Tag - Monday Media

5 Free Royalty Free Stock Photo Sites

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If you explored any of last Monday's websites, you probably came across a lot of posts on blogging and how important relevant images are to your post. But where do you find these images? There are scores of stock photo sites out there and plenty of them offer free images. Keep in mind that you need to find free royalty free images.

When looking for free stock photos, make sure to check the terms of use. The image may be free to use but attribution is required. Also be aware that many of the free stock photo sites also display premium images from other stock photo sites like iStock as well as search banners that belong to premium stock photo sites.

Here are 5 websites that offer free royalty free stock photos you can use for your website or blog.

FreeImages (formerly stock.xchng)

Photo Pin

Wikimedia Commons

morgueFile

Free Pixels

Don't forget you can also create your own images. I try to create my own web graphics whenever possible. You don't have to have Photoshop to create your own graphics or edit images. On Monday June 16th, I'll be posting about author websites and blogs, including a few online sites where you can edit your images for free.


photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc

5 Fab Websites for Writers

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Hello all! I'm always coming across great websites on everything from social media and marketing, to scheduling and creativity, so I thought I would share some sites I've found especially helpful.

As an author, you never stop learning or growing, so there's always something you can take away from what may seem like yet another article on author marketing. You may already be familiar with a site or two, but hopefully you'll find a new one in this list for you to explore.

Your Writer Platform - A fantastic and easy to follow site with great tips on everything from choosing your Facebook banner to building your author platform.

Terribleminds - If you haven't already heard of author Chuck Wendig, you should definitely check out his blog. With humor and creative language, Chuck Wendig posts cover a wide range of topics from creating compelling characters to getting that swift kick in the keister you might be needing to finish that story.

Social Media Examiner - A great site that covers social media and how best to use those tools for effective marketing.

The Write Life - Helping writers with posts on marketing, blogging, publishing, productivity, craft and more. Also has a great list of websites and resources, including The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014.

Kristen Lamb's Blog - author and founder of WANA International, Kristen's blog offers some fantastic tips and advice on writing. From creativity to social media, it's a fantastic site for authors.

Next Monday: 5 Free Royalty Free Stock Photo Sites


photo credit: RowdyKittens via photopin cc

Monday Media: Techno Trauma Part 4 - Pixlr.com

MondayMediaCCochet180Welcome to another Media Monday and Techno Trauma edition. I currently run two websites, this one--which is my personal author site, and The Purple Rose Tea House--which is for promoting m/m romance authors. Both have different themes and color schemes. For my sites, I try to create all my own graphics, not just so they match my sites' themes, but for copyright issues. To make my graphics, I use Photoshop. But what if you don't have Photoshop? It's a crazy expensive program. I have an older version that I'm perfectly happy with and have no intention of offering my first born for a new version anytime soon. It does what I need it to do.

Well, fear not. You don't need Photoshop to create your own web graphics because there are plenty of free programs out there you can use that will get the job done. The first thing I have to insist is that you play around with your program--whatever it may be, and get to know it a little before you start creating and putting graphics all over your website. If you're an author, your website/blog is your online home. It represents you. It's what readers, agents, reviewers, fellow authors, and everyone sees when they look you up. Dress to impress they say. Your website says more about you than you know. It's not about paying ridiculous amounts of money for a site, especially if you're just starting out. It's about putting in the effort to put your best foot forward. Your website can be clean and simple, but it should look professional.

pxlrIf you're putting a site together and don't know how to go about it, just ask. There are always folks happy to help. I'm always happy to offer a hand where I can. I didn't pay for my website, nor did I take any courses. I learned how to put it together the best way I could from the ground up. What I didn't know, I Googled. This site was a white blank slate when I started, with the coding there as a start off point because lord knows I hate coding. Anyway, onto the graphics. The interwebs is full of tutorials for how to make this or that graphic for the multitude of programs out there. One of the those awesome programs is Pixlr.

Pixlr is laid out nearly the same as Photoshop with almost all the exact tools. It's easy to use once you get the hang of it and the best part? It's free! The editor opens up right online and you're ready to go. I've put together a super easy tiny tutorial for creating a badge on Pixlr, using the Advanced editor. (Just click on the images for full screen view).

