Working, Whistling, Cough-Shouting

I’m still alive, I promise. I’ve been getting a lot of work done. Work on my books, work on books by other people. It’s like a work extravaganza! I do have a brief rundown of stuff that should be out and available before the end of this year.

Desmond Winters and the Ghosts of Arbolettis – release date – approximately November, possibly December, possibly near the end of December.

Beneath Oceans of Sky – another middle-grade book – by the end of October or sooner.

Iyrico audiobook – hopefully by the end of September so I can get in on the people looking for ghost stories in October.

Destined for Darkness audiobook – Around the first part of November. I’m not actually doing this one. I have a very talented narrator on ACX working on it.

I’m cutting audio on Iyrico this evening which is one of my FAVORITE tasks (NOT). I found this lovely soundbite in which I was trying to clear my throat and what came out was this strange combination of shout and cough that sounded like a demon briefly invaded my vocal chords. I’ll save your ears, but here’s a picture of the sound levels. Normal speaking voice on the left, demon cough-shout on the right.

sound

 

The whistling part of the post title was actually a lie. I can’t whistle…like, at all.

 

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In Which I Tried Not To Pick The Obvious Thing

I believe that our culture conditions us to have certain expectations when it comes to stories. Movies, books, spoken word, it doesn’t matter. That’s why people get in an uproar when, say, a YA author kills off the main character in the last book of a trilogy (keeping them nameless to avoid spoilers). People weren’t expecting the author to do that. They were expecting the story to end the way they wanted it to, the way so many other books have.

Sometimes when I write, I reach a certain point in a story, and I feel like what I’m about to write, the next part, is too obvious. It’s almost like autopilot writing propelled by my cultural conditioning. So, when I hit that point, I stop.

I take a step back and wonder what else could happen. I actually brainstorm a little bit, and I jot down several possibilities.

Like this:

Let’s say we’re writing a horror. I love love love horror, but a lot of horrors (movies, books, whatever) sometimes have a tendency to follow a formula.

Let’s say, Jimmy is about to open a door. The audience is all like, “No, Jimmy! Don’t open that door!” Why? Because something bad is going to happen to Jimmy. Duh. It’s happened in a thousand stories before this.

So, we have Jimmy standing in front of the door. Since this is an especially cliché situation, we’re going to use 15 possibilities.

Rapid fire. I don’t think; I just write. And I start with the obvious ones so I get them out of the way. 

  1. Ghost grabs Jimmy and pulls him into the room.
  2. Nothing is there. Empty room.
  3. See something terrifying but doesn’t affect him, like he witnesses a murder that happened a long time ago.
  4. Sees a mirror image of the room behind him, as well as a reflection of himself.
  5. Brick wall like in cartoons.  🙂 
  6. Portal to another dimension.
  7. Ghost inviting him to dinner.
  8. Jimmy doesn’t open the door and walks away. Creepy thing reaches for him.
  9. Door opens to outside of the building. Long way down. More cartoons!
  10. Swirling fog monster.
  11. Opens to his bedroom in his childhood home (or so it would appear)
  12. Dead friend is there, trying to lure him inside.
  13. Soul eating machine.
  14. Opens to a hospital room where he sees himself in a coma and something tries to convince him the haunted house is a dream.
  15. Doesn’t open the door at all, but when he turns, he’s surrounded by a ring of duplicate doors, so he has no choice but to open one.

Okay, some of these are still kind of cliché, but you get the idea.

And now, because I don’t know how to conclude this post in an eloquent manner and because every blog post needs a picture, here are some terrifying bunnies I saw in an antique store.

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Mish Mosh Applsosh

I’ve been listening to the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. I’m actually on book 2.

It’s a lot like The Hunger Games, and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. Both stories are YA dystopian fiction. It’s the ruling class versus the lower class. Main character is a spunky female who isn’t satisfied with her situation. Both heroines are thrust into the midst of the ruling class. Both trilogies contain arenas and rebellion. There’s a Peeta-like character and a Gale-like character, a Prim-like character. The list goes on.

