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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Video Trailers

The latest rage in the last couple of years has been video trailers for books. The jury is still out on their value as a marketing tool. I suppose that if they are well produced, it becomes part of a larger plan and they can be used to announce a launch or to build anticipation.

Do they add sales? Probably not because they are likely to be seen by people who were going to purchase the title. I mean that I don't believe a book trailer will convince a reader to purchase a book. I am not sure that there is any research on it one way or the other.

My problem generally is that book trailers don't exactly work in the same way movie trailers do. You can offer some images, but people should be let to make those connections on their own, use their imaginations and make of the story whatever works for them. (Instead of forcing an image in their heads.)

My friend Barbara sent me a book regarding Movie Maker, and I happened to have had the app on my laptop from a few years back. I made the video above mostly to amuse myself. 

To test it, I showed it to my mother, who read the story years ago, reluctantly because she lived it, but I did not tell hr what she was watching. A few seconds into it, she was hollering (it took years to laugh about it).

Whether this video serves a purpose other than amuse me remains to be seen, but if you have not read it, I suggest you give it a shot. Why? Because death, dysfunction and dim sum will take a whole new meaning for you after you do.

UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the Center for Publishing at NYU posted a piece about an industry discussion regarding video in publishing.

While the discussion was not exclusively about video trailers, it touched on videos to increase the draw to content and was a huge proponent of the educational factor to enhance the experience. Samantha Cohen, of Simon & Schuster, did make the point that video in fiction “just doesn’t work because it interferes with the reader’s own version of an imaginary world.”

The book publishers are excited about the possibilities of enhanced ebooks although no business model exists for it and there are several challenges involved in video production for books. At least they acknowledged that technological progress has arrived. Beyond the trailer, what awaits us is truly interactive reading experiences that are rich and dynamic. Sounds like fun!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oops, I did it again!

The beginning of the month you find yourself with a blank page, your fertile valley full of ideas and possibilities (characters, settings, plot twists), and the summit you need to reach is 50,000 words.

Of course, any reasonable person understands this is insanity.

Some of us ignore that little fact and move forward, convinced we can do it. It’s not impossible! And so we write like lunatics, we miss on precious beauty sleep, we eat like starving artists, we consume quintuple our average intake of caffeine, we live and breathe our novels.

I took an idea I loved but wasn’t quite working. I trashed plot points that were going nowhere, I rewrote scenes that I thought could be salvaged, I redressed some characters, I introduced characters I did not know were part of the story and some took over their own fates within it.

This is the beginning of a fantastic voyage! Of course, I hope that the final result is well worth a read, but the writing has been an excellent adventure.

In the meantime, I relish the accomplishment and encourage my fellow novelists to write, write, write until they reach their 50K. I await with pom-poms at the end of the line, cheering them on.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No ninjas, but a pirate queen!

The beauty of steampunk is that it is speculative fiction at its best. You can have action, adventure, humor and tweak history to your heart’s content.

There are still some rules, but the fun is not so much bypassing them but enhancing.

Working from a Victorian to Edwardian era gives you all these exciting moments in history to draw upon and incorporate into your plot, setting and characterization.

If you like doing research, this genre gives you the opportunity to look into a myriad of topics – each with its own breakthroughs and rock stars!

If you are clever enough, you can take earlier figures and tweak their own history or the course of their influence (their descendants or kin).

I’ve been choosing the historical figures that will make it into my story and, of course, Victoria makes a cameo of sorts. But it is the appearance of Gráinne Ni Mháille that truly excites me!

I have the steam technologies, the post modern buildings, the Victorian/Edwardian fashions, but I think it is the addition of a good pirate queen that makes this story truly screams steampunk!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is how I do it...

Writing the NaNoWriMo novel.

When I decided to do NaNoWriMo last year, most of my writing for the novel, “Justified” was pretty organic. I already had my premise, from weeks of sharing stories of bad bosses with co-workers (a venting exercise we engaged in during breaks and at lunchtime).

