Archive for Writing

Free Gift for Everyone If You Accept It

Guest Post By Wendi Warren

When I wrote my fairy tale, Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love, I did so because I wanted to write an allegorical tale of God’s love for us—for me.

Princess Grace

I wanted to show His love for us, even when we make choices that aren’t good for us. I wanted to show that He is coming to get us some day and take us back with us to His kingdom—heaven.

When I finished my story initially in 2007/2008, I shared it with a woman that I had come to respect. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) where she stands in her relationship with God. The feedback she gave me was that my story would have been better if I gave power to the princess to save herself and not have to rely on her father or brother to save her. Perhaps that is why I kept it on the shelf for so long.

The message of needing someone to save us, is not a popular one—especially in the United States. We are an independent lot. We believe we are more than capable of accomplishing anything if we just put our mind to it. Honestly, I feel this way a lot.

But when it comes to the salvation of my soul, there is nothing I can do to save myself. I must fully rely on and trust the message of the Bible.

Jesus Christ, the only son of God, came to earth as fully God and fully human to rescue me from the penalty of death, which is caused by my own willful disobedience to God’s law (i.e. sin). It is only through his death, burial and resurrection that I have hope of ever being rescued. I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. I can’t do anything to get it, except receive it as it is, a free gift from God.

So because of the free gift that God gave me, that we celebrate on Easter, this coming Sunday, I want to give my fairy tale away as a free gift. It doesn’t have the power to save you, but maybe God will use it lead you to want to know about His free gift of grace.

Editor’s Note: Wendi’s book will be offered free through Amazon’s Kindle store on Saturday and Sunday. The Amazon link to Wendi’s book is on a special page about “Princess Grace,” you can click here. In addition to the Amazon link, the page contains other blog posts about the book and a podcast of an interview with Wendi about her book.

How Does a Blogger Discover One’s Voice?

When I knew I wanted to be a writer back in the ’80s, I read a Writer’s Digest article that offered a simple path: Get an apartment in New York City, place a typewriter on your kitchen table, sit down and start writing. When you get up in 10 years, you will be a writer.

Microphone.jpg

Well, I did not get an apartment in New York and opted for a dedicated word processor (I believe it was an Amstrad sold by Sears) in 1986 and a few years later an IBM-clone. Wouldn’t you know, in about 10 years I finally got the sense that maybe I could write.

Another way of looking at this is that it took 10 years for me to find my voice in writing.

Since December 2012, I have been blogging regularly, and it is mildly discouraging that I have found neither a voice for my blogging nor my blog.

The Z Section is supposed to be about anything. I fought the urge to “specialize” and focus on a niche to give me the freedom to write about whatever caught my attention. What I have discovered is anything can be anything and sometimes anything can be too daunting so anything becomes nothing.

Will I specialize? Will I focus on a niche? Truthfully, I am not sure.

But, here is what I know:

  • I have varied interests.
  • These interests include my Christian faith,
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Family,
  • Technology,
  • Smartphones,
  • Tablets,
  • Computers,
  • Social media,
  • Leadership principles,
  • Journalism,
  • Blogging,
  • Writing,
  • Pets, and
  • so much more.

The thing is, down the road I want to write books, and I want them to focus on potential material for Sunday school classes. However, as I look over this blog, admittedly about anything, I find very little that point toward that direction.

So, you can expect more regarding faith and how it intersects with all of those things above. Perhaps there I will find my voice.

I hope it doesn’t take 10 years.

#002 Interview With Wendi Warren on her New Book [Podcast]

Wendi Warren, my wife, launched her new book, “Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love,” on Valentine’s Day, and it is now available in Amazon.com’s Kindle Store.

Wendi Warren

Wendi Warren doing voice over work at the Audio Thrills Recording Studio outside of Wooster, Ohio

I sat down with Wendi and interviewed her for the latest Zest for Life podcast to talk about her new book (a fairy tale that is not your typical fairy tale), why she decided to write it and the writing process itself.

While every author desires to have a best-seller, Wendi’s motivation is different, and she talks about it. You might be interested to hear her thoughts on that subject. Give the podcast a listen.

