Attention, Authors & Readers!

faulknerquote

If there’s a story in you that’s not coming out, then you need to register NOW for RRBC’s 2017 Writers’ Conference and Book Expo!

Whether you’re an author or an avid reader, don’t miss out on this exciting event sponsored by Rave Reviews Book Club. The general public is invited, so whether or not you’re a member, right now, before you forget, mark your calendar for October 22-28.

THIS EVENT WILL HELP YOU:
*Get inspired and get to writing
*Market your work to avid readers
*Strengthen your craft of writing
*Network with like-minded individuals

It doesn’t matter if you’re a stark beginner or seasoned professional, there’s something for you! Get inspired, learn new writing skills, how to manage your time or social media, create a press kit, or dozens of other juicy topics. Enjoy browsing the Author Booths for books written by RRBC members as well as the many services available through the Vendor Booths. I’ll be attending several conference sessions, presenting one of my own explaining how you can use astrology to bring your characters to life, and also have an Author Booth to showcase my Star Trails Tetralogy and my latest release, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51.”

If you want a booth to showcase your own book(s), you need to be a member. So, if that’s what’s in it for you, now’s the time to join. (If you do sign up, be sure to mention my name  since we get brownie points for recruiting new members!)  Club services are vast, everything from a radio show and online magazine to a means to support fellow members through social media, reading, and reviewing. You can join here.

General Conference Info

Registration Info

Registration Packages & Pricing

Registration Page

Check it out! I’ll see you there!

#RRBC #RWISA #RaveReviewsBookclub #writers #amwriting

6 More Tips for Serial Writers

faulknerquote

Most of the tips in my previous post for serial writers were picked up from reading and beta reading the works of others. Afterwards, I realized that I’d learned quite a few things that were also worth passing along from writing my own tetralogy. These comprise either things I did that helped the process or I wish I’d known as opposed to figuring out the hard way. So, without further ado, here are a few more tips for those of you working on a story that refuses to end.

1. Read any previous volume(s) to assure consistency. Some details such as the color of a minor character’s hair or eyes can easily be missed, yet picked up by an astute reader. Trying to explain that Edith’s eyes are blue in certain light and green in others is somewhat lame, so it’s best to avoid it by being accurate. If you keep a file on your characters that includes such details it will simplify things later. Quite frankly, I don’t, but believe me, I will next time because it can be time-consuming and a real pain to hunt down later. Of course, while you’re reading, you can note these things, too, which is part of the point.

The best part of rereading the stories that precede you current work is you can usually find some seemingly small details that you can tie in. This is especially true when you’re wrapping everything up at the end. Fans in particular love this sort of thing and it may even drive them to go back and reread the earlier stories as well. Some of them may actually function like an inside joke. If you know anything about fandom you know how dedicated fans thrive on such things.

Assuming you have print copies of your book(s), using sticky notes or page markers works best. If you want to get fancy, you can even color-code them for different types of information. I was amazed and delighted at how some of the seemingly simple details in previous episodes related to the grand finale.

Also note how your style may have changed as your story unfolded, especially if the first one was your debut novel. (See the section in my first “Tips for Serial Writers” blog entitled “First the Worst, Second the Same…” for more on that.)

2. Use flashbacks, albeit brief, to tie in past events from previous books. Important events that ripple over into subsequent volumes should be recapped to refresh the memory of those who read previous works but did so long enough in the past to need reminders. It also puts things in context for new readers who may be reading the episodes out of sequence. These don’t have to be long and drawn out, which will bore your fans, but enough to get them back on track. Prologues can sometimes be used in this way as well.

father3

Flashbacks add depth as well as context.

In some cases, if your serial is complete, readers may start with volume one and blow straight through, especially if it’s a box set, but there’s a good chance that other books may have intervened or perhaps time, dimming their memory. If it’s not yet complete, it’s even more important. If a reader feels lost, it pulls them out of the story and they’re likely to be frustrated, which is one of the last things you want to do. If they wind up scratching their head or digging through previous books to find the event in question, unless they’re madly in love with your story they may toss it aside and pick up something else. Once they stop reading there’s always the chance they won’t be back. Confuse ’em, you lose ’em. Not good.

3. Timing is Everything. Serials are usually sufficiently complex to involve numerous characters who grab the spotlight from time to time and thus the point of view (POV). Keeping the timing correct can be a challenge, especially if coincident scenes are not written in sequence and have to be integrated later. I tend to write a scene when the idea arrives so I have all sorts of things to pull together as I attempt to wrap up a single volume, much less the entire serial. If you maintain a detailed outline, it helps, since you can insert POV excursions accordingly.

Mapping out key events visually is helpful, using project management software the ideal, but often unfamiliar or unavailable. The last thing any author needs is a stiff learning curve on a software package when they’re writing a novel. Using Excel is the next best option, the timeline broken down to suitable increments, whether hours, days, months or years. These go across the top with each column representing a unit of time. Events are listed in the rows below with the proper time element highlighted. You can do this by hand if you prefer; graph paper makes it a little easier.

typewriter

My first two novels were written on a typewriter that looked a lot like this one.

This can be done out of sequence if that’s how you write, either by inserting a row if everything is in order or organized later based on event timing, which is shown where time marks overlap. Including a column that contains the chapter number right after the first one with the scene description can be used to sort them as well, which also reveals any that need to be adjusted.

I remember seeing a comment from an author one time regarding how difficult it was to keep track of plot action occurring in different time zones. I laughed. My tetralogy involved coordinating events on different planets, spacecraft affected by Einstein’s theory of special and general relativity, and even time travel itself as my story shifted amongst the various characters. Keeping everything in the proper sequence to maintain story continuity was definitely a challenge. Again, Confuse ’em, you lose ’em. Remember that. Not all readers have the patience to read on with literally millions of other books begging to join their TBR list.

4. Insights regarding how your characters have evolved. How a character changes in a story is important, a key element, in fact, to good fiction. In a serial this may be a gradual process, perhaps so much so that the reader doesn’t notice. It doesn’t hurt to remind them using internal dialog on the part of the character(s), as an observation by another character in thought or dialog, or even in the narrative. For example, something as simple as “Before arriving in New York, Patsy was afraid of crowds, but now she navigated 5th Avenue with confidence” does the job.

