.

So, I decided to let go of it all, let go and forget about branding. After all, I’ve broken most of the rules already, and I haven’t regretted it. So what, if I don’t have a brand. Does it really matter? Who would notice anyway?

Then, bam. It happened. I found it. Or maybe, it found me. And this time I think it may stick.

I heard a homily on Saturday that hit me. Then, on a whim I found myself visiting a local farm. Yet, it still wasn’t clear, but then I remembered something my mother-in-law used to say, and suddenly my brand was born.

I’ll explain it all in my next blog post.

Here are some updates: my crochet project—nothing, my writing—nothing, my branding—found.

25 June 2017

VHS Magnetic Tape, Recycling, and Crochet

I have been out of the crochet circles for some time now. I think since I began writing novels, I have crocheted maybe 3 things--maybe. Right now I have a baby afghan in the works, but I always have something more important to do than working on a baby afghan that I really have no plans for. I had the yarn. I had the pattern, so I just decided to make one. But, I am just not that motivated to finish it. And for me, to crochet something these days, I really need to be motivated. I find crocheting mundane now. I would rather be writing or researching or thinking and plotting my next novel.

Now, this weekend I was doing some cleaning, and I took a trip to the local Salvation Army with a box full of CDs, VHS tapes, and DVDs. The clerk laughed at me when he saw what I was handing him (that's another blog post). 

Later, I decided to do an internet search to see how I might recycle old VHS tapes--you know, the ones you used to tape things on. You can't donate them anywhere, and we have tons--I mean tons--because my husband taught high school and he used them a lot in the classroom. 

Well, as it turns out, recycling VHS tapes is not as easy as it sounds. The plastic case can be sent to recycling, but the magnetic tape itself cannot be recycled. 

That is a problem. 

Now, I am not a green freak, but I do care about what I'm throwing into a land fill. And imagining streams of VHS tape strangling a seagull (sorry) puts fear in me. 

Do you see where I'm going with this yet? 


Well, there is a company that will take VHS tapes--magnetic tape and all, so I will most likely ship a boat load off to them. But, during my internet search for a recycling center, I found the awesome idea of using VHS magnetic tape to crochet with. The material is referred to as plarn (plastic + yarn = plarn). I have actually used plastic grocery bags to crochet rugs and other things, so the idea of using VHS tape to crochet with is exciting. Suddenly, I've become motivated to make something out of the miles and miles of VHS tape I have sitting in my house.

I'll let you know when I decided what I'm making.

20 June 2017

A Message

I got this in my change today. It was a message I needed. I love when that happens. But, how does it happen? I have a theory, but I'll keep it to myself.

16 June 2017

A Robin's Egg

In the midst of all the chaos and destruction that permeates our world today, it is difficult to find peace or even hope. But it is important to remember that God is in control. He promised not to abandon us (John 14:18). 

I came across this little miracle the other day . . . a hatched robin's egg--a new life.

 And I am reminded of Matthew 6:26.

"Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?"

Try to find peace in the turmoil. I have this picture to remind me that He is all around us. We just have to take the time to look. 

31 May 2017

The Encounter at Confession

I went to confession this weekend. Usually, I try to go once a month, but I’ve been a little lax lately and haven’t gone in three months. I knew it was time to go. You can tell. You get that feeling that things aren’t as they should be, and you need to come clean.

Well, I knew it was time. Yet, I had a lot to do this holiday weekend. So, I ran some errands, and as the morning wore on, my enthusiasm to confess quickly waned. There is always a long line, and I had so many things to do—and it started—thoughts that I could go some other time.

But, then I found myself driving to the church. I parked the car and sat in the parking lot, preparing myself by doing my usual pre-confession examination of conscience.

And I entered the church.

Now, going to confession itself can try your patience. And this weekend was no different. The line was long—10 to 12 people had already placed themselves in line for the confessional, so I took my place at the end and prepared myself for the long wait.

Then the chatter began. Two people began a conversation about priests, confession, the state of the world, and anything else that popped into their minds. And they were loud, disturbing the other penitents.

When this kind of thing happens (and it happens a lot) you have to try to remember where you are and what you are doing there. Then you have to control your thoughts. After all, you don’t really want to add to the long list of things you are about to confess.

So, I kept my cool and my thoughts positive.