The book is available at an introductory rate, and you can check it out (and get to read some of it). Click here to learn more about Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love, the new book by Wendi Warren.

Hit play below to hear the interview.

Pushing to Launch Book on Valentine’s Day, Will We Make It?

One of the most exciting things I have done is to work as an “executive project manager” for my wife Wendi’s book/fairy tale about a princess who gets kidnapped and has her life hanging in the balance. Will the king find her in time? Will she be saved? Will she live happily ever after?

Deadline on castle

We are pushing to have the book ready for release on Valentine’s Day via Amazon’s Kindle store, and it has been a fun challenge bringing it to this point. Right now, all systems are go, but just like a NASA launch, we could get to T-minus 3 seconds and scrub the book’s launch. I don’t think it will happen, but it could.

Part of the challenge is that we are self-publishing the book, and I really would have it no other way. Sure, we won’t have a team of editors reading the book, but we had several friends along the way at various points of development, like Jeanine Kendle, Lydia Gehring and Linda Hall. We’ve been following the advice of Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, co-authors of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, and we even have had comments and input from both on Google+. Kawasaki, Welch and Peg Fitzpatrick have an APE Community on Google+, and the feedback from some of its 1,700+ members has been informative and helpful.

Through all of this, Wendi has been rewriting the book. (While it is a fairy tale, it is not necessarily a children’s book. It is a wonderful tale of faith, hope and love for people of all ages.)

In the final stages of the project, Linda made some insightful comments, as well as helping with some additional editing. Those comments led to another rewrite by Wendi. And, every time I edited the book, it seems there were mistakes I missed or mistakes I introduced into the copy. The editor’s oath is the same as the Hippocratic oath: Above all else, do no harm.

As Wendi was rewriting the story one more time, I told her it was wonderful to see the writing process in action. Yes, she wrote a story, but it does not mean it has to be the final word. And, it has not been. With each rewrite, the story became better and revealed more of God’s love.

Even though I have been in and around journalism since 1988, I have never seen the writing process like this. Journalism tends to be linear: You go to an event, you cover it, you come back and write your story, you send it to the editor and it gets printed in the newspaper.

But, this has been different. Questions were asked? What if the character does this? What if the princess says that? What if, what if, what if. Because this is Wendi’s story, she has to filter all of this new information in a way that is consistent with the story she set out to tell and decide if those suggestions make their way into print or not.

The title has been a struggle, and it has changed more times than I care to remember. I am not even hinting at a title here, because I am certain it will change again. We had artwork produced for the cover, and we are still up in the air as to whether it will be used.

We are excited; we are nervous; and we are tired. And, Thursday, we will know if Wendi is published. Stay tuned.

‘Bungee’ Jumping to 3.0 Soon

The story of Wendi and I finding an old, blind, deaf dog continues to spread and grow, mainly thanks to the dog’s parents.

Bungee

The basic story in a nutshell is this: Wendi and I were on our way home from Boston to Ohio, our flight was delayed, when we got back to Ohio, it was raining and snowing so it took us longer to get home and as a result, we found this dog wandering in the middle of the road on a cold, dark, wet winter night.

The dog ended up being reunited with its owners, Pam and Dave. After clearing some hurdles with the local humane society (the hurdles were policies and procedures in place to protect people’s privacy, not a bad thing), Pam and I eventually made contact.

My wife, Wendi, and I finally had a chance to meet Pam and Dave at the annual Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, and we talked and talked and talked. It was amazing to hear how this little dog, Bungee, and his story was making it all around the United States and even overseas.

Once, Wendi and I were at the First Amendment Public House, a restaurant in Wooster, and Kyle Durniat was telling us about the story, she had no idea it involved us. Another lady I go to church with said she was recently with Pam and Dave, and she did not realize I found their dog.

We recently went to visit Pam and Dave, and Bungee, in their home, along with our friend, Angie, who was ready to provide Bungee a place to live had the owners not been found. It was nice to see them and Bungee again and hear more stories about this incredible dog.

I decided to write a devotional thought about finding Bungee for our Sunday School class Christmas dinner. Everyone loved the story and encouraged me to publish it. The story was about all of the things that had to happen in order for us to find Bungee and then what Bungee taught me about God. (You can read all about it when you click here.)