5. Include the fate of all characters, not just your protagonist. You never know who’ll be a reader’s favorite character. I was surprised how many of my readers favored Thryon, my telepathic walking plant. Thus, you need to make sure everyone’s exit, whenever or however it occurs, provides closure. Don’t simply leave them behind. Characters who ride off into the sunset can also provide fodder for spinoffs.

6. Expect to miss your characters, who by now have become old friends. You may want to consider leaving things open enough at the conclusion to allow for spin-offs. Fully developed characters are just begging for another appearance. You know them as well, maybe even better than your own children or best friend, so if they’ve earned fans along the way, consider using them again. On the other hand, if you’re bored with them, readers may be, too, so this is not something that’s required or should be forced. Back stories are often at least partially written and can be put together for a quick short story that you can use as a giveaway enticement in your marketing efforts. Back stories are also great for holding readers’ interest until the next episode is released if it’s taking you a while to get the next one together.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00005]

It was fun writing this back story to my tetralogy which kept fans engaged and also served as a hook for new ones.

I’ve found that my short stories evolve into novels and my novels apparently evolve into a serial. Go figure. I simply get bombarded by ideas too good to leave out, especially once my characters come to life and take over the story. Other writers can crank out a single novel or novella in a few weeks or less whereas mine, for various life-related reasons, took years.

Fortunately, readers have a variety of preferences as well, whether it’s a quick “beach read” or something they can get their teeth into. Note that back stories can provide fans with both! My next one will be a spin-off from one of my Star Trails characters, which will hopefully prevent it from likewise expanding. But only time will tell.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Bag It and Go With the Flow

faulknerquote

Now before you get all over me for being negative, pessimistic and various other uncomplimentary adjectives, let me explain. They say there’s nothing you can’t do if you put enough determination behind it. I know this is true or I wouldn’t have made it through college. I even had an escape plan for if I flunked out somewhere along the line, given the sordid reputation of courses like Analytical Mechanics or Electricity and Magnetism, the latter usually referred to formally as E&M and informally as S&M. I was inclined to go with the latter. Miraculously, I made it through, no one more surprised than myself.

For anyone who thinks I’m some sort of genius, let me set that straight as well. I was a very mediocre student in high school. I cringe when I think of what my grades were. I disliked school tremendously, hated it, actually, and was glad when I got out. I should add, however, that I am ADHD and with a maiden name of Unterreiner, I was typically seated in the back of the room. That explains a lot. Anyway, it was seventeen years before I went back to college. By that time, I might add, I had six kids, all at home. And what did I major in? Here’s a hint:

albert

Physics.

OMG, what was I thinking? But I made it through. Not with the 4.0 GPA I wanted but pretty close, i.e. 3.48 and membership in Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society.

I’m not saying this to brag, simply to illustrate that it can be done. In fact, one of my professors had declared in a general ed astronomy class I took before I was a full-time student that anyone could get a degree in physics if they wanted it badly enough. I seriously thought I would prove him wrong but his opinion prevailed.

So yes, wanting something badly enough usually will do the trick.

However, there is one thing that I’ve never been able to do and that’s write a short story. I took a creative writing class one time where we were supposed to be writing short stories. I got an A in the class but the professor told me later that nothing I wrote qualified in the technical sense as a short story because they lacked irony. Undaunted, I kept writing and soon discovered there was an even bigger problem. I couldn’t write a short story because it always turned into a novel.

I kid you not.

My unpublished novel, “Phaethon’s Ashes,” started as a short story and became a novel. “Beyond the Hidden Sky” was intended be a novel but it turned into a series.

Star_Trails_3d_version_12714

So now that I’ve completed the four books of The Star Trails Tetralogy I thought I’d write a short story or two, spinoffs from minor characters in the series, to give away. I had a couple ideas and the other day I decided to get one started.

Big mistake.

blackboard_writer2

Short story? Right. I’m already into chapter four and the end is nowhere in sight. But I’m having a blast, back in my creative element which is one of the greatest benefits of writing. Of course starting with a character who’s already developed makes this all the more likely to occur.

So why can’t I write a short story, you ask? One reason is I get into too many details. My characters come alive, take over, and pretty soon they’re driving the train and I’m just trying to keep up. I start with an idea and seldom know where it’s going to end up. For me, that constitutes the most fun, however, in many cases not knowing myself what’s going to happen next.

You would think that if I can’t write anything other than a novel then I should at least be able to crank one out in a few weeks or maybe months. Nope, that’s not me, either. I wish I could and I truly admire those who can, but for me that’s another no-can-do.

As a science fiction author I’m somewhat obsessive about the science being as accurate as possible. Anyone who knows me probably would leave out “somewhat.” That, of course, means research. I only have a Bachelor’s Degree so I’m not that savvy when it comes to the good stuff. Research takes time but it’s part of the fun.

150px-feynman3

I’ve dug through my personal library for relevant material including my hero, Richard Feynman’s “Lectures on Physics”, a couple old college textbooks including Tipler’s “Modern Physics” and Frankl’s “Electromagnetic Theory”, plus I’ve bookmarked a half-dozen related websites as well as articles on Wikipedia. So far I’ve purchased four books online and three DVDs from The Great Courses as background and research material. Of course by the time I get through all that there’ll be even more ideas to incorporate. And no telling how much more will come along in the meantime. Serendipity always directs me to a plethora of relevant references. Whether or not that’s a good thing is hard to say.

The length of this blog is a case in point. I could have simply said “I can’t write a short story because I get carried away and it becomes a novel” and been done with it. That would have been short enough to tweet along with a few hashtags. Did I?

No.

At this point my goal is to at least keep this blog under a thousand words.

raventype

So I give up. I can’t write a short story and have quit trying. From now on I’m going with the flow. Novel flow, that is. In the past I’ve cranked out a first draft in about six weeks but whether that will apply this time is hard to tell. Furthermore, filling in the gaps in the first cut is where I really get into my element. Stay tuned. Once I get it drafted I’ll be looking for beta readers so if you’re interested let me know.

