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The Trouble with Ghost Pirates

Francois l’Olonnais, a 1600s French buccaneer, has long since gone off to a different realm, but he didn’t leave pirating behind. Being a ghost is merely a speed bump on an already dark and potholed road to hell. Along the way, he decides to become a mentor so his legacy will continue…”Or something stupid like that” as Tommy Klopt his protégé says in the adventure Pirates Off the Wall.

With the ghost lingering around and getting them into more trouble, Tommy Klopt and the rest of his family, Captain Hoody (his dad), and brothers Connor and Dillon have a hard time retiring from the pirating business.

The ghost has an ever-watchful eye on the Klopts, and sometimes, he uses his persuasive charm to ward off threats made to them:

L’Olonnais pulled his cutlass from its sheath. “Oui, Capitaine Hoods’ list of wrongdoings is quite long, but so is my cutlass. ‘Tis long and sharp. I’d say it could dispense with your head in one swipe…possibly deux.” He sneered. “And don’t even think about shooting me. I am already dead.”

When negotiating doesn’t work, such as with ghost pirate, Captain Mignard, he’s ready to duel.

Ghostly Duel acrylic

Lost in Translation

Most of the time, the ghost lets the Klopts find their own way out of sticky situations—at times because he can’t help given his ghostly restrictions. The French pirate’s warnings aren’t always crystal clear and are a constant source of frustration for Tommy and especially Connor.

“’Tis not what I desire, but what you desire that I bear news about.”

“Beware of the living, not the driftwood.”

“You can trick people into believing you are who you tell them you are.”

Connor sums up l’Olonnais in his own special way: “He’s a nut case, and we don’t need him screwing up our already screwed-up lives again.”

Captains Don’t See Eye to Eye

Hoody is not intimidated by l’Olonnais although the pirate used him as shark bait, lost him in a card game, and sent him on a one-way cruise to Iceland. L’Olonnais refers to Hoody as l’idiot. He uses threats, but they bounce off Hoody such as:

L’Olonnais’ nostrils flared, and he gritted his teeth. “Oui, I have my cutlass, and ‘tis sharp enough to cut your head off.” His dark eyes were intently fixed on Hoody.

Hoody remains mild-mannered and gets right to the point when he deals with the ghost:

Hoody shook his head. “Speaking of things that aren’t obvious, why are you back? You have your cutlass. Shouldn’t you be lounging around on your ship waiting to terrorize unsuspecting children?”

Pirates and Sea Witches Can’t Be Trusted

The sea witch Volange adds to the Klopts’ problems. She’s beautiful, spiteful and powerful, which makes l’Olonnais avoid her and Mignard sorry he ever crossed her. Volange turned Mignard’s redhaired girlfriend, Cosette, into a ship’s figurehead for 100 years.

Cosette 1 watercolor

Tommy strikes a bargain with the aqua-eyed sea witch to save Cosette, despite his disdain for Mignard. This actually pleases Volange, but it doesn’t mean she plays fair.

Volange acrylic

The sea witch grinned. “Yes, I will bring Cosette to life again. I promise.”

That guarantee definitely came with fine print. As Tommy learns, a deal is a deal no matter how screwed up it is. The deal with Volange sends the Klopts on their way to Scotland with Cosette. She may not be a ship’s figurehead, at least for the time being, but she’s not quite her normal self. The Klopts success in Scotland will determine her fate.

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 3: The Finishing Touches

This is the final part in my blog series How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer. With only one scene left to shoot, I put all the other scenes, music and sounds for my young adult, horror/supernatural book trailer Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell into Movie Maker. I manipulated several pictures in Photoshop to take the place of video I couldn’t shoot.

Special Effects with One Photo

By using photos, it was possible to create an illusion that I wanted but couldn’t acquire as video. The version of Photoshop I work with doesn’t have any video editing capabilities. I’m not an expert with the software, but I still am able to manipulate photographs after some trial and error.
The first picture is of the Nevada desert, which is exactly where my characters are traveling to. Anyone else looking at the video probably couldn’t tell where the location is, so I added a ‘Welcome to Nevada’ sign using Photoshop. It worked better for me to take the sign from a different picture and move it to the desert picture.