I ended up publishing it via Amazon’s Kindle store, and The Gospel According to Bungy is for sale there now. (Don’t have a Kindle device? No worries. See how you can still read Kindle books here.)

The original version of “The Gospel According to Bungy” (yes, I misspelled his name) showed the story from my perspective. After the opportunity to talk with Pam and Dave there is more of the story to tell, and it will be soon.

The version offered for sale right now is the second version. I made a slight update to the original. The 3.0 version will be a major update, and everyone who purchased the book already will be able to update the story to the latest version, at no extra cost, after it is finished.

Bungee 3.0 is coming with a more complete story, a better cover and even more warmth and love. Stay tuned.

Purveyor of Words Loses Sale Due to, Well, Words

When I started this blog, I had a lot to learn about blogging, which is much more than writing thoughts down and uploading them to a website.

Words on Page

I started learning more about search engine optimization, content marketing systems, WordPress themes and marketing, in general. I was intrigued by a content marketing system offered for sale. The opening words of the promotion informed me the special price, which was a very attractive one, was only available “this week.”

I made a mental note of “this week,” and because it was early in the week, I knew I had time. I went about my business and waited until the end of the week to make my purchase.

I don’t what “this week” means to you, but it means to at least 11:59 p.m. Saturday. In the United States, Saturday is the recognized end of the week, and Sunday begins a new one.

When I jumped onto the website to transact business, the price was the original, higher one. It was not the sale price. I went back to the email to make sure I clicked the right link, and then I reread the email. Turns out, “this week” actually meant “by 4 p.m. Friday.” Our definitions did not match. The pitch used words I knew, but infused a different meaning into them.

Let me just say, I recognize I did not fully read the ad, so ultimately I am responsible for missing out on the sale. Still, the marketing material could have been written better. Namely, it could have clearly articulated the true deadline.

The company offers a content marketing system. Content is made up of several elements, including words. In this instance, those words failed — if for no one else, then at least for this sale.

When you find yourself in a position to ask others to purchase your product or service, incentives are a good way to go. Deadlines provide a good way to spur action. However, when you do, be clear with your potential customers, list the information up front and do not bury the relevant information. Also, if you are like me, read all of the information. Don’t skim.

This is important to remember, even in our everyday lives: Let people understand what is expected. There will be fewer misconceptions and more rewards.

Lessons I Learned Working with a Freelance Illustrator

When I dipped my toe into the world of publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I had no idea where it was headed. What I discovered was I landed a gig as an executive project manager on a fairy tale with a Christian message to it, so I needed to work with a freelance artist.

Princess Sketch Freelance

Actually, I began exploring all of the possibilities with publishing via KDP, and it occurred to me my wife, Wendi, had written a fairy tale that would be a good project. I had been reading Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4–Hour Workweek,” and he talked about working with freelancers through elance.com, which I decided to do.

We found an illustrator in Armenia, and we really liked her style. When we solicited bids for the project, she returned with a very reasonable price, and we came to an agreement. For us, this was an exciting time.

The project ran into some hiccups in the early stages, and I learned some things in the process. Based on my experience, here are just a few things you should consider when working with a freelance illustrator (when it is not possible to meet face-to-face):

