A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Graphics in Seven Easy Steps

I’d like to preface this post by stating that I didn’t go to school for graphic design, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years. In college I wrote fan fiction for the television show, Supernatural, and I made banners and images to go along with them. Sadly, none of my early graphics survived my data purges (I’ve looked), but I can show you how I make my current images. But first, a few tips.

Step One: Choose Your Program
There are dozens of programs out there to choose from. So much so that it can be overwhelming. If you’re just starting out, here’s what I suggest. Take the time to play around with a few of them. They range from the super basic to advanced. Adobe Photoshop is still considered the king in graphic design, but if its interface is just too much (like it is for me), you can play around with free programs like Pixlr, GIMP, Inkscape and Paint.NET.

Those are more advanced for my taste. If you want something with an easier interface or one that’s web-based (if, for example, you’re using a netbook or Chromebook), you can try BeFunky, PicMonkey, and Ribbet.

My preferred program is BeFunky (post not sponsored. They have no idea I exist!). I’ve played around with Ribbet, PicMonkey and Pixlr. Photoshop’s intimidated me since college. I also pay extra for access to stock images, more design elements, fonts and filters. All for $6.99 a month. That’s definitely more bang for your buck than having a Netflix account (sorry Netflix).

Step Two: Plan Your Graphic’s Aesthetic
What’s your post about? Is it an informational blog? A personal one? Do all your graphics match each other? I do a lot of planning with this step. A graphic’s purpose is to draw readers in and provide the overall aesthetic for your site. It’s all interconnected.

Step Three: Will You Make Multiple Versions for Multiple Platforms?
If all you have is a website then yay, you only have to think about one graphic! Most people do that, anyway. But crazy little me usually makes two or three versions of the same thing.

Yes, I’m crazy.

Think about it, though. Twitter has its preferred image size. As does Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc etc etc. While I do have Pinterest, I hardly post there. So I make them for Twitter, the post itself on my site (obvs) and sometimes Instagram. I don’t have a YouTube channel or a Facebook page.

This is where preset templates come into play. And I can tell you that they’ve saved my butt more times than I can count! ESPECIALLY the Social Media Headers section. I’m terrible when it comes to dimensions. I am attempting to streamline all the graphics for my blog posts. I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.

I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.

Step Four: As with Applying Makeup, Begin with a Base
I’m going to show you how I made the graphic for this post (prepares self for taking a dozen screenshots). Under BeFunky’s interface I select Graphic Designer > Templates > Blogger Resources > Blog Titles.

I don’t use any of the preset background graphics, and I very rarely keep the fonts or phrasing they use. I’m just looking for the size. I chose the following because of the slightly opaque rectangle.

Next, decide which elements you’re keeping and which you’re deleting. In this case, I’m deleting the floral images and all but one line of text.

TIP: There are many free images sites out there,
but many of those can also, potentially,
have malware or spyware embedded in their downloads.
I've ruined, ahem, tech due to not being careful with that.
(Look at that. I'm already side tracked!)

Step Five: Choose A Background Image (or none at all)
I spend a lot of time looking through stock images. Sometimes it seems like I see the same writerly backgrounds used over and over again on social media. You know the one – the overhead shot of the MacBook Pro with a coffee mug and open notebook. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, of course, but I see it so much that I’m not intrigued.

Why do I feel terrible saying that out loud? It should be about the content itself, right? I think the old adage of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. And here I am, teaching you how to create a graphic!

Anyway…

BeFunky has hundreds, if not thousands, of images you can search via key words and phrases. You can also upload your own, in .png and .jpg format.

TIP: .png graphics are graphics with their backgrounds removed,
so they can be added in as a layer.
TIP: With BeFunky's interface, you can select multiple graphics at once 
and they'll be added to your list once you exit out of the search.
However, if you clear your browser's cookies and cache,
they will disappear.

Step Six: Place the Elements
Now that you know what image you’re using you can begin playing around with the elements of your graphic. Move things forwards, backwards, adjust the layering. If the image doesn’t work, keep the other bits in place and just change that out.

TIP: Play around with coloring, opacity, fonts,
and more tools to further fine tune your image.
TIP: Don't be afraid to experiment with text blending and styling!

Each photo editing program will have its own set of elements and overlays you can add. For example (Oculus Reparo. Don’t mind me. Every time I see the phrase, “for example,” I can’t get Hermione Granger out of my head!)

I digress.

BeFunky has a fantastic selection, including social media icons. It could do with a little updating, as Google Plus no longer exists. But they have everything from charges and infographics to basic lines, shapes, ribbons, and more!

