Author Jenifer Jennings

Today I welcome another author Jenifer Jennings. My questions are the same as I asked Gail last week her answers are quite different.  Although she is not a jubilee writer  we do share our love for Word Weavers. A critique group that dramatically effected my writing. So, be inspired and check out the giveaway link at the bottom. Jenifer Jennings Head Shot

Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

I always enjoyed English and Language Arts in school, but it wasn’t until High School that I enjoyed the creative process of writing for myself. Most of my senior year was spent writing poetry. It became the escape from reality I needed.
When I entered college, writing was put on the backburn. There were just too many psychology papers to write and too few hours in the day. After two years, I switched colleges and majors. Writing made its way back into my life through Creative Writing classes and studying the Bible. The more I studied God’s Word, the more it made me curious about the real people behind the stories. What were they like? How did their cultural shape their life style? Why did they make the choices that they made?

Soon after graduating, I joined my first writers group. There, I learned about sharing my ideas and building a strong support network of other writers. The leader introduced me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. I had never written that much in such a short amount of time. My group leader suggested I start easy by writing short stories for my first challenge instead of focusing on an entire novel. I spent one month planning and researching each short story. When November came, I wrote 50,001 word in 13 days. That experience lit a fire in my soul. I wanted to make writing a priority in my life. I cleaned up those short stories and they became “The Hope Chest.” I never thought my writing would be good enough for a traditional publishing house, so I decided to start my self-publishing journey with that book. Jenifer Jennings The Hope Chest Cover

Sadly, that writers group was forced to disband. I still keep in contact with a few of them and I know they are always there for me. A few years ago, I found Word Weavers. We have local chapters that meet regularly for critique sessions. The organization also hosts retreats through the year where all the members can come together in one place to fellowship, encourage, critique, and be inspired.
As my life has roller-coastered up and down, I’ve found ways of making writing more of a priority. After a short absence from writing, I got the guts to submit a short story to a publishing house. To my shock and delight, they placed my story in an anthology. It was the motivation I needed to get back to writing.
Since publishing my first novel in 2011, I’ve self-published a collection of the poems I wrote in High School, a two-week devotional on the women in the Bible, and a Biblical Fiction novel about Rahab.
Writing has been a wonderful journey and I feel I’m only just beginning. It helps me feel closer to God because writing Biblical Fiction forces me to continually go back to the Bible for inspiration and research. I want to come alongside others on their journey of faith to encourage them and show them the God of the Bible

.What is your latest published project?
I released “Crimson Cord” in January of this year. It’s a Biblical Fiction novel about Rahab from the book of Joshua. Rehab’s story has always fascinated me. I really wanted to get into her sandals and find out why she made the choices she made.

Jenifer Jennings Real Women Cover

How do you research for your books?

For “Crimson Cord”, and my other Biblical Fiction novels, I always start with the Biblical account itself. I read the passage, study commentaries, and draw out event timelines. I want it to feel real to the reader and for it to be familiar enough to really draw them into the story. My goal is to stay as close to the original story as possible with historical and fictional details added for enhancement. I do love it when someone finishes one of my books and then says, “It made me go back and read the Biblical story.” Getting people to go searching for God in His Word makes my heart happy.

What inspired you to write your book?

“Crimson Cord” came from studying the book of Joshua. Many times, preachers and teachers gloss over Rahab’s story. The focus is on Joshua and the Israelites and she gets swept up in their story. I wanted to give her a story. I wanted readers to see the world from Rahab’s perspective and give a possible backstory to her life. The very first chapter I wrote came when I was listening to the song “Whom Shall I Fear?” by Chris Tomlin. There is this moment when Rahab sees the angel army that is standing guard at Jericho before the Israelites arrive. Every time I hear the line, “The God of angel armies is always by my side,” I can feel Rahab looking down on the sand and seeing the army of God coming to fight for her. It gives me goosebumps.    Jenifer Jennings Crimson Cord Cover

 When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

It’s only been the last few years that I’ve really realized my calling to write. When I sit down to write, I can feel everything in my being shouting, “Yes! This is what you are supposed to be doing.” Honestly, I believe when God knits us together, He puts something in each person that is their absolute passion. When you find it, it feels like everything else falls into place. Writing is that for me.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

My favorite verse is Hebrews 11:6 which says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In Bible College, one of my favorite classes was studying the book of Hebrews. I love some many of the lessons I learned in that class, but when I came to this verse it really resonated with me. My writing goal is to encourage people in their walk of faith. I want to inspire them to diligently seek after God.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

If I could tell my younger self something about writing, it would be, “Keep writing, even when life gets hard. Writing is part of who God made you and you need to keep doing it.”