Authors & Readers: Symbiotic or Parasitic Relationship?

writingprocessI think the majority of people agree that the most difficult challenge of mortality is dealing with relationships. Much has been written about romantic relationships, parent-child relationships and business relationships. Marketers certainly understand the supplier – consumer relationship. Other types of relationships, however, such as the implied partnership between authors and their readers, don’t quite fit these other models.

The first and most basic thing to remember is that no one likes much less gets along with everyone. As an astrologer I can explain why, but that isn’t the point I want to explore. Just remember that the basics of human interactions apply whenever you work with another person in any capacity. Everyone is programmed in a different way. Some are friendly and generous, others aggressive and selfish with these traits possible on either side of the author/reader equation. Some authors expect too much, some readers expect too much. Such is life. Don’t even get me going on the entitlement mentality prevalent at all economic levels in today’s society or this will turn into a book instead of a blog.

Getting back on point, consider that authors are of necessity also readers but readers are not always authors. Remember the quote not to judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins? Well, kick off your shoes and get ready as I attempt to take readers and authors alike down the others’ path.

Understanding is one of the reasons that authors band together, read each other’s stories and provide reviews as well as feedback or editing tips. While there is a hint of competition within any career field, there is also support and understanding. This is not to say all authors get along, either, only that there’s a fundamental understanding that exists amongst any group doing similar work.

Readers who have never crafted so much as a short story outside of that required in a language arts class may be familiar with an author’s fictitious world yet not understand what it takes to build one. Authors are artists who use words just like visual artists use color and texture, sculptors use tangible material, musicians use sounds, and chefs use food to name a few. Creative expression is an important part of life as can be seen in ancient civilizations no matter how ancient or primitive. So to begin to understand an author a person should examine their own means of creative expression which provides at least rudimentary common ground.

faulknerquoteCreativity comes out in different ways coupled with varying degrees of motivation and expectations on the part of the creator. Most will agree it’s something they are compelled to do, at least once you get past Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and enter the realm of self-actualization. After the expression itself things get trickier. If a person wants to share his or her craft with others s/he wants it validated with praise and appreciation because their work is an extension of their ego. The person may not be dependent on this reinforcement but it’s definitely nice. This is why writers keep writing in spite of a plethora of rejections and why the options for self-publishing have produced millions of wannabe authors. The same goes for musicians and any other type of artist.

blackboard_writer2

The next step beyond art for art’s sake is to receive compensation, even though it may originate as a labor of love. Some authors prostitute themselves writing for hire just to make a living. Writers are valued by those who can’t. It is often the trump card, especially for a job where literary expression is not required; as an engineer who could write I never had trouble finding a job. Writing for hire may pay the bills but it doesn’t feed your soul. That only comes when you get praise and, better yet, compensated in some way for something that came from within your heart.

How much blood, sweat and tears goes into any work of art varies. There are those who can crank out a story on a rainy afternoon versus those who labor over an epic novel for years or even decades. Neither case is necessarily a measure of talent or readability. In other words, some authors would make a killing if paid by the hour while others would be so poorly compensated it would defy measurement in any monetary currency.

The issue here diverts to the plea these days to raise the USA minimum wage. Many authors would give blood and pay money to make even the existing minimum wage. Yet authors are usually expected in today’s glutted market to sell their work for ninety-nine cents or even give it away for free.

The days when a book was on the shelf in a bookstore for six weeks, was remaindered and then considered “out of print” are essentially over. For writers that is both good news and bad news. Readers have at least nine million books from which to choose and writers can keep their book in the sales arena as long as they wish. To get a visual on the competition, however, think back to any time you attended a professional or college level sporting event or rock concert in a full-to-capacity stadium or auditorium. Now consider what it would take to draw attention to yourself in that crowd. Then multiply the crowd by at least one hundred. That, my friend, is what the average author is up against.

Clearly it’s a “Readers’ Market” which shows why the people making money in publishing these days are the promoters. For many Indie authors the work may be a labor of love but also an expensive hobby if one hopes to be discovered. I saw a comment on LinkedIn a while back where an author stated that for every 500 books downloaded for FREE, he was lucky to get one review. If he’d been paid even ninety-nine cents for each of those books he would have been happy. Note, however, that even if that were the case he probably would have only received about thirty cents for each one from Amazon. So distributors, likewise, often make far more than authors; booksellers are not into it from the goodness of their hearts.

At this point any authors out there are probably vigorously nodding in agreement and not too happy about being reminded of their place in the literary food-chain which segues over to readers and hopefully reviewers, the importance of which I’ll try to explain. From a reader’s point of view, mention of providing a review may trigger unpleasant flashes of deja-vu back to high school English class where those mandatory book reports on dry and hopelessly boring stories had as much appeal as a root canal. Some readers pay attention to reviews before buying a book while others couldn’t care less. However, they’re important to authors for more reasons than to attract more readers.

It comes back to competition. Some promotional websites won’t even feature a book until it has a minimum number of favorable reviews, even for paid listings. Furthermore, Amazon ranks each book based on reviews as well as sales which in turn contribute to its ranking. Its ranking, in turn, determines whether it comes up on page one or two hundred via search engines. This is also a reason authors offer their book for free because even books that are given away on Amazon count toward its rankings. If it gets ranked highly enough, people will find it and hopefully eventually buy it when it’s no longer free.

pageheart

So now we’re back to the relationship issue and why authors need readers and vice versa. It also helps explain reactions based on the personality of each and why some readers may be annoyed when asked for a review while authors may expect at least a review in return (especially if they provided their book for free and even more so if it was a print copy which cost them for the book itself and possibly postage as opposed to transmitting an ebook via email or download link).

In the hopes that at least a few authors and readers have slogged through this much-longer-than-intended blog, consider whether your attitude is symbiotic or parasitic. Readers, do you respect and support, either financially or otherwise, the authors who put part of themselves into the work you enjoy? Or do you expect to enjoy their creative efforts while giving nothing in return? Authors, do you expect your readers to have the same ease of expression in writing as you do and jump at the chance to leave their opinion as a review? Or are you grateful to have readers at all given the many choices they have at their fingertips?

