Friday, May 29, 2015

The Week in Links 5/29/15 Black Fantasy Hero, Reading in America, Robot Cheetah

Chains of the Sciell is coming out Tuesday!!!
I'll be starting my first blog tour Monday!!! Funny, after publishing many books with small sales, I thought I wouldn't be exited about the Chains of the Sciell release. Lies. I am so excited. 

On to our regularly schedule blog post. 

Fantasy Doesn't Need To Be A Mega-Novel To Have A Rich Imaginary World
This post was published last year but I found out about it this week. These Are Not Rules of Fantasy
Escaping the Apocalypse
A Snapshot of Reading in America in 2013

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Inspiration from Nature

A few photos for your inspiration! Walking around the park flexes my world building muscles.

My park just added pedal boats and bike rental. Prospect Park is stepping up their game. Last year, they expanded the park interior and add a splash pad, skating rink and a restaurant.
I've seen these types of birds around a lot. Good inspiration for a fantasy creature. An animal that's mostly one color with a small strip of some bright color.

I see squirrels so often, I forgot how cute they are.

I can see these three as backgrounds for image quotes.

I work way too much. I need to relax and just enjoy sometimes.

This branch tricked me. I thought it was an animal. 
Take three steps past the fox branch and look for the rock shaped like a bear.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Creating an Author Video

Happy Memorial Day!!!

Ever watch a video of an author reading their book? I've seen them. For some reason, I never got the itch to do one. That itch came about a week ago. Turns out, those videos are harder to create than I expected.

The technical stuff was actually pretty easy... at first. I used Windows Live Movie Maker's record video from webcam function.
The hardest parts were getting my words right and figuring out what passage would work. I spent several hours over a couple of days trying to go through my "script" without tripping over my words. I didn't want to write anything down because the video would feel like I was reading from something. In the end, I wrote an outline...and I still tripped over my words.

I could have recorded the video in three parts-- beginning, middle and end-- and edited them together. That was a last resort.

Before you make a video like this, think about your brand and what you want to convey.

  1. I wanted the video to feel down to earth. I didn't want to do much editing.
  2. Appearance is important. Yours has to represent your brand. Since this is an at home video, I had to decide if I'd go full make-up or record naked, so to speak. I decided on a happy medium.
  3. Background. I spent some time arranging the things that'll show up behind me in the video. 
  4. What is the Call to Action? What do you want viewers to do after watching the video? More on that later. 
This type of planning might take away from the "at home" feel. But, I felt it had to be done. This video is going online. It represents my book. Its gotta be on point. 

I ran into a few irritations while recording. 
  • My computer's fan is loud. It comes up on the audio. I have another newer computer that's blissfully silent but the screen isn't wide enough to get the background I wanted. It doesn't have Windows Live Movie Maker. 
  • The lighting in my apartment is terrible. Just awful. For this video, I had my overhead light and floor lamp on as well as the window curtains pulled back. 
  • At about 4 or 5pm, children start making noises outside my door and in the apartment next to mine. My mic picks up all of that.
After several failed recordings, I finally got a video I was happy with. Then came the next series of snags.
  1. The webcam records a mirror image of everything, which means my book cover was backwards.
  2. The video has me stopping the recording and I couldn't figure out how to remove that part.
  3. Window Live Movie Maker outputs .wmv videos which do not work with my Adobe product. 
  4. The video runs a bit long. 
Windows Live Movie Maker is pretty easy to learn. I had no problem finding the trim function to remove the last two minutes of the video. The program has a Mirror Horizontal Visual Effect which fixed the issue with my book cover. 

Doing any sort of advanced editing was out of the question. I wanted to use Adobe Premier Pro to increase the audio levels. I'm sure there's some program I could've downloaded to covert the video but I didn't want to get into all that.

As for the length...the video has a cute little surprise which I know I can't duplicate. My beta viewers enjoyed it so I decided to keep the length. For the next video, I'll make sure its shorter. A simple fix would've been to add some visual effects in the middle of the video to break it up. That would take away from the "at home" feel. 