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My biggest support system is a combination of my husband and my local Word Weavers chapter. My husband has always been a big supporter of my writing. Before we got married, he only finished one book in his life, “The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper. Since being married, he has read everything I’ve ever written. He is the first eyes on any of my projects and he is a great grammar editor. My fellow Word Weavers are great at critiquing my work and letting me bounce ideas off them. Knowing that I’ve got a meeting coming up in which they expect to see what I’m working on is a great motivator.

Jenifer Jennings Soul Sparks Cover

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

When I get to read for relaxation, I read Christian Fiction. I also read a lot of commentaries. They are great for research, but I enjoy reading them for fun too. Call me quirky. Likewise, I’m constantly reading the Bible for encouragement, inspiration, and to grow in my personal walk with God.

Where is your favorite place to write?

When we moved into our new house, there was an empty alcove in the living room that my husband asked the builders to leave bare. Months later, he surprised me with plans to build a writer’s desk. He tailored it entirely for me. It has everything I need to create my novels. When I sit at the desk, I get into writing mode. It’s become my favorite place to write.

Bio:
Jenifer Jennings is a Christian author. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and is a member of Word Weavers International. Jenifer uses her writing to grow closer to her Lord. She desires that, through her work, God would bring others into a deeper relationship with Himself. Between studying and writing, she is a dedicated wife, loving mother of two children, and lives in North Florida.

Links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jeniferjenningsauthor

Twitter: @authorjenifer

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkNIF7y1dIbBzzEZjov5i8Q/playlists (I make playlists for each of my books.)

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenifer_jenning/

Personal Website: www.jeniferjennings.com

Order Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jenifer-Jennings/e/B006M2NSUE

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Jenifer+Jennings?_requestid=1303833

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Jenifer%20Jennings&fcsearchfield=Author

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/jenifer-jennings/id1146332011?mt=11

Sign up for Jenifer’s reader list: http://www.jeniferjennings.com/reader-list-sign-up

Jenifer is  participating in a large giveaway May 29th -June 2nd through LitRing.com.  Here is the information:

Unicorns vs. Dragons: May 26th-June 2nd

How to Enter: The website page shows all the available ways to earn points. Pick a team and earn points. Unicorns vs. Dragons. Jenifer Jennings is on #TeamUnicorn !!!

Prizes: At the end of the week, one winner from the team with the most points will be randomly chosen and gets to choose between a Kindle Fire or a 5-month subscription to Bookish Box (valued at $200). One person from the other team will get the prize that is left. Win-Win. Plus, one author from the winning team gets a promo package from LitRing. Win-Win-Win!

What part of Jenifer’s interview did you find the most inspiring?

Writers Need a Marketing Budget

calculator-1464008_1280Marketing tip #3 Budget

This is not a fun subject to talk about. Have a budget. I am focusing on doing as much free marketing as I can for my new novel.  Free is always good. But to reach more readers, I am going to have to spend money. Gone are the days where the publisher paid for all the marketing. My budget is small so I am going to be very careful where I place those funds. Every publisher has their own list of what that is so I won’t elaborate here.  If you are self-publishing then all the expenses of the book fall on you. A budget is even more crucial for self-pubs to stay on track with what needs to be done.

Free marketing

Facebook, twitter, and other social media are free forms of marketing. Just don’t make every post about your book. There’s an 80-20 rule. 80% of your posts is about other things; your characters, your setting, funny things, memes and photos, other author’s books, promoting other people’s endeavors and 20% talking about your new release and buy my book posts.

Word of mouth is free advertising. Encourage your friends, family and launch team to spread the word.

Costs

Marketing cost may consist of launch party giveaways, both virtual and live parties, bookmarks, postcards, flyers, ads. Other possible investments might be craft fair table fees and book trailers. Video trailers are becoming very popular but may not fit your budget.

Marketing never stops

I will need to continue to market after the initial sales. Funds from a portion of the sales must go toward ongoing marketing budget. Authors are in business. So, I better not use every dime of my royalties for household needs or a vacation.  A percentage must stay in the bank.

