Matthew comes alive

When I think how much fun I’ve had with Matthew this year, I almost feel guilty. Almost.

Last winter I picked up my Matthew in the Middle series and began completely rewriting the entire thing. This summer I cranked out astounding weekly word counts. Early in August, I finished the first draft of the final novel.

Since then I’ve been polishing the manuscript of the first novel and formatting it for publication. The formatting is not so much fun, and I’ll probably write more about that later in a post on self-publishing.

But what I’m really loving today is working with artist Ken Raney, of Clash Creative, on the book covers. He asks for my input and listens to my ideas, but he also has a knack for sketching out what I only vaguely envision and describe. Seeing Matthew come alive in his sketches is a real rush.

I’m excited about the possibilities and eager to see the final covers for the Matthew in the Middle series. I hope you’ll see them soon and be just as happy with them.

Self-publishing: expenses

100_1030It’s pretty easy to get by with plastic in your pocket these days, but most people anticipating a trip are wise to at least estimate expenses. Before you self-publish a book, you’ll want to consider the costs.

From the start, you should be aware of some terms and options. It used to be that if you wanted to publish a book yourself, you had to invest money in a package sold by a company known as a vanity press. Usually this included buying many copies of your own book that might languish for years in boxes in your garage. The advent of print-on-demand (POD) publishing and services like Amazon’s CreateSpace have radically increased your self-publishing options.

Valerie Peterson at AboutMoney lucidly explains the differences between vanity presses and self-publishing here. And Dave Bricker warns about paying the price for confusing self-publishing with vanity publishing in this post at his World’s Greatest Book website.

You don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars to end up with crates of books stacked in your attic, so you’ll want to choose a self-publishing option that gives you control and allows for print-on-demand distribution. But what can you expect to pay?

Kelsey Nelson breaks costs into categories at her The Writer.ly Community website, an article that also appears at the Book Promotion website. The amounts Miral Sattar lists as “The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book” might give you sticker shock. Her high-end estimates approach $40,000!

I know people who have produced an attractive product for a considerably smaller investment, but I encourage you to beware of sacrificing quality on the economy altar. Do what you can to make the finished product as professional as possible in appearance.

Your writing may be stellar and sing with literary quality. But if your book looks like it was self-published by an amateur, no one will buy it and read it.

Being meek

The biblical concept of meekness is one I often try to define in my speaking and writing. Kevin De Young nails it in his DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed post today at the Gospel Coalition site.

Ordination1Jordan Huff was ordained to the gospel ministry and installed as Minister of the Word and Sacraments at the United Reformed Church of Sunnyside, WA, on Friday, April 11, 2014.

About 50 people attended the service, officiated by Rev. Chuck Tedrick (Calvary URC in Loveland, CO). Rev. Craig Davis (Grace URC in Kennewick, WA) read Old and New Testament passages, and Rev. Mark Collingridge (Covenant OPC in Kennewick, WA) offered a pastoral prayer.

Jordan Huff was raised by Christian parents who, he says, taught him “to know and treasure the Scriptures at an early age.” Although he initially intended a musical career in piano performance, God led him to major in pre-seminary studies at a Baptist college in northeast Pennsylvania.

“During these college years, I transitioned from my baptistic convictions to a confessionally robust, Reformed understanding of theology and the worship which said theology necessitates and structures,” he says. “Additionally, as I came to understand the absolute priority of the Gospel in church life, I was personally troubled by the sore lack of Gospel proclamation in my evangelical college circle and the detriment such a lack was reaping upon the souls of God’s people.”

Ordination2While attending Westminster Seminary California, Jordan was a member of Christ URC in Santee and served as an intern there for almost two years. Subsequent to his graduation in June of 2013, he served as an intern at the Escondido URC.

“From June until September, I balanced (with varied success) being a stay-at-home dad with three kids and studying for my Candidacy examination [sustained at Classis Southwest in September, 2013]. In November I received a call to the URC of Sunnyside, and in December, my family and I made the move. I began full-time pastoral work at the church immediately.”

When Classis Pacific Northwest met on February 25, 1014, Jordan sustained his ordination exam.

“To be honest,” he says, “my favorite part of the experience was being able to meet the other brothers who are serving in this Classis; they are wonderful men of God who are faithfully suffering in the ministry, and I look forward to serving alongside them for years to come, Lord-willing.”

Rev. Huff and his wife, Jana, have three children.

