Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pippa's Journal - Blink And You'll Miss It

Events in the real world are making it hard for me to keep up with a lot of things right now, but there are some things going on I just have to share!

Happenings:

Firstly, Imogene Nix stopped by my blog this week with her latest release - Starburst. Please drop by here and say hello.

Heather Massey posted her thoughts on Chris Gerwel's recent article on science fiction romance - stop by here and add your opinion! The wonderful Heather is also kicking off the first of my Cover Love feature here Thursday, and she's chosen some really striking artwork from sfr titles. I'm still looking for victims...I mean guests! So far I'm booked up until the end of April.

I also have a fun contest on - I need help in choosing a prize for my giveaway to celebrate my upcoming release, Gethyon. Please vote here!

Bookshelf:

For my first Read Only Wednesday, I have Zero Point by Neal Asher.

Ping Pong:

Laurie, great post on Mars - I'm really hopeful of seeing a manned mission in my lifetime! Interestingly, my current read features a Mars base and its struggles to survive when  threatened both inside and out. Glad to hear you dodged the blizzard!

Donna, I've never been to the US, but the post on Nashville intrigued me.

Sharon, hope all is going well!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Red Dragon: Manned Mission to Mars...in Five Years?

If the news speculation is correct, millionaire Dennis Tito via his Inspiration Mars Foundation may be brainstorming a privately-funded manned mission to Mars in January 2018 for a crew of two.

If that sounds a little too far-fetched to believe, you may want to factor in that SpaceX is reportedly looking at using a modified Dragon spacecraft for a Mars mission to be launched with a Falcon Heavy Rocket in the near future. The project is known as Red Dragon.

The mission timeline is expected to be approximately 500 days, and would involve a fly-by of Mars, without entering orbit or landing on the red planet.

Dennis Tito, in addition to being the foundation head, is most well-known for being a paying passenger on the International Space Station for eight days in 2001 after arriving aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He reportedly spent a cool $20 million on that endeavor.

Tito is expected to participate in a news conference in Washington DC on February 27th along with Taber McCollum and Jayne Poynter, officials with Paragon Space Development Corporation, which designs life-support systems. This will be followed on March 3rd when Tito addresses the aerospace conference in Big Sky, Montana on the subject "Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018."

The reported goal of the mission is to "generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration."

MISSION SUCCESS

I'm a little off schedule this week, so I'm late to post my Mission Success timeline.

We actually dodged a bullet--well, okay, it was actually a blizzard--when we decided to make the five-hour trip to deliver one of our mares to the breeding farm near El Paso on Saturday rather than Sunday. *Whew!* Good choice, there. Saturday...sunny, bright, warm. Sunday...

Blizzard Blasts Southern Plains

Yup, good planning on that one.

TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE

I'm very excited about this anthology-to-be! The intent is to showcase a diverse collection of Science Fiction Romance in a free anthology collection selected from submissions by SFR Brigade authors and writers. The tentative title is Tales from the SFR Brigade. The target length will fall somewhere between 65,000 - 85,000 words, depending on the final line-up of stories.

As Pippa mentioned, she submitted a story that the panel of editors chose for the final line-up. The anthology is now entering the editing phase.

NEW REVIEW BLOG: 
AUTHOR REVIEWS ARE CALLED BLURBS

Author D. L. Jackson is launching a new blog where authors are invited to review other authors' work via a blurb with a word count limit. Recent actions by Amazon to discourage authors from commenting on other authors work is reported to be the reason the new blog was created. The blog is expected to launch soon, but is available for viewing now (see link above).

PING PONG

Donna, I loved your blog about Nashville. I'd definitely like to visit one day.

Pippa, congrats on your acceptance and on all the other progress you're making on your career.

Sharon, sending a lot of good thoughts and vibes your way.

Until next week.


Friday, February 22, 2013

NASHVILLE'S COMMUNITY OF CREATIVE GIVES OFF FAMILIAR VIBE



They are a community of the creative, a like-minded legion of the lyrical.  Like a sprawling family, they often know each other, follow each other’s work, contribute to each other’s projects.  And they flock to this city by the thousands in hopes the patron goddess of this place, Athena (or is it Patsy, or Dolly?) will grant them a boon:  Fortune.  Fame.  An agent.  A contract.

