Monday, March 27, 2017

Don't Give Up: Rejections Aren't The End

Being an artist is a funny thing. We're expected to get rejected, often. It doesn't mean we're bad at what we're doing. Recognition takes time...a lot of time. We have to keep pushing through despite all the no's. Even with the rise of digital publishing, we still need to get past some gatekeepers. It's not an easy path.

A couple of months ago, I started submitting photos to contests. I hoped I'd win but I expected to get rejected. Newbies get rejected, right? That's the path. You submit and then you get rejected. You repeat the process until someone accepts your work, eventually.

Last month, I entered 5 photos for The Muse Creative Awards.

I didn't think I had any chance of winning. Generally, life has been kicking me around so I wasn't feeling too positive. This was just another rejection I needed to get out of the way.

When I got an email saying the winners were posted, I searched The Muse Awards' website just to be sure my photos weren't there. I mean, I hadn't received an email about my submission so I assumed I'd been rejected, again. I was just double checking since I also hadn't received a rejection.

I was totally floored to find out my photo was actually there.

So yeah, I won a Rose Gold Award in Architecture Photography for The Muse Creative Awards.

I stared at the page for awhile. I knew what I was seeing but what I was seeing couldn't be right. Why would my photo win? Things had been going wrong for months. It felt strange for something this good to happen to me. I shared the link with my family and friends. They all confirmed it.

My photo won. I even get a certificate. It still feels surreal. I guess I can say I'm an award winning photographer. Feels weird.

Just try, even if you think you don't have a chance. There's nothing wrong with trying.

On a similar note, I sell photos on stock image sites like Shutterstock. I've been trying to get on iStock by Getty Images but I got rejected twice. Being around publishing, I've heard of Getty Images...a lot. Getting on that site has been my dream. After 2 rejections, I assumed it wouldn't happen.

Then my photos on Shutterstock started selling pretty consistently. I figured this was a good time to try again. I applied to be a contributor for iStock. Over the weekend, I got accepted! Funny enough, they accepted a photo I was sure would get rejected.

As I mentioned earlier, life has been pretty rough. I was ready to give up on everything. I was fighting those "what's the point" thoughts. And then this happened. My nice ray of sunshine in the middle of a storm.

No matter how bad it seems, don't give up on your dreams. (That rhyme was totally by accident.)


March 27 -31, I'll be on a blog tour with Visible Through Darkness. Follow the tour!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Week in Links 3/24/17: The Handmaid's Tale, Death Note, Power Rangers

Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds. 

Book Marketing and Branding 
How to Build Relationships with Online Influencers (Without the Awkward)
9 Awesome Youtube Channels For Small Business

Netflix Reveals First DEATH NOTE Teaser Trailer

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Books on Writing

You probably have that story you wrote that's so terrible just thinking about it is embarrassing. Letting anyone read it is unthinkable. It's probably the first book you ever wrote. When I started writing, there were a lot of things I didn't know how to do. Even now, I'm still learning but back then I didn't even have the basics down. I was especially terrible at writing not telling emotions.

Here are a few books that helped me improve my writing.

On Writing Horror by The Horror Writers Association

I love this book. It's a collection of essays by well-known horror authors. My copy is a little mangled. I used this one a lot.
 "Find the single facet of that thing that frightens you--that which most everyone can relate to--and use that one facet as a weapon to frighten your readers." (Michael Marano)

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I read this book much later in my writing career but it's become my second favorite. I bought it thinking it would just be an interesting read but it's more than that. Bradbury drops some serious wisdom.
"We never sit anything out.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled."
On Writing by Stephen King 

This one is tied for number two. I didn't particularly care for autobiographies but this book Zen in the Art of Writing helped me appreciate them. Like Bradbury's book, On Writing gives some amazing advice. It's also encouraging to reading about King's early years.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

Here's another book that's gotten a lot of love, as you can tell from the ripped corner. It gives you a nice deep dive into perspectives. It's also one of the books that taught me how to write emotions.

