‘Minding Mama’ – the next project!


‘Keep writing!’  Sound advice from creative industry ‘old-timers’ (by that, I don’t mean those authors are older than me, but that they’ve been writing long enough to know how it all works – and sometimes, why it doesn’t). Finish one project, and move onto the next, practice makes perfect (I hope) and all that… luckily I’m never short of ideas!

With ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ published and the last of the rewards about to go out, I’ve found my thoughts turning to my next project. Another book? Well, yes, but not in quite the same format, this time.

mama-logo-2jpg

Do you like it? It’s the lovely and rather intriguing logo created by emerging concept artist Amanda Fullwood (The Flock, Chasing Shadows, Word Bohemia)  for my next project, ‘Minding Mama’ – a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind is forced to live underground in order to avoid exposure to lethal levels of UV radiation. Why is planet Earth in such dire straits?  You can find out on www.mindingmama.org  – but since it will be a little while before the crowdfunding project goes live, I wanted to get the word out to all my ‘regulars’ – and to ask you all to tell anyone you know who might be interested in an opportunity to be in at the start of a new graphic novel – with some beautiful and unique comic art rewards!

Producing a graphic novel is a new challenge for me – but I have a very experienced hand at the helm, in the form of the talented Oregon-based Dan Schaefer, who will provide the artwork for the graphic novel, and who will also be in charge of the story-boarding for the animated feature (did I mention that yet? Oh, I just did…) which will be my next challenge.  Those of you who know about comic books and story boards will doubtless know Dan’s work as a concept artist (Grimm; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist (Peter Parker: Spider-Man). I couldn’t believe my luck when Dan applied to the project; and having already seen his rough drafts of the first few pages and his early concept work for the AI characters in the story, I am really excited to be working with him.

As mentioned earlier, I’m also delighted to be working with Amanda Fullwood  – a graduate of Nottingham Trent University, Amanda’s enthusiasm for the science-fiction and horror genres and her work as a production designer and concept artist were evident at our first meeting in London in March 2016. By the time myself and Sue Turner of video production company  ElephantInScarlet waved goodbye to Amanda and headed for our respective trains, I knew I had to have her on board as lead concept artist. I can’t wait to share Amanda’s visualisations for ‘Minding Mama’  on our crowdfunding site!  That’s still a WiP at the moment, but you can check out more of Amanda’s work on her film and visual art journal .

 

So, if you (or someone you know) would like to own an original piece of Dan Schaefer art, in addition to many other unique goodies, please do visit www.mindingmama.org and sign up for notifications – the rewards are going to be something really special!  You can also contact me direct if you have any queries. We’re not into spamming, so we’ll only email you when we have news.

Thanks for reading!

x Elaine

 

So You Want to be a Writer?


I’m re-blogging this invigorating and inspirational post by Hugh Howey – which was drawn to my attention by Ricardo over at Reedsy – simply because it IS so invigorating and inspiring. It looks as if comments are closed on the original post, but feel free to comment and discuss here…

 

So You Want to be a Writer….    

Wasn’t that a great post? Don’t you feel inspired? I know I do – thank you, Hugh!  Here’s how I have – or plan to- follow Hugh’s advice, and my thoughts:

Hugh advises that if you want to be a writer, these are ten rules to follow:

1) Make a long-term plan.   I’ll confess to you now, that I don’t have a long-term plan as such; it’s more like a list of things I’d like to do, but in no particular order. Like:

  • write my first novel – tick.
  • write and publish a short story collection – tick. (I did that first)
  • write something for film or television – I’m working on that.

So I’ll be working on the long-term plan. But mostly it will involve writing, and more writing. And then more writing. Books, short stories, scripts, blogs…

2) Reading.

  • I do this all the time. I devour books, always have done. I go through phases of reading different genres, but mainly: thriller/police procedural/detective mysteries, science-fiction, contemporary romance. Years ago I read a shed-load of Catherine Cookson, and dozens and dozens of natural history  and autobiographical works.  The one thing I have a problem with is ‘How To’ text-books…

3) Practice.

  • I do this all the time, too. Sometimes in my head, or in the form of emails, letters, blog posts, and pages and pages of dialogue, scenes that come to me out of the blue without a story attached… I have thousands of documents on my portable hard-drive, some of which I may not have looked at in years. I came across one the other day that I literally couldn’t remember writing at first…

4) Daydream.

  • I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but driving to or from work is when this happens most. The hard part is remembering it until I get a chance to write it down. If I could set up my Bluetooth so that I could mutter into my mobile as I drive along, that would solve the problem…

5) Learn to fail.

  • I’m working on that!

6) Plot trumps prose.