I could be describing L.A. or New York or this year’s gathering in Atlanta of the Romance Writers of America.  But I’m actually describing the musicians, singers and songwriters in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.  I’d just never realized how much in common we as writers had to our creative brothers and sisters in Music City, USA until I went home for a visit after many years away.

A lot had changed in the years since I’d last visited Nashville.  Growth and urban renewal had reshaped the contours of downtown.  The floods of 2010 had forced the restructuring of roads and neighborhoods.  A new energy and civic pride had followed on the discovery of the city by followers of New South art, culture and cuisine.  In the once empty and forlorn replica of the Parthenon that dominates a downtown park, a new 41-foot-tall statue of Athena stood, gilded in real gold leaf, a symbol of Nashville’s artistic Renaissance.

But some things were still the same.  The houses and the neighborhoods in which I had once lived were all still there, virtually untouched by time.  Oh, some of the old apartment buildings were looking a little the worse for wear.  But I could still find them.  And maybe more importantly, the locations for all the scenes in my books were still legitimate.  My memory hadn’t supplied something that wasn’t there—or that was no longer there.

People were still friendly, though this was no longer the small town it once was.  They still spoke with an accent you could cut with a knife.  I came back to Virginia talking like I’d just come down from the hills.  I’d fit right in on Justified.  Or better yet, the new show dedicated to the city I’d just come from, Nashville.

Most of all, the city is still Mecca for those young singers, songwriters and musicians seeking a way into the music business, particularly, but not exclusively, the country music business.  Since its humble beginnings as a one-hour “barn dance” radio show on WSM Radio in 1925, the Grand Ole Opry has served as a showcase for country music’s biggest stars and a magnet for all that want to follow in their footsteps.  As a result, Nashville has become known worldwide as a place to find the finest studio musicians, backup singers, songwriters, house bands, bluegrass pickers and technicians.  For as long as I can remember, every restaurant, bar and venue in town has boasted live music, and in the old days, it was often free of cover charges—there were just that many unemployed musicians around.

I’d just never realized how much I had in common with that hoard of seekers until my husband and I stumbled upon a CD-release party at the Station Inn, a venue widely-known for excellent bluegrass.  The place was packed and, having already spent our money to park, we had to beg to be let in, but this being Nashville, the guy on the door took pity on us.  We shuffled toward the bar, where a man about our age (who turned out to be the band leader’s father) insisted on finding us two stools to sit on.  We ended up sitting next to the woman who’d penned the title song of the CD, Born Bad, which she said had started out life as a rock song and was given a bluegrass turn by the band.

So there we were and I was transported back to the book release party of a certain friend of mine (ahem, Sharon Lynn Fisher, Ghost Planet!)  The place was full of friends, family, well-wishers, musicians hoping some of that success would rub off on them.  Everyone was excited and happy for the members of the band, who had worked so hard to get to this point.  All the musicians seemed to know each other.  Some of them had played on the CD.  It was a community.  The only thing that was different from a book release was that we got to hear the music. I think we should encourage more readings at conferences and release parties, though, don’t you?  (By the way, the CD is Born Bad, by the Tina Adair Band, TAB Music Group--bluegrass, with a Christian rock flair.)

Now, of course, we all know that there is competition, as well as collaboration, in every creative endeavor.  We may all know each other, we may even work together occasionally, but we don’t always get along.  But it’s better when we do.  The energy of a place—or a project or a genre of writing--benefits when people encourage each other and celebrate their triumphs.  That’s what I saw that night in Nashville.  That’s what I see at RWA conferences and online at SFR Brigade or The Galaxy Express--a community of the creative, and lots of positive energy.

Discoveries

Chris Gerwhal of Amazing Stories has written a great series of blog posts about the challenges SFR faces in capturing the interest of a wider market audience at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/02/crossroads-science-fiction-romance-a-niche-before-its-time/  He mentions the work of both Heather Massey and our own Sharon Lynn Fisher in his insightful discussion.  Check it out!

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pippa's Journal - Half Term Hiatus

It's half term in the UK, which generally means my writing schedule stalls, and I actually wrote this blog post a week ago. How's that for time travel! If anything earthshattering happens, I'll have updated this post.
So where am I?


Action!

My scifi romance short has been accepted into the Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology! I'm so stoked! This now means I'll have one novel and a short story out this year, almost doubling my backlist.