"When you write emotional dialogue, consider whether it's being said at an emotional moment or after the moment has passed. The latter can be more abstract, naming emotions directly ('I loved that dog,' 'I'm grateful'). Keep the former as direct and visceral as the character's temperament allows." 
Breathing Life Into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon

Another book that taught me about writing emotions and generally crafting well-rounded characters. It also talks about Jung's concept of the Shadow, which I've always been interested in.
"In essence, as you make friends or enemies, people learn more about your backstory, just as they learn about your character's backstory through his [or her] relationships."

These are a few of my favorite writing books. What are yours?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Behind the Book Cover Part 2: Cover Reveal

It's done. I've never been so happy to finish a design. In Part 1, I talked about how I began designing the cover for The Unburned Island. Now, you'll see the results.

This was my first idea.

When I realized this image wasn't going to work, I searched the stock images I owned to see if any spoke to me. Most of them were too heavy on the horror or fantasy side. I needed something that straddles both genres.

Then I stumbled across my favorite.

Looks haunted. Nice dark fantasy creature there. The image is illustrated to match other dark fantasy and paranormal covers. Simple enough that it can be paired with some dramatic fonts. One of my sketches in Part 1 had a forest as a background or branches merged with some font. It's perfect.

Next, I needed a color scheme. To Adobe Color CC. I searched for fantasy and dark fantasy colors and came across these:

During this design process, I played around with all these schemes. It also confirmed my research findings that blue, black, white and purple were common dark/paranormal fantasy colors.

The came the hard part. I wanted this cover to focus on typography. I needed to find the right fonts. In Part 1, I mentioned:

Font Squirrel
1001 Fonts
Adobe Typekit

I searched those three sites and tried out different combinations of fonts and colors. 

Didn't like any of these. They're all too hard to see. The combinations don't complement each other.

Eventually, I found fonts, colors and arrangments that I liked:

Then I showed it to my publisher. She wanted to see the cover without the color. I took away the purple.
At that point, I'd been working on the cover so long I couldn't tell if I liked this version or not. I needed more opinions. I'm a part of several Facebook Groups, one of them being Colors in Darkness. I asked group members which cover they preferred. Overwhelming, they liked the black and white one. They also said I should do something with the font so I won't get lost.

Here came the next challenge. Finding a font color. This took forever. I tried different blues, purples, greens and reds, a green/blue/yellow gradient and an orange and yellow gradient. I never really appreciated just how many shades a color can have.

I didn't like any of them. I took a break. I was getting frustrated and couldn't think clearly. Days later, I was working on something else when it occurred to me that I could use a pattern instead of a solid color. I can create patterns from images. I tried different images.

This one looks magical and matches my color scheme.

Since the story's called The Unburned Island, I figured this would give the font a nice flaming look.

In the end, I went with this one because I like the clouds when paired with the font. It has a magical and dark feel.

I played with the colors a little more and here's the final cover! It came out looking more like an ocean than clouds. I like it. So does my publisher.


The entire island was on fire yet only one building was destroyed. Everyone disappeared. The schoolhouse remained unscathed. People believe it's now haunted. The school and the island remained abandoned for years.

One day, Kiran, En and a team of magical investigators travel to the island to banish whatever haunts the schoolhouse. It takes them no time to realize the building isn't the problem. The island is.

Add to Goodreads.

Visit The Unburned Island on April 18th.

I'll be taking this image off the market to use it as promo for The Unburned Island. It's no longer available for sale. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Week in Links 3/17/17: Fairy Tail, American Gods, Sword Art Online

Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds.

Book Marketing and Branding
Stop Focusing on Follower Count: 5 Better Approaches for Improving Social Media Use
How to Optimize Pinterest Content for Search
The Complete Guide to Instagram Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide to Advertising on Instagram

New Edition of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Book Lends Clues to ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Movie Sequel
The Expanse has been renewed for a third season
“A Time For Heroes” Arrives in Doctor Who Season 10 Trailer!

Writing, Publishing and Bookishness
When Do You Know Your Book Is Done?
Every Upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie And TV Show
So, Uh, Yeah… Spider-Man Spin-Off ‘Venom’ Is Coming In 2018

How to Find Beautiful Landscapes

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at The post needs to be published between today, 3/17 and next Friday, 3/24.