According to elder, Rick Haak, the URC of Sunnyside has two elders and 13 families, with four additional families currently attending membership classes. The congregation meets for Sunday worship at 10:00 am and 6:00 pm at 1750 Sheller Road in Sunnyside, Washington.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the May 28, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Self-publishing: packing

path-3Many self-published authors will share their expertise with you–for a fee. I don’t claim to be an expert. In fact, I acknowledge being a total novice. But I’m sure other writers will appreciate hearing about my self-publishing experiences and learning along with me.

My self-publishing journey is in the packing stage. I’m working on getting the manuscript ready to be uploaded. My friend, Yvonne Anderson (who blogs over at the creatively-named Y’s Words and who wrote the ingenious Gateway to Gannah series), gave me a great little gem of advice: do a practice run. So I took another manuscript (which I have no intention of publishing at this point) out for a little test drive. She was right. Uploading a practice document gave me a feel for how to get my MS ready.

Not that I think it will be easy. She also shared a comment of a frustrated self-publisher who finally overcame a formatting glitch saying that the “eighteenth time” was the charm. I’m prepared for frustrations along the way.

The first thing I’ve done is to get the manuscript written exactly as I want it. I ran it through my critique group and spent a LOT of time revising. Here’s a tip: don’t do too many revisions at this stage.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m all about revision, revision, and more revision. But here’s the deal. Your MS will look totally different once you decide on book size and font. If you’re a little obsessive-compulsive (who me?) you might be kinda picky about things like widows and orphans (one line or one word hanging out by itself) or even about paragraph and line spacing. Why write (even if sub-consciously) to make it look good when it’s not in its final form? So my advice is to decide on your page size and font prior to doing final revisions. (I wish someone had mentioned this to me.)

I did a lot of online research before deciding on my page size and font. You should too. I don’t know what look you want or what best reflects the nature of your work. But since I’m in a generous mood, I’ll give you a few places to start looking:

Joel Friedlander offers lots of great self-publishing advice, especially about picking fonts.

Holly Brady lists some good serif and sans serif fonts here. Like many other experts, she advises against Comic Sans and Papyrus, two fonts for which I admit a fondness, but both apparently anathema in self-publishing.

And Fiction Etal has a great post on choosing a font.

When it comes to self-publishing advice, you can’t find a more qualified expert than Guy Kawasaki. If you’ve never seen or heard him, look up some of his videos on You-Tube. Inspiring guy. And wise. Here’s a great place to begin benefiting from his advice on How to Avoid the Self-Published Look.

What was your first step in your self-publishing experience? What sites or advice have you found helpful?


As I make my way through my self-publishing venture, I hope to share some brief posts with online advice that might benefit other writers.

Today I’m working on the copyright page, and I found this page providing six examples of copyright page disclaimers for different types of books.

Plagiarism court case

Any writer abhors plagiarism. I hate to see quotes without proper attribution or sentences and phrases copied verbatim from another source without any effort at attribution. I’d heard about significant plagiarism by big name authors. But I didn’t realize plagiarists often steal someone else’s entire novel, revamp it a bit and sell it as their own work.

Here’s a report on a current case that’s going to court. The victimized author asks supporters not to resort to online name-calling or bullying, but rather leave it in the hands of the judicial system. Supporters can help her by contributing to her “Go Fund Me” campaign to raise attorney fees.

Sadly, most authors cannot afford the expense involved in fighting plagiarism. This is why it happens so frequently and why people get by with it.

Revs. Ferrari & Boekestein

Revs. Ferrari & Boekestein

A Reformed congregation in Milan, Italy (Chiesa Evangelica Riformata ‘Filadelfia’ [CERF]), hosted a conference on April 25-26, 2014. Speaker Rev. William Boekestein (Covenant URC in Carbondale, PA) addressed six subjects related to marriage and family, based primarily on Colossians 3:17-21.

In his introduction on Friday, Rev. Boekestein discussed family dynamics. “Without question, relationships can be difficult,” he said. “But relationships are worthwhile because they are the contexts in which we ‘do all in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Col. 3:17). At the same time, God promises grace to help us in our relationships. And Jesus himself provides the perfect pattern in both relationship leadership and relational submission.”

His second lecture offered biblical advice to young people seeking to marry in the Lord, advocating a “counter-cultural” approach. He said, “This talk promoted significant discussion considering the fact the CERF is the only confessional reformed church in the country. The very real question confronts the congregation: ‘How will our children marry in the Lord?’ Pray that God would direct the young people of the church to godly spouses.”

