Category Archives: Technology

i-Movie & Book Trailers

As I’m counting down to the launch of my next book, PIECES of LOVE, due out in a few weeks, I figured I would do something a little different this time. I finished and posted my book trailer before the book’s release. You would think this would be a no brainer, but I’ve published five novels and haven’t managed to do this until now. With good reason, I assure you. I can’t tell you how long it takes me and my husband to produce a decent trailer. Don’t get me wrong. He is an amazing source of technical support, but he’s a super busy guy and can’t always work to my time schedule. I also get frustrated in trying to share my creative vision with him in a way that translates to exactly what I want. Yes…I’m afraid I’m a bit picky. So this time, I took it upon myself to learn how to use i-Movie, and created my own book trailer.

I thought I would share the process with you today.
First off, I recommend finding the right music. There are several stock music sites that offer “free” music, but it can take hours of listening to samples to find just the right piece, and the selection of free titles is limited. It’s likely you’ll pay a nominal fee for what you want. Be sure to read the fine print because you may also only have the music rights for a specifically contracted period of time. The most important thing is to find music that is released under a Creative Commons license, and to give the artist credit when due. Here are a few sites where you can find music suitable for book trailers.

http://www.incompetech.com

http://www.audionautix.com

http://www.danosongs.com

http://www.ccmixter.org

Since I’d gone this route before and found the process daunting, and I wasn’t willing to pay someone big bucks to do  a trailer for me, I almost wasn’t going to have one this time around. As the fates would have it, my main character in PIECES of LOVE, Lexi, plays guitar, sings, and writes music. In my efforts to help readers connect to the character on a deeper level, I was inspired to write lyrics into the book. Of course, then it dawned on me that I should also try to put music to the words. Not that I’ve ever written a song or know how to write music, but what can I say…my muse was feeling adventurous. With a step in faith and a little effort on a lunch break, the tune came to me, and I recorded it into my phone (love those apps). Then I took it to my pal, lifelong musician, Ozone Pete, who plays guitar and “knew a guy” who could help with a professional recording. Six months later, we spent a day with Jim Fogarty of Zing studios in Westfield, MA. All in all, it took a total of about fifteen hours over two days and I had a theme song—now available for download on i-Tunes.

It was the perfect choice for the book trailer.
Once I had the music, I was ready to start on the hard part. Being techno-challenged and averse to learning the Mac’s operating system, I was prepared to defer the actual trailer production to my husband, but as I said, that wasn’t to be if I wanted it done sooner rather than later.  I bit the bullet, so to speak, and dove in.

I used parts of the book’s blurb and boiled the synopsis down to a paragraph, creating a “story board” with 8-10 slides to “tell” the story. I figured each slide would require about 6-10 seconds—long enough for viewers to read. Adding the transitions and front/back matter, I was able to keep the whole production at about two minutes.
Using stock photos from Big Stock Photos, each costing about $5-10, I chose photos that reflected the blow by blow description of the story. Uploading the music and photos to my husband’s Mac and importing it all into i-Movie was a challenge for me (being Mac deficient) but a snap for hubby, so I let him do that part. Once I had all the pieces there to work with, it was a matter of choosing an appropriate segment of the song to match the story board. Two minutes is a bit long for a trailer these days, but I had a certain timing in mind for the slides and the music selection to work together.
Caution: Timing each slide and transition accordingly is an OCD sufferer’s nightmare…or dream come true, LOL. I tweaked and cajoled this thing to death, but the final product was worth it, IMO.

