It’s Valentine’s Day! You may adore this holiday because it speaks of hope and romance, or you may hate this holiday because it’s too dedicated to couples or to Hallmark, florists, and candymakers.
Regardless, let's use this as an opportunity to look at how we’re loving ourselves. Do we embrace and care for our relationship to writing?
Here are a few ideas for how to love your writer self this Valentine’s Day—or any time of year.
Give Yourself a Gift
One year for my birthday, I asked for a gift card to Staples. My family thought that was odd, but all my writer friends were like, “Ooooh, yessss.” Because writers know how delightful shopping for office supplies can be!
You don’t have to wait for someone else to give you a writing-themed present. Valentine’s Day involves giving gifts of greeting cards, flowers, candy, and more. How about treating yourself to something that makes your work easier or sweeter! For lots of great ideas, check out Jami Gold’s Ultimate Gift Guide for Writers.
You get bonus points for wrapping the gift and opening it with the fresh excitement of a child or for snapping pics and sharing your beautiful new purchase on social media for others to ooh and aah.
A core feature of Valentine’s Day is saying kind, romantic, or sexy things to your beloved. How tender a lover’s words can be to our eager ears!
Now think about all the things you’ve said to yourself about your own writing:
- “It’s crap!”
- “No one will want to read this.”
- “I should just quit!”
- “I suck.”
Whoa, you are a terrible valentine to yourself.
Hey, we all are at times. What if we rephrased our words in ways a lover would say?
- “This is actually really good, but if you want to edit, I support you.”
- “I would totally read this!”
- “Don’t quit yet. I believe in you.”
- “You don’t suck…at least not in that way.” ~wink, wink~
It’s okay to share frustration from time to time, but remember to also speak tenderly to yourself. Writing a wonderful book is far more difficult than many realize, and you’re pretty remarkable to do what you do.
Valentine’s Day also means hand-holding, snuggling up, smooching, etc. By no means do I expect you to kiss yourself for your fabulous writing. (But if you’re feeling it, go ahead.) So what kind of affection can you show yourself?
Look at your workspace. Is there any way to make it cozier? Consider ergonomics, creature comforts, inspiring quotes and art. Do you need to slip away to the couch sometimes? Or the recliner on your back patio? As much as you can, care for your body’s comfort as you write.
Get a massage. Sitting for long periods of time and/or slumping your shoulders over a keyboard can wreak havoc on your back. A massage can work out the kinks and relax those sore muscles. Schedule a professional massage, or if money is tight, get a back and neck massager you can keep nearby.
Prioritize self-care. Eat and sleep well! We writers can be so bad at that. Not to mention exercise and meditation. But self-care practices pay huge dividends both in our overall mood and our productivity.
Show yourself affection. And if you still want that self-kiss, pucker up and go for it!
Plan a Date or Getaway
Couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day expect to have a date. Dinner at least, but maybe more. Why not take yourself out to write?
Day Trip. Consider what setting helps your creative juices flow. Do you get great work done at the library? A local coffee shop? A seaside restaurant? Pack up your supplies and head out for the day to your favorite writing spot.
Getaway. Maybe you can swing a weekend getaway to a quiet place that sparks your imagination. Bring along another writer or two to keep yourself inspired and accountable. My critique partner and I have had many productive weekends at lake houses (some of which we found through Airbnb).
Retreat/Conference. Sign up to attend a longer retreat or conference. I’m a big fan of Cruising Writers, where I’ve both learned a lot from presenters and crafted some of my best scenes! (Also, I happen to be hosting this year’s event in the owner/manager’s stead.) But ask around and/or check out the lists from Romance Refined or Kotobee.
Make this Valentine’s Day—or any day—the time to love your writer self!
What area do you need to work on to show your writer self more love?
Julie Glover writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® and is now on sale! When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.
About Cruising Writers
Cruising Writers brings writers together with bestselling authors, an agent, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor writing retreats around the world. Cruise this November with Angela Ackerman, fabulous writing coach and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus, NYT bestselling author Darynda Jones, and a high-quality literary agent (TBA).
For the week of Hearts and Flowers, WITS would like you to share a line of writing you love, your own or another's. Just one. We want to share our own favorite lines and hear about yours down in the comments.
Many writers struggle with self-doubt, with imposter syndrome, with anxiety. The conundrum is that before we ask others to believe in us and our writing, we must believe in ourselves and know that our words deserve to be heard.
