Friday, January 30, 2015

Characters and Careers

A career molds how a character views the world. For instance, writers see stories in everything.

I use job and career interchangeably because, in my series, the word career doesn't exist.

In The Sciell, I didn't have to worry about careers. The characters lived in a small community. They didn't have any career aspirations. Most came from well off families. They didn't need a job. In Shade's case, no one wanted to work with a half-breed.  Her parents weren't wealthy, but they had enough money to help her.

These characters' career goals was to find a place where they belonged.

That finding a home theme continues in Chains of the Sciell. But, the new characters don't live in a vacuum. They live in big cities. They need money, which means a job. Once I gave them jobs, I fixed their sections.

Here are two characters describing the same area- The Aldric Abyss.

Divine Mathews 

How in the name of Darkness had he gotten in the middle of the Aldric Abyss? The yellow ocean engulfed him on all sides. The Orlon Mountain Ranges held him prisoner. The last time he visited West Jael was to see that toilet people called Denont University. That experience tasted worse than this sand.

The Aldric Abyss was an insult. A massive stretch of land he couldn’t build houses on. The Abyss didn’t have the nerve to be historic like Middle Jael. Since Jaelians liked blowing things up, they should’ve used their missiles to wipe this sandy waste of space off the world instead of aiming for the Walls. 

Josephine Royal

She couldn’t take her eyes off the Orlon Mountain Ranges and the Aldric desert as the train sped past. Her insides bubble. Her heart jumped. One day, she’d be able to explore that sandy abyss. For centuries, scientists conducted countless experiments on the area. They don’t know why toxic air rose from the desert’s ground. No one ever traveled from one side to the other without suffering a severe mental breakdown. 

One day, she’d have the equipment to dig as far down as needed. She’d find out what in the name of Darkness was under there. Her blood became electric. The toxins wouldn’t affect her. She’d be able to spend days, months exploring an untouched area. What could be under the desert? A new species of animal or plant-life, a geographical formation that produced the poisonous gas. One day, she’d find out.

Because of their jobs--their passions, they see the same place differently.

Divine builds homes. He studied at a prestigious overseas university in T'sya-- a land that influenced architecture around the world. He looks at land as potential places to build on. He describes houses as though he's selling them.

Josephine, on the other hand, is an historian. She's a researcher at heart. She's sent around the world to explore untouched areas. Explore really means steal food, medicine, treasure... She sees this as the price of getting paid to do something she loves.

How do you decided a career for your characters?

In some cases, like in Lynn Flewelling's Luck in the Shadows, the characters' job, being noble thieves, was an important plot point?

Because Darkness is taking over in my Merging Worlds series, humans need some supernatural help to survive. The non-human beings create shields over villages, they manage trade between communities since traveling across the land is dangerous, they give the communities electricity and use their power to maintain crops.

These POV characters are always looking for natural and man-made things to trade. They know every person in the villages they hold contracts with just in case a person has a profession another village needs. Some things they won't do or say because they don't want to give humans a reason to "fire" them. They rarely stop working.

Some characters needed a job of the main world. I spent some time thinking what they would love doing for a living. Fortunately, I was able to stick with careers I knew something about.

The career or job permeates every part of the character's lives. They're working even if they aren't working.


I'll be traveling to Chicago this evening! Tomorrow I'll be on a Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction Panel with Fonda LeeKen Liu and Sabaa Tahir at the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting. My first Panel!!!

Update: The panel was amazing!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter Inspiration

My least favorite season was winter. There's no escaping the cold and then the snow...the snow turns a 3 hour train ride into a 6 hour nightmare. It messes up roads. It turns sidewalks into ice slides.

But, the snow is starting to grow on me. Until this year, I hadn't played in it since I was a kid. Since I'm getting into photography, I'm learning the beauty of a snowy landscape. It's so inspiring.


Oreo loves the snow. I can't help feeling light-hearted watching her tiny body leaping through the snow. 

She gets snow matted in her hair. The only way to get it is to let it melt, which means a wet floor. The below pic came from the snow I got over the new year when I was in DC.

I threw snowballs with the family dog Peaches.
It's a good thing dogs don't read blogs or get embarrassed. I've been posting a lot of fun pics of Oreo across social media.