Then I saw her.

A young woman was making her way down the center aisle of the church. She had a cane, and we could all see she was blind. We watched as she struggled. I didn’t really know what to do—help or not help. I wasn’t sure if she was going to confession or if she had just received the sacrament, and it is hard to go up to a blind stranger and offer assistance. You never know how it might be received. 

So, we all watched her, but it was out of concern, really, and one or two people asked her if she wanted to go before them, but she declined. It is a strange question to ask really, since she could stand like anyone else. But I think it was a way to try to lighten her burden. 

Finally, she made it to the end of the line—right behind me.

So, now my behavior changed. Each time the line moved I would shuffle my feet louder than usual so she could hear me. I didn’t want to keep telling her to move forward, and I didn’t want to treat her any different than anyone else. Yet, I was afraid to touch her and afraid to talk to her too much because I didn’t want to be condescending or question her independence.

I know. I was overthinking.

Then my mind started working. I thought about her bravery and how difficult life must be and how much effort it took for her to get to confession.  What a frightening thing, to be alone, without sight, dependent on strangers, especially in such a dangerous world. And I wondered why she was alone. She must have someone.

By the time it was my turn to confess, I was more comfortable with the whole thing and there were more people in line behind her. I asked her if she wanted to go before me. I had my reasons, but she declined my invitation.

So I went into the confessional, confessed my sins, received absolution, and opened the door. I called out to her, but she didn’t hear me. The man in line behind her seemed oblivious, so I had to walk up to her, take her by the hand, and lead her into the confessional. I told her I would close the door behind her. She thanked me and told me to have a nice day. 

I closed the door. 

Afterward, I watched her to make sure she left the church safely, and then I watched her walk down the sidewalk. I felt good when she pulled out her cell phone and began talking to someone as I drove away. She wasn’t alone. There was someone, somewhere, checking on her.

It seems like a silly story for me to tell, and I’m not sure why I’m telling it, probably because I don’t want to forget the encounter or the woman. I wish I knew her name. 
But, I remember how she looked, and she looked a lot like St. Gemma Galgani.  

26 May 2017

You Will Weep and Mourn

I'm sharing today's Gospel reading because it is timely for the age we now live in. Today's Gospel is taken from John 16:20-23. 

Jesus said to his disciples: 

"Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." 

25 May 2017

Our First Lady with Our Lady

Our culture has turned ugly, and it is harder and harder to find beauty.

It’s been a bad week. The U.K. was hit with another terrorist attack. This time the carnage was inflicted on children—young girls—at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

We all know this.

It is heartbreaking.

We all know that, too.

I don’t watch the news much anymore. I try to shelter myself from it. It gets to be too overwhelming, and at some point, you have to unplug. But, even though I try to shelter myself from it, I can’t really. You are bound to get dribs and drabs, and I don’t want to put my head in the sand, either. I do need to be informed. But, I tried to shelter myself from the brutality of the latest terror attack. Now, I’m beginning to hear the stories of the innocent people who were killed and maimed that day, and again, it is heart wrenching.

I limit myself on social media, too, but again I need to be informed. So yesterday, when I came across this photo. I had to stop and take notice. It was a photo that captured something beautiful.

Now, there seems to be two camps out there—left or right, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, and people can be vicious. There are the Trump haters, and some of the comments made about First Lady Melania Trump have been downright cruel, signs of how ugly our culture has become.

So when I saw this photo, it warmed my heart. Here is our First Lady placing flowers (and prayers) at Our Lady’s feet outside Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital. Yes, Melania Trump is a Catholic—a convert, they say.

That, to me, is a beautiful thing. 

18 May 2017

Diving In

One of the strange things about writing is the ups and downs of the craft. Last week I was ready to throw in the towel (well, not really) and this week my novella is edited and nearing the final draft. I took the advice of one my characters who said, “Maybe he was afraid to wade in so he decided to dive in instead.” And that’s what I did. I forgot the fear of never finishing, ignored the fear of writing substandard prose, and dove in.  It’s funny when that happens. So many times my characters give me advice, yet I created the character and wrote the quote. But somehow I know that isn’t entirely true. Someone else is whispering to me, and I’m just putting words on the paper. 

11 May 2017

Thoughts of Quitting

So, what’s going on in my writing life right now?

