Monthly Archives: September 2016

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ink in the flow

Writing Interrupted? Get Back in the Flow!

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Life is busy, and full of responsibilities. Sometimes, this means having the flow of your writing interrupted by the daily deeds we all must do: full- or part-time jobs, family obligations, errands, home chores, and the ebb and flow of relationships. These common disruptions can throw writers into a spin if they happen when we’re in that productive, near-fugue state that creatives experience “in the flow.” Don’t worry, though. You can preserve your writing “flow” when real life infringes on your writing time.

How To Recapture The Flow State

First, let’s define that flow state. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi coined the term “flow” to describe a complete and total absorption with a particular activity back in 1975. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi reasons that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. In this state, people are so involved in an activity that nothing else matters. They go through a period of absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill, during which concerns such as time, food, and other obligations are typically ignored.

Sounds like a definition of your best writing days, right?

So, it’s no wonder that having your writing interrupted is a bummer, to say the least. However, there are ways to preserve that flow state so you can step back into it more easily. Here are just two:

Re-creating the Scene

First, let’s take a look at the impact of your surroundings on writing flow. I’ve often extolled the virtues of having  a specific place for writing, and flow is one of the reasons why. When your flow state gets disturbed, it’s much easier to re-enter it if you can re-create, in detail, your surroundings at the time of your flow experience. This is simple when you’re “flowing” in a space dedicated to writing. And, in fact, a dedicated writing spot can help encourage more episodes of flow, just by association. If, however, you got into a writing groove one morning at the local Starbucks, you can try to regenerate that flow by going back to the same Starbucks, ordering what you ordered when you were in the flow, and sitting at the same table. If you were listening to your favorite tunes, pop your earbuds back in and choose the same (or similar) music.

Re-creating the Focus

One of the hallmarks of being in the flow is extreme focus. Focus, and a way to bring about focus, is different for every writer. In general, though, you need to remove all distraction from your writing area. Turn off cellphones and TVs. Tell other people to steer clear. Take care of any extraneous errands or chores that might be weighing on your mind, keeping you from focusing. Then, add in those elements that help you focus. For some, music is critical for focus; for others, it’s a distraction. Some focus well with bright lighting; others with low, ambient light. Time of day can be critical for focus, too. Some writers are night owls, feeling their best and brightest in the wee hours, while others can’t concentrate after 2 pm. Knowing yourself well, and knowing the things that help or detract from your ability to focus, is the key to recovering the flow after an interruption.

So, the next time your flow is disrupted by homework-laden children, a rambunctious pet, or an urgent phone call, don’t despair. Get that magnum opus flowing again with these simple adjustments!

See you on the next page!

 


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writer's guide to fiverr

A Writer’s Guide to Fiverr

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Fiverr is a fantastic resource for the self-published writer. But, you need to be very careful when dipping your toe into the sometimes muddy waters of low-cost services for hire. This quick-and-dirty Writer’s Guide to Fiverr will help you take those first steps and, hopefully, allow you to get the services you need done well and in a timely manner. I’ll take you through some of the most common pitfalls and teach you how to discern the good from the bad at a glance. Here we go!

A Writer’s Guide to Fiverr

You can find practically anything on Fiverr, but I’ll focus on the ones most pertinent to the self-published author. These are: logo design, book cover design, editing, and e-book formatting. I steer clear of marketing services on Fiverr altogether, since that category has so much risk associated with it. Once you’ve decided what service you need, you’ll need to make sure you’re connecting with a professional.

Searching Fiverr

You can search by topic on Fiverr easily, just enter, say, “EBook Cover Creation” and press “search”. Your results will populate and you can begin finding someone to fill your need. But don’t just click on anyone. I suggest categorizing your results by clicking on “average customer review” rather than “relevance” or “recent arrivals” in the filter box. That way, you can begin with people who have strong histories of good service.

Reviews and Portfolios

Always check the number of reviews. Someone with 843 five-star reviews has more history than someone with only 45 reviews. After you’ve narrowed it down with this method, do yourself a favor and check out their portfolio. Here’s where it pays to do your research. For example, I’ve seen plenty of users post book covers from some of the big book cover creation sites like damonza.com and Derek Murphy as their own work. Obviously, this is fraud, or at the very least, dishonest, and you may be in for a difficult working relationship with these vendors.

Language Barriers

No writer’s guide to Fiverr would be complete without telling you to check the location and language of each vendor. Many will say they are conversant in English when, in fact, they have minimal skill and may even be relying on Google translate to communicate with you. This may not matter with some services, but when you’re trying to get a design idea across, it’s crucial. On the other hand, I’ve worked with several designers with limited English who had fantastic natural talent and a willingness to get it right and I was more than pleased with the end product. If I had limited time and patience, though, I’d go with someone from a country conversant in your language.

If you’re looking for editing services of any kind, you MUST be careful to choose an individual for whom English (or whatever language you’re publishing in) is their native tongue. Don’t be fooled by individuals who post that their native tongue is English if they’re living in a country that is not English-speaking. They may be telling the truth or they may not be; I simply don’t have the time or the money to find out. Go with the safe bet, always.

Patience

Sometimes, working with Fiverr vendors requires patience. I suspect (but can’t prove) that many of them subcontract work to people living in other countries. While your contact may be an English-speaking native in the U.S., UK, or Canada, the folks doing the work may be in any one of many non-English-speaking countries. This can result in miscommunication and work that must be redone several times.

That being said, the folks I worked with have always strived to give me a good, clean product. It may have taken a few tries, but I’ve gotten a product I’m pleased with each time. If you are on time restriction or are not a patient person overall, you may want to try a different route than Fiverr.