  1. Communicate with the artist in broad terms, but clearly identify some boundaries. In sketch No. 1, this is all the direction I gave the illustrator: “A wide shot of Princess with Castle and woods in the background and the ability to use a close-up shot of the Princess.” That is exactly what was delivered, just as requested. Because this was my first time doing something like this, it would have helped if I also added: “Because this is a story with a Christian message, the princess needs to be dressed modestly.” Not fully understanding what I needed to communicate, it caused delays. I responded and told her that the neckline needed to be moved up. I used a photo editor to take her drawing, modify it and show her an example of what I wanted. This can be seen in sketch No. 2. However, leave the artist room to create and express herself or himself.
  2. Be prepared for the work flow to be interrupted due to time zone differences. Armenia is nine hours ahead of Ohio. When I am going to bed, our illustrator is waking up. When I wake up, our illustrator has finished her work for the day. There is no overlap, so if I want something changed, it is a two-day process, at minimum. To work like this, you need to recognize there is no immediate feedback or reaction. It is a process. If you are uncomfortable with this, find an illustrator in your town or the closest one you can find.
  3. When working on a project, plan for delays in the timeline: By not clearly identifying some boundaries, there were delays. One of the issues we ran into was a time when Internet service in Armenia was not optimal. This was not the fault of our illustrator. Also, after we communicated what we wanted from the original sketch, you can see in illustration No. 3 what was delivered. This was not what we asked for, however, mistakes happen. The illustrator could have been in a hurry with other things, maybe dealing with some traumatic things in life, and the result is the changes were not made. My full-time job is a reporter, and I make mistakes all of the time. Why the illustration came back wrong was not a concern to me, we are all human. Getting it corrected was, and you can see in illustration No. 4, our illustrator accommodated our wishes.
  4. Find a freelancer who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. It is important for the freelancer to understand while you will give them some latitude to be creative, at the end of the day, the project will bear your name, so it must be what you want it to be. The next time I hire a freelancer, I will articulate that I can be picky at times. It does not mean the work produced is bad or inferior, rather, I just want something else — it doesn’t work for me.
  5. Be a contractor who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. You, too, must understand that you must be flexible where possible. Do not give up your principles or values, but allow for the creative process to work. In one of the illustrations that will be in the book, we needed the princess to be shown in a work camp setting making bricks by hand. I have no idea what this scene should look like, but the illustrator came up with something, thankfully. I do not have the ability to express Wendi’s books in pictures, so I have to give up some control.

Working with a freelancer has its challenges, but understanding what they are going into the process will help provide for a better outcome. I am quite pleased with how this process is moving forward, and even with the delays, the project is still on track to be done on time. We are hoping to publish it on Kindle on our anniversary, March 4.

Stay tuned.

Kindle Fire HD 7 Continues to Score Big Here

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I purchased a Kindle Fire HD 7, and I am liking it more and more everyday. For good reason.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I remember reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about how preferred the iPad Mini over the original, larger version, saying the Mini was what the iPad should have been from the start.

Having never owned an iPad, I cannot make the same statement, but I can say this: The Kindle Fire HD 7 is what netbooks should have been all along. When my wife’s laptop became old, outdated and slow, I wanted to get her a new one. However, there was something attractive about the netbooks. At the time, I did not fully understand what they were; I just thought they were slightly smaller laptops.

Well, in a sense, they are. Netbooks are smaller than laptops. And, netbooks kind of look like laptops. But, what we discovered is a netbook is not really a laptop. A laptop is for computing, and a netbook is mainly designed to surf the Internet.

My Kindle Fire HD does just that. It surfs the web, it feasts on Amazon.com content, it plays games and it even contributes to some productivity. After I first purchased the tablet, I carried it with me sometimes. Now, unless I know I am going to be totally tied to my desk at the newspaper, it comes with me.

Why I Carry My Kindle Fire HD All the Time:

  • It turns my vehicle into a mobile university: This is the No. 1 reason why it is with me most of the time. By owning a Kindle device, I can turn on Amazon’s text-to-speech function and listen to books while I drive. I just finished reading/listening to The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (which turned out to be better than I initially envisioned). Whether I am in the Jeep five minutes or 35 minutes, I like having the option of listening to a book.
  • It keeps me up-to-date with my blog: I have a WordPress app that allows me to edit or create posts, check my site stats or do anything else I need to with my blog, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • I keep my teaching notes on it: I teach an adult Sunday School class at Parkview Christian Church, and I send all of my notes to my Kindle device. I have a study Bible loaded on the Kindle, and I keep my notes for Sunday School on it.
  • I can capture thoughts using Catch app: When you start blogging, you realize how important it is to get your ideas down. With Catch Notes, I can do that. The free app allows you to write notes, record audio notes, take photos, set up reminders and create checklists. I used it the other day to jot some ideas down for future blog posts and a future book.
  • I can move my online reading offline: With Pocket, another free app, I can be reading something on the web and save it to read later. The app works across all sorts of devices. I can be reading something on the web at home, save it to Pocket, and when I sync my Kindle Fire HD, I will get a nice, readable version of the web page. It is important to sync Pocket’s content while you have Wi-Fi access. This is immensely helpful when researching. I have been using it to aid me in writing a book for mindreaders. It is invaluable.
  • I can keep up-to-date with all of my social networks: Again, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

If you would like to purchase your own Kindle Fire HD, check out my affiliate link by clicking here. I recommend the 32 GB version because once you buy it, there is no expanding it. Might as well get the extra storage space.

