Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Do You Make Time To Write?

Since I started my job, I had...more trouble finding time to write. Even when I wasn't working full-time, I was spending more time on marketing, designing and photography. By some miracle, I still stayed close to my publishing schedule. I talked about writing and marketing in the post Finding Time to Write, Publish & Market Your Books.

I'd like to release a novella, Book 4 of The Jura series, sometime next month but it's not looking good. I make social media rounds before and after work. Photography on the weekends. Leaves little time for writing.

Recently, I started an experiment. I'd write on my tablet so I can work anywhere.

Didn't start off great. I thought using my tablet landscape style, so I could type with two hands, would be faster. It wasn't. I made so many mistakes. Writing was not fun at all. It didn't help me work on my story more.

For awhile, I stopped writing. Focused more research.

Then, I got a burst of inspiration from somewhere. If I wrote, during my commute, I'd eventually finish the story.

One problem... a couple actually.

The train is always packed. I'm standing most of the time so-- no typing with two hands. I love my tablet but it gets heavy when I have to hold it for a long time. My wrist and arm start to hurt. Then there's the little problem of the train being so packed I barely have room to breathe let alone pull out a tablet.

I can only write when I'm leaving on the door. The only time both hands are free. I also started writing portrait style since only one hand is free.

Funny enough, I type faster on my tablet when using only one hand. It's actually fun.

I started working out of DropBox but it needs the internet to save. I made the mistake of closing Word on my tablet before connecting to the internet. I lost a passage twice. Fortunately, it was short. Now I work off an SD card.

One day, inspiration hit me while I was getting off the train. Since I'm working on my tablet, I decided to write while I walked the 4 blocks to work. Yes, I was one of those people. I tried to look up every now and then so I wouldn't annoy people. Or get hit by a car.

We'll see if I can write a book this way.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Story and Photos: At Home in Dark Places

Raneer Brin couldn't see spirits but he felt curious eyes watching him. Haunted places were his home. At least, they were in the past. This cemetery was supposed to be a haven--all tall grass, old trees and ancient graves.

Raneer watched his feet. Spirits attacked when you defiled their graves, even by accident. He had received a freezing jab to the back after he stepped on a hidden tombstone.

The trees were unforgiving. Roots tried to trip him. Branches came down to slap any body in range. His companion kept grumbling, reminding Raneer he wasn't alone. He wanted to tell her to be quiet but if he opened his mouth, he'd be cursing too.

"Can't you use your power to stop them?" Amyta Lili asked.

"If I did that, they spirits would throw us out."

She kept grumbling.

A sharp spark of pain ran up his arm. She didn' know. They didn't tell her. Ottor, a powerful organization, pulled Raneer from his parents and forced him to search for their savior. They never told him the female's name or her appearance. They chained him to ensure he did what they asked.

This ancient being was supposed to be hidden under the cemetery. The organization had been trying to find her for years. They know she's here. They don't know where. They were hoping Raneer could find her or lure out of hiding.

He never understood the kind of energy that ran through places close to death. Raneer fed on that energy, he could make it bend to his will. He always felt at home at night in cemeteries and old houses.  Those places held secrets, but never from him.

This cemetery was different. It hid its treasures behind locks Raneer's power couldn't open.

"They never told me what school you came from. I'm surprised I never heard of you. People with your abilities are rare," Amyta said.

She was actually nice. It wasn't her fault he was here against his will. She didn't know her only purpose was to make sure he did his job.

"I didn't come from a school. My parents trained me."

Her eyes went wide. People with abilities weren't allowed to train on their own. Somehow, Ottor found them and forced them to attend their local academy. Raneer's parents kept him hidden as long as they could.

A string of curse had Raneer looking back. Amyta was on the ground with a tree root wrapped around her ankle.

She took several deep breaths and freed her leg.

"From what I've heard, this is the farthest anyone's gotten," she said, getting to her feet. "All were stopped at the entrance."