Here are a few points to remember for those on both sides of these important partnerships.

Author Admonitions

  1. Readers may react to the thought of writing a review with all the fondness of a 10th grade book report.
  2. Readers do so for pleasure and don’t want to be pushed to do something they see as unpleasant.
  3. Readers are not always writers and often find written expression difficult.
  4. Readers have literally millions of books to choose from so it’s best to treat them like the treasures they are.

Reader Admonitions

  1. Any creative work represents a part of its creator’s heart and soul.
  2. Is it fair to expect authors to work for free?
  3. Reviews can comprise a few heart-felt sentences as if talking to a friend and don’t have to be lengthy or Pulitzer Prize material.
  4. Cutting and pasting your review to more than one site (e.g., Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads) takes a few minutes of your time but will be greatly appreciated and make an author’s day, which is good karma.

Face it, authors and readers need each other but authors have a distinct and even quantifiable disadvantage. Readers, please show your love and appreciation for the authors whose books occupy your shelves or e-reader of choice by leaving a short review. Authors, recognize not everyone finds putting their thoughts into words enjoyable and love your readers regardless.

And finally, it’s my sincerest hope that no authors or readers suffered too many blisters while treading along this long and convoluted path of mutual understanding.

Tips for Indie Writers: How to Create Your Own Book Trailer with Power Point

booksinboxBook trailers have become a popular means to draw attention to your book. The main advantage they have over other types of promotional material is their ability to include sound, specifically music. As I’m sure you’re aware, music can set a mood quicker than anything else and reaching a person at the emotional level helps prepare them to receive and accept your message. You can hire a professional to create a trailer for you or you can put one together yourself. If you have Microsoft Office then you should have Power Point which is the only software you need to create a simple but effective video trailer. Besides that you only need three things:

  1. Background picture
  2. Music
  3. Catchy phrase, quote or other hook

Yes, it really is that simple to get started. Don’t worry, I’m going to take you through the process, step by step.

Background Picture

This should be something that relates to your book. It shouldn’t be too busy, though, because that might distract from your written message. I would in most cases avoid people unless the focus is on that character alone. For your first one, keep it simple. If you try to get too fancy on your first try you’ll probably get frustrated and perhaps give up.

Using the background from your book cover is one option or even a generic photograph that relates to it in some way. For example, if your book is set in a specific city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Paris or some other easily recognizable skyline that will work. If it’s set in the country, a nice country landscape; near a beach, a nice oceanscape, etc. This is your first step toward creating a mood that fits the setting of your story. It should be a bit muted, however, so there is adequate contrast between it and your writing. Don’t worry if it’s not, however, because Power Point can help tone it down.

Music

For me this is the fun part. You’re probably thinking this would be a difficult, lengthy, daunting and potentially expensive task. WRONG! There is a website out there that is so perfect for this you’ll probably be as amazed as I was. Go to http://incompetech.com/music/ and click on the tab that says “Royalty Free Music.” Yes, it’s free! And it gets better. Click on the option “Full Search.“ What you find will blow your mind. On this page you can tell it exactly what you’re looking for by genre or even by “feel.” Make your choices, click “search” and it brings up a variety of choices which you can listen to there and download with a single click. If you like it, even if it doesn’t exactly fit the project you have in mind, save it for future use. I found so many I liked that it was actually difficult to choose which one to use.

If you love music like I do you may find yourself spending a whole lot of time on this page. Bear in mind the mood you want to set for your book and stick to that so you don’t get too overwhelmed. I would choose no more than a half dozen pieces to start with.

After you’ve downloaded your selections take the time to listen to them, start to finish. Take some notes on the timing of the song’s dynamics such as when it’s slow and quiet or loud and booming. More than likely the song is longer than your video is going to be so you’ll want to select the portion that drives your message home. Don’t worry about transitions, Power Point gives you options to fade in and out which I’ll get to later.

If you don’t feel like listening to it and taking notes that’s okay because there’s another option. When you get the song into Power Point you get a visual that gives you an idea what the music is doing. This little strip that looks like a graph gives you an idea where the quiet and loud places are so it can be used, too. And Power Point will also allow you to select a specific portion. You probably want to keep your video to around a minute long, not only due to people’s short attention spans but also to keep the file size under control.

Catchy Phrase, Quote or Other Hook

This could be the easiest or most difficult part. Some authors can spew out titles that have no story behind them while others can’t figure one out for their thousand page manuscript. As an author I have the most trouble with book blurbs. You know, those two or three paragraph descriptions you put out on Amazon describing your book. Some people are better at writing them than their novel, which may not meet the expectations set up in their blurb. Others are the opposite and can write a great book but a lousy blurb. Coming up with these zingers will thus be easier for some than others.

One place to start is the basic theme of your book. If you Tweet about your book many of those catch phrases are perfect! If you’re lost go to the Goodreads website which contains various little ads and trailers for ideas. If you’re an author then you’re creative by nature and these should provide enough fodder to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t worry if what you come up with sounds a little boring. When you combine it with the right music it will work!

Another thought to bear in mind is that, like poetry, you can leave words out for effect. Your message will be presented slowly with the help of all those other marvelous effects which allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. You don’t want it to be wordy. This is another case where less is more.

Putting it All Together

Okay, now you’re ready to roll and get to the fun part. I’m going to talk you through the process step by step so you don’t experience a learning curve akin to climbing Mount Everest.

1.  Open Power Point and select the first option, “Blank Presentation.”

2.  Go to the “Layout” drop arrow in the second box from the left and select “Blank.” I find it is easier to add a text box than mess with their standard layouts but you can use them if you like. Note that in that same little box with the “Layout” arrow is an option called “New Slide.” Remember that because that is how you add pages.

3.  Now click on the “Design” tab and go all the way to the right where it says “Format Background.” From the options that come up choose “Picture or Texture Fill.” You’ll see an option to choose a file. Go and find your background picture and add it. If it needs to be muted you can use the “Transparency” option on that same screen to tone it down. When you’re happy with it click the “Apply to All” button at the bottom, assuming you want the same background for the entire video. If not you will simply go through this same process to add the background to each slide.

