Censorship Beyond School Libraries

Facebook pulled my advertisement! I’m in shock and disbelief. All I was trying to do inform people that my book is out in the world. Apparently, images of weapons are not allowed in Facebook ads.

Have you never seen a gun before?

I mean, come on! It’s advertising a novel. A book to stimulate your brain. A book that is mild compared to what’s out there…in novels and in real life. And don’t even get me started on movie trailers that broadcast on network TV!

So, if I want to advertise through Facebook (which many authors say is quite effective) I need to change my novel cover.

Is it worth giving in?

I know Facebook is a private company, but I still feel violated.

Old Attempted Ad:

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My own personal modification I may try…if I EVER decide to give Facebook my money. Facebook probably has a clause somewhere in tiny, tiny print that if I try this ad, they’ll ban me from their site permanently.

censored-ad

I can still post images of guns on my author page and my personal page, I just can’t use their paid services. It’s their decision, but it’s still frustrating.

Can you hear me sigh? See me shake my head?

Thanks for listening to my rant. On to bigger and better things in 2017!

 

The Evolution of a Novel Cover

Disclosure: I am a pharmacist, not an artist. I never expected to create a cover for LOVE, LIES & CLONES (or any novel) myself. Now, I can’t imagine passing up on all that fun! Honestly, creating the cover was one of the most enjoyable parts of publishing my novel.

I was looking back on my attempts at a novel cover and thought I’d share what I’ve learned since the first draft.

Since starting this novel in February, I’ve been through a TON of draft novel covers, before accepting my final version. I was set on making my own — mostly because I couldn’t even describe to a cover designer what to put on the cover.  My official cover isn’t perfect, but I’m happy with it.

I had read and listened to a lot of tips on making a cover. Here’s what stuck:

  1. Stick to your genre. Make sure your cover reflects what type of book you wrote. Look at other books into he genre and try to do something similar.
  2. Use contrasting colors – It attracts the reader. Teal and Orange, Yellow and Purple, etc. A color wheel can help with this.
  3. The fonts/writing should stand out on their own. No drop shadow and background adjustment needed.
  4. Use contrasting fonts. Serif vs non-serif, handwriting vs typed, etc.  (But not too many fonts to make it look busy)
  5. GET FEEDBACK! Besides asking my family, I made numerous Facebook, blog, Good reads, and twitter posts polling people to see what little tweak made the cover better.

2016-16-3--16-09-32

 

This was my first attempt at ever making a cover.  Ugh. Fail. I really had no idea what I was doing. I remember thinking here, “I wonder if there is an app that will write words on photos.” That’s how “green” I was. This one was from February/March of this year when I began writing the novel.

 

Clone CoverHere is my second attempt.  I took my daughter and dog out to be a model.  It turned out okay, but didn’t show the mystery/suspense.  I had no idea how to use any type of image manipulation software then. Now, I could have probably photo-shopped in a man with a motorcycle or a car or something up the road.

 

Love, Lies, & Clones Cover

 

I abandoned this one because I think the writing was hard to read. The tilted letters looked amateurish… along with the use of too many fonts. Now, I look at it and it’s not bad. I probably could have saved it. I did poll this on my blog at one point.

 

 

love-lies-clones-cover-2-2

 

Here, I still didn’t really understand what genre my novel fell in. I was trying for some DNA to show more sci-fi/medical. The background’s too dark and doesn’t really say anything about the novel.

 

LLC Cover - Final

 

 

My tagline phase. Looks like a headband.  Also, I still had color. The font is boring and I learned somewhere, that if you need to put a shading or shadow behind the font, you should keep trying.

 

llcfinalcover

 

 

Here I was trying to add in the setting – with the Madison, WI skyline.  I went black and white because it had seemed too busy — turns out I liked black and white. The gun barrel was just too much, but here’s where I realized I loved her blue eye. I’m starting to learn photo manipulation here.

 

llc-kindle-rj

 

And here is the final one. Black and White with words shadowing the face to show the genre.  (Mystery/Thriller with some romance/sci-fi). I tried to line the “L” of “Love” up with her eye as a leading line. I went with semi-contrasting colors (red/blue) and I had to learn to change the color of her shirt. The gun’s off-center so you’re not staring down the barrel — emphasizing her eye instead.

