Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More About Audiobooks

 Read all about the process of making our audiobooks.  I was interviewed on the Library of Erana blog. I also talked a bit about our terrific producers, Aaron Miller and Jean Ruda Habrukowich.  Stop by and read all about it here: http://tinyurl.com/nl5v269

And read about doing research here: http://tinyurl.com/npw7y8y 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Northern Girls

When I was in seventh grade, Northern Tissue began advertisements using the Northern Girl (later called American Beauties) illustrations by Frances Hooks. I adored these pictures, and when the prints became available, I bought a set. I think they were $1 for all five.

I had no idea what I’d do with them, but when Kim was born, I figured I had the perfect place for them—especially when the baby looked so much like my own baby.

Now this was in 1967, when DIY wasn’t even heard of. Most of my friends with new babies filled their rooms with new furniture and decorations. We couldn’t afford new.

Larry’s folks gave us a changing table as a baby gift.

We bought a well-used crib. I found an old Edison in a thrift store after reading in Consumer Reports that it was the best brand. But it was brown. We found a Kant-wet mattress on closeout sale. Again, Consumer Reports rated it highest.

I really wanted a Fisher-Price dresser (chifferobe) with drawers on one side and a small closet to hang her little dresses. The popular one was in avocado green with yellow and orange knobs. (The one below is actually much prettier than the one I coveted, but it shows the idea.)
Unfortunately, all new furniture was way beyond our budget. So we found an old beat-up chifferobe at a thrift store. Then we painted the crib and dresser in a mint green. We bought large wooden ball knobs. We painted half in hot pink and the other half in bright yellow.

The curtains were white, sheer Priscilla tiebacks my mom bought for my bedroom when I was twelve.

I matted two of the Northern Girls in green and framed them in yellow on either side of the windows.
The other three went into one yellow mat with a green frame over the crib.
One of my favorite photos of Kim as a baby looks a lot like the baby in the middle.

When we cleaned out the closets this week in order to install new carpet, the prints showed up. A couple are worse for the wear, and all of them have yellowed. But it was nice to see them again. They brought back memories of when our daughter was very small.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of her room with the furniture and pictures.

For years, I felt guilty because we couldn’t get new stuff for our baby. However, today, I have a new appreciation for our creativity. Kim had a darling room, fit for the princess she was!

Were we ahead of the curve, or were we just cheap?

When we bought our first house, we turned an impossible bedroom into an elegant retreat. Maybe I’ll tell you about it next week.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Let it Go

My brother and I are cursed with incredible memories. We never forget anything. In my case, this ‘gift’ makes it very hard to get rid of ‘stuff.’
We just re-carpeted the whole house and are now in the process of putting everything back. We decided to weed out a lot of the things we really don’t need anymore. But…
What about the items friends made for us? We may not have used them—yet, but we might someday. And after all, thought and effort went into them.
What about all the old photos? We’ve scanned a lot of them, but we have nearly fifty albums plus two plastic file cabinets full. Somehow, we became the repository for all the family photos from both sides of the family. We’ll keep the ones commemorating special occasions, like weddings, but what about the others?

We uncovered grandparents’ and parents’ mini-albums of the formal photos from our wedding and Kim’s. What about those? We have the large one of ours, and Kim has her big one. What about the rest?

There are also quite a few formal portraits of other family members with no children. They are all gone now, so what do we do with those pictures?
I love the song from Frozen, “Let it Go.” I wish I could. All these treasures have sentimental attachments. Some were wedding gifts. Others were presents for our twenty-fifth anniversary. I still remember the people who gave them to us. I smile each time I recall these old friends and family members, and I don’t want to part with their gifts.
Fortunately, we have a large house, but someday, we may want to downsize. What then?
We are taking a little time as we put things back in place to evaluate what to keep, what to toss, and what to give away. I’m sure we’ll still end up with far too much stuff!
I need to start sorting through my shoes. Does anyone wear size five wide? And I really intend to read all these books—someday.

Time to get back to it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to get this done quickly? Never mind. I probably won’t take the advice anyway.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Attend Writing Conferences

We just returned from a weekend at the California Crime Writers Conference. As always, we had a great time, saw old friends, met new ones, and learned a great deal.

We’ve attended conferences since shortly after our first book was published, and we’ve been asked why. Here’s my answer.
I suggested we attend the Maui Writers’ Conference a few months after we published our first book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We had already planned a trip to the island for the same time, and one of my favorite authors, Gail Tsukiyama, was a presenter. Larry said he’d rather surf. That is, until he found out one of his favorites, Terry Brooks, was a speaker. Oh, and he realized the cost of the conference was tax-deductible.

He finally agreed to go, but said he’d drop me off in the morning, go surfing, and pick me up in the afternoon, except for the time Terry was scheduled. I agreed.
Once we arrived and he saw all the topics available, he decided maybe he’d go to one or two. It was a good thing we had another few days in Hawaii following the conference, because he never went surfing. Alas, the conference is no more, but we still have the memories.
We heard some awesome people speak, learned a great deal, which we’re still using, met some wonderful folks with whom we’re still in touch, and had a blast.
One person we met became the inspiration for our protagonist, Agapè Jones, in our cozy mysteries, Murder…They Wrote and Murder in Paradise.
We enjoyed spending time with others who understand when you complain, “My characters just won’t do what I want them to do.” They nod sagely, because they’ve been there, too.
Our first book was named a finalist for the EPPIE award, so we decided to attend the EPIC conference (EPICon) the following year.

