New Book and New Song: Restoring Virtue and “Nearer, My God, to Thee”

 

Back in the spring, Emily Hope approached me about designing a cover and doing some formatting for a book she was working on. We’ve been working together ever since on this lovely, inspiring project.

What a privilege it has been!

(Emily also asked me to arrange a hymn mentioned in the book, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” This is a companion to her book and has become my new favorite hymn. The words and melody are gorgeous! More info below the interview.)

Emily’s book is now published and available. It’s called:

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Restoring Virtue Front CoverRestoring Virtue: A Testimony of Healing Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

For Victims of Sexual Abuse

LINKS:  Website | Facebook | Amazon | CreateSpace 

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REBECCA: What is this book about and who can it help?

EMILY: Restoring Virtue is about how I was able to access the Atonement as a way to recover from the effects of childhood sexual abuse. How I changed a traumatic experience into a life full of blessings, happiness, and service. Essentially, this book is my testimony of God’s love, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and every other good and correct principle.

This book is not about standard treatments such as counseling, medication, or other common resources. It could be for someone who has explored standard treatments, but still feels like something is missing. Really, my book is for anyone who contemplates their relationship with God and is open to hearing how someone else experiences His presence.

REBECCA: I felt this as I read your story–that it is for more than just those who have been haunted by childhood abuse. It’s really a story of growth and spiritual healing. It’s beautiful.

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What prompted you to tell your personal story?

EMILY: Two years ago, a combination of events aligned perfectly causing me to see my life with more honesty and clarity. My book describes these events in detail and how writing my story influenced the final step in my healing process.

The still small voice, just a whisper, planted the desire to write my testimony. The more I wrote the stronger this prompting became until it consumed my thoughts. I had to write. I had to get it out. I felt like Parley P. Pratt when he described reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. “I [wrote] all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred [writing] to sleep. As I [wrote], the spirit of the Lord was upon me … My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life.”

Ultimately, I wrote my story so God may speak to another one of His children through my words. So other victims of abuse may experience hope.

REBECCA: And how glad I am that you did. Unfortunately abuse, specifically sexual abuse, affects more people than anyone would ever care to imagine. One statistic says that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. That number is disturbing and disgusting. And yet, I believe it. I know too many friends and loved ones whose lives have been traumatized by abuse. How wonderful that you’re willing to talk about it and share your healing.

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Why an orchid on the cover? Tell us about its significance.

EMILY: The orchid on the cover is a symbol of my healing process coming to a close.

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Emily’s Orchid

I experienced a tender mercy when a spike emerged from the orchid sitting on my kitchen windowsill the same week I began writing my story. It grew as my story grew, as if being fed by my testimony. After a period of blooming, it then died the week my story was complete. Like the orchid stores up its energy to bloom from beneath the ground, my testimony grew from the darkest trials to become something beautiful, something new, and bright.

Traditionally the orchid symbolizes love, beauty, strength, wealth, and protection. The spots are sometimes used to symbolize the blood of Christ and a new beginning.

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REBECCA: Can you share a favorite quote/scripture/excerpt from your book?

EMILY: My favorite quote is from Elder Richard G. Scott, may he be at peace. He sums up the process in a few short words. “Love is a potent healer.” When you understand the meaning of true love, you hold the key to the mysteries of God.

Excerpt: 

“Each time I was blessed with God’s love, whether in small or significant ways, a little piece of my heart was healed. It could have just been a comforting feeling, a blessing, a prompting from the Spirit, a scripture I read, or one of the more significant moments when God’s grace pulled me out of the darkness. With each piece my heart was restored not to its original form, but to a new form God had created. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). I did not become the person I always yearned for, a flawed version of perfection, but the person God wanted me to be, the daughter He had thoughtfully gifted with eternal qualities.

“In each healing moment I learned something new and took another step towards God and towards becoming united with Him.”

REBECCA: Thanks for sharing. (See what I mean by beautiful?) This book is filled with quotes from church leaders and the scriptures, plus Emilisms, little truths Emily has come to know. I love that.

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Do you plan to write more in the future?

EMILY: I won’t be writing any more books. However, I will continue writing on my blog (Restoring-virtue.com) as inspiration strikes. For spiritual insights and growth taking place beyond the pages of my book.