It really does.

I don’t have an issue with this. I actually like the books so far, but the similarity reminded me of a podcast I listened to recently. The author on the podcast advised other authors to find books and themes that are popular and mimic those if you want to sell books.

I wonder if that’s what the Red Queen author did, if she took the main plot points and mushed them and tossed in a few extra ingredients.

Is this really what writing has come down to?

I hope not. I have a binder of notes for books and none of those ideas were exactly lifted from popular books, not consciously, at least. I mean, given how many books there are, it’s impossible to come up with an idea that no one before you has ever come up with, but there’s a difference between that and using someone else’s work as a road map.

The idea feels icky to me. Of course, that Aveyard lady is making mountains of cash, so she must be doing something right.

red queen

 

Audio Schmaudio

I am such a wimp when it comes to audio recording. My makeshift sound booth is HOT and I stand too long and my feet hurt. Both my mouth and my eyes do their best to dry up. Nevertheless, I finished rerecording Iyrico, so yay! This last round was the longest. It was about 45 minutes. The recorded file was only about 36 minutes. All that will probably boil down to about 20 minutes of edited audio, maybe slightly less.

In other audio news, I’m putting up the AnnaBeth trilogy on ACX to take auditions for an audiobook narrator. I do plan to work my way up to recording full-length audiobooks eventually, but I won’t record that particular trilogy myself.

The first couple of those books, especially the first one, came about really early in my writing career. I imagine putting myself through reading every word and then listening to/editing every word would be a bit like staring at my junior high school yearbook photo for hours on end. I’d see nothing but awkwardness and flaws.

So, if someone takes that business on, there will be AnnaBeth audiobooks!

The next book I plan to record myself is one that’s in final edit right now. It’s a kids’ book that’s about 30,000 words. The print version of the book should be finished very soon. I have no idea when the audio version will be out, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Now, please enjoy these pictures of Bleu in a fashionable tote bag.

 

 

 

 

 

Semi-forgotten Demon

Guess what I forgot to do. I forgot to release a thing! About 4 years ago, probably not quite 4 years, I wrote a short horror story called Iyrico.

I posted it on the blog.

I posted it on Wattpad.

I intended to post it on Amazon and other places, but apparently, I did not end up doing that.

If you read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you probably know that I’ve been working my way toward producing audiobooks. I’ve actually recorded some chapters for other books, but I decided to take on something shorter at first, in case ACX didn’t think my equipment/quality was up to snuff.

I thought for a long time about what that thing would be. Most of my short stories are pretty short, maybe too short for audio. Then I was like duh! Iyrico would be perfect. It’s about 22 full-size pages long, so long enough to be a somewhat decent length but not long enough that I would waste too much time getting it together if it didn’t work out.

I then noticed that the story was not listed on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Goodreads or anywhere! It’s kind of cool because I get to do a new release and not do all that much work for it. Forgetful past me sometimes gives really good presents. 🙂

It’s also cool because I get to revisit a story I really like!

If all goes as planned, that should be the first audiobook I release, the first one with my voice on it, anyway. At the average timing (according to ACX) of 150 words per minute, the recorded story should end up being about 75 minutes long.

I’ve given the story a bit of an edit/rewrite because my writing and editing has improved a bit in the last four years, thankfully. Quickie cover redesign, which is already done, and maybe another read-through to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. Then mass release next week. Record the audiobook and release that…maybe within the next 30 days as long as ACX likes it? That’s sounds pretty reasonable. 


Now, because blog posts are better with pictures,  please enjoy this unrelated and slightly blurry photo of a tortoise we rescued from the street.

Misc Updates

Hey, guys! I feel like I haven’t been on the blog much lately. My workload has been utter insanity, and while I like being busy, I’d be okay with it cooling off for a while. However, as soon as it did cool off, I’d probably get excited about some other project and dive right in…like the podcast I’ve been thinking about starting. Everything I’m working on simultaneously feels like too much and never enough. 