That wasn't the end of the adventure.

All videos need a Call to Action. What do I want the viewers to do after they finish watching it?

Chains of the Sciell is available for pre-order. However, I've come across many articles saying authors without a dedicated fan base won't get many pre-orders. That's fine. My focus is on reaching my audience. 

I settled on putting this at the end of the video.
This serves as a reminder of the book cover. The tagline will get viewers more interested in the book.

I've been using #ChainofTheSciell almost everywhere for a couple of months now. If you search for it on Twitter, Instagram or even Google it, you will find something about my book. Putting a hashtag, I feel, is cleaner than adding a website or links to my social media accounts. Funny enough, my blog shows up when I Google the hashtag, probably because #ChainsofTheSciell is in the blog's sidebar.

On to exporting the video. This was another challenge. The video was not recorded in HD. When I saved it as an HD file, it looked like crap. Then, I saved it using "Recommend Settings" and it still looked awful.

I customized the output to 1080 x 720 30 fps.

That worked. Finally, here's the video!!! Enjoy!

In hindsight, I should've said some of the keywords I collected like gritty, apocalyptic, terror. I talked about metadata in Getting Your Book Noticed. I'll remember that for next time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Week in Links 5/22/15 The Witcher Novels, J.K. Rowling, InHumans

Fantasy and How the World Ought To Be
Syfy’s The Magicians Trailer Shows Us Some Real Magic
10 Great Found Footage Horror Movies for Beginners
These Video Tours Of Abandoned Mansions Are Incredibly Spooky
“Ten Post-Apocalyptic Novels Written by Women” by Nicolette Stewart

Writing and Publishing
Begin Your Novel with Action: A Good Rule?
Killing Your Darlings
The Freelance Rates Calculator We’ve All Been Waiting For
Hemingway App: A Proofreading Tool for Writers
My personal list of what should be top-of-mind for publishers around digital change today

Monday, May 18, 2015

10 Editing Tips for Indie Author

I highly recommend you hire an editor. They catch things you'd never notice like repetitions. I discovered I enjoy using "had" and "but." Now I have to be careful.

On the other hand, you might be churning out several stories a year. Your wallet may not be deep enough to hire an editor every time you want to publish. I hired an editor for The Sciell but I didn't for Chains of the Sciell. I don't have a professional editor look over my shorter stories.

Having a editor for Chains of the Sciell would've made my life so much easier. That story was a beast. As the author, I am not the best person to be editing it.

I'm with a small press publisher. This time around, they didn't have the money to hire an editor. I definitely didn't have the funds. What was I gonna do? Hold off publishing Chains of the Sciell until we could afford an editor. That wasn't happening. People keep telling you to hire an editor. Sometimes, that's not possible.

Study other books
Some self-published stories can be free of grammatical errors yet full of showing instead of telling while opening with a long, long backstory or a pointless prologue. I'm not a big fan of writing rules anymore. I also understand why the exist. Know them so you can break them effectively.

Just keep swimming
Some people edit while they're writing. By the time they're finish writing, they have a publishable story. I prefer to keep writing and edit when I'm finished. By the time I'm rereading my story, I forgot most of what I wrote. It's like reading a new story. While writing, I keep a journal handy. If I want to add something to a scene I've already passed, I write it in my journal then add a comment in the document saying "see journal entry."

Phone a friend
You've probably come across many articles telling you to never give your story to family and close friends for feedback because they won't be objective. Don't follow this blindly. It depends on the family.

I always give my stories to family because they'll be honest. If they don't like it, they'll tell me. If they get confused, if a scene doesn't work, if they liked the first book better, they have no problems letting me know. My mom has editing experience so she checks my work for grammatical errors. If you have a family member who's willing to read your work for free and you know they'll give you great feedback, give them that story.