I’ve used Fiverr for both logos and book covers and have been very happy with what I received. In fact, the Gottabeewriting logo was done for $10 by a lovely designer named Bunny. You can find a link to her on Fiverr here. The book covers for Salt in the Blood and Blood in the Flame were completed by Hammad at this link. Check them out:

horror fiction salt in the blood

bitffinal

 

I got his premium package for $50 and I feel it was money very well spent!

If you’re happy with your Fiverr purchase, please consider giving your vendor a tip. For the most part, they charge very little for their services and it’s always nice to pay it forward when you can.

In conclusion, go ahead and try Fiverr as a resource for some of your self-publishing needs, but do be aware that there are many scammers out there and you need to protect yourself by doing some thorough research first.

See you on the next page!


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book trailers

Book Trailers: A DIY Guide for Starving Authors

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Book trailers are so much fun to do, and they needn’t cost you a fortune, either. My new book, Salt in the Blood, will be out in a month or so, and I wanted to add something fun into my bag of marketing tricks. I’ve always loved book trailers, and a quick search pulled up quite a few companies who’ll happily do one for you — for $500 or more. Even for that price, some of these seemed a bit lacking in some ways.

Being the intrepid jack-of-all-trades that I am, I decided to try my hand at creating one myself. I figured a nice DIY could save a heap of money and my bottom line. Here’s my very first attempt, and the one I’ll be using:

 

While it’s not the best book trailer I’ve ever seen, it’s an acceptable one that I believe does its job. Book trailers are designed to attract attention and generating intrigue and interest in the story. Even a simple trailer done well can achieve this.

In all, it took me around three hours to complete, start to finish. It cost about $40, since I did purchase two film clips to use, but the rest of the clips and images I found on free sites or created myself. Here’s how you can, too.

Resources to Make Amazing Book Trailers

Software

First, let’s start with equipment. I use a Mac computer, so I’ll be coming from that background.  iMovie, a simple software resident on a Mac, was used to create the show.  I also have Camtasia software, available for Windows or Mac, so you could start there if you have a PC or want more complex effects. Camtasia offers more flexibility than iMovie, but I’m not ready for the big time, yet. Windows Moviemaker is a free option for you PC fans, and Wondershare is another paid choice for both platforms. I don’t have any experience with these, though, so explore at your own risk.

So, once you get your software, it’s time to start making your movie. iMovie has wonderful movie trailer templates you can edit. I used the “EPIC” theme for the Salt in the Blood trailer, but you can use whichever fits your needs.

Images and Footage

To make book trailers that are reflective of your story, you’ll need images or film clips of specific scenes, characters, or actions. Finding good fits is easy, although it is time-consuming. Check out sites like pixabay, pexels, unsplash, gratisography, morguefile or Creative Commons for choices. Many of these have both images and video, so look through each. You can also get free stock footage on Youtube by searching “free stock footage of (your subject)” in the search bar.

If you have trouble finding footage, consider combining an image with a green screen effect, or shooting your own. In the example, above, I used green screen smoke (free) over the image of the flayed man to mimic action. I shot the salt clip myself with an iPhone in slo-motion mode.

Sound

Freesoundeffects.org, soundbible, or this list of 55 free sound websites are great places to look for sound clips. You can also record your own on your phone or with recording equipment if you have it. My movie template already had sound that I liked, so I just stuck with it, but you can edit all the components to fit your story.

Ultimately, book trailers can be a quick and easy way to generate interest in your book, whether fiction or non-fiction. Have you created your own trailer? I’d love to hear how you did it!

See you on the next page!


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the dead city

The Dead City: Another Post-Apocalyptic Blockbuster by Dylan J. Morgan

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dylan j. morgan the dead cityDylan J. Morgan does it again with The Dead Cityhis sequel to post-apocalyptic thriller The Dead Lands.

The Dead Lands impressed meno mean feat for someone who reads as copiously as I do. Morgan’s treatment of his protagonist was refreshing and surprising, a nice little treat in a long string of favors this author does the reader of his books.

The Dead City is no exception to his “take no prisoners” style of writing.

The Dead City

Now, I’m not going to give away storyline or plot structure here. If you want more insight into those, see all of Morgan’s fantastic ratings on Goodreads, here.

The Dead City takes you back to the planet Hemera, to the wasteland that is now the city of Magna. Bands of mercenary bandits roam the city, as do hordes of never-satiated mutants that hunger for fresh meat. Into this heady mix, drop a group of intrepid soldiers and their sociopathic leader, and you’ve a tale made for nail biting suspense and top-of-the-line fighting and gore.

Also, you have an intelligent, intricately woven mesh of character backstories and subplots that draw you in slowly, but surely. Not just another gruesome hack-em-up tale, The Dead City offers discerning readers what they really, really, want: a slow boil of suspense topped off with a dash of the unexpected.

In conclusion, this book crosses many genres and will appeal to fans of horror, supernatural, post-apocalyptic, thriller, suspense, and dystopian reads. Morgan has the ability to weave an engrossing story ornamented by surprising twists, frightening, gasp-inducing action sequences, and characters that are more than the sum of their flaws or advantages. In sum, he writes a book worth reading. So, make sure you don’t miss your chance to immerse yourself in his world–get your copy of The Dead City now by clicking on the cover, below.

the dead city

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DYLAN J. MORGAN

Dylan J. Morgan is the author of five novels, three novellas, and a short story collection, all in the field of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Now living and working in Norway, he was born in New Zealand and raised in the United Kingdom. He writes during those rare quiet moments amid a hectic family life: after dark, with limited sustenance, and when his creative essence is plagued the most by tormented visions.

 


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