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Once that first book is out I will need to continue producing more books because the possibility of that one book becoming a best seller giving me millions of dollars is highly unlikely. So, I’ll need to budget funds for editing and advertising for those upcoming projects as well.

Test the waters

If one form of marketing doesn’t get me the results I desire, I’ll try another. I’ve been advised not to invest more than I am comfortable losing on any new method. Test the waters with the smallest possible investment. If I’m happy with the results I’ll invest more.

If your income exceeds your output, you are a success.

Don’t know what is a reasonable budget? Refer to my marketing tip #3. Ask author’s with good sales figures what they have done.

Final thought

No amount of budgeting will work if your manuscript is not well-written. Always make craft your number one goal. That said. Even a well-written manuscript won’t sell if it is not marketed well. Writing and marketing go hand in hand.

What kind of budget is working for you?

Where are your budgeted marketing dollars being the most effective?

Because I am new at this too I’d appreciate comments from readers about their experience.

 

 

 

 

Me and My Email Inbox Need Help

stuffed-email

I’m making a true confession here today. I love email. I get a certain thrill when I open my inbox and find lots of missives for me. However, so many of them are not worth my time. But I don’t know that until I open it. Therein lies my problem. Too many open emails.publication4

I was patting myself on the back a few weeks ago, I reduced my email from over a thousand to under 300.  I created a few new email folders to hold some of those remaining emails. My Word Weavers and writing business emails have their own folder. At the start of a new year I’m battling email glut again.

I need that

I realize I have this bad habit of saying WOW! What cool information. I’d better hang on to that email. Sometimes I turned the email into a word document and put it in my writing tips file in Word, or I print it off to peruse and underline later. The goal: to delete the original. Most of the time I leave the open, barely read emails hanging out in my inbox. They get shoved further and further down my ever-growing line of daily emails.

screen-shot-of-inbox

Lots of writing blogs

I subscribe to almost a dozen writing blogs. I don’t need to keep those emails. Each of these blogs has an archive. So, that awesome information is saved in cyberspace on their blog. I can mark those blogs as favorites on my server page and access the blog’s archives when I want to reread it. But alas I don’t.

Hitting the thousand-mark got laughter from my hubby who seldom remembers to delete old emails. And I’m always giving him grief about it.

open-email

Notice the file icons to the left. You can create your own files for various work or personal needs and title them. Just click and drag the email into the file area.

Got to organize

I use Gmail. It has ways for me to organize my email into files and refer back to it whenever I want. Most emails apps have ways to create files and mark your messages by importance. You can also type in the name of the sender, rather than trawl through all those old emails. Then all those sender’s emails appear, making it easier to find a special email I may need. My only excuse is procrastination

After cleaning out my email, I’d say I eliminated about 95 percent. Either advertising upgrades for programs I have, old news about contests, publications etc., that are no longer relevant and quick emails from friends about things that are long past were all tossed into the trash. The previous referred to blog archives played heavily in my deleting decision. And any messages I just couldn’t bear to part with also were placed in a file marked important.

 

Prepare ahead

My revelation for the need for a daily organization always comes at times when I’m desperately looking for that one email from my agent or an editor. It would be so much easier if I would immediately delete junk and prioritize those I don’t have time to look at right away.

Saying that brought DiAnn Mills to mind. She has a spreadsheet for everything. Perhaps if I made a spreadsheet with the reference to the blog post I can’t live without. Great idea! I could have a column for the topic, the specific blog, and the date it posted. I could click on the blog address and then search by date. Tah Dah! I’ll have to think on that a bit. I’m not the spreadsheet officinato DiAnn and my husband are. Unfortunately, I tend to make a spreadsheet and forget I did. *sigh*

silly-email

Delete unneeded email immediately.

 Be more efficient and declutter

Keeping your email box cleaned out and filed saves hours of time, confusion, and frustration. What a welcome relief that would be.

During the time I took to empty my email, I had this needling feeling I deleted something I shouldn’t have. But it’s too late now. Another reason I should do this once a week. Who remembers what’s in months-old emails?

Next, I emptied the trash file after I was done deleting. It is gone forever. I lack the skills of the computer nerd who knows how to retrieve emails from those dark places of no return. So, I must determine to have no regrets.

Avoid rereading

I also realized I feel a deep need to open every email. This same need compels me to reread every single email before I delete it. That was a key problem that started the whole mess in the first place.