Well, I wish I could say that I’m almost finished with book three and plan to publish it this summer. But I can’t. I am nowhere near that stage of the process. Things seem to be moving along at a snail’s pace. And the old feelings come back every now and then—is it really worth it?

Book three is turning out to be a massive project, and I can’t rush it. I think it is my “breakout” novel, meaning, it is different than the other two, and therefore, it will take time to get it right. The plot is complex and a lot of research has gone into the story. I have been working on it for almost a year now, which isn’t really that long. It took two years to write Vocation, and that wasn’t nearly as complicated.

I have to be patient.

But, writing is hard, and I have had thoughts of quitting. Maybe two books are enough. After all, most people don’t write any books. Yet, there is an important story that needs to be told in Incorruptible, and that is what keeps driving me forward.

So, while I’m working on Incorruptible (and Corruptible), I will be doing some promotion for Vocation. I am really fond of that novel, and I don’t think it’s getting the attention it needs. I have a call out to a small Catholic company who may be interested in offering copies of Vocation to their customers. Right now, we are in the preliminary discussions, but I have high hopes that I can reach a wider audience with their help. Just as Incorruptible needs to be written, Vocation needs to be read.  

I am also going to have a new author photo taken this spring. I’m not sure my first photo captured who I am as an author (and person), so I thought it would be a good time to make the change. I’m in the process of setting up a photo shoot. I want some outdoor shots, so I have to wait for the perfect weather conditions.

So, I keep pushing forward, trying to ignore the negative thoughts that invade my mind, thoughts that tell me to quit. 

27 April 2017

On the Subject of Embalming

I am now on the fifth revision of Incorruptible. This time around I am correcting plot problems. I have two major plot problems. Both can be corrected by strategically adding information somewhere within the narrative. They both also require research.

This past week I have tackled the subject of embalming. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I can say my protagonist is a mortician, and I am familiarizing myself with embalming equipment. I’m not sure how much will end up in the novel. There is a delicate balance that I am trying to maintain. A novel is fiction, after all, so a lot of what I write comes from my imagination. Yet, it needs to be realistic, too. I have to keep my readers in mind, so I need to maintain a level of realism without being overly graphic. It is not an easy thing to do.
One of the criticism I’ve had about my writing is that I am not very descriptive. There is truth in that. So I am trying to add more descriptive prose. Yet, I am someone who doesn’t really like a lot of description in the novels I read. I tend to be bored when people describe scenery or physical features of their characters. My mind wanders, and then I find myself pulled out of the story. I also don’t like an author to tell me everything. I like to use my own imagination. So again, I am trying to find a balance in that, be a little more descriptive when necessary, while at the same time, not bore my reader with a lot of unnecessary details. Again, it’s not an easy thing to do.

In the next few weeks, I am going to call a local funeral director and conduct an interview. A lot of the information I need about funeral homes and embalming in general, I have found on the internet. But I need a live human being to answer some of the more interesting questions. I’m actually excited about it. I can’t wait to get into the mind of a real mortician.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

21 April 2017

My Muse Is Back

After a long vacation, my muse is back. I dove into my manuscript and really got to work this week. I'm about two thirds finished, and I've cut over 4,000 words. I hope to cut more with the next revision.

I've now identified the main problems in the story, and I'm trying to fit the solutions into the draft.

Then, I'll need to go through the whole thing once again to see if it all works. After that, I'll examine my sentence structure, phrasing, and grammar. After I'm done with all that, I'll send it off to my editor and then to a proofreader. So right now, I have no time frame on when the novel will be published. That's the good thing about Indy writing--no deadlines.

I've also been doing research--a lot of research, learning from authors, editors, and book designers. I've come to discover just how little I know. And I think back on how I just jumped right into my first novel, as a true novice, and I wonder how I did what I did. I imagine if I had done my research before I wrote the book, I probably would've been too discouraged to even try.

But now with book three, it's important for me to learn as much as I can about writing and publishing. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past, but the important thing is I've learned from them.

I'm also planning a few other things that I'll tell you about when the time is right.

That's all for now.