TIP: Save. Save save save save save.
This is more for when you're building your blog post or web page,
and you'd think this would be a common sense kind of thing.
But I think forgetting to save (in general) is a human fallacy.
BeFunky has a fantastic autosave feature where, if you don't
clear out your cookies and cache as discussed earlier in this post,
it'll ask you if you want to continue editing your previous project.
Cool, huh?

Step Seven: Finishing Up
You’ve chosen your program (or programs). You’ve chosen your aesthetic, images, fonts and elements. They’re all put together the way you want them. All that’s left to do is save your work and upload.

As with any project, the more complicated the plan, the longer the task will take to complete. I figured I’d go the easy route, since the format for my blog posts is the one constant thing on my site.

Each graphic you create gives readers a sense of your style. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Start small. Learn, learn learn. And your skills with creating graphics, just as they do with your writing, will grow!

Happy creating!

UPDATE: I was going through some of my old files last night and I stumbled across a banner I made for one of my old Supernatural fanficts. I remember being quite proud of how this looked:

Writing and Life Updates

Happy Monday, all! Here we are with the start of Summer and change is most certainly in the air. The world feels like such a heavy place, doesn’t it? That’s why I try to keep things like politics, drama and the like, off my blog and my social media.

What does this change mean for my website? Actually, not much! I have done some recent tweaking of my pages, but that’s about it. Blogging hasn’t happened much as of late either, but there are reasons for that! I’ve been doing a lot more actual writing, which leads me into my first topic of discussion: the writing.

Writing

For One Night at the Winter Garden
I am completely overhauling my once completed novella. What have I done to myself? It’s an idea which popped into my head on the eve of the RevPit competition submission day. And it’s stuck with me ever since.

So I cut 50,000 words from the manuscript. You read that correctly. 50. Thousand. Words. Don’t worry, though! I still have the original document so I can always go back to that if I completely hate the new version.

The Gilded Conspiracy
I’ve begun a Victorian era inspired web series called THE GILDED CONSPIRACY, with Part One up now. I think I’ll always be a Victorian Era girl, with not-so-subtle hints of grime, crime and grit thrown in. I hope to have Part Two up soon, as it is, technically, flash fiction!

Life

Moving right along, life’s been hectic as well. There’s been so much NOISE that I haven’t been able to get into the writing zone lately. Everything else commands my full attention and I wish it weren’t so. As a direct result, my blogging has suffered as well as the writing.

Blogging

I’ve felt rather aimless with my blog. Back when I first started it I used to do a Facing It series where I’d discuss various issues within the publishing world. However, I have no real life experience with it, then or now. So I discontinued that.

Then I thought about a series called Research It, where I’d write on historical events or dig deep into the fascinating histories of common writing objects. That fell by the wayside as well.

So if you’ve enjoyed my blog over the years, thank you so very much for sticking with it! It’s not widely read. I have immensely enjoyed doing The Five Question Interview series. It’s a lot of work but it’s granted the unique opportunity to have just small discussions with other writers and editors from around the world.


In conclusion, I don’t know what the future holds for this site of mine. Do I put blogging on hold? Do I think of a new series? Do I just post as ideas come? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you for reading this rather unplanned post.

Ring Around the Rosies

The Gilded Conspiracy | Part One

On the twenty-third day of January in eighteen hundred and sixty-five, Grandfather Harrison disappeared. Adelaide Harrison’s grandmother did not dress in her widow’s weeds, and every silver object in the Harrison home vanished with him. Every piece of it, including the timepiece from the grandfather clock in their drawing room.

The previous year Ada’s aunt passed away and sure signs of mourning were present throughout their estate. Anything made of silver was covered with gauzy black fabric in an attempt to ward off potential ghostly visitors. And all members of the Harrison family wore their heavily starched mourning clothes. Expensive funeral pamphlets were printed for the occasion.

The same cannot be said for Grandfather Harrison.

Nearly a year later London is back in deep winter, Grandfather Harrison is missing and no one but Ada seemed to pay that fact heed.

The moment Ada woke the vibrant colors of the family’s drawing room called to her. There’s something about that room, Ada thought as shades of crimson, emerald and gold played across her mind. Grandmother Harrison began redecorating it the day after Ada’s grandfather disappeared. She thought back to her father’s disapproval of the plan:

“It’s an utterly unnecessary expenditure,” Father chided when Grandmother announced her intentions.

Ada’s grandmother, a steadfast lady in her decision making, rarely deviated once she made up her mind, “England has changed with the coming of Queen Victoria. So must we.”

