Protecting Yourself

Free can come with a huge price. Are you willing to pay in the five figures?

Copyright is a challenging topic if you don’t have a law degree and haven’t studied up on it. Lord knows I am no expert myself, so I try to use as many of my own photos/graphics and public domain photos as possible on this blog — with a few exceptions that I feel fall under fair use (I could be wrong). I have also used “free” stock photos from MorgueFile.com. But how free are these  stock photos?

Well, you might notice that several photos have disappeared from this blog. It is a precautionary measure after reading Allison Puryear’s post, “I Got Sued (For Something You’ve Done!)” … It chilled me to the core. While MorgueFile is a legit website, a photographer could upload a photo after its been copyright and then collect huge bucks from an unsuspecting blogger, etc. — and it is completely legal.

Read Puryear’s article and stay safe on the internet! If you are in doubt when it comes to something being copyrighted, it might be best to pass that image/graphic by in favor of your own creation. One other protection to take when downloading free stock photos, or even purchasing them, is to screenshot the screen as you are doing so and keep all receipts.

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Gen Con Recap #1: Structuring Life for Creativity

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One of the best seminars I had attended during Gen Con 2016 was Structuring Life for Creativity, which was presented by Sandra Tayler. It is a subject that I think a lot of writers struggle with; after all, we are all busy. Sometimes, our creative selves and our writing take second fiddle to life’s craziness. I have struggled between work (where I write and edit all daylong), freelance editing, my own personal writing and editing, social life, and leisure. I had good practices in place throughout high school, college, and even working in retail. But recently in my adult life, I’ve been struggling to create, so Tayler’s presentation really struck a chord.

Since attending her session, I have been writing regularly again, except recently … but it is a secret project that taps into another creative side of myself. I walked away completely refreshed and want to share some of my key takeaways from Tayler’s seminar:

Continue reading

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Post-Gen Con 2016: Reexamining Writing Goals

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My Gen Con 2016 badge and Writer’s Symposium program.

The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium was amazing. I walked away completely refreshed and with a bumper crop of information and ideas. I cannot recommend enough finding and attending similar events to get the latest information about what is going on in the publishing industry or just to get inspired to take your craft to the next level. The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium stretched from Thursday through Sunday (Aug. 4-7) and offered more than 200 hours of programming and events. There was also a Writer’s Avenue in the main vendor hall; however, since my day was packed with seminars, I missed the opportunity to visit and mingle with fellow writers in addition to agents and editors from some of the main publishing house. Next year I will be better prepared and make sure I leave plenty of time to visit that avenue because valuable connections can be made doing that as was pointed out during one of the seminars I attended.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

In all I attended eight and a half hours worth of seminars on Saturday, Aug. 6. I say half because I was allowed into Eric Flint’s “Business of Writing: Understanding the Publishing Industry” half way through its start. The bulk of the seminars I attended were Business of Writing related since that is where I currently am in my own creative writing career. I did– for which I’m extremely grateful for–work in a couple Writer’s Craft sessions and one Writer’s Life seminar, which was invaluable.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the highlights from the Gen Con seminars I attended. The first, which I hope to have up this Friday, will be from “Writer’s Life: Structuring Life to Support Creativity.” I have been struggling with balancing life, energy, and my need to be creative, so this one was a session I truly needed. I know many other writers also struggle with carving out time to write, so hopefully, they too will be able to glean something from the session’s highlights.

Since attending “Structuring Life,” I have been steadily been making progress on Heritage Lost‘s sequel, and I feel in a better place in my creative life, even if I still need to continue training my brain, but all in good time!

Perhaps my greatest take away is I’m halting my agent hunt, except for one particular agent that I have in mind. Instead, I will do yet another read-through of Heritage Lost before directly querying publishing houses that allow unsolicited manuscripts. All of the panelists (and they included writers, editors from publishing houses, and an agent) over several seminars agreed new writers were more likely to be published through the slush pile than through an agent. It is important to note they all stressed there is no one way to publishing; however, directly approaching publishing houses had been my original path. I diverted from it when I kept getting advice that I needed to get an agent first, so I caved.

Additionally, in a month or two, I will probably have exciting news about another venture that I’m hoping to see launch in October, but I want to make sure all of my ducks are in a row before I share anymore on that. Until then, I’m excited to share some of what I learned at Gen Con!

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Check Out ‘The Ballerina’s Gift’

"The Ballerina's Gift" by Rachelle M. N. Shaw cover

“The Ballerina’s Gift” by Rachelle M. N. Shaw

If you love paranormal fiction with a horror edge, be sure to get a copy of The Ballerina’s Gift by Rachelle M.N. Shaw, which was recently released electronically via Amazon. It is the second story in The Porcelain Souls series; however, readers can download the first short story in the series, The Eyes That Moved, for free (also available at Smashwords)! And let me say, if you have ever found porcelain dolls to be creepy, your skin is about to crawl. I don’t want to say too much  so  as not to spoil anything; however, Rachelle has crafted an exceedingly fun story with interesting characters while building in elements of horror, the paranormal, and suspense — and I’m not just saying that because I am her friend and editor.

