Category Archives: Resources

Ebook Art on the Cheap with SketchbookPro

All those emails, “How to make money being an independent author,” I put into the trash. My metier is discussing science and Catholic teaching, and as editors have told me when they reject my submissions, “sorry–no market for that sort of thing.” Accordingly, I’m going to frame my first royalty check ($0.56 from Smashwords) and invest future royalties in do-it-yourself software for my ebooks. It will not be cost-effective to hire an illustrator for my book covers (the forthcoming royalties from the Kindle editions might just cover a stock cover).

So, I’ve explored software for graphics, and based on web reviews, decided to go with Sketchbook Pro, yearly license, $29.00. (There’s a free version with more limited function, Sketchbook, also available.) So far it’s worked well–I’m not an artist, nor a designer, but I’ve been able to use it for covers, illustrations and animations, all of which are useful in an ebook that deals with scientific stuff.

Here’s an analogy–someone skilled in computer graphics could really make Sketchbook do tricks, as you can see if you go to the YouTube demonstrations, like a lion tamer in the circus; my status is more like that of the guy who finally housebreaks his Pomeranian, after a month of cleaning-up.  (In other words, if I can do it, you can do it too and probably better.)


This is not going to be a how-to post; I’m not that expert and there are all the YouTube videos that can be explored. Rather, I’ll try to show how it works for  the cover of my forthcoming ebook, Top Down to Jesus, Book 3: Truth Can Not Contradict Truth, which discusses the non-existent war between science and the Church.   I’ve also used it for animations in the iBook edition of The Quantum Catholic.


Sketchbook works in layers, which is good for the tyro–you can goof up one layer and delete without having to scrap all the rest. The starting point is then a background layer. Here’s the one I chose for the third book of my series, Top Down to Jesus. 

IMAGE1 (2)
Background Layer for Cover

It uses several of the tools available in Sketchbook: color palette, radial gradient fill, cropping and image sizing.


Since I’m not an artist, I use free images, ones in the Public Domain, available either from Wikimedia Commons, obtained by doing a search, Wikimedia Commons image ???? (replace the question marks with the image subject).

My third book is on science and the Church,  so I wanted a cover that would show that God comes first–whence the hand of God creating DNA.   I took as one image Michelango’s “The Creation of Adam”…


IMAGE2 (2)
Michelangelo’s :The Creation of Adam”


and the other a DNA molecular model image of DNA.


IMAGE3 (2)
DNA Model from Wikimedia Commons


Each image is  put into a separate layer, placed, sized, cropped and trimmed with the Sketchbook tools to get a superposed image


The final step is putting title and author onto the cover.  Sketchbook has a number of font styles and sizes available, so there’s an embarrassment of riches… what to choose from!    I’ll show below two different styles;  I’ve not yet decided which I’ll use.



Any comments?

So, here are some very simple examples from a not-too-talented amateur.  I’m sure there are many of you readers who can train this dog (Sketchbook Pro) to do many more tricks.



Robert Kurland blogs at Reflections of a Catholic Scientist. His previous books in this series are Pascal Was Right! and The Quantum Catholic. He is a retired physicist, Extraordinary Minister of Communion, lector, and musician.He has also written for Catholic Stand.





Writing What You Love, For A Living!

Joanna Penn grin
Best-selling author Joanna Penn helps the rest of us succeed.

As an Indie Catholic Author, you know you are special.  You feel “called” to write what you write.  It would be nice to sell lots of copies, but if you wrote just to be a bestselling author, you would probably write about other topics.  Instead, we are compelled to present our faith and world view first and foremost, and then try to market our work.

Still, if you are like me at all, you wonder how you can do both – be an authentic ICA, and sell enough to cast the day job aside, and write for The Lord, Full-Time.

As an ICA since 2008, I’ve seen a lot of self-proclaimed indie publishing “gurus” selling their trade secrets online, but few have impressed me enough to forward and promote their content to others.

Joanna Penn is that exception!

Joanna offers a free video training series for authors on how to maximize your work, your time and your focus, so you can eventually make that leap of faith from day-job/part-time writer to dream-fulfilled/full-time writer!

Why do I find her stuff so exciting?  Because she has done it herself and delivers great transparency on how she did it, and how you can too!

