Writing

Want to be a Serious Writer? Be prepared… it’s Expensive, But There are Some Tricks to Save Money

I have been honing and practicing my writing skills for nearly a decade. Along the way, I’ve had to spend money on editing, cover design, and marketing services. It cost a lot. I am not kidding.

I also fell into the trap of using “self-publishing” services, which were actually vanity presses. They offer publishing packages from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. And those books sell few to no copies. I would avoid those at all costs. And not just because of the pricing, but because of how they treat authors, take their money, and result in poor sales of their books. Try to use legitimate services where you just upload your materials, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital. Both are free to publish on.

But it’s more than just that. I will return to the publishing and marketing topics after I discuss editing and cover design.

Editing can be pretty expensive. Some editors will even charge thousands of dollars for their services, especially if they’ve worked with big-name, bestselling authors. So, unless you already have the money, I would suggest avoiding those. There are editing services that charge moderate amounts. There are also beta readers, who are usually quite affordable. Many don’t price their services over $100. It may be worth using them for content editing.

Also, a lot of editors will be willing to split the payment plans. That might be useful if you don’t want to spend too much money at once. Another approach is not to get every single draft of your manuscript edited. I don’t just mean the sloppy first draft, but any draft you may feel needs more work… from you.

Everyone’s writing process differs, so the editing necessities will vary, too. If you’re new to writing, it may be challenging to improve your writing abilities without customized feedback. You can read books on the writing craft and more, but they could only take you very far. My suggestion would be to spend less on any unnecessary items outside of your writing time. Or take a side job and save your earnings for book production service.

Which brings me to the next part: cover design. Unless you have a great reputation in graphic design or illustration, it’s best to hire someone. But like editing, some may split the payment segments. Keep in mind your book’s genre and what cover design would be appropriate and attract more people. Regardless of that saying, everybody judges books by their covers.

Now back to marketing. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can price your book as low as 99 cents. If you do the select program, you can run a free promotion for up to 5 days. However, if you do KDP select, your eBook can’t be available anywhere else digitally, like your website or blog. You can also ask Amazon to make your eBooks perma-free by publishing them on sites like Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and making them free. This is an option if you publish through Draft2digital. Amazon may or may not price-match your book to other retailers. If you write a series, Amazon might be more likely to allow you to make the first installment free.

There are a lot of eBook promotion sites that will share free and 99-cent eBooks. And they usually cost less than $100. Maybe even $50.

So, there you have it. While being a writer won’t prevent you from spending a lot of money, you can still use these techniques to pay less.

fiction, movie

Harry Potter Mystery: Are Wizards Not as Concerned About Safety as Muggles?

One thing I noticed about the “Harry Potter” series is that wizards and witches don’t seem as concerned about safety as muggles do. It is constantly said that Hogwarts is one of the safest wizarding schools in the world.

However, like many, I kind of have to disagree. People have pointed out the numerous dangers Hogwarts has. There is the forbidden forest with deadly creatures that Harry and his friends are forced to go into for detention in their first year. There are also dangerous beasts in the school, such as the basilisk and the three-headed dog, a whomping willow on the grounds, and even the moving staircases. As fun as Quidditch looks, it’s also perilous. And let’s not leave out the Tri-wizard tournament. Yes, they had an age restriction. But even when Harry, who was underage at the time, was somehow entered (he didn’t do it), he still had to participate.

Regardless of the dangerous activities students can do without permission from their parents or guardians, they do need parental consent to visit the village, Hogsmeade, just a short, and safe walk from the school. People have pointed out how illogical that was. But that’s a different story.

Back to this. Although I don’t remember if it was stated in the book, in the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” movie adaptation, the first-years don’t wear life jackets when on the boats to Hogwarts. The school also has the second task for the Tri-wizard tournament in the black lake, in February. Are wizards immune to hypothermia? Even if charms that prevent it exist (I’m not sure) and they’re in the black lake, there certainly couldn’t have been any in the pond Harry jumped into in “The Deathly Hallows.” And he took his clothes off, but came out okay.

It’s not just Hogwarts that doesn’t seem to be as concerned about safety as muggle schools or society would. In “The Chamber of Secrets”, Harry almost falls out of Ron’s dad’s flying car. If he just had his seatbelt on, that wouldn’t have happened. Plus, he was raised by muggles—the terrible Dursleys. As much as they despised him, they must have made him wear seatbelts in their car.

