Why Self-Publishing is Right for Me

self-publishYears ago, I submitted my first novel to a list of agents who specialized in my genre, sure they’d love my quirky, clever book. I’d edited, re-edited, and run it by people I trusted–it was dressed for success. At that time, I didn’t realize that finding an agent was like putting a hood on a falcon while holding a mouse in the other hand. The reply (when I got one) usually sounded something like, Excellent writing but not what I need right now.

And then one agent called me! He loved my writer’s voice but would like a few changes:

  • Add new characters
  • Change the setting and the timeframe
  • Put more action in the plot

Basically, if I changed the entire concept, he’d look at a rewrite.

That’s when I first considered the possibility that self-publishing could be a better option.

It’s not just me, either. Many writers are looking at self-publishing. In fact, more books are self-published than traditionally published (by a lot). What surprises me is that agents don’t accept that self-publishing is a real, practical option for writers. Rather than wooing me away from that alternative, they seem to think they’re doing me a favor by considering my book. I hear how busy they are, how many unsolicited submittals they get, how they are looking for blockbusters, how they ignore submittals that don’t follow the guidelines. It reminds me of middle school dances where I sat in a chair along the wall, (almost) shaking, sure it was my fault no one asked me to dance. If only I was prettier, more outgoing, or more popular. Now, as an adult, it’s the same feeling; just the reasons have changed–If only I could write better, write stories people want to read, or action-pack my plot.

After the bazillionth rejection, I stopped blaming myself. I didn’t crawl under my writing desk or burn my manuscript or buy more books on How to Write or enroll in yet another conference that promised to get me noticed. I took my wonderful novel, bought a professional cover, and self-published.

That was a couple of years ago. Now, in the fullness of time, I don’t mind that it didn’t become a NYT best-seller. I am thrilled it sold enough to pay the cost of writing it (even covered a few car payments). The more books I publish, the more books I sell. I still remember the day I could quit the day job and devote myself to my passion–writing.

Let me wrap up with the big reasons why self-publishing is right for me:

  • It’s faster. I write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, publish, market, and start over. All of that takes a lot of time but less than the two years agents told me was the minimum time from signing a contract to publication.
  • I have more control. For better or worse, it’s on me to pick what works best for my novel. I like that and I trust myself to make the right decisions.
  • I can write what I want rather than what an agent thinks will sell.  
  • Because most publishers don’t do much marketing–especially for new authors–I’m not missing out on anything there.
  • I make more money. Sure, I bear the cost of production and marketing but I also get all the proceeds. So far, that has been much better than what I would have gotten from a publisher.

This discussion of self-publishing is my long way of letting you know my fourth self-published ebook, Survival of the Fittest, is available! Its tagline:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.

It’s available only on Kindle, as print or digital:

Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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161 Ways to Describe Weather

I keep a collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books I read. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s 161 Ways to Describe Weather.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).

Evening

  1. Evening shadows deepened into blue and purple.
  2. The shadows retreated.
  3. Sun was sinking toward the horizon, the pitiless white ball now an angry orange.
  4. Fading afternoon in early June
  5. Evening sky had turned to molten brass.
  6. Sun still cast a faint yellow light through Slowly gathering evening.
  7. Daylight had begun to drain away.
  8. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  9. cold light
  10. silver-white moon hung
  11. A half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads.
  12. watching the horizon drain of color
  13. The shadows slipped up the rocks as though the world were drowning in darkness.
  14. deepening shadows made it a city of ghosts
  15. barely visible in the fading light
  16. the high heavens
  17. Darkness settled around him.
  18. watching the horizon drain of color
  19. The shadows slipped up the rocks.
  20. Evening was crisp already, the last of sunset just a fading pale stripe in the western sky.
  21. darkening river
  22. the moon golden at dawn, turn purple just before sunset in the rainy season, sometimes has white and black stripes created by volcanic ash, calm and clear sometimes attended by only a single cloud
  23. humpback shapes of conical hills
  24. The last rays of sun skimmed the surface.
  25. late afternoon sun
  26. velvety darkness
  27. night shattered like a mirror
  28. the Southern Cross lying on its side, the green meadow bathed in the humid light of the sinking sun
  29. full dusk
  30. The corners have just about disappeared into the shadows.

