Are your header images fuzzy? Five steps to improve your Facebook header images

There are a lot of fuzzy Facebook header (or cover) images out there. Until recently, mine was one of them. I went to the optometrist to have my glasses updated, but the problem was still there. My lovingly created images looked great in Photoshop and blurry once uploaded to Facebook.

After emptying my wallet for the new glasses I went to the well of all “how to” knowledge, YouTube, and did some research.

Here are Five Steps to improving your Facebook header images:

Step One: make sure your image is the right size.

Guide to image sizes for social media pages (this guide promises to be always up to date and covers a variety of platforms)

Step Two: if you don’t have Photoshop or something similar on your computer, use a web version such as Canva or Picmonkey. Click on this link for some useful tools: 36 Free Tools for Creating Unique Images This list also includes links for making infographics and charts.

Step Three: You need some good resolution images; preferably ones you own copyright to or have purchased the license for. You will need one good size landscape oriented image that can form the “backdrop” of your header. If you want to add your book cover or a smaller image for some other purpose, then portrait orientation adds a little contrast (note you will need a small profile picture as well).

A Patricia Leslie original...

A Patricia Leslie original…

Step Four: Open the images up in your graphic software and create your header as per the correct size for your platform (they are all different).

Step Five: Once you have it looking just the way you want, save it somewhere so you can access it later if you need to. Then, save the image as a .png-24. In Photoshop, this is under File – Save for web & devices.

That’s it. Now upload your image to Facebook. It should be looking much sharper than usual. If it isn’t, check the resolution of your original images – the higher the better.

Check out my Facebook page: Patricia Leslie

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Just Write: on setting up an online newspaper for #emergingauthors

Apparently a full time job, writing, researching, and a myriad of other activities online and off is not enough so I’ve started a daily online newspaper using the Paperli platform.

Just Write... paper.li/e-1422482367 stories via the Twitterverse & other online hotspots for #emergingauthors

Just Write… paper.li/e-1422482367 stories via the Twitterverse & other online hotspots for #emergingauthors

When I’m not being an author or event manager (my day job), I edit two other online newspapers with a focus on women in sport, so setting up a paper for emerging authors seemed like the next step in marketing myself and my novel. Besides, I really do like sharing tips, articles, quotes and inspiration with other people on Twitter.

I try and read (or at least scan) each article I share and make sure they are relatively up to date. I look for competitions and festivals, blogs and writing courses, and anything I think is relative to emerging authors (in other words, someone like me).

I’ve learned a lot on this new side path of mine. For instance, ways to improve your LinkedIn page, that there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of writing competitions available around the world, and the criteria for murder. It’s certainly an eye-opening experience at times.

All of my shares and re-tweets are through the Twitter platform so at the same time, I’m building my presence on Twitter. My papers, automatically, post to LinkedIn, and I manually post them to my Facebook author page. As a result, my posts are being seen and shared by more people and my online relationships are strengthening. This is exactly what I’m trying to achieve.

If at some point this also helps to sell a copy or two of “The Ouroboros Key” or attracts an interview query or speaking engagement, then that will be icing on the cake.

Want to start your own online paper?

1. Choose your platform and open an account. I use the free version of Paperli but you can upgrade and pay for the Premium version if you like
2. Decide on a name for your paper and a tagline
3. Upload a “hero” image that will be used to represent your paper
4. Choose your background images or colours
5. Include some profile info on who you are and what your paper is about
6. Decide on how often you want your paper to be published. Mine come out daily
7. Choose your content providers. My sport papers source content direct from various organisations while Just Write content is provided directly by me through my Twitter account
9. Decide on your paper sections (Art & Entertainment, Business, Leisure, etc)
10. Remember to link to your other social media platforms. Mine are linked to Twitter and LinkedIn because they are my main networks.

A few words on content sourcing

You can set your paper up to automatically source the content you nominate. This is easy and works well with active users who only tweet about relative topics.

Or, you can find the content yourself. This is the option I’ve chosen for Just Write. This way, I have more editorial control over what goes into the paper and I increase my own platforms. BUT, this does require more work. I dedicate several 15 minute intervals across the day to search for interesting content to tweet. The paper picks up my tweets and these form each day’s edition.

I also search for images and videos to include as well: inspirational quotes, famous writer’s quotes, and music to inspire writers. This gives the paper added depth and improves it’s visual content.

Results

Don’t expect an overnight success. Strong foundations are the key to building a good social media presence so be patient and persevere; it takes time.

Useful links:

Just Write – Paperli

I couldn’t find the sports news I wanted so I started my own paper

Thrill Writing (for criteria on murder tips and much more)

Follow me on Twitter, link with me on LinkedIn, like me on Facebook and check out my pins on Pinterest

A non-definitive history of: Speculative Fiction

According to Wikipedia: Speculative fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. This genre is usually attributed to Robert Heinlein, who coined it in 1947 in an editorial essay. Although there are instances of speculative fiction, or its variant ‘speculative literature’ being used before him, Robert Heinlein is, for a number of reasons, hailed as the father of speculative fiction.

robert heinlein

I would go so far as to add, words that make you think about your world and a myriad of possibilities. This extra step encompasses alternative and hidden histories as well as lesser known belief systems, cultural “oddities”, and varied gender roles (and rules).