So, there you have it.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: How Has Not One Muggle Felt Sorry for Harry When Growing Up with Abuse from The Dursleys?

For 10 years, from right after his parents’ deaths and until his 11th birthday, apparently nobody was nice to Harry, not even outside his home. His abuse was looked over at school and he was always bullied. Even the teachers didn’t seem to do a thing about it. I know Harry was born in 1980, so much of his childhood before Hogwarts was in the 80’s. Still, I have trouble finding something like this believable.

Yet, there were no new students or staff at Harry’s primary school who were horrified. No teacher wanted to help him with his stress or stand up for him when others bullied him. No student wanted to do the same.

Also, most people, especially in an area where Harry lived, don’t see the same people every single day. There would have been lots of visitors, new residents, deliverers, vendors, and many other people not native to Little Whinging or Privet Drive. And it seems that nobody has been appalled by how the Dursleys treated Harry. Not one individual has reacted with, “Oh, that’s terrible! Aw, that poor kid. I wish I could help him. I feel so bad for him.”

Unless there are charms that keep muggles from feeling sorry for Harry, I don’t find something like this too credible. There has to be kinder, empathetic, and even highly-sensitive people in the “Harry Potter” universe. Many muggles would have been upset to hear about how the Dursleys mistreated Harry. They would have felt sorry for him and even disgusted with how Dudley got spoiled. Even if that type of treatment wouldn’t have gotten the Dursleys in trouble with authorities at the time (not just because Dumbledore might have used magic to prevent that since Harry needed to be with a blood relative to stay safe from Voldemort, but also that the laws about child safety were different then, according to my research), Harry would have encountered at least a few muggles who said that they felt terrible for him and showed their sympathy to him. More would have said how sorry they felt for Harry in front of him, whether directly at him or to somebody else. A lot more would have said it out loud, but either not in Harry’s sight or would have thought it in their heads. At least a couple of muggles would have gone to the Dursleys and asked if everything was okay, and if they found out the truth, they would have felt horrible for Harry and showed it.

Lots and lots of people would have also ruminated and obsessed over how Harry got treated by his relatives, day in and day out. They might have even been down about it to others, talked about it a lot, and tried to do something about it, even if they couldn’t.

If the series were truly believable, Harry would have met or heard countless amounts of people who didn’t like how his relatives treated him and said how terrible it must’ve been for him, and how bad they felt for him. Maybe Harry would have even had a kind mentor nearby who wanted to check on him and be nice to him. Even in the 1980’s, before the Internet, the fact that Harry was abused would have made it to others, and a good number of them would have been horrified.

TV show

Holy Magic Mackerel! I’ve Noticed These Details in “The Fairly OddParents”

As a childhood favorite, I not only learned a lot about “The Fairly OddParents”, but I also picked up many details, both as a kid and now as an adult.

You probably know the premise: a young boy named Timmy Turner is miserable and has two fairies that grant him wishes. But he has to keep them secret, or else he’ll lose them forever.

Anyway, if you’ve watched a lot of the show, you might follow this better. So, without further ado, here are some insane and interesting details from the show.

1: A lot of deus ex machina moments

If you don’t know what it is, deus ex machina is a term for when something in a story happens merely for plot convenience. It is often frowned upon in creating any form of fiction, written or visual.

But one detail I found that constantly happens throughout the series are characters saying, “It’s not like this (whatever it is) will happen.” And then it does. Or when somebody watches TV, the hosts or reporters will say things to the viewers as if they knew who was watching and when they were. Even as a child, I found this a little annoying, although I didn’t know the term, deus ex machina. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the show.

I must also mention the convenient use of tomato-throwing when people are mad at something or somebody.

2: Characters seem to be “stupid” and not notice anything, just for plot convenience

In the episode, “Chin Up!”, Cosmo and Wanda appear as their normal fairy forms, in front of a bunch of people. Timmy freaks out loudly, and reveals that if anyone finds out they’re his fairy godparents, they’ll have to go away forever. But Wanda tells Timmy that the others will think they’re big kids in costumes, and somebody walks by and compliments on their “costumes.” This is very unbelievable. Timmy would have lost his fairies from there, even though they kind of are at fault. Moments like this occurred several times throughout later episodes, too. Characters would speak their thoughts out loud and nobody would pay attention or even seem to hear. Another aspect that’s not believable. But I guess that is enough with the criticism.