Cora, one of the Harrison family’s several house servants, bustled into Ada’s room to dress her. Ada was cinched into a delicately layered gown she was as though she were going off to a garden picnic. As Cora’s nimble fingers wove pins and pearls and ivory combs into her chestnut locks the scent of bacon drifting up the stairs caused Ada to fidget in her chair. The moment Cora was done Ada flew down the steep stairs, best she could with a full skirt.

Just to lay on the floor of Grandmother’s drawing room.

Early morning rays of sunlight threw themselves across the room the moment she entered and basked her body in warmth. In the wake of her grandfather’s disappearance it was now the only warmth she knew. The light stretched from carpet to paisley-papered wall and flecks of dust move in and out of the beams as she surveyed the round table already set up with the morning meal.

Toast stood straight and tall in a silver rack, one end gleaming as the metal caught sunlight. A bowl of butter sat nearby followed by two soft boiled brown eggs in porcelain egg cups and finally . . . bacon.

A note on Ada’s plate caught her eye and she read it as she took a slice of toast from the rack;

“Paying calls this morn’ with Mrs. Bell. Look for our return late afternoon.”

~Grandmother

It was just as Ada expected. Life was moving on as though Grandfather Harrison never existed. Thoughts of the very same bacon that drew Ada down the stairs now soured her appetite. Her stomach churned not from hunger but grief. Nervousness. Loneliness.

Late afternoon. Ada ignored the laid out breakfast and looked to her family’s longcase clock. The large gilded hour hand, which should be on the eight o’clock hour, was still missing.  Its small hand remained stuck at the half hour mark. The roman numerals, carved into the ivory disc, somehow glowed in the morning light.

It’s been that way for a whole year.

Ada first noticed it when her grandmother decided to redecorate the drawing room. She prayed that the eldest member of the Harrison family wouldn’t change the ornamented ceiling; that was the only thing that stayed the same. “Always look up, never down,” Grandfather told her once after she noticed the flirtatious ways girls used on men. “Let them see you, not you through your eyelashes.”

Ada pulled her grandfather’s worn leather copy of The Rose and the Ring from the new, grandiose bookcase Grandmother installed on their side of the tall fireplace. Clutching the book to her as she sat on the plush carpet Ada sniffed the air. Aside from the lingering scent of bacon and smoke from the crackling fire in the hearth, the drawing room now held a hint of something else.

Something familiar yet unfamiliar.

What IS it?

Try as she might Ada could not concentrate on the words of William Thackeray. She watched, instead, the beams of light from the bay window as the hour wore on. Shutting the book with a sigh and, ignoring the ribs of her corset digging into her back, lay fully on the floor to stare at the ornamented ceiling.

Always look up. Never down.

Ada breathed in as deeply as she could again, the restricting corset seemingly tightening on its own as thoughts of her missing, beloved grandfather still gnawed on her heart.

There it was again. A perplexing scent seemed to settle on the floor, not as heavily as her mother’s lavender perfume. That pleasant reminder constantly lingered on the stairwell and in the foyer. This was a different scent. Ominous. As ominous as the dark green wallpaper that hugged every corner of the drawing room.

And it filled Ada with a great sense of apprehension.

“Oh, Miss Ada, yo’ su’ be wrinklin’ yo’ dress ag’in.”

Ada didn’t even hear Tilly enter the room. She propped herself up on her elbows as the elderly maid set a full vase of flowers on the breakfast table. “Cora has yet to complain.”

Tilly stacked the porcelain plates into a haphazard pile and softly tsked in disapproval of the ignored meal. “O’ course she dinna compla’n to yo.’” She shook her head and picked up the stack of China, preparing to make her escape back to the kitchen.

“Tilly, do you know what’s happening in this house?”

Tilly stopped in the doorway and turned back, “Whot d’yo mean?”

“That unusual smell. The missing clock hand? Every piece of our silver?”

“Yo’ ask me tha’ e’ry mo’n, mi’lady. Don’t yo’ wor’y about all that.” and with that Tilly was gone, leaving the toast rack and butter dish behind.

Ada sat back up. Her fingers, engulfed by the carpet, felt something she never noticed before. An oddly shaped object under the carpet, one that ought not be there, created a barely noticeable bump in an otherwise impeccable room. Hurriedly as she could in a corset and full skirt she rolled onto her stomach and tried to figure out how to get a look at it. For in a room full of furniture, several large, plush rugs, and a breakfast table, the task will not be an easy one.

Standing Ada set the book on the table and took notice of the flowers in the vase.

Roses.