The snow turned my neighborhood in Brooklyn into a greeting card.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Bookish Snow Day

So NYC is buckling down for a record breaking blizzard. I'm a bit tired of these once-in-a-lifetime storms.  Anyway, Snowmageddon is upon us. Time for hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows, my tablet and a good book. Okay, food and water too.

Here are my fav books for a day in.

You know when books are loved.

I'm a sucker for fun characters and witty dialogue. Luck in the Shadows and Dreams Made Flesh has both. 

This book has some amazing insights into writing. 

Gotta love old school horror.

I might spend the day catching up on Bleach manga. I'm way behind.

Just noticed none of these (except for the manga) are recently published books. I haven't read any new books that I was blown away by. I love me some manga though.

What's your favorite book for a day in?
Today's the last day to get Devdan Manor for free. Download now. It's a good story for a snow day ;) 

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Different Fantasy Land

I want my WIP, a novella- Devortus Reigns, to take place in a different kind of fantasy world. No medieval lands, no fairy tale-like settings or the typical "dark" landscapes. If it's a sweeping grassy plain or a towering castle or a charred land, I don't want it. If it looks like something from Lord of the Rings, I want nothing to do with it.

There's nothing wrong with any of those setting. They're pretty. They're fun to work with. I want something different for Devortus Reigns. Don't know what that is yet.

I have a World Building- Settings board on Pinterest. It's not doing anything for me.

I don't get stuck on settings. I just don't. That's what Pinterest is for. Inspiration for settings and creatures. This is a little frustrating. I'm a panster, so I usually get stuck trying to figure out what my characters will do next. I usually have some idea of the land's layout.

I felt a little spark from this board.

Still, I didn't get the flutter in my chest when I know I've found something good. I did a Google image search for "Fantasy Landscape" and scrolled through the results finding lands different from the ones I already have.

I got that flutter. Still don't have a handle on the story's setting. At least I'm finally heading in the right direction.

In the novella, the land, Devortus, has been taken over by creatures. Don't know if I'd call them evil yet. They're bad for humans. But, my main characters are bad for humans-- just in a different way. The inhabitants of Devortus escaped to new worlds. Now, I have to figure out what this destroyed land looks like. Apocalyptic is my thing. I've done dead lands before. Probably why I'm having trouble. Trying to figure out something I haven't done already.

I think I'll just throw stuff in the story for the draft and fix it during the editing stage. I usually avoid putting dragons in my story. I prefer creating my own fantasy creatures. Devortus Reigns might have a dragon or two. Might be fun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Behind The Cover: We Are Not The Enemy

Thanks for your suggestion for the We Are Not The Enemy cover! I shared the first finished version in the post Behind the Cover: Another Redesign.

You suggested I put the focus on "Not" instead of "We." The author read the comments and she agreed.

Putting the emphasis on "Not" wasn't a matter of just copying and pasting the format. If "Not" was bigger, it would throw off the title's balance. I took some time to think of a way to rearrange the words so "Not" and "Enemy" could be the focus.

One of the authors checked out the new title and noticed this:

It looks like the dude is picking his nose. And it's in the first letter. I did not even notice. These things you have to keep in mind when doing a cover, or any book image...can be kind of a pain. That's why you have others look at your work. Had to change some stuff around.
Yesterday, I designed the jacket. *Sigh* Ebook covers are so much easier.

If you're a self-published author, you should consider doing a print version too. It's good for events and giveaways. Goodreads only lets you do giveaways for print books. People still love getting signed copies of books. 

When you're designing a jacket, you need a spine. You have to know the number of pages your book has- not Word pages, actual pages.

Also, the book gets cut when its printed. You can't have images or text sitting on the edge or your cover will get rejected.
"The cover contains live elements/graphics that extend beyond the trim line and may be cut off during the production process... Please make sure that any elements intended to be viewable appear at least 0.5" away from the outside edges and only background information that can be cut off extend through the bleed area of the uploaded image." (from CreateSpace)
CreateSpace gives you this downloadable image after you type in the book's trim size and page count.

Side note: If you're creating a commercial book (fiction or non-fiction) make the pages cream colored. Don't do white pages unless you're creating like an instruction manual or a children's book. Publishers have done studies on this. White pages are harsher on the eyes. Check out your favorite books. More than likely, none of them will have white pages.
You build the cover on top of that template. See those dotted lines- no images or text should go past those lines. However, see that pink- it needs to be covered or you'll have an unwanted border. Somehow, I need to cover this entire image without having anything important past the dotted lines.

