How to Create an eBook with Calibre

All of us work hard to create the content of our books, leaving the messy business of creating the .epub or .mobi files to someone else. However, every once in a while we need to create a draft of our ebook. You either need to get an idea of how the end product will look or to send to a beta-reader who doesn’t want a PDF. I’m going to tell you how to create a quick and simple ebook with Calibre.

According its website, Calibre is “a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books”. I’ve used it for many years and it’s great.

Now Let’s get to the meat of the matter. Follow these steps to turn a .doc file (or another document file) into a .epub or .mobi file. (Note: the following pictures contain LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office because that is what I have installed on my laptop.) You can click any image to get a larger version.

  1. Open your .doc file
  2. Heading1
    Change all your chapter headings to Heading 1. You can do this by selecting Heading 1 from the style menu.
  3. html-save
    Now, save your document as an HTML file
  4. Open Calibre
  5. add-book
    Click the “Add books” button. After the dialog box appears, you can browse to where your HTML file is located.
  6. edit-metadata
    Once the new HTML file is added to the Calibre library, select the new file and click the “Edit metadata” button. From here you can add the following information: Title, Author, cover image, description and more. When you’re done, click “OK”.
  7. convert-books
    Now click the “Convert books” button. From the top right of the new screen, you can select pub or mobi. There are quite a few options available, but your don’t need to use them all.
  8. remove-spacing
    Select the “Look & Feel” tab from the left side of the new dialog box. Now, select the “Remove spacing between paragraphs”.
  9. table-of-contents
    Next, select the wand icon to the right of “Level 1 TOC (XPath expression)”.
  10. table-of-contents-h1
    In the new window, select “h1” from the drop down menu under “Match HTML tags with tag name”. Click “OK” to close the window. Click “OK” again to convert the file.
  11. Once the conversion has finished, you can click the “Convert book” button again and select a different format.

Well, that was fairly easy. I hope this tutorial helped you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

***

John Paul WohlscheidJohn Paul Wohlscheid is the author of  Church Triumphant: 25 Men and Women who Gave Their Lives to Christ, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth and Trouble is My Client, and A Battle for the Faith (with Theresa Linden).  He blogs at John Paul Wohlschied, Author.

It’s Still Christmas Sale

Christmas-2015-sale2

Welcome to the Indie Catholic Authors It’s Still Christmas Sale! 16 authors’ books are $.99 or free. If you’re looking to fill up your new Kindle, Nook, or iPad with good Catholic content, you’ve come to the right place!

Scroll down for descriptions and buy links for all our books that are $.99 or free December 26-28.

The following books are $.99 each:

 

JPs BookIn Church Triumphant by John Paul Wohlscheid, you can read the lives of 25 men and women who dedicated their lives to God and the Catholic Church. These men and women are heroes of virtue and prayer who helped change the world for Christ. The biographies are written concisely with the goal of giving you the chance to learn about great saints in a short amount of time.

John Paul was born and raised in West Michigan. He attends daily Mass with his parents and brother, Michael. John Paul and his brother have served English, Latin and Polish Masses for over 17 years. John Paul has always loved to read about the saints and about the Roman Catholic Faith in general. He hopes someday to become a priest.

Get it at:
Amazon (note: this link was originally incorrect)
Smashwords

 

Ellens Book

In Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable, a mentally unstable infertile woman kidnaps a pregnant mother of five.

Ellen Gable (Hrkach) is a bestselling, award-winning author of five books. She is also a freelance writer, publisher, editor and book coach. When she’s not writing, Ellen enjoys spending time with her husband and five sons, watching classic movies, playing trivia games and reading on her Kindle. Originally born in New Jersey, USA, the author now calls Canada her home.

Awards:

  • # 1 Bestseller Religious Drama (February 2012 to April 2012 and June-July 2012) on Amazon Kindle
  • # 1 Bestseller Religious and Inspirational Mystery/Suspense (February 2012 to April 2012 and June-July 2012) on Amazon Kindle
  • # 44 (Paid in Amazon Kindle) February 17, 2012 (Top 100 on all Paid books on Amazon Kindle Feb 17-26, 2012)

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Theresas Book

Set in the not-so-distant future, Chasing Liberty by Theresa Linden is a dystopian story about a young woman desperate for freedom in a society where faith, family, and freedom do not exist. The all-controlling government has elevated the earth above man. Science ensures that every baby born is healthy. The government ensures that every baby born is needed. All are cared for, taught, and given a specific duty to perform, their unique contribution to society. Liberty is slated to be a Breeder.

The sequel Testing Liberty came out November 7th. Theresa Linden is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and a local writers’ group, where she both hones her writing skills and helps other writers. She resides with her husband and three boys in northeast Ohio.

Get it at:
Smashwords

 

Product Details

Affairs of the Heart by J.I. Willett:  Join Amazon International #1 Best-Selling author, Janice Willett, as she journeys into God’s arms and receives 72 Messages at St.Veronica Church. In this God-inspired book, she shares the courage to change and God’s desire to know every one of us in a deeper and more personal way. Experience your personal transformation Improve your relationships and friendships. Find faith, hope and healing in this Bishop-approved book. Be inspired daily with the full color inspirations.

J.I. Willett is a parishioner at St. Veronica Church, Howell, NJ. Labeled by clergy as an intercessor, she is blessed to have open communication with God to relay His Divine messages to the troubled, sick and dying.

(Please note: Indie Catholic Authors takes no position on the authenticity of Janice Willett’s revelations.)

Awards:

  • #1 International Bestseller Amazon (Christian Spiritual)
  • The 2015 International Book Awards Finalist

Get it at:
YourGodSpeaks.com

 

Melanies 2nd bookLove Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood by Melanie Jean Juneau and Others is an anthology that aspires to encourage today’s moms in their vocation. From beautiful poetry to practical tips, essays that capture the small moments of motherhood and reflections on mothering in today’s world, this slender anthology brings together a wealth of wisdom from five ordinary yet inspiring moms.

Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who has edited her kid’s university term papers for over a decade. Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. She serves as a Managing Editor at Catholic Stand.

Get it at:
Amazon
Smashwords

 

Mariannes BookBlue Hydrangeas by Marianne Sciucco.
A nursing facility is everyone’s solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband, Jack, can’t bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams, and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings.

Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author, but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She brings her two passions together in this book.

Awards:

  • #1 Kindle bestseller
  • Winner IndieRecon Best Novel, 2014
  • 5-star Readers Favorite Library Journal Self-e Selection
  • IndieReader Approved
  • 4-stars BookWorks Book of the Week

Get it at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

 

Final-Front-Cover-RGB-ThumbnailTrusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini. Are your fears, weaknesses, doubts, and anger keeping you from intimacy with Christ? Do you struggle with despair? Let St. Therese teach you perfect trust. Learn how Therese of Lisieux trusted God through tragedy, scruples, spiritual darkness, and physical suffering. Connie Rossini pairs episodic stories from the saint’s life with memories of her own quest to trust. Practical and accessible, Trusting God with St. Therese includes questions for reflection that make it perfect for book clubs and faith-sharing groups.

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Awards:

  • #2 Bestseller in Catholicism on Amazon Kindle
  • Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Get it at:
Amazon (It’s working now!)

 

Lonely boat moored in the Bay of Puck - Poland

Navigating Deep Waters by Jeannie Ewing Grief afflicts everyone’s lives, including caregivers who provide long-term care for one who requires special needs. Yet caregivers are so often left feeling burnt out, aggrieved, and simply lost or emotionally drained. Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers is a unique resource for busy caregivers who are physically and emotionally spent at the end of a long day. Divided into short, meditative chapters, each with  journaling prompts and a prayer.

Jeannie Ewing is the  mom of children with unique special needs. She leads a comprehensive grief recovery ministry that includes coaching, webinars, and retreats.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Erins bookWorking Mother by Erin McCole Cupp. With her husband disabled and out of work and her child in mortal danger, a mother must leave her family and find work so they can all survive. The husband’s name is Joseph. The child’s name is Jesus. The working mother is Mary. A fictional twist on the story of the Holy Family.

Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who writes and lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania.

Awards:
Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Get it at:
Amazon

 

johnblood_A_Battle_for_the_FaithA Battle for the Faith contains two short stories, one by Theresa Linden, the other by John Paul Wohlscheid.  In A Matter of Silence and A Matter of Action, the Emperor Kadzrick has decided that the Tribe of the Fathers must change their faith to suit him. The Tribe of the Fathers have held true to their Faith for centuries and will not change now. They are a peaceful tribe, but they will be forced to take up arms to defend what they hold dear: their faith.

Theresa Linden is also the author of Chasing Liberty. John Paul Wohlscheid is the author of Church Triumphant.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Gil BookDaddy, Come & Get Me: a dad’s adventure through a Guatemalan adoption tells two stories about one girl. Author Gil Michelini tells how he led his family through the process of adopting a daughter of Guatemala. Using the official Guatemalan adoption documents with the assistance of those familiar with the Guatemalan culture, Michelini includes a plausible story of his daughter’s life in Guatemala and how her birthmother came to the decision to relinquish her for adoption. This story illustrates and honors the sacrifice one woman endured for the sake of her daughter.

By day, Gil Michelinin is in instructional design. By early mornings and weekends, he is an award-winning speaker, blogger, podcaster, and author. His current project is helping lay Catholic adults learn how to live lives worthy of their calling using the wisdom of Vatican II.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Inos LoveIno’s Love by Marianne Sciucco. Ino prepares a Christmas feast for her successful, CEO son, but when he’s too busy to spend the holiday with his mother she shares her dinner and gifts with her home health aid. Sometimes the people who love us best are not family.

Marianne Sciucco, also the author of blue Hydrangeas, studied the craft of writing as an English major at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and briefly worked as a newspaper reporter in New England. To avoid poverty, she later became a nurse and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. A native Bostonian who loves Cape Cod, she makes her home in upstate New York.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

The following books are free during the sale:

 

Tims bookIn Return to Paradise by Tim Speer,  a detour and a freak accident bring David to the small farming community of Spring River. Is his arrival purely happenstance, or is there a reason for him to be there? As he learns more about the corrupt practices of the local bank, he must decide what role he will play in trying to stop the foreclosures. Complicating his decision is Sarah, a local waitress. With plans to only be in town a couple of days, David knows that Sarah will likely be just a passing acquaintance. But is that all she really is to him?

Tim Speer lives in Midland, Texas, with his beautiful wife. They have two grown children. He enjoys all God’s creation, from crystals that come from deep inside the earth, to celestial objects in the deepest regions of outer space.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Glorias bookIn Tears,  Gloria Winn shares her story of excruciating pain that eventually blocked her from God and all her other relationships. After 18 years, grace from God and her response began a healing of this pain. She is free. The memory is there, but the pain is gone, like a thorn being removed from her heart.

Gloria Winn is a wife, mother, grandmother and healed by the goodness of God.

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Johns BookEyewitness by John C. Connell. Around 33 A.D. Jesus the Christ chooses a blind beggar out of a crowd, and performs a very public, miraculous healing. We are introduced to the Man-Born-Blind in John’s Gospel, chapter nine. We see him, but we do not see what he saw…until now. Peek back in time with this fictionalized version of the story to see the Gospel come into focus, like never before!