Yes, countless hours went into the project, and there were studio costs, but in the end, for a few hundred dollars, I have a product I’m proud of and it’s exactly what I envisioned. I can use it to promote my book as well as the song on i-Tunes, and at the same time, offer an entertaining connection for my readers who might find it interesting to hear the author singing the theme song.
As much as I’m not a big Mac fan, I-Movie is a powerful program! Once I figured out how to use all the neat features, the possibilities seemed endless. There are several backgrounds, title fonts, and styles to choose from for each slide, special affects you can apply to pictures and transitions, and many variables you can and can’t control. For instance, I wanted to blur a couple of the photos but couldn’t do it in i-Movie, so I exported them to Power Point, manipulated the shots there, and then saved them to the i-Movie event I was working on. It was simply a matter of playing with the program and figuring out what worked. Of course, when I ran into trouble, hubby was there as tech support.
Once I had fine-tuned my baby and edited the crap out of it, I published it to You-tube and shared it on all my social media sites. It had over a hundred hits the first day! I’m glad so many people have enjoyed the production and I truly appreciate all the positive feedback.
If the DIY version seems too daunting, save your pennies, because a decent trailer can run you anywhere from $300-$1200. I’ve seen them for more and I’ve seen them for less, but you definitely get what you pay for in this case. I once paid $50 to a supposedly reputable person and was less than satisfied, so lesson learned for me. Until I can afford to pay the big bucks, I’ll continue to go the DIY route.

What do you think of book trailers? Are they an effective promotional tool? Seen any you love? 

Websites, tag lines, and titles, oh my!

PJ Sharon here today, and I’m asking for your help with some of my more immediately pressing concerns. First off, prioritizing my duties as an indie-published author and entrepreneur is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts to this job and I wear more hats than guests at a royal wedding.Royal-Wedding-Unusual-Hats-Kate-William-floral-hats While I await my second round of edits for WESTERN DESERT, I have time to work on my marketing strategy for the release next month. Priorities include scheduling a short blog tour, setting up an advertising budget for paid ads, a possible launch party of some sort, sending out press releases, and finishing my back cover copy and art. The list goes on, but sometimes, I just need to let my instincts take over and tell me what is most important for the day.

Of course, writing this blog is always on my Sunday to-do list—though it often falls over to Monday night at midnight—but today I was talking to my DH about a new website. Those of you who know me, know that I have talked about switching over to a WordPress site for my website and blog for at least the past year. Currently, I have a blog on Blogger and I have a website that I love, but it has some significant limitations. My Circle Pad site, which I pay the requisite $8.95 a month for hosting, has some quirks that make it not compatible with Apple products for one. Search engine optimization is lacking, and the interface, as user friendly as it is to work with, is antiquated and doesn’t stand up to today’s market equivalents. Even with all of that, I have resisted switching to WordPress because,

a.) I’m tech-phobic and,

b.) I can’t seem to make decisions about details such as colors, design, theme, or whether to go with .org or .com?

In a come-to-Jesus moment, I have decided to just suck it up and do it! No matter how overwhelmed I feel, the website change is a must-do. In forcing the issue, I have come to realize that part of what holds me back is that I still haven’t clearly identified my brand. I’ve gotten as far as to say, “I write romance fiction for teens and beyond,” but other than that I don’t really know what defines me as a writer these days.

This brings me to my second dilemma of the day:

Should I change my tag-line, and what should I change it to? My first three books, being contemporary YA romance with hopefully ever after endings fit fine with my “Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life” tag line. But now that I have added dystopian to my repertoire, “average” doesn’t seem suitable—not for genetically altered teens in a futuristic setting. There is still a romance, but the story clearly fits in the YA category of dystopian fiction rather than upper YA/NA stories. Romance readers are not necessarily sci-fi readers and vice versa, so I feel like maybe I need to change my image a bit to reach out to a broader audience. It occurs to me that maybe I’m having trouble pinpointing my target readership because I haven’t truly discovered my “hook”—that message in our style and voice that makes us unique and offers readers the promise of something different.

Once I understand what makes my stories extraordinary, and have narrowed down my tagline to who I am and what I write, then the web design should be easier. I also just finished taking an online web-design course to get me over my tech-fear, and DH has vowed to help me get set up on a WordPress site by the end of June when I launch Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT.

This takes us to my third issue of the day, month, year…a title for the third book in the trilogy. Here are the parameters:

1) Title must be in adjective/noun format (Waning Moon, Western Desert)

2) It would be nice to keep with the “W” alliteration, but I’m not attached to that.