I'm waiting to hear on my scifi romance novella Tethered. Against my principles, Tethered is now out with two publishers - I dislike making simultaneous submissions. But Entangled's slinky new submission process, with a turnaround time of just 30 days compared to the previous 6 months was just too tempting. Entangled and Samhain were my two top picks for this novella, and now they both have it. Eeek!

My scifi short Flaming Angel (for an inhouse anthology call) is up on Critique Circle - so far it's had some constructive and positive feedback. If you're on CC and would be interested in critting it, let me know your CC username and I'll add you to my private queue. I'm Happarose on there if you want to look me up. I also have a cyberpunk short on the go. Nothing like multiple projects to keep me busy!

My anthology sub already has a sequel in the writing, and fingers crossed for something novel length. I have plans to be pitching a novel to an agent next year.

Happenings

From March I'm running a new Cover Love feature on my blog, inviting authors, reviewers, readers, editors etc. to share their five favourite covers in the spec fic/romance genre, and why they love them. The first goes up on the 7th March. So far I have book nerd and reviewer Katheryn Rodzianko, and authors Misa Buckley, Jessica E Subject and Chantal Halpin taking part. If you'd like to participate, you can find details about the feature on my blog here on my new Author Promo page. I'm especially interested in scifi romance books, but any spec fic and/or romance titles are welcome for inclusion. You can also check out what kind of guest posts I love to have on my blog, download the two options for interviews that I have, and check the calendar for open dates.

Bookshelf 

Because my TBR pile has now reached epic proportions and I'm just not reading like I used to, I'm designating one day a week as Read Only to try and clear the backlog. Some titles on the pile are:

The Skinner, The Voyage of the Sable Keech and Zero Point - Neal Asher
Downside Girls and Queen of Nowhere - Jaine Fenn
Skies of Fire - Zoe Archer
Ghost Planet - Sharon Lynn Fisher
Time Thief - Anna Hackett
A Feast of Souls - Hailey Edwards
MetalMark - Ella Drake
and countless more!

It's hard to chose which to begin with when so many have sat waiting on my Kindle or bedside cabinet for far too long, but second up is the soon to be released Tin Cat (4th March) by Misa Buckley. I had the privilege of beta reading this but I'm looking forward to the final version.

Ping Pong

Please send good thoughts and warm wishes to co-blogger Sharon, who could do with them right now. Hugs!
Laurie, thanks for the virtual applause for Keir's SFR Galaxy Award and the SFR Brigade Presents feature. I know the latter is a bit scrappy right now and I'll get tidying the system up in March, but I'm glad to see so many Brigaders taking part and enjoying it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

SFR Brigade Presents: Eye of the Cobra 2


About SFR Brigade Presents

Each week, up to twenty participants from the SFR Brigade community of writers post snippets on their blogs or sites from a published work or work-in-progress. You'll see how varied and diverse our little subgenre can be, with snippets ranging anywhere from space opera to alien romance to steampunk.

You can visit the SFR Brigade blog main hub for links to the offerings of other talented Science Fiction Romance writers who are participating. I'm sure you'll find something that intrigues you.

If you're a fan of SFR, you are cordially invited to "Like" the Science Fiction Romance Brigade Fanpage on Facebook to stay updated on all sorts of genre-related fun, releases and news.

About This Week's Installment

Last week I joined SFRBP with the opening of my new work-in-progress Eye of the Cobra. This is a planned short story in my Draxian Universe series that introduces Daedrea and her not-so-loving father, a titled Night (dictator), Heaed Barr of the Jarmey System.  You can read last week's snippet here.

This week, it becomes clearer why Daedrea is so terrified by her father's summons.

_________________________

Daedrea pressed a hand to her throat. What had she done to earn this tribunal? She’d made herself as invisible and unnoticed as possible after the incident with the Ithian consulate. Hadn’t she been punished enough for that infraction, even though the man’s death was not her doing?

Night Barr hadn’t cared who was at fault. His anger always demanded retribution.

And so she paid...

In the bitter cold of endless, stinking darkness in the Jarmian dungeons while enjoying Karba’s sadistic tortures with his neuro-twitch. She’d only kept her sanity because she knew her father’s memory was short. As soon as the calamity faded from his foremost thoughts, her torment would end.

