Monday, October 17, 2016

My Short Story is Out With CPs

I'm happy to say I managed to finish writing my IWSG short story in time to send it to the awesome people who'd volunteered to give it a read-over.

Most of them already sent back feedback. (I mean seriously. How's that for speed?)

So now, I'm planning to sit down and do the critiques I owe them.

I have to say, though, I love my story. The character has been sticking in my head ever since I edited The Heir's Choice, so I was happy to get a chance to write something for her. Fingers crossed that the judges also enjoy the story.

How are you doing? Sending in a short story for the IWSG competition too? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Before and After: Teaser Graphic for Ryan

Hey everyone! Since you all seem to be enjoying my before and afters so much, I thought I'd share another one. Before I start, though, I just want to remind you to check out Monday's post if you're looking for a CP for your Insecure Writer's Support Group short story.


I've seen people making double exposure images using Photoshop, and thought the result could work really well for a short story I'd written, called Ryan. 

Ryan is an immortal with a dark past, and he remembers the turning point in his life which set him on the course to become a doctor in modern-day New York City.

I really wanted to show that contradiction of old versus modern, while also wanting to give a sense of how much Ryan doesn't really like himself.

So to do this, I went looking on Pixabay for an image with a man's profile. Usually, double exposure images are done with nude faces and torso, but I liked the hoodie and I thought I could make it work. I'm actually glad with it, because the hoodie details I kept helped to ground the image and give it a bit more of a gritty texture.

Next, I went digging through Wikimedia Commons for an image of the London Blitz (mainly because the turning point happened during one such attack). It's really tricky to use London, though, so I settled for this image from Sheffield. The images from London that I could find all had some sort of focus on St Paul's. And although these images no longer have copyright on them, St Paul's itself doesn't allow the use of its image for commercial purposes without them getting some sort of fee. (Seriously, you don't understand how aggro certain landmarks are when it comes to commercial use of images.) Even assuming that I could pay said amount, it sounds like a huge amount of red tape to get through just for an image teaser. So some building in Sheffield it was.

I went through the process of doing the double exposure, but found that keeping a plain sort of background as is fashionable didn't really hit home the contradiction aspect for me, so I went in search of a New York City skyline and found this one on Pixabay (again).

The Result?


If you think Ryan sounds interesting and you'd like to give it a read, it's currently part of the Ghosts of Fire Anthology, and I'll also soon be pasting it week-by-week for my Patreon patrons. 

What do you think about this image? Want to see even more of my graphic design exploits as I find my way around Photoshop? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Looking for Critique Partners for the IWSG Competition

Even though I despaired of ever writing anything related to The War of Six Crowns in fewer than ten thousand words, I've managed it.

This weekend, I finished the rough draft of The One Who Would Wield the Sword in about 5000 words, although I'll probably be adding a thousand more in edits. (I'm the consummate adder-inner. You know... the kind of writer who adds in words while editing. As supposed to the bodily organs of a snake. That would be weird.)

Wow. Let me rein myself in and get back onto the topic before I digress way too far (as happens when I blog this close to my bed time.)



I'm going to do rewrites and edits this week, but I would ideally be looking for some extra pairs of eyes on my works (metaphorically.) before I submit my entry to the competition.

Which made me think I probably wouldn't be the only one.

So if you're looking for someone to trade short stories with, get in touch with me at mishagerrick(AT)gmail(DOT)com. I'll make the exchange on a first-come, first serve basis.

And, if you don't have time to read my short story but still want me to critique your story, I'm currently doing full critiques of short stories for $5 (and a service review) per story on Fiverr. It's a sale I have going to build up my track-record there. Fiverr accepts PayPal, and you can change the price into your own currency.

To qualify for the sale, you have to be one of my first 100 customers there (which is a distinct possibility.) and PM me from the site I linked you to. (There's a big green button that says "Contact me.")

Anyone entering the IWSG competition? Looking for critiques for your work? 

Friday, October 7, 2016

On Word Targets

It's the strangest thing how psychological this writing game is. 

People (and by this, I mean non-writers) always assume that writing is such an easy thing. After all, they write hundreds of words every day with e-mails and texts, right? 