Add to dictionary
I talked about this in the post Add to MS Word's Dictionary. I heard you shouldn't add words to MS Words dictionary. I'm breaking that rule. As a fantasy writer, my story is packed with made up words. It's a bit irritating trying to read through a document with all those red underlines. I add all my made up words and characters names to Word's dictionary so it'll tell me when I've misspelled them. While editing, I don't have to pay extra attention to those words. If they're not underlined, it means I spelled them correctly. It also helps when I forget how to spell a place name and I don't want to get up to dig out my journal or consult my map.

Pre-pub reviews
Early reviews can be like the warning call of the ominous footsteps creeping towards your book. This isn't ideal. You should not rely on this. Some reviewers will send you a note about any problems they found. For instance, Reader's Favorite commented that they found many grammatical errors towards the end of the book. This wasn't in the published review. I'm so glad they pointed that out.

Change font and color
I got this from The Artful Edit. I change the story's font to something totally different yet readable and change the color to something tolerable-like red or orange.  This way the document looks different. I can read it as though I hadn't been the one to write it.

Print it out
I know we're in the digital age, but printing out a document to edit it is still a thing. It works. I think it's the "screen" shift. We spend weeks, maybe months and years looking at a computer screen. Reading a print version of our story gives us a new perspective.

Change devices
Speaking of different perspectives. If you own a Kindle, you can email your story to your device and read it there. I've caught many errors this way. Kindle also has text-to-speech. Having the device read my story helped me pick out a lot of problems.

I go through the entire story on my Kindle then edit the original once I've finished reading. On the Kindle, you can highlight and add comments. When you come across an error, I recommend you do both. I tried just highlighting once. When I went back over the story, in some instance, I couldn't remember why I highlighted certain texts.

Read out of order
I've mentioned this before as well. If your story is told from multiple perspectives, try reading the entire story from each character's POV. I created a chart to outline time passing which also has chapters and POV characters. In order to keep track of chapter numbering, I turned each chapter title in Word into a heading. Word has document navigation. It was easy to go from chapter to chapter, without scrolling. If you printed the document, organize it so each character has their own book.

Character notes
I have one document summarizing each character's personality and another with images representing their appearances. I consulted these docs often during the editing process. The Merging World series is a family saga, so creating those documents helped me makes sure characters resembled their parents and their siblings. I don't have to go back in the story to find out if this character has black, white or blue hair. Creating a family tree would help as well.

How I Self-Edit My Novels: 15 Steps From First Draft to Publication
4 Editing & Proofreading Techniques For Your Novel

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Week in Links 5/15/15 Harry Potter Bedrooms, Alpha Heroine, Pinterest Surge

Fantasy/Sci-Fi/ Horror
11 Magical Harry Potter Bedrooms That Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again
Oh Good, Sony's Remaking The Craft
Kate Beckinsale Will Catsuit Up For a FifthUnderworld Movie
MIND MELD: Movies That Are Better Than Their Bookish Inspirations
Five Books with Powerful Friendships

Writing and Publishing
Is e-publishing changing the length of a book?
Are libraries dying?
Pinterest Set to Surge in 2016: New Research
50 Ways To Reach Your Reader. # 2: Indie Authors & Amazon Author Page
Do Authors Really Need a Facebook Page?

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Treasure in Deleted Scenes

Try to think about marketing and brand building while your writing and editing your story. Don't wait until you're finished the book to think of lines to share on social media. Don't just delete scenes that don't work. Save them in another document and share them on social media. I shared this one on Instagram and was pleasantly surprised at how many likes it got.

Lafeyette’s aura darkened. “Every time you two go at it, I want to kill you or myself. Aren’t we too old to act like this?”

Niah turned a half smile on Lafeyette. “Speaking of going at it—”

Lafeyette bowed his head with a groan. “At eighty-one, you two still act like darklings. Niah, you need to stop bringing up my active sex life before Vayle digs up your overactive past, without your consent.” 
Niah shrugged. Fear cracked through her aura. “Lord Lafeyette the Mouthy makes another appearance,” she mumbled.
“Preferable to Niah the Loose.”
I've mentioned this before, I think, readers like getting a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a book and the author's life. The deleted scenes you share don't have to just be the good ones, they could be ones that were totally terrible. I do something similar for the Behind the Cover posts. I share the failed covers.