It took five days for him to forget. Five horrible days she’d purged from her memory for the simple sake of survival.

Her knees trembled and she clung to the bedpost more tightly. What did he want with her now?

_________________________

Thanks so much for stopping by this week. Comments are welcome!

Laurie A. Green


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Great Steampunk Romance Airship Tour

Automaton & Steampunk Cyborg Lovers
 

A number of steampunk romances feature characters that have been mechanically modified in some way. Usually the transformation occurs through the use of prosthetics or other artificial parts. Steampunk cyborgs, as it were.

The primitive nature of the prosthetic devices is particularly compelling. It’s simultaneously fascinating and scary to contemplate having a prosthetic that’s ahead of its time but falls short in terms of modern technology. Many of the prosthetics depicted in steampunk romances wouldn’t work in real life, but their fantastical nature is fun to imagine.

Characters with artificial limbs sometimes face prejudice and scorn during the course of the story. As a result, they must decide on how to cope with the resulting feelings of shame or inadequacy. Readers of these stories are invited to question their assumptions about the nature of humanity. A related theme is how powerfully love can validate one’s self-worth and become a conduit for healing and trust building.


Here are some steampunk romances featuring characters with prosthetics:

Far From Broken – J.K. Coi (heroine has prosthetic limbs and organs)
Skies of Steel – Zoe Archer (“Man O’ War” heroes have “telumium” implants)
Island of Icarus – Christine Danse (hero has prosthetic arm)
Nights of Steel – Nico Rosso (hero has prosthetic arm)
A variety of characters have prosthetic limbs in Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series
Wild Cards and Iron Horses – Sheryl Nantus (hero wears a prosthetic device on his arm)

Now let’s talk automatons!

Automatons are a big staple of the steampunk genre. Their roots are in real life automata, which are “non-electronic moving machines.” In fact, automata date back to the ancient Greeks.

Automata in steampunk romances have a variety of forms, but what I’d like to focus on is the idea of steampunk automatons fashioned after the human body. The idea of Victorian-era androids driven by steam or clockwork power (or other sources, depending on the story) is a very powerful idea with loads of creative possibilities. Fantastical? Yes. Intriguing and thought-provoking? Definitely.

In some steampunk romances, automatons are secondary characters while in others, they may be the hero or heroine. However, these stories aren’t necessarily about kinky sex with a mechanical lover or weird for the sake of being weird. Romances involving automaton lovers are rich in themes: what it means to be human, diversity and acceptance, identity and self-worth, and our relationship with technology, among others.

There’s often a big mystery element in these stories as well. What will happen when the automaton’s true nature is discovered? That kind of secret can build tension like no other.

Stories featuring automaton lovers:

This Winter Heart – P. G. Forte
Far Too Human – Anitra Lynn McLeod
The Watchmaker’s Lady – Heather Massey

Steampunk romance stories featuring automatons as secondary characters:

Steamrolled – Pauline Baird Jones
Like Clockwork – Bonnie Dee
Miss Minnie and the Brass Pluggit – Sahara Kelly
Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts – Heather Massey

Automaton lovers and steampunk cyborgs are one way steampunk romance offers variety and diversity to readers. These characters entertain with their unusual nature while also providing another perspective about love and romance.

Giveaway time!

Leave a comment for this post and you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of the following ebooks:

Winner’s choice: A digital copy of Christine Danse’s Island of Icarus (ePub, PDF, or .mobi) OR Beauty in the Beast (ePub or PDF)
 

 
 


















 The Watchmaker’s Lady – Heather Massey (ePub, PDF, or .mobi)


And there’s more! Everyone who leaves a comment at any of the stops on The Great Steampunk Romance Airship Tour will be entered for a chance to win the Grand Prize:

$100 e-gift card (winner’s choice Amazon or B&N)

75$ e-gift certificate to Clockwork Couture



1 digital copy of IRON GUNS, BLAZING HEARTS (winner’s choice PDF, ePub, or .mobi)


Please include your email address. The deadline to enter all of the giveaways will be midnight PST on February 14. On Friday, February 15, check back here to see if you’ve won an ebook prize.

The grand prize winner will be announced on February 15 at The Galaxy Express.

About the author

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.

Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts
(February 2013; Lyrical Press)


The West just got a whole lot wilder.