Where does one get roses in deep winter?

In London?

Forget the roses, Ada thought. I must get at whatever is making that bump

Do not copy or use without permission.

My Top Ten Victorian Slang Words

Writing historical fiction isn’t easy. There are so many decisions I have to make to prevent myself from overdoing it with language and writing style. Do I try to match it with the time period? Do I use modern slang? How far into 1800s etymology do I really want to go? Research has been key in helping me make these choices and every once in a while I stumble across a gem of an article I couldn’t pass up blogging about. Today I came across a list of 56 Delightful Victorian Slang Terms – some crazier than others – and I’d like to share just ten of my favorites.

Side note: This blog post wasn’t easy to write as there are so many amazing choices!

ARFARFAN’ARF

It took everything in me to not bust out laughing in the middle of Panera reading this one and it’s following definition (according to the article above, “A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. “He’s very arf’arf’an’arf,” Forrester writes, “meaning he has had many ‘arfs,’” or half-pints of booze.”

BATTY-FANG

Sooo many thoughts came to my mind at the description for this phrase, but I’ll refrain from adding in that commentary! This will be enough: “Low London phrase meaning “to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.”

BRICKY

I’m honestly not sure if this term is meant as a compliment or an insult. I can tell you that I am not bricky at all. “Brave or fearless. “Adroit after the manner of a brick,” Forrester writes, “said even of the other sex, ‘What a bricky girl she is.'”

BUTTER UPON BACON

I think I definitely need to start using this more often. “Extravagance. Too much extravagance. “Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn’t that rather butter upon bacon?”

DOING THE BEAR

This phrase would not go over well in the twenty-first century (ie too many innuendos which is why I found it so funny). It simply means, “courting that involves hugging.”

GAS-PIPES

While gas lighting and systems were invented in the Victorian era, that’s not what this is referring to. And it’s yet another term I snorted at in a public place, “A term for especially tight pants.”

MAD AS HOPS

Also known as “excitable.” I’m definitely going to start saying this at work!

PARISH PICK-AXE

I certainly have a parish pick-axe. Also known as a “prominent nose.” Though why they use the term “parish” I don’t think I’ll ever know.

SHAKE A FLANNIN

“Why say you’re going to fight when you could say you’re going to shake a flannin instead?” And I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and explanation!

SKILAMALINK

I’m not sure I even know how to say this word, but I wonder if this is where the writers for the Muppet Treasure Island film got the idea for “boomshakalaka.” Eh, probably not. But it’s a fun thought! It means, “Secret, shady, doubtful.”


And there you have it! My top ten favorite Victorian slang terms. A few of them make sense for use in modern times but many of them are a bit out there. Of course this is all in good fun in 2019! Stop on by the main list on Mental Floss’ article to learn more fun terms! Happy writing!

Why Historical Fiction Matters (to me)

Cliches. There are so many cliches that come to mind when you’re trying to figure out how to start a blog post about writing (in general). It falls under that “nothing new under the sun” mantra.

It’s like comparing every scifi show or book you read to the “Big Three” of the genre – Star Trek, Star Wars and Dr. Who. If you’re a long time reader of this blog or my Twitter, you already know that I’m more than a bit dorky.

My dork levels in science fiction aside, I’ve come to realize a new passion in my own writing journey – researching Pennsylvania history. Have you ever watched those shows on the Discovery or History Channels and wonder why they interview experts on seemingly crazy topics?

It’s because this world is HUGE. That might be a common sensical statement, but how can a historian possibly know EVERYTHING, unless they’ve got an incredibly high IQ? That’s definitely not me. And I know “sensical” isn’t even a word.

So when I got the idea for The Firedamp Chronicle series I knew right away that research would be involved. Intense research. To run the risk of including a cliche here, “In order to write history, you need to know history.” I’m paraphrasing that, of course, but I didn’t even feel qualified to write any of it until I knew about it. So here are three reasons why writing historical fiction matters to me personally.

To Not Forget

On September 11, 2001, the world witness horrific loss of life during the attacks on the World Trade Towers, the United States Pentagon, those on Ground Zero and those on the affected flights. I was in my 9th Grade Physical Science class when it happened. In high school. My dad can count with his fingers how many events in history he remembers. Things like the assassination of JFK, when the Berlin Wall Fell and when the Challenger Explosion happened.

There are many who will never know them like those who saw them unfold their eyes. That’s why I choose to learn more about my own State’s history (ahem…Commonwealth…but that’s just a Pennsylvanian technicality). Which leads to the next point:

To Learn Something New

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.