I’m not quite sure what fans of Lewis Carol and J.R.R. Tolkien feel about Robert Heinlein being the “father of speculative fiction” or of their work being put in the “instances of” box. I suppose it depends on your interpretation of the term. The Hobbit and all similar are generally labelled as high fantasy.

the hobbit

So what’s the difference you might ask? Speculative fiction is the umbrella term into which science fiction, fantasy (high or low), and horror sit. Robert Heinlein was mainly a science fiction writer, J.R.R. Tolkien was fantasy, and Stephen King is in the horror camp.

Annie Neugebauer has explored the term thoroughly in her blog post of the same name What is speculative fiction?

Each of the above categories come with their own sub-categories. For instance, low fantasy covers stories that are set in the real world but have “fantastical” elements (My novel, The Ouroboros Key fits this description) whereas high fantasy stories are set in completely fictional worlds and are dominated by the “fantastical” (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and so on).

lord of the rings book covers

Game of Thrones belongs to the epic fantasy sub-genre, which includes real world settings with lots of high fantasy elements thrown in. To be classed as epic, the story must be complex and contain multiple plot lines (and lots of characters, and really really long).

game of thrones book covers

Other fantasy sub-genres include alternate history and sword and sorcery. There’s an interesting exploration of the sub-genres on the Fantasy Faction website, and links to even more sub-genres (Steampunk, anyone?).

Science Fiction and Horror have their own ever-growing list of sub-genres as well. In Horror there is dark fantasy, supernatural, scifi horror, psychological, suspense/thriller… And in Science Fiction you can look forward to alien, space exploration, dystopia, utopia, alternate universe, and cyberpunk…

There is just not enough hours in the day, days in the year, or years in our lives to read all of the speculative fiction available!

Related links:

joannaparypinski.com/2011/06/29/list-of-horror-subgenres

www.worldswithoutend.com/resources_sub-genres.asp

www.heinleinsociety.org

www.tolkiensociety.org

lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk

www.stephenrdonaldson.com

www.georgerrmartin.com

stephenking.com

“Keep it secret. Keep it safe” | Plot ideas and where to find them.

One of the classic questions that authors are often asked is where they get their ideas.

There is no automatic teller machine waiting to dish out ideas once you’ve put in your secret code and most people know this. Still, the origin of stories, ideas, twists and turns, character traits, indeed whole worlds, is mystifying. How do these people think up this stuff?

Following are five of places that I’ve found the odd idea, plot twist, and scene.

1. The reserve between my house and the local corner store. Strolling through the reserve one morning on the way to purchase a much needed bottle of milk and somewhere between an Ironbark and a Scribbly Gum, a great death scene popped out from the bushes and hit me square in the head. I had to repeat it to myself all the way to the shop and back so I wouldn’t forget before I could write it down. Thank goodness for smart phones! I carry mine everywhere so now I can jot these quickie ideas down without having to rely on on brain cells still waiting for their morning kickstart.

My local reserve aspires to this Ironbark Forest. Image: http://ianluntresearch.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/ironbark-forest-1.jpg?w=1200

My local reserve aspires to this Ironbark Forest. Image: http://ianluntresearch.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/ironbark-forest-1.jpg?w=1200

 

2. Someone else’s book. I read a lot of non fiction and find many ideas and storylines waiting to be discovered between the facts. I once wrote a prize winning short story on the death of Captain James Cook inspired by a few lines from Into the Blue by Tony Horwitz (an excellent book). Into the Blue told me what happened but I wanted to know how the crew of Cook’s ship felt at the time so I delved further, researched the main crew members, and what happened after Cook was killed. It usually starts with wanting to more of the story behind what history, and it’s writers, tell me.

into the blue

3. The shower. Hot water pelting down, no one around to hear me sing, and a head covered in shampoo bubbles. This is the opportune time to let your brain relax from daily humdrum and make space for a few ideas – quite often ideas associated with water but not always. I find this a good time to imagine what characters look like and how they might react, physically and verbally, to a situation. Yes, I do tend to take long showers… another good place for quiet contemplation is sitting on the loo and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

image from dreamstime.com

image from dreamstime.com

4. Dreams. Sometimes I have some doozies and occasionally I’ve used them in stories. If you’ve read The Ouroboros Key, you’ll know that the main character, Dan, has visions and bad dreams. None of those started off as dreams from my subconscious. However, I did use the haphazard timelines, random occurrences, and the surreal feeling you can get from dreams (not to forget the fear from nightmares) to show how Dan felt and coped with what he was experiencing.

clipart from canstockphoto.com

clipart from canstockphoto.com

5. Newspapers and current affairs. The stories I’m currently researching come directly from newspaper articles I read. I’d love to tell you more but it’s early days and I don’t want to be gazumped. Let’s just say that my response was, “I didn’t know that!” followed by, “Ooh, that’s a mystery. I want to know more.” When the manuscripts are written and contracted, I’ll tell you all about them!

image from onlinereferencecentre.ca

image from onlinereferencecentre.ca

Bonus!