Saturday’s two talks explained the biblical concepts of submission and servant leadership within marriage. “The callings of both wives and husbands are extremely difficult,” he said. “But when we learn to focus on our own responsibilities, and trust that God’s plan is best, we will find great reward in spite of the challenges.”

In concert with the conference, Rev. Boekestein preached twice on Sunday. His morning sermon on Colossians 3:21 urged parents to “create home atmospheres in which obedience is desirable and possible.” He said, “Our goal is to make grace shine in the home and to help our children come to Jesus for all of their cares.”

Rev. Bill Boekestein

Rev. Bill Boekestein

His evening sermon addressed family worship. “In some ways, family worship is the regular exercise that shapes the Christian piety in the home,” he said. “Homes in which vibrant family worship is practiced often produce godly and well-adjusted family members.”

Chiesa Evangelica Riformata ‘Filadelfia’ is a church plant functioning under the oversight of the Christ URC consistory in Santee, CA. Each year CERF sponsors theological conferences in the spring and fall. The spring seminar focuses on family, while the fall conference explores topics related to the Reformation.

Reflecting on his visit to Italy, Rev. Boeksestein shares, “My wife Amy and I were overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality we received in Milan. We were also reassured of God’s goodness in fulfilling his promise to grow a church even in the hardest soil. It was evident to us that this church loves God, they love the Bible, and they love each other. There seems to be a deep kinship between pastor and congregation and a great desire to see God’s gospel expand over Italy as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9).”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the May 28, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

The end of Matthew

Today I finished the first draft of the last novel in my juvenile fiction series about Matthew. It needs work, but the basic story is recorded.

FritzLiedtke-Italy-familyThe following interview with Fritz Liedtke by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 47-49 of the April 16, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Viewing the extraordinary fine art photography of Fritz Liedtke opens your eyes to the unique beauty of each person created in God’s image.

“Everybody has a history, everybody has secrets, everybody hurts,” he says. “I give people an opportunity to be honest about their hidden lives and to create beauty from ashes. I consider this to be a natural outworking of the compassion Christ has developed in me. Good art is incarnational, meaning that it puts flesh to the spirit, it makes concrete something that is intangible. What is inside an artist will naturally be expressed in his or her artwork.”

Most photographers would not consider some subjects Fritz chooses: highly freckled people, awkward adolescents, or persons with eating disorders. But his fine art photos of these people showcase his heart for the hurting and his talent for capturing their inner beauty and strength. He calls his limited edition series with freckled subjects Astra Velum.

Liedtke-AstraVelum-Asia“When I look at people with freckles, I think of constellations of stars in the sky,” he says. “So I named the series Astra Velum, which is Latin and means ‘veil of stars.’”

Liedtke balances his fine art photography with a successful commercial photography business that includes more traditional subjects: professionals and models as well as graduates and wedding participants. His interest in photography began as a teen, when he carried a Kodak 110 Instamatic on a US tour with his dad. He has a BFA in photography and has won an increasing number of awards over the last 25 years.

I met Fritz at the 2013 Glen West workshop in Sante Fe, and later communicated with him via email for Christian Renewal.

Christian Renewal: Fritz, 2013 was a big year for you. You were the featured photographer at the Glen West workshop in Sante Fe, and you were chosen as one of nine American photographers to exhibit work at the Lishui International Photography Festival in China. What other significant events in your career occurred during the year?

Fritz Liedtke: Yes, 2013 was a big year for me. My photography was shown in and collected by museums, was in numerous gallery shows, and it took me to China for the Lishui Photo Festival. I had work published in a number of magazines, including a feature in Image. I had the privilege of teaching at The Glen, and was invited to teach in Italy at Incarnate (where I am now for a few months). The International Society of Media Photographers chose me as one of their Best of 2013. My limited edition artist book Astra Velum passed the halfway point of selling out. My book Skeleton in the Closet was also published (available on Amazon). So yes, it was a busy and exciting year.

FritzLiedtke-QuiteNormal-MaudeCR: Incarnate in Italy is a three-month immersion experience for artists from around the world, who pursue their artistic calling in a striking setting (the Italian Alps!) and within a creative community centered on Christ. This year’s dates are from February 11 through May 3 (2014). Can you share a bit more about your teaching stint at Incarnate?