 

 

Here’s a fun graphic of the changes:

llc-covers-blog

Oh, and a bonus tip. It’s nice when all the covers from the same author look similar. That’s why I went red and blue on this novel. Here are the three novels I’m working on. Notice the similarities.

all-novel-covers

So, I know I could have a cover that’s 100 times better using a professional designer (or even purchasing a premade one), but there’s some pride in knowing you did everything yourself when publishing a book.

I have the novel on pre-order through Amazon for $0.99 if you’re interested. The price will go up when it’s released on Friday. Love, Lies & Clones on Amazon Otherwise, my offer always stands. Email me and I’ll send you a PDF of the novel for free.

Have you made your own cover? How did it turn out?

Week 4: Camp NaNoWriMo – Not The End

When I first heard of November’s NaNoWriMo, I thought it was an insane idea. How can anyone write 50,000 words in one month? Anyone that does it must not have a family or a full time job, right?

Well, now, I’m realizing that it is possible. During July’s camp, my goal was 25K in the month and I surpassed it, reaching 42K. (I started my novel the last week of June, because I couldn’t wait, and I’m currently at 50K.)  I think if I wasn’t editing my other novel and reading a few manuscripts for others, I could have easily hit 50K this month. And, that’s with a 40+ hour per week job, a husband and two children at home (though, I probably didn’t really cook or clean this month – which I’m not complaining about), and a few little family weekend trips squeezed in.

I only have 6-7 chapters to go and I’ll have completed TWO novels in 2016 so far. With November’s NaNoWriMo, that’ll be THREE novels. And to think that when I started this blog I swore I’d never try to write another novel again!

Well, August’s goal is to figure out what to do next. What do you do with a finished novel? Is it ever really finished?  Stay tuned for my step-by-step saga. That whole process seems quite overwhelming.

So November, here I come! I’ll get to 50K, I’m sure of it. Now, I just need a new novel idea and I can begin outlining.

What I learned this July:  with a good outline, the writing part is easy.  Coming up with the story is the difficult part.

How did July’s Camp NaNoWriMo go for you? Did you reach your goals? (I hope so!)

Week 1: Camp NaNoWriMo – Excerpt

First off, I want to say that I’m loving the cabin I’m in for this Camp NaNoWriMo!  They are super supportive and a chatty group.

Secondly, I wanted to brag a little.  Please forgive me.  Week 1 of camp has come to a close and I’m ecstatic with my progress!

I’m 8 out of 27 chapters into my novel and I’ve already shared and revised them with feedback of my critique partner. Eight chapters equals 17,000 words towards my goal of 31,000 by the end of the month.

I picked this story to write solely to have fun, and it hasn’t disappointed me. With no pressure for anything, the story is flowing and I’m disregarding any internal critic telling me that it’s not worth the digital ink it’s being written in. I need to write silly, ridiculous stories more often. 🙂  (Vampires and Angels, a ton of fun!  Plus I’m writing in alternating 3rd person limited POV, which is also quite entertaining.)

Here is the first page if you are interested – still in first draft format.  Beware, there is some foul language.

 FIN

Fin glided down the emergency department’s hallway cupping a syringe of blood in his hand, trying to lose his invisible stalker.

Damn angel.

His own unfulfilling blood pooled in his mouth as his teeth dug into his bottom lip.  The syringe he hid was nearly pulsating in his palm, beckoning to him.  His body wanted to run, but there were a few humans around and he couldn’t draw attention to himself.  He focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

“Good evening Dr. O’Brian,” a nurse nodded at him.

He forced a reserved smile that hid his fangs and continued to walk. “Evening, Jane.”

Despite holding his breath, the odors of sage and cinnamon still filled his senses.  He tried to filter them out, focusing on the multiple disinfectants in the hallway instead.

Though only seconds passed, to Fin it felt like an eternity before he disappeared into the empty physician’s lounge.  When the door clicked shut, he brought the syringe to his lips and sucked down the contents.  Instant relief.  He could now focus on the angel, whose spicy scent was impossible to ignore.

Why now?  Were the angels finally coming after him for his sins from 22 years ago?