Night

  1. black branches that traced the blue-black heavens overhead
  2. far away down the night sky
  3. full moon a pale blue-white disk
  4. night sky dull black
  5. Stars were remote pinpricks.
  6. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  7. cold light
  8. silver-white moon hung
  9. a half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads
  10. inky blackness
  11. Thick clouds blotted out the stars.
  12. A thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light.

Day

  1. Sun cast a luminescent glow.
  2. The day was out of sync with his mood.

Sunny

  1. beautiful, 82 degrees, mild breeze, cloudless sunshine, a day for looking at a ball game
  2. The air was cool but the sun was out.

Windy

  1. The wind blew itself out overnight.
  2. a web of clouds, backlit by the failing sun, mist billowed through the trees and over the fields and hung low in the air, masking the camp in a ghostly gray
  3. towering thunder clouds
  4. Clouds threatening, but no rain predicted the 45-mile per hour gusts of drizzly wind.
  5. dense fog
  6. brown cloud that passes for air
  7. a wedge of sunlight bursting past the narrow window
  8. The wind was icy and withering.
  9. Heads bowed against the gusting wind.

Dusty

  1. Grit grated in his teeth. Dust was everywhere, blowing on the wind, leaving its scent in his nostrils.
  2. as dust motes drifted

Horizon

  1. thirty miles over the horizon
  2. razor edge of the horizon

Fog/Mist

  1. cinder dust and gloom
  2. The haze floated over the crowd like smoke from a doused fire.
  3. Sun hanging in a pink haze of clouds and smog.
  4. Fog yellowed by agricultural burning.
  5. Fog began to billow across the road in a great grey mass like the effluent of a thousand smokestacks. The building was only a shadowy form, almost entirely lost to view.
  6. Headlamps of cars did little to pierce the gloom.
  7. The mist floated like smoke out of the cypress in the swamp.

Cloudy

  1. dark clouds drifting over the hills
  2. night was pitch
  3. slice of sky
  4. thick clouds blotted out the stars
  5. a thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light
  6. cool restful shady world with light filtering lazily through the treetops that meet high overhead and shut out the direct sunlight
  7. saw the anvil of cloud coming in. “A thunderstorm.”
  8. Cumulus clouds falling down to the…
  9. A light breeze whispered through the trees.
  10. cloud shadows
  11. first cumulus clouds darkening into thunderheads

Humid

  1. hold humidity like a sponge holds water
  2. thick heat of the growing morning
  3. fierce humidity
  4. windless heat
  5. It was surprisingly hot. He could feel the sweat roll down his sides and the dampness of the box up against his chest.
  6. Even with the breeze, the air remained thick and hot, and it stills tank of petroleum.

Sky

  1. sky as gray-white and sunless
  2. inky blackness
  3. against the fading layers of orange, yellow

Morning

  1. shoulders hunched against the early morning damp and cool
  2. fused warm light of dawn now creeping down the summit
  3. bathed in sunlight
  4. gold shadow not three inches from his leg

Cold

  1. his breath steaming in the air
  2. Snow pelted his face and he pulled up the collar of his overcoat to further shield him from the bitter weather.
  3. rubbed his arms

 Winter

  1. A harsh winter wind blew out of a midnight sky. It roared out of the frigid north and thrashed the brooking forest. The force of it bent trees, whipping their bare branches like angry lashes. Shrieking across the river.
  2. Cold was like that, seeping through her seven layers of clothing, attacking seams and zipper tracks and spots of thin insulation. The exposed skin on her face felt as if it had been touched with lit cigarettes.
  3. frigid Friday morning
  4. swirling snow
  5. winter’s naked branches created a black tracework
  6. The sun was climbing out of the deep well of winter, but it was still brutally cold.
  7. winter colors daubed the land in colors of brown and gray
  8. sunny, crisp and cool
  9. The crisp air and clear sky energized his thoughts.