  • I agree – if the writing is ‘pretty’ but the story doesn’t engage…. I work hard at that, too. I find it helps to study other stories, and ask myself if I would have written it differently, and if so, why?

7) Live fully and cheaply.

  • That’s a WiP!

8) Network.

  • Most of my networking to date has been online – because I can fit more in! It’s fun and you meet the most interesting people. You never know when you might be able to help them, or vice-versa.

9) Write Great Shit.

  • I can’t disagree with this – if you don’t engage your reader quickly, they likely won’t buy your book. Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature is the opportunity to hook them. I always read the sample, and often know within the first paragraph or so if I am going to hit that magic ‘BUY’ button. If it’s a great premise, but the hook isn’t there… as Hugh says, pull out the stops to engage your reader, and do it as soon as possible, even if it means starting half-way through the story.  I had several beginnings for ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ – a department store fire, the moment my protagonist realises that he has caused a death… and a scene in which someone very close to him is has maybe days to live… in the end I went with a scene which shows us who he is in his workaday life, showing the reader who he is.  I’m not convinced I chose the right opening, as it happens… (see point 5.)    As Hugh says, just keep writing…

10) Find your voice.

  • Agree 100% with Hugh on this. Have I found my voice? Maybe not yet – sometimes I think I have, then I’ll find myself struggling again. I think it is really important to be telling the story you want to tell, and not what other people think it is -or should be- about. If you find yourself listening to other people’s versions of your WiP, I think it could be a sign that you haven’t nailed the story, or perhaps that you are telling the wrong one. Or perhaps it’s just that you don’t have the confidence yet… but when you do find your fingers struggling to keep up with your thoughts as you write, there is nothing quite like it!

 

 

AUTHORS – HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU DIVERSIFY?


The online Cambridge dictionary defines an author as:

author noun [ C ]

UK  /ˈɔː.θər/ US  /ˈɑː.θɚ/

B1 the writer of a bookarticleplay, etc.:

He is the author of two books on French history.

 

Well, you can’t argue with that, can you?  The second question, ‘Should you diversify’ might cause some lively discussion, though.

When I started writing (I’ve been dabbling since my teens, but I didn’t begin writing seriously and ‘with intent’ until I had lived for almost half a century) I imagined that I one day I would write books. Stories, short-form or long, which would be published in the traditional way. Since then, the world has moved on (oh, how it has moved on! What I would have given for a laptop and Word in my teens…). who had heard of the word ‘blog’ in the late seventies/early eighties?  Twitter and Facebook weren’t even in a twinkle in the mind’s eye of their creators (who may not have been born then).

In days gone by, an author would submit a manuscript to their agent, who would (hopefully) secure a publishing deal.  Once the work of writing/editing/polishing was done, an author might have to turn up at various publishing house functions to promote their work, perhaps be interviewed by the literary media if they were successful…  But nowadays, even traditionally-published authors have blogs, some also have social media sites… it’s all about getting yourself ‘out there’.  So just how important is it for an author to diversify?   By diversify, I mean: writing a blog, writing copy for your social media sites… but also penning screenplays, stage adaptations, radio drama…

William Faulkner, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Aldous Huxley, William Goldman, Mario Puzo, Michael Crichton, Raymond Chandler, Graham Greene, John Steinbeck… and more recently Nick Hornby and Gillian Flynn, have all written books and screenplays. In some cases, they adapted their own work for the screen.

I’ve dipped a toe into screenwriting waters – I entered three scripts in Create50’s ‘The Impact’ project (and learned a lot from it), and wrote the voice-over script for my novel ‘The Methuselah Paradox’.  I’m currently collaborating on an adaption for the stage, and am also turning one of my short stories into a graphic novel (and if all goes well, an animated feature). I see each project as an opportunity to learn, and to create something different. Each discipline has its own rules, but at the core it is all about telling a story. The mediums might be different, and perhaps I’ll discover that I’m better suited to one or the other; but I will never know if I don’t try!   Here’s another definition for you: Polyglot.

polyglot

ˈpɒlɪɡlɒt/

adjective

  1. 1.

knowing or using several languages.

“a polyglot career woman”

noun

  1. 1.

a person who knows and is able to use several languages.

“Slovenians, being surrounded by many countries, are mostly polyglots”

 

So why not be a polyglot?  Novels, screenplays, stage productions, graphic novels, radio plays… when all is said and done, they have two things in common. They are all stories, and regardless of whether they are in the language of film/TV, live theatre, the written word, or picture books, they seek to entertain/inform. Exploring the different facets of one story through different mediums is fascinating, and presents a challenge for any writer.

So my answer to the question ‘how much should an author diversify?’ is “As much as possible, if you enjoy it!”.  What do you think? Have you tried turning your book into a film, or a stage play, or a comic book, and if not, why not?