Sure. The thing is... It's easy to just jot a few words with no particular word-count goal in mind. Ten words here. Twenty words there. 


But get told to write a 1500 word article. Or a 3000 word to 6000 word short story. Or just think and realize that the novel you're working on needs 150,000 words to get finished. 

Suddenly, a task that seems simple becomes much more complicated. Especially when you're starting out and wondering if the thing you're writing will actually hit the word-count target. 

Last night, I wrote an article, and about 700 words in, I couldn't imagine where I would find the remaining 800. 

When I started drafting my story for the Insecure Writer's Support Group competition, I liked the idea, but I just felt like the word-limit was this insurmountable mountain to climb. 

Odd to think it, but I find the 150k goal less intimidating, because if I come in under that, it's not like there will be repercussions. And that is actually the reason why I don't like setting a target for the length of any story I write. It just adds extra pressure I don't like feeling. I mean, I already give myself some steep deadlines to chase. 

The challenge is good for me, though. It's nice to know that, yes, I could actually write to demand and actually hit those targets. 

And you know the funny thing about my short story? I'm at 3500 words now, and wondering if I'll be able to wrap the story up in 1500 words or less. 

So that just goes to show you the importance of just writing. Even if we feel like we'll never make a word-count target, we can always surprise ourselves if we try. 

Are you writing a story for IWSG competition? How's it going?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Insecure Writers' Support Group: Like a circle within a circle...

Goodness! I've been so busy lately, I almost lost track of time! Today is actually the first Wednesday of October, which means it's time for my Insecure Writer's Support Group post. For those of you who are familiar with IWSG, it's a monthly bloghop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, where we share our writing insecurities and encouragements with each other.

For more information or to sign up (you're more than welcome!), please click here.

Also, if you'd rather read this post on Wordpress, please click here.

My Insecurity

My biggest insecurity this month is one I've been able to push aside for the most part, but once I've started looking at it, it's actually a big one. 

See, recently I decided to take this writing gig full-time. (Long story, but don't worry. I didn't quit the day-job either.) The biggest difference that this decision has made is that I'm actually devoting most of my day to either writing or marketing in an attempt to bring in money. 

The thing is that I started doing this with $100 in the bank, which is currently stuck there because Payoneer has a $200 pay-out limit. 

So. Paid marketing platforms are out for me at the moment. As is basically anything I want to do to my books until my money is out (because I need to pay for my Adobe programs.)

And while my advertising for beta-reading, mentoring etc on Fiverr by far gets the most clicks, I think people might be scared of booking me when I have no reviews. (Annoying, because I've done six years' worth of critiques for my blogging buddies already, so I have the experience.) 

Which means that right now, I'm pretty much stuck. I want to refresh two of my three books to get more readers for those... But... I either have to pay a formatter (which I can't.) or use at least Adobe Acrobat. (Which I can't.) 

I have $4 stuck in Fiver at the moment (because they have a $50 pay-out limit) and I can get $1 more to try out a $5 marketing spree (I can use the $4 as credit). But there's little point to doing that until my books are updated. I need every dollar to go to maximum effect. So I can't just spend $5 on something I don't think will make a difference until I have everything in place that I need in place. 

So it's a vicious circle. Because without effective marketing, I'm not going to sell more books, which means I won't be getting $100 anytime soon. 

And EVEN if I make $100 in book sales, it'll take at least two months before I get the royalties. 


Right now, the quickest way for me to get that $100 would be to make it on Fiverr, or if people pledged support on Patreon. (Because that would take until the end of the month.) Both will take time building up, though.

So yeah. It's a vicious circle. 

Now for the IWSG Question...

When do you know the story is ready? 

Depends on what the story is supposed to be ready for. 

I know a story is ready to be written when I know the climax and ending. 
I know it's ready for editing when I no longer feel as if every word in the draft is precious and needs to be protected at every cost. 
I know it's ready for publishing when I spend an hour moving a single comma around. (Or some such.) 

What about you? When do you know a story is ready? Thoughts on a way for me to break my vicious circle?

Monday, October 3, 2016


Hey everyone! Just a heads-up that I won't be posting today. My internet dropped on me on Friday night and it only got back to a semi-working state a few hours ago.