Go ahead, be brave.
Kris (K. Maze)
From a YA short story I'm working on. The female protagonist discovers wrestling as a way to fight back after life has given her a beating.
She jogged to the third mat when her name was called over the loudspeaker. Her arms still ached, though the bruises were fading. Tonight she'd definitely fight back.
Two from Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī on writing that I like very much:
Do you think I know what I'm doing? That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself? As much as a pen knows what it's writing, or the ball can know where it's going next.
Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
From my own work in progress, Awaken. For context, the characters are climbing a mountain.
“I’m coming up.” My voice is steadier than my nerves. They flutter in my stomach like birds trapped in a too-small cage. There’s no other sound but the thick rush of wind ripping at our hair and our clothing and our confidence.
And a bonus line from a wonderful novel that I recently copy edited and can now be purchased, His Lady to Protect by Justine Covington:
Bright cheeks and sparkling eyes reminded Susannah of the conspiratorial laughs her mother had shared with this woman, and a lump the size of her mother’s gravestone formed in her throat.
From my high-risk pregnancy memoir.
Fear stalked through my childhood, a rabid dog that refused to be put down. As the child of a retired military officer, who cuddled his glittery narcissism beneath a shadowy cape of PTSD, I grew used to navigating a world filled with fear.
Your turn! Share a line you've written that you love, either from your current work in progress or a previously published book. Then the rest of us will show our love too!
Top photo: Image by silviarita from Pixabay
by Melinda VanLone
Are you an indie author about to create or commission a cover? If so, most likely you'll be using images to design your latest best seller. Did you know that those images have copyrights? Even if you found them on the interwebs like litter on a street corner, they still have rights. It's that fact that gets a lot of authors in trouble.
It's never a good idea to pull an image directly off of a Google search because you can't be sure where it's coming from, who has the rights, whether they've released them, or whether they are still very much the property of the creator.
To keep yourself protected from potential legal action, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Discover images at reputable websites
If you're designing the cover yourself, use reputable stock photography sites and purchase the right to use the image. In a future blog post I'll go over the rights each site gives, and the pros and cons of each, but in the meantime here's a few reputable sites I recommend:
Pay attention to what rights you actually purchased
Some sites sell you the right to use an image for personal reasons at one price, but charge a different price for commercial use. (Hint...you need commercial rights.)
Also take note of whether you're allowed to manipulate the image in any way. Most stock sites do grant you the right to tinker to your heart's desire, but a few don't. Be sure you adhere to whatever rules they set out for you. Some sites give you unlimited eBook reproduction but limit the number of print copies you can produce before requiring an "extended license."
When you purchase the image, I highly recommend saving a PDF of the license and storing it for future reference with the image/cover.
Pass on by any image marked "for editorial use only." That means the image can't be used for personal or commercial purposes, which means you can't use it on a book cover. Those images are only used for magazine or news articles, and should never be manipulated (Photoshopped together with other images or retouched).
The buck stops with you
If you're hiring a designer to craft your cover for you, it's still ultimately your responsibility to make sure they've obtained the rights to the images they use to craft your cover, in the same way that if you hire an assassin you're still responsible for the murder they commit on your behalf.
Most professional designers are well aware of the basic rights/rules, but some aren't. Don't be afraid to ask them where they purchased the image, and ask for a copy of the image license.
If they produced the image themselves (if, for instance, they are also a photographer and they used their own photography), then ask them to convey the rights to you in writing. There are boilerplate contracts you can use to convey the basic terms, just so there are no misunderstandings in the future.
Sometimes it seems silly to go through the motions of paperwork but trust me, should a lawsuit arise, you'll be glad you did it.
"Free" isn't worth it.
I avoid "free" sites because:
1. The images are not great quality and they are overused. It's fine for a blog post or newsletter, not so fine for a book cover; and 2. The license is flawed.
Most free sites use a type of "Creative Commons" license which means yes you can use it for commercial use, but it does not guarantee that whoever posted the image to the site actually had the right to distribute the image, nor that they didn't violate privacy laws or property laws to obtain the image.
In other words, they may have infringed on someone else's rights...which makes you an accomplice if you use it. They also don't police the content at all, leaving you vulnerable.
The stock sites I've mentioned above do a certain amount of vetting of the photographers who post their images for use. There are statements and contracts which establish that they've obtained the model's permission, that they own the photo, etc. Which in turn gives you a certain level of protection you just don't get for free.