Now in full disclosure, she is not a member of our group (yet) and I did not ask her if she’s Catholic.  Also, she offers a paid (and presumably more in-depth) version of her course – but don’t worry, her 3 “free” videos are loaded with powerful teachings that will help you if you apply them!  They’ve helped me!!  Someday I plan on buying her course but for now, I am busy applying her free advice and increasing my productivity and growing my sales!

Click the links I placed here so you can too, and Indie Catholic Authors will continue to spread the new Evangelization with passion and effectiveness.  God Bless!

Red Pen 10-Point Clipboard Checklist

By Nancy Ward


How to Edit Your Draft

Print this form out for each chapter or blog post and attach it to a clipboard. The first few items are usually done on the computer, but I still use the clipboard checklist to track my progress. I usually have several clipboards going so I can rest my mind frequently and get a fresh take on each project. Paste your favorite prayer on the clip.

BLOG/CHAPTER NAME_________________________  Deadline:__________


_______1.  Master your message – identify all the ideas that you have written.

  1. What do your sentences say?
  2. Does each paragraph discuss one idea, and one only?
  3. Do your ideas transition logically from one paragraph to the next?
  4. Are you saying what you meant to say?

When it doubt, forget style and art.  Just write down what you mean to say.  It can be made pretty later.

_______2. Remove the extra ideas.  Eliminate all non-essential observations, background information, side points, and other bonus material.

_______3. Remove the extra words.  Really, very, simply, especially, quite, in order to, in conjunction with, in consideration of . . . on paper, these filler words are often parasites.

_______4. Check for misuse of words you are not sure of  (gerunds and pronouns; job titles (President) capitalization; upload vs download) at common errors in English – errors or other handbook.

_______5. Run text through After the Deadline for spelling, grammar and a few clichés. Checks more thoroughly than Word, gives general examples, different issues than Grammerly. Free. You can install it on your server for everyday use, but if you copy and paste text into their site you get much better feedback with pull-down hints. (Saving your changes online messes up formatting— so copy and paste and then use divided screen to make changes.)

________6. Check for clichés on

________7. Run text through Grammarly.comRuns 250 different tests, including plagiarism. Doesn’t check the same snags as AtD. Online subscription after 7-day trial. It uses your text to give examples of corrections. (Saving your changes online messes up formatting. There’s a plug-in for MS Word.)

_______8. Listen.  How do you sound? Check these two together with clipboard and red pen in hand.

  • Punctuate.  Print a double-spaced manuscript draft and read it aloud.  As you read, do not take any breaths or pauses except at punctuation marks.  Where are the missing pauses and stops?  Go back and add punctuation.  You may need to turn one sentence into two, three, or more, in order to make your post read the way itshould be spoken.
    • Eliminate clumsy repetition.  It is not necessary to thinkupanelaborate list of synonyms for the subject of your article.  Rephrase your paragraphs to avoid jarring repetition of noticeable words.  If you are attempting to use repetition as a stylistic effect, and you aren’t sure you have succeeded, let your editor know that. In all cases, clear communication is more important than impeccable style.

______9. Proofread. Print another double-spaced draft. Read it word-by-word, forward and backward, marking corrections in red.  Correct, reprint, correct again.

Read through your whole post or chapter.  Every time you find a problem, go back and fix it immediately.  Then re-preview.  A well-edited post is usually read backward and forward three or more times.

______10. Get a second opinion read-through. Make changes; proofread as needed.

Expanded from Catholic Writers Guild Blog Guidelines. Thank you, Catholic Writers Guild, for providing the basics for this adaptation for us to adapt and make our own!


Nancy H C Ward

Nancy Ward is a convert, journalist, blogger, published author and speaker. On she shares her Joy in the Lord, her conversion, Catholicism and Christian community in Texas. Her “Sharing YOUR Faith Story” Seminar is available on DVD.

How To Learn To Write With The Time You Have

When I was in 7th grade, my English teacher told me that I had potential as a writer. That was enough for me to set a goal that someday I would become a published author.

Twenty-eight years later I had still not published anything but the time was right to write in 2005. Fran and I had completed the adoption of our daughter from Guatemala, and I felt that was a story that needed to be told.