John C. Connell, in addition to Eyewitness, is the author of Catholics Mean Business: 30 Days to Managing Your Work Week, God’s Way, and the follow-up, Catholics Have Courage: 40 Days to Beating Stress, God’s Way. He lives, works and writes in Houston, TX., where he is crafting other works of non-fiction to “help the soul at work”, and more fiction that will bring history alive like never before!

Get it at:
Amazon

 

Jackies BookWhether you have just discovered the beauty of the Rosary or you’ve been praying it for a long time, Walking Through the Rosary for the Childless by Jacqueline Vick will help you to delve more deeply into the Mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. After reading a Bible passage that supports the mystery, contemplate the prompts and questions that follow. Use your prayer journal to record your thoughts and any actions you want to take. The book includes instructions on how to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.

Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty short stories, novelettes and mystery novels including the Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mysteries. Her love of our Blessed Mother led to this Rosary meditation book.

Get it at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

 

Please note: individual authors are responsible for making sure their ebooks are marked down as advertised.

 

Get ready for Indie Catholic Authors’ Christmas Sale!

Christmas-2015-sale

Giving your loved one a Kindle, Nook, or iPad for Christmas? Help them fill it with great Catholic books!

Join Indie Catholic Authors December 26-28 for our It’s Still Christmas Sale. 16 Catholic ebooks will be $.99 or free. That’s besides our permanently free ebooks!

Participating authors

  • John C. Connell
  • Jeanie Ewing
  • Ellen Gable
  • Melanie Jean Juneau
  • Theresa Linden
  • Gil Michelini
  • Erin McCole Cupp
  • Connie Rossini
  • Marianne Sciucco
  • Tim Speer
  • Thomas Tan
  • Jacqueline Vick
  • J.I. Willett
  • Gloria Winn
  • John Paul Wohlschied

On Saturday, December 26, here on our blog, we’ll have links to all the retailers where you can buy the books at sale prices. Plus, look for detailed descriptions of each title. You can get a whole library for about $10!

Please note: individual authors are responsible for making sure their books are discounted.

See you on the 26th!

A Call for a Rebirth in Catholic Literature

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This post was originally published at realromancatholic.com

“…seeing that the chief instrument employed by our enemies is the press, which in great part receives from them its inspiration and support, it is important that Catholics should oppose the evil press by a press that is good, for the defense of truth, out of love for religion, and to uphold the rights of the Church. While the Catholic press is occupied in laying bare the perfidious designs of the sects, in helping and seconding the action of the sacred Pastors, and in defending and promoting Catholic works, it is the duty of the faithful efficaciously to support this press, both by refusing or ceasing to favor in any way the evil press; and also directly, by concurring, as far as each one can, in helping it to live and thrive…”

– Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Dall’alto Dell’apostolico Seggio

Today’s bookstore and library shelves are full of books, both fiction, and non-fiction, which are supposedly Catholic. Many of these books, are laced with the liberal, left-wing interpretation of Catholicism that became prevalent after Vatican II.

This means that the people who read these books will be exposed to this version of Catholicism and since they don’t know any better, they will take it to be true. This is sad because there was a beauty, a majesty, and a simplicity that most people who have never experienced it will miss out. Back then, a spade was called a spade and a sin a sin.

On the other hand, these books can also lead to misunderstandings among the Protestant community. How many conservative Protestants have gotten an erroneous view of Catholicism because they read a book by a New Age “Catholic”? If these people are exposed to the Truth, they will recognize it and be drawn to it.

Overall, today’s literature is devoid of any religion, replacing it with the “science” of evolution. I learned one thing from my 4 years in a Protestant college, a little word called, “worldview”. We need to return to a Catholic worldview in literature. As Our Lord said,  we must be in the world, but not of the world. “And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2, DRB)

As a writer, I hope to bring back what has by in large been lost. My goal is to return religion to literature, Catholic religion in particular. I’ve already written several mysteries involving a priest named Fr. Benedict Granger, who was a private detective before he took up the cloth. I plan to write more and I plan to include references to the Latin Mass and traditional Catholic moral theology.

I’m not saying any of this to pat myself on the back, but to show how Catholics can evangelize and reawaken interest in the Traditions of the Catholic Church through words. This is a call to all Catholic writers to pitch in and take back Only with much prayer and effort will we be able to win the world back for Our Lord.

***

John Paul WohlscheidJohn Paul Wohlscheid is the author of  Church Triumphant: 25 Men and Women who Gave Their Lives to Christ, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth and Trouble is My Client, and the upcoming A Battle for the Faith (with Theresa Linden).  He blogs at John Paul Wohlschied, Author.

Fantasy and Femininity

File:The Two Brothers by Elenore Abbott.jpg
Illustration of the Grimm fairy tale “The Two Brothers” by Elenore Abbott. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

By Tony Juarez

I have just read the short story my 6th grade son was assigned to read for school- Young Ladies Don’t Slay Dragons by Joyce Holvelsrud . On the surface, it is a humorous but deliberate attempt to invert the traditional trope of a helpless princess needing to be rescued from a fire-breathing dragon by a valiant knight or prince. Instead, I read of the trials of Princess Penelope, a lively and industrious princess who eschews the traditional duties of a princess such as sewing or playing the lute, in favor of what I can only assume the author considers non-ladylike activities such as fixing the drawbridge or a squeaky suit of armor. However, when a fire-breathing dragon begins terrorizing her palace, her father, the king, is incapable of finding anyone to slay the beast.

So Penelope decides she wants to do it herself, but is rebuffed by everyone from the king to the cook who tell her that “young ladies don’t slay dragons.” Fed up with being dismissed, she eventually dons a suit of armor and using an explosive potion she swiped from the royal wizard when it was his nap time, she kills the dragon. A prince suddenly appears after the dragon is killed and after bragging about how handsome and rich he is and agreeing to let her do all things she likes to do, Penelope agrees to marry him and they live happily ever after.