Step 1: Go to www.pixlr.com and choose Open Pixlr editor (Advanced) option.

main screen

Step 2: Click on Create a new image.

Main page

Step 3: Give your new file a name and choose your size. The Presets drop down box is pretty awesome, because it has some industry banner sizes already set up for you. I'm choosing 180 x 150 for a button badge. If you don't want any of those sizes, just choose a random one and you'll see the height and width boxes under it. Just change it to whatever size you prefer. Under it will also be a little box with the word Transparent next to it. That's especially handy if you want a transparent background for making a .png file.

NewDoc

Step 4: So there you see our 180x150 box with transparent background. Now I'm choosing my background color. Let's say it's for the tea house. You see the set of numbers and letters next to the red check mark? That's the color code. When I'm designing a theme for a site, I make sure I jot down the codes for all the colors I use. This will allow me to have consistency with all my graphics because I'll stick to those exact colors. So I've chosen my color. Now I click OK. Then I go to my little bucket tool over there on the left and click on that. I hover my bucket over my blank background and click. Voila, your background is filled in. *** Very important. Make sure to save your file. Since you'll be working with layers, save as a PXD. Go to File > Save > PXD (Layered Pixlr image).

choose base color

Step 5: As you can see, my background has been filled in. Now I want to give it a little border. I love borders. It neatens things up. With my trusty color codes at hand, I go over to the right hand side. The box in the middle is your Layers box. At the moment, we only have the one layer which is out background. The great thing about working with layers is that whatever you do to one, won't affect the others. I use a lot of layers when I work on something. Now on the layers box at the bottom there's a bunch of little symbols, the third one in is the Layer Styles (properties) button. This lets you add a drop shadow, bevel, or glow to your layer. Now Photoshop has a Stroke option for creating borders, Pixlr doesn't, but if you select Inner Glow, set the hardness and opacity all the way up, you get solid lines. Boom, instant border! When you click on Color, the color chooser will pop up. Click OK and as you can see, my button now has a nice border.

border

Step 6: Let's add some text. Let's say this badge is for my post headings for when I have a guest post from a fellow author. In my tools, I select the button with the A which is my text button. Click anywhere inside your graphic and the Text box will pop up. Type whatever you fancy in the box. Choose your font, the size you need, the style, and the color. Again, this is where your color codes come in handy. I used the same purple as my border. Click OK. Don't worry if it's not lined up, we'll be moving it next.

add text

Step 7: In your toolbar, the black arrow with the little cross is your Move tool. When you click on that, whatever layer you're working on, you can move things around. Now if you click on that, you can move your text. If you want to be precise, click on your arrow tool and then use your keyboard arrows to nudge the text in whatever direction you need to get it aligned.

straighten

Step 8: Next, let's say you want to add some kind of image related to your badge. I went to Stock.xchng and found me this nice little open book. I saved it to my PC and now I want to open it. So I go to File > Open image... I find my open book which I saved and open.

open image

Step 9: There's my book image. Now I want to select my book. Here's where we separate the boys from the men. You can either use the wand to select the background (not the book) and then invert the selection (which is what we're going to do) or you can use the Lasso tool to select just the book. The Lasso tool means you're handdrawing the selection. Yes, it's more difficult, but also more accurate. Now what I've done is select the wand, clicked on a white section of the book's background and then use the Lasso tool to fine tune my selection. Pressing down Alt (PC) while using the Lasso will take away from my selection, while pressing Shift and using my lasso tool will add to my selection. Okay, so I selected the background of the book. What's next? Go to Edit > Invert Selection. Now my book is selected instead of my background. Copy and paste that that sucker onto your badge.

selection

Step 10: Okay, that bad boy is huge! Let's fix that. Click Edit > Free transform. A little box with dots will appear around your image. What you need to do is hold down the Shift key while you drag the upper left corner dot inward. What that will do is make certain your ratio stays the same, so the image will get smaller on all sides, not just your height or width, giving you a wonky image.

free transform hold down shift

Step 11:  Here's a closer look at the Layers box. As you can see, there they all are. I've got each layer, there's the Layer Styles (properties) button where I added my border to my background, there's the Add Layer button and the Delete Layer button. You can click on any layer and then click the Layer styles and add a drop shadow or glow.

layers

Step 12: Okay, so let's say you got your badge how you want it. I shifted the text a little further down, my book is centered. I want to play with some filters but at the moment, my background, book, and text are all on different layers. If I were to try and add a filter now, it would only add it to the layer currently selected. Because I won't be coming back to this image, I'm going to flatten all my layers so it's just one layer. I go to Edit > Flatten Layer. *** Let's say you want your background to be transparent and you didn't add any color or border to your image. To keep the transparency, instead of clicking on Flatten Image, you click on Merge Visible just above it instead. If not, your transparent background will become a solid color, usually white.

flatten image

Step 13: Soon as that's done, my image is now one flat image. Now I can play with Filters! If you click on Filter at the top there, you'll see all kinds of fun options. Each one will bring up it's own dialogue box where you can make adjustments. I chose Vignette, picked another one of my color codes and played with the size, giving my image a little glow around the edges. If you don't like the filter you just applied, click Edit > Undo, or Cntrl + Z (PC). Make sure to save your file. Go to File >Save> Choose either PNG (If you have a transparent background) or JPG format and that's it. You're all ready to go!

play with filters

Well, I hope this little tutorial was helpful. Pixlr is an awesome image editor. When creating graphics for your site, be aware of the edges around your images. Too many white pixels around a pasted image will make it stand out as a pasted image and looks unprofessional. There are plenty of ways around it. By lowering opacity on drop shadows you get a softer, more natural looking shadow.

If anyone has any questions on creating graphics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to help, maybe even do another tutorial. If anyone wants to know how I did something specific on any of my sites, feel free to ask that as well. Happy imaging!


Monday Media: MTV Memories

MondayMediaCCochet180It's funny how when you're little, all you want to do is grow up, and when you're grown up, you think about when you were little. I wouldn't want to live in the past, but I do enjoy looking back on fond memories. As an author who writes historical, it's a given that I find history fascinating, and that includes looking back at the eras I grew up in.

I was born in 1978, so I didn't get to experience the 70s outside of the photos of my parents dressed in bell-bottom pants, huge sunglasses, colorful neck scarves, and psychedelic shirts.  I do remember the 1980s very well. They were my childhood. What I remember most were the cartoons, the movies, the toys, the fashion, and of course the music.

MTV launched in 1981 with The Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star, still one of my favorite songs of the 80s, though technically, the song was their 1979 debut single.

In 1983 MTV debuted Thriller--all 14 minutes of it, and how awesome had it been?

Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, The Who, The Police, David Bowie, Huey Lewis and the News, Madonna, Billy Idol, Mick Jagger to name but a few whose videos aired during the early years of MTV. I remember being glued to the screen waiting for my favorite videos to play, excited when a video came on that I hadn't seen before. A-ha's Take On Me was another favorite. We've all seen the animated version, so here's the original from 1984.

And of course, what would be the 80s without Cyndi Lauper? I adored her music. I remember jumping and dancing around the living room whenever this came on, and then of course I had my cassette. Let's be honest, I still jump and dance around the room to this.

I LOVED the Eurythmics. Still do. At the time, I didn't understand the video (the cows especially) or what the song was about, I just knew I loved the sound. No list of 80s videos can be complete without Peter Gabriel. *sigh*

When I think about MTV, I think of it as it had been when I grew up. When it was all about amazing music videos. As much as I love Teen Wolf, I don't think MTV can ever recapture those amazing years. We weren't called the MTV generation for nothing, and it saddens me to see all the music videos replaced with drivel like 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore. I think t he Dire Straights had it right! "I want my MTV!"

What were some of your favorite music videos of the 1980s or 90s?

Monday Media: Techno Trauma Part 3 - Bitly

MondayMediaCCochetWelcome to another installment of Techno Trauma. Today I'm chatting about bitly. Now, I've only recently started to use this in earnest, and I have to say I'm loving it. Before, like many folks, I used Tiny URL to shorten my links, but then I stumbled across bitly.

At first, I used it as one offs, when I needed a link quickly shortened, not really paying attention to what they offered. Then I started reading a little more about it from several other authors and sources, I decided to give it a go. It's fantastic.

Bit.ly_LogoI've discovered it to be a great asset. When you sign up for bitly, you can connect accounts. I connected my Facebook and Twitter account. Why would you do this? Because when you go to shorten a URL, it will have a share button, and when you click 'Share', a list with your connected accounts will appear. Here's a screenshot. (Click for full view)

bitly1

Cross-posting: As you can see, it allows you to select which account(s) you'd like to post to, and also allows for you to write your tweet or post. Then all you have to do is click 'Post & Tweet' and it will do so for you. Aside this, you have the option of making the link private or public. Your shortened links remain as part of 'Your Stuff', so folks using bitly can also find them. You'll be able to see stats, you can archive your links, or bundle them up. If you have anyone in your networks with a bitly account, they'll be able to see your bitly links and you'll be able to see theirs. Links can also be saved to your stuff, or folks can save your links to theirs.

Stats: Another great thing about having a bitly account is the fact that it keeps stats of your links. You can see stats for individual links or all your links combined. It has breakdowns of how many times your links were clicked by month, week, day, or hour. You can see how many times that link has been clicked, whether clicked from Facebook or Twitter, what countries by percentage, and uses easy to read bar graphs and pie charts.

The whole site is user friendly. I started using bitly in May, so in a few months, I'll follow up with another post to let you know how it's going, but so far, it's fantastic. Also, if you use Chrome, I recommend getting the bitly extension which will put the little blow-fish up in your browser bar. What you do then--once you're signed in, you go to whichever page you want to short link--even your own post, and then click on the fish, and a box will pop up with your shortened link, as well as your option to share (just as above). They have a blog and a great knowledge base.

Before I was just clicking willy-nilly, using it as more of a quick convenience, until I realized everything it had to offer. If you use short links a lot, especially for apps like Twitter, this is a great little site. High recommended.

x Charlie


Monday Media: Music Video Fun

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Hello all! Welcome to this week's Media Monday. Today I thought I'd share some music videos from artists I enjoy. I love music almost as much as I love movies, and listen to pretty much anything that catches my ear. I listen to everything from 20s Jazz to Lady Gaga, and everything in between. (Please note if you're reading this on Goodreads, the videos won't show up. Thanks)

Many times, I use music to write to, sometimes to set a mood. It certainly inspires me. Sometimes I just sit listening to something, and scenes start forming in my head, dialogue begins to flow, or that brick wall I'd hit starts to crumble.  Sometimes it just relaxes me. When I have my headphones in, there's nothing but me and the music, I'm in my own little world and all is right.

I also love being introduced to new artists. When I was younger, I worked for Virgin Megastores and HMV, so I was always surrounded by music and movies. It was a lot easier at the time to keep up with new artists, especially since so many of the folks I worked with were either musicians themselves or part of the going to gigs scene, plus there were always bands being promoted who came to play at the stores. Now I mostly rely on the internet, radio, or friends, but I try to keep up.

This first artist, the lovely Hayley B. James introduced me to recently. She liked this video and thought I would too. I absolutely love it. I'd seen the artist's name here and there, saw a picture on someone's tumblr somewhere, but didn't think to investigate. As you can imagine, I'm all over videos that have a 40s or 50s vibe to them. This one happens to be an awesome video and equally awesome song.

Kimbra: Good Intent Kimbra: Cameo Lover. I love the fella at the desk(s). The colors!

The lovely C. Zampa sent me a link to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I enjoy swing music, lots. I'd listened to fellas like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Brian Setzer Orchestra (and of course there's no one like Benny Goodman and Glen Miller), but I hadn't heard much from these fellas. Their videos are a bit tough to find, but I found this one. I love the sound of his voice, and the beat is just infectious.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Mr. Pinstripe Suit

Paloma Faith: Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful. I love her voice and her style. She's just awesomesauce.

Paloma Faith: Picking Up The Pieces

Scissor Sisters: Any Which Way. Lots of fun and plenty naughty. Also, Jake Shears is fit. That is all.

Fun: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe

Mumford & Sons: The Cave. Love his voice, love the sound.

x Charlie x

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