3) The title should reflect that Lily and Will are embarking on the final stage of their journey across a post-apocalyptic US. This time they are leaving Las Vegas and heading east along the southern route, which will take them through the Southern Swamps. (I already thought of that as a title but I think that would only work if there were a fourth book since this one will culminate in the final battle with the Industry and will take place in Chicago and then Vegas again. I do wish I had made it a series and not a trilogy…another lesson learned.)

4) Basically, I want a title that sounds catchy alongside the other two, is different enough to not be competing with a dozen other books by the same title, and one that metaphorically shows the shift to a hopeful ending rather than a title that focuses on gloom and doom.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

CHANGING/SHIFTING/RISING TIDES (you get the drift)
SHIFTING/RISING WINDS
STORM SURGE
HEALING WINDS

Thanks in advance for any help, advice, or suggestions!

Let Your Geek Flag Fly

Hi, all. Suze here, wishing you a lovely day.

logo[1]This past weekend, Mr. Suze and I attended a two-day event in New Hampshire. Our son, the Crown Prince of Hardydom, is a member of his school’s FIRST Robotics team and this was his first competition. FIRST is an organization founded by Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway as well as numerous medical devices–and he’s also king of his own island nation, the Kingdom of North Dumpling). Teams from across the country work with local mentors on a predetermined challenge: build a robot to accomplish specific tasks. This year the robot needs to be able to shoot disks (frisbees) into a goal as well as climb a pyramid in order to score points. Click here to see the robots in action.

As I watched the competition from the stands, I couldn’t help noticing that there were a lot of, well, geeks in that arena. Proud geeks. Intelligent geeks. Geeks wearing capes and tights and labcoats and team tee shirts–working hard and having a heck of a lot of fun. And it got me thinking. We each have our own particular brand of geekness, don’t we?

Me, I’m a history nerd. If it happened a couple thousand years ago and we’re digging it up now, I’m hooked. Add an element of DNA or skeletal analysis and associated artifacts, and you can forget about dinner and clean clothes, because I’ll be parked in front of the computer or television screen sucking up factoids. I’m also fascinated by stuff like ancient languages and their relationship to modern tongues, and what they tell us about our ancestors’ migration/settlement patterns. I’m that girl who rubbernecks, nearly causing accidents, every time she drives past a house with one of those signs nailed to the front telling who built the place and in what year. If I miss it, sometimes I’ll turn around and go back and look. Later, I may Google the name and date to see if there’s any more information available. If I possibly can, I stop to read historical markers on the side of the road. I was captain of my school’s history bowl (trivia) team–2-time New York State champions!

MV5BMTMyMTQxMTQwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjE5ODg4._V1._SX78_SY140_[1]So I totally get what these robot-building kids are about. And I applaud them!

Say it loud. I’m a nerd and I’m proud.

What about you? Are you ready to let your geek flag fly here at the Scribes? I’d love to hear what geeky interest keeps you away from your chores–Cryptozoology? Comics/graphic novels? Computers and technology? Experimental horticulture? Eighteenth century poetry written by nuns? Free yourself and admit it here! Inquiring Scribes want to know.

Of Parking Lots and Kings

Hey, all. Suze here (no, that’s not me in the picture!). Glad you could drop by today.

Richard%20III%20Reconstruction[1]Have you heard the news? Richard III, one of Britain’s most notorious kings, has been dug up under a parking lot. (Click here to read more about it) Physical evidence includes hideous wounds to the skeleton consistent with death in battle, as well as a pronounced curvature of the spine consistent with accounts of Richard being a hunchback. (That rumor was likely spread by his enemies–according to the scientists he probably wasn’t hunched, just lopsided). There’s been a facial reconstruction! And there’s a DNA match with a living descendant of Ricky’s sister. A DNA match!