Complimentarity of the sexes

As I mentioned at the start, on the surface the story is not without its charm, but ultimately we find it is yet another attempt to proffer a contemporary strain of feminism that is at its core at odds with the Catholic view of the complementarity of the sexes in God’s plan of creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that,

Man and woman were made “for each other” – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones…”) and complimentary as masculine and feminine. (#372).

Thus the Church is saying that in creating humans as male and female, God has fashioned us as equal parts of a matched set and only in coming into communion with one another do we find our ultimate fulfillment as humans.

This is a concept that certain strains of feminism today utterly rejects and instead views the complementarity of the sexes as implying that being incomplete without men somehow makes women less equal or valuable than men. (Oddly, they never admit that the same would be true from the man’s point of view.) This has lead to relations between the sexes that are replete with suspicion and recrimination in the most self-centered sort of way, as the Young Lady story vividly portrays. All the men in the story are portrayed as incompetent, petty, and indifferent to Penelope’s desires. The notion that it would be dangerous to allow an untrained princess who apparently is the king’s only child to confront a dragon is not even considered. Instead, stodgy and arrogant men just try to keep her in her place.

Made for each other

This leads to the second problem with this story, which is the inability of certain feminists to distinguish between the character of a person and the characteristics he or she possesses. In St. John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem he uses the words “dignity” and “vocation” to explain,

 The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfillment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the “image and likeness of God” that is specifically hers.” (10)

Thus, to be “made for each other” should never be interpreted as meaning that women are inferior to men in any way, but only that they have been given a different set of resources to act out their vocation- diversity is not deficiency. The story Young Ladies, like much of the cultural feminism that runs amok in contemporary society, seems completely incapable of recognizing this truth, as the author cannot imagine the possibility of a capable and strong feminine character without putting down all the male characters. Apparently in her mind there is only so much dignity to go around, so any increase on the Penelope’s status must come at the expense of all the other characters.

Hero or a handsome face?

My last issue  with the story is more an issue is more literary than theological: the prince who shows up at the end. Hovelsrud has spent the entire story turning the traditional damsel-in-distress narrative on its head in order to show young girls how empowered they can be. However, in place of a knight’s act of self-sacrifice and a princess’s sense of gratitude, we see the offering of a conditional acceptance of marriage that is based not on anything the prince has done, but on his looks, riches, and vague assent to meet her demands. Apparently the author forgot her own first principles, and ended up coming right back to the place she was trying to leave. Here is another well-worn trope (albeit a more modern version of it), but perhaps she doesn’t object to that particular situation.

Despite this story’s short comings, I would certainly not shun it. Parents can use it to talk about why what the Church’s view of  femininity is more fulfilling than the contentious social interactions that the modern world has to offer.

The challenge for Catholic authors

More important, however, is the opening for Catholic authors, especially those who are writing fantasy. The notion that the fantasy genre is the purview of adolescent boys has long been put to rest. The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy has shown that the  fan base is about half female.

We cannot be afraid to take on the virulent cultural feminism that wants to revise and reform the arts. When it comes to writing fantasy, we should counteract it with a view of femininity that highlights what St. John Paul II called in Mulieris Dignitatem the “feminine genius.” Our female characters can offer a “sincere gift of the self” in a heroic manner. Of course therein lies the challenge. Today’s girls may associate the idea of giving of oneself with  romance or teen drama novels, not with the rough and tumble adventures of swords and magic. It is up to us to create compelling female characters that maintain their genius and have the strength, perfected by grace,  to keep the (physical, mental, or spiritual) monsters at bay.

J. R. R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic, set the standard by which almost all fantasy is ranked. Those of us who desire to write fantasy stories must hand on that standard to a new generation that can outshine all the rest.

***

Tony JuarezTony Juarez is a Catholic writer and Catholic theologian from St. Paul.

Do One Scary Thing Every Day  

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In this post, hybrid author Jane Lebak gives advice from her traditional-publishing experience that can be applied equally well to self-publishing.

I was frozen. I’d done my research. I’d spoken to my agent. I’d checked my contracts. I’d even gone as far as getting a business license, but now I was stuck. I needed to buy ISBNs.

For two days, I’d looked at my list and found other things to do, but really, I needed to buy my ISBNs. I had a business bank account. I had money in it. What I needed was to go over to Bowker and give them money in exchange for the numbers.

“I can’t,” I said to my Patient Husband. “Every time I get almost to that point, I freeze. Because buying the ISBNs is the point of no return.”

Once I did that, I figured I couldn’t double back anymore. I’d be committed.

My Patient Husband said, “You need to do one scary thing every day.”

Of course I was scared. I’d prepared extensively because I was taking my writing career seriously, but that meant doing the things I’d prepared to do. I needed to be willing to fail in a very big, very public way.

The next day, I said, “Okay, buying ISBNs is scary. So I’m going to do it, and then I don’t have to do it again.”

I did it. And after I’d done it, it wasn’t scary anymore. But I took the rest of the day off anyway.

The next day, I made myself an IngramSpark account. Again, it was scary to enter in sixteen-digit numbers (or longer ones) but after I did it, I was done. The day after that, I made myself a KDP account, but that was less scary than it had been the day before, so I went on to do something else scary instead.

When you’re writing for publication, you’re going to find yourself right at the edge of your comfort zone more often than you ever thought, sometimes on the wrong side of the fence. In the story itself you’re going to find yourself writing deep and touching emotions you never wanted out in the daylight. Then comes editing. And getting beta-readers. And reading your beta-readers’ responses. And making those changes. And asking for help with your query letter. And then sending your query to agents.