REBECCA: Thank you again for sharing, Emily! I know your book will be a help and comfort to those who struggle!

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IMG_0555ABOUT EMILY: I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. I love cold weather, which is why I live in the beautiful state of Alaska. I love biking, picking berries in the wild Alaskan frontier, discount movies with my best friend, sharing spiritual experiences with my children, and the comfort of my husband’s hugs. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My life is blessed in more ways than I can count.

And if you have any questions or thoughts for Emily, make sure to comment below.

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And now a little about the hymn mentioned in Restoring Virtue. This is Hymn #99 in the LDS Hymns, and is not very well-known. But just read the words and you’ll fall in love with it, too.

“NEARER, Dear Savior, TO THEE,” ARRANGED BY REBECCA BELLISTON

Available in: Piano Solo | SSATTB

Nearer, Dear Savior Cover Piano Solo

Nearer, dear Savior, to thee, nearer, nearer to thee–
Ever I’m striving to be nearer, yet nearer to thee!
Trusting, in thee I confide; hoping, in thee I abide.

(Chorus)
Take, oh, take, and cherish me,
Nearer, dear Savior, to thee.

Nearer, dear Savior, to thee, nearer, nearer to thee–
Proved by my trials, I’ll be nearer, yet nearer to thee!
Humbly I come to thee now; earnest, I prayerfully bow.

Nearer Cover SSATTB(Chorus)

Nearer, dear Savior, to thee, nearer, nearer to thee–
Let me by holiness be nearer, yet nearer to thee!
When all my trials are done, when my reward I have won,

(Chorus)

  • LISTEN: Audio
  • BUY: Piano Solo | SSATTB 
  • FREE DOWNLOAD: I’ll be offering both the Piano Solo and SSATTB versions for FREE to my email newsletter subscribers tomorrow, so if you’d like to get either version for FREE, sign up here.

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Thanks again, Emily, for the chance to work on this project!

Questions for Emily? Comment below.


 

 
Continue reading “New Book and New Song: Restoring Virtue and “Nearer, My God, to Thee””

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Writing a Book” is SO Much More Than Writing the Actual Book

As an author and composer, I feel like I’m running a small business. But I’m the only employee.

Sounds weird, right?

But I am the:

  • author/composer
  • editor
  • publisher
  • marketer/publicist
  • cover designer
  • interior formatter
  • social media strategist (and implementer)
  • website manager
  • accountant
  • and who knows what else I’m forgetting.

Sometimes I hire these things out, but most of the time it’s just me putting on many different hats. Some hats fit me well. Others . . . I need A LOT of help with.

For many authors today, this is the the case. Luckily for me, I love all of it!

If you’re interested in writing (which so many people tell me they are), I just wanted to make you aware that “writing a book” is SOOOOO much more than writing the actual book.

The actual “writing” part for me is maybe 10% of my time.

Even if you get a publisher and literary agent, a lot is still expected of you as the author. Which is fine and great and fun, I just didn’t realize all of this before I started writing. I wasn’t sure if you were aware either. :)

(If you ever have a question about any of the process, email me. I’ll try to help.)

Writing A Book

MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson

March Book Madness

Welcome to the first day of March Book Madness 2014!

If you’re wondering, March Book Madness has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with books. My hubby and kids are huge sports nuts, so we do the whole March Madness basketball bracket thing every year. But. I’m a huge book nut, so this is my third year celebrating National Reading Month with March Book Madness.

This year we have 12 guest authors who will discuss everything book-ish on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in March. (Schedule at the bottom of this post.)

I’m super excited to kick it off with my sweet, talented friend, Danyelle Ferguson, talking about book covers and the characters within. So I’ll let her take over.

MBM: Our Connections to Book Covers, by Danyelle Ferguson

Danyelle Ferguson:

It happens to every one of us — readers and authors alike. We see a book cover, check out the character images on the front and decide if it’s worthy of picking up for a closer look or if it will be passed up.

But what makes us pick it up?

Continue reading “MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson”

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Seems like everyone has a smart phone these days, which means more and more people are viewing websites on very tiny screens with a million finger smudges. If people look at your website, how does it look that small?

What is a mobile-friendly website?