A woman on a mission… Scientific achievement isn’t enough for Violet Whitcomb. Life working alongside her renowned scientist father is filled with intellectual challenges, but what she truly craves is love and adventure. She’s resigned to a fate of academic pursuits–until a fateful trip across the American frontier changes everything. A rogue inventor known as the Iron Scorpion kidnaps Violet’s father and she alone is left to plan his rescue.

A man with a secret… Logan McCoy knows firsthand going up against the Iron Scorpion is suicide, but he can’t let Violet waltz into the villain’s lair alone. She may be a stranger, but she’s also the most compelling woman he’s ever known.

A perilous quest… Their attraction is undeniable, but their alliance turns contentious when Violet insists on including a third partner on their mission: her father’s latest invention and the world’s most advanced automaton, Arthur. The reason for Logan’s resistance isn’t clear until Violet comes face-to-face with the Iron Scorpion’s diabolical devices, and by then, it’s far too late.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SFR Brigade Presents


I'm very happy to join the SFR Brigade Presents blog tour of Science Fiction Romance snippets this week. Be sure to check out the offerings of other talented writers at the SFR Brigade main hub.

This is the opening to a never-before-seen work with the WIP title of Eye of the Cobra. It's planned as a short story in my Draxian Universe series. In this future a "Night" is akin to a dictator of an entire solar system.

_________________


     A summons.

     The electronic message instructed Daedrea to report to the chambers of Heaed Barr, Night of the Jarmey system. She steadied herself on one of the massive bedposts in her quarters and tried to draw her next breath. Such a summons struck terror into most of the males and all of the females in this sector. Night Heaed Barr was not a man you wished to share space with.

     Not even if you were his daughter.


_________________

Thanks for stopping by Spacefreighters Lounge on your tour. I hope you enjoy reading all the excerpts. 

Laurie A. Green

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR: THE CASE FOR ALIENS THAT LOOK LIKE US



In the case of STAR TREK, the justification was simple:  the budget just didn’t allow for Starship Trooper bug-like aliens.  Or anything resembling the saliva-dripping, toothy creatures of nightmare that eventually became Alien or Predator.  The best the costume and makeup departments at Desilu could come up with was the occasional sentient bipedal lizard, big-brained, small-bodied evil grandma type (sometimes affectionately known as a “butthead”), talking rock or scurrying carpet.  Every other alien Jim Kirk and the gang encountered looked a lot like, well, Jim Kirk and the gang.  Only not so good looking.

Brow ridges like this?
But, okay, that was the ’Sixties.  We’ve progressed a lot since then.  Now we can do nearly anything in the movies or on television.  The aliens we envision can be monstrously hideous (see the films above), elaborately mechanical (Transformers, Battleship, Battle Los Angeles.) or even simply beautiful (Avatar).  Is there any justification for creating a race of aliens that might look pretty much like we do?  You know, two arms, two legs, one head, all in the places you would expect to find them?

As it happens the scientific community has been mulling this question over a bit lately.  Richard Aleyne, online Scientific Correspondent of U.K.’s The Telegraph, reports that Professor Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University believes any aliens out there would not only look like us but share our penchant for greed and other nasty habits.  Morris plans to tell an upcoming conference of the Royal Society on extraterrestrial life that the options for developing lifeforms are “limited”—all roads lead to some kind of humanity, apparently, in Dr. Morris’s view.  But, then, the good professor is not so sure there is anyone else out there at all.  He says it is “quiet, too quiet” in our galaxy.  We should have heard from any fellow travelers by now.  I say if they are anything like us in behavior we’re better off not knowing them.

Or like this?
Dr. Ralph Purditz of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada provides an explanation for why extraterrestrial life might be less “alien” than some in Hollywood might think.  Purditz' theory rests on the ten simplest amino acids considered to be the “building blocks” of DNA and, thus, life. These can survive in low pressure and low temperatures.   If the chemicals that combine to form these amino acids are commonly found on meteors throughout the galaxy, as they are in our own solar system, then the same elements should be providing the building blocks of life everywhere.  That is, basic DNA should be the same everywhere. 

