Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This isn't what I had in mind, Sleep Machine

Now and then when I'm just waking up from a dream, I'm thinking, "This is brilliant. I'll have to get up and write a novel about this." Then by the time I'm awake I've either forgotten the dream or I realize how completely ridiculous and/or a novel based on it would be. (Now if someone writes a bestseller after having the same dream about a society in which everyone drives an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, I'll feel really stupid).

I've been using the Sleep Machine app on my phone at night because I like the sound of rain while I'm sleeping, but just recently I noticed the other features it offers:

...and I can play one of those tracks along with the rainstorm.

So, in case I'm missing out on something really good, I thought I might as well try that "Lucid Dreaming" setting. No telling if it would work or not, but Stephenie Meyer dreamed up the plot for Twilight, so you never know, right? It could happen.

And it seems to have worked. I've been having really vivid dreams that I'm remembering long after I wake up. Here's a sampling of what I've dreamed about so far:

- Buying potholders. I only needed a couple, but sets of twelve were on sale! Like a really good sale! What ever should I do, people?

- I bought a container of olives at the store, but then I couldn't find them. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLIVES?

- Friends warned me that I'd get a terrible sunburn if I rode a donkey into the Grand Canyon while topless. They knew this from experience.

There you go. My next three novel plots. Move over, The Hunger Games.

Anyone else try an app like this to help you focus, be more creative, or remember your insipid dreams? Or, have you ever been lucky enough to have a dream that you turned into a book?

Can't wait to find out what I dream tonight. Maybe I'll find that jar of olives.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Trailer-Makin' Post

Last week the nice people at Project Mayhem posted the CHAINED trailer release, and I wanted to write a longer post today about how I made the trailer, for those who are interested, and there's also a version of the trailer here that's a bit longer. Like a director's cut.
Here's the trailer on YouTube if you haven't seen it yet, or if you want to see those adorable frolicking elephants again:

I love book trailers and knew all along I'd want one for CHAINED, but since the book is about an elephant keeper in India, a live-action trailer wasn't really feasible. You can hire someone to do your trailer for you, but after finding out what that costs I slinked back to stock photo sites. (And I don't mean that the professionals are overcharging; it just was out of my price range).

So here's how I made my book trailer, and how you can make your own. It was a bit time-consuming but not as difficult as I thought it'd be, and certainly cost-effective.

Images and video gathering:
Even before I knew what I was doing or what the trailer would look like, I saved some photos and videos on sites like istockphoto, Bigstock, and Dreamstime. There are many stock photo sites, where you pay a small fee for the rights to use the image or video, so if you don't find what you want on one, search on another. A Google search for "stock photos" plus your topic will bring up a lot of options. If you're not ready to buy images yet but want to save them for later, you can save them into a personal "lightbox" on the site so they'll be there when you go back. Many sites allow you to download a comp so you can try it out before deciding you want to purchase the image for real. (Or just take a screenshot of the photo you want to use; it'll have the website's logo on it, but it's a good way to try it out to see if it works with your trailer). You'll notice different sizes of photos when you're ready to purchase; select 400x600 pixels or larger so it'll look clear on the screen.

You can also find photos on Flickr and Google Images, but to make sure they're okay to use, select "Advanced Search," then "Creative Commons" on Flickr, and "Free to use or share" on Google.

Video clips cost more than still photos, of course, but they add a nice touch to a trailer and make them more movie-ish, so it was worth it for me. The clips of the elephants playing and of the elephant trying to pull away from its chain seemed perfect for my trailer, so I bought those and used a few seconds of each one.

Photo editing
I left most of the photos as-is, but for the very first image, I needed the child to pass for a girl, and the clothes looked too boyish.

If you have Photoshop skills you can modify an image after buying it, but if you have no such skills, ask a smarter friend to help, or send out a plea on Twitter and hope someone answers. In my case it was Jeff Sampson to the rescue, strategically throwing a blanket over the boy clothes:

There, that's better

The music
Much like searching for images and video clips, you can browse through stock music sites and click on samples of royalty-free music. I found mine on Shockwave Sound, but there are many other similar sites, and it's worth the time to look around till you find the right song. Before purchasing, download a trial clip to make sure you the music is a good fit for your trailer.

The script
Here's the part I had the most trouble with. I could picture in my head how I wanted the trailer to look, but what in the world do I say? The elephants are so adorable, maybe I could get by with just stringing together some clips of baby elephants playing in the water, but I figured I should probably make it follow the book a little more and then add some text. To get some help, I signed up for this great online course about making book trailers. Working from our book blurbs, we came up with 20-25 phrases to use as a script.

In writing your own script, mention something about your book's setting, including the time period if it's historical fiction. Trailers are short, so make sure every phrase is strong enough to let viewers know who your characters are, what they want, and what's standing in their way. The last frame should have the information about your book and direct people to your website or blog.

Once I had the script written, I looked through the photos I'd saved and found a good image or video clip to go with each one. It helped to write down on paper a frame-by-frame plan for how the text and images would come together.

Putting it all together
After I had the music, the pictures and video clips, and wrote the script, I was ready to make the trailer. You'll need some kind of software for this part, but there are a few options that are free or inexpensive. I used iMovie, which comes on Mac computers and is similar to Windows MovieMaker. After opening the new project, I just dragged the saved photos and videos into the window, then added a text box to each frame to type in the text from the script. Lastly, I dragged the music file to the window. After previewing the trailer, I decided I wanted the music to start a few seconds into the song instead of at the beginning, so I used iMovie's Clip Trimmer to adjust.

Another option is to create your trailer as a PowerPoint presentation, then download Powerpoint to video conversion software to turn it into a trailer. An online user-friendly program for creating videos is One True Media; sign up for free to try it out, then upgrade to a premium membership for about $40 if you like it.

The final product, sort of
Since most of us have the attention span of a crackhouse gnat, it's best if book trailers are about one minute long or less. So the new challenge was making the trailer short enough while leaving the text up long enough to be read. After many tweaks and previews, getting some feedback and tweaking a little more, here's how the trailer looked:

The painful cutting and the final product for real
So I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Before releasing it, I wanted to show my agent and editor, so I sent it to them for feedback. Joanna and Kathleen from Nancy Coffey killed the crying elephant helped me find places to cut the video to get the length closer to a minute. Other than cutting out a couple of the pictures, there were a few frames where I could display two phrases on the screen at the same time, instead of delaying them by a couple of seconds, so it wasn't necessary to keep the pictures up as long. After making those edits, I ended up with the trailer you see at the top of the post.

Sharing with the world
When the trailer was ready to share, I uploaded the saved file from my computer onto YouTube, then passed along the link to the trailer release on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, and wherever else I'm running around the Internet so the friends who live in my computer could share the trailer with others. I've also uploaded it to TeacherTube, since YouTube is blocked in many schools.

Another resource I found to be super-helpful is Darcy Pattison's The Book Trailer Manual, which goes much more into depth than is feasible to go into in a blog post.

Have you made your own book trailer, or is it something you'd like to do? Share your helpful hints or questions in the comments!

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Have a Book Trailer!

...and here it is:

Hop on over to Project Mayhem today to read more!

And check back here on Tuesday if you're interested in seeing a longer version and reading about how I made the trailer.

Thanks for watching!