I live for this stuff. Kings buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves. Hoards of ancient gold and jeweled objects found just under the surface of a nondescript field by an ordinary guy with a metal detector. Reclusive heiresses who die, leaving safety deposit boxes that haven’t been opened in decades.
I must have an Inner Indy who needs to be constantly fed new and fascinating discoveries. It belongs in a museum? Not hardly. It belongs in my head, as fodder for future stories.
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There’s a wonderful book by Elizabeth Peters (one of my all-time favorite authors) called The Murders of Richard III. If you’re a mystery fan, you’ll love this one about a librarian, Jacqueline Kirby, who finds herself tangled up in a modern-day plot that has strange connections to the Richard III legend. I’d love to know what Ms. Peters thinks about the discovery of the king’s final resting place.
How about you? Any news stories that have fascinated you recently?

Cosmic Thing

Hey, peeps, Suze here. Don’t let the Crown Prince of Hardydom know that I used the word “peeps” in a public–or any–forum. It’s apparently hopelessly uncool. Meh, I like it.

So, another thing I like is music. I like basically everything, from classical, to bluegrass, to Tuvan throat singing, to Adele and Gotye.

In my continuing quest to free up energy in my life and home, I’ve been going through my collection of CDs and loading them into iTunes, with the intention of getting rid of 500 or so plastic jewel cases. I used to join, quit, and rejoin those record clubs, so I amassed a fairly large collection, mostly for the price of shipping and handling! But now, they’re just taking up space.

So here are some of my favorite artists, chosen at random from my CD collection (links included!):

51pUH7MjR2L._AA160_[1]The B-52′s. Yes, they have that grammatically incorrect apostrophe in their name, but I love them anyway. Campy, crazy, and eminently danceable, The B-52′s will always hold a place in my heart. Fave song? It’s gotta be all 7-plus minutes of Rock Lobster. Down, down, down

Harry Chapin. A distinctive voice, lyrics that tell a depressing story, and a small body of work due to his early, tragic death in a car accident, Harry is an artist that I don’t tire of listening to. Fave song? This one’s tough. Everybody knows the heart-wrenching Cat’s in the Cradle, but what about Taxi? I’d argue that song is even more depressing. He’s got another, less well-known song I also love: 30,000 Pounds of Bananas. The win goes to … Taxi. Harry, keep the change.

Johnny Cash. The man’s a legend for a reason. Fave song? I don’t know if I can choose just one. Certainly Folsom Prison Blues is near the top. I hear the train a’comin’. It’s rollin’ round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when. I’m stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps draggin’ on

Queen. This was a band I enjoyed in my misspent youth, but I don’t think I really appreciated them until later. Freddie Mercury was an incredibly talented singer. Factoid: According to a recent biography of Freddie, he had extra molars, which pushed his other teeth forward, giving him his signature bunny look. The big mustache helped camouflage it somewhat. He never got the extra teeth removed due to fears it would change his voice. I agree–why take the risk? Fave song? Somebody to Love (Bohemian Rhapsody is a close second).

Desi Arnaz. If you haven’t listened to Desi, you should! I visited the Lucy and Desi museum in Jamestown, New York last summer–definitely worth a trip. Factoid: pronounce his name “Dessy,” not “Dezzi.”) Lucy and Desi’s story is fascinating. So is the music. The Crown Prince and I used to dance to Babalu, drumming, dipping, doing lifts (well, I lifted him. Couldn’t do that anymore!). Once when we were doing just that, laughing and dancing in the kitchen, I didn’t notice that the stove was on fire! So the song Babalu will always be associated with, as my husband puts it, “the time you almost burned the house down.” I got a new stove, but I don’t recommend this method. So fave song? Babalu.

How about you? What are some of your favorite songs? Who are you listening to now? Know anyplace I can unload a lot of CDs?