3: There are a lot of similarities to “The Simpsons”

I noticed this in recent years. Some details include how Mr. Crocker sounds like Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons”, although they’re not voiced by the same actor. Vicky’s head changing to something related to one of the episodes about to show is also similar to how the couch gag changes for different stories of “The Simpsons.”

4: Wand magic doesn’t always work fully

I assume this based of the events in the episodes, “Babyface” and “Teacher’s Pet” (no relation to the Toon Disney cartoon or movie). In the first one listed, Timmy accidentally runs into a daycare away from Francis and a bunch of other big, mean kids. So, he wishes to be a baby in order to hide from Francis. However, not long after, he realizes that he can’t talk. Therefore, he can’t wish himself back to being age 10 normally. That being said, he can still read, spell, and think like a 10-year-old. He points to the blocks and Wanda agrees with the idea to spell out his wish. But if the magic worked fully, not only would Timmy have lost his ability to speak, he also would have forgotten to know how to spell, read, or even think and solve problems like an older kid. In fact, he would have put the blocks in his mouth as that’s how babies explore their world. Yet, then there wouldn’t really be a story.

In the episode, “Teacher’s Pet”, Timmy wishes to be teacher’s pet, and Cosmo and Wanda’s infant son, Poof, grants him the wish and turns him into a guinea pig. He can still talk, though. Once again, if the wish worked completely, Timmy would only be able to squeak and function like a real guinea pig, and not a human.

There you have it. I hope you find this list helpful.

TV show

Questions I Have About the “Peanuts” Cartoon

Although I didn’t watch a lot of the “Peanuts” cartoon as a child, since my family didn’t own any on video or DVD, I still have a few questions about the series. I did view enough of it to wonder certain things.

1: Do the children hear the same physical voice for both men and women?

For anyone who has seen the “Peanuts” cartoons, only the kids speak actual words. The adults go, “wah-wah-wah” since that’s how the children hear it. The grown-ups are also out of sight, I believe. But one thing that stands out to me is that they all have the same physical voice. I think they are voiced by a brass instrument. Yet, the men and women seem to all have deep nasal voices.

2: Why doesn’t Snoopy look like a beagle?

I searched this on Google and it turns out that many others have wondered the same. I’ve called Snoopy the inaccurate-looking beagle in recent years. Real beagles have a mix of black and brown colors and a little bit of white. However, Snoopy looks nothing like a real beagle. He could have, though, or could have been declared a different breed, or a mutt.

3: Has Snoopy ever barked once?

Another element about Snoopy that differentiates him from real beagles is that he doesn’t bark much while real dogs his breed do. But has he barked once? That is something I couldn’t get an answer to in my Google search.

Those are all the questions I have.

Writing

You Can Turn Clichés into More Original Ideas

While pretty much everything has been done before, some ideas are too overdone, according to the general public. Some of those include phrases, metaphors, descriptions, and types of creatures or humanoids.

When I researched for my fantasy stories, I came across how so many typical elements, such as dragons, are considered overdone. So, I made up my own magical entities in my writing.

One cliché I used, however, was having wizards in my novels. But there are no old ones with long white beards in long robes. The magicians are also modern and even post-modern at times. They have their own technology far more advanced than the regular kinds in my books.

Another overdone element I’ve included in my series is a skeleton character. In fact, in early drafts, he was more of a stereotypical skeleton where he was pure evil and carried a scythe. But as I learned more about the writing craft and discovered that pure-evil villains don’t often work (they probably can sometimes), I softened the skeleton’s personality. I’ve developed him to be depressed and insecure about his appearance as well as make him desperate to be human. I’ve also made him afraid of dogs. And no, not because he is built with bones.

Those are just some of the changes I’ve incorporated into the clichés. You could do it, too.  

Writing

A New Process Has Come for My Writing: It Involves More Outlining and Fewer Drafts

I wish I had come up with this technique earlier. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I suppose it is worth trying.

Why am I choosing this process, you might ask? It’s because I want to write my novels a little more quickly, but also keep the quality high. Okay, okay, I get what you’re probably thinking. Writing a good book takes time, and sometimes, that can mean several years.

I agree with that. There have even been authors who worked on their novels for at least ten years. But for me, writing my third installment of my fantasy book series for nearly four and a half years, and still not being finished with it, is now tiring. Of course, I will keep at it until it’s the best it can be.