Harry S. Truman

Libraries. They’re fantastic places, right? You can check out anything you want and no one will judge. And, depending on the size of your library, they usually have a rather sizable non-fiction department. Section 975. That’s where I found myself for three years in Pennsylvanian history. I emailed the research team at the Library of Congress for tiny details and I borrowed books from institutions outside the Allegheny County system.

Because I was learning things about my own city, county and state I never knew existed.

The more I learned the more I realized how watered down the courses I took in grade school and college really were. Sure, I learned new things there, but you can easily spend a whole semester on a topic like “Christmas Traditions from Around the World” and still just graze the surface.

If you’re going to write about history, KNOW that history. Know it inside and out. Backwards and forwards. All the way through. That way, when you’re asked about why you chose specific events or a specific time period, you’ll be able to satisfy their curiosity.

To Hone Research Skills

Call me OCD if you like, but I love going down the rabbit hole of research. As I mentioned earlier, I learned to utilizes resources I never even knew existed before beginning this journey.

In high school I was never a concise writer. To this day I have to work long and hard to get a sentence write. (I’m going to leave that because that’s such a Freudian Slip! I totally meant to use the word “right”).

Not only have I been researching countless people, events, the origins of objects and the like, I’ve also been *attempting* to reteach myself the English language. I’m sure my fallacies are evident in this blog post but I’m working on them. Just like I’m learning to hone my research skills to keep myself focused on the subject and not irrelevant things.

So there you have it. Three reasons why I write historical fiction. There are more but that would make this post far too long and you may/may not lose interest!

Do you write? What genre? Why did you choose it? Knowing the answers to these questions will guide you through your own writing journey. I wish you luck as you find your niche, your drive and success!

Story Progress and Social Media

Happy Monday everyone! I just wanted to pass along some quick updates.

First off, this year I entered the #RevPit competition (pray for my soul!) It’s one of those things where I didn’t realize just how many submissions those fantastic editors receive each year. As such, I decided that I needed a backup plan. I won’t touch upon what that is in this post, but…I have plans for the novella, just in case!

It may take longer for me to get to Book One…

Secondly, I’ve added Instagram and Pinterest to my list of social media accounts. Not only that, but I’ve updated my info on WordPress to include the name as well so everything is finally streamlined.

Why does that feel so good?

It must be spring fever!

Come join me if you wish and I hope you have a fantastic day!

Thoughts One Week Ahead of #RevPit

What is your general feeling as a writer prepping for #RevPit right now? Stressed? Perhaps. Are you ready or far from it? Maybe you’re not participating and you’re tired of hearing others go on and on about it.

I suppose now would a good time to explain exactly what #RevPit is. This is an annual contest put on by the editors of the website called Revise and Resub. They award those chosen “w5 weeks of our editors’ developmental editing expertise.” Runners up win a query/first page edit or a synopsis edit.

Tantalizing, right?

This time last year my manuscript wasn’t even completed. I wanted to participate so badly that I thought, “Maybe I can finish writing this thing in…five days.” Heck to the no! I write historical adventure fiction. I can easily spend five hours researching the fact that typewriters weren’t even invented yet during my story’s time period!

So that idea went out the window real quick. But that’s when I started following some of the RevPit editors. I got to chat with them. Learn from them. Be a Twitter thread stalker when three of them started tossing out tips and tricks for writing outlines or self-editing or how to write an author bio.

If you’re just starting out in Twitter writing community this year like I was last year, that’s perfectly okay. You don’t have to know what everything is right away. It’s like starting a new job. Unless you’ve been “in the biz” for years already, you have to take those baby steps. I didn’t know what a story aesthetic was. Or a blurb, synopsis or that there was a debate on whether or not to use the Oxford Comma.

If you’re frustrated that you can’t participate in #RevPit, don’t fret. You’ll get there! It just took me an extra year because I’m a slow writer, but it also gave me a goal to work for.

Up to this point I’ve mostly mentioned things for those not participating in this year’s contest. For those of you who are: BREATHE.

“But Leigh,” you say. “This is a big deal!”

Trust me, I’m not refuting that by any means. While I don’t typically follow astrology or put much stock in my “Libra” personality, I do often try to be a balanced person and see both sides of anything. I apply this to my activities online as well.

If you stress yourself to the point you’re worried you’re never going to finish in time to submit, schedule time into your day to fully concentrate on your preparations. Heck, I’m still just thinking about my synopsis and tomorrow’s going to be a full on library day where I knuckle down and work on nothing but that. I finished my other projects earlier this week so I can focus on that last bit.