Eventually you have to open the responses you get from agents. Sometimes reading those is scary, especially when you really like an agent and hope she likes you back. How about phone calls with agents? Those will scare you too at first. Signing your first agency contract? Terrifying. And then going on submission. Going through the publication process. Reading reviews. Writing your next novel.

If you had to do all those scary things at once, you’d think your life was a horror movie. So instead: one scary thing every day. When you’re terrified, motivate yourself with, “Good. This is my scary thing.” The next time you face the same task, you’ll find it’s not so scary any longer.

(Except for reading reviews. Those are still scary. I get a friend to read them first.)

And then give yourself a little breather afterward. “I’ve done my scary thing. I don’t have to be scared again for a little while.”

***

headshot smallJane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You’ll also find her blogging at QueryTracker.net, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.

My Experience in the 2015 World Championship Of Public Speaking

In August 2015, I had the honor of participating in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. This experience helped me become a better public speaker but more importantly, it allowed me to have two encounters with God that reaffirmed that He is interested in the things of our lives and will help us in doing that which brings Him greater glory.

This is my story.

Learning To Speak

I joined Toastmasters in 2010 to help me in giving presentations in support of the marketing of my book Daddy, Come & Get Me. The years of practicing speaking in front of groups, learning to eliminating filler words, and ensuring every speech has an opening, body, and closing paid off in greater confidence before audiences.

Toastmasters offers annual speech contests because humans excel when under the pressure of competition. As talk of the International Speaking Contest started in December 2014, I decided to give it a try as I had not yet competed in any contest. The speech I developed was entitled “Serendipity” where I told about an experience of self-discovery I had while writing my book.

Between January and April, I won the first four rounds and earned the right to represent my district (Indiana and Northern Kentucky) as one of the 96 competing in the semifinals at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 13.

What Does Serendipity Mean

tm_serendipityThe contest rules allowed me to use “Serendipity” for the semifinal round; however, in the final round, the speech must be one I had never competed with before. My challenge between April and August was to write a speech that was as good as “Serendipity” that — if I advanced — I could use for the finals.

As I was looking for a speech topic in May, I thought it would be fun to have a speech that included an adventure movie trailer voice that starts with “In a world…”. With that as my starting point, I developed “Love Overcomes Fear,” the story about my relationship with my son-in-law in the time leading up to his marriage to my oldest daughter.

In doing some research on what it would take to become a World Champion, I started having doubts that “Serendipity” had enough humor in it to win the semifinals. While the speech is not required to be funny, for the last 20 years only speeches with humor have won. I tried re-working sections of the speech but the humor seemed forced.

In late June, I presented both speeches to some of the better speakers in my district. There were over 50 people in the room, and to a person, they agreed that while “Serendipity” had served me well to get to this point, it would not win the semifinals. They all enjoyed “Love Overcomes Fear” and suggested I use it for the semifinals.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (part 3)

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Use quotes from your book like this for Pinterest and other social media sites.

In the previous two parts of this series, we have looked at finding your audience and creating a top-quality product. In this post we will consider marketing. How do you let people know your book is out there?

If you have done part 1 well, you already have many readers interested in your work. They are your first audience. The obvious first step when you publish is to let them know, by a blog post or email to your list.

Here are other strategies I have tried. I will tell you what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

Book blog tour

Many companies exist that will set up a book blog tour for a fee. They find book reviewers in your genre and ask them to review your book or interview you. The tour usually “stops” at one blog per day. This is a way to let readers beyond your current list know your book has been published. But you don’t have to hire someone to set up a tour. You can do it yourself.

I arranged blog tours for my first two books, but not for my third. The sales of that third book were very slow until another Catholic blogger posted about the book on Facebook. Then I got a big boost in sales. When she later reviewed it on her site, I got another boost. This was essentially a mini blog tour.

I have not found that blog tours give me huge sales number, but they do get the ball rolling. They help people who may never otherwise have heard of my book to hear of it, and sometimes to buy it. When you have posts on your book for seven to ten days in a row, there is a cumulative affect. Your book goes up in the Amazon rankings, becoming more visible to browsers. You start to run into people who say, “Oh, I’ve heard of that,” or, “I just read about that on so-and-so’s blog.” You build buzz.

So, will a blog tour make you a best-selling author? Probably not by itself. Is it one helpful tool to use? Definitely.

Connecting with other bloggers

In order to set up a blog tour, you need to contact other bloggers. Although you can just send them an email out of the blue, it helps if you already have a relationship with them. Start building this relationship before you finish your book.

Visit and comment on their blogs. Friend them on social media and comment on their posts there. I began building a relationship with the blogger I mentioned above by sending her the clipping of an article I knew would interest her. Not only has she enthusiastically promoted my books since that time, we have also become good friends.

Another way to connect is to join a Facebook group or Google+ community of authors or bloggers with a common interest. Many of these groups turn out to be little more than sites for link dropping. Find groups where people really support and communicate with each other. Besides Indie Catholic Authors, my favorite groups are the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) and Clean Indie Reads. The CWG Facebook group is only open to dues-paying members. Clean Indie Reads is mainly for fiction writers, but I have learned a lot there as a nonfiction author. For the blog tour of my second book, I asked if anyone in the Catholic Women Bloggers Facebook group (currently being revamped) would be open to hosting me. Doing so helped me branch out to audiences that I had not reached with my first book.

Joint marketing

These connections are great for doing joint marketing. At Indie Catholic Authors we currently do two joint sales a year–in June and December. Last December we tried offering coupons for our paperbacks on Createspace before Christmas. That bombed. The few of us who put our ebooks on sale at the same time did better, but it was still one of my worst Kindle Countdown Deals. I later discovered that most authors do poorly before Christmas. This year we’re starting our sale on December 26 and focusing on ebooks. We hope people who have found new ereaders under the tree decide to try our books.