Rainy weather

  1. grey wet morning
  2. rain-swept and unpleasantly chilly
  3. A flurry of rain stung my face.
  4. Cold rain was beating down on my windshield.
  5. The sky was leaden.
  6. The wind was icy and withering.
  7. Downpour started in the early evening and continued on through the night, a heavy pelting of water that thundered against rooftops and drowned out the sound of all else. By morning, city streets were shallow rivers rushing toward the ocean.
  8. Rain ran down the window, the streets gleamed.
  9. rain-swept
  10. damp paving stones
  11. By the time it reaches the ground, it has spent its energy.
  12. windshield wipers barely keeping up with the cold, hard rain
  13. The rain came steady and cold against the windshield and rattled on the roof of the car.
  14. turned her head away and looked out my window, where it had gotten dark and shiny with the lights glistening off the rain.
  15. The maple trees were black and slick in the rain, their bare branches shiny. The flower bed was a soggy matting of dead stems.
  16. The sky was low and gray.
  17. Air was swollen.
  18. the rain was steady and warm and vertical
  19. drizzly rain
  20. The sleaty rain drizzled down, not very hard and not very fast, but steady.
  21. Rain came down so hard it almost hurt, stinging the skin and blowing into the eyes and nose and mouth, but in the forest its fall is broken by the trees.
  22. saw a distant flash of lightning, counted the seconds, and then said, “six miles, more or less.”

People in hot weather:

  1. Heat wave hit, temperatures went soaring.
  2. The heat hit them like a hand in the face.
  3. strode into the dusk, into the stifling heat
  4. The heat smacked the grin off his face.
  5. Burst back into the blistering hot sun. Sweat immediately beaded across her brow. She could feel her T-shirt glue itself stickily to her skin.
  6. I could feel the sweat form along my backbone and trickle down.
  7. She slogged forward, feeling blotches of dark gray sweat bloom across the front of her T-shirt, while more trailed down the small of her back.
  8. slogging across pavement as hot as ash in August.
  9. white dress shirt, sharply pressed this morning, was now plastered against his chest
  10. already short of breath, his lungs laboring as they headed down the path
  11. still wrung out from working in the heat
  12. Take your shirt off. Pop your underwear in the freezer. Dump a tray of ice cubes on your bed. Throw back some chilled vodka shots before you go to sleep.
  13. The semi-drought slowly draining the life out of the grass and trees.
  14. Only 7 in the morning, and already stocky hot. *** had a sheen across his forehead.
  15. Sweat tricked from his forehead which he wiped with the back of his knotted, callused hand.
  16. hundred degree heat, burning sun and parching salt
  17. ninety-five outside, probably a hundred in the car. Not great weather for polyester suits
  18. a fresh drop of sweat teared up on her brow and made a slow, wet path down the plane of her cheek
  19. walking through a hair dryer
  20. The heat slammed her like a blow.
  21. *** cranked the air-conditioning. She stripped off her sweat-soaked clothes, climbed into the shower and scrubbed.
  22. answered the phone while used the other hand to wipe the sweat from the back of her neck. God this heat was unbearable. The humidity level had picked up on Sunday and hadn’t done a thing to improve since.
  23. *** thin green sundress was already plastered to her body while she could feel fresh dewdrops of moisture trickle stickily down between her breast.
  24. Cradled the phone closer to her damp ear
  25. Her face shiny with sweat.

Summer

  1. Summer sun remained a brilliant, blinding white. No shade existed for miles and the heat rising up from the baked earth was brutal.
  2. The summer heat came off the tarmac in waves.

Hot Weather

  1. While the mercury climbed to a hundred degrees. Efforts started strong, then petered out. People got hot, got tired, got busy with other things—inside things.
  2. Seemed to be bracing himself for leaving the cool comfort of air-conditioning behind and bursting once more into the heat
  3. The heat settled in on them, rolling in like a heavy blanket and pressing them deep into their chairs while their clothing glued to their skin.
  4. Even my teeth are sweating
  5. The sun beat down relentlessly; even with the AC cranked up, she could feel the heat.
  6. She could already feel sweat trickle down her back.
  7. The sun burned white-hot overhead.
  8. glass exploding from the heat of the sun
  9. vanish in the dry season’s brown leaves

Click for the complete list of 69 writer’s themed descriptions.

–published first on Today’s Author

Popular collections:

15 Ways to Describe Birds

How to Characterize Love in Your Writing

45 Transitions That Help Your Story Flow


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

10 Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done

writing tipsEvery month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (known by we-members as #IWSG) brings the most insecure among us together to discuss (in pithy concise posts) what bothers us, what helps/hurts our writing, and what we would suggest to others who would like to write. Last year, one of the optional questions was When do you know you’re done? I had no idea but was inspired by efriend Erika Beebe’s great answer to dig around on Twitter for more of what people said. I found ten tips that really made sense to me. See if you agree:

  • Does the thought of one more edit make you want to throw up?
  • Are your fixes now changing earlier edits rather than making new ones? Notwithstanding Oscar Wilde’s confession (often attributed to Mark Twain):

I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.