01 April 2017

Surround Yourself With People Who Lift Your Spirit

Last week I was finally able to get together with an author friend of mine. He and I have become close over the past few years, and we are a very strange match. If providence hadn’t played a role in things, I doubt our paths would have ever crossed.    
I won’t go into the long story of how we met, but circumstances put us in the same place and time, and since we are both authors, we have bonded in a way that is very unique.     

So last Thursday, after a few cancellations, we finally met for dinner, and as usual, a large part of the conversation turned to writing—the ups (mostly his attitude) and the downs (mostly my attitude).
And a strange thing happened. I left feeling recharged. Once again, I am reassured about what direction I am taking with my writing. All the doubts have been erased. I owe a lot of my change in attitude to him. He is not just a friend, he is a cheerleader, and whenever we get together, I am reminded of why I am really writing.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s had his share of knocks in his writing life, but it doesn’t seem to get him down. He doesn’t forget why he writes, and that is something I need to be reminded of every now and then.

His positive, upbeat personality has stayed with me, and it has made me realize that we are all affected by the people around us. If we surround ourselves with negative people, negativity begins to seep into us. If we surround ourselves with positive people, we are lifted outside ourselves to something even higher.

My point?

Surround yourself with people who will lift your spirit, not break it. If it taps your energy, rethink it. We all need someone in our life who can talk us through the bad stuff and help us celebrate the good stuff. If you can be that for someone else, great, but sometimes we need someone to be that for us.

27 March 2017

Editing Incorruptible

This weekend I got back to editing Incorruptible. I should actually say I am rewriting Incorruptible. That is really what it will come down to—a whole rewriting. Sure, most of the draft is good, but a lot of it is not, so I have a huge job ahead of me.

Confession time: I have been procrastinating.


Because I knew there would be an overhaul of this third draft, and I honestly didn’t want to face it. It is quite daunting to think a large portion of the story doesn’t work. But this weekend, I decided to face that fact, and get back to it. The truth is I need to face it head on before I can fix it—and I will fix it.

My approach will be to take things one small step at a time. I know what the problems are, and I think I know how to fix them, but I’ve been looking at the draft as a whole, and that created an overwhelming anxiety. I even thought about tossing the whole thing and using Corruptible as my third book. After all, who has time to rewrite a whole novel? I have a full-time job, a house, a husband, cats, and health issues to deal with. 

Who has time to rewrite a whole novel?

Then I came to my senses.

What about Mac and Joel and Dante and Will? What about their story? Don’t their voices deserve to be heard?

So back to the drawing board I went to start all over again. 

My characters are pleading with me. Their story needs to be told. I just have to listen a little closer this time. 

15 February 2017

A Big Leap

As I said a few posts back, I’ve decided to make some changes in my writing life. The first step was to reach out to other authors and learn more about my craft. I’ve joined the Catholic Writer’s Guild, and their resources have been invaluable to me.

Now, I’m about to take the second step.

Moving forward with my third book, I am hiring a professional company to format my manuscript and a professional editor. This is not just a step, it is giant leap, pushing me beyond hobby to career—part-time career, maybe, but career, nevertheless.

I’ve already contacted a company who will do the formatting and cover for Incorruptible. They’ve accepted me as a client, and I am excited.

Today, I have contacted a professional editor/proofreader. At this writing, I am waiting to see if she will take me on as a client. Keep your fingers crossed! I have done my research, and she is my first choice to edit my work.

Stay tuned . . . 

08 February 2017

Into the Minds of Characters and People

 “She sees the world as she is, Anna, not how it really is." This is a quote from Charlie, a character in Corruptible, my novella.
Every now and then, a quote comes to me in my writing that is filled with truth. This quote is one of them, and it turns out to be one of my favorites. It is a short quote, but it says a lot about a character, and a reader might read through it quickly without paying much attention. But when I wrote it, it was well thought-out and deliberate.
And it is something I believe myself. In fact, Anna replies with, “Well, maybe we all do.”
I have an analytical mind, and I try to figure people out—what motivates them. It works well for writing fiction. It helps me get into the minds of my characters. If you don’t know your character’s motivation, you may end up writing flat, one dimensional characters instead of complex characters with many layers. People are complicated, so are well-written characters. That is what I strive for.
But, having an analytical mind in real life is not as helpful. I tend to over analyze things, wondering, why did she say that, or why did he do that. Then I move into, I would never treat someone that way. That is when I have to take a step back and realize that I, too, am looking at the world as I am. And it becomes a delicate balancing act.
Where do these traits come from? Some, I imagine, come from life experiences. But why do some people experience a tremendous amount of suffering and remain kind, cheerful, thoughtful, compassionate, and honest, while some people experience very little suffering and hold on to bitterness, anger, suspicion and self-absorption? Some traits must come from personality. I imagine it is different with each individual. But I have found that those that offer bitterness and anger to the world around them, most likely don’t like themselves very much. It is an internal struggle that seeps out into the world around them.
In the writing life, it helps me get into the minds of characters I have very little in common with. In the real world, it is a reminder to take a self-inventory every now and then, just to be sure I’m not harboring bad feelings, ready to be unleashed into the world on an unsuspecting soul. 