Our second joint marketing effort in June was successful for many authors. No one made a ton of money, but for most participants it was the best promotion they had ever done. I had my second-highest sales numbers, but I also ran a paid promotion at Ereader News Today, which muddied the waters (and cut into my profits).

The more people who participate in these joint events, the wider the spread, so if you are an independent Catholic author, please join us!

The benefits go far beyond the life of the promotion. Here is one participant’s Amazon book page 3 months later:

Amazon-joint-marketingNotice the “also bought” books. Every one of them was part of our joint sale. Some readers bought all 15 discounted books. That means that, for a time at least, customers who browsed any of them had all our books suggested to them as additional purchases by Amazon.

A joint event like this takes lots of work. But each time it should get easier to set up. And have greater participation.

Countdown Deals and free days

I have never offered my full-length books free. Free days work very well for many fiction authors. For me, with a limited audience for nonfiction, I don’t want to miss out on sales. I use Kindle Countdown Deals instead. My best sales have all come when I have 3 days at $.99.

If you can connect your book to a special date for your sale, do so. It’s a no-brainer for books about saints to discount them for the saints’ feast days. Many people are looking for just such books at that time. If you are promoting a romance for Valentine’s Day, you’ll have a lot more competition. I’m not sure how well that works.

Other Amazon tips

Pay attention to your key words and categories on Amazon. Don’t choose categories for your book that are so broad that no (human) browser will ever find you. I use “Carmelite Spirituality” for one of my key words and have three of my books appear on the first page, including my free ebook in the top slot. The books are somewhat lower when I search for “Carmelite.” Hmm. I wonder if I should change that?

Ask yourself what you would search for if you were shopping for a book like yours. You’ll notice that when you start entering search terms, Amazon makes suggestions. These suggestions tell you what the top search terms are. Use them if you can.

Promoting on social media

Some people say that Facebook targeted ads (not post boosting) have worked well for them, but you have to do them right. Every time I try to set one of these up, I have browser issues or the process is so convoluted I give up. If Facebook can make it simple, I will probably try one.

In the meantime, I know that the people I interact with through commenting on their posts, direct messaging, or participating in a group will see my posts more easily than others. Before I launched my first book, I was very active interacting with my friends, to make sure they saw my posts about the book coming out. I had over 1000 Facebook friends at the time. Some of them shared my post with others.

On Twitter, I noticed more retweets, messages, and mentions once I hit about 1200 followers. Now during my promotions, I try to follow a couple dozen more people on Twitter. Often they will glance at my profile to see my latest tweets and–voila–they see I have a book on sale for $.99. This is my secret for sales through Twitter. Shhh! Don’t tell. Tweets to my regular followers can easily get missed.

Pinterest always brings more people to my blog than any other social media platform. For my launch of Trusting God, I created pins with quotes from my book, using public domain photos. See the top of this post for an example. Each pin had a hashtag, the book title, and my name. Over the first two months after publication, I pinned, tweeted, or posted one to Facebook or Google+ regularly. I pinned one to the top of my Twitter page for an easy retweet for new followers.

It’s impossible to say how many sales I received through these social media endeavors, but I am certain that they did help.

I have also done a handful of radio and podcast interviews. With each one I have gotten some sales. Some shows, of course, give much better results than others.

Public speaking

DSCN3455My focus is now turning towards doing more public speaking. Next spring (God willing) I will be leading a retreat for moms in the next diocese over. Last May I gave two talks at the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. I have also spoken at a handful of parish women’s groups and book clubs. I have done one online conference, and hope to do at least two in the spring.

How well can you sell at these events? My last talk, just a few weeks ago, had only nine women attend from a small rural parish. However, I brought along copies of all three paperbacks and sold a total of eleven. Not bad when combined with the stipend and traveling expenses I also received!

At the homeschool conference, when I had published two books, I sold 29. I also asked for a larger speaking fee than I had ever received before. Later, a woman who sells books at schools and conferences throughout the Midwest contacted me. She had bought Trusting God at the conference and wanted to order it and A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child for resale. I offered her a 40% discount and she bought 26 books. Last week I sent her a copy of Is Centering Prayer Catholic? for review.

If you hope to use reselling of any kind, you must price your paperback high enough that both you and the reseller can make decent money. After reading an article with this suggestion, I decided to price my book at $15.95 instead of $12.95. I now have a very good profit margin on my paperbacks. I don’t hesitate to offer the industry standard discount.

I see public speaking as similar to blogging–except you can earn money at it! You can speak about themes you are already an expert on. If they are related to your books, book sales will probably follow. Your take-home income from books you sell yourself is about double your Amazon royalty. You can decide whether or not to discount the books at events.

In the long run, public speaking can be much more lucrative than writing. Of course, I love writing and am not about to give it up. But I feel I can slow down (as soon as I finish my temperament series) and focus on selling paperbacks at events rather than always having to produce new material.

Offline promotions

Promoting my book to bookstores has been mixed. I sent a copy to a bookstore in the city we lived in for six years. Even with multiple contacts, they never gave me a final yes or no. I eventually gave up.

However, Leaflet Missal Co. in St. Paul recently promised to include Trusting God in a future catalog and perhaps in their store. They are constantly sorting through samples, so they could not give me a timeline. At both stores I offered to do a signing. It seems that neither store does this very often.

I also have a Carmelite book shop in England that wants twelve copies of Trusting God for resale. I am still figuring out the best way to work that.

With the three recent successes on resales, I am planning to contact a few more large Catholic bookstores. Smaller neighborhood stores probably would not sell enough to offset the cost of time and review copies. I will probably post about my failures or successes in a detailed post later.