If they only needed someone with his power, why did they wait so long to find someone? Raneer asked her that.

"You really don't know anything, do you?" Amyta asked. "Your kind has a bad reputation and poor support from our leaders. Few make it to your age with their sanity."

He could see why if they were forced to wear a power restricting chain. The sharp pains going up his arm had Raneer wanting to cut off his own wrist to remove the bracelet.

They entered an area full of ancient crypts. A person with immense black wings sat in front of one. The female stared at something even Raneer couldn't see.

Excited whispers from still invisible apparitions surrounded them. The entire cemetery seemed to be celebrating her. Short, ancient grave markers formed a circle around the female. Glowing bodies rose from the tall gras. They all faced Raneer and  Amyta.

"I didn't think it would work," Amyta said.

From her awed expression, this was the deity he was supposed to find. This unwanted adventure would be over soon.

"You think you can put me chains, child?" the female said without looking at them.

Chains? Renner didn't bring anything to bind her. He had assumed she'd want to leave with them. How would they chain a deity?

Amyta frowned. "She'd not a god. She like you, just stronger."

"You can't read my thoughts, can you?" he asked Amyta.

"Just your face."

Dad always said he was easy to read.

The tall grass moved as though small animals ran through it. Ice cold fabric brushed his skin. Clothing didn't mean a thing to spirits. They didn't need to make the grass move. They were trying to scare them. Now he understood how humans felt. He didn't like it and what did that female mean about chains?

The winged-female cocked her head. "Come here, boy."

Raneer didn' feel danger from her, that didn't mean he'd get close. He stayed put.

"I can make you move," she said.

He folded his arms. "I can make you move."

The female was in front of him before Raneer saw her move. She smirked as she examined his face.

"I'll go to your home."

That wasn't the plan. She was supposed to go to the organization's home. He wasn't interested in more trouble. How did she plan on sneaking out of here?

A weight on his arm lifted. The bracelet dropped off. He could breathe again. The tingling pain in his arm disappeared. A metal sound drew his attention to Amtya. A matching bracelet dropped off her wrist.

"This is going better than I expected," Amyta said. "Do you have another way out?" She asked the female.

The winged-being pointed to a tomb sitting next to a tree with wide tentacles for roots. The tentacles moved, ready to grab anyone who got too close.

Reneer didn't want more trouble but he doubted he could avoid it. Ottor were already talking about their future plans for him. Maybe she could help him return to his normal, quiet life.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Week in Links 7/14/17: Fullmetal Alchemist, Castlevania, Nnedi Okorafor

Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fantasy, sci-fi, horror readers and writers

Book Marketing and Branding
World’s Shortest Book Marketing Plan
How Consumers Respond to Brands on Social Media: New Research

R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS is Coming Back to Comics
Andy Serkis Reads President Trump’s Tweets as Gollum/Smeagol
Netflix’s Castlevania is a Triumph for Video Game Adaptations
What We Loved (And Didn't Love) About The Castlevania Anime
8 Books That Blend Science and Magic, Minus the Fantasy Tropes

Microsoft is Celebrating Anime Month This July With Sales On Your Favorite Shows

Photography and Design
I Asked Photographers for Ideas for Photography Horror Movies

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at The post needs to be published between today, 7/14 and next Friday, 7/21.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tethered (Intertwined series #2) by Jenn Marie

Monday, July 10, 2017

Behind the Scenes: Selling Photos Through Stock Image Sites

Have you been thinking about selling some of your photos? As an artist, you want multiple streams of income. Ideally, selling stock photos would bring in extra cash. I'm on Dreamstime, 123RF, iStock and Shutterstock. For links visit my Photography page.

You've probably heard this before, don't expect to pay a big bill with the money you get from selling photos. You make about 25 cents or less per download. I chose the above sites because I use them often.

Here's how you get started:

1) You fill out an application on a stock photo site to "Become a Contributor." The link is usually at the bottom of the page. You'll need to upload a copy of your ID. You won't be able to sell photos without it.