  • Did you finish all the lists you created for editing, the ones that expect you to search out was, saw, look, n’t, -ly, and there they’re their ilk?
  • Does your gut say you’re done, as in this anonymous quote:

“Her heart finally told her to stop wasting her time.”

  • Anne Lamott, says that trying to get a book ready is like:

“…putting an octopus to bed.”

Is your octopus asleep?

  • Did you cram in the correct word count–not too many for your genre?
  • Did you fix that spot where you wrote yourself into a corner and couldn’t escape, like a defective Roomba?
  • Have I gotten rid of the first paragraph? (that bit where she wakes up, or he thoughtfully pets his dog. You finally figured out you didn’t really need that bit, didn’t you?)
  • Did you have beta readers–or a critique group–review it? I know–uncomfortable, but agents like to know that’s done.
  • Did you write ‘the end’?
  • Did I just press send too soon?

Me, I’m working through these tips as I edit Book 2 of my Crossroads trilogy, The Quest for Home. My goal is Fall 2019. We’ll see…

If you’re curious about IWSG, check out my IWSG posts in response to their questions.

–published first on Today’s Author

More on writing

12 Survival Tips for Writers

An Affordable Writing Program

Series or Not a Series–How do You know?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, an Amazon Vine Voice,  and a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUB. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

21 Tips on Working Remotely

work remotelyI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how to address writing issues while away from my hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…” And then I read Diane Tibert’s post about Writers Who Choose to Live Fulltime in RVs. It has only grown since I first pondered it. We Work Remotely is a website devoted to the concept and why it is exactly the right choice for lots of people.

It got me thinking. Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher (math, I think)  pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

As a writer, I wondered: Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or can easily arrange:

  1. Have necessary apps on iPads and smartphones. This includes email, faxing, note-taking, scanning, social media, and all sharing.
  2. Have at least one cloud-based email account (forward your other accounts through this one).
  3. Set your email message to appropriately warn emailers that you may be out of touch occasionally.
  4. Have a cloud-based note-taking program–Evernote, Notability, or Google Keep for example.
  5. If you’re traveling to distant locations, know where to find co-working environments in case of emergencies (these are places that rent fully-equipped office space by the day/week).
  6. Use eboarding passes–don’t print. Who can find a printer at the beach? Send the boarding pass to your phone.
  7. Have a cloud-based fax program like RingCentral.
  8. Wean yourself from hard copies. It’s easier to do than it sounds.
  9. Use a hot spot connected to your phone. Try really hard not to use public WiFi like Starbucks–very unsafe.
  10. A WiFi repeater is nice in case you’re REALLY remote.
  11. Be brave about solving problems–don’t let setbacks and roadblocks stop you, be accountable to yourself or you won’t get stuff done.
  12. Download books to your iPad/reader/smartphone (not in cloud).
  13. Have a virtual map program like Google Maps.
  14. Have a Find-my-phone program.
  15. Have a Find-my-friends program–so friends can locate you via GPS at any given moment.
  16. Have Skype or Google Hangouts to stay in better touch with your nuclear family.
  17. If possible, have a satellite phone.
  18. Have backup batteries for your phone and iPad. Personal hotspots and Google Maps burn through power. What should last nine hours turns out to be two.
  19. Have redundancy where something is important. My external battery charger died and my iPad ran out of juice on a flight home. I had to read (gasp) a paperback rather than a digital book. Yeah, the paperback was my redundancy.
  20. Check in regularly with friends via social media; they want to know you’re OK.
  21. Be aware of time zones.

If you’re considering remote work, here are some job boards that offer writing jobs done away from an office:

10 Companies with Remote Work

Working Nomads

Remote Writing Jobs


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Top 12 Favorite iPad Shortcuts

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

I find iPads awkward to write on. For one thing, they’re not geared for a keyboard. That’s not to say you can’t use a keyboard with them. What I mean is they’re designed for swipes, flicks, taps, and squeezes. The keyboard is an afterthought–to accommodate those of us stuck in the dark ages of typing.

Like me.

I’m not even a mouse fan but after decades of trying to get along with it, we’ve come to a companionable arrangement with each other that mixes mouse right clicks and keyboard shortcuts. So, when I got an iPad, the first thing I looked for was the shortcuts. How can I do one flick, swipe, or squeeze and accomplish what five minutes of other movements would do?