You could also share images of your handwritten notes.

On a slightly unrelated note, I recently found a few hashtags that increased the number of favorites and retweets I got. It's not guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed. Most of these are more for independent authors.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Week in Links 5/8/15 Agent Carter Renewed, ebook Soundtracks, Women in SFF

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Heroic Literature in our Society – Logan Judy
10 Awesome and Unusual Mythological Creatures

Writing Life and Publishing
Three Writing Tips From The Avengers: Age of Ultron
"The new features lets authors narrate dialogue, create audiobooks, add soundtracks to their stories from their Android device"
Copyright, Publishing Contract Clauses, Image Use And Avoiding Getting Sued With Helen Sedwick
Do You Have a Publishing Plan?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Movie Review: Avengers Age of Ultron 3D

I don't plan on spoiling the story but just in case... SPOILER ALERT. Interestingly enough, the only images I can find are the ones from the trailers and posters. Well played Marvel. I can see why they're doing that. The movie has a lot of awesome surprises. They don't want reviewers like me ruining it. Those moments were epic!!!

I knew Age of Ultron would be awesome. Was it better or worse than The Avengers. It was just as good, only longer. Some of the novelty has worn off because of The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Age of Ultron was  still a fun ride full of Easter Eggs for upcoming Marvel movies and some winks to the nerd in me. Because it was about 2 and a half hours, Age of Ultron had way more emotion than the first movie.

The Avengers were still a bunch of kids only a little older and they're a little better at working together. Well, they're better at fighting together. Some of them still need help in the communication department. They're trying to be a team but, the Avengers aren't just Avengers. They have "day jobs." Man, do they have some egos.We got the witty/funny dialogue we've come to expect from Joss Whedon.

Funny. I didn't like Hulk/Banner until The Avengers. Banner was awesome and a little wimpy for letting Stark push him into doing something he knew was a bad idea. That just made him more relatable. Hulk's facial expressions at times made him look kind of like a big green puppy.
You could tell from the trailer that Banner and Natasha have a thing, sort of. They have a making of a thing. It was awkward and sweet without being overdone. The awkwardness wasn't a bad thing. You'd expect it with these two characters.

So the story. Originally, Ultron was created by Ant-Man. In the movie, Stark and a very reluctant Banner "created" him. The new story worked. This movie's cast was already reaching that breaking point. They didn't need any more poeple. Good call on that one. I don't like Ant-Man anyway.

Ultron was awesome. Marvel created yet another charming yet psychotic villain. I felt for him some moments. I was seriously like, I know he's a monster but I want him to stay around- without the whole destroy the human race thing. He had an engaging personality. Ultron was complex. I didn't expect that.

It was funny watching the movie dance around the word "mutant." Agents of SHIELD does the same thing. Marvel seriously needs to get the rights back for X-men. I wonder why they decided to put Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron. I liked them, though. I bought they're non-mutant backstory.

We gotta do this. Age of Ultron Quicksilver or Days of Future Past Quicksilver? I've been trying to figure that out. I don't think you can compare the two. They were both fun. I can see Days of Future Past Quicksilver growing up to be Age of Ultron Quicksilver...with an accent.

I'm using the names Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver because that's what I know them as. In Age of Ultron, they're just Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. The movie is also Scarlet Witch's origin story.

Vision! I was totally geeking out when I first saw his eyes in the trailer. In the movie, anytime he was on screen, he stole the scene. I'd say Vision is my favorite addition.
As you can imagine, Age of Ultron has a lot of moving parts. I enjoyed the story. I didn't think it was too much. I wasn't bored or overwhelmed. I also think a lot of Age of Ultron was setting up Marvel's Phase 3.

Avengers went to Wakanda. We meet Ulysses Klaw for a brief moment. We'll be seeing him again. Black Panther anyone.

