Committing to the Craft – Conferences, Connections & Contests

One thing that writers love is their cave. It is warm, cozy, and quiet. Coffee, tea, or other favorite libations are always at hand while the mind agitates.

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A single reader can elevate an author into the stratosphere with a kind comment or an Amazon Review. Out of that deep grotto, a connection is made.

Once the first flush of achievement fades, the next questions that authors must ask is how to get more readers and how to improve writing skills?

This January, I attended the second annual Sierra Writer’s Conference. Organized by Sierra Writers and Sierra College, it is a friendly, intimate venue filled with opportunities.

“If you want to be serious about writing, treat it like a business,” says Jordan Fisher Smith, a conference keynote speaker.

Joyce Wycoff, a event board member, says that when a writer attends a conference, “You are showing up for your writing.”

A writing conference is a place to;

  • hone your craft
  • make connections, and
  • establish an action list 

“Agents and publishers often say that writers’ who attend conferences are more serious about their craft and are more likely to succeed,” Wycoff comments.

This year’s conference was on the same day as the Women’s March.

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Women’s March

Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.

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Molly Fisk, author of Blow-Drying a Chicken

“A writer is not outside of what is going on,” said Molly Fisk. “People recognize themselves in our writing.”

“Being a writer opens a door,” she continues. “It is permission to think.”

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“Art happens when people get together to share their struggles,” Jordan Fisher Smith, commented. “You write because you are called to it.”

 

Following my current interests, I attended Marketing and Publishing and Guided Critique break-out sessions.

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Catharine Bramkamp, author of Future Gold

Catharine Bramkamp, a writing coach and social media expert discussed a variety of platforms, member demographics, and analytics. “Know where to spend your time on social media. Be aware of the results that you want to achieve. Keep yourself from getting sucked in, but do enough to have a presence online.”

 

 

 

Bob Jenkins, is a professional storyteller with a PhD in criticism. “Criticism is the20170121_202153analysis of art; what works and why it works, as well as what doesn’t work and how to fix it,” he explains.

Jenkins delighted his listeners, and the brave souls who pre-submitted writing samples, with dramatic readings of their work. His suggested improvements were striking and gratefully received.

Bob’s writing improvement recommendations; ProWritingAid, Ginger Grammar Checker, and Building Great Sentences.

 

The last workshop that I attended was with Mark Weideranders. He is a is a historical fiction author. Several of my next writing projects fall into this category.

20170121_195645robert_louis_stevenson_at_26“History did not record what was going through the mind of Fanny Osbourne, an American art student, when she drew this affectionate sketch of young Robert Louis Stevenson,” began Weideranders.

When writing historical fiction, it is important to let people know what is fact and what is fiction,” says Weideranders.

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Q & A Panel – Mark Weideranders, Mary Volmer, Jordan Fisher Smith and Kim Culbertson

Connections happen with shared experiences;

  • standing in line to get coffee
  • looking through books on display
  • the person you sit next to during lunch break
Poets Quartet performance
Poets Quartet performance

First Sentence Contest

A confidence booster was winning the First Sentence Contest. Below is my entry along with the artwork (on my cell phone) that inspired the words.

sierra-writers-confrence-2017-first-sentence-contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucia Stewart Artwork

 

For an introverted author, making oneself mingle goes outside the bounds of the comfort zone. Realizing that many authors share the same feelings makes it easier.

My ‘meeting people strategy’ is simple; smile, make eye contact, and have a genuine interest in the person I want to talk to.

The next time I step outside of my cave, it will be with increased confidence, improved skills, and more people I know in my writing community.

 

 

Additional Resources

Conference books, authors, and writing improvement tools

Download a FREE Conference Journal to discover your conference-attending personality

Additional Writers’ Conferences – Poets & Writers

Literary grants & funding

Writing Contests and Competitions –

Writer’s Digest

The Writer Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Unusual Interview Questions – Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors – Part One

In this first article of the Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors series, we’ll talk about the purpose of a media kit and provide a list of questions that you can use to get started making a Question and Answer sheet for your kit.

A media kit — aka. press room, media or promotion packet— is a collection of items that make it easy for someone from the media to do their job. In this case, that job is to write about you and your book. It’s like chefs on TV or YouTube teaching how to make a recipe. By the time they are filming, they’ve already got every item on the ingredient list premeasured and ready-to-to.