Here are my 12 favorites, the ones that save me the most time so I can write more (or read more):

ipad shortkeys

Do you have any favorites?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, March 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

 

Google Drawings: Great Free Tool for Writers

writerGoogle Drawings is a free Google Drive-based drawing tool that allows users to create drawings, devise marketing pieces for their writing, brainstorm stories with concept maps, and more.

To use Google Drawings, here’s what you do:

  • Open your Google Drive account; go to New and select Google Drawings (it’s probably located under ‘More’).
  • Insert shapes, lines, an image, or text with the editing tools.
  • When finished, publish the drawing as a stand-alone or add it to a Google Doc, slideshow, or spreadsheet. As with all Google tools, it can be shared with others in a wide variety of methods.

There are a lot of drawing programs available — SumoPaint, KidPix, and TuxPaint to name a few. All are wonderful in their own right and many more powerful than Google Drawings. So why use Drawings? Here are eight reasons:

  • It’s collaborative which is nice if you’re working with a team.
  • Projects are easily shared with others.
  • It syncs between locations so you can start a drawing on your laptop and finish it on your tablet. 
  • It is minimalist which means it is easy to learn, intuitive to use, and with only exactly what you need for most drawings.
  • It’s easy to find. Rather than trying to remember where you created your drawing, Drawings are all saved to your Google Drive. 
  • Edits are easy. Just open the project from Drive and edit.
  • The project can be shared as a link or embedded into many different locations with an embed code found under File>Publish to the web
  • A project can be downloaded as a .jpg, a .png, a vector graphic, or a PDF

Here are eight projects perfect for writers:

Brainstorming, mindmap to plan your story

Create the bubbles and arrows popular to mindmaps with Google Drawings rather than a dedicated mindmap tool like Bubbl.us. Since Drawings allows for collaborating and sharing, it’s easy to brainstorm a story if you’re co-authoring and come up with a collaborative solution everyone likes.

Here’s an example I created:

google-draw-mindmap-brainstorm-k

Comic strip another way to share your story

Create a comic strip trailer for your novel quickly and visually. Here’s an example:

Infographic about your story

Introduce your story with an infographic created in Drawings. Here’s a good video on how to create the shapes required for infographics. Once that’s done, add text boxes to describe your story.

Timeline (events in your plot)

I love timelines but most of the online tools are less than satisfactory (I won’t mention names). Google Drawings has become one of my favorites because of its minimalistic approach–add text boxes to identify events in the story and then add pictures. The example below uses a thick line, text boxes for events, and one picture to sum up the story:

Clickable map of your story

Create a map of the locations in your story. Add a picture that links to a rundown of what happens there in your story. Use this to inspire interest in potential readers.

Here’s an example of a story, based in the USA (though you won’t be able to click the red stars because I’ve uploaded a screenshot only):

plot map in google draw

***

In a literary world where getting noticed is critical, Google Drawings could be exactly the right tool.

More on Apps for Writers:

Digital Storytelling Tools

How to Screenshot

How to Use Canva in Your Writing


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Photos For Class–for writers and teacher-authors

photos for classA question I get a lot from readers is where to go for free, teacher-safe images. Photo sites are either too sparse or poorly vetted. And–while we’re on the subject of online images–it needs to be easier to add citations because otherwise, students will just skip that step.

Photos for Class(but not just for classes), brought to you by the folks at Storyboard That (a premier digital storytelling site that quickly and easily enables users to mix avatars, backgrounds, and talk bubbles to tell a story–like your latest book in comic form) does all of these. It uses proprietary filters to search millions of Creative Commons-licensed photos from the Library of Congress, the British Royal Archives, and Flikr’s safe-search setting to curate a classroom-safe collection of topical photos in seconds.  There is no log-in, no registration, no fee or premium plan, and a zero learning curve. All you need to know is how to use a search bar and a download button.

Here’s how it works: Go to the Photos for Class website (no registration or log-in required), search your topic:

free online photos

…and then download the selected photo. Each downloaded photo includes an attribution and license detail.

online photos

There is no charge, no delay, and lots of choices.

In addition to photos, the site offers suggestions on citing and filtering photos, and a list of the top 250 searches.