A mobile-friendly website takes a normal website and simplifies it, or rather, it redesigns it so the width fits a mobile (small) screen. I’m a visual learner, so I’ll show you what I mean.

Here’s a snapshot of what my website looks like on a computer screen:

Mobile Website

Here’s what it might look like on a mobile device:

Mobile

That’s a whole lot of finger scrolling (ie, new smudges) for my mobile-device friends. Up, down, even sideways scrolling. For the casual reader, it’s too much work.

But there’s another option.

With a little effort on my part, I now have a mobile-friendly site:

Mobile phone

The whole thing is formatted for the smaller screen, which makes a world of difference in scrolling. Plus, all my navigation is right where I need it.

Here’s another example, since I just did the same thing for my dad’s site.

How do you make a mobile-friendly website?

There are many ways. Many blogs themes have mobile-responsive themes (they’ll change depending on the device). Most web design platforms (including Wix, which is the one I use) also has options so you can design a mobile-friendly site. 

The gist

Someone has probably researched how many people get their information on a hand-held device versus a computer screen now. It’s a lot. Maybe even you’re reading this post on a small, smudged screen. Cool. I hope the WordPress folks formatted it well for you.

(UPDATE 8/24/15: Google now ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in searches than non. So…yeah.)

We have the world at our fingertips — literally. We’ve become an impatient set of humans. People visiting our sites want information as fast as possible. If they don’t get it, they’ll shrug and leave. Let’s get them the information as easily as possible.

So…if you have a website, make sure you also have a mobile-friendly site. 

So my amazing readers, have you gone mobile-friendly? If so, how did you do it? Anything I forgot to mention? Please share here.

is your website mobile-friendly- (1)

6 Sites For Authors To Make An Online Presence

Trying to create an author ‘platform’ has been daunting. The word itself is daunting. Platform. What the heck does a platform have to do with writing? I don’t know, so I won’t use it. Rather, I’ll call it creating an online presence.

No one told me where to be as a new author. The possibilities are endless. It was tempting to shrink back and hope readers would find me just because I’ve written the most amazingly awesome book ever! :) But, thankfully, I’m curious enough about new things that I decided to take the leap and jump in.

I jumped in big time.

I’ve tried many different websites, social networks, and even online bookstores to see where I reach the largest audience. Different websites attract different viewers, but obviously I didn’t have the time to be everywhere all the time. No one does. So I’ve worked to maximize my output while minimizing my effort.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

I have six suggested sites you should join if you are an author. At the bottom of each suggestions is the main audience the site reaches (so far as I can tell).

  • (NOTE: This list is obviously just my opinion. You don’t have to do what I say. )
  • (If you have any thoughts to add, PLEASE do. There are a thousand ways to skin a chicken, or a cat, or whatever the morbid phrase is. Share your ideas below.)

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6 Author MUST-HAVE Sites

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1) Website 

Have a website. Seriously. We live in the internet age. If you’re hoping to reach any reader under the age of 80, you need to have an internet presence.

A website is the BARE minimum.

If you have the skills (or are willing to acquire them), create your own. There are plenty of hosting sites that let you create a site for less than $10 a month (some are even free). Most have great designs to choose from. I use Wix.com and have been quite happy with it.

If you don’t have the skills or time to design your own website, hire it out. It’s worth it. First impressions matter, so don’t think you can scrimp on style and make up for it with your fabulous writing.

Everyone judges a book by its cover — those that say they don’t are lying. In this case, the book is your website, not your book. :) So make it professional.

Your website should include:

  1. Links to your books
  2. Your bio
  3. Contact info
  4. Links to other places you’re on the web (facebook, blog, twitter).

But be organized. Everything in that list above should be easy to find. Just because you happen to have accounts on twenty different sites doesn’t mean you should list all twenty in a row.

Then keep your website updated. Seriously. Seriously, seriously. It’s a pet peeve of mine to wander onto someone’s site to read out about their newest book and there’s no latest book listed.

If you don’t care enough to have up-to-date info on your books, why should I?

  • Website main audience: Anyone on the internet

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2) Blog

(Some authors use their blog as their website. That’s fine as long as it provides all the pages and links a good website needs to have.)