4.  Click on the “Insert” tab in the menu bar and then the “Text Box” over toward the right. This is a click and drag feature to create a box where you will put, you guessed it, your text.

5.  Select your font next. Fonts are important and part of the “feel” of your video! Take some time to try out several until one simply grabs you. Avoid the fancy ones that distract from the message. This is another dimension of your message. If it’s bold and forceful, then choose an appropriate font. If it’s a soft and sweet message then use an appropriate font, perhaps one of the scripts. If it’s a horror or mystery story, see which one fits. Seriously, the font is important. It adds punch to your message. All of these elements combine to give the viewer more than information; you want it to be an experience! Choose the color just as carefully. Colors send messages as well with red forceful and aggressive, green a more relaxed impression, yellow demands attention and so forth. With a slightly dark background even white can be effective.

6.  Add your text. Don’t put too many words on each page. You want the words to sink in while the font and music further emphasize it. Make sure the font is big enough to read easily. In most cases the video is probably going to be viewed on Facebook or Goodreads which is not full screen so you need the letters to be big enough to still be readable when the video is shrunk down to a size not much bigger than a post-it note. There is probably some way to set a default font but I have not been able to find it. Thus, unless you can solve this mystery you’ll have to choose the font and size with each slide. If you figure this out I would love to hear back how to do it!

7.  A general guide for what to include is to say your piece, flash a picture of your book up there with the title, add another zinger, then conclude with where your book is available. If they remember your title they’ll be able to find it if you just mention Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace or wherever. Links won’t work in a trailer.

8.  Now it’s time for the fun part, adding your music! To do that go back to your first slide, bring up the “Insert” box, then find where it says “Audio” all the way over to the right. Choose “Audio from my PC” in the dropdown and select your music file.

9.  Go to the top menu bar and select “Play in Background.” If you don’t you won’t be able to hear it.

10.  Select the “Fade Duration” menu box and add some time for the music to fade in and out. Start with around 5 seconds; you can always adjust it later.

11.  Estimate around 4 or 5 seconds for each slide to start, multiply that times your number of slides and figure out about how long your music clip needs to be. It’s good to start slowly and then speed it up as you get a better feel for the process.

12.  Now hit the “Trim Audio” button and that graph I mentioned earlier that represents the song’s dynamics will appear. You can now select where you want the music to begin and end. This is where your notes can come in handy but you can also adjust it by simply listening to it. If you like particular section that you want to loop and repeat it will do that. In fact, if your clip isn’t long enough for the timing to setup then the music will loop back to the beginning. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of practice to end the slideshow exactly when the music ends.

13.  Select “Slide Show” and then “Rehearse Timing.” Your slideshow will come up on the screen and you advance the slides with a click of the mouse. Try to click with the meter of the music. The stronger beat it has, the easier this is to accomplish. When you get to the end it will tell you how long the slideshow lasted and ask if you want to save it. If you do you can play it back with the button on the far left that says “From Beginning.” This will give you a feel for where you are so far. If you know you didn’t like it you can just go back to “Rehearse Timing” and do it again. You can start out slow as you get the hang of it but don’t want it to be so slow in the final version that it allows the viewer’s mind to wander. Right around a minute usually works.

14.  To go back and adjust the music, find the “Audio Tools” box highlighted along the top of the screen toward the right. “Playback” brings back the screen where you can adjust your fade in and out time as well as the clip itself with the “Trim” option. You want to time the crescendos with the statements you want to emphasize. The words need to bear some resemblance to the rhythm of the music. If the timbre of the music fits the words as if they are lyrics all the better. Don’t be surprised if this takes a substantial amount of tweaking until you’re satisfied. You may want to start out with a slow piece until you get the hang of things.  If the “Audio Tools” box at the top ever disappears you can bring it back by going to the first slide and clicking on the speaker icon.

15.  If you don’t like the audio and want to try another clip you need to delete the first one by highlighting and deleting the speaker icon with the “delete” key. Bear in mind you can add multiple soundtracks on top of each other if you want but that is once you become an expert. My point is if you don’t delete this one then both of them will play and it will sound weird to say the least. When you add another track you need to select “Play in Background” again. If you don’t hear anything, you forgot. During this stage you may come up with some editing ideas for your text as well. Note that after a heavy soundtrack silence is powerful as well for your ending. I suggest playing it back with a few different soundtracks and note how it changes the impact. Music with a good mixture of quiet and loud passages works well when you time them to add emphasis to key parts of the presentation. For example, when you show your book cover a big crescendo gives it extra punch.

16.  By this point you should have a very basic slide show. Now you get to have even more fun by adding special effects such as fading in the words and various other fun things. You can add multiple ones but they can also get confusing and mess up your timing when you rehearse since each effect will require a click of the mouse. Go to the first slide, highlight the words, and click “Animations.” Ignore all those symbols that pop up and go instead to the little box toward the right that says “Add Animation.” A big box will come up that shows all those cute symbols but now you can choose how the words come in, present, and leave. Toward the right on the menu bar you can decide how long each one should last. The one coming in will show in green and the exit effect will show in red. While you’re in editing mode the effects you add will show on the slides numbered in the order they occur. If you click on those little boxes it takes you to the screen where you can adjust the timing or change the effect.

17.  After you’ve added the effects you want for each statement, go back to “Slideshow” and rehearse your timing again. Note that you must click the mouse for each effect! For example, you will click to fade in, fade out and advance to the next slide, then click to initiate the first effect, etc. Be sure to allow each effect to finish before clicking. You may need to adjust the timing accordingly.

18.  During the slideshow rehearsal phase note the timer in the upper left-hand corner of the screen which tells you how long that slide has been up as well as the total time. Once you are happy with the timing you can use the total time to fine tune your music clip.

19.  I hope you’re familiar enough with working on a computer to realize you should have been saving along the way. Once it’s finished to your satisfaction you will not only save the final slideshow but you will also do a “Save As” which will convert it to a video. You can save it in either mp4 or wmv format. I do both since some applications prefer one or the other. It will ask you about embedding the music when you save it as a video. Be sure to do this or your sound won’t be there.

