Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Enjoying Writers in the Grove

I LOVE my new writer's group, Writers in the Grove. I look forward to every session. We get prompts and everyone writes and then shares. It's teaching me a lot about my natural voice and stretches me to try out new techniques. My goal has been to work on narration not exposition or poetry, but I can tell my craving for arc is getting trite and I need to put more struggle between the problem and conclusion... and be more real. I'll share some of my shorts when I have more time.

Diana is one of my favorite members. She writes beautifully symbolic poetry. When one person awed at her concepts, she replied, "I write truth!" That's what I want to do better at.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Finding Free Images for Websites and Blogs

When I say I want a free image, I'm not saying I only want it free of copyright like Gettyimages or Shutterstock would have you believe. I mean, I don't want to pay any money for that free of copyright image.

A great resource is the following blogpost on designskilz that lists 30 sites that offer free images. http://www.designskilz.com/free-photos/

With thirty plus choices, you'd think I could find a picture of someone showing surprise. Well, it was surprisingly difficult.

Many of the sites give categories and do a great job at sweeping landscapes which could be used for awesome background shots, but either they don't have a search bar for individual concepts or don't do emotions. Here's a few I liked-

Jay Mantri has incredible landscapes
Gratisography has whimiscal and artistic photos that are impressive but the selection is limited
Life of Pix has a good search bar but gave me a mountain goat when I searched for a baby.
Skitterphoto has a good number of photos but was a little hard to search
Splitshire was the same.
Unsplash is probably the best and easiest to search, but it had 0 search results for surprise or shock

After a few hours of searching these 30 sites for an image of surprise, and in the middle of the night, I turned to my teenage son and asked him to pose with me for a blurry shot from my webcam. Here is my surprise picture. (It looks a little like we're Zombies.)

BUT, if I had only known. The next morning I learned that BING has a license free option on their image searches. What does this mean???

Life has returned to the days when people took Google Images and used them wherever they wanted, only now it's in BING. Sure, you have to make sure you only use the ones tagged free of rights, but it's a faster, better way to search. All you do is enter what you want in Bing.com. Once your results come up, look at the options. Click under license...

... the drop down gives you a choice of "free to share and use commercially" which knocks out all the images you can't use and, BING-O, there's your pictures. Look at my surprise now.

To think I used to hate this search engine. Now my feelings are totally changed! What a surprise!!! Go BING!

P.S. Google does have this option but it's hidden under advanced search and takes a few more clicks. Still I like Bing better. I NEVER thought I'd say that.

How NOT to Format an Ebook on Create Space and Kindle

So, when I decide to do something, I usually close my eyes and dive in. That's what I tried to do with my first two ebooks, but truth is, I BELLY FLOPPED!

Let me show you how my formatting turned out...

First, I used a simple word template on Three Kisses called filigree. I liked it.

Then I used the transfer tool on Kindle, and the preview made me think I was fabulous!

So it would seem I was ready to go, but NO! First of all, my cover page turned out to be two pages so my name was on the second page. Then I turned to my dedication. Here's the KDP preview...

 Looking good, huh? BUT, when my husband bought it, the dedication was on two pages and thrown off center. It looks soooo bad!!

If that's not bad enough, I had random filigree in addition to the graphics at the beginning of each chapter. Otherwise it was pretty good.

Then I uploaded book number two, He's Got Her Goat. Unlike the preview, my title page was also cut in half. I spent hours struggling with my little graphics. I never could get my scene change flower to stay centered so I abandoned it, but my little goat on the title page looked perfect on preview so I thought I was golden. Look at it. Sooo sad.

The worst was my formatting issues. My indents lost their minds. Though my word doc is great, look at this page. A normal indent, a triple AND a double ALL on the same page.

At my critique group I complained to my wonderful mentor and critique buddy, Liz Adair, and she told me that the answer was a combination of creating PDF's of your title page and other front pages, and then using a program called Jutoh that allows you to edit actively in the mobi format.

So I'm rolling up my sleeves and will try it. Has anyone else struggled with formatting ebooks?

We'll see how I do. I've got three more completed manuscripts to upload so I better get busy.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ch-ch-changes! Facing my own Ebook 

I'll admit it. I'm old fashioned. I like using maps that fold and reading books made out of paper. I even have a stupid phone (pre-smart phone.) 
With writing, my dream was always to get accepted by a publishing house who would do my marketing while I could simply write and do some fun signings and author presentations.

As I attempted to pursue this dream, other responsibilities have gotten in the way. After a few years of teaching high schoolers and relocating due to job changes, I've finally got some time on my hands so I can get back to it. 

Only while I've been away, somehow the world has changed. Okay, so maybe it changed earlier, and I simply didn't accept it. Either way, I can't ignore it anymore. EBOOKS are the future of writing.

It's true!!! 

How did I figure this out, you may ask?

1. My first clue was Heather Moore's website. Although she's had great success with her historical fiction, I knew she was trying to break into the national market and had a few unpublished books. By self publishing and being extremely clever, she's gotten on the USA Today bestseller list. 