Press kits are everything that a media person needs (in resume quality) right at their fingertips. Who might want access to your press kit? Book reviewers, bloggers, literary agents, publishing houses, newspaper or magazine journalists, podcasters, talk show and radio producers or YouTubers… anyone who is a content creator.

Press kits are also dynamic; they change and grow with you and your career. Start with one piece and add to your kit as your awards, accomplishments, and media coverage grows.

Below is a list of 100 unusual questions, categorized, for you to pick and choose from to create a Question and Answer Sheet for your media kit. The purpose of the question and answer sheet is to provide enough information so that a reporter could write a complete piece about you, using direct quotes.

At the end of the post, you’ll find a downloadable PDF of the 100 questions, links to websites with more questions, and a link to my Author Question & Answer Sheet for an example of a completed press kit item.

Lifestyle

  1. Around the house – bare feet, flip flops, clogs, fuzzy socks or slippers?
  2. Do you make your bed in the morning or leave it in a rumple?
  3. Do you kill bugs or leave them alone?
  4. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  5. Describe a time when you felt like you were being watched.
  6. What is in the backseat or trunk of your car right now?
  7. If you could eliminate one task from your daily schedule, what would it be?
  8. Name something you dislike doing so much that you’ll pay someone else to do it.
  9. What internet site do you visit the most?
  10. What is your favorite social media site and why?
  11. What is your ideal pet and why?
  12. You’re about to be dropped in a remote spot for a three-week survival test. Where would you go? What three tools would you take?
  13. You are a member of the tourist board for your town where. Name five things to do that would appeal to visitors.
  14. Do you play a musical instrument?
  15. If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
  16. What is the craziest thing you’ve done in your life?
  17. Describe a strange habit.
  18. When was the last time you were in a situation that was difficult to get out of? What did you do?
  19. Name some of the things that have the strongest distraction pulls.
  20. What do you do for exercise?
  21. What do you eat for breakfast most of the time?
  22. You’ve won a second home anywhere in the world. Where is it?
  23. Name something you’d like to get rid of but keep putting off.

Tastes / Preferences

  1. What is your favorite love story?
  2. Describe a special or meaningful object that you have in your house.
  3. If you could visit the past or future, which one would you choose? Why?
  4. You can go out to dinner at any restaurant, which one do you choose?
  5. Do you have a coffee shop that you frequent? Why do you go there?
  6. What are your three favorite animals?
  7. What is your favorite spectator sport?
  8. What is your favorite sport to play?
  9. Which holiday is most relaxing and fun?
  10. Pen, pencil or…?
  11. TV, Movies or Binge watching?
  12. It’s a special celebration date. Would you rather go to dinner and a movie out or stay home?
  13. What is your favorite drink?
  14. Name and describe a living person that you most admire.
  15. You’ve just won an office make-over. What color do you choose for your workspace?
  16. Where was a place you’ve visited on vacation that you’d go back to tomorrow?
  17. What type of coffee do you order most often?
  18. Do you have a favorite brand of tea?

Personality

  1. If you had to choose an animal to represent you as an avatar, mascot or spirit totem, which animal would it be?
  2. What makes you run screaming?
  3. If someone gave you a boat, what would you name it?
  4. Describe a personality trait of someone in your family.
  5. If your life was a movie, would it be a drama, comedy, action/adventure, or science fiction?
  6. Are you a summer, fall, winter, or spring person?
  7. You are about to get a tattoo. Where will it go and what will be the design?
  8. Name something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
  9. You’re about to live through a natural disaster or other traumatic experience. What kind of disaster or experience is it?
  10. Think about punctuation marks. Which one would you pick to describe your personality and why?
  11. One being the highest and ten being the lowest, rate your happiness level right now.
  12. If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
  13. What is the most important part of a sandwich?
  14. If you were a car, what make and model would you be?
  15. You are a teacher for a day. What is your subject and who are your students?
  16. Tell the story about one of your scars.
  17. Sing in the rain, dance in the streets, hum in the shower or…?
  18. Describe your handwriting.
  19. You are the guest of honor at a large event. When you arrive, the room is already full. How do they react when you come in?
  20. Describe your first crush.
  21. What qualities do you most admire in your friends?
  22. If you were an animal in a zoo, which animal would you be?
  23. Name something that makes you cry.
  24. What types of situations make you angry?
  25. What strikes your funny bone?
  26. What’s fun?