20.  Posting to Facebook is as simple as posting the YouTube link. To include your masterpiece on your Goodreads author site you first need to post it to YouTube. After you’ve accomplished that, you will click the “share” button, then the “Embed” option (check the box for the old code) and use that on Goodreads. YouTube will also give you a URL link to your video which you can use wherever you like. For your website you can either link directly to the file you created so it can be viewed there or link to YouTube. Browsers differ in their ability to display them so it’s a good idea to do both. YouTube allows you to choose which slide to show as the thumbnail. If you’re good at html programming or have a professional webmaster they can probably spiff it up.

Here are links to some of the ones I’ve created. I’m still learning as well and look forward to checking out the various other effects Power Point offers. As I get more experienced I’ll probably redo these but these will give you the idea.  I find this creative outlet a lot of fun as a break from writing and another wonderful way to showcase your work to the world. Since most of the authors I know are on a budget it can also save you a few promotional bucks to use somewhere else.

(These links were updated March 2017)

Beyond the Hidden Sky: https://youtu.be/zt7qgTWZFW4

A Dark of Endless Days: https://youtu.be/2xcJrWrJ_nU

A Psilent Place Below: https://youtu.be/-t4NYVBe6FM

Refractions of Frozen Time: https://youtu.be/DMuT0JZu7Os

Entire Tetralogy: https://youtu.be/MsTrKf_66ak

(Coming Spring 2017) The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51: https://youtu.be/Ti4l88V7Y58

Will “Triad” take John Reinhard Dizon to the Best Seller List?

triadpromopix

  1. Rumor has it that your current work is an historical piece that addresses the pre-WW II era. It seems as if this time period is often eclipsed by WWII such that most of us are mostly unaware of the events leading up to it. Does your novel fill in some of the blanks?

What the novel does is try to help readers understand the mindset. Just as Millennials have great-grandparents who remember WWII, teens in the pre-WWII era had great-grandparents who saw the Civil War. Radio was like the Internet back then, it was a phenomenon. There’s an episode in the novel that reflects how people thought we were being invaded by aliens when The War of the Worlds was broadcast. People were extremely vulnerable to propaganda, which is how the dictators took over most of Eurasia. Governments played on that, and it is remarkable how easily people gave up their civil liberties in exchange for having their leaders tell them everything was all right.

  1. Historical fiction is typically populated by a mix of fictitious characters intermingled with historical figures. Are your characters purely fictitious or based on actual people?

It’s a mix, which is something I try to do as much as possible. I use the actual people to help readers understand the historical figures, while creating characters to help bring them into perspective. Chess Power is based on someone I know. He lived through the Pendergast Era, and I turned him into an FBI agent trying to earn a paycheck while serving his country. Alvin Karpis is my favorite gangster, and I thought I could do more to bring him to life in this novel than writing a biography about him. Some of the protagonists are entirely tongue-in-cheek, like Cat the Bounty Hunter. Alternately, J. Edgar Hoover and Heinrich Himmler are who they are, they create their own stereotype that no one can change.

  1. Historical fiction has a sub-genre, speculative history, which examines what could have happened had past events played out in a different way, for example, if Hitler had won WWII. Is there anything of that nature in Triad?

Not really. In my opinion, authors who do that are dead in the water. You’re asking for too much of a suspension of disbelief. What this novel is doing is asking, suppose we got from Point A to Point B by taking this route? All roads lead to Rome, but some take paths you wouldn’t imagine. In this novel, we have gangsters helping thwart assassins trying to murder some of our great leaders. In reality, Lucky Luciano made a deal with the Government to put Mafia associates at the waterfront in NYC on alert to catch Nazi saboteurs. After the war, the US Army recruited hundreds of Nazi war criminals to help win the Cold War. Many say the ends justify the means, and this novel calls that into question.

One thing I’d like to point out is that most publishers and agents loathe postmodernist literature. It breaks all of their traditional industry rules. It takes your head out of The Box and tosses it into the street. It took over eighteen months for me to find an indie publisher for The Bat, one of my first works which was also a postmodernist novel. It is unique among art forms in that it brings the reader out of the audience and sits him alongside the author. Anyone who’s read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut can relate. You realize you’re being jerked around, and you ask, what’s this guy doing? Where is he going with this? It’s actually a classical concept, the deus ex machina, but postmodernists like myself take it places you’ve never seen before.

  1. What particular event or situation inherent to that historical period, if any, inspired you to set a novel at that time?

Again, it was all about Karpis. I find it amazing that he is the least known of all the 1930s gangsters, though by far the most successful. He is probably the only man in history to have personally known Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and Charles Manson. He was a criminal genius, though surrounded by Ozark hillbillies whose IQs ranged in the eighties. This is what provides us the angle where his partners suspect his mind is controlled by either the Government or aliens. It also supports the storyline that technology is changing the world faster than people can absorb it, and Karpis becomes their lifeline in helping them cope. He is also the only one smart enough to figure out what the Nazis are up to.

  1. Writing an historical novel involves a significant amount of research. Do you have any particular method for gathering the information you need?

German society and culture has also been another area of expertise for me. I try to write about subjects I know a lot about. People have no idea how closely America is tied with Germany. If not for a few votes, our national language would have been German. People in Texas can tell you how many cities and towns have German names. It was an act of God that Roosevelt and Hitler dragged us into WWII. After the war, we helped rebuild Germany into the economic power it is today. Hitler envisioned a world ruled by the Third Reich and the USA. When the Germans declared war against us, it was an ultimate betrayal. I think the novel takes a lot of that into account.

  1. Do you generally travel or vacation at locations used as settings for your novels, use past experience, or simply research them from home? Has a particular location ever inspired a novel in and of itself?

Living in Kansas City really helped me channel the Gangster Era of the Thirties. I’m a short driving distance from Union Station where the Kansas City Massacre occurred. UMKC is a short distance from the neighborhoods where the Karpis-Barker Gang used to recruit their gang members. Alvin Karpis had a luxury apartment at the Plaza where I hang out all the time. It’s not much different from my life in South Brooklyn where I grew up. My parents knew lots of associates from the Colombo Mob, which is where I got the background for my crime novel, The Break. I clearly remember Crazy Joe Gallo, who took on Joseph Colombo in a war that changed the face of the New York Mafia. It’s safe to say that I’ve a lifetime of experiences that inspires lots of these novels.