This conference was smaller than Maui, but some of the attendees have become dear friends.
I met one of my writing partners at the first one. Together with three other friends, we’ve written the six Aspen Grove sweet romance anthologies: Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, An Aspen Grove Christmas, The Art of Love, Directions of Love, which won the EPIC eBook Award, and our latest, …And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe, soon to be available as an audiobook. She also introduced us to the independent publisher, who published our romances as well as our mysteries.
We also met the publishers for whom I have edited and formatted as well as several of my freelance clients.
For quite a few years, we presented classes and workshops at EPICon. Those became the foundation for speaking engagements, which we’ve been doing a lot more of recently.
Last year, we attended the Left Coast Crime Conference in Monterey, CA, where we got together with one of my publishers and several of her authors for dinner. We’d met her through a previous conference.

While in Monterey, we spent an evening with a friend who lives there, attended some great presentations, and participated as presenters on panels, made new friends and learned more about our craft. We also got to hear Elizabeth George and Sue Grafton again. We’d met both of them at previous conferences.

Why do we attend conferences? We have opportunities to network with other writers and industry professionals. We learn a lot. We keep current on the state of the publishing industry. We return home inspired and ready to get back to writing again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

About Book Trailers...

Are video trailers for books worthwhile? Do they sell more books? Do they increase interest?
Fellow author Christopher Lynch believes a trailer can make all the difference. He made a professional trailer (at no small cost) for his first book One Eyed Jack. He credits the trailer for his getting a film deal.

But what about the rest of us with limited budgets? Do we need video trailers to call attention to our books? Probably not, but I make them for all of our books. I create them ‘quick-and-dirty’ by using PowerPoint and Microsoft Movie, two programs already on my computer. So can you. How?
Make a PowerPoint Presentation
Years ago when I got my first copy of PowerPoint, I asked my goddaughter to teach me to use it. She said, “It’s the easiest program in the world. Just start using it. You’ll figure it out.” She was right. It is one of the easiest programs to use. If you can’t figure it out, ask a ten-year-old to show you how or watch one of the many free tutorials online.
Choose Your Images
The first, of course is the book cover. If you are using a cover provided by your publisher, you might want to get their permission to use the image. But most publishers realize the trailer may bring additional attention to the book, and therefore, more sales.
 Ghost Writer VideoWhat other images would help tell the story? Make sure you have the right to use the images before you include them. Most of ours include photos we took ourselves or drawings we created or free images. (You can find these online.) The number of images I use depends on the story.
For Ghost Writer, I used quite a few. The story involved a black-and-white Shih Tsu who goes from pampered pooch to ragamuffin during the story. I asked a friend who owns a gorgeous little dog who was the inspiration for the one in the story if I could use pictures of Casey in the trailer. She agreed.
Then another friend walked a scruffy one for the elderly owner. We took Precious down to the beach for a run and took lots of photos of her. They became the images on the video. I found most of the other images free online.
 Book 1 Video Video Book 2

However for Larry’s sci-fi books in The McGregor Chronicles series, I only used the cover, some of his sketches (included in the back material in the books) and NASA star field images. These are in the public domain.
Choose Your Words
I usually use the back cover description. This is often the same as the description for the book listing on Amazon. I sometimes have to elaborate on this in order to have enough words to create a long enough trailer. You can also create a PowerPoint with only images and narrate it. This entails an additional step, and I’m basically lazy, so I don’t do it.
Assemble the PowerPoint
Intersperse the images with words. Make sure you have at least 18 slides, but more will work. At the end, be sure to repeat the book title, and credit the author, editor, publisher, etc.
When it is complete, save the file as a PowerPoint and then Save As a JPG file. You will be prompted to save one image or every slide. Choose every slide. They will be stored in a separate folder on your computer. I save the PowerPoint and slide file in the same folder as my book files. With so many different books, it’s the only way I can keep track of them.
Create the Movie
Import Images
Open Microsoft Movie and select Add Videos and Photos. Browse to the folder with all the JPG images. Highlight all of them and import them. If any of the slides has many words, copy it and place it next to the duplicate. This will cause the slide to run longer so the words can be read.
Choose Music
This step may be the most challenging. If you publish a video using copyrighted material, YouTube may remove it. We have over 12,000 songs in our iTunes library, most from old CDs and converted from cassette tapes. We also have some from Japan, which are not available for purchase in the US. You can also find free music online. Just make sure to use a clip around two minutes or less, or one you can cut to that length.
Click the little note Add Music and insert the clip. (If you are taking the clip from iTunes, right click the song and select Show in Widows Explorer. Follow the path to browse to the correct song.) Edit the clip to the place where you want it to end and cut it, if necessary.
Click the Project Tab and select Fit to Music. The slides will automatically fit themselves to the music you have chosen.
Preview Your Video
Play the video to make sure everything works as it should. You may need to change the music, add or delete slides, or make other adjustments. When you are satisfied with your result, Save it. Then Save Movie for Computer. This file will be converted to an actual video file and saved to your My Videos folder. Last, Publish your video to YouTube.
When the video is available on YouTube, you will receive an email notice. Share the video on social media, and embed it on your website.
To see all of ours, go to our website www.lornalarry.com and click the link for each book. The video will appear on the book’s page.
Think you may try your hand at creating your own videos? If the task seems too daunting, companies exist who will create them for you.
I come back to the original question: do they increase sales? The jury is still out on that one. Do they increase visibility? Maybe. Once you’ve done a couple they are fun to make, and that’s why I keep doing them.

Are you an author who has videos for your books? What is your take?