Wishes / Thoughts / Dreams

  1. What is the best thing you’ve accomplished in life so far?
  2. Does Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother exist?
  3. You’re about to get a superpower. What is it and why do you want it?
  4. Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years.
  5. If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
  6. You’ve just been bitten by a vampire / werewolf / zombie / charmed snake. What do you do next?
  7. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  8. You remain perfectly healthy and have unlimited financial resources but you only have the next six months to live, what do you do?
  9. You just won twenty million in a state lottery, what is the first thing you do?
  10. What adventures are on your bucket list?
  11. Which talent would you most like to have?
  12. You’ve just been elected President, what is the first problem you plan to solve?
  13. List something you’d like to accomplish before you die.

Writing

  1. How old were you when you first started writing?
  2. If you had to describe an author platform in three sentences to a six-year-old, how would describe it?
  3. What year did you complete your first book?
  4. If you could do a book over again, what would you do differently with the story arc, plot, characters, scenes, production or marketing?
  5. What was your favorite scene or character to write?
  6. Have you re-edited and re-released any titles?
  7. Is there a time frame or subject area that you’d like to work with?
  8. Have you traveled to research writing projects? Where to?
  9. After you’ve spent a long time cranking out pages, do you feel energized or exhausted?
  10. In what situations, do you grow tired of reading?
  11. Describe some of your author friends. How do they help improve your writing skills?
  12. After you published a book or two, how has your writing process changed?
  13. What was the best financial investment you made as an author?
  14. What is your definition of being a successful author?
  15. Describe your research process.
  16. What time periods of life do you find yourself writing about the most? (childhood, teen, adult, elder)
  17. What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
  18. Do you hide any secrets in your writing that only a few people know about?
  19. What are the most difficult types of scenes to write?
  20. If you could live as one of your characters for a day, which one would it be?

100-Unusual-Interview-Questions PDF

Click here if you’re curious to see my Question & Answer page in my Author Media Room.

Resources for Additional Interview Questions:

https://jlwylie.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/brainstorm-interesting-author-interview-questions/

http://thejohnfox.com/2016/06/good-questions-to-ask-an-author/

http://chrissypeebles.blogspot.com/p/fun-interviews.html

https://toughnickel.com/finding-job/Off-The-Wall

http://www.howmate.com/funny-questions-to-ask-friends/

http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/

http://seanajvixen.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-fun-questions-tag.html

Color and Personality Resource:

What color says about your personality.

You Might Also Like:
6 Elements of a News Release – Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors- Part Two

Ancestry Fiction Writing – How to Bring Biographical Stories to Life

With online search tools and DNA testing, tracing family tree genealogy is easier than ever. What’s a writer to do when a famous or (infamous) skeleton is found lurking in the closet? Write about it, of course!

downloadCanadian author Debbie McClure is known and loved for her paranormal romance books. Louise Rasmussen (Countess Danner from Denmark) has been part of Debbie’s oral family history for as long as she remembers.  This year, she published The King’s Consort: The Louise Rasmussen Story. 

I asked Debbie if she’d share her process for bringing biographical fiction to life.

 

“Historical fiction is meant to engage, entertain,
and perhaps even educate the reader
regarding people of history who
intrigue and inspire us.”
~ Debbie McClure

 

When did you first become interested in Louise Rasmussen?

Debbie McClure (age seventeen) and Morfar (Grandfather Rasmussen) 1976
Debbie Jackson McClure (age 17) and Morfar – Grandfather Rasmussen 1976

I was a teenager when my mother told me a remarkable (true) love story about a woman who we might be related to.

Louise Rasmussen, was born in Denmark in 1815. She was the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Louise rose to become a ballerina, then married King Frederik VII.

Her story captured and held my
interest for forty years.

How did you know that you were ready to write this book? What were the first steps?

countess_danner1853pngWhen I was a new writer, that seemed like a huge, insurmountable task, so I wrote two other books first to gain some much needed experience and shore up some confidence. Paranormal romances were fun to write, and during that process I learned how to research the past and weave myriad details into a cohesive story.

By the time I announced my decision to write Louise’s story, my mother was well into her seventies. I asked her whether or not she believed her aunt’s claim that we may be related to Countess Danner. She admitted she really wasn’t sure, but thought it may be true, since her aunt had no reason to say such a thing if it wasn’t.

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Debbie and her mother Beckey Rasmussen Jackson 2016

There had also been talk of some sort of written evidence of that relation in a family bible or genealogical tree. Unfortunately, much of the details about distant family relations had been lost by then. I then asked my mother to write out the names, dates of birth and deaths, to the best of her knowledge, of her father, grandfather, etc.