I had started writing it during the summer and then got stuck because the story was going nowhere. Once I decided to do NaNo, I decided to write it over but in a more organized way. Characters were clearly defined (especially the new hero of the piece).

Then I planned out scenes I wanted to write. It wasn’t until about halfway through November that I knew what the ending would be and it was dictated by the character himself. Everything flowed from this and it was a joy to write after that because it literally wrote itself, I felt more like a secretary to the muse, transcribing what the characters and the story called for.

The current selection for NaNoWriMo I started writing in May. It began with a genre. I just wanted to write a steampunk story. That in itself suggested a main character and a way to introduce the story.

Before summer’s end, I ran out of gas because that was all I had. A few weeks ago, I started to freestyle writing a dialog between the heroine and another character with no purpose other than have them interact.

The result was unexpected but it gave me details of the world I did not have and it helped me do character studies, if in dialog form.

Again this year, I started NaNoWriMo with an idea that I had been playing with for a while, but I threw out the original premise and started writing a new story. I started writing the story from a strange point but I figured, I could edit in December and modify and add the introduction later (in December while editing).

To my great surprise, today – instead of writing – I awoke and put together a full outline of the steampunk series. A total of nine volumes – complete with characters to introduce at each level, settings, plots, themes and a little gimmick.

Is this the right way to prepare and then write a novel? Who knows?! It is if it works. It worked with “Justified.” This is a far more ambitious project.

Inspiration is subjective and, like pornography to Justice Stewart, I know it when I see it. I’ve seen it and it is awesome!

It is exhausting but the rush is extraordinary.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week Two of NaNoWriMo . . .

. . . is in full swing and I am up 18,970 words plus 21 pages of long hand from today alone. My characters have left land and begun their seafaring chapter. Next they’ll have an adventure in a floating fortress.

Since I threw out my original concept and most of the ideas that I’d started with, I am writing the story as the characters are living it and I have no idea what the end game is. This is a deranged way to write a novel, but NaNoWriMo is an insane idea to begin with, why go easy on the challenge?

Besides, if the story starts to stall, I can always send my heroine to join a proto-Victorian circus. That ought to jack things into high gear!

One of my writing buddies sent me a note that her family thinks she is nuts. I assured her that she is indeed nuts.

NaNoWriMo is deranged, but when it is good (and words are flowing, even if it makes no sense and you've resorted to introducing a ninja) the creative high is priceless.

In the end, it's just a matter of honoring your commitment to yourself -- within reason, as real life sometimes intrudes, posing a challenge and meeting it, and just having fun.

It’s a seemingly impossible task. That alone makes it worth it for the competitive ones among us. But that is not the point. It is a Zen experience. It is about the journey. You will learn many things about yourself, but the best thing you can learn is to condition yourself to meet an uphill battle without fear.

If you haven’t started yet and would like to join us, I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blogging at La Bella Novella!

La Bella Novella, run by the lovely Ashley, is doing a Blog Party for NaNoWriMo. Please read my guest blog!

This evening, at zero hour, they’ll be featuring my guest blog on this crazy thing we do in November. Go check it out and please leave Ash a nice note for her efforts!

I have been on a magic carpet ride of writing. The notes I had been writing for weeks have given shape to two great characters for the steampunk novel. Many things have changed: settings, names, secondary characters, motivations, back stories

I had not touched the novel for weeks (months) because I was stuck. It simply didn't work. It was, in fact, irreparably broken. I threw all that out and whatever my freestyle writing inspired opened a whole new story that seems to be gathering momentum. 

I am excited about the project again. I am also in love with writing again. 

NaNoWriMo rocks.

This is a powerful creative drive and I intend to ride to my 50,000 word goal and beyond!

Put on another pot of coffee because it’s going to be a long, sleepless drive…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


It has begun...

If you haven't yet, join us in the madness. It's just a commitment to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I insanely believe I have enough notes on the world I wish to tell my story in and that an actual story will emerge once I get my characters interacting. This may not be the best way to start a novel, but it's NaNoWriMo: this ain't about safe!

This is madness!!!