Fortunately, the cover background, under the parchment, is white. I added a white fill layer on top of the temple but under the cover images and text.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Print Books Will Live Forever

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

You know you're bookish when a new shelf makes you happy. I was surrounded by books. They were in piles on the floor and on a table.  I've shown you these pictures before.

My shelves were overflowing. I hated searching for a book. I could never find it when I needed it. But, there was something comforting about book mountain. 

My dad built a shelf for me so I could get my books off the floor. 

*Swoon* I can't stop staring at it. I like this better than book mountain.

The difference is amazing. My living room looks bigger. 

I like ebooks as much as the next person. I enjoy scrolling through my Kindle library and seeing all those covers. I also like sitting in a room and being able to see my book collection without pulling out a device. Print books won't die. They're evolving to become collectibles. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bublish Case Study

It's a great time to be a writer. It's also kind of a pain. Authors, no matter which route you take, have to be authorpreneurs. Fortunately, book promotion is like 90% digital. Only big name authors get print ads. New companies are creating ways to promote books. Because they want indie/hybrid authors to use them, they're services are either free or relatively inexpensive. So far, I haven't run into any shady services. I'm pretty sure they're out there.

Don't pay for anything until you thoroughly research the business. Follow publishing professionals- people who know something about the industry.

I learned about Bublish from Book Baby. I trust Book Baby- for now. They did get rid of their free ebook publishing option.

Bublish is a publishing technology company that offers cloud-based tools, metrics and resources to equip today’s business-savvy authors for success. An innovative, award-winning platform, Bublish empowers “authorpreneurs” by providing a complete social marketing and digital publishing solution. Launched at Book Expo America in June of 2012, Bublish is changing the way writers share their stories and reach their readers. Thousands of authors around the world use Bublish to promote their work and build their brand. (Bublish)
Through Bublish, you share excerpts (bubbles) of your story along with some behind-the-scenes info.

You'll have to upload an epub version of your book. No one can see it but you. They need this file because this is where you get the bubbles from. The snippets can be as long or as short as you want. Bublish gives you a free one month trial. Then, you have to pay for it. I don't think I'll be paying for this so I'm trying to get the most out of it before my trial runs out. 

The free version only allows you to upload one book. You have to shell out a few dollars to upload more books.

The profile page and bubble design are amazing. I just want to share them everywhere.

We get some analytics. They tell how many views my bubbles and profile got on Bublish, Twitter and Facebook. They also tell conversions from the bubbles- which online retailers people visited after reading my bubbles.
With most sites like this, you get basic promotion for free. As in, you sign up and they put you under New Authors. After that, you're on your own. Not so for Bublish. I tweet my bubbles. Bublish retweets them to their 4,000+ followers. In the Twitterverse, 4,000 followers isn't a lot. But, I have about 1,400. Through Bublish, I have the potential to reach more people.

All I do is create the bubbles and Tweet them. I don't do anything else to promote my page yet my profile and bubble views keep going up.

I'm not doing this to generate books sales. That would be nice, but my goal is to create conversations about The Sciell- preparing for the release of Book 2, Chains of  the Sciell, in May. So far, I haven't gotten sales or conversations. I don't think that's Bublish's doing. The bubbles got people to visit online stores. They didn't buy probably because of the reviews. The bubbles also got people to visit my blog.

I'll keep trying different excerpts, different Tweets to get people to share content. So far, I'm happy with Bublish.

On an unrelated note, I finished redesigning my publisher/employer's, Aubey LLC, website. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Movie Review: Selma

I usually don't see this kind of movie.  A film about the Civil Rights Movement is going to be heartbreaking. Reading about it is hard enough. Seeing it would be gut-wrenching. But, the buzz around Selma had me curious.

I was not disappointed. This was a beautiful movie. Not something I say often. The acting was superb. Man, that movie knew how to play with your emotions. One moment, I'm uplifted. Next, I'm horrified.  Don't know if I'll watch this movie again. It was amazing and inspirational. Some parts were hard to watch.
Selma is about the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights for African Americans. Black people had the right to vote. But at the registration office, they'd be asked to do things like recite the Preamble. If they couldn't do that, their application was denied. If they somehow managed to get registered, their names and addresses would be published in the newspaper, which meant they forfeited their lives.