However, for my next installment, the fourth book (no title yet), I don’t want it to lag. So, I’ve decided on a new way of producing the following story and all future books. Here is the plan:

1: Write a super-sloppy and short first draft (I’ve done that already).

2: Write and revise synopses for the WIP until I am satisfied with one and think it’ll work.

3: Write the story using the best synopsis at the moment, but let the writing be sloppy and weak, if necessary, just so the words can get on the page.

4: Strengthen the writing to a good-quality kind, and once it feels right, submit it to an editor.

5: Repeat steps 2 to 4 until the story is completely great and is ready to be published.

If you want to try this process, it’s better if you already know the writing craft rules and have excellent skills at it. And that can (and almost always) take several years.

I started learning the writing craft when I was about eighteen and it took me over seven years to produce great-quality stories with great writing.

Now when I say great, I mean it. Books with just good or decent writing didn’t satisfy me when I published them. They were good, but not excellent. I ended up removing them from the market. The experience was not as satisfying as I’d predicted. It may be different for others, but it wasn’t for me.

Anyway, if you are a writer with great writing abilities, it is probably okay to find a shortcut with getting your story down and ready for publication more quickly.

I’m actually teaching myself to work on two projects at once. In the past, I’d only work on one at a time. But I’m changing my mind about that. I don’t want to keep readers waiting too long for the next installments of my series or any other books I may write. So, I’m working on both my third and fourth installments at the same time.

Writing

Why Names Rarely Have Purposes in My Writing

Many authors choose names for their characters based on their personalities. The names often have meanings for each character based on their behaviors and backstories.

I, however, am not normally like that. I usually choose names for my characters simply by how much they appeal to me. Of course, I take into consideration the characters’ races, religions, ethnicities, and generations when I name them.

While I never name characters based on their personalities, there are a few times my characters’ names had purposes.

For example, in book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, the main antagonist is Beau Duchamp. I chose Beau so that kids could pronounce his name more easily for a French man.

Another example is Errol, the villain in book 2 of my series. He was inspired by the Grim Reaper. He was also originally named Peril and was eviler in early drafts of the story. However, editors have said that he wasn’t wicked enough to be called “Peril.” So, I changed his name to something that rhymed with his original name.

In my third installment, the main villain has a made-up name: Boo-Champ Corey. The name represents a combination of two other bad guys from my series world.

The final character is a wizard mentor called Mr. Reuber. He was inspired by Hagrid from “Harry Potter”, so his last name sounds similar to Hagrid’s first name, Rubeus. Of course, he isn’t a representation of J.K. Rowling’s creation and he does differ from Hagrid, as well.

However, since book 3 hasn’t been published yet, I don’t know if those characters will make it to the final draft. Hopefully, they will.

Other than these examples, my characters’ names were chosen purely based on what I liked.

fiction

7 is a Magic Number in “Harry Potter” and I Have 7 Unique Questions About it

I am not making up the fact that the number 7 plays an important part in the “Harry Potter” series. People have said it many times. There are 7 books in the main series, 7 Weasley siblings, 7 years at Hogwarts, 7 players per Quidditch team, and 7 horcruxes.

Anyway, here are 7 unique questions I have about the franchise.

1: Do Ilvermorny Students learn French and Spanish?

It was great to learn that there is an American wizard school. Everyone even got to learn about it in the 2016 film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” However, it serves not only wizard children in the US, but also all of North America. That means Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

I did research on this school on a Wikia site and saw that they learn the same subjects British and Irish children learn at Hogwarts, like transfiguration, potions, and so forth. But if it’s all of North America, where some people speak Spanish or French, how do students and staff communicate with everybody?

2: Why aren’t national anthems sung before Quidditch games?

In real life, the country’s national anthem is always sung at sporting events before the games start. But in “Harry Potter”, no national anthem has been sung before Quidditch games. Obviously, muggle-borns know their country’s national anthems, but do kids who grew up in the wizarding world know them? Could the International Statue of Secrecy have gotten in the way?

3: Does Dumbledore know Harry’s handwriting?

When Harry’s name comes out of the goblet of fire in the fourth installment, everyone accuses him of cheating. But he didn’t enter. Someone else entered for him.

Although Dumbledore has a ton of responsibilities, and can’t keep track of every student’s information (such as their dates of birth), he seems to think Harry put his name in the goblet of fire right after it comes out.