In going through old photos, my mother came across an old newspaper article about my great-grandfather in Denmark. That article provided some extremely useful information on who he was, his birth and death, and also information on his parents, so this was a wonderful find.

hans-rasmussen-moms-farfar
Hans Rasmussen (death notice June, 1952). Farfar – Debbie’s great grandfather.

I also contacted a cousin in Denmark who is extremely interested in genealogy and history, and asked her to help. Using the internet and on-line documentation, we were able to trace our lineage back a couple of generations, but that was as far as we got.

I will admit that by that time, the idea of writing Louise’s story became more important than tracing my family’s heritage, so I let that one simmer for a while, knowing I would pick it up later.

Would you take us through your research process?

To begin writing the story, I researched everything I could find on Louise, King Frederik, and her ex-lover/lifetime friend, Carl Berling, and the people they shared their lives with.

I maintained an outline and profile on my computer for each and every person I included in the story, including details about hair and eye color. I also created a separate time-line for events, both historical and political, or events relating to each character’s personal history.

As I often explain to new writers who attend my workshops, outlines are great references when writing anything from fiction to non-fiction. It allows the writer to dip in and add or delete details as needed, or to check in to ensure the story is following the designated time lines and story arc.

I use folders in Word on my computer, but hard copies in real file folders works equally as well. The truth is, whatever works for the writer is just fine. I typically do mine in point form, for ease of reading, adding or deleting points, but again, whatever works. I know some writers who use story boards and photos, but I’m not as familiar with this, so can’t really comment. Whenever I come across a picture or profile I’m interested in, I save it to my computer for easy reference later. Keep in mind that later can be months or years later, depending on the scope of the project.

These are my vision cues, and I reference them often when trying to describe a person, place, or scene in a novel.

copenhagen-1840

Click here to download a PDF of Debbie’s Steps to Writing Biographical Fiction.

Were you surprised by anything that you found?

 My research confirmed that the history books paint Louise much as my mother described. This lady wasn’t well liked. She was considered a crass, avaricious gold-digger. She was ostracized by the aristocracy, laughed at, and publicly ridiculed.

Undeterred, I dug deeper, convinced there was more to this woman than history reported.

Early in Louise’s life, she had a very public affair with the well-known heir to one of Denmark’s most prestigious newspapers, Berlingskes Politiske og Avertissements Tidende (Berlingske Tidende 1936-Present). She gave birth to Berling’s illegitimate child, but was forced to give her infant son up for adoption or risk social and economic disaster. Her heart must have broken, but I believe she did so hoping to give him a better chance at life than she thought she could provide as a young ballet dancer.

The Royal Theatre – Royal Danish Ballet school, Copenhagen. Painting shows violinist Busch, the ballerina Charlotte Weihe (standing centre foreground) and the ballet master Emil Hansen, seated on the right. (Paul Gustave Fischer, 1889)

After King Frederik VII died, Louise, now the titled Countess Danner, turned part of the home they loved and shared at Jaegerspris Castle, just outside Copenhagen, into a museum to honor him. She also opened part of it to the “poor servant women and children of Denmark.”jaegerspris_castle

 

Now this was a woman who could have done anything she wanted with the money and home she received at the king’s passing. She didn’t have to give anything back to anyone, but she did. In fact, she dedicated the rest of her life to getting “Danner House” (Dannerhuset), as it is commonly called, up and running.

Something didn’t add up. Did gold-diggers really give back to others so unselfishly?

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Research begins to tell its own story. The writer is simply along for the ride. Clues are followed and hypotheses are formed.

So, I continued to dig, and to form my own vision of who Louise was, based on the fact that by all accounts, King Frederik VII absolutely adored her. He was a remarkable man in his own right, and fought for the rights of the people of Denmark, abolished absolute monarchy, and apparently valued and sought Louise’s opinion on many political matters.

After fact gathering and history time-line making, how did you fill in the emotional blanks?

With historical fiction, we can never know exactly who said what to whom, or when. We can’t possibly know what people thought, or how certain events affected them on a personal level, but we can put ourselves into the shoes of those who lived many years ago and imagine.

Historical fiction, or creative non-fiction, if you prefer, does just that. It weaves a fictional story around facts, people, and places that actually existed. It isn’t meant to be a history text book, or even be clinically factual.

ks-book-cover

“Louise was an incredible woman who learned to follow her own instincts. She gained my admiration and remains an inspiration to woman today who refuse to give up, who rise to the challenges they face in their lives, and who choose to do what’s right over what’s easy,” says Debbie.