Pros

Photos for Class is intuitive, easy-to-navigate, with child-safe content for even the youngest searchers. It makes it easy to develop good habits for properly citing online content.

If users find an objectionable image, they can report it to the site with the assurance that–if inappropriate–it will be removed from the site.

Cons

Besides downloading, photos can be saved with a right-click. This is a con only because they don’t include attribution. You have to add that yourself if needed–like with Flikr photos.

Insider Tips

Storyboard That’s premium service includes the ability to add photos from Photos for Class to Storyboard That projects. This is a great way to share your upcoming novel with authentic pictures in a way that people like to read. It’s a pleasant change from video trailers..

Writing applications

This is a great source of high-quality photos for your book marketing, your blog, or any other place you need pictures for your writing. It’s not as large as Pixabay but focuses on G-rated and kid-friendly. The thumbnails are big and bright. The search bar is prominent, and the results are fast.

More about online images:

Quick Search for Plagiarized Images

5 Image Apps

What Online Images are Free?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Top Tech for Writers

In case you missed this in April, here’s an article I wrote for Ronel (at Ronel the Mythmaker) for her T entry in the A to Z Challenge. I love talking tech but generally bore friends and family with it so was beyond excited when Ronel invited me to discuss it as much as I wanted.

These are five of my favorite tech tools for writers:

self edit1. A good editing program

Whether you’re self-published or agented, you want your manuscript as clean as possible. You can edit it yourself, use beta readers, or pray, but one more option to include in your toolkit is a good online editing program. Often, these ask you to copy-paste your text into a dialogue box on their website and they take it from there. Sometimes, you upload your entire manuscript. What they do varies from simply checking your grammar and spelling to analyzing pacing, word choice, and more. I like Grammarly for basics and AutoCrit for more detail.

See my Grammarly review here.

 

2. A digital deviceipad tips

I know lots of people who write the first draft of their novels with paper-and-pencil but almost always, the next version is completed on some sort of digital device. That might be a Mac, PC, iPad, Chromebook, laptop, or in some cases a dedicated word processor like the Retro Freewrite or Alphasmart. Pick one or more that work for you, doesn’t matter which as long as it’s digital and allows you to type and edit your manuscript.

See my reviews here for Chromebooks, iPads

 

3. Google Forms

Google Forms are an easy digital way to collect information from readers, sort it, and throw it into a spreadsheet. They’re professional-looking, intuitive, quick to create, and can be personalized to your needs. I use them to collect data for blog hops, curate my newsletter list, ask for feedback, sign up interested readers for an upcoming book, and more. There’s just no reason to struggle through this sort of design by yourself anymore.

See my Google Forms review and another form program I like, JotForms.

 

4. Canva

It’s hard enough writing a novel and bringing it to publication, without then being forced to also market it. That includes banners, logos, fliers, headers, announcements–yikes! Years ago, I knew I had to reform when my kindest beta reader wrote, “Is the flier supposed to look like that? No–really, I like it!” Right. I found Canva.com. Canva provides all the tools writers need to create headers, banners, Facebook placards, Twitter tweets, informal book covers, and the myriad of marketing materials that are part and parcel of publishing a book. It provides templates, size options, samples, even a design school–all for free. And it didn’t take long to get used. Now, I create what I need usually in less than five minutes. You heard that right. Try it out.

See my Canva review.

 

5. Book Trailer Program

Book trailers are quite popular because movies are a nice way to get readers excited about your book. If you’re creating your own, you want a program that is easy to use with a shallow learning curve, looks professional, and is as free as possible. I’ve seen a lot of options for this task, everything from Animoto to Tellagami to even a storyboard program like Storyboard That!

 

More tech for writers:

Best-in-Class Digital Storytelling Tools

8 Digital Tools for Writing

5 Must-have tools for Writers Conferences


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUBmonthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. Look for her upcoming trilogy, Crossroads, eta Spring 2019.

What Authors Should Know About MS Sway?

Lately, among teacher-authors (these are teachers who also write), one of the most talked-about webtools is Microsoft Sway. Though fairly new, Sway may unseat PowerPoint as the presentation-tool-of-choice because Sway projects are visually appealing while minimizing the amount of time spent formatting.