In my next post, I'll go more in depth regarding the stock photography websites I've recommended and their painful-to-read rights. If you've been using a site that didn't make my list, please leave a note in the comments and I'll investigate it for you.
Please note...I'm not a lawyer. I'm a graphic designer and an author. I have, however, spent years in the publishing industry handling images and dealing with the legal issues associated with using them, so I do have tips and advice that I hope helps you in your book covering quest. That said, when in doubt, please consult an actual lawyer or simply don't use the image.
Do you struggle with finding images? Have you ever had legal issues with photos? Melinda is ready for your questions down in the comments!
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Melinda VanLone writes urban fantasy, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and furbabies.
When she's not playing with her imaginary friends, you can find Melinda playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.
by John Peragine
Alternately titled: Talk Me Off the Edge- My 1st Fiction Book is Being Published!
Bridging from Non-fiction to Fiction has been like a flight from Earth to Mars. New landscapes. New people. Different atmosphere. Different laws of physics. And it is a little daunting.
My love of writing began when I was a latchkey kid. I would spend hours, even days, in the local library. I started in the kid’s section, but after I'd read all my favorite books, I ventured into the adult section.
“Whoa there, little guy, this is for the adults. I’m not sure you are in the right section,” said the librarian. I was 10 years old and I desperately wanted to read books from the pulp fiction section. I was especially interested in fantasy and science fiction titles with their creased covers and yellowed pages.
Eventually I wandered into the business center, which had a long table with typewriters. I wanted to write my own stories.
I dreamed of being a writer and seeing my pulp fiction title stuffed in the tall rotating carousel.
My mother procured (read: pilfered) my typing paper from her company's supply closet and I sat down to create.
Fast forward thirty years, when I retired from the day job to write full time. I have been writing non-fiction books and articles for thirteen years, but I never forgot my roots in that little town library.
The Unexpected Book
In 2012, my life changed. After raising two girls, I had my baby boy, Max. He came into this world a wonder: a mix of superhuman powers, and superhuman weaknesses. Cold air is his kryptonite. The medical term is Cold Urticaria with Angioedema, which is a fancy way to say that he was allergic to cold and to viruses. Allergic in the "stop breathing" kind of way, which was terrifying.
We spent quite a bit of time in hospitals, and I began writing chapters of a story as bedtime stories for him. In it, his illness was a sign of a powerful magic locked inside him.
My inspiration came from a couple of my favorite writers. Ian Fleming, of the James Bond series fame, decided to write a book for his son, and read him the chapters as a bed story. It eventually became the book, Chitty Chitty Bang, Bang, which became a movie with the screenplay written by Roald Dahl. (As a child, this movie scared me, as children were captured and put into a cage.)
My second inspiration was Stephen King. He had written thirteen books, and his daughter Naomi had not read any of them because horror was not her thing. So, he wrote The Eyes of the Dragon, a fantasy story, for his daughter. It is one of my favorite Stephen King books.
Both of these authors shifted genres to create something for their children. I was inspired too, and it became a special story and our special time while my little boy was so sick.
The Proposition and the Promise
Two years ago, my son asked me where his book was. (Which meant I had to move the project into being.) It is the novel I never intended to write.
In September it will be released to the world, and I am an emotional wreck. I will finally fulfill the dream of the little boy I used to be. The boy who dared to grab a book from the adult stacks and run back to the children’s section to read Frank Herbert's Dune.
Instead of being the expert sitting across the table, helping nonfiction authors write and publish their books, I am the one chewing my nails and questioning my sanity.
Is this a stupid idea? Will people hate it? Do I have the right genre? What am I going to do for marketing? Distribution?
I’m like a student in their first year of med school: I know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be correct in my assumptions.
I am currently shifting my POV with a deadline to get it to the editor. I have given them my thoughts for the cover and am checking my inbox hourly to get the first glimpse. I am questioning everything.
Basically, I've become the client I sometimes dread: full of insecurity, and prone to dramatic predictions that "it is terrible and that is why no one who has read it has given me accolades." What if it's not the best thing they have ever read??
Can someone pleaseput me out of my misery?
There is a shiny light illuminating my desperate self-flagellating musings. I have a great support network.
I have surrounded myself with people both in and out of the industry who have my back, and who set me straight when I veer too far into Crazyville.