02 February 2017

A First Step

In my last blog entry, I stated that I wanted to surround myself with fellow authors. The first step I’ve taken to that end is to join The Catholic Writer’s Guild. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons, but I finally did it. I applied for membership.

One of my future goals is to apply to the Guild for A Seal of Approval for Vocation. I would like to see if Vocation meets the standards set by the Guild as a book that supports Catholic beliefs and values. If it does pass the criteria, I would be able to offer copies of the book to Catholic book stores for sale.

I’ve come to a point in my writing career to realize that I need to branch out beyond my local market. There is an audience out there for Catholic fiction, I just need to tap into the market.

When you are an independent author, you are your own agent. You really have to believe in yourself in order to sell your work. Connecting with other authors, who support you, can be very beneficial, and for me it is time to make that commitment. I have reached out to other authors, one-on-one, but now it is time to reach out on a greater scale. It is time to take pride in my writing, and take the leap into a bigger pond. And I am proud of Vocation, and I want to get it out to more readers.

As I see it, I have two major handicaps to overcome—being and independent author and an author of Catholic fiction. I don’t have an agent to sell my books, and I am writing books in a genre that is limiting. But the simple fact is I write what I write, and I believe with more knowledge and more confidence, I will one day find my readers.

 It is small step, but that's how it all begins, isn't it.

10 January 2017

Revisiting My Genre

Sometime last year, I changed my author bio from Author of Contemporary Catholic Fiction to Author of Catholic Fiction. It is a subtle change but a significant one.

When I began writing book three, I discovered I was branching out. In a way, Vocation was a continuation of A Future Spring, not so much in plot but in style. And both books were safe, meaning, I was a bit timid in allowing the creative juices to flow. I actually held myself back.

Incorruptible has changed all that. I was less timid when I wrote it, and the plot has a different tone. I also delve into the supernatural, moving beyond what we experience in the natural world. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it doesn't mean New Age. It means I dive into the spiritual nature of things, the unseen world, but I still do that through my Catholic vision. That is one thing that has not changed.

After I wrote my third book, I started thinking about why I call myself an Author of Catholic Fiction. Why do I choose to write my stories around my faith?

Well, there are two reasons, really.

First, I see the world through the eyes of the Church, and there are things that have happened in my life that force me to write the way I write. I don't think I can really write any other way. If I try to write in a different way, my stories will become contrived.

Second, I find the genre lacking. There are "clean reads," meaning books without sex and violence. And there is "Christian fiction," usually written from a Protestant worldview. But there isn't a lot of Catholic fiction out there. In fact, there isn't even the genre on Amazon. Sure, there is Catholic fiction, but you have to hunt for it.

So why did I decide to drop the Contemporary from my genre? Well, like I said, Incorruptible changed the rules, and I plan to branch out even more with book four. I no longer want to be limited to contemporary themes and settings, and I will be moving to the past with book four.

Yes, there is a book four already making itself known to me.

I am just about finished with the novella that will be included with Incorruptible. There was more to tell of that story, and without giving out spoilers, I had to make this last part of the story an entity all its own. I thought about writing it as another novel, but you must read the novel, Incorruptible, before you read its companion novella, Corruptible, so I settled on a novella included after the main novel. I didn't want someone reading Corruptible first. It gives up too many of Incorruptible's secrets.

So, in order for my readers to know what they are getting themselves into, I will retain my own branding as an Author of Catholic Fiction. It may be limiting in some ways, but in other ways it opens up a whole new world.