Are you planning to return to your family genealogy research?

Now that I’m past the first flush of excitement of publication, I’ve begun working with my mother and family in Denmark again to delve into the truth of our heritage as it pertains to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner.

I also recently learned that Louise and Frederik may well have had a female child of their own. Being a girl, this child posed a serious threat to the security of Denmark at the time, and was ostensibly exiled at birth.

If this is in fact the truth, again, how devastating for both Louise and King Frederik.

Historical research can be like hunting for four leaf clovers.

It takes patience, tenacity, thoroughness, and organization. When answers are found and discoveries are made, additional leads can point down endless roads. An outline will help an author decide when enough research is enough.

Then there’s noting left to do but get down the business of writing…breathing life into the story that you’re about to tell.

Danner Legacy Continues

Travelers to Denmark can still walk in the footsteps left by Countess Danner and her King.

Below is a list of places mentioned in The King’s Consort: The Louise Rasmussen Story and a google map showing their locations.

Danner House still exists in Copenhagen today, and continues to carry the vision of Countess Danner by helping women cope with abuse trauma and unwed pregnancy.

Jaegerspris Castle, Amelienborg Castle, Frederiksborg Castle, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense (just outside Copenhagen) are open (or partially open) to the public.

chapel-at-fredericksborg

 

copenhagen-today

Traveling to Denmark?

kings-consort-copenhagen-travel-mapMap of  Copenhagen (and surrounding area) with points of interest mentioned in
The King’s Consort book

Denmark Travel Pinterest Board

Contact / Follow Debbie McClure

www.damcclure.net

E-mail: mcclure.d@hotmail.com

Twitter

Facebook

Youtube

Debbie McClure’s Books

 

 

 

 

 

M.N. Arzú – Author Interview

social_media_Underneath

Underneath: a merfolk tale, is captivating right from the start.

It takes the reader on a journey through secret societies, conspiracy, investigation, parental love, and coming-of-age. [Click here to read an excerpt.]

The author, Michelle Arzú is a graphic designer who lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A driving force behind her writing is, ‘what-if’ curiosity about first contact with an intelligent species.

M.N. Arzu
M.N. Arzu

I first found Michelle on Writeon (an Amazon story-lab). Her work in progress (Underneath) was trending like a tsunami. Wanting to find out what the buzz was about, I settled in for a long read and quickly discovered why she had gained so many enthusiastic readers.

Arzú tells a unique story. It’s about an injured merman who washes up on a beach. He is a member of one of New York’s elite families. Confined to a hospital bed, the merman is not talking no matter what anyone tries.

Arzú has a strong narrative voice. She has a solid command of plot structure and pacing and she’s not afraid to think outside of the box.

Her debut novel, The Librarian, was chosen as a Writeon staff pick in August of 2014 (currently available on Amazon). It’s a short story about a woman whose husband – a college professor – has been apprehended by the military because he’s suddenly become highly radioactive.

shooting stars
Click on the image to buy the book on Amazon.

Wanting to know more about the person behind the magic pen, I asked Michelle if she’d answer a few questions. I know you will enjoy learning more about this creative story teller…and you’ll be glad that I introduced you to your next good read!

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I’m a night owl. However, Nanowrimo has taught me that any fifteen minutes in the day are valuable, so I’ve learned to write at lunch time in the office. You will never catch me writing in the morning, though.

As a graphic designer, what aspects of your work do you most enjoy? Do parts of it spill over into your writing?

I love challenging projects, and I love to see my work displayed on billboards in the city, or printed somewhere other than the office. Designers work on deadlines, so that has helped me to be disciplined in writing my stories. I’m lost without deadlines.

What is the best advice you have ever received about writing?

Let me tell you a little story about the worst advice I ever received about writing:

When I was about twenty, I had been writing for four years and an older friend told me I shouldn’t start writing until I knew what I was doing. Until I had life experience. Thinking that made perfect sense, I didn’t write for the next six months, and I can honestly tell you something died inside of me. Finally, my brother asked me why I was following advice that was obviously making me unhappy. I returned to writing the next minute.

So, the best advice?

michelle write quote

Everything else will come with time.

What kinds of activities do you like to do when you aren’t working or writing?

I love gaming, especially Zelda and recently Splatoon. I’ve been known to get lost in a good story, be it books, or a TV series.

First Contact themes: What influences contribute to your interest in this topic?