“Liking” and “tagging”

PJ here again! It feels strange to be here on a Wednesday, but I’m filling in for our dear Thea Divine. Big shoes to fill, I must say. I’m doing double duty today, so don’t forget to stop on over at Kiss and Tell YA where I’m talking about “Luck” with the fabulous ladies there. To make it interesting for all of you, anyone who leaves a comment on both sites is entered to win a signed copy of my latest book SAVAGE CINDERELLA which is available a day or two ahead of schedule. To make it even more interesting and a big help to me, if you also go to the books Amazon page and “like” it and “tag” it, I’ll enter your name twice in the drawing.

What the heck is “liking” and “tagging” you ask? Well, let me tell you. No, it’s not some kind of cyber-hide-n-seek. If you go to Amazon and search for a book, the page will come up with a “Buy” button that instantly drops that book onto your Kindle, right? I have to say, the first time I saw one of my books with its own Amazon page, I was tickled pink. I had arrived! Yet I wondered how anyone would find my books with the gazillion other new releases out there and only a hundred spots on that “Kindle Top 100” list, which you have to sell about 300 books a day to achieve. It turns out that there are something called algorithms that generate not only the top 100 in the paid Kindle store, but many other best seller lists based on the categories the book is found in. For instance, SAVAGE CINDERELLA can be found in JUVENILE FICTION>ROMANCE/LOVE>FAMILY DRAMA. It can also be found in FICTION>ROMANCE>SUSPENSE. I set these categories up when I published my book so that anyone looking for these types of books would be led to mine. But these are still pretty broad headings. So that’s where “tagging” comes in.

If you scroll down the book’s page, you’ll come to a list of tags with little numbers in parentheses beside them. It tells you how many times someone thought that those particular tags suited the description of the book. For instance, you’ll find tags like, YA romantic suspense, YA thriller, kidnapped, survivalism, sexual abuse, family relationships, friendships, etc.  Anyone looking for a Young adult romantic suspense about a kidnapped victim will likely stumble upon my book. Of course if there are several books of this nature available, mine could end up at the bottom of the list of ten or twenty and still never be seen. Here’s where the “tags” and “likes” come in. The more “likes” and “tags” a book has, the higher up on the lists those algorithms place the book on the shelf.

This is such a simple way that authors can support one another, and readers can show their love. Reviews are another way. I know it takes a few extra minutes out of your already crazy busy day, but the benefits are huge to an author. The more reviews a book gets, the more likely readers are to find it. Those reviews not only tell the world it’s a great book, but the number of reviews gets factored into those algorithms and drives the book onto higher visibility pages. If you happen to love a particular book or its author and you want the world to know it, go to Amazon and give the book a review. “Like” it and “tag” it to show your support.

I've arrived!SAVAGE CINDERELLA is now available on Kindle only, until June 13th.  Hardcopies are also available. I’ll be talking about the KDP Select program and explaining the pros and cons of this new Indie-pubbers opportunity on Jennifer Fusco’s MOD blog this Saturday. See you there!

Let me know you’ve “liked” and “tagged” the book and I’ll add another entry for you into the drawing for a signed copy of the SAVAGE CINDERELLA!

Sulu? No Mr. Spock…Hulu!

Hi everybody!  J here.  I just discovered a cool website that lots of people have known about for a long time.  Call me J-on-the-spot.  Last Saturday, I blogged about my new favorite TV show: Once Upon a Time.  Click here to read it if you missed it. 

Well, after writing the post, I wanted to go back and watch the beginning again, but I couldn’t get the video to play on ABC.com.  My sister-in-law turned me on to Hulu!  It’s only been around since 2007…I know, I’ve got my finger right there on the pulse of the net, huh?  But, since I didn’t know about it, I thought some of you faithful fan might not either.

Hulu offers streaming video of TV shows and things sponsored by advertising, just like TV, but you can watch whenever is convenient for you.  Revolutionary!  So check out Hulu.com and you can watch the pilot, and all the episodes, of Once Upon a Time.  You’ll be all caught up by Sunday.  Unless, you are watching something else this Sunday…can’t think of what it might be…

Today’s secret: I found a new-to-me website out there.

Today’s question: What new sites/apps have you found lately that have been helpful?  If you missed Suz’s post about Evernote you can check that out, too.