  1. When you mention the “Five Families in NYC” do they include Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan or are they purely fictitious?

I love it! That’s the five Mafia families who controlled the underworld of the 20th century. There was the Gambino Family, the Genovese Family, the Colombo Family, the Bonanno Family and the Lucchese Family. In the timeframe of the novel, Albert “the Mad Hatter” Anastasia was the boss of his family after killing the Don, Vincent Mangano. Anastasia was then murdered by Carlo Gambino, whose son-in-law and heir Paul Castellano was knocked off by John Gotti. The FBI’s annihilation of the Gotti Mob heralded the demise of the New York Mafia. That makes your question perfectly logical. There’s almost nothing left of the Mafia in comparison to what it was in the last century. Top guys who get elected Godfather are thinking, “Oh, please, not me!” They usually wind up doing life in Federal penitentiaries.

  1. They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Is there something to be learned from this period of history that’s relevant to today?

It’s all about civil rights, and how governments manipulate them to ensure their power and authority. When you deny criminals their rights, it then becomes a question of how you define a criminal. The FBI shredded the Constitution to win the War or Crime in the Thirties. They next used their authority to eradicate enemies of the State, much like the Nazis and the Communists did. It wasn’t until the McCarthy Era did we realize we had gone too far. Islam caused us to repeat history with the Patriot Act after 9/11. There are always those who will feel that law enforcement keeps us safe, while others will feel that they will be taken next.

  1. The intermingling of the FBI, mafia, politics and “Big Money” typically result in considerable corruption. Do you think things of that nature have gotten better or worse since the pre-WWII era?

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Great Depression nearly destroyed the middle class, which is what spawned the Gangster Era of the Thirties. We’ve been seeing the steady erosion of the middle class since the end of the 20th century, and it’s resulted in the War on Drugs and our current Gangsta Culture. Desperate people turn to crime as a last resort, and when governments crack down and rich people refuse to share the wealth, history will repeat itself again and again.

  1. I sounds as if this novel has a plethora of subplots as well as something for everyone, e. history, intrigue, conspiracy, a touch or romance and perhaps a touch of the occult which broadens its appeal to just about every reader. Such broad appeal is often the stuff of New York Times Best Sellers. Do you think this might be the one?

Hitting the best-seller list is like hitting lightning in a bottle. The odds are phenomenal, but it happens. I personally think pigeons will be shitting on my statue in cities across America long after I’m dead. If there’s any justice in the world, maybe this’ll be The One. There’s also great unknowns like Elle Klass, Pamela Winn, Chris Birdy, Susanne Leist and Marcha Fox who also deserve their day in the sun. We’re all starving indie authors who are writing great novels and just waiting for our day to come.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500878642

The_Triad_Cover_for_Kindle

SYNOPSIS

The Triad is a postmodernist historical fiction novel centering on the pre-WWII United States of America and its difficulties in maintaining its neutrality in a world on the brink of war. Amidst rumors of a conspiracy by the Axis powers to diminish America’s capacity to engage in hostilities, the FBI is called into action. Special Agent Chess Power is empowered by Deputy Director Melvin Purvis to put together a plan to thwart the efforts of a mysterious team known as the Triad. Powers heads out to Alcatraz Island and enlists the aid of criminal genius Alvin Karpis in return for his parole. Karpis agrees on condition that his partners, Fred and Doc Barker, and Harry Campbell are included in the deal. Power agrees, and the game of cat-and-mouse soon begins.

                It is announced that Karpis and his gang escape during transport to a military base for medical observation, and the criminals are considered fugitives though the FBI dragnet is non-existent. Karpis returns to one of his main hideouts in Kansas City where he reestablishes contact with his Mafia connections. During that time he learns of activity by the Triad in the Missouri area and immediately begins working on leads provided by both the FBI and the Mafia. He discovers a plot to assassinate Vice President Harry Truman, and moves in to thwart the Triad near Truman’s home in Independence.

                Karpis’ FBI and Mafia informants next lead him to Philadelphia where the Triad agents have been sighted. During this time, one of Karpis’ gun molls, Carole Robbins, finds out where the gang is hiding out and rejoins her long-lost lover. She provides a romantic comedy angle to the action-packed story as the laser-focused Karpis is repeatedly distracted by her antics. She also becomes his weak spot as the Triad learns of her existence and seeks to use her against Karpis. Yet the lovely girl is not without her own devices, and she remains one step ahead of the Triad as they fail to abduct her time and again.                                                                  

                In Philadelphia, both the FBI and the Mob learn of the Triad’s plan to murder Army General Dwight Eisenhower as he and his wife are looking at property in the Gettysburg area of York County. Once again Karpis is able to use his criminal genius to determine the Triad’s course of action and uncover their sniper nest near the hallowed battlefield area. 

                In the climactic episode, Karpis learns of the Triad relocating to the New York City area in time for a Presidential speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt scheduled at Madison Square Garden. Unknown to Karpis, one of the Triad members is connected to the Sicilian Mafia, and they have made arrangements with the Five Families in NYC to coordinate the assassination. The Karpis-Barker Gang manage to save the day in stopping the Triad and bringing the killers to justice.

        The postmodernist techniques are evident with the use of non-linear narrative, metafictional technique, elliptical structure and classical irony. Of particular note are the dream sequences in which Karpis seems to be transported through time to modern-day Harlem where the gang’s bank robbery is pre-empted by a botched attempt by a street posse. Upon waking, he finds himself in the ‘dream house’ on the Plaza in Kansas City where he begins to suspect Freddie Barker of being a spectre. There is also a sequence where J. Edgar Hoover meets with Heinrich Himmler at an INTERPOL convention where they discuss objectives in destroying world Communism and eliminating crime in the USA and Germany. These are but a couple of scenes that may define this work as a postmodern classic.

