Monday, December 31, 2012

Finishing Well

If you do an internet search on “year in review,” you’ll see some interesting results – everything ranging from the election to crazy celebrity hair styles. I think that looking back and learning from history is a worthwhile exercise, but I’m always amazed at what this world considers newsworthy.

But let’s take a step back and make “year in review” more personal. How was your year? How was my year?

Finishing well has become a focus of mine since one of my college professors first introduced me to the expression. Usually towards to the end of the semester as finals were fast approaching, she would tell us students not just to finish, but to finish well.

There is a difference. Most people can finish something. In college, most of the students stayed with the class to the end. However, when the end of the term neared, it was easy to tell the difference between students who had stayed on top of the coursework and those who were frantically cramming to get a C. The library became an unusually popular place the last week of school.

Yes, finishing is one thing, but how you finish is another matter entirely.

If you finished the year well, congratulations. If you didn’t, take an honest look at your goals and priorities, and evaluate how you can do better next year.

Whether you’re ready to put the year behind you or sad to let it go, the New Year is just a day away. Take your time to reflect; but then, close the chapter and pull out a fresh page.

We can’t rest on laurels. We can’t hide behind the past. We have to look ahead and ask God for the humility, grace and perseverance to meet whatever task He has for us.

The Apostle Paul understood this concept. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 3:13-14.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
So finish well! I'll look forward to seeing you again in 2013.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have a Thankful Noel

Have you ever heard the alternate lyrics to the Christmas carol, “The First Noel”? They go something like this:

“No Well, No Well, No Well, No Well. We’ve got no water ‘cause there’s No Well.”

I can relate. Last week, we literally had no water at my home for an evening, because something malfunctioned with our pump and well.

All of a sudden, simple things like brushing teeth, bathing, doing dishes and flushing the toilet became more complicated.

Fortunately, a plumber fixed the problem first thing the next morning, but the experience made me think about all the conveniences we take for granted – running water being one of them.

This time of year, we can easily become wrapped up in the holiday shuffle of parties, gift exchanges, and programs. None of these things are wrong, but if we’re not careful, they will wear us out and cause us to overlook the real reason for the season: Jesus' coming to earth as a baby, the first earthly chapter in God's redemptive story. 

The word "Noel" means Christmas, and "The First Noel" refers to Jesus' birth. The most well-known account of the first Christmas is recorded in Luke 2.
7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord...
This Christmas, set aside some time to reflect on all the blessings God has given you - the first and foremost being the gift of His Son. 

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Story behind My Cover

“Are you awake, Sis?”

I was, but I didn’t want to be. The minute my toes touched the cold, wooden floor of our family cottage, my first impulse was to retract them back underneath the warm comforter.

But I had promised my brother I would go fishing with him before sunrise. I pulled on a pair of blue jeans, slipped into an old pair of flip flops and grabbed my jacket. Then, I helped my brother pull our life vests and paddles out of the shed before starting for the beach.

The grass was cool and damp with dew as we made our way to the shoreline. The first light peeked behind the mountains that formed the backdrop to Lake Winona. Radiation fog danced across the water’s surface, and the gentle colors of dawn beckoned the start of a new day.

My brother pulled our burnt orange canoe from the bank and slid it into the water.

“Hop in,” he said.

“Wait,” I said. “Just look at that.”

My brother paused to take in the grace and beauty of the scene before us. He grinned, “Aren’t you glad I asked you to come along?”

I ignored him and fumbled for my camera. Never before had I seen such a breathtaking sunrise.

I honestly don’t remember if we caught any fish that morning, but the picture I took has been a favorite of mine ever since. And years later, it made its way onto the cover of my second book.

A friend and talented graphic artist combined stock art elements with my picture to design the cover of Secrets Beyond Lake Winona’s Shore. And yes, there are some “true life” experiences from my childhood at the cottage that slipped into my story as well.

Lake Winona is truly a testament to the handiwork of the Creator God. My hope is that my story will be pleasing to Him and afford my readers with the enjoyment of engaging in a Christian fiction mystery staged around this beautiful shore.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CreateSpace Kindle Conversion Service

As of November 16th, my print sequel Wings of the Dawn, Book 2 became available on Amazon, and less than a month later, is now available as an e-book, published through Kindle Direct Publishing.

Amazon's CreateSpace makes converting your print book to an e-book easy. For a conversion fee of $69 (very reasonable compared to the hundreds of dollars other self-publishing companies want to charge for the same service), CreateSpace handles the file conversion and uploading of your book to the Kindle Direct Publishing site. (Authors, please note that you must first set up the account and then complete the "rights and pricing" portion before you can publish.)

The "learning curve" for me was familiarizing myself with some e-book basics, since I actually do not own a Kindle, and sorting through Amazon's two royalty options - 35% and 70%. (The 70% option is somewhat of a no-brainer, but conditions do apply.) If you're an author and would like to learn more, here are some helpful links:
I also learned some new terminology, namely, DRM or Digital Rights Management. Amazon gives authors the option to enable DRM or not. If you opt to enable DRM, you prevent the sharing of your e-book. If you do not enable DRM, users can share or send your book to their friends for viewing.

For more information, check out this helpful article called Amazon add optional DRM for Kindle publishers which does a nice job summarizing this option.

From what I have read, the conversion process can also work the other direction. In other words, if you start with an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing, you can then create a print book with CreateSpace.

Have you converted your e-book to a print book, and if so, do you think it's easier to start with an e-book or with a print book? I welcome your feedback.