And now I'm so way behind on everything that I'm still trying to catch up. >_<

Anyway. I'll be back on Wednesday!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Update Day: Hitting the Reset Button

Hey everyone! Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another Update Day!

I thought I'd do things a bit differently, which means...


Vlog post.

To sum up for those of you who haven't the time to watch the vid:

This month, I decided to stop moping around and approach my writing career as if it's already my full-time job. My thinking is that I'm a business person anyway, so I might as well turn this writing thing into a business.

Making this work meant I had to rethink the way I'm going about this.



I'm hitting reset on my goal. 

My five-year goal is still $7500 a month, but now it can be from any writing related activity, whether it's me actually writing, or me using my writing expertise in some way.

I'm starting over. 

This is actually year three, but the change is so major and the mind-shift so big that I decided to start again. So September 2016 is month one of Year One. I basically did this, because I want to track my growth. And since my income basically flatlined for the past three months, I thought it would be a good thing to start since this major change got brought in.

I've been keeping track since 6th (which was when I decided to kick things up a notch), so that's enough for me to actually get some stats in.

Speaking of stats...

I'm also going to change the way I report on my progress. 

I might get back to the to-do list eventually, but I can't help feeling that people really don't care about those all that much.

A lot of people have been asking me how I'm actually doing with my five year goal, so I will be reporting on my money coming in and going out, since this full-time-writer-with-almost-no-money-to-start-with thing is probably something that might interest a lot of people.

Which means that I'll be posting monthly stats for the year. Two, in fact, but I'll explain more in a minute.

So how did I do? 

Basically, this full-time thing has two components: Me selling stories and services I already have, and me creating more stories. For ease of reference, I will call these Marketing and Writing. 


Since my marketing results can only be measured in terms of income, I'm keeping track of that instead of the hours I'm putting in. 

My income basically gets divided into three groups: Income from previous months (since there's up to a 3 month delay on royalties etc), income earned within the month and income generated for the future (so I'm keeping track of books I sold today so I know how much I'll get in three months.) 

I set my goal for Total Income Generated. Which means that if I say $100 is my goal, I'll see that goal as achieved even if $100 came in only from previous months sales etc. 

Since I'm also concerned about my income's growth, I'll be keeping track of how much income I generate within a month and for future months, separately. So there will be a separate graph, where the goal line is calculated by subtracting my Income Generated Goal from the amount that came in from previous months. 



So first, let me look at income generated in past months vs income generated within this month and for future months.

Basically, the income accrued in previous months is money from Patreon (which is currently around $10). 

As you can see, most of my money generated this month was for current or future earnings. Let's see how those look. 

So since starting this whole exercise, I've critiqued one short-story on Fiverr, and actually sold some books on Amazon (which is definitely an uptick, because my book sales have basically been dead lately.) The Patreon income is basically the $10 from patrons who'd signed up before and $1 from a new sign-up. It will show up again next month as income accrued from previous months, since every month's subscriptions only actually hit my account in the following month.

Goal for October: 

It's such a nice, round number, so for now, I'm keeping to $100 as my goal. Fingers crossed that I actually hit the line next time. 


This month I basically set writing goals as I went along, which is why my goal line keeps jumping up as I hit my targets. 

I basically only started writing on 11 September, and then only sporadically. Then, on 24 September, I started timing my writing and trying to write every day. The effect on my daily word counts are quite staggering....

Let me put that into words real quick. I wrote over 16k words this month. 10k of those were written last week.

Goals for October: 

I have three big ones: 

1) I want to finish this draft of Book 3 of The War of Six Crowns before the end of the year, which means I'll basically be chasing NaNo targets every month for three months. Thanks to timing myself, I know I can type 2k words in 80 minutes. 
2) I want to write the story I have in mind for the Insecure Writers' Support Group competition. 
3) I want to re-format and update my currently published books, specifically The War of Six Crowns to prepare for the new covers I made for them. 

There are, of course, more goals (we're talking about me, here), but these are my priorities. 

How did your goals go? What do you think of this new format for my Update Day posts? Are you interested in the outcome of this experiment of mine? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Before and After: The Vanished Knight Cover

Hey everyone! Since a lot of you guys were really interested in seeing more of these before and after posts, I thought I'd do a few more of them.