Stranger seeing Andy Serkis actually on screen. You know him as Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Caesar from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis was creepy and memorable as Klaw.

The Avengers went into hiding because a lot of people was mad at them. Can you can say Captain America: Civil War?! Reading Civil War was bad enough. Watching it is going to be heartbreaking. Age of Ultron had some Rogers and Stark bro moments. Civil War puts them on opposite sides of the battle. For the record, I'm against superhero registration. The idea of superheros being controlled by the government gives me the willies. We don't handle people, items, with power very well.

Although, Age of Ultron showed the Avengers are really bad at policing themselves... I stick by my first statement.

Wanda messed with almost everyone's head. Thor gets disturbing visions. He goes off to investigate them. We got a peak of Thor: Ragnarok.

Thor's vision also showed the Infinity Stones. That end-credit scene had everyone in the theater cheering. I so want to tell you what it was. I'm geeking out just thinking about it. Hello, Avengers: Infinity War.

Before I read this article from Uproxx, I still had hopes that Coulson would be in Age of Ultron. He wasn't. It would've been awesome to have him make an appearance. Age of Ultron's plot was bloated enough. They didn't need to add anything else. If Coulson appeared in Age of Ultron, someone would have to explain why he wasn't dead. You can't assume everyone who saw Age of Ultron also watches Agents of SHIELD.

Since that article, fans have been saying it's not all connected. I disagree. The last episode of Agents of SHIELD mentioned the twins, Loki's staff and a metal man. I'm pretty sure Age of Ultron explained that secret project Coulson's been working on. So #Itsallconnected.

Of course I saw the movie in 3D. Was it worth it? I don't know. Marvel does 3D by adding depth to the scenery. They're usually good at it. They don't throw things at us. I was so into the story, I wasn't paying attention to the 3D. I would say don't see it in 3D. The story and the characters are what's important.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Week in Links 5/1/15 Beyond the Book, Age of Ultron, Vin Diesel

Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theaters!!!!! Finally. I will be seeing that tomorrow.

Variety: Watch: First Trailer for Vin Diesel’s ‘The Last Witch Hunter’
io9: Nightmare Video Game Turns Your House Into A Horror Movie—NOPE NOPE NOPE
The Galaxy Express: SFR Shindig: Hobbies and How They Relate To Diversity In SFR by KS Augustin
Fantasy Cafe: Women in SF&F Month: Karina Sumner-Smith
"The idea that women only write romance—and, by extension, do not write real science fiction or fantasy—was (and remains) ridiculous."
Writing Life and Publishing
First Person Plural: Sharing Your Stories: Beyond the Book

"This is why I try to help writers think beyond the book. Consider the story or message you wish to share, rather than focusing on the container. There has been so much aspirational focus on writing and publishing a book without consideration of the many other ways we can write, publish, and share ideas in the digital age."
Self Publishing Review: How to Write a Book Blurb
Thought Catalog: An Author Speaks Directly To Publishers: Kathrin Passig’s Commentary In Berlin
The Creative Penn: How To Record Your Own Audiobooks For ACX
Writer Unboxed: Unravelling The Ribbons of Your Story
Writer Unboxed: Inside the Mind of an Author a Week Before Her Book Publishes…

io9: The US Movie Adaptation Of Horror Manga Death Note Lands A Director
io9: First Look At X-Men: Apocalypse's Nightcrawler, Who Is Adorable
Mashable: Mark Ruffalo answers the sexist questions Scarlett Johansson usually deals with
Uproxx: Joss Whedon Says ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Rubbed The Folks Making Marvel Movies The Wrong Way The Folklore Origins of The Avengers

Book Marketing and Branding
Fiction University: Marketing and the Small Press
"The first thing writers should know is that no matter what, we still have a hand in marketing. It will be expected of us. We need to anticipate that and be prepared."
Publishing Perspective: It's all about the fans 
Buffer Social: The 12-Step Social Media Checklist
Wordserve Water Cooler: Linking Your Social Media Platforms
Book Promotion: How to Use Pinterest on Your Author Website
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