Answers on a postcard…. or maybe something bigger!

Do we own our own genes?


That was the startling subject of a study undertaken by  Jeffrey Rosenfeld and Christopher E Mason titled ‘Pervasive sequence patents cover the entire human genome’, and published on Science Daily in March, 2013.  

What does this mean for you and me?  Well, since the ruling on 13th June 2013 by the US Supreme Court that the human genome cannot be patented  (‘Can you patent the sun?’ asked a Dr Jonas Salk as far back as 1955, which goes to show just how long scientists have been thinking about it),  hopefully nothing untoward. Our doctors and consultants remain free to examine our DNA and treat conditions which have a genetic cause without fear of infringing patents.

In a decision that could undo thousands of questionable patents, freeing scientists and citizens from corporate overreach, the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that human genes—as products of nature—cannot be claimed as private property. – http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/supreme-court-we-own-our-genes

But to a science-fiction writer like me, the question of whether or not we might own our own genome, or whether the building blocks of all our lives could someday be in the control of scientists and/or commercial interests, is food for the imagination. My novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ (due August 2016) ponders one possible outcome of gene therapy, and there are almost as many possible scenarios as there are strands of DNA …  I plan to return to the theme (genetics, what could happen as a result of scientific research) in a future novel, because the subject fascinates me.  Does it interest you, or frighten you?  I’d love to know!

EJ Jackson  April 2016

Acknowledgments:

  1. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, and Christopher E Mason. Pervasive sequence patents cover the entire human genome. Genome Medicine, 2013 (in press) DOI: 10.1186/gm431
  2. Weill Cornell Medical College. “You don’t ‘own’ your own genes: Researchers raise alarm about loss of individual ‘genomic liberty’ due to gene patents.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326101614.htm>.

How I created a book trailer

How I created a book trailer

above: artwork for ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ trailer by Catherine Archer-Wills

by EJ Jackson

The Beginning

First of all, I should make it clear that I’m not claiming that this is the only way to create a book trailer, or that you as an indie author should follow my method. Mainly because, when I began the process, I didn’t really know what I was doing!  I only knew that (a) I wanted a book trailer and (b) I couldn’t afford to hire someone to make it for me.  So, just as I did in 1980 (I wanted to join a fan club for ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ – I couldn’t find one, so I set one up myself) I decided to do it myself.

Grand Designs

My original script for the trailer resembled something you might see on prime-time TV – a cast of twelve, jump cuts from scene to scene, and a specially written score. I very quickly realized that I couldn’t afford live action, so I opted for voice-overs with accompanying artwork.

Format –  captions, narration, live action or animation?

I looked at hundreds of book trailers online prior to creating my own, and as already noted, I realized that live action would probably prove too expensive. I couldn’t afford animation either. A combination of narration, captions and stills seemed to be my best bet.

Casting

I found my first two cast members on Twitter, and the remainder by posting job specs on Casting Call Pro , Voices Pro and Casting Now.  A word of appreciation here for casting directors the world over – finding the right actor/voice artist was an education in itself!  I learned to trust my gut feeling – and the opinion of a fellow writer and friend who shares my vision for the trailer, and had been instrumental in helping me to develop the story.  Eventually I had my cast – and realized that I would need to crowdfund if I was going to be able to create the trailer I wanted!  I had already begun announcing each cast member as they were signed, now I began looking into crowdfunding options.

Crowdfunding – the choices

In hindsight, I rushed into this – and signed up with Patreon, which is primarily a monthly patronage set-up, rather than a one-time campaign. Still, I had two lovely people sign up for the top package, which went a long way, and helped reassure me that other people were interested in what I was trying to do.

The sites I looked at were:

Kickstarter – probably the best-known of all crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter requires you to have a pitch video, and if you don’t reach your target, you don’t collect any of the pledges. I decided not to use Kickstarter at the time, because I didn’t feel ready or able to create a credible video pitch.

Patreon – best for ongoing pledges. Patreon worked well for me up to a point, but I believe the site’s stated ‘monthly commitment’ status put a lot of people off who may have preferred to make a one-time payment.

GoFundMe – campaign specific, and can be ongoing. You receive funds as they are pledged. This worked very well for me too – it doesn’t require a video pitch, and is easy to update and for people to donate.

IndieGoGo – project led, and has a ‘flexible funding’ option which allows you to continue collecting once the campaign has ended. You can add videos (it’s advised but not compulsory) as well as images.  IndieGoGo was a total failure for me – quite possibly because I already had Patreon and GoFundMe up and running. A promotional add-on from the Crowdfunding Center failed to make a difference. As it happened, I reached my target with the other campaigns and some off-line donations, so it didn’t impact too badly, and was a useful lesson.

