Monthly Archives: April 2014

Novelist

Novelist

And then some…

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April 30, 2014 · 8:58 pm

Finishing My Book

Finishing My Book

This pertains to READING a book or WRITING a book.

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April 30, 2014 · 8:57 pm

The Lives in Books

The Lives in Books

You can live more than one life reading just one book.

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April 29, 2014 · 9:02 pm

Beware of the Writer

Beware of the Writer

Yeah, I could use about a dozen of these. Initially posted at http://hadeer.booklikes.com/post/865316/post

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April 28, 2014 · 9:28 pm

Ouch!

Ouch!

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April 28, 2014 · 9:14 pm

Good Books

Good Books

Hopefully, quite a few.

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April 28, 2014 · 9:13 pm

Novel in Progress: Nero’s Fiddle

The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are issued the challenge to get to Washington, DC within 25-30 days to stop a disastrous incident. They must walk almost the entire 600 miles. 

Thus far, the novel stands at 60,000 words. The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are close to halfway to their destination. One of the characters has disappeared. His disappearance is on purpose: to allow the story to focus on Captain Beverly Mossberg (former military), her two kids and the tagalong stranger, Sedona and the relationship between the four, particularly the relationship between Bev and her kids. 

I recently encountered a dilemma in the writing. I wanted a particular reaction from the lead character, Bev. However, the reaction I wanted would leave her children thinking her a coward. 

The scenario: Bev encounters no fewer than a dozen men molesting a young woman. All men are carrying guns. Bev has her own gun and is an expert markswoman but the odds are not in her favor. As with most women (including myself), her initial gut reaction is to charge into the fray, gun blazing. Doing that however would risk the lives of her children as well as risk making them orphans. There’s no help in sight: Sedona is akin to Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West and there’s no way to call for help. 

Initially, I wanted Bev to reluctantly walk away, feeling it was the only way to protect her children. The more I considered that option the more I realized how unsatisfying it was. It would create a great deal of conflict between Bev and her kids, especially her twelve year old daughter, which would make for great drama, but it didn’t present Bev as the kick-ass solider I knew her to be. 

I asked a few women their opinion of the situation and what they would do. Most of them found it as problematic as I did. Their initial gut reaction was to start a gunfight but, with kids in tow, they’d be afraid to. All of them were opposed to the idea of walking away but none of them would put their children’s lives at risk by attacking the men first. All of them felt, as I did, there had to be a viable solution. 

I did what I always do when faced with such an enigmatic dilemma: I sat on it for a few days and asked my muse to work on it for me. 

My muse came through. Yes, Bev initially is going to walk away. But one of the men stumbles upon her and the others when he walks into the woods to relieve himself. When the man threatens her daughter, Cap’n Mossy is forced to react. Her actions not only enable the girl to get away, she also takes care of the threatening men. In addition, the solution presented to me by my muse allowed me to satisfy my desire to have Bev blow something up. (Make no mistake, Bev wanted to blow something up, too). 

And that’s all I’m going to reveal about that. 

It pays to ask the muse for help: to stand down from the writing even if for only a short period of time. It’s that subconscious thing at work again: that part of the brain that works non-stop on whatever dilemmas we’re facing and sometimes offers us solutions to difficult situations. 

I just need to train it to work that way in real life.

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Tomorrow may be…

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.

Neil Gaiman

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April 27, 2014 · 11:06 am

Create a Book Trailer for Under $50

Book Trailers are a valuable marketing and promotional tool, especially for self-published and independent writers. Creating your own book trailer doesn’t have to be expensive. 

I recently got burned when I hired someone to create a book trailer for me. I ordered and paid for the trailer in February, 2014. As of April, 2014 I have not received the book trailer and repeated contact with the woman goes unacknowledged. Even though she has a lot of Internet presence, I doubt I will ever hear from her or receive a book trailer and I’m out the money I sent her. 

That said, I decided to create my own. Why didn’t you just do that to begin with? you may ask. Quite honestly, I wasn’t confident in my ability to make one and to make it look professional. I am the world’s biggest techno-clod and did not believe in my own capabilities. That, and try finding an image of a gold sword that can be used and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Once I decided to create my own book trailer I was delighted to learn a great many things, including the fact that I am perfectly capable of producing something aesthetically appealing as well as a video which presents my book in a professional light. Allow me to take you step by step through the process I used to create my book trailer. 

CONTENT 

Make a list of about a half-dozen to a dozen highlights from your book. Use a few words to get big ideas across. This will help strengthen your writing as well as force you to seriously contemplate the most important aspects of your book. 

I created a total of ten highlights of my novel for my trailer. Here are three very important aspects of the Sword of Tilk Book One: Worlds Apart: 

Barbara Neely wakes up one morning in a different world

She must wield the golden Sword of Tilk to defeat Balfourant, enemy of the Realm

When Balfourant kidnaps her daughter, Barbara must conquer her own demons to save her 

I broke down the aspects even further and added a few more relevant highlights to tell the reader a little more about what Barbara experiences. 

IMAGES 

While you are making that list of your book’s highlights, consider images you would like to use to enhance those highlights. 