One other promotion I tried that fell flat was print advertising. Last December I ran an ad (quite expensive) in The National Catholic Register’s Christmas insert. I didn’t sell a thing. A short time later I had in ad in both the print edition of Our Sunday Visitor and on the OSV website. I did sell enough to offset some of the costs, but that was it. I will not try print ads again.

Hybrid publishing

My next venture is into the world of hybrid publishing. I was approached by an editor at Emmaus Road to co-write a short book. It is now being edited and should be available some time in 2016.

Studies show that hybrid authors–those who both self-publish and traditionally publish–earn the highest income. I am hoping that this book will expand my audience, introducing new readers to my “backlist” as well. It may also help me get my self-published books in more stores and net me more media appearances.

Will I make as much this year as I did last year? The way things look now, probably not. But I have mostly been focused on writing and haven’t done as much marketing as I did this time last year. The advantage to self-publishing is that it’s never too late to try a new marketing technique. If a book does not take off right away, I can work hard on promoting it a year later and see a boost in sales. No one is going to stop printing my book if sales slump. Least of all me.

I hope you have found this series helpful. Now, in the comments, could you share some marketing techniques that have worked for you? Like everyone else, I can always learn something new. Thanks!

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Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (Part 2)

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In part one, we saw how finding your audience helps to raise the likelihood of indie success. In this post, we’ll focus on how to produce a work that sells.

If you have been able to build a good audience on your blog, you probably already write high-quality work that others want to read. But this can be a problem for many writers. They cannot seem to build their audience, even though others writing on the same subject have many subscribers.

The beauty of a blog is, it allows you to practice. Your elementary school teacher was right when she said, “Practice makes perfect.” Blogging regularly helps you refine your ideas and test them out. It gives you feedback. Listen to your subscribers. What do they like about your blog? Pay attention to the questions they ask. Are you being too vague or talking past them?

Sometimes it looks like successful authors are just “lucky.” In reality, most successful authors have lots of practice and often lots of missteps (even “failures”) in their past. In my twenties and thirties I was unable to find a traditional publisher for three novels I wrote from a Christian worldview. I set them aside and began writing nonfiction. Will I self-publish those novels some day? Maybe. But even if I don’t, the experience of writing and trying to publish them was invaluable.

Don’t expect instant success. And don’t give up.

While writing my novels, I devoured writing magazines and books from Writers’ Digest. I studied, I learned, I grew.

Revisions and edits

While we as indies know that many great books have been self-published, we also know that the stigma against indie books is not wholly unwarranted. I have started reading many books that I put down in frustration because of the poor quality. Most of the mistakes I see can be fixed by a good revision and editing process.

In writing Trusting God with St. Therese, I had the Catholic Writers Guild non-fiction critique group look over chapters, one at a time. When the manuscript was finished, four beta readers gave me their opinions. I made many changes, then turned it over to my editor.

I am blessed to be married to a nonfiction editor. But even though editing may be your greatest cost, I urge you not to pass this step by. Check out the list of Catholic editors and other service providers on our site.

My husband always has macro and micro editing suggestions. The process is painful. I complain. I nearly pull my hair out. But I also do most of the edits he suggests. My books are always much better for it.

After editing, you need to proof the book over and over. The first time, I did this myself and nearly went crazy. The second time, I paid a proofreader and was not very satisfied with the results. I think I will try a different proofreader for my fourth book. Again, it costs a little money. But you must have a well-proofed book if you want it to sell.

The importance of covers

As indies we are primarily selling our books online. If you want people to click on your book on Amazon, you need a professionally made cover. I confess I create my own covers, but I do many things to make sure they are top-quality:

  • I read about design at the book designer.
  • I buy templates from Derek Murphy.
  • I spend a few dollars for professional microstock photos.
  • I study the best covers in my genre and try to exceed them.
  • I study secular book covers.
  • I use professional fonts.
  • I use the same fonts and a consistent design and color scheme on all my covers to create my brand.

I usually design a cover early in the writing process, mostly for a change and for fun. Then later I decide I don’t like it and come up with something drastically better.

Along with good covers, consider good interior design. If you work in Word or Scrivener, book templates are handy for your paperback layout.  I designed my first paperback interior and will never do it again. Now I use templates from Joel Friedlander.

Sales copy

Some writers have a hard time writing their Amazon book description and back cover sales copy. The book description can make the sale for you, if you do it right. There are many blog posts about how to make your description work for you. This is your reader’s first taste of your writing. Get it right!

I have never had trouble with this step. If you are struggling and would like some help, I’ll write your description and sales copy for $10 per book. You just provide some basic information. Contact me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net for more details.

Sometimes mediocre books sell. But who wants to write a mediocre book? Take your time, practice, do your best work, and have it professionally edited. Then add a great cover and compelling sales copy and you’re on your way to success!

In Part 3, we’ll look at marketing for success.

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Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (Part 1)

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So, you want to be a successful indie author, but wonder if you can make decent money at it. You know that a few big-name writers do, but they write secular romance. You write fiction from a Christian worldview, or Catholic nonfiction. Can you make more than pin money?

Yes, if you are willing to learn and to work hard. My first year as a Indie Catholic  Author (not counting the year when I mostly gave away my writing), I made about $12,000 in book sales and royalties. While I can’t guarantee that you will make that much (or even that I will do that well my second year), I can tell you how I maximized my profits.

First, let’s look at what a typical author makes annually. According to the latest Digital Book World Survey:

  • Half of the writers – traditional and independent – earned $1,000– $2,999 or less.
  • Traditionally published authors made a median income of $3,000-4,999.
  • Self-published authors made a median of $500-999.
  • Hybrid authors – who have published both ways – made a median of $7,500-9,999.

Now, let’s look at some strategies to help you exceed those numbers.