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Temptation, temptation, temptation

Then there is the temptation to read all those emails when I’m not in the mood to write just yet. Hours later I no longer have time to write. Another reason to keep it clean every day. There is no monetary gain unless a contract is buried somewhere in those old missives.  I want to get paid for my writing so I need to spend more time putting words on paper and sending out queries than weeding through mountains of forgotten emails.

Starting today while 2017 is still fresh. I’m going to try to do a better job. I’m not holding my breath, though. There is way too much interesting information coming into my inbox.

How are you with your email management?

Please tell me how you manage your emails. I’d love to learn from my readers.

Add Persistence to Your Writing Toolbox

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

~Octavia Butler

 

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No matter what persist at your writing task. Do what is necessary to reach your goals.

 

 

After running across this quote I looked up the word persist online.  Webster’s definition is powerful.

Persist:  to go on resolutely or stubbornly despite opposition, importunity, or warning

 2: obsolete:  to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position

3:  to be insistent in the repetition or pressing of an utterance (as a question or an opinion)

4:  to continue to exist especially past a usual, expected, or normal time.

goodyear

 

What a great tool to have in our writer’s toolbox. The definition reminds me of the inventor Charles Goodyear. A self-taught chemist, who used up all his financial resources, spent every waking moment and sacrificed his family in order to create vulcanized rubber. After years of failed experiments, he found the right formula when his concoction overheated and boiled over. The rubber that spilled on the top pf the stove is the basis for modern rubber used in tires, rain boots, watertight seals and hundreds of other products.

I am not advocating abandoning family in pursuit of publication. But his persistence is a measuring stick to encourage us all to keep pressing in.

Persistence is an attribute every successful author has. I know of none who wrote their first draft, published it and made millions. Even debut authors who hit the best-seller list took years writing. Not to mention, rewriting and shoveling out piles of disgusting prose to reshape their words into the masterpiece the public reads.

Our first draft is our babies. They can’t stand on their own. Too many adjectives, weak verbs and head hopping to make smooth transitions from scene to scene.

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Be persistent in maturing your newborn novel for publication.

 

Even final drafts, whether that is three or thirty go through rewrites based on the publisher’s requests. Persistence helps us read that manuscript one more time and find a creative way to satisfy the publisher.

As 2016 winds down and 2017 is just days away I think persistence is going to be my go-to attitude in every aspect of my writing life. Persistent in my time-management. Persistent in meeting deadlines. Persistent in continuing to learn the craft and in paying it forward as I promote other authors. Persevering in my marketing and finding opportunities to promote my work. (Not my strong suit.)

How about you? Is persistence something you’ve embraced or are you still working on it?

Six Tips to Keep Your Reviews on Amazon

reading-booksHave you had a review pulled from Amazon and wondered why? I mean grandma should be allowed to give a review. Let me share the rules Amazon has that could get your review pulled and a few tips to help writers inform their reviewers.

  1. No reviewers can use associate links. These are links to your blog, website or publisher’s page. That is considered compensation. If someone checks out your site and buys your books, then you got paid for doing a review. Don’t use Amazon book reviews to promote your own books or other products.

 

  1. Reviewers must have purchased $50 or more in products from Amazon to post any kind of review. (Amazon is a business. This is their way of ensuring you’re not just posting a review for a friend or are a paid reviewer.) Might be wise to ask your reviewers if they do business with Amazon to avoid their review being pulled.

 

  1. You can receive an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for review. However, near the end of your review, you must mention it’s an ARC and you were given no compensation for your unbiased, honest review. Never use the word FREE. A free copy denotes payment.

Let’s recap.

Encourage your reviewers not to add links. They must be customers of Amazon. And carefully word a reference to receiving an ARC copy without using the word free.

Consider this

  1. What email address are they using? If George, Mary and Junior Jones use the same email or same Amazon account, those will be deleted. This appears as if the same person posted multiple reviews.

No influencing allowed

  1. Don’t expect your chosen reviewers to give you a 5-star rating. That’s called influence. Influencing their opinion in any way is forbidden. Asking them to please post a review if they enjoyed your book is fine. Someone can enjoy your book and still give it a 3-star rating for formatting issues or cover design for example.

 

No duplicating

  1. Be sure the reviewer uses their own words. Don’t provide a template. Also, too many “I liked it” or “It was good” with 5 stars rating sounds fake. Coaching them to mention what they like about your book will help them write something unique.