If you are artistic you can create the images yourself with artwork or photography. If you’re like me, you may need to scour the Internet in search of images that are copyright free, royalty free and not too costly. 

Two websites offer royalty/copyright free images for unlimited use: www.morguefile.com and www.pixabay.com. Both sites have a large selection of images; however, their selection can sometimes be limited in scope. 

Wikicommons (www.commons.wikimedia.org) is also a source for free images as long as you stick with images in public domain. That way you don’t have to worry about licensing, sharing and the like.

Three top websites with images for use are Dreamstime (www.dreamstime.com), IStock (www.istockphoto.com) and Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com). These images are at a price. All three sites have two different ways to pay: 1) Purchase credits or 2) Subscription. Each photo on the sites is worth a certain number of credits. By purchasing the credits you then get an image and the credits it is worth is deducted from your purchased credits. Purchase a subscription and you are allowed to download a certain number of images within a specific time period. 

I suggest going with Dreamstime which is where I was finally able to find an image of a gold sword. The cost is $39 for 5 images within a one-week time period and this is the best deal if you only need a few images. I was able to find five images which I felt were appropriate for my trailer. 

PUTTING IT TOGETHER 

If you have Windows on your computer (who doesn’t?) then you have Windows Live Movie Maker. It’s actually a fun little program to play with. 

Image

Begin by uploading just a few images and text. Each time you need to add a new frame, click on Title in the tool bar. To add images, click on Add videos and photo. Once you have added the photo, click on Caption to add text. 

Now you get to have some fun. 

For the images, click on Animations. This will give you a selection of “special effects” for your image. Dissolves, transitions, patterns and reveals are just a few of the effects you can add to each of your images. Also under Animations you’ll find Pan and Zoom to further enhance your images. Both can be combined to really make your image pop. Be aware, however, that not all Animation choices will be available for the very first frame of your movie. I believe the program assumes the first frame is the title frame and effects for that particular frame are limited. 

Text can also be manipulated by clicking on Text Tools. You can scroll it, zoom it, swing it or fly it. Try different combinations to see which text effect works best with the animations on your images. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You might be surprised at what you come up with.

SOUNDTRACK 

A book trailer is nothing without the proper musical accompaniment. Again, if you are capable of creating your own music or have a friend who can do that for you, by all means create away. One more aspect of your creativity you can display is always a good thing. 

There are quite a few free music websites out there but the trouble is the selection is limited. I have yet to find truly “free” music which would serve as good accompaniment to my trailers. I used Melody Loops (www.melodyloops.com). Most of the music they have available only costs $10 which isn’t much if you think about it. They have a huge variety of music which you can use as you wish and you can give it a listen before you buy. The site also allows you to “loop” the musical selection so it will match the length of your video. Or you can choose “Fit to music” in your Windows Live Movie Maker (under the Project tab) so the video matches the length of the music. When you download the music, be sure to save it in a place where it is easily accessible. 

Here is the really tricky part: sometimes the music doesn’t work well with the video. It’s a good idea to download Freemake Audio Converter (www.freemake.com/free_audio_converter/‎ – it’s FREE) and convert those music files to mp3 or wav. Try each one because the wav worked best for mine. Even if the original file is already in mp3 use the converter and convert it to mp3. This works out any glitches in the download and the music flows more smoothly. Using the original file without converting it through Freemake sometimes causes the track to “break” in places it isn’t supposed to break. 

Click Add Music on the Home tab and select the music file. Click Fit to Music if the soundtrack runs short or long. This will increase or decrease the amount of time each frame slides by so the music and images coincide. 

REVIEW YOUR VIDEO 

Watch your completed video. Several times. Watch your pans, zooms, and transitions closely to make sure they flow smoothly. Read your text and then read it again to catch any errors and to be certain it is coherent. Watch both the images and the text until you are confident they work well together and present your book in its best light. 

THE MATH 

Let’s do the math: $39 for images (which works out to a little less than $8 per image), $10 for music. That’s a total of $49 to create my own book trailer. That is about one-fourth of what I paid to have one created and a fraction of the cost of most trailer production sites I have visited. 

If you use your own images and music, it pretty much won’t cost you a thing. That’s even better than $49! 

A FEW EXTRA TIDBITS 

Now that your book trailer is complete you’ll want to upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, Goodreads and any other sites which will allow you to upload it. Before you do, you must save it in the proper format. 

To do this, click on the icon in the upper left corner of the Movie Maker screen. Choose “Save Movie” and “Recommended for this Project” at the very top of the choice list. Save it in a location where it is easily accessible. You are now ready to upload your video. Be forewarned: it takes forever for the video to upload. So once you click the “upload” button on the site you’re uploading to you can pretty much start a load of laundry, clean your bathroom, brush your teeth and get dinner started before it is completed. You could probably color your hair and wash the dog while you’re at it. 

Also, when you add a frame in Movie Maker by clicking on Title in the tool bar, don’t be surprised if the frame appears prior to a frame you’ve just created. For some reason, that’s how it works. You may also encounter some extra blank frames tossed in. Delete the frames you don’t need and move the frames around in the order you want them to appear. 