I started by converting the journal I kept during the adoption process into a first draft of my memoir. After getting feedback from a couple of people, atrocious was a kind description of that draft. While I had the desire to write, aside from what was required in school and my employment, I had never put in the effort to develop the skills needed to write.

The 7th grader in me was tired of waiting. He motivated me to start developing the necessary skills to write and publish.

Investing In What Satisfies

All skills can be learned but not all skills can be mastered. God gives us a certain combination of gifts allowing us to master a few skills, become competent in others, and a disaster in many. With the gift of discernment, God lets us know on which skills we should focus. With this awareness, we must then pay the price of practice to master the skill.

Early in my writing journey, God sent me a teacher who explained that each of us have the gift of 24 hours in a day. He called it the great equalizer because it was the same amount given to all no matter who we are. What makes the difference is how we spend the hours we are each given.

When I talked about “finding” time to become a writer, he told me that I would not because I had all the time that I was going to get. He encouraged me to stop spending my hours on low value things such as entertainment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average American man spends 3.71 hours a day watching TV. That was about right for me. Of my 8,736 hours given to me each year, I was spending 15% (1,350 hours) staring at television.

My teacher suggested that I could invest those hours in what I said was important to me, and that’s what I did. Starting in 2005, I gave up television and invested that time into learning how to write.

My teacher also suggested that while writing and writing and writing was a good way to become a better writer, I needed to invest time studying excellent teachers to guide me; otherwise, I would continue reinforcing bad behaviors.

At the Feet of the Masters

Below are those teachers who had the greatest influence on helping me learn to write.

Bill Roorbach’s book, Writing Life Stories is where I started. He is a writing teacher who put his memoir-writing class in book form, presenting information and giving exercises. Using his exercises, I was able to write a second draft that became the foundation of my book.

One of his exercises was to define the reasons why I am writing and—more importantly—why someone would invest their hours into reading what I wrote. That was a powerful and obvious concept that I had never considered: is the value I am providing worth the investment of my reader’s time?

Roorbach asks the reader to define their goal for writing. If it is to tell a story, is it a compelling story? Does it have all the attributes of a good story, of a hero’s journey? If it is to provide information, is the information accurate? If it is to make an argument, did you provide a persuasive argument?

One of the key points I learned from Roorbach is squeezing all the meaning out of each sentence. Here is an example: This makes it clearer.

Do you understand that sentence?

What is “This”?
What is “it”?
Define “clearer”
How can it “make”?

A great investment is spending time with William Zinsser and learning his lessons On Writing Well. This book amazed me in the first reading because everything prior to this that was “well written” I thought was dry and difficult to read (the classics that are required reading in school).

For those interested in writing a memoir, Zinsser also published Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past which I would highly recommend as well.

E.B. White, author of such classics as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swanwas also a writing teacher. One of his students, William Strunk, took copious notes of White’s lectures where he presented a unique philosophy of writing style.

Working with White, Strunk put this writing style into a book all writers must have. One person told me she re-reads this book before starting work on each of her books (it’s only 87 pages).

According to the contributors of, step 1 of becoming a better writer is to “Read or re-read THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk & White. It is practically the Holy Grail of English grammar. Sure, it may seem a little stodgy at times, but the basics never lose their cool.”

American is one of the more difficult languages because it is a collection of words and rules from the world’s languages. Because of this, many of us struggle conveying meaning and emotion with written American.

British author Lynne Truss helped me understand the black art of punctuation in her book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. The book has a fun approach to reminding yourself of the basics of punctuation.

She quotes another author who said, “Learning grammar in grade school in like learning sex in grade school: you now know the basics but have no practical experience to drawn from.”

From one of the most commercially successful American authors of our time, Stephen King tells his writer’s journey from the publication of Carrie until just after he was hit by a van in his book On Writing.

He also includes tips based on the method he uses when writing. The one that I found most useful was putting a draft manuscript away for at least six weeks and working on something else. At the end of the six weeks, you are reading your draft with new eyes.

I am not a fan of his fiction because I don’t care for horror but I gleaned MANY good tips from this book. After finishing this, I read his book Christine. Again, while I don’t care for the genre, it was an interesting read thinking about how he described his process of developing a story and the specifics of working on Christine.

Whether you are self-publishing or attempting to find an agent/publisher, writing a book proposal will help answer many questions you have not even asked yet.
How to Write a Book Proposal is based on Michael Larsen’s experience as an agent and an author.