“The setting was breathtaking.”

“I learn so much about myself.”

The reviews don’t have to be long or fancy—just truthful.

 

Final thoughts about content.

Encourage your reviewers to double check their wording and their star reviews. Leaving out words can make the review sound odd. Misspelled words are not good. Ten dollar words are even worse. No one will understand if the reviewer truly enjoyed your book. Their verbiage might disguise their true feelings. I looked up some unfamiliar words I found in a review of a book I was considering. They weren’t flattering. Another important tip: sometimes the star rating function doesn’t end where you want it. A friend of mine had an awesome review of her book, but it had a 1-star rating. Check and double check before posting.

 

This Easter is Time to Get Creative Writing Juices Moving

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Have you ever created a passion play for a church performance.

Tis the season to create. Holy week is upon us. How many of you are involved in a passion play or special Easter program? This is an opportunity to use your writing talent to magnify the message of our Savior’s resurrection.

As I reflect on celebrations of the past, I remember the joy in my heart when I saw my programs, readings, or skits performed. Christian writers have a unique opportunity to use their talents in a worship setting. Over the decades (I won’t say how many) I’ve been inspired to write numerous skits, often for the Christmas season and Holy Week. Some I have sold for publication. Others were too customized to my church family for anyone else to be interested. That’s not a bad thing. God can use our words for a small venue or a large one. Either way He is glorified.

An advantage of writing something to be performed at your church, you have a foot in the door to sell it later because the fine print states your work must have been performed before submitting. The publisher wants you to have gotten all the kinks out to make it easy on the group performing your work.

Worship is enhanced by a reading or performance. For some, the very novelty of it causes the listener to pay closer attention and recall the theme longer. Again, a well-written reading can be submitted for publication. Many excellent performers can’t write. (Yes, I know not all writers read well out loud.) But they bring your words to life in a performance.

Tis the time to get creative

So why am I mentioning this now? After all, Easter is a few days away. Because I want you to breathe in the season. Absorb the scripture passages. Allow your creative mind to ruminate over the events surrounding Jesus death and resurrection. If you do, lots of interesting writerly ideas will come to you. Get it on paper for next year. Your church will be thrilled to have a plan in place well in advance. Publishers want seasonal stuff six months to a year in advance.

What kind of things can you write?

Let me throw out a few ideas off the top of my head.

The last supper

What was in Judas mind?

A lesser disciple’s observations of events

Simon carried the cross for Christ. How was he impacted?

Who created the nails for the crucifixion or built the crosses?

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus discuss Jesus’ death as they remember Lazarus’ resurrection.

Recreate the Road to Emmaus

The donkey’s joy at carrying the savior.

The angels’ view of the cross

Pontius Pilate, his wife or someone on his staff’s account of events

Poetry capturing the emotion of the season

Devotional using the last words of Christ

Write a mime for an Easter song (yes, mimes are created on paper first.)

 

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What story ideas do the stain glass windows evoke in your writer’s imagination.

All of these can be readings, skits, or full plays. Reader’s theater is easy to perform, as well. This is not an exhaustive list, and I haven’t even mentioned how to create an entire service of worship.

This is just a blog to get you started. Over the next few weeks I will share my how-tos for skit writing and program creating. If you have never consider this type of writing, I hope to inspire you to give it a try.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss my how tos on writing skits.

 

 

 

Photos To Get Your Writing Muse Moving

Today I thought I’d post a few photos as writing prompts. These are characters my husband capture on film from the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Each character may spark a story idea individually. You might be inspired by a combination of all three. Your mind may capture a single color or small detail that will send your fingers flying over the keyboard. Although these images might evoke a fantasy tale it doesn’t have too. Do you see a mystery? Do you hear their inner dialogue? Can you sense an adventure? What do you see with your writer’s mind? Share your creation in the comments. I’d love to read them.

 

autumnfairy-2

Photo by Charles Huff

Faire-living statue 3

Photo by Charles Huff

Merlin-2

photo by Charles Huff

Because I want to read all the comments I receive let’s add to the challenge and limit the word count to 100 words. It’ll give you practice for when you need to tighten up your manuscript by eliminating words.

Post your 100 word story in the comments.

If you’d like to subscribe check out the right hand column.

Reminder: One more day to comment on Tuesday’s interview with Aaron Gansky for a chance to win an autographed copy of his book Hand of Adonai.