My favorite theme in stories is a double identity. Spy stories, princes as commoners, superheroes, fairy tales, and of course, aliens. What I love the most is the reveal part, when the secret is told. First Contact stories have that element of the unknown. They are filled with what if’s and have all the ingredients for everything to go wrong fast.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many first contact stories where the aliens don’t want to invade us. I decided to write about that. I love the whole idea of aliens hiding among us.

Investigation captive / study scenarios: What books, TV shows or personal experiences shaped your skill in creating these tense, edgy scenes?alien-667966_640

I’m a diehard fan of the TV show Roswell (1999 – 2002). That’s basically teenage aliens without a clue about where they came from, hiding in plain sight. They run from the FBI a lot!

Over the years, I’ve picked several ideas from different places, from cartoons like Batman the animated series, to dramas like ER, and then I add my own logic to it. Would the military really shoot the only enemy captive and source of information they have? If you know you’re going to a hostile planet, what precautions would you take?

And of course, research. There is a lot of US jurisdiction stuff you wouldn’t believe. It’s a tangle when it comes to first contact scenarios, not to mention the medical/biological questions. At some point, you realize you need to focus on the characters and the scene, but if you mention details, they better be the right details.

Describe the series of decisions that led you to independently publish your book(s).

I’ve written a lot of stories over the years, always thinking of them as a hobby, something to share with friends. But when I finished The Librarian, I knew I had something I could publish. The problem was that the story has less than 20K words, which was a hard sell. Everywhere I looked they wanted either shorter than 7k or longer than 50k.

So, I started researching self-publishing. Being a graphic designer I could do the cover and interiors. Fortunately, I have an American friend who edits my manuscripts. No matter how good my English might be, it never compares to a native’s English.

Now that I have Underneath, A Merfolk Tale with over 100k words, I’ve also looked into the long process of searching for an agent and selling the manuscript. Since I’d still have to market my book (the hardest part of the whole process for me) and have to wait for months, if not years, to find someone willing to invest in me, I’d rather take that route myself. I might never sell thousands of books, but at least I’m in complete control of everything.

Writeon: What aspects of working in a ‘read-as-you-write’ forum work well for you? Does it create challenges? Over time, has the way you use the site changed?

The best thing about “read-as-you-write” is that you learn how to do cliffhangers. If you want people to come back next month when you have the next part, you better leave them wanting.

Feedback is a double-edge sword: some people tell you how good your work is, and some will tell you how much you’re messing things up, and to fix it a certain way. Somewhere in the middle of that scale, is valuable insight that makes your story better.

The thing is, you will never please everyone, and not everyone will tell you what’s wrong with the story (either because they don’t really know, or they don’t want to offend). The real challenge is to know your story well enough to keep it from getting hijacked. Take the suggestions that make sense, and leave everything else behind.

_______________

Thank you, Michelle for taking the time to chat and to share.

Here’s where you can find out more;

Underneath, a merfolk tale – excerpt

Amazon

Follow M.N. Arzú:

Author Website & Mailing List

Amazon Author page

Facebook

Twitter

More work by this author: The Librarian – Book Review

 

 

 

Manuscript PDF Settings for CreateSpace – Print Books

Programs are like bicycles, scooters or skateboards.  If you don’t use them daily the skills get a little rusty. Here are my notes (for me and) for you on how to set up a PDF file so that will upload seamlessly to CreateSpace.

Your manuscript is edited and completely ready to go in MS Word. To upload it to CreateSpace, it must be converted into a PDF file that embeds the fonts.

Before you begin, you should have entered all the information necessary to start a book project within CreateSpace. In this process, you will have chosen a size for your book. CreateSpace will provide measurements of that size. These exact measurements are what you will enter when setting up your PDF document.

Example: A standard book size is 6″x 9.” CreateSpace provides the measurements 15.24 x 22.86 cm. This will need to be converted to mm by moving the decimal over one space to the right. The numbers you will enter on the PDF set up is 152.4 x 228.6 mm.

  1. Within Microsoft Word, Click on Print
  2. Change the Printer Setting to Adobe PDF
    save

File Print

3. Click on Printer PropertiesPdf property settings

4. Change Default Settings to: PDF/X-1a:2001

5. Adobe PDF Output Folder: Click on Browse to direct it to where you want the PDF file to go (this should be a file folder that you can navigate to when CreateSpace asks for which file to upload).

6. Adobe PDF Page Size: Add a custom setting using the measurements that you got for your book at CreateSpace.

 

And there you have it!  Good luck and happy authoring.