I don’t remember if Harry’s handwriting was described. But does it really mimic or resemble similarities to the actual person who entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? At the very least, Harry would have recognized his own handwriting and may have convinced Dumbledore and everybody else that he didn’t recognize the handwriting on the parchment if it differed from the person who entered him.

4: Could Harry have forged Uncle Vernon’s handwriting for his Hogsmeade Permission Slip?

In “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry has his third year at Hogwarts. Third year students can visit the local village, Hogsmeade, as long as they have a parent or guardian’s permission. Harry convinces Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form, but he refuses unless Harry behaves. But Harry gets angry at Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, and he unintentionally causes her to blow up like a balloon and fly away. So, there went his chance of getting his form signed.

However, what if Harry forged Uncle Vernon’s signature? Yes, it’s dishonest. Maybe magic has a way of detecting forgery, but I could be wrong. While the trace detects underage wizardry, I can’t imagine that it or any other magic that monitors wizards tracks every action a magician takes.

5: Why is the age of consent 17 in the wizarding world?

Authors usually have reasons behind details in their stories, especially J.K. Rowling. She chooses names and other elements carefully and with meanings. But it seems to be a mystery to why wizards are legally adults when they turn 17.

6: Who takes care of the students’ animals when they’re in classes?

For some odd reason, students are allowed to bring animals. They have owls for delivering mail. They can also bring a cat or a toad (and a rat in Ron’s case until something about that changes). But where do the animals go when students can’t be with them? How do they act? When do they get their food, relieving breaks, and so forth?

While Hagrid is the gamekeeper, he can’t possibly take care of every single animal, especially cats since they make him sneeze. Hmmm…

7: What happens if a wizard child moves to another country?

When a wizard kid is born, his or her name is added to the respected wizarding school list of their nation. Obviously, they have to grow up and be 11 by September 1st before they can attend. But schools, like Hogwarts, are only available to children in the UK and Ireland.

So, my guess is that if a magician kid moves to another country, his or her name is crossed off the old school’s list and added to the new one. For instance, if a child moves from England to France, maybe their name is removed from the Hogwarts’ list and added to the Beaubaxtons list.

That’s it for all the questions I have about “Harry Potter” that I can’t find elsewhere.

TV show

Get into “Dexter’s Laboratory” and Check Out These Top 4 Memorable Moments

Ah, the early 2000’s Cartoon Network ruled. For me, those were the golden days. And one of those golden-era shows was “Dexter’s Laboratory”.

If you recall the premise, it focused on a young boy genius who had a secret lab with so many high-tech gadgets, machines, and more. But his annoying older sister, Deedee, enters and plays around with things. I love her famous line, “Ooh, what does this button do?” Bad Deedee!

Anyway, I am going to share the top moments that stand out to me from the show. Here it goes.

4: When Dexter is in Deedee’s body

When a woman asks “Deedee” how she’s doing, it turns out that Dexter’s in her body and is being annoying by going, “Deedee dumb, Deedee dumb.” Deedee, meanwhile, is stuck in her and Dexter’s mom’s body, and a dog is in Dexter’s body, panting. Lol.

3: Mandark’s unrealistic sobs

There is a dialogue-free short where Mandark, a mean kid Dexter dislikes, sounds his signature laugh. But eventually, he cries, and it sounds exactly like his evil laugh, except that the ha’s become wahs. It went “Wah-huh-huh, wah-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh!”

2: When Deedee wants to be a pony

In some episode (I don’t remember the name), Deedee and her friends are fantasizing about being ponies. Deedee breaks down into tears and runs home, wanting to become a pony. Dexter turns her into one, however, he tries to ride her when she wants to be free. She even rejects the saddle Dexter almost puts on her.

1: The events in the episode, “Don’t Be a Baby”

In order to see a mature movie, Dexter and Deedee go into a machine to make themselves older. However, thanks to Deedee tripping over a wire, the machine turns everybody in the world into babies, including Dexter’s monkey and computer. Deedee and Dexter end up taking care of their parents, who have become infants.

This episode cracked me up. Even though I haven’t seen it in years, I still recall it very well. I loved when the computer made baby babbles. Could you imagine your computer doing that? It would be quite impractical.

And the part when Deedee sings for her baby parents a lullaby was hilarious. It went, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep, Mommy and Daddy.” It followed the tune of “Lullaby and Goodnight”. Ha ha ha, although this wouldn’t be funny in real life.

So, there you have it.