I believe I can get through this and, for any of you who are reading this right now and nodding your head (because you recognize my agony and overly dramatic responses), I have some advice from that network to share.
The Best Advice
1. Rely on your tribe.
Listen to what they are saying to you. Stop responding with things like “yes, but…” They care about you and want you to succeed. Let them know what you need. A hug? A high five? A shot of whiskey?
Think of book publishing as running a triple marathon where they are on the sideline with signs, water, and snacks.
2. Believe in yourself.
Even if you are the only one who reads and loves your book, it was worth the effort. It’s likely that if you love the work, others will too. You don’t need everyone to love it, your opinion is what matters in the end. Were you happy with your work? Were you satisfied with what you created?
When I was ten and wrote an epic star opera on my pilfered paper, I was so happy at what I had created, and so proud to present it to my parents. It was not a top seller in any category, but it was the greatest thing I had ever created.
I have to remind myself of that moment. It is the reason I continued to want to be a writer. I wanted to see MY book on the shelf so that I could read it.
3. Brace yourself.
I have given my clients this advice, and now I am on the other side of it. The writing is just the beginning. The real work begins after you write “the end” on your first draft.
Now I must dig in and take the time to rewrite, think about marketing and covers, distribution and returns and everything else that goes into publishing a book. All of it with this ticking clock that rings on launch day.
4. Take care of yourself.
Step away from the manuscript. Walk around. Spend time with the family. Occasionally sleep. Run a few miles on the treadmill.
A work of fiction is much different than nonfiction or any other kind of writing I have done. This is so much more personal, and therefore I feel overprotective, anxious, and vulnerable. I must take care of my mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual parts of myself. I must take it one task at a time and push forward every day.
If I've got this, then you, my fellow writer, also have this.
I know I will cry when I see the completed book. That’s just how I roll. And there will be only one critic whose opinion matters in the end: my son. This was written for and about him. This story helped me feel more in control at a time when I felt so helpless as a parent. Part of my nerves are because I want to make him proud.
Drawing on our real-life experience and being able to write my own happy ending was therapeutic. This book helped he and I heal as much as it entertained. September 14, 2020 is the day this first book of a trilogy is released. That's the day I will finally have my nervous breakdown.
Every published author knows the madness of release day. We willingly embrace this madness over and over again.
It’s totally worth it, don’t you think?
Have you written a special story for a family member? Changed your genre? Do you get nervous on Release Day? Tell us about it in the comments!
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, Max and the Spice Pirates, will be released in Summer 2020.
by James Preston
Time is your friend . . . and your enemy.
You can never have enough. Yet it can stretch, minutes to seeming hours, in a boring movie that your date loves. It can race by when you’re writing to meet a deadline.
. . . Time.
I looked for fiction writing classes on line and got over 65 million hits in less than a second. Let’s assume one out of a thousand, 0.1%, of them are aimed right at your kind of writing, that’s 65,000. Okay, 0.1% of that is 65 and you decide to attend one or more?
You are talking a lot of hours. Not necessarily a bad thing. Our art and craft are not easily mastered. But how many can you attend and still finish the book?
. . . Time
But are there brief bits to educate and help, to inspire, inform and entertain when you don’t have days for a class? Like a life hack, a shortcut to help get you over those humps? You bet!
It seems to me that all of these classes, books and essays divide into two groups: “how to” and “inspirational.”
The first group is absolutely essential. What we do is both craft and art and you must master the craft before you can begin to grapple with the second. Before you can play in the piano recital you have to learn to run scales.
The inspirational half of this is equally important because we all hit moments when we think of our current WIP, “Arggh! This sucks. I hate it and it hates me.”
Side note: I told my wife about a month ago that my current story was trying to kill me. It was.
Then I took a break and plugged in my DVD of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
And this time I watched the special features, and I listened to Stephen Spielberg talk about the work. And I realized that modern movies on DVD are chock full of great interviews with the people involved, in which they tell stories of how they did it, why they did it (sometimes), and how they kept going when it got tough. And I found a quick way to get a boost, to think, “Yeah, everybody struggles now and then.”
The DVD helped me.
Many DVDs are a rich source of information in four ways: “Making Of” featurettes, liner notes, commentary, and deleted scenes.