Click here to read about How to Format KDP files (e-books) with pictures.

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Pixabay.com Member Spotlight

If you are an author, teacher, blogger, web designer, or any type of content creator, I recommend that you run – not walk – to Pixabay.com. It will quickly become your go-to place for powerful (and free!) photos, illustrations, vector graphics and video clips that pack a punch.

I interviewed a few Pixabay members to find out more about what makes this creative resource so enchanting.

Every interviewee had a story about rejected images. Universally, they took this as a challenge to produce and submit higher quality content.

For the curious, the links below explain Pixabay’s standards and image rating system.

Pixabay Image Quality Standards
Help decide which images get published

Pixabay Video Quality Standards

In each photo strip below, you will find the Pixabay member’s profile name and several samples of the type of work that they donate. Clicking on the photo strip or the link on their name, directs you to their Pixabay page.

Adina Voicu, Romaniaadina

Adina teaches foreign languages and literature. She works with students between the ages of 15-19. She uses images from Pixabay in some of her school projects and has donated over 2,000 of her own images to the site.

Pixabay is always open on Adina’s computer. She loves seeing what is new on the site, chatting with other photographers and seeing the feedback messages on her images.

“I live and breathe photography,” Adina says. “It is a way to get to know myself better.”couple-1008699_640

When asked about why she donates her images, she comments, “I have always shared things. What is more wonderful than sharing joy?”

In Romania, Adina lived under communist rule. ” We were not allowed to go abroad and knew nothing about the outside world. We only had two TV channels that broadcast about 4 hours each day. The electricity went off at 10 every night. Children were taught to fear their teachers and were punished for giving wrong answers.”
She remembers December 1989 – the revolution – like it was yesterday. “The first time I heard Michael Jackson on the radio. Wowww!”
“We live in a democracy now, but it is very misunderstood. There is chaos everywhere: in the medical system, the educational system, and with laws that change twice a year,” she says.
“I have been fortunate enough to travel. When I return, I try bringing home aspects from the more civilized countries.”
Pixabay and sharing images with people worldwide helps Adina feel connected outside of Romania. She hopes that this feeling communicates itself to the students in her life.

Venita Oberholster, South Africa
artst bee

Venita is an oil painter, vintage clip art designer and corporate Course Developer and Business owner of Step Across Training. She creates educational clip art and designs learning materials for South African school children.

“I really enjoy sharing my work with people all over the world. And I like getting positive responses from people who use it for personal or business projects. I hope that it will provide a platform for future graphic designers and for people to use for custom assignments. “science-1018806_640

“Pixabay has taught me the importance of high quality images and copyright principles. When I first started upolading images, it was disheartening because a good percent of them were rejected. However, I took this as a personal challenge to improve my standards.”

Click here to visit Venita’s Artsy Bee Images website.

Steve Buissinne, South Africastevepb

“Across the world people speak in 6500 languages, but we all see in only one.”

“Beauty can be found in the most unlikely places.” – Steve Buissinne

Almost 12 years ago, Steve and his wife retired to a small farm in the Eastern Highlands of South Africa. He took with him his SLR camera and a developing interest in photography. “It is an inward-looking or egocentric pastime that developed into a challenging and interesting hobby that has a use to others at the same time.”

In 2013, Steve was searching the internet for photos that he could use on a website for a local firefighters association when he discovered Pixabay.He liked the interface and was inspired by the images. So much so that he decided to upload a few of his own.

Rejections became a motivation to improve. Since then Steve’s been working on his lighting and photo styling techniques. He enjoys working with food  and everyday items used in the home, ‘because they don’t move.’ To date, Steve has uploaded 325 images. One hundred and seventeen of those have received Editor’s Choice Awards.

“It seems as though there are thousands of cooking, health and well-beintax-468440_640g blogs that need images,” says Steve. “The most downloaded of my photos is one that is used in blogs about the prosaic and everyday evil – Tax.”

“I love the site and enjoy all aspects of it. Simon and Hans, have created a fantastic resource that is a privilege to be a part of.”

Now, Steve often plans photo sessions specifically for images that he will upload on Pixabay. “Since I joined Pixabay, photography has become more enjoyable.”