2) Upload your best photos. They need to be taken at least 4 megapixels. Submit them at full size and without watermarks. View each image at 100%, zoom into the photo and examine it. The subject needs to be clear.

For instance, if I zoom into one of these windows, it should be clear. I should be able to make out the leaves on the trees.

Also, it's important to learn about composition and exposure.

Check out my posts about photography resources.

4 Videos To Help You Improve Your Photos
Photography 101: Resources for Newbies

Exposure and composition problems got my photos rejected a lot in the beginning. Adobe Lightroom helps a lot with both. If you can afford Lightroom, I highly recommend getting it.

3) Submit photos and wait. If you get accepted, congrats! You're a Contributor. If not, try again. I submitted to iStock twice before they accepted me. Shutterstock rejected me the first time.

What happens next?

Even when you become a Contributor, each photo you want to sell needs to be accepted.

Keep Practicing
In the beginning, most of my photos got rejected now, most of them get accepted. I take a lot of photographs. I follow photography blogs and look at a lot of images. My photos now are much better than the ones I took when I first started last year.

The stock sites even take photos I hadn't expected them to.

I like this image:

But I didn't think it was clear enough when viewed at 100%. I took a chance and submitted it to iStock. They accepted it.

Sunset shots are interesting. They're underexposed in some places to put the focus on the sky. I always think my twilight shots would get rejected because of that. They never do.

I learned Photography, mostly, through If you have access to it, I highly recommend it. If not, try YouTube. There are some great photography channels.

21 Essential Photography YouTube Channels to Follow

Be Aware of Trademarks and Copyright 
Here's another reason some of my photos got rejected. Photos can't have logos or artwork without written consent. You submit a signed form along with the photos. When photographing skyscrapers, there's going to be logos on the buildings. Remove the logos before you submit the photo.

Buildings are my top sellers.

I don't submit these kinds of photos often because it takes forever to prepare them. See all those little logos on the buildings? I have to remove them all. And I have to do it in a way that doesn't mess up the photo.

Nature Photos Are Hard to Sell
Everyone can take a photo of flowers. Stock image sites are filled with flower macros. Try to submit things unique to your surroundings. If you want to sell flower photos, submit photos of plants you can only find in your area. My flower photos don't sell at all. The landscape ones get downloaded every now and then. Not as often as the photos of buildings.

Keywords Are Important
Just like with books, the right keywords on photos is essential. It won't come up in searches otherwise. I'm pretty sure your photo could get rejected if the keywords are off. I look at photos similar to mine and copy the keywords. The title should not be something artsy. The title is metadata as well. Just say what's in the photo and where it was taken.

It Takes a lot of Time to Submit photos
Submitting to stock photo sites can be time-consuming. There's preparing photos in Lightroom and Photoshop, uploading them and then adding keywords and categories. Takes longer if your internet is slow. You're uploading some pretty large files.

Just Submit
If you're not sure about a photo, submit it anyway. As I mentioned before, sites accepted photos I thought they'd reject.

Which sites work.

The majority of my sales come from Shutterstock. For one download, I was paid about $12 but that's rare. Mostly, I get 25 cents.

iStock pays only 12 cents. I began to see sales faster on iStock than Shutterstock. It's probably because I started that account with better photos. 

For 123RF, I got $1 for a download but I've only sold one photo in a year. I'd like to focus on this site more but I've had trouble finding the time. 

I've read that Dreamstime pays a decent amount of royalties but I've had trouble getting my photos viewed. Most of them have been up for several months and have 0 views. It seems Dreamstime favors photos submitted exclusively to them. Most stock image sites don't require you to be exclusive but they reward you if you do. 

At this point, Shutterstock is the only one that's working pretty consistently, probably because I have more photos on that site. If I spend time adding more images to the other sites, I might see more sales.

The Top 8 Websites To Sell Your Stock Pictures

Do you have any questions? Ask in the comments.
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