  Of course, tremendous variation can be gained within just a small change along that strand of DNA, as we see here on our own humble Earth.  Depending on the environment and the circumstances of the planet, after all, dolphins could have emerged triumphant here on Earth. Who’s to say they’re not smarter—they could just not be talking. It is difficult to build things without opposable thumbs, however.

Finally, Seth Shostak, senior astronomer of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project, tells Discovery interviewer Dave Mosher that he believes aliens might actually have evolved into intelligent machines by now.  Why would an advanced civilization consider a need to remain encased in protoplasm—of any shape?  I suppose the question in that case would be, what shape would they choose for their robotic, uh, selves?  What shape is ultimately most efficient for a machine’s purpose?  And, if you ask me, I think Dr. Shostak probably needs to review the Terminator films.  He’s been spending far too much time with his computer if he thinks leaving behind our bodies in favor of advanced machines would be a benign development.

So, okay, it’s beginning to look like the folks at Desilu weren’t completely crazy.  Maybe most of the aliens Jim Kirk would encounter really would look like him.  But there’s another reason why it’s not so illogical to consider that most of the characters in your SFR novel would be humanoid, oxygen-breathing and living within the general temperature and climate variations we find on Earth. 

To put it simply, like follows like.  As humanity moves out into the galaxy in search of new worlds and new civilizations, we will naturally be drawn to G-type stars and Earth-like planets, to environments most like our own and, eventually, even to races and cultures most like those found on Earth.  It is difficult enough for us to understand each other across cultures and languages on our own planet.  Can you imagine how difficult it will be across solar systems?  Given a choice of using resources to explore a planet that looks like our own and possibly has humanoid races or a Mars-like planet with Starship Trooper sentient bugs, which one would you choose, Captain First Contact? 

Even if the evidence suggests the humanoids are warriors and the bugs are peaceful, odds are you’ll choose the humanoids, and so will all your fellow captains.  We'll end up with a bias toward contact with fellow humanoids and most of our trade and other interactions with planets that are compatible environmentally, biologically and culturally.  That would remain true even if the galaxy was full of other kinds of planets and species.  Yes, we’d get around to them eventually, especially if they were powerful or threatening or useful in some way.  But they wouldn’t be our first choice.

Neither would they be our first choice as writers in creating lovers or main characters, though they make good villains and sometimes secondary characters in our novels.  Their differences make them interesting, but logistically uncomfortable.  How do you fold up all those limbs?  How do you maintain different temperatures/atmospheres/humidity onboard the same ship?  Can their mandibles even form human languages?  And vice versa?

It is possible to write the story entirely from the point of view of such an alien species and even include a credible romantic element.  Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge did it in his Hugo Award-winning A Fire Upon the Deep, for example, and there have been others, but I wouldn’t call them science fiction romances, by any stretch of the imagination.  For the most part, readers are interested in the human condition, and whatever we say about the aliens is really just a reflection of their humanity.  It  helps if we can visualize them in our own terms.

All this is to say that if your starship captain is human and the lone wolf trader he loves is a humanoid alien from Tellas who’s only apparent difference is that she has green skin and silver eyes, you don’t have to feel guilty anymore.  Just throw in some explanation about amino acids and DNA, standard variations and environmental adaptation and you’re good to go.  As always, it is the story that counts—and characters that show their humanity, whether they are of alien origin or not.

Cheers, Donna







Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Trailers

I have to say, I'm not entirely convinced that book trailers sell books. I rarely watch them, unless I already know about the book or I know the author, and I've never bought a book as a result of one, unless I already intended to do so. I have seen the odd person say they've watched a trailer and bought a book, but again, usually because the book was already on their mind. So perhaps as a final point to encourage a sale, they do help. But they are definitely an 'in' thing. (As an amendment here, I have to mention that after the launch of my latest trailer someone tweeted to me that they were interested in reading the book having seen the trailer. So maybe they're more effective than I previously believed. I'd love to see some data on it!)

When my friend Lauri J Owen made one for her book, she encouraged me to give it a try. I'm not going to say it's easy because it took me a while to figure it out, simply by playing with the software until it clicked. But I found it a lot of fun to do (once I knew what I was doing) and a heck of a lot cheaper to do it yourself, providing you're prepared to put the time into it. So, I did one for Keir, and just last week I redid one for my upcoming release Gethyon, and I thought I'd show you the process.