“Show yourself,” he snapped; his teeth threatened to resurface.  He wouldn’t hide anymore.

Nothing.

“Come out of Goddamn hiding!” he roared and then realized he should have been wiser in his word choice in front of an angel.

He took some unnecessary breaths to calm himself. He had to be careful or the beast won. The angel’s aroma reminded him of the last moments of his human life, as he fought with the Angel of Death.  Pain.  Loss.  Desire.  He shook his head, focus Fin.

“How long do I have left?” He asked into the air while allowing his gaze to search the empty room.  He was certain this was the end.  His time to die – for good.  No matter how many times he told himself he was ready, he wasn’t.

Blood & Holy Water Cover

For the full first chapter, click here: Blood & Holy Water – Chapter 1  If you read this and wish to leave comments, go for it. I’d be happy for more feedback.

 

How’s your project coming?

www.ProWritingAid.com — A Fantastic Resource

As I’ve been working more and more with beta readers, I’ve been referring some authors to the website http://www.prowritingaid.com for some editing / writing style help.

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On this site, you can paste up to 3000 words of your writing for free and it will give you a detailed analysis.  I urge you to try it out.

I’ve been using this site for a while though, and had forgotten how overwhelming it can be.

When I first discovered http://www.prowritingaid.com I felt I needed to fix EVERY suggestion it made.  This was impossible and I didn’t always agree with all of them.  PLUS it took me HOURS to fix a few thousand words.

Now, I pick out the sections that are the most helpful to my writing.

I made a quick tip sheet for one writer I’m working with, and I thought I’d share it her for anyone else who feels overwhelmed by the site.  Your style may be different and this tips sheet may need to be tailored to you.

Here is an example of what the report looks like:

Screenshot (16)

ProWritingAid Tips

Here is each section and what I use/don’t use. I hope this helps make it less overwhelming. I definitely don’t follow everything they say. I skip more than I change.  I also tend to run a section through the program with each revision, so more and more get fixed as I keep going with the writing process.

Also, once you change a lot of these things, you will pick up on them in your writing and avoid them. This makes future writing projects easier to edit and your writing cleaner overall.

Tips:

  • Overused Word Check: I only worry about the words marked in red, and then I only change it if they are easy fixes or the amount they list to remove is about half of more. (i.e. if it says, “remove 5 out of 9 occurrences” I focus on this word.)
  • Writing Style Check: This is a great section. I don’t do everything suggested, maybe just half of it – and only if I agree and it makes sense.
  • Sentence length Check: I skim it for the really long sentences, but sometimes still end up leaving them.
  • Clichés and Redundancy Check: I don’t care about clichés, I tend to like them in my writing (I know, that’s wrong.), but I do look for redundancies.
  • Grammar Check: I go through all of them, but skip a lot of the suggestions. Again, only if I agree and feel it will make my writing stronger.
  • Sticky Sentence Check: This is a really neat idea, but I completely skip it. The amount of work it would take me to rewrite everything into more meaningful sentences is beyond my writing skill level/desire.
  • Plagiarism Check: Skip
  • Repeated Phrase Check: I fix repeated 4+ word phrases. I think these get repetitive to the reader. I skim and fix the easy 2 or 3 word repeated phrases – or ones with high counts that there is an easy alternative.
  • Dialogue Tag Check: I skip, but I don’t tend to use a lot of dialogue tags.
  • Repeat Check: This is tedious, but I do find value in skimming through it. If there is a unique word that is repeated, I change one of them. I still end up missing repeats though that beta readers point out.
  • Paragraph Length Check: I just look at the items in red.
  • Corporate Wording Check: Skip
  • Dictation Check: Skip
  • Vague and Abstract Words Check: Again, this is long and I probably should focus on it to make my writing pop, but the time I’d need to devote to this, I skip it.
  • Eloquence Check: Skip.
  • Transition Check: Skip.
  • NLP Check: Skip.
  • Complex Word Check: Skip (but I don’t write with a large vocabulary.)
  • Pacing Check: I glance at the blue bar. If there is a lot of white, I take a look at my writing style. There is probably a lot of tell and not show or I need to break up paragraphs some, or throw in some more dialog.
  • Homonym Check: Skip
  • House Style Check: Skip
  • Consistency Check: I skim through this as I tend to make consistency issues with UK vs US spellings and inconsistent capitalization/hyphenation.
  • Alliteration Check: Skip
  • Pronoun Check: I skip, but I probably shouldn’t – but again, this would be a lot of work to fix.
  • Thesaurus Check: Skip
  • Combo Check: You may be able to pick your favorite ‘checks’ from above and make a custom report, but I haven’t played with this.