A blog is the best place for people to sample your writing style and personality.  It’s also where you talk more in-depth about your writing adventures, editing woes, and any upcoming events. If people enjoy your blog, chances are they’ll read your book(s).

Some popular blogging hosts are Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr.

I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress. I can’t say which I like better.

Once you have your blog created, make sure you have a feedburner.com set up. RSS. It’s an easy way to make your blog more versatile. But then, don’t stop there. Start following other blogs. And don’t be a silent follower either. Weigh in on their posts, laugh, or just let them know you appreciate what they’ve shared.

Blogging is a powerful way to network in the writing community, especially for up-and-coming authors. I’ve met some amazing authors in the blogging world, people I now consider my friends even though we’ve never met in person. So get out there. Have fun.

  • Blog main audience: other authors and avid readers

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3) Facebook 

Again, if you’re hoping to attract readers in any age category less than 80, I would strongly suggest getting a facebook account. Most people (as much as 80% of US internet users) are on facebook. It’s a great way to reach out to the casual reader.

There are at least two ways to handle facebook as an author.

Option #1:

Use your personal account to double as your public account. Meaning, anyone can “friend” you and see what’s on your wall. There is even an option to “Follow” a personal page. In a way, this is the simplest way to do it.

The problem comes if you have reservations about the world seeing your personal stuff — which you should.

Thankfully, there are ways to make things private vs. public, even on your personal account. I know several authors who do this quite well.

The bottom right hand corner of your posts has a drop-down menu that lets you choose who will see your post/picture/link. If you only want your closest friends and family seeing the picture of you sunburned in a skimpy bathing suit on the beach in Hawaii, just designate it for friends when you post. Anything author-ish can be made ‘public.’

To me, this is still too much invasion of my (and my family’s) privacy. Or maybe it’s just too much work. So I’ve chosen the other option.

Option #2: Create an facebook author page

Pages are free and easy to set up, and it uses your same facebook login to keep life simple. Once you have an author page, it’s easy enough to switch between your personal and public page in the upper right hand corner (another drop down menu that says, “Use Facebook as…).

Not only is an author page a great place to post news, links, and pictures for my followers, it also allows my family and friends, who aren’t necessarily the most enthusiastic fans of my book, to avoid constantly hearing about it. I post maybe one in twenty book-related posts on my personal wall.

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(Does that make sense?)

One last note on facebook pages. Because I have an author page, I changed my privacy settings on my personal page. Now people can’t find my private account unless they’re a friend of a friend.

*demonic laugh*

Just kidding.

I did this so when people go to facebook looking for Rebecca Belliston the author, they won’t end up finding Rebecca Belliston, the frazzled mother/wife/homemaker/crazy-lady-next-door.

  • Facebook main audience: anyone on facebook (nearly 80% of US internet users)

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4) Twitter 

Twitter is a beast that took me some time to love. But I love it now.

Personally, I think Twitter is in its early stages of popularity, where facebook has leveled out. For now, my posts on Twitter are mostly seen by other authors and public figures. Not many casual readers. But that’s okay.

Since networking is important to me, Twitter is great. I love chatting with cool people.

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Plus I love the immediacy of Twitter.

When the fire broke out on the mountain behind my parents’ house, I heard about it first on Twitter. Of course, I called my parents to make sure they were okay. They were, but they were busy scrambling to pack up their house. I was stuck 1600 miles away, helpless. So for the next two hours I watched the live progression as people snapped fire photos on their phones and uploaded them to Twitter instantly.

Twitter is better than the news.

  • Twitter main audience (at least for now): more established authors, other public profiles, and teens

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5) Amazon’s Author Central

I didn’t know this existed until a few months after publication of Sadie. Since then, I’ve used it regularly.

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Amazon’s Author Central lets you, the author, control things about your book on Amazon. Synopsis. Editorial reviews. Not only that, but you can track the sales week to week (not all, but some).

It also lets you link your blog and twitter accounts to your Amazon author page.  Even if you are not a fan of Amazon, the reality is it is the world’s largest online retailer, as well as one of the largest book sellers.

So get an account set up, and maximize the info on there.

  • Amazon main audience: book buyers

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6) Goodreads

My last suggestion is to become a Goodreads Author. Goodreads is a website for readers to rank books they’ve read, as well as share favorite books with their friends.