Thomas Breher, Germany
Thomas breher TBIT

Thomas is a freelance graphic designer and developer.  His company is TBIT Design. He first discovered Pixabay when it was mentioned in a marketing forum article.
“I frequently use Pixabay images on my blog and in projects that I design for clients. Since I regularly download images, I decided to donate my own. Pixabay is a community about mutual giving and taking,” comments Thomas.camera-lenses-946404_640
When he works with people who have specific ideas about images that they want for their job, Thomas sends them to Pixabay to help narrow down the choices.
His favorite aspects of Pixabay community are the comments and ratings. “And every few weeks I receive a small donation,” he says.
I can relate to the excitement that is felt when a donation comes in. The first time that I received one, I had completed a photography job for $150. Later that day, a Pixabay donation arrived in the amount of $1.50. The elation that I feel about that donation STILL has me smiling!
When thinking about making a donation to an image author, Simon Steinberger, simon profilePixabay co-founder and CEO says, “We have several image authors who are particularly active and who offer a lot of images. You could concentrate on them – they’ve definitely earned it! An example that comes to mind is Geralt. He is power creator.”
A note of caution: If you pop over to check out Pixabay.com, be prepared to spend a lot of time there. The site is so luscious, that you’ll never want to leave!
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The inspiration for this article came as I reached a personal Pixabay milestone. I made my 100th image donation on the website. 

Related article: Pixabay.com: A Powerful Free-Source for the Serious Blog, Tweet, Book or School

Angela Hoy from Writer’s Weekly – Common Themes in Writing Contest Entries

For authors, entering a writing contest is a way to test and flex their mental acuity. The Writers Weekly competition is especially exciting because you don’t know what you’ll have to work with…and you’ve only got a limited amount of time to produce a finished piece. It felt like a version of Chopped for writers. 

As with the TV show, Chopped, judge commentary educates the audience about the strange basket ingredients and how to best to prepare them. Meanwhile, the competing chefs are thinking and working as fast as possible to come up with something prize-worthy.

Having recently been a participant in the WritersWeekly.com Fall, 2015 24-Hour Short Story Contest, it was interesting to learn about the overall writing trends that emerged as the judges read through the 500 entries. I asked Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly.com if I could repost excerpts from her article about the contest’s common themes.

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com.

WritersWeekly.com – is a free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.

After registering for the contest, entrants are given the date and time that topic will be posted. The required word count is also given at that time.  From that point forward, entrants have 24 hours to craft the story that they will submit.

THE FALL, 2015 TOPIC

The barren, tan corn stalks behind her snapped in the cold evening breeze, the only sound louder than the dry, fiery red leaves swirling around her tiny, shivering bare feet. She’d lost her bearings again and she hoped the dinner bell would ring soon. A gray tree with endless arms and fingers, devoid of any remaining foliage, loomed before her. She gazed at the odd markings on the trunk, which appeared to outline a hand-cut door of sorts. And, as she stared, it opened…

(Stories only needed to touch on that topic in some way to qualify.)

Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would take that story…

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The top three winners of this contest are posted HERE.

COMMON THEMES SUBMITTED

Here are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:

Many of the stories were dreams and visions of the characters.

There were lots of faeries!

Several stories featured children playing games in the corn fields.

There were numerous stories featuring elderly and other people who are delusional.

Several stories ended with the main character being a dog or other animal.

And, surprisingly, four stories featured the tree being a hiding place for the Underground Railroad!

As with all contests, some common themes come back again and again, no matter what the topic is.

These include:

The story is about a writer and/or it’s a writer participating in a writing contest (groan).

Vampires, aliens and other scary creatures. We always see LOTS of those.

We find out at the end that the entire story was just a movie/TV scene/play or we find out the first scene of the story (usually the topic itself) is from a movie or TV show/play or even a book or article one of the characters is reading.

The reader finds out at the very end that the main character is actually dead (is a ghost or spirit of some sort), or that the main character has dementia. We always get several retirement home or other senior citizen stories.

The main character dies at the end, and is met by a loved one or an angel of some sort. We also see lots of dead friends/relatives trying to convince the characters it’s their time to die, too, helping them to cross over, etc.

The story is dramatic but you find out at the end the characters are really children playing make-believe or that the main characters are actually animals, not people.

The main character of the story is a writer or someone in the story (usually the main character) is named Angela (the publisher of WritersWeekly).

A common fairy tale is the basis of the story.

Links to the winning stories of the current contest appear HERE.

PRIZES: 1st prize: $300 2nd prize: $250 3rd prize: $200 20+ honorable mentions + 62 door prizes!

The WINTER CONTEST IS COMING SOON!

Sign up today right HERE: http://24hourshortstorycontest.com