2. Janette Rallison, another author I admire, writes YA for a national audience with one of the big 5, but her interests in writing extend far beyond YA. By independently publishing her other books, she's able to have the best of both worlds.

3. I am part of a wonderful writer's group every Thursday and one of my writing buddies, Liz Adair, is having great success also. It amazing how she's extending her reach and getting some serious downloads.

4. The final kicker was this article from authors earnings. In it, the author pointed out that with traditional publishing the writer only gets a small portion of the profits of the book. My first published novels sold for close to fifteen dollars,and I got less than two. I believe that's typical. Electronic publishing allows me to keep up to 70% of my earnings. In short, my publisher would have to sell over twenty times more books in order for me to make the same amount. AND with paper sales, there is no ability to re-approach those readers. Electronic sales allow hyperlinks in the back of books and more author/reader interaction.

Okay. I'm sold, but now comes the scary part. Actually doing it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not Sticking with the Prepared Lesson

I'm teaching early morning Seminary this year and although I'm still writing, I think I'll include reflections of my class on this blog. Since seminary is a daily Bible study class, there may be more insight.

Today I prepared a class on the idea that we have each been called to a great work and that the purpose of our life is to find and fulfill it. I was pumped to get them motivated about their futures and feel empowered. Instead, we spent the entire time talking about the origin of the Book of Abraham, a subject I had only thought to touch on.

The thing is, I felt like we were focusing on the RIGHT thing, even though it wasn't at all what I had planned. As I was packing up, I sort of whined that we hadn't touched the planned topic and one of my wonderfully enthusiastic students made the comment that it was the best lesson because it was what they wanted to learn.

Not that as teacher we shouldn't prepare well, but the concept of customizing our study to the needs of the students surprised me. I hope for inspiration in the preparation and then wanted a tight, entertaining and inspirations production with interactive moments. When you've prepared well, it's sometimes even more difficult to put your prepared work aside to answer questions and go another direction. I'm glad I did and the other benefit is that I can use my planned remarks for tomorrow with very little preparation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Change of Direction

Girl's camp was awesome, my eighteen year old daughter is flip-flopping back and forth in her relationship but for now the wedding is off, and the teenagers are gone this week on trek. You'd think I'd have some time to recap, but life keeps throwing me fast balls. I was called this week to be Seminary Teacher for the Art Students at our local magnet school. I'm thrilled because I LOVE the Old Testament but it will be held in the conference room of a member of the stake presidency and I don't know how I'm going to be quiet and cultured enough.

It's going to really challenge me to be prepared for seminary every morning, keep up on the housework and get my writing done. I've got a huge edit to do on my manuscript and I'd love to have it in by Christmas. I guess it's time to trim the fat and roll up my sleeves. Can you spell S-T-R-E-S-S??? It will be fine. Now I better run off and LIVE.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maybe I Can Recapture Summer

Finally the sun is peeking through the clouds of the Northwest, and I feeling the hope of a wonderful summer. During my childhood I remember being cocoomed in my twisted sheets, staring at the dark window until the first touch of sunlight hit the panes. We had a rule that no one could get up until the sun did. I'd run outside with an abandon known only to youth and forgetfulness, and spend every second of the day free of the bounds of four walls, even taking my meals beneath the open skies.

We would stay busy building treehouses, exploring in the woods that curled around and connected the yards of surrounding houses to our own. We caught our share of wildlife, Healthy when they came into our care and limping, bruised and thirsty but alive when we let them free. I remember finding baby squirrels that had fallen from their nest, tadpoles that we watched turn to frogs in a mason jar filled with brown speckled water. We once found a crow tangled in yarn and brought the creature to my poor mother who freed it, bloodying her hands with its sharp beak and claws in the process.

As afternoons lazed on we would break into thousands of variations of tag, running just for the fun of it until we were sweaty and worn, which was the point. Then we would knock on the screen door with our faces red and beaded with sweat, begging to turn ont he sprinkler. Still in our play clothes we would rush across the stream of water like Poseidon's jump rope and ultimately unhook the hose until everyone was thoroughly soaked.

As the evening approached we relished the setting sun becau000000se it brought a fire to the firepit which meant s'mores, hot dogs or just burnt sticks which we held aloft like torches as we raced around the grass like mighty Olympians. At last, as the fires gave way to coals, my mother would insist we went inside to sleep. But before dawn, my hunger for the outdoors would awaken long before I was supposed to and I'd stare again at the darkened window, longing for the sunrise.

My question is with the lure of three video consoles, the internet, facebook, Halo Reach, television, netflix and hundreds of other electronic candy, could I help my children find such a summer or is it lost in the past? I'd like to try and it all starts next Thursday. Well, maybe not because I'm leaving for Girl's Camp the following week. But we get home the first of July and then leave on a family vacation. Scout camp is the next week and then two weeks later is Trek. When the kids get home we will have about two more weeks before the wedding in Utah and that trip. As August winds to an end, things slow down just in time for band camp and football and then school begins again. Perhaps we can still find summer in the edges.