Find your audience

The most important thing you can do to become a successful indie author is to identify and connect with your book’s audience. We now have a global market of readers. That means that unless you write about something extremely obscure–like Lord Brideshead’s hobby of collecting matchboxes, for example–there is probably an audience for your book.

TrustingGodwithSt.ThereseI write about Catholic spirituality for those who are serious about their faith. This is hardly a hot market! Yet I made about twelve times the median income for self-published authors my first year. In fact, I passed the annual median in my first month of being published. And I am convinced a large audience for that first book (Trusting God with St. Therese) still exists. I just have to connect with them.

However, within the genre of Catholic spirituality, I did several things to help me choose a book that would sell:

  • I started a blog and built up an email list.
  • I chose a subject I was excited about.
  • I wrote from personal experience, sharing my struggles.
  • I combined two topics popular among Catholics (St. Therese and trusting God)

Blogging is much easier for nonfiction than fiction writers. My first musings about trusting God were on my blog, Contemplative Homeschool. They began to establish me as an authority on my subject.

If you write fiction, try to find a subject you can blog about that would interest your book’s audience. Some writers make the mistake of blogging for other writers, rather than for readers. Use blogs like this one for that purpose. On your own blog, you need to connect with people who want to read books like yours.

Use a service like mailchimp to share your posts with subscribers. In order to build your subscriber list, offer a free chapter of your book, an exclusive short story, or another incentive. Make your signup form obvious. I started offering a free PDF that combined several posts on prayer, and added a pop-up signup box to my blog, in January 2014. My subscriber list began to rise steadily.

Always focus your efforts to connect with readers on your blog. Other social media should be secondary. You don’t own Facebook (unless Mark Zuckerberg is reading this ). They constantly make it harder for your “friends” to read your posts. You have little control over any social media platform. Your blog – especially if it’s a self-hosted blog – is in your hands. No one can take your audience away from you.

Studies show that the people on your subscriber list are many times more likely to buy your books than those you are connected with on social media. Put your efforts where they will help you most.

I use Facebook a lot, because that’s where most Catholics on the internet hang out. It helps me expand my reach. I also find it good for support groups. Indie Catholic Authors is on Google+. The Catholics on Google+ are largely a different crowd than those on Facebook. I chose Google+ for our community for SEO.

But no matter where I am online, I always try to get people back to my blog.

I began blogging in November 2012. In July 2013 I published my first Thimbnail-7-16-14ebook, which was only 1600 words. I wanted to offer it free, but I also wanted it to be on Amazon. So I uploaded it both to KDP and to Smashwords. On Amazon, I put the lowest price allowed $.99. I sold 1000 copies in the three months before Amazon price-matched the book. To this day, Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life is in the top 5 free ebooks in the Catholicism category and the top 10 in the Religion and Spirituality category.

Besides the unexpected money, this short ebook helped expand my reach. Thousands of people all over the world have read it. I included a link to my blog. After I published Trusting God with St. Therese, I updated the free ebook to include the introduction to it, with a buy link.

So, the lesson here is to build your audience with free material.

Guest posts and columns

At the beginning, I encourage you to link to your blog in comments on others’ blogs or in social media threads. Find a blog with a large audience that overlaps with yours and become active there.

I started commenting at SpiritualDirection.com at the beginning of 2014. I linked to a post I had done on the same subject as the article I was reading. Dan Burke, the owner of the site, read my post. In June 2014, he invited me to be a columnist.

SpiritualDirection.com is the largest Catholic spirituality blog on the internet. Well over 30,000 people subscribe (although at that time it was closer to 20,000).

I published Trusting God with St. Therese in July 2014. I had about 800 subscribers. My first post at SpiritualDirection went up a month later. It was carried on several other sites afterwards. I sold about 20 ebooks and gained many new subscribers. Today my subscriber list is over 1700.

Guest posts are also a good way to share someone else’s audience. If you and another blogger can swap guest posts, you can both gain. Of course, if the blogger you are swapping with only has 100 subscribers, your gain will be a handful at most.

Formats and distribution

Part of connecting with your audience is making it easy for them to find and buy your books. Authors are always debating whether or not their ebooks should be exclusive to Amazon. Being part of what is called KDP Select gives you higher royalties, an easier way of putting your ebook on sale, and other benefits. But, of course, it makes you dependent on one retailer.

I start each of my books in KDP Select. Your commitment is only for 90 days. Make sure you try a promotion during that time to see how it works. My first promotion for Trusting God with St. Therese was very successful. I still have that book in KDP Select. About 70% of my profits have been from the ebook.

Choleric Cover 4For A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, I found that my audience prefers paperback. I have made a paperback version for each book through Createspace. Probably 70% of the profits of this book so far (released in May) have been paperback. I just took it out of KDP Select and began distributing the ebook more widely through Draft2Digital.

Trusting God with St. Therese was released as an audiobook in April, which has made about $300 in royalties so far. I split these with my narrator. I used ACX for the audiobook and highly recommend it. Although sales have been modest, I do see an uptick when I run a promotion on my ebook.

Issue your book in all formats, if possible. I probably won’t do audiobooks for my Spiritual Growth Plan series, because the book lists and lesson plans that are an important part of the book aren’t suited to that format. But I do plan an audiobook for my third book, which was just released, Is Centering Prayer Catholic?Centering-Prayer-2-Thumbnail

Most of the work is done when you complete the ebook. Paperbacks are essential for anyone writing nonfiction or speaking at events. Audiobooks give readers one more way to find you and offer a comeback for those who say, “Your book looks great, but I don’t have time to read.”

In part 2, we’ll look at quality issues that effect your sales. Part 3 will focus on marketing.

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Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Her posts have appeared on Catholic Lane and elsewhere. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

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