The Kindle Fire HD  7 has been a great fit for me, but let me caution you by saying I made the purchase because I was an Amazon Prime member. It made sense to have a device geared toward watching the movies, TV shows and videos available for free to Prime members, getting the shipping discount from Amazon and the ability to borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you are looking for more of a computing tablet, then perhaps the iPad, iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7 are better options for you.

For me, it was the Kindle. You can see other reasons why by clicking here.

Once Upon a Time: The Story Behind the Story

Today’s blog entry is a guest post by my wife, Wendi Warren. A few years ago, she wrote, “Once Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale,” a story about a princess saved by the king with a Christian message. After being tucked away since Christmas 2008, it is in the process of being illustrated and will be available for Kindle readers in the near future.

Once upon a time … those words have always sent my mind racing to the end knowing that no matter what there would be a “Happily Ever After.”

Princess

The first illustration from Wendi Warren’s “Once Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale,” to be published soon.

I guess I was like most little girls, I dreamt of a happily ever after, because the fairy tales told me that was the way life was meant to be. Picturing myself as the princess made me feel like I was special, precious and loved.

Then I grew up. It wasn’t that my life was terrible, because it wasn’t. It was just the whole happily ever after seemed so elusive. When is “ever after”? I began wondering if that was even possible, because life can be…messy and I certainly was no princess! Was I being childish to think it was possible? The storybooks never gave the specifics, so it was up to me to fill in the blanks.

Let me say right here, that I am blessed far more than I could ever imagine. I have been given the incredible gift of being Bobby Warren’s wife, so happily is how I am going through life. But really the idea of happily ever after has been somewhat of an unattainable reality. Until I realized that I will have a happily ever after, along with anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior. He has promised a happily ever after for us all … for eternity.

So with that truth in mind, I decided to write a fairy tale that would bring these truths out in a different way. Maybe a little girl, or a little girl at heart, would see that she is indeed a princess in the eyes of the King of Kings–one who is special, precious and loved — and that a happily ever after is an attainable reality.

I’m now at the cusp of a new adventure. My princess heart is beating wildly. I’m unsure of myself. Not confident that my story will touch anyone’s heart. Concerned that I won’t be able to face criticism for being too pollyannish. Fearful that my book will sit in the recesses of Amazon and just gather dust.

But like any princess, when faced with an adventure, I am stepping out. Or in this case, maybe I’m being pushed out, by my prince charming.

Whether or not a happy ending comes from sales of my fairy tale or not, I know that eventually eternity will be upon us all, and I’ll be ready for my happily ever after.

Create Stunning Photos for Your Blog with This One, Free App

No doubt about it, interesting and engaging photos can enhance your blog. But where can you get quality photographs on a limited budget? Glad you asked.

IMAG0426 - Ivan,Paint,Black

You can get them from your smartphone and use a variety of photo apps, some free, some for a nominal fee.

For more than a year, I have nearly switched exclusively to taking my photos with my HTC ThunderBolt. The image quality of the pictures vary depending upon the available light, but when there is sufficient light, the quality is amazing.

Most of the photos that appear in The Z Section are photos I have taken and processed. It saves me a lot of money, and I do not take time out to shoot photos. I stop and pause when something captures my eye while I am out doing something else.

Start experimenting with all kinds of photos: Trees, barns, busy streets, lonely roads, storefronts, animals, everyday objects at weird angles. Start snapping photos and processing them with the app of your choice, but today I want to recommend one that has served me well, and it is free! Did I mention it is free?

Read more