The Ballerina’s Gift is novella length and has a larger cast of characters than its predecessor, though not to the point of being overwhelming. Marley — the lead — is relateable, particularly for those who remember teenage drama and nastiness, and likable. Another character that draws attention is Huili, who I can’t wait to see more of in the future.

The story itself follows Marley as she attempts to inch her way up the social ladder by hosting a party while her parentals are away. Throw in her long-time crush, her nemesis, a whirlwind of rumors, and the supposedly haunted Whitson house and things are bound to spiral out of control. More may be at stake than Marley’s reputation.

To learn more about the novella, The Porcelain Souls series, and Rachelle, visit her website at http://rachellemnshaw.com/porcelainsouls/.

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Counting Down To GenCon

The weekend is almost here and I can’t wait! This Friday I will be attending another Next Indiana Campfires event, which marries literature, nature and the Indiana Bicentennial. Then on Saturday, I get to go to GenCon in Indianapolis!

I made it to the Next Indiana Campfires event in my home community, which was hosted by the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail, and enjoyed a roughly 5-mile hike around Syracuse Lake, drinking in nature and several piece of poetry from Indiana poets. I also had the good fortune of meeting Indiana’s current poet laureate, Shari Wagner, who was the facilitator for that event.

I enjoyed the event so much that when I saw they were hosting a walk in Prophetstown State Park near my alma mater, I had to sign up. Along the way, I enlisted my brother and sister-in-law to join me — the more the merrier, right? Once again, Wagner will be the facilitator, but I’m hopeful that she will have a brand-new selection of poems to go with the landscape of Prophetstown. Another perk to this particular excursion? Two words: campfire dinner! Yum!

Somehow, we (my brother, sister-in-law and myself) will then be getting up early to head on over to Indy and GenCon. While they hit up the games, I will be attending seven writing seminars: The Pros & Cons of Electronic and Self-publishing; Inside Publishing; The Role of Agents; Representing Unconscious Character Motivation; Structuring Life to Support Creativity; Selling Your Stories to the World; and Maintaining Mystery Without Losing Your Audience. Needless to say, I’m super excited. I had made room for personal development in my writing business plan for 2017, so I am getting a head start, but the opportunity just fell into place. Stay tuned because I plan to share what I learn!

Is anyone else heading to GenCon and planning to attend some of the writer seminars?

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UPDATE: Announcing Project YA Editorial Extension

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Rachelle and I are extending the Project YA Editorial contest! The new deadline will be Sunday, Oct. 30, so be sure to get your short stories around. The theme is still Follow the White Rabbit, and we want stories featuring a tattoo, or tattoos, as an integral part to the overall plot. She and I will then be combing through the entries up until Sunday, Nov. 20, when we will announce the top five finalists.

Young writers don’t miss this chance to win in-depth assessment of your writing and free professional editing services. Additionally, we will be awarding a super helpful book, The Emotion Thesaurus, to the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner will be chosen Sunday, Dec. 18, and their story will be featured on both this site and Rachelle’s.

For more information, visit http://rachellemnshaw.com/project-ya-editorial/.

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Staying Uplifted While Querying

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The querying process is one of the hardest steps for a writer to face — even more so than the daunting editing process. A finished manuscript, after all, is our baby, and it’s hard to kick your baby out into the cold cruel world. And trust me, it can be a cruel world.

I’ve been in the midst of querying since February, with a few breaks in between when I’ve been overly busy. And I have been met with rejection after rejection, in some cases where my name couldn’t even be copied and pasted — I have a new appreciation of “Dear John” letters, ha!

However, I keep plodding along in hopes that my book will eventually find the right agent who will click with it and be as passionate about the project as I am (which is extremely important in your agent). Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep going, especially when you continue to receive form letters without any feedback — no idea if your pitch is failing; if it’s something to do with your book or your writing; or if the market is just over-saturated in the genre.

Still, no matter how disheartening, a writer must press on if they are to have any hope of finding an agent or publisher. Here are some of the things that have kept me going during the process. Continue reading

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Now Accepting Submissions for Project YA Editorial 2016!

(Note: Exciting news, everyone! Rachelle Shaw and I will be holding a contest geared toward young writers. Check out the details–written by Rachelle–below! –SW)The official launch of the first contest for Project YA Editorial is finally here! As a campaign dedicated to helping young authors get their start in the publishing world, my good friend and fellow editor, Sarah Wright, and I are on a quest to find a stellar short story that we will professionally edit—for free! She and I will be combing through the entries up until August 20, when we will select the top 5 finalists. Each finalist will receive an in-depth assessment of their piece along with a chance to win the grand prize: a package of free professional editing services for their story from Sarah and myself, plus a paperback copy of the super helpful book The Emotion Thesaurus by authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The grand prize winner will be chosen on August 27, and their story will be featured on both Sarah’s site and mine.