What preliminary editing tools do you use?

 

Writing for Fun! (July’s Camp NaNoWriMo)

Only 7 days to go until July’s Camp NaNoWriMo.  (More info HERE, if you don’t know what that is.). I’ve been working nonstop on my novel, Love, Lies, & Clones since I started it in February.  It’s currently in my beta readers’ hands, so I need a distraction…  Something FUN.

CNW_Participant[1]

Ten years ago or so, I started a story….  It was shoved in a drawer when the whole Twilight vampire craze hit.  Who needs another vampire story, right?

Well, it turns out I do.  The unfinished story has been nagging on me.  I fell in love with the characters, and they are still insisting I tell the story.  So, in July, I’m going to finally finish it!  I could never get past the first act…  But now… drumroll….  I have the whole thing outlined out.  And not just one outline, but two!

I changed my outlining method and tried the 27 chapter approach.  (More on that HERE or HERE.)  This worked so well for me, I may have found a new way to prepare future projects!

Here is my quick outline overview:

WIN_20160623_184341

And here is a screenshot of the full 27 page beast!

Screenshot (14)

Now, I can’t wait until July 1st to start writing the story… Again.

Blood & Holy Water Blurb (Also updated my Current Projects page.)

Blood & Holy Water Cover

2nd order angel, Ava, is sick of helping elderly women cross the street and strategically placing spare change where the poor can find it. She wants to be promoted to 3rd order angel and finally earn her wings. An angel promotion takes more than Ava’s hard work and determination – it takes a miracle – literally. Ava’s miracle is saving a fallen angel, one turned vampire 25 years ago.

Fin, the vampire in question, has a different agenda, no miracle needed, no helping a naïve angel earn her wings. He is busy keeping the Blood Board off his back. Fin has spent his entire time as a vampire avoiding his own kind, and now they are forcing him to work with them.

Ava can’t get a break, she is certain this miracle, just like all her miracles before, is a flop when she discovers Fin is impossible — his first killing as a vampire was his wife.

Just when Fin finally scares Ava away, he now frantically needs her because one of his secrets has surfaced. The human daughter he’s been protecting for 25 years is missing. Ava’s ability to detect truth and lies is exactly what he needs when dealing with vampires.

Ava is now busy with her own problems; angels have been turning up dead, drained of blood. It appears a vampire caused the deaths – the problem is vampires cannot see or touch angels. All vampires except for Fin…

Are you ready for camp?

Read (& Critique) to Write Better

Early in my journey to learn how to write fiction, I filled my stories with the huge no-no’s such as…

  • Telling versus Showing
  • Stiff Dialogue
  • Too Many Adverbs
  • Passive Sentences
  • Lack of Description

I’d have people read my stories and point these things out. I’d fix the one instance, but I didn’t understand what they meant and how to fix it in my entire story and was blind to identifying them in my writing.

Then I began to critique other’s writer’s stories and it was like darkness lifted and felt my writing improved. (Though, I still struggle.)

I’ve read many stories still in their rough draft.

There is nothing like reading pages and pages of adverbs to realize how they slow down the story’s pacing and make the sentences feel clumsy.

Or having the story told to you instead of the author showing you what’s happening, making my mind wander and have lack of investment in the characters.

And then when you find a FANTASTIC example and tell the author exactly what they did right.

In education, this is called the teach-back method.

I’ve always heard that writers need to also be readers. This is true, but I argue, writers should be readers and give critiques. Reading both STRONG writing examples and still trying to point out the issues (that may not even be there) and reading writing that has struggles equally will help polish your talent.

In my opinion, all writers need to be readers and help others grow their skills. Not only will this improve your skills, but will also help the entire writing community.

Happy writing!

What are your thoughts?

–Joy

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