Breathe in, breathe out. You’ve got all the pieces, right?

“But Leigh,” you say. “There’s so SO much advice out there! How do I weed out what’s true and what isn’t?”

Do the research. As an employee of the retail world I learned early on to subscribe to the philosophy of, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” If what you’ve looked up seems to go against the grain, ask. Use the #writingcommunity tag, add an editor from #RevPit’s site and see what happens!

So you know what? You’ve got this! Regardless of if you’re entering #RevPit this year – you’ve got this! Work at your own pace. Don’t try to enter or do every little tag (you’ll stress yourself out even more), and do your research. Make sure you’re participating in something you can get behind.

Good luck to my fellow entrants!


A retail worker by day and content creator by night, Leigh is from Pittsburgh, PA. When she’s not working on her first novel series based on the rich history of the Keystone State, she’s watching Star Trek, True Crime and home reno shows. Leigh also partners with other writers and editors on weekly interviews for her blog called The Five Question Interview series.

Three Books I Read Again and Again

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hands. As an eighth grader in my small Christian elementary school I was voted as such with those superlative things. At halfway to age 34, not much has changed.

If you’ve found your way here I’m sure you’ve been told the same kind of thing. I’m know for a fact that every writer has those books. The book that convinced them to write or the book with the story line that stayed with them for years.

Each of the following titles I know I’ve mentioned on this site somewhere before, whether it’s in this post or on this page. But I will never tire talking about these books. They each have their own special place in my heart, and each gave me the same thought: “If they can write, I think I can too.”

Imagine my joy when this book was made into a film. Think of one of your favorite series (The Selection Series by Kiera Cass comes to mind in regards to this) and you just know that everyone else is pining over the possibility of a movie. I didn’t even know about the one for The City of Ember until it was already out of the theatre. Films hardly do the imagination justice, unless they have the Lord of the Rings budget treatment. So while I adored the fact that the film was even made (heck Bill Murray was in it!) my imagination still wanted more.

The trouble with books is, they always try to teach the wrong lessons…oh wait. That’s a line from the Wicked soundtrack. Sorry about that. I also paraphrased it a bit for this post. (Don’t come after me, Stephen Schwartz, okay?) But it holds true to how each individual reader interprets the imagery and each scene in a story. Here’s the setup (I’ll try not to include too many spoilers):

Map of the city

In a time following some grand disaster, Lina and Doon only know darkness. They only know what’s within their city and nothing of the great Unknown Regions. So when life turns desperate and the pull of adventure becomes too great, they know they must do something to keep the lights from going out.

The City of Ember is a young adult series with other titles, The People of Sparks, The Diamond of Darkhold and The Prophet of Yonwood. I admit that, while I own the whole series, I haven’t read the others as much as I have Ember. The People of Sparks continues the adventure begun with Lina and Doon, following changes the entire town faces together. Other than Star Trek (boy oh boy do I love that series), The City of Ember is the book that drew me into the adventure genre.

For its adventure, tight description and character lovability, consider reading The City of Ember! It’s definitely perfect for a summer reading list!

Now this book hasn’t been made into a film, but it’s the one that introduced me to Melanie Dickerson. You know how Pringles has their old jingle motto, “Once you pop the fun don’t stop?” Ms. Dickerson just published the latest in the Medieval Fairy Tale Series, The Warrior Maiden, and I’m dying to read it. There are twelve…TWELVE!!! books in this series and I discovered it with an adventure right smack dab in the middle.

That meant a middle of the night book splurge to buy all that I could, and here they are in order:
The Healer’s Apprentice
The Merchant’s Daughter
The Captive Maiden
The Fairest Beauty
The Princess Spy
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest
The Golden Braid
The Beautiful Pretender
The Noble Servant
The Orphan’s Wish
The Warrior Maiden

Okaaaay I admit I came in a bit later than halfway through. It’s with this series I grew to love historical fiction. While they’re all based off fairy tales, they’re truly rich with German history.

Oh, and one thing I haven’t clued you in on yet – they are romance for young adults. I’m not a romance reader but I couldn’t resist this book. Keep in mind also that The Beautiful Pretender draws from both Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Pea, twisted in its own way.

It’s rather hard to write about the books I love without giving away too much of the plot. Because, spoilers, right? But I hope one day you’ll pick up a book or two in this series

My oh my oh my oh my. It’s come to Inkheart, has it? My uncle brought me this book years ago after one of his many trips to England. I introduced a college classmate and my cousin to the series, even managing to get a signed copy of Inkspell for said cousin. She’s now trying to write her own book. At thirteen.