The book walks you through his method to layout and format a proposal and query. His exercises force you to get alone with your big-old brain and a journal out the answers that will help you while writing the book (yes, do this before getting too far into writing the book). He asks many difficult questions an author needs to consider, no matter which publication method being used.

At first I struggled with the proposal until I realized that if I cannot write a book proposal, then I should not be writing a book to sell.

Additional Recommendations

  • READ and READ and READ to find a style you like. I read many other memoirs that are considered good (some of them were a struggle for me to finish). From each, I pulled a little technique and made it my own.
  • Write as often as you can. Since many experts suggest a daily writing habit, several years ago, I started going to bed when my youngest did (around 9pm) and got up at 3:15. This gives me almost 3 hours of undistributed time to write. When the rest of the family is watching TV at night, I am studying to develop my skills even more. Of course, this requires coordination and buy-in from your spouse.
  • Do not rush getting published. You’ve waited this long, another few months or a year of polishing your masterpiece is well worth the first impression.
  • Many suggest writer’s conferences… I have been to a few and wish I could have my money and time back for both. I get more from online communities and webinars, but that is my style.
  • Will you be as excited about this book three years from now as you are now? Experts say that first-time authors should expect to spend at least three years marketing our first book before it becomes a success. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are the exception.
  • Keep your goal in front of you as your measurement of success.

“There’s a word for a writer who never gives up…published.” ~ Joe Konrath


gilGil Michelini’s mission is to help lay Catholic adults to learn why and how to live lives worthy of their calling using the wisdom of Vatican II. He is the author of Daddy, Come & Get Me, the story of his adoption of a daughter from Guatemala. Gil blogs at

Word Clouds for Fun and Analyzing Your Manuscript

John Chapter 1

Well, you finished the first draft of your story. Now what? One of the things I like to do is create a word cloud. A word cloud takes a group of words (such as those used in a story) and puts them in a huge pile. The size of each word depends on how many times it was used. For example, in the first word cloud below for John 1, the most used words are “thou”, “God”, “saith”, and “John”. In the second example, you can see that after the name of one of the main characters, the word I used most often was “like”. This second example show me two things: I used the word “like” more than a teenage girl and that I should use a different word when I compare things.

Why do this? As I stated before, it can help you easily see if you are overusing a word. It can also give you an idea of which characters you put more importance on. Give it a try. It may give you a new perspective on your writing and your story.

There are several different options when I comes to creating a word cloud. Just google that term and you’ll find several sites. However, my favorite site is Wordle. This gives you all kinds of options, such as what colors to use, the orientation of the words, and more.  Unfortunately, if you want to save the word cloud to your computer you need to take a screenshot.

John Chapter 1
Where There’s a Will word cloud from my new ebook, Trouble is My Client


John Paul WohlscheidJohn Paul Wohlscheid is the author of Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth and Trouble is My Client. Both feature a hard-boiled detective in the tradition of old-time radio shows. The author blogs at Writer’s Soapbox.

Top 10 resources for indie authors


Photo by Die.kamzelle, Wikimeida Commons.
Photo by Die.kamzelle, Wikimedia Commons.

This list is not in any particular order. I will update it periodically as I discover new resources for indie authors. Feel free to add links to your favorite resources in the comments.

  1. The Book Designer – blog by Joel Friedlander. Everything you need to know for your formatting, design, and publishing phases.
  2. APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – book by Guy Kawasaki. An overview of the entire self-publishing process, with all options explained.
  3. – blog by Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies. Get on his mailing list!
  4. – blog of successful Catholic writer Jeff Goins. Learn how you can go from where you are now to published author.
  5. Indies Unlimited – blog on the craft. Caution: there may be morally objectionable books advertised on this site.
  6. Dean Wesley Smith – a successful author of both traditional and self-published books teaches you to “think like a publisher.”
  7. Write to Done – Mary Jacksch teaches you to write better than ever.
  8. Smashwords – e-book distributor. If you plan to sell e-books, read their formatting and marketing guides.
  9. CreateSpace – Amazon’s paperback publishing forum that costs you $10 or less.
  10. Hugh Howey –  best-selling indie author tracks buying trends and tells you how to succeed.