                This is a rollicking action/adventure tale with plenty of thrills, chills and tension-breaking comedic episodes that make The Triad a barn-burner that readers will long remember.

l

John’s Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-Reinhard-Dizon/e/B00DU9JNUQ/

John’s Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/johnreinharddizonUSA

John’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnRDizon

John’s Blog: https://centerstagejrd.wordpress.com/

OTHER TITLES

Tiara: http://www.amazon.com/Tiara-10th-Anniversary-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00IPS7R64/

The Kingdom: http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00L2LLCY4/

Generations: http://www.amazon.com/Generations-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00K5DQYSY/

Generations II: http://www.amazon.com/Generations-II-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00JG56C2U/

Transplant: http://www.amazon.com/Transplant-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00JQRH1J6/

Destroyer: http://www.amazon.com/Destroyer-Abaddon-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00FDWB7KC/

Nightcrawler: http://www.amazon.com/Nightcrawler-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00I0K9QEI/

Nightcrawler 2: http://www.amazon.com/Nightcrawler-II-Tryzub-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00L8653CU/

Wolf Man: http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Man-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00H4HWDAC/

Vampir: http://www.amazon.com/Vampir-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00IPPI7FC/

King of the Hoboes: http://www.amazon.com/King-Hoboes-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00HXQ4YKQ/

The Break: http://www.amazon.com/Break-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00IPPI3ME/

Strange Tales: http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Tales-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00JAHX8OO/

Hezbollah: http://www.amazon.com/Hezbollah-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00IZMV4D2/

The Fury: http://www.amazon.com/Fury-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00FK3UTE4/

The Test: http://www.amazon.com/Test-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00IVB9EA2/

Stxeamtown: http://www.amazon.com/Stxeamtown-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00GSTZK5W/

The Standard I: http://www.amazon.com/The-Standard-John-Reinhard-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00E1TL5LO/

The Standard II (The Citadel): http://www.amazon.com/Standard-II-Citadel-John-Dizon-ebook/dp/B00KP2B40I/

Interview with Elle Klass, Author of the “Baby Girl” Series

messup

Elle Klass is the author of the popular “Baby Girl” series of short stories which chronicle the quest of Cleo, a girl abandoned at a young age, who’s in search of her true identity, literally and figuratively. Her adventures span the globe and take the reader along for a wild ride filled with increasing mystery and intrigue as the story progresses. Elle’s characters are believable and engaging with Cleo’s growing maturity and self-identity slowly emerging with each exciting episode. The third installment, “Baby Girl 3: City by the Bay” is being released for Kindle today, July 15, 2014, with its precursors also on sale so this is your chance to grab all three.

MF: Where did your idea for the Baby Girl series originate?

EK: I was on summer break from work and had an itch to write. The story formulated itself and the characters evolved as I wrote. I get all kinds of ideas in my head for absolutely no reason and write them down. I have tons of rough drafts awaiting revival so they can become full fledged novels.

MF: The Baby Girl series has grown in suspense and complexity with each episode and gathered considerable momentum through its many interesting twists and turns. Has the story evolved as you’ve written it or did you know from the beginning where it was going?

EK: When I first wrote it all I had was a very rough draft that I put on a shelf for several years. I dusted it off last fall and began reworking it. I decided to publish it in short stories form because it seemed more time efficient to break it down. Each segment has grown by 5,000 to 10,000 words from my original draft. Each short has taken on a life of its own as well as my characters. Reworking the draft I knew how the story ended. When I first began the story all I had mentally was a beginning and an end. It was how she got from point A to point B that surprised me.

MF: Besides Cleo/Justine/Shanna i.e., her various pseudonyms, who is your favorite character and why?

EK: Cleo, she is and always will be Cleo even though she hides out and disguises herself. I had the most fun with Cleo-Shanna. In book 3 she finally comes into her own on her own. She realizes she is an adult and her life is hers to direct. She does a lot of growing up and finally finds a place in her life that works for her. She wants the mystery of her birth resolved and plunges forward. In book 3 she also makes friends that she keeps. Until this book the only friend she ever kept was James. She has attachment issues but I guess most of us would if we had been abandoned at a young age and had someone stalking us .

MF: Will Baby Girl 3 complete the story with Cleo finally discovering who she really is or will it be an ongoing series?

EK: In Baby Girl 3 she doesn’t find all the answers. She does fit a lot of the pieces together. The rest of them come together in Baby Girl 4 when she discovers the secrets she’s been searching for. I don’t want to give away too much. The story is ongoing and this November I will be finishing Baby Girl 4 and the sequel to it. The sequel is about half done. What I can say is another mystery blasts her in the face and she has to rescue La Tige from a ghost of her past.

MF: As a teacher of junior high age youth and an author, what advice would you give parents who have a child with an interest or talent for writing?

EK: Let them write, read their work, encourage them. I have students who bring me their stories to read and ask about how to publish a book. I critique their work and have found some very talented youths that I hope pursue their creative writing talents. Junior high students aren’t as autonomous as they like to display. They seek encouragement and support from adults with their interests. I would also recommend checking out the public library. Sometimes they have workshops and writing groups that meet.

MF: What is your favorite part of the creative process?

EK: Free writing! That’s how all my stories start. I have a rough idea in my head that materializes. Once I start writing the words flow, creating more than I expect. Free writing allows the monsters, goblins and frightened little girls to rise to the surface. Equally as entertaining is taking the free write-rough draft and further developing the characters. I love each one even the lowdown- evil ones.

CONNECT WITH ELLE:

Amazon author page- http://www.amazon.com/Elle-Klass/e/B00F2Y48C0/
Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard
Blog- https://thetroubledoyster.blogspot.com
Website- https://elleklass.weebly.com
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/ElleKlass
Twitter handle- @elleklass
Tumblr- http://elleklass.tumblr.com

BOOK LINKS

Baby Girl 1: In the Beginning
http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Girl-Book-1-Beginning-ebook/dp/B00GYP1DXS/

Baby Girl 2: Moonlighting in Paris
http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Girl-Book-Moonlighting-Paris-ebook/dp/B00IX5SSZS/

Baby Girl 3: City by the Bay
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LT5VSQU