What is Sway

Sway is free from Microsoft and part of Office 365 Education. It is an easier, more versatile alternative to the popular PowerPoint slideshow program. Using the Sway canvas, writers select a theme and then add notes and media. Sway organizes the content, suggests images and even data, and then helps the writer to quickly arrange everything into a comprehensive and fully-fleshed project. If the selected theme doesn’t work, simply click “remix” and get a different look. More advanced users can edit the pieces to fit particular colors and interests. When everything’s perfect, it can be shared, embedded, and/or published.

Sway accepts almost any file format including videos, PDFs, text, audio, images, native camera pictures, charts, audio clips, audio recordings, and links. A completed project can be embedded into any Office app (such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Word) and automatically updates with the original. Sway works in Windows, on iPads, iPhones, and desktops.

How to get started

  • Install the Sway app to your iPhone, iPad, Surface Pro, or use it on the web.
  • Create an account so you can collect all of your Sways in one place.
  • Click the “Create new” button or alternatively, create a Sway from a topic or an uploaded document.
  • Click to add new “cards” (these are content areas; you might think of them like slides in a PowerPoint deck). These are stacked to the right of the screen and easily moved by dragging-and-dropping. Each of these contains space for all content related to the theme of that card.
  • As you add content, Sway suggests web material that may be relevant and might be good additions to your document.
  • When your Sway is finished, add it to any site that accepts embed codes, send it out as a link, or share it to a variety of social media outlets.

Prosms sway for writers

It’s free — so much power for no money. That’s amazing.

It’s easy to use and has lots of automated options that take the stress out of being creative.

Sways are automatically saved, by default to the MS Office account you used for the sign-up.

Multiple people can collaborate on a Sway. All you have to do is send the Sway link to collaborators.

Sway will create a project from a theme. You type in the theme and Sway suggests text, pictures and more that fit that topic.

Cons

Sway requires a Microsoft account (but not Office 365). This isn’t bad, just one more place that requires a log-in.

While Sways can be shared on various social media or via an embed code that can be played in situ, other options aren’t as easy.

8 Writerly Uses for Sway

Here are some of the ways my teacher-author colleagues and I use Sway:

  1. Easily create quick book trailers that pop to share with your writing community.
  2. Create a linear website for your book with content that’s revealed with a flick of the finger.
  3. Create a website with your resume and/or writer’s portfolio.
  4. Research and collect notes in OneNote, then send that information to Sway to be mashed up as a presentation
  5. Write and format marketing materials. Input the text and then let Sway suggest images and other resources.
  6. Prepare any presentation, much as you might a PowerPoint.
  7. Create a themed newsletter quickly to share with your (GDPR-approved) mailing list.
  8. Create digital stories with a mix of text, images, and other multimedia pieces.
  9. Create a portfolio of artwork, poems, or writing that can be shared to showcase your work.
  10. Collaborate with your writing team on your WIP or marketing materials.

Overall, Sway does a great job of minimizing formatting in favor of writing — a real plus in today’s busy world.

More on writer’s tools


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a weekly contributor to TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

I’d Love Help Launching Born in a Treacherous Time

I just launched my latest novel, the prehistoric fiction, Born in a Treacherous Time:

Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive in a world where nature rules, predators stalk them, and the next species of man threatens to destroy Lucy and everything she understands.

If you like Man vs. Wild, or have ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. 

If you read To Hunt a Sub and loved the cameos of Lucy, the ancient female, Born in a Treacherous Time reveals her life, why she appeared to Kali as sad, and how she set off on what would be man’s African exodus. Also: Learn how to knap tools, steal carcasses from Scimitar-tooth cats, and avoid the many dangers that preyed on early man.

If you are interested in featuring my book on your blog, I’d love to share your site on my writer’s website, WordDreams. I have a series I call ‘Traveling’ where I visit your website article about my book and promote that on my blog. To participate, add a comment to this post with a way I can contact you and I’ll reach out.

Here are some details:

Summary

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist).

Kirkus Review:

“Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout.

A well-executed tale of early man.”

–Kirkus Reviews

Click here for the entire review

An reader review

Born in a Treacherous Time sheds light on a period of time that gave birth to the human race, and allow us to bear witness to the harshness and tenacious spirit that is uniquely human—to survive and endure. Readers with a thirst for knowledge and who enjoy historical fiction, this is a must read. I am looking forward to reading book 2 when it is published.

 “I devoured the book in 2 sittings.”

–Luciana Cavallaro, author of Servant of the Gods series and webmaster of Eternal Atlantis

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