Today, I thought I'd share what went into one of my covers.


At the time (and depressingly, much like now), I didn't have a ton of money to spend on publishing, so I decided to see if I could publish a without spending money. The answer was that I could publish two ebook without spending a dime. 

How? Well... Photoshop has a month-long free trial and Flickr makes it possible for me to find images with a creative commons license. 

The image I picked was Albion_Sovereign_Medieval_Sword_11 by Søren Niedziella. The license has a CC BY 2.0 license attached, which means that it's free to adapt and to put to commercial use, as long as I give proper credit and don't imply that the licensor endorses my work in any way. (New kids in the image copyright game: This paragraph can be very important if you want to make a cover from a free image.) 


This was literally the first time I tried to make a cover, so I kept the image manipulation to things I knew: changing exposure, the composure of an image and cropping. 

By composure, I mean, placing the image so that the viewer's eye gets drawn in. First was the placement of the sword itself and next came the titles. 

I also had the added issue of the maker's mark on the blade. Little things like that can really make a viewer's eye go to the wrong place. Luckily, though, the best placement of the blade was in a way that happened to put the mark out of the frame. 

The result? 

Pretty good, don't you think? Oh, but that's nothing compared to the new cover I'm about to put on the books. 

Yep. I already have the e-book covers done. Only need to do the paper-back covers before I update both The Vanished Knight and The Heir's Choice. 

Who knows, maybe one day, the books with the old covers on them will be collectors' items. ;-) 

If you'd like to check out The Vanished Knight, you can find it at the following e-tailers: 

The paperback is also available at places like Walmart's e-store, Book Depository etc. 

And there you have it? Let me know your thoughts. Also, would you guys like a crash-course on image copyrights as learnt by me? Looking forward to more before and after posts? 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Changing Things...

As you ladies and gents might or might not have picked up, I've been struggling to write. With my life as it is, I just found it difficult to almost impossible to sit down and focus on what should be going into my stories.

I have to say that I'm relieved to say that this is changing. Not my life. That's pretty much stuck in hurry-up-and-wait mode until next month at least. However, changing my perspective into being more proactive about my writing career has made a huge difference to my ability to write.

More than that, it's changing the way I look at a lot of things. Yes, my priorities still largely focus on getting the next book finished. But at the same time, I'm having to do things right now that will bring in enough money for me to publish in the future.

Which means I'm doing a lot of different things. Trying new things. This includes, you know, being more active on social networks. And setting up a Wordpress version of this blog. Right now, I don't think I'll leave Blogger entirely to go over to Wordpress, but a lot of my Wordpress blogging friends kept saying that blogger swallows their comments and I just can't have that.

It means changing the way I've been approaching my writing sessions. Usually, I basically sit down and write until a scene is finished. The problems to this method have been twofold.

First: I haven't been in the right headspace to sit down for two to three hours on end. So I've been waiting for that to right itself because I wanted to sit for two or three hours to churn out a chapter.

Second: My scenes have become longer than anticipated. See, with The Vanished Knight and The Heir's Choice I had a lot of 2k long scenes that I ended up combining in order to create longer chapters. I think my longest chapter is 7k long, but the average is about 4k. Book 3 is different. Maybe it's because my point-of-view characters are simply closer together so I don't have to jump between them as much, but at the moment, the average chapter is about 5k long. So now it's not a matter of writing for two hours and having a finished scene. Actually having a finished planned section would probably take me an entire working day.

Which I don't have available. Oh, you thought "being a full-time writer" meant having more time to write? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

So lately, I've decided to follow Cherie Reich's example and setting a time goal for my writing. Instead of setting a word count goal, she decides how much time she wants to devote to writing and then she sets a timer, which she races to write as much as she can.

I've adapted her method a little. She did away with her word-count goals. I can't. I want to finish Book 3 this year. Which means I have to write between 1 and 2 thousand words every day. I have found, though, that timing myself means that I take about 90 minutes to write 1800 words. (So far, I break my writing into 5 and 10 minute sessions which I add up later.)

In other words, timing myself is speeding me up, which is good, because I don't have enough hours in a day.

How are you doing? Have you tried timing your writing sessions?