RULES

1. The contest is open to those between the ages of 18 and 25. Our reason for selecting those ages, apart from federal contest and giveaway rules, is that we’ve found some of the most creative and well-written work comes from that age group. Though we love mentoring younger writers when we get the chance, the slightly older group is full of those on the brink of the delving into the world of publishing, so that’s what we’re focusing on. For those of you who aren’t quite to this age group, hang in there! We plan to make this a yearly contest, so you’ll still get your chance. Keep writing and tweaking those ideas, because next year could be your year to enter!

2. You must live in the U.S. to participate. Though we wish we could open it up to more awesome writers in the world right now—we know there are a lot of you—to comply with federal laws for shipping prizes, it must remain in the U.S. for the time being. We are, however, looking to open it up to be an international contest at some point in the future.

3. All stories must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST on July 30. After that, any entries submitted will not be considered. To enter your story, please email us at projectYAeditorial at gmail dot com, with “Project YA Editorial 2016” and the title of your piece in the subject. Please also include a short query letter in the body, along with your name (or pen name if you’d like us to use one) and email address so we can contact you in the event you are chosen as a finalist. Stories should be copied and pasted into the body of the email as well, not sent as an attachment. We will do our best to respond to each of you with our decision, but if you do not hear from us by August 15, you can safely assume that you did not progress to the next round.

4. The theme for entering this year is “Follow the White Rabbit.” We’re looking for speculative fiction stories that are 5,000 words or fewer (but not flash fiction) that use tattoos as an integral component. You can be as creative with that as you like, so long as you include elements typically found in speculative fiction and visible markings of some sort as a main element of your piece. The subgenres fantasy, science fiction, and horror are all welcome with the exception of erotica. We will not accept entries that are primarily erotic in nature, promote violence toward children, are heavily gruesome in nature, include illegal underage romances, or convey the rise or fall of the world based on the political agenda of a leader. We also will not accept fanfiction. For your story to be considered in the contest, it must follow the theme and be your original work!

5. No simultaneous submissions. One entry per person please. Only entries that have not been published or submitted elsewhere will be considered.

OTHER DETAILS

Authors will retain all rights to the piece that they submit. The goal of this campaign is to provide young writers with the resources and connections they need to hone their craft and publish their work, and this is our way of giving back to all the young writers out there who deserve a shot at publication. If you don’t meet the requirement for entering but know someone who does, please share this with them. Sarah and I both love connecting with new writers, and this a chance for them to get some free help and publicity for their work.Updates about the contest, the finalist, and the grand prize winner will posted on the Project YA Editorial page of my website, on Sarah’s website, and also on my main Tumblr blog, so be sure to bookmark one or more of those pages.

Happy writing, and good luck!

Source: Now Accepting Submissions for Project YA Editorial 2016! — Rachelle M. N. Shaw

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In Need of a Fun Read? Give ‘The Wizard’s Gambit’ a Read

The Wizard's Gambit

The Wizard’s Gambit by Kylie Betzner

I may be a little biased — having had a window-of-sorts to see this novel grow into its finished product and being friends with the writer — but I think I can safely say many readers will find “The Wizard’s Gambit” to be a hilarious, enjoyable read, plus it has Littlehammer in it!

With feuding kingdoms — they’ve been, in some cases literally, carrying axes against each other for 1,001 years — terrorizing the land, Wizard White Beard comes up with a hare-brain idea to bring everyone together: a harmless scavenger hunt. But when war has become first nature, the friendly scavenger hunt quickly morphs into something that resembles The Hunger Games. During it, misfits are brought — sometimes kicking and screaming — under the mantel of Mongrel who genuinely wants heal the wounds between the kingdom and find the wizard’s hidden trinket to win the competition.

The characters that populate this novel, truly make it worth the read. There are many common fantasy races, including ogres, elves, and dwarves; however, there is also a diverse human cast that is not just limited to those of Western Europe origin. They each come to the table with their own goals and quirks.

The main cast will provide a favorite character for any reader. Whether it is simple Mongrel who is eventually forced to remove his rosy sunglasses; feisty and completely adorable Littlehammer; the ogre of few words and lover of birds, Grrargh; Tikaani who must face her fear, which threatens to overwhelm her; and so on, there will be someone to relate to. Personally, I adore Littlehammer: her practicality, accent, and right amount of distrust and cynicism (plus a slight violent streak) wormed its way into my heart. But I have to also give a shout out to Empress Eiko who is one badass senior citizen.

The Wizard’s Gambit pokes fun at several fantasy tropes in a loving manner, resembling in someways Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Featuring clever dialogue, hilarious scenarios, and tight prose, it will keep you entertained.

So if you are a fan of the genre and are in need of a good laugh, this book is the one for you. The Wizard’s Gambit can be purchased on Amazon, in either digital format or print. It is also available at Barnes & Noble. Also be sure to visit Kylie’s blog.

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#WriterConfessionals No. 1

Writer Confessionals

Trying out a new series where I share moments when I was a horrible writer to my characters. Feel free to join in the fun with your own #WriterConfessionals, and don’t forget to share your darkest deeds!

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