How Many Campaigns should I have?

At first I made the assumption that you should have just one campaign – any more than one, and people might think I was running a scam! But in fact some creators do run more than one – it helps to spread the word, perhaps to reach different audiences, and some platforms are better suited to smaller goals. So, for instance, had I crowdfunded the music, I could have had one campaign for that on GoFundMe, and have another on a different site to crowdfund the artists or actors’ fees. Or you can put everything in one campaign with different goal stages. At the end of the day, it pays to research each site, check out the other campaigns running on each one, and go with what feels right for you. Kickstarter has an excellent ‘How to…’ manual, free to read/download on their website. The general advice works for any platform.

Crowdfunding – what would I do differently next time?

I would not rush into creating a campaign, as I did with my first. I would take longer over the research and planning stage, and wait until I had as much creative content as possible before launching. If you don’t have any funds without crowdfunding, with which to create any content, then describe what you are hoping to achieve as well as you can – if you know someone who can provide a few pencil sketches, that would be better than nothing. Follow the guidelines to creating an effective pitch and find a friend or family member with a camcorder to record multiple takes. You can edit them in Windows Movie Maker (and if you have Windows 10 and can’t find WMM on your PC, there are ‘know how’ posts all over the web about how to find and download it!) and add music.

Music – isn’t that expensive?

It can be. But if you have an iPad and someone in the family who is at all musical, invest in the GarageBand App – as long as the tune you or your friend create is original, you can use it!  Failing that, there is the brilliant Free Music Archive – but do take care to read the licenses for any track you set your heart on, and contact the creator if you are in any doubt about whether or not you can use it.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend whose son is very gifted, and he wrote and recorded a beautiful track for me at a very reasonable price. I’d use him again, and hopefully will!

 Promotion – where should I share my book trailer?

Set yourself up with a YouTube channel (it’s free). From there, you can embed the video on your website/webpage. If you have an author/book Facebook page, you can display it there – remember to use the relevant tags – mine were sci-fi, book, my name, and so on. If you have a Twitter account (and I believe that every indie author should – Twitter has been beyond helpful to me in terms of making contacts) you can use Google URL shortener to post a link, because YouTube URLs are horrendously long. Don’t forget the #tags – #book, #sci-fi (or #romance, etc.)  About.me, tumblr, Instagram, Google+, Booklaunch.com … if you have a profile on Goodreads, you can add it there, and on Authordb, IMDb…  and if you have an author-specific email address, or website email, you can add a link to it in your signature line… the possibilities are endless.

Team Trailer

As I’ve gone through the process of producing my first ‘proper’ book trailer (I perhaps should but don’t really count my first effort, which was a WMM scrolling caption assemblage of excerpts from my short story collection set to music from the FMA on a black screen – it seems like a very poor relation to my second effort!) I’ve been very fortunate to meet some wonderful people along the way.  It is very difficult to produce something like this on your own – so if you meet people who are as enthusiastic about your creation as you are, and you allow them to have input, it will (usually!) make the finished product better. My advice is to keep your vision in mind at all times, but don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works best.

Will a book trailer help to sell my book?

This is a difficult one – some people believe not; others are convinced of the opposite. It’s hard to quantify, but it seems logical to assume that something which is eye-catching, doesn’t look amateur, has a memorable score and content, and isn’t too long, should attract people to your page – and hopefully to your buying link. But the truth is, we don’t know for sure. For me, I have to be honest and say that the experience of making the trailer alone made it worth doing – if it helps to sell the book, then that will be a bonus!  If the idea of penning, hiring, and creating a book trailer fills you with horror, then it may not be for you; but for anyone whose creative enthusiasm crosses media types, I’d say ‘go for it’. Good luck, and please do share your story with us!

methusalah paradox portraits 2A final

Has this article been useful? Have I missed anything out? If you have questions, comments, or want to share your own ‘trailer story’, or add to anything I’ve said above, please use the comment box below.  Thank you for reading!

Elaine Jackson, April 2016

 

Connections


It’s always great to meet like-minded folk.  The team at Scannerdrome TV  interviewed me yesterday about my writing process, book trailers, and why we love sci-fi.  The hardest part? Wanting to ask them questions about what they’re doing, how they got started with Scannerdrome, and so on – maybe next time!

In the meantime, do checkout their YouTube channel, website and Twitter feed – there’s a ton of great material there, including interviews with Richard (‘Battlestar Galactica’) Hatch and our very own Richard Oliver (‘Minister of Chance‘, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me‘ – for which he won Best Actor – and ‘The Light of September‘, the new audio series from Radiostatic).

Thanks again guys!

TMP_Cover1withstrapline11.4.15