The second picture is also the Nevada desert. I wanted to let the viewer know that the characters had arrived at my fictional town, Winthrop, so I added the ‘Winthrop, NV’ sign. The sign is about as dilapidated as the rest of the town, and it should just say ‘Welcome to Hell’, but hopefully, the text I chose for the trailer will convey that.

Creating a Scene with Multiple Photos

I used the same technique that I used in my book trailer The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door and placed several photographs together in Movie Maker. Each picture varies slightly to create motion. In Zombie, an angel statue turns into a gargoyle. For this video, the tattoo on my main character’s bicep has a symbol animate inside of his tattoo. The tattoo remains the same, but the symbol turns red and has tiny flames dance around the lines.

I took a picture of a bicep and added the tattoo. I drew the tattoo freehand in black pen and colored it in Photoshop before I added it to the arm. Once the two pictures were merged, I created the symbol as the top layer and played with different aspects to get the ‘flaming’ effect. I strung 10 slightly changed pictures together, repeating three of the brightest patterns, so it appears as though the symbol flickers. Each picture is only set for a duration of .2 or .25. You have to play with the duration to see what works for your material.

Arm small

arm n tattoo small

arm n tattoo w flame small

Welcome to NV no sign small

Welcome to NV 5 small

I still have a little work to do before I post the trailer on YouTube, but I’m happy with the way it’s coming along. The budget for this video was very low. I only purchased two audio files from iStockphoto, which were one credit each. I’m not sure what a credit is worth now because they switched to a new credit system, but audio from many sites can usually be obtained for under $10. I’ll post the link to the trailer when it’s finally complete. Good luck with your trailer!

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 2: Laying Out the Scenes

This is the second part in my blog series How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer. In this series, I will go over how I complete each step of my young adult, horror/supernatural book trailer for Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. At this point, I shot some new video, searched through old video, and took pictures to begin to build the trailer in the film editing software I use, Movie Maker.

If You Don’t Have All the Needed Video

My roughly sketched out storyboard lays out how I envision the initial video. Some footage I decided to use, such as desert scenes, footsteps on squeaky floorboards, and a thunderstorm, was already in my library. After opening a new Movie Maker project, I added that footage first in the order it appears on the storyboard. I edited each section of video by cropping the length to six seconds and changing the brightness and tone, which is under the visual effects tab.

To fill in the gaps where I don’t have the right footage yet, I snapped pictures to use as placeholders. For instance, the opening scene will show a table with two handwritten notes, signed by my two main characters Racer and Arloe. I took a picture of two pieces of paper and added it to Movie Maker. The duration can be set on photos as well as videos, so I set the photo’s duration to six seconds. When I get the proper video, I’ll just replace the photo in Movie Maker. By using a placeholder, I can see how the scenes flow together and where I will add text.

The Second Step is Adding Music and Sound Effects

As soon as I get all the video and placeholders into Movie Maker, I will work on finding sounds or music to add to it. There are three ways I’ve acquired sound in the past:

  • Using the natural background noise of the video
  • Stripping audio from another video by using Audacity software
  • Purchasing sounds/music from online suppliers which is generally cheaper than video

In my book trailer, The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door, I used all three methods. The footsteps crunching leaves in the graveyard scene and the thunder occurring after the lighting is natural background noise. The wolf howling during the full moon and the doorbell ringing was stripped from different video I’d taken. All the music and the noise of the candle cracking were purchased.

I have already determined which background sounds I’m keeping and which need to be turned off for each section of video in the new trailer. By the next blog, I’ll have hopefully shot the video I’m lacking and gotten my sounds and music together.

Saving the Text and Special Effects for Last

Text can be added in Movie Maker with many options including font size, color, and duration on screen. The text will be lines I’ve chosen from the manuscript, which will introduce the characters and set up the story. Making sure the text is easy to see and on screen long enough to read takes a lot of testing.

The hardest part of the trailer will be adding special effects. I am not an expert at Photoshop, but I use it every so often. In The Zombie Next Door trailer, I used Photoshop to make the gravestone with the angel on top. I also used it to change the angel into the gargoyle and make the voodoo doll wink. All of it was done with photos and not video.

For this trailer, I’m going to create a tattoo on a picture of a bicep I