Fritz: This is a truly unique experience for me. We are halfway through the school as I write. It is formatted to be both a time of deep discipleship, and of artistic exploration. Its focus is to help students become deep people—deeply rooted in Christ, practicing spiritual disciplines, listening to God’s voice—and from this deep place to create art. It has been a life-changing experience for my students as well as for me. We live in community for three months, studying and creating. I am so impressed with the folks at OM Arts, with whom I am serving here. They’ve put together an amazing program, and I’m privileged to be part of it. You can read a little more about it here.

CR: You mentioned your books Skeleton in the Closet, which features people who struggle with eating disorders, and Astra Velum, available in hand-printed limited editions of photogravures highlighting freckled people. Your portfolios “Welcome to Wonderland” and “Quite Normal” depict adolescents, often revealing their hidden thoughts. These are unusual subjects most photographers don’t consider. What motivates you to work with these unique subjects?

FritzLiedtke-QuiteNormal-MabelFritz: If you take a look at my personal work overall, you’ll sense my compassion for the displaced, the lonely, the broken among us. Everybody has a history, everybody has secrets, everybody hurts. This is what I end up being drawn to, and is the connection I see in these projects: I give people an opportunity to be honest about their hidden lives and to create beauty from ashes. I consider this to be a natural outworking of the compassion Christ has developed in me. Good art is incarnational, meaning that it puts flesh to the spirit, it makes concrete something that is intangible. What is inside an artist will naturally be expressed in his or her artwork.

CR: Sometimes the expression of what’s inside an artist will be obvious and sometimes it’s more subtle. It seems to me that photography may be a more subtle medium in general than, say, painting or writing (although both of those can be extremely subtle). It would appear more difficult to be overtly incarnational in photography, although I believe any viewer of your fine art work feels—at the least—a connection to the human spirit. A Christian would—I believe—recognize this as a sense of the divine image. What pieces or portfolios do you view as most incarnational? Or which would you say is your best art?

Fritz: I’m not sure I’d say photography is more subtle than painting or writing, but that it has its own set of challenges. While I can’t create something out of nothing like a painter or writer can (because I have to photograph things that exist in the real world), I still choose what to fill the frame with. This refers back to my answer above: my compassion, for instance, is ‘incarnated’ in my photography.

Liedtke-AstraVelum-EllaCR: What has been your favorite project and why?

Fritz: Honestly, I think the most fun work I get to do is with adolescent kids. They’re surprisingly creative and imaginative and sensitive. I feel like they are an overlooked gem in the world, and it’s fun for me to create art with them. Last year I created a new set of images for the Quite Normal series, where I photograph the kids, and then let them write about their lives based on my portrait. Then they write a phrase or two directly on the photograph. I really enjoy watching them open up when they see that I’m actually interested in listening to their stories. Amazing things happen.

CR: What’s the basic philosophy behind your photography?

Fritz: Hmm, if I have one, it would incorporate these elements: Photograph things I care about, try to make the most beautiful images possible, surprise the viewer, surprise myself.

CR: I’m intrigued by the balance you maintain between commercial and fine art work. How do the two create conflict or complement each other?

DierdreFritz: I used to think that if I photographed commercially, it would hinder my personal work. I was afraid that my personal work would start to look like the images I was paid to create. Or that I would use up my creative energy making money, and burn out as an artist. While I certainly have to maintain a careful balance between the two in order to avoid burnout, I find that the commercial work has actually enhanced my personal work. Because I’m photographing regularly, my technical and aesthetic skills are strong and fluid. This means I can approach a personal project with these skills, and not have to start from scratch. I can make stronger personal images because I’m in the habit of making strong images all the time.

NoemiCR: How does your Christian faith inform your work, your family, and the balance you seek between those two elements of your life?

Fritz: Since high school, when I first had a glimpse of what good art is, and that I could actually be an artist, I’ve felt a sense of responsibility. Not a burden, but a responsibility to be the best artist I could be. I saw so few examples of Christian artists, that I wanted to be one of the few who actually was faithful to this gift God had given me. But I’m also responsible to be faithful in other areas of my life, including participating in my church community and caring for my family. So I’m careful to balance these things. I don’t want to be one of the artist-stereotypes that throws out everything healthy and good in life in order to pursue his gift. That’s folly. My relationship with the Lord is at the heart of who I am, and infuses everything I do.

To peruse Fritz Liedtke’s extraordinary fine art photograph, visit this website. To view his commercial work, see this site.


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