Many authors don’t enjoy reading the negative reviews on Goodreads. Quite frankly, neither do I. However, what better place for an author to be than surrounded by a bunch of readers?

Goodreads has some great features for registered authors, including the ability to add videos, events, quotes, or even linking it to your blog.

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  • Goodreads main audience: avid, book-loving readers

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Those are my six suggestions.

Being in so many places can feel overwhelming. But if you set it up correctly, it’s actually easy and fast.

For example, after I publish this post, I’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and probably Pinterest just by clicking the options at the bottom of this post. That takes me less than a minute. Then, because I’ve set it up to do so, this post will automatically show up on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.

Basically, I write one post here and share it six places, reaching all those different audiences in less than a minute.

Easy as pie.

You might think it’s redundant. It’s not. At least not completely. Many of my followers only follow me in one spot. My blog followers aren’t always facebook or twitter followers. People have their preferred method of getting information. I’m trying to make it most convenient for them.

One last note:

Because it’s possible to be in so many places at one time, try to be consistent.

I use the same picture of me on EVERY site. I use the same color scheme when I’m allowed. You might recognize yourself everywhere you go, but your readers will get whiplash if you and your designs are different site to site.

The only thing that isn’t entirely consistent site to site is my bio. I tend to change that up depending on the audience.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What are yours?

What sites do you love? Which do you hate? Which are a waste of time? Which are easy to use? I say this often, but I learn something new everyday in the writing community. So if you have more ideas, please share!.

6 websites for authors to create an online

8 Steps to Create Visually-Appealing Blog Posts

The Importance of White Space

I took a graphic design class in college that talked about the importance of white space.

  • White space is the area of a page (post, letter, document) without graphics or writing

It doesn’t have to be white either. Just empty. The extra space below this sentence is white space.

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As I browse the internet and read different blogs, one thing I notice is a lack of white space. People have so much knowledge they’re excited to share, they often cram it into one tiny little space, as if they’re trying to save virtual paper.

Why is that bad?

  1. It’s not real paper. No trees will be hurt if you spread things out. “Don’t waste paper” and “Save the planet” don’t apply here.
  2. If a reader opens a visually overwhelming page on a day they already feel overwhelmed, they’ll think, “I really don’t have time to be on the internet,” and they’ll close your post.

Not good.

On the flip side . . . popular blogs seem to offer their readers some breathing room within their posts. It’s as if they’re saying, “Sit down, relax, and stay awhile.” The reader doesn’t even know why they’re still reading when it seems like they already know this stuff. But trust me, the presentation is as important as the words themselves. 

So how is it done?.

8 Easy Ways to Create Visually-appealing Blog Posts

1. Use short sentences. Short paragraphs.

Forget your English teachers. Blogs need this more than the average writing. One author I follow rarely uses more than two sentences per paragraph, which makes his posts skimmable. That might not sound like the goal, but it is.

2. Put extra space between graphics or paragraphs.

Just adding an extra space or two can highlight your point.

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3. Include pictures in your post.

We all like pictures, plus a graphic is required if someone wants to ‘pin’ your post to Pinterest for later reference. Another goal.

Pinterest

4. Use headings.

Change the font size. Go bold sometimes, or use the occasional italics. If the average reader spends five seconds on your site, what do they see?

5. Once your post is written, zoom way out and blur your eyes.

Is there enough white space, enough breathing room? Then readjust and split paragraphs as needed.

6. Use bullets or numbered lists.

People love these, and it adds natural white space.

7. Try a different color.

Though it’s technically not white space, it still catches the eye. 

8. Watch others.

Notice how other bloggers maximize white space to minimize the strain on your eyes.

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Conclusion

In just a few steps you’ll attract more readers without changing any content. Sounds easy enough, right?

It is..

  • I could show you how this post looks like without the white space, but you wouldn’t want to read it anyway. :)
  • This white space concept flows into writing books as well. Depending on the age of your reader, you’ll need more white space. Middle grade readers, for example, need more white space than an adults..

What tricks have you used to make your posts (articles, letters, etc.) visually appealing? What have you seen others do?

,8 steps to create visually appealing blog