Dang it…she’s probably going to beat me to the publishing punch at this point.

Regardless, this book evoked the same thing in all three of us – we absolutely love this tale. It’s consistent throughout all three Inkworld books – Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath – and you fall for the story within the first chapter.

So when I heard that Brendan Frasier was to play the Dad, aka Mo. Aka Silvertongue, in the film adaptation… *sigh* … oh so happy! Sadly the film wasn’t scored well on Rotten Tomatoes, but what do they know?! They obviously didn’t read the book.

As with The City of Ember film, they left things out (like with Harry Potter-where was Peeves? Or Madge Undersee from The Hunger Games). This rich book gives detail in a way that makes you immediately agreeable with a character or want to find some creative way to get rid of them.

One cruel night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from Inkheart, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of the book, landing in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie’s in the middle of the kind of adventure she thought only took place in fairy tales. Somehow she must master the magic that has conjured up this nightmare. Can she change the course of the story that has changed her life forever?

A book about a book? Count me in! No, but seriously. I love tales within tales, and Inkheart is no exception. From bibliophile Elinor to despicable Basta, I promise you’ll (hopefully) love this adventure! But seriously…read the book first, watch the movie later!

From Fan Fiction to Novels

There seems to be this stigma that comes with writing fan fiction. A stigma of, “Those people are dorks who spend way too much time involved in a fandom for something that isn’t real.”

That’s only partially true. And the same can be said for novel writers.

The other truth is that those who write fan fiction are still writing. They are still part of a community, learning and growing. Especially if writing is what they want to do with their lives. Some are more successful with it than others, but writing fan fiction is where I started my journey. I used to be “in deep.” I wrote Star Trek (which nobody ever saw) and Supernatural stories which I did post on sites like Wattpad and Archive of our Own.

I used to be “in deep.” I wrote Star Trek (which nobody ever saw) and Supernatural stories which I did post on sites like Wattpad and Archive of our Own.

As a child of the 90s it initially took a lot for me to learn to not hide behind a username. I’m a real person, not a “keyboard warrior.” Heck I even did those message boards back when the Internet was still a teenager itself. (Yeah, I’m older than the Internet). When I first began this website three years ago I definitely hid behind the AnotherHartmanAuthor name. While it’s still part of this site’s identity I realized that, if I wanted to seem more credible and approachable, people would want to know my name.

Having your name known in the writing community is, I think, something that many writers want but don’t admit out loud. We want our stories to be read by others. Perhaps we want to be as popular as R.L Stein, J.K. Rowling, Lewis Carroll, Stephen King, James Patterson and all those others. That’s only a small part of why I switched from fan fiction to novels.

I got frustrated with the fan fiction culture. When it felt like stories centered around abusive relationships and smut were getting all the attention, here I am in my own little corner attempting to not include any cussing whatsoever in my stories. It was like I couldn’t find anyone who felt the same so the aforementioned sites did end up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

Then again, that may have been partially my fault as well. If you don’t actually have a good story, it’s not going to gain traction in that kind of environment. But, Leigh…a lot of crap stories get traction! Yes, yes, I know that. I understand that. Writing is an imperfect and highly subjective field.

Then again, that may have been partially my fault as well. If you don’t actually have a good story, it’s not going to gain traction in that kind of environment.

And you know what? I’ve learned to just roll with it. To have a thick skin. No matter if you’re writing fan fiction or full on novels, you have to understand that everyone is going to have an opinion, for better or for worse, about your writing potential.

When I took the leap from fan fiction to novels I realized that didn’t solve any of my problems. I still have trouble finishing stories. I still chronically underwrite and it still takes me forever to actually write them.

But now I know things like outlining, editors, and agents exist. I know there are outlets, support groups and local library groups focused on discussing techniques and actual writing. I didn’t know about or have these things before so of course it felt like I was alone. The only one going through stuff like self-doubt, frustration and writing induced depression.

I am not alone, and neither are you. Whether you write fan fiction or you’re trying that old school traditional publishing route, you are not alone. Neither one is better than the other. The point is – you ARE writing. Whether it’s about Star Trek or Supernatural. Your favorite members in a kpop band or a historical story you can’t get your mind off.

Write. Write just for you. Technique and writing for others can come later. If you have a story to tell, then TELL it.

If you have a story to tell, then TELL it.

Following Twitter Trends

Trends. They can be tricky to wade through if you’re just starting out on the platform or if you’ve never really paid attention to them before. I’ll admit that when I first started getting back into Twitter I was thoroughly confused by them.