Side Note: streaming services also offer movies with extra features, which may vary by service. I’m using DVD examples in this essay, focusing on the “Making Of” featurettes. I’ll throw in a bit of romance, a piece of trivia for your next cocktail party, and I’ll talk about liner notes from one movie that very few, if any, of you have heard of, let alone seen.
Here are a few DVDs that have worthwhile special features. I suggest them because they will convince you that everybody hits rough spots, everybody that succeeds keeps going, and — the best part — they’re relatively short. “Making of” featurettes are usually at most 20 - 30 minutes long. Watching one will expose you to pros grappling with deadlines and story issues.
Temple of Doom
As I’m sure many of you know, Temple of Doom is widely regarded as the weakest of the first Indiana Jones trilogy. It is certainly the darkest. If you watch the special features, Spielberg knew it. But it was a story he wanted to tell, so he did, and don’t think there's no risk involved. Hollywood not only believes you’re only as good as your last work, they’re proud of thinking that way. He has some very interesting things to say.
Star Trek (2009)
Here I’m talking about the reboot, directed by J.J. Abrams. The “Making of..." featurettes are excellent. What comes through to me most is how much the cast and crew enjoyed making the movie. Hard work? You bet. Arguments? I’m sure. But, bottom line, it shows how much they enjoyed the story. It convinced me that if I didn’t love a scene, or a story, something was wrong. It helped to rekindle my enthusiasm for my work.
Romancing the Stone (1984).
Wow, this DVD is a treasure trove of good information and inspiration. My thanks to the folks at WITS for asking me to write because it made me pull out the movie. Look for “Hidden Treasure: the Screenwriter.” If you don’t know her story, be prepared to be surprised.
In the liner notes: this script was “in turnaround” (translation: limbo) for two years. Two years, after the writer, who was working as a waitress when she wrote it, got Michael Douglas interested. Two years! If that doesn’t inspire you I don’t know what will.
Deleted scenes: ask yourself why “At the river” was cut. And for the trivia I promised, look at the very first scene of Romancing the Stone with Kathleen Turner. A female writer is sitting at her typewriter, hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a Pendleton shirt. Then look at the back cover photo of Grace Metalious on Peyton Place. The Turner scene has got to be an homage.
All of the above are movies that I like a lot. I thought I’d include one that I don’t’ much care for: Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. I was watching some of the bonus material preparing for this essay, and the section of “The Director and the Jedi” where they’re working on storyboards is really useful, and it spoke to me because I was struggling with just that for the last fight screen in my WIP. Thoughts in the middle of the night like, “Wait, she can’t do that in the parking lot; she’s on the roof.” These people are working out issues just like that.
I want to close by talking about a movie I bet very few of you have seen — a little gem called (I’m not making this up) The Hideous Sun Demon. This time I'm focusing on the liner notes on the DVD case.
THSD was made in 1957, released in 1958, by a man named Robert Clarke. He’s also the producer and the star, which tells you something. Today it would be direct-to-video or You Tube. At that time it was aimed at an audience of kids in a drive-in, busy drinking beer and making out.
In the liner notes Clarke talks about how he and some of his friends from USC scraped together the cash and made the movie on a shoestring, and how when he was in the hideous sun demon costume, (made out of an old wetsuit), it was so hot that so much sweat was running down his body that there is one still picture of him where it appears he failed to make it to the Men’s Room in time. But they stuck with it. Clarke stuck with it. And they finished the movie, it made some money and they’re proud of their work. Learn from them. You should be proud of yours, too.
I promised romance... Stephen Spielberg has soft spot for Temple of Doom because he says that’s where he met his wife, Kate Capshaw. Not bad, huh?
So, time. Mine’s about up.
Time is the one resource you can’t get more of. When you’re working on our art and craft, try to use it well. With a free half hour you can learn something from the likes of Spielberg, Abrams — or Clarke.
Now do something for me, for us. Think about quick things from special features that gave you a boost, maybe a deleted scene that made you think one of yours might drag just a bit, maybe a writer’s story from a Making Of featurette. Are there Special Features that moved you? Share them with this writing community that we are all part of. Thanks.
Time. Tick tock, tick tock, tick . . .
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James Preston writes the multiple-award-winning Surf City Mysteries. His most recent work, however, is not part of that series. It’s a novella called Buzzkill, a historical thriller that Kirkus Reviews said is “enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.” His work is collected by the UC Berkeley University library as part of their special collection, “California Detective Fiction.” For more about the stories, check out his web page, www.jamesrpreston.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.