You will need:
Windows Movie Maker - most computers will probably have this as a standard piece of software when you buy them, but if not it's a free download, and you can find it here.
Some royalty-free music - I use Kevin MacLeod's site here but there are others if you search for royalty-free music.
Some images - either use your own or buy or you can find some royalty-free, although you may have to include a link in your video back to the site that provided them - check their terms and conditions carefully. I generally use dreamstime.com, and have a mixture of paid-for and free images.
A rough script - I generally use the blurb to the book. A trailer works exactly the same - you want to give readers a taster but finish with a hook. Try to sketch out what script and image you want together, and what order you want them in.

(As a hint, I recommend you collect all the images you want to use for the video into one folder and name it as such. I've learned to my cost that having to go look for individual images again when you work on the project is a time suck!)
So, two main points of advice. Keep it simple and be prepared to spend time on it. For me I take two or three days to make one book trailer because I am OCD about timings. But I enjoy doing this despite the strain on my patience.

Once you've downloaded Windows Movie Maker, you should see this on opening it -

Your version won't have the little image icons though - that's just my old files

My first task is usually to pick a piece of music and download it. Typically I'll go for something about a minute and a half long. You CAN put two pieces of music together or cut down a longer piece, but these are complications I've avoided so far. Doing a longer trailer may give too much away and cost more for extra images! Once you've downloaded your music, left click and drag it into the Audio/Music section of your time line. You should now see this (timeline at the bottom of the image) -



Tip - if you find the timeline too compressed to see the elements in it clearly, strech it out using -

This will also allow you to make finer adjustments too.

You can now add your images. Click Import Media, then Pictures if that's where you've stored your folder of images. You can load them all individually or Ctrl+A to select them all. Once these are loaded into WMM, you'll see something like this.


You can now click and drag your images into your movie timeline (the section marked Video). You'll need to do this in the order you want them to appear, which is why a rough script of some kind beforehand is a good idea.


You may find the images then extend further than your music. Don't panic! You can shorten the images by left clicking and holding on the RIGHT hand side of each image. You'll see a little red adjuster symbol come up, allowing you to extend or shorten the time your image will show on the trailer. You need to adjust the RIGHT hand side of each image as necessary.

 
You may find at this stage you'll need to start playing the trailer to see how and where your images fit into the music. I suggest finishing (and lingering!) on an image of your book cover, with your publisher's name, a release date if it's not yet out, and perhaps some major retailers it will be available from.

Once you have them matched to the music (if the images are a bit short, don't worry - you'll be adding credits at the end. It's up to you if you want music on these or not.) it's time to add some script to your trailer. Click on the image you want to add text too, then Tools, Titles and Credits.


You can vary the font, and to a degree the size and placing of the script. Again, experiment with it until you find something that works for you. You can also add lots of flashy effects, but bear in mind you want people to be able to read it. Keep it short and check it's on screen long enough to be read easily. Again, play it through and adjust until you're happy it's all flowing together and in the right places. You can also add effects directly onto each image to give them more movement.


Then you can add effects between the images (Transitions) to merge them together.


You can also blend images into the one before by left clicking and holding the LEFT hand side of each image. You'll see a little blue bar come up that you can drag left into the previous image to blend them. Be aware this can pull the entire timeline forward and affect the timing in the trailer, so check each time you use it.



Finally, add your credits (Tools, Titles and Credits). Put your name and copyright. It isn't always necessary to credit the provider of your images or music, but I like to do so. Check it through a few more times to ensure you're happy with it, then Save Project As and give it a name. (BTW, it's worth saving at regular intervals as you work, just in case your computer is interrupted at any stage!). Your final timeline should look something like this -




Windows Movie Maker saves them as MSWMM files. You'll need to convert it to a .wmv file to upload to YouTube, which you can do by clicking File, Publish Movie. Please note, once it's published you CANNOT alter the .wmv file, and the MSWMM version will be gone. So if you think you may want to tweak it at a later date without remaking the whole thing, say after release day, save TWO copies of the MSWMM files under different names. Once you've loaded your trailer up to YouTube, you'll then be able to embed it on your blog or website.

And there you go! I really enjoy making trailers and find it a change from writing while still being creative. Don't be afraid to try it out! But if you'd rather a professional handled it, you could check out Danielle Fine here.

In the meantime, here's my finished trailer.