I’m still making the 45 minute to an hour drive into and working at the day job, proofreading, occasionally writing, trying to make the publishing thing fly, blogging (mostly over at NightLark), and working on publicity for the next release there, which isn’t my book. Not one I wrote, at least. The crazy thing is that I think I’m better at promoting someone else’s work than I am at promoting my own. The effort is more consistent, which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.


It’s good because better/more consistent promotion usually equates to better sales. It’s bad because I’m doing things for this book that I should’ve done for all of my own books, and I know that. While putting this thing together, I neglected my own work. And that’s my fault. I should’ve found a way to manage my time more effectively. I am getting better, though, I think…I hope.


I have found that habits are magic. Whether they’re good magic or bad magic depends on the habit.


As far as my book release schedule goes for this year, I should have 2 more kids’ books out by the end of the year as long as the editing is somewhat smooth sailing. Both of those rough drafts are done. Is it weird I don’t get overly excited about finishing rough drafts anymore? I mean, I am happy they’re finished, but it’s kind of just a big step 1.


The adult series I planned to start this year will probably have to wait until next year. I do have one adult novella that I need to finish writing. That may be out around…Novemberish?? Or it could come out in the first couple of months next year. We’ll see what goes down between now and then.


Audiobooks…I’m still working on that. I have an area set up for recording. It’s much better than the setup I had before. I just need to get my rear end in there and use it!


What I really need is an assistant to follow me around and nag me until I finish all the things and also to occasionally knock the PlayStation controller out of my hand.


That’s it for now. Another toy collection post is on the way. I’m thinking Disney Villainess dolls…

Now please enjoy this picture of Bleu with 2 of his favorite things: newspapers and a box.

Chicken Scratches and a Trailer

I’m not sure what compels me to make book trailers. They aren’t very effective as far as advertisements go, not mine, at least. Like who really says, “I think I might want to read a book. Perhaps, I should watch some book trailers to decide which one.”

No one.

No one does that.

And yet, I persist. I think part of me just wants to prove to myself that I can do it…again?

So I did put together a trailer for Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun. I really wanted an animated trailer; it is a book for kids, after all. Not crazy Disney-level animation but some variety of drawings moving on the screen.

I found some free animation software. The concept looked really great, but it was endlessly complicated and didn’t save my file properly one night after I’d worked on it for hours.

I also looked at using Flash. I actually have that software already. I can’t remember why it didn’t work out. It might have been due to my extremely rusty Flash skills. What I did end up using is PowerPoint. It does a few things with animation and worked okay.

But first, as with most of my projects, I started out with some chicken scratches. Step one was writing the words, and then I decided what images would go with those words.

Here’s a picture of what my semi-coherent notes look like.

trailer notes

Pretty, right? 🙂

I cranked up the contrast to try to make my chicken scratches stand out a little better. You might be able to bigify the picture if you click on it.

So we have 3 columns on the first 2 pages: script notes, animation notes, and timing of each component. I tried to allow adequate time for people to read the words on the screen.

Then I drew up the images in Fireworks, except for the sun at the beginning of the trailer. I did that one in Photoshop because I wanted to paint it.

Each moving part is a different drawing. There’s a beastie that’s a combination of a mole and a bat, and that drawing is a combination of 4 different image files if you count the fireball.

Animation in PowerPoint is pretty limited because it’s not really built for that sort of thing. There is an animation panel that you have to add to the interface through a setting. Here’s what the pane looked like for one of the slides.

animation pane

Once I had the animations finished, I picked some music. Then I hired a guy on Fiverr to do the voiceover. He was super nice.

Oh, I also edited the video in Windows Movie Maker. With PowerPoint, you can export slideshows as videos. I had to add the music and the voice separately, and I think I added them both in Windows Movie Maker.

The whole project probably took a couple of weeks of evening work time (maybe it was 3?) and I only spent $5 on the voice guy.

Here’s the finished product.