Train rides, especially long trips when you’ve got nothing better to do than listen, watch, and imagine. This is a great place to pick up phrases, descriptions for clothes and hair, and mannerisms. Remember to look out the window too! There are some great streets, street names, parks, and buildings out there just waiting to be in your next story.

Hogwarts Express? Image from 100trains.com

Hogwarts Express?
Image from 100trains.com

If you do happen to know where an ATM for story ideas resides, keep it secret (after you’ve told me, that is!).

If only...

If only…

Related links: Here’s another article on where ideas come from that you might like. It’s also where I picked up the arrows coming out of the head image I’ve used in my “ideas card” above.

Starting from the beginning where do your story ideas come from. An interview with Ernest Dickerson by Tambay A. Obenson

 

Final tip – Always remember, ideas are precious…

 

Why did you set your novel there? Choosing the right location for your stories.

I’ve been asked a few times why I chose to set The Ouroboros Key in the USA when I live in Australia.

After all, Australia has mountains, rivers, caves, and mystery. Yes, it does. I love visiting the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Jenolan Caves are amazing, kayaking on any of our rivers is always a day well spent, and there are plenty of mysteries and strange stories set locally that I could share. I agree.

The only trouble was that I wanted to set this particular story on a Snake River – a real one – and I couldn’t find any Snake River’s in Australia. I could find one in America and as it so happened, not too far from an area I had visited several times in Colorado. From there it was easy. The Rocky Mountains also outstrip our Great Dividing Range in height and the weather is wilder.

Little Snake River

Little Snake River runs through Wyoming and Colorado

Naturally, when I wanted mystical, I headed south of Colorado and into New Mexico. Specifically, the Ancient Pueblo cultures where so many ruins remain studded throughout the landscape. Another reason for choosing this area is that the Pueobloan’s used underground rooms. A purveying theme (location wise) in The Ouroboros Key is “underground”.

The town of Smiggin’s Rest is completely fictional. The description is loosely based on Warrandyte in Victoria, Australia, which is on the steep banks of the Yarra River.

I wanted to mix the real with the unreal on multiple levels of the story and in finding locations that exist and melding them with those that don’t, I felt I achieved that.

Related posts: Chaco Canyon – April 2014

The old and the new: Reflections and planning for the new year.

Like so many others, I’m spending some time today reflecting on the past 12 months. I’ve had a few ups this year.

The Ouroboros Key

The Ouroboros Key

My first novel was published in March at an Independent Book Fair in Canberra. I organised a launch closer to home in April at The Tradies Club, Gymea.

It was a lovely if nerve-wracking evening and nearly everyone that came bought a copy of The Ouroboros Key, which meant I received a nice little royalty cheque a few months later.

My daughters holding me up after my book launch speech in April.

My daughters holding me up after my book launch speech in April.

My eldest daughter finished university with an Honours degree in Anthropology (though she doesn’t actually graduate until March so we get to celebrate twice for that event).

My youngest daughter finished high school with some not too shabby marks and a Band 6 in Music.

My middle daughter transferred universities and switched to International Studies with some impressive plans for the future.

I started researching for a new novel, which I hope to start writing in 2015. It’s set in Sydney so I’ll be able to schedule lots of day trips for research purposes, spend time in the local archives, and read work by local authors. My daughter asked if there would be magic and conspiracy. I hadn’t planned it but its early days and the more I read the more relative conspiracy theories seem to be. I’m sure I could work a little bit of magic in as well.

And, my husband and I went on a well-earned holiday in Vietnam!

IMG_1704 SMALLER

Denang

My downs include being so busy in my day job that I haven’t had the energy to write. I’m hoping that with my new story idea, inspiration and excitement will add fuel to my fire.

Writers Unleashed Festival, Gymea 2014

Writers Unleashed Festival, Gymea 2014

Learning that I’m not a very good face-to-face salesperson: I find it hard talking myself (and therefore my novel) up and convincing people what a great idea it would be to part with some money… What I need is to team up with someone who loves to talk and knows what to say.

I think that’s about it for the downs. All in all, a pretty good year.

I don’t make resolutions. I do make plans.

In 2015, I will work on my half-finished novel, start my new one, travel as much as possible, and work on the shy, retiring side of my personality.

My tips for New Year’s Eve?

Make sure the bubbly is icy-cold, the cheese platter is at room temperature, and the people that matter most are nearby.

Champagne-sales-up