How Not to Babysit a Snake, plus an only slightly-related Merlin pic

When I was about 15 or 16 years old, I had a friend who worked in the mall near the apartment complex in which I lived. I can’t remember if she worked at the pet store or the record store, but I do remember that one day, she bought a ball python while she was at the mall working.

Since she still had some hours left in her workday, she asked me to babysit the snake for her. Hang out with a 4-foot ball python? Heck, yeah! So I took the snake home back to my apartment.

I had no knowledge of how to handle snakes. I had no snake accessories, no fish tank in which to keep it, no cage, just a snake.

It was a sweet thing, very well behaved, but I was a teenager with a short attention span and who really wants to actively monitor a snake for hours on end, anyway?

I put the snake in the bathtub. I believe that my thinking was, even if it escapes the tub, where is it going to go? The bathroom door was closed. The room was small, no windows.

Yeah, snake is in the tub. I left it unattended to…I have no idea. I might have been watching Gilligan’s Island. I went through this weird phase in which I watched Gilligan’s Island reruns every day.

I did eventually go back to check on the snake. I was just in time to see its tail ready to disappear into a hole in the bottom of the cabinet under the sink. Apparently, at snakes-eye view, there was an escape route. I don’t spend much time lying on the bathroom floor, so I had no idea it was there.

I tried to grab the tail, and it slipped out of my hand.

I don’t remember if I called the maintenance man or I called my mom and she called the maintenance man, but he did arrive. He had to bust open the floor of the cabinet to get the snake out. I got the snake back, unharmed, and my friend picked up her snake later. I have not been asked to snakesit since.

Now, to make this a fully 100% reptile-themed post, please enjoy this fantastic picture of Merlin on a car ride. Photo credit: the girl.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Couple of Updates, No Stuffed Bee Butts

My son and I were talking about the lootcrate we received today. We weren’t big fans of it, so he started suggesting other subscription boxes. One was foreign foods. He informed me that it was just snack food and there was nothing weird like “stuffed bee butts”.

Stuffed. Bee. Butts. That kid cracks me up. He turned 14 a few days ago, and he’s thisclose to being taller than I am.

I’ve been very bad at blogging lately. I wish I could say it was because I’ve been working diligently 100% of the time, but alas, that is not the case. Work is done on a daily basis, yes, but the pace always feels leisurely to me. I read about other authors’ writing habits, and I feel like a giant slacker.

But today, I did finish a thing. It will be a while before that thing is out. I can’t even tell you where it will land in the editing schedule because I have 2 kids’ books in front of it. I will tell you a couple of things. It takes place in a valley in the Appalachian Mountains. Strange events occur. The book is very short, only about 40,000 words, so it’s more of a novella, I guess.

I plan to offer it free 30 days before the release to the hapless victims who sign up for my email list. Form is below.

Subscribe to my mailing list to receive book release updates and possibly other written shenanigans.

I hear all the cool kids are doing this email thing.

What else is going on? Ah yes. The audiobook. I decided to rerecord the entire thing because I’m a looney bird who can’t let things go in a timely manner. I’ve got the recording part about 2/3 of the way done. I’ve been using my makeshift sound studio, which gets rather warm.

Okay, I need to go edit something. And now, because every blog post needs a picture, please enjoy the fortune from my fortune cookie.
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Bleu Moon

Furbaby pictures. Let’s see, what is his most recent antic? Oh yes. I made the mistake of leaving some semi-pricey chocolate peanut butter ball things from Fresh Thyme on the kitchen counter overnight. There were 2 left in the bag when I went to bed. When I got up, one was on the floor with tooth marks in it. The other one was nowhere to be found. I still don’t know where it is.

I am pleased to report that when my daughter’s aquarium frog got out, he didn’t murder or maim it. I actually found the frog because of him. It was sitting on my sandal and Bleu was looming over it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was there. The frog is not really supposed to be out of the water, so I’m not quite sure how he made it so far away from his tank. Now, every time I walk through the house at night, I’m afraid I’m going to step on the frog.

Anyway, here are some pictures of buttface.

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insert witty blog post title here

My brain is wrecked today. I recently started a new job and I forgot how exhausting it can be to learn new things all day. I love learning, but dang, son, not all day long!

Anyway, a couple of updates. The Iyrico (short ghost story) ebook version is up on Amazon. It’s free if you’re on Kindle Unlimited, 99 cents if you aren’t. It has been slightly edited because it needed a slight edit. It also has new, slightly creepier cover art because it needed slightly creepier cover art.

Here is what the cover looks like now.

Iyrico cover

 

Link to the story on Amazon.

Unfortunately, I am still doing battle with the audiobook. I have to tweak a few files and upload them to ACX again because I didn’t quite get everything right the first time. My bad, not theirs. Then I have to send it back through their review process again, which will likely take another 3-4 business days.

While this has been a giant pain in my rear, I am pleased that this is a thing I am capable of doing. I like being able to do stuff, even if it’s tedious stuff that I’m not all that good at.

 

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.