I used to think that I had to use every single “popular” tag to get attention, learning later that Twitter actually marks overuse of tags as spam and, well, they annoyed people seeing a post full of nothing but hashtags. Sometimes the posts that get the attention don’t have any hashtags whatsoever. Hashtags and trends DO perform their jobs as you network with other writers, agents, publishers, editors…

Overwhelmed? It’s okay; I still am as well! But let me share what I’ve learned through the mistakes I’ve made using Twitter hashtags and by either following or ignoring all those writerly trends.

1. Figuring Out Twitter Bios

As you can see, I have many interests. I remember stumbling across another author blog post discussing what you should vs. shouldn’t put in your Twitter bio.

I’m not going to do that here. If you don’t have a website, you don’t need to build one. Everyone uses the available platforms differently. I try to condense my interests and not annoy anyone too much by bombarding them with constant retweets or using trigger words. That doesn’t make sense…unless you like retweeting things and that’s what your account is centered on. Of course go in that direction then.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I prefer having balance between all those interests in my bio. Its purpose is to give potential followers a quick snapshot of what you’re all about. It’s not something where you need to “DO” or “DON’T” do something or else it will kill your career.

Let your personality shine and people will see that.

2. All Those Tags

At any given time there’s at least three misspellings of that ever so popular #writingcommunity tag. I’ve seen it with three “m’s.” With an “n” instead of the second, normal “m.” Then there seems to be a dozen incarnations of that #writer tag.

There are countless tags out there for those in the writing community. Everyone finds their own groupings of them and sticks with what works for them. I didn’t even know they existed until I stumbled across a list of several hundred…yes, hundred… and what days they’re used on.

The most common one is that “writing community” tag. Everyone seems to use it, and that’s not a bad thing. What can sometimes happen is a conversation may turn toxic, and that’s when I choose to not fall into that trap.

Social media can be used one of two ways: to tear down people or lift them up. So no matter which tag(s) you decide to use, you get out of them what you put into them.

3. What the Heck is an Aesthetic?

I’m sure you’ve seen them. They look something like this:

While aesthetics are fun to build and get your story out there, you don’t have to do them. Like those “lists,” or topics that everyone seems to be doing in their author blogs. What seems to be popular now may not be in a week. Who knows. Maybe you’ll start a new one with an original idea – or something that hasn’t been done in a while and you revive it.

Sure, it was fun to build and think about. But it did take away from actual writing time. (You could argue so does writing this blog post; at least I’m writing and having a casual conversation at the same time).

4. Contests and NaNoWriMo

Contests. They’re a great way to get your books or editing services out there. And they’re also a great way to discourage an introvert like myself when you realize just how many folks out there have the same goal you do. To become a published author.

Eye opening, no? So, naturally, it’s easy to feel lost in the jumble.

Even if you don’t win any of those free books, drawings, free editing or query review, you still gained some new connections and hopefully friends in the process.

Just like with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. As a new writer in the throws of working on my first novel series, I’m already in over my head with research, tips and tricks. I knew I couldn’t handle adding another project to it.

NaNoWriMo encourages writers to produce a novel in a month, keep to a word count in a given day, and there are winners at the end. You have to be incredibly organized, know where you’re going with it, and be fully committed to participating. I, for one, was already stressed with life stuffs at the time the one for 2018 came around. So I opted out of participating when many of my Twitter peeps were posting their current word counts.

That’s when you can support their efforts rather than be annoyed by the whole concept. Not only that, it only happens once a year. Be a cheerleader for them as they’re pushing to complete projects during the contest, or even if a contest isn’t going on.

Be a cheerleader. You’re all reaching for the same goal. One day, they may return the favor. But do it with the mindset that you may not always get that favor returned.


All of this is why I’m extremely picky about which trends I participate in. Call me overly cautious but I always research the originator of the tag and the intent of the tag. If the tag/individual harbors a culture of something harmful, then I’ll pass on it. Why add more fuel to the fire if it isn’t necessary to do so?

Trust me, I’m far from perfect with that. We all get on the bandwagon with something at one time or another. There’s also this murky thing where folks feel obligated to participate or follow because someone else did.

Don’t feel obligated to follow everyone, especially if your personalities aren’t compatible. Don’t feel obligated to do every trend, every tag, if you don’t feel confident in its origins. It’s okay to be cautious, especially when it comes to things online. While most of it is for fun, there are suspicious and untrustworthy folks out there.

There are also many gems to counter those who are suspicious. So trust your gut. Go with your instincts. Do what works well for you and your project. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find some like-minded folks who can encourage you, and you them, along the way!