The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernays SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.

I enjoyed how Dr. King was portrayed. Selma showed him tired, scared, doubtful, grief-stricken. He was a man. The movie also focused on other people. They showed that Dr. King didn't do this alone. He had great people around him. They struggled right along with him.

Voting rights wasn't just a "black problem." White people were killed while they fought alongside black people. Dr. King put out a call for help and bus loads of people showed up to support the movement.

Simple scenes were just so powerful. They didn't need dialogue. You can just look at them and feel.

Selma was rough to watch at some moments. It had cops beating unarmed protesters with batons. One shot a man for no reason. Most of these protesters were women and the elderly. You can understand why African Americans are afraid of police. My parents are in their upper fifties. They were alive when this happened. They didn't grow up seeing the good side of police. They grew up seeing cops beating and killing innocent black people. They passed that distrust onto their children because we still have to be careful around cops. We can't tell the good ones from the bad ones just by looking at them.

What's terrifying about this movie is the parallels between then and now. I don't want to go back to that time. Anytime before the 80s was really, really bad for activists fighting for racial equality. Even the 80s and 90s had some moments. I mean, African Americans were being killed and their murderers got away with... oh wait.

I can't speak on certain historical moments. However, I've done enough reading on how civil rights activists and African Americans were treated during the 60s. Selma did not exaggerate. It wasn't afraid to go there.

I left the theater feeling like I could do anything. The activists went through hell just to walk from Selma to Montgomery. They never gave up. It's an inspiring movie. It was the push I needed to keep going with my writing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Creating Image Quotes

You have a month long promotion for your book. How do you share it across social media? After awhile, people are gonna get tired of seeing your book cover. I've seen some creative ways of sharing a cover on Instagram, but those are for print books. This is where image quotes come in. They give readers a look into your story. They're versatile. People love images on social media.

First, you need lines from your book. This can't be just your favorite lines. They may be amazing lines within the book. They may also be confusing taken out of the book.

The lines need to have an impact. They have to get people interested in the book. I run my potential quotes by someone who doesn't know the story as much as I do. They tell me which ones work and which ones don't.

An image quote can have single font-single color text.

I rarely do that because it's more fun and more eye-catching to play around with font, color, size and placement of the text. (I do all my image quotes in Photoshop)

How do you figure out what image to use? If you create your own book covers, more than likely you'll have tons of images you didn't use. Try those out.

If you don't have images on file, search for stock photos. I go to 123rf and Shutterstock and search for dark or gothic images. Sometimes, I do a grudge/abstract background search. The image has to represent your book and your brand.

For Devdan Manor, I had this quote:
"Ryse had ancient eyes. She saw the real world, instead of the world everyone pretended to see." 
Ryse is a demon. I searched for "demon eyes." I found this on Shutterstock.

This image is perfect except Ryse is dark skin.

When you're searching for backgrounds, remember, you can edit those images. There are a ton of Photoshop Tutorials on YouTube. I taught myself how to change the skin color. Here's the final product.

How do you determine the font style, color and placement of the text?

First, I get my royalty free fonts from Font Squirrel. There's also My fonts- I haven't used this one, but a designer pointed me to it. Most are free to download and use. Most of the fonts I use aren't the ones that come with Photoshop.

You download the fonts you like and play with the text. Your quote may have words or phrases you want to highlight.

Highlight doesn't have to mean a different color. It could be color and placement.
As you know, I'm not a planner. I don't know what the text will look like going into the project. You can plan it out. Make sketches. Think of color schemes. Adobe has a color wheel you can use for free- Adobe Kuler.

Look at other image quotes to get some design ideas.

Remember to "sign" you images. You want people to share them. Your name or book title may not travel with the image. You need to have, on the image, you name or book title- or both.
Also, image quotes don't have to be text from your book. People love, love quotes about writing. You can go on Goodreads, find an author quote and make an image out of it. It's legal as long as the image isn't for commercial use.

Like book covers, people will see thumbnail versions of your images. Make sure they look good small.

You can use Adobe Photoshop free for 30 days. If you know any other, cheaper, software to create image quotes, comment below!
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