Keep the trailer short and sweet. Ninety minutes is probably the max you’ll want to do for a book trailer. If you’re doing a trailer with a more poignant or specific message, two minutes, tops. 

If a techno-clod like me can create my own book trailer, anyone can. Save yourself time, money and lots of aggravation by giving it a try.

The videos I have created aren’t bad. My ideal would be to have them actually filmed but film costs are far and beyond my budget. Check out the links below to see each video: 

Sword of Tilk Book One: Worlds Apart

http://youtu.be/uxTa6cIrteI 

Journey of the Heart

http://youtu.be/1LZGqBpJRvY

 

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Four Building Blocks of Character

Piece by piece a character is created. Not all at once, but in little increments so the reader keeps reading. Image

You want your characters to make an impression. You want them to be memorable. Use the following four building blocks to construct characters who will be memorable. They will also give your characters dimension and help the reader to see the character as you see her or him. 

Physical Description 

I have read many books lately that give very little description – or no description at all – of what the characters look like. Is this a trend? 

You don’t have to go into minute detail about a character’s physique but at least cover the basics: height, weight, hair color, eye color, sex and ethnicity gives the reader an idea of the type of person they “see” as they read. This is the foundation upon which all other building blocks rest. You want it to be a strong foundation. 

Is your protagonist male or female? How tall is your character? Is he thin or a little overweight? Is she blond and blue-eyed? Does she have any scars or tattoos? Does he have a twitch or a tic? Let your reader know what the character looks like from your perspective so she or he can develop a perspective of her or his own. 

Personality 

Without personality, a character exists only on the page. You want your characters to live vividly in the minds of your readers. 

Is your character a good guy or a bad guy? Or somewhere in between? Is she or he brave? Compassionate? Evil? Greedy? Do they have any interesting habits? What are their shortcomings? Do they dress in a unique way? Do they have an unusual name? Establish personality early on and then build on them. Small bits and pieces keep the reader reading. 

Examples

In Dean Koontz’s The Face the character of Corky is a vivid and memorable character. He is an anarchist on a mission: to create chaos wherever he goes. He is introduced wearing a yellow rain slicker and putting racially-infested propaganda in strangers’ mailboxes. His ultimate goal is to kidnap a Hollywood movie star’s son, Frick (short for Aelfric). Frick is an intelligent boy who scoffs at his father’s lifestyle and deals with his loneliness with witticisms. He also suffers from asthma. One read and you will never forget either of these two characters, not only because of their names but also for their unique personalities. 

In the Sword of Tilk Trilogy, Book Two: Strange Land, Gregorio is a pirate who visits the Tilk Realm. But he’s a pirate with style. His manner of dress is of primary note: a mustard-yellow jacket, a lime green tunic and tan breeches. Flamboyant colors are his trademark. Make no mistake, he’s a ladies’ man, but it is obvious he likes to be noticed. He wants to be remembered wherever he goes and he is remembered: vividly. 

Mannerisms and Blemishes 

While a picture-perfect character with blindingly white teeth may be the ideal protagonist, a character with a “blemish” can be twice as interesting. A character with a stuttering problem, a limp, an eye tic or any number of other small but significant details can make a hero out of a small and seemingly insignificant character. Or it can elevate your main character above the level of hero. Equally, a blemish can heighten the vileness of an evil character. Don’t go overboard and give all of your characters blemishes. One or two on occasion will do just fine. 

For instance, in my current novel in progress, Nero’s Fiddle, the character of Colt is a survivalist. He’s a little on the gruff side, rarely smiles and has a constant eye tic as a result of PTSD. He also stands out because he makes his own beef jerky. 

Mannerisms can also significantly enhance your character. Something such as a flip of the hair, a wink of an eye, scratching behind the ear, tapping fingers on a table or other surface when nervous or agitated: these little mannerisms can endear your character to the reader. Likewise, a habit of tapping a foot when impatient, tossing trash out the car window or being a non-stop chain smoker paints a picture of a character you don’t want your readers to necessarily like but can still relate to. 

In Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series, Myron has a best friend, Windsor Horne Lockwood III also known as Win. He is as pompous as his name sounds. Even if Mr. Coben didn’t tell the reader Win is a rich philanthropist, the reader would know. The way he walks, talks, dresses, practices his golf swing in his office and steeples his fingers indicates he comes from money. Despite his attitude of superiority, Win is a likeable character. He is sort of Batman to Myron’s Robin: Myron constantly gets into trouble, Win uses his money and connections to rescue him. 

Challenge your characters 

Think of some of the more popular action-packed movies you’ve seen. Indiana Jones comes immediately to mind. It seemed that Indiana took his foot out of one pile of crap only to place into another. If you want to keep the reader engaged, your characters must be faced with odds which seem insurmountable. You must devise a way for the character to overcome each obstacle he or she faces. How a character handles a particular situation says a lot about that character. It also makes an impression on the reader. 

Building a character from the ground up requires diligence. You want the characters to be strong and make an impression, whether good or bad. Pay attention to your character as you visualize her or him. Then use the building blocks to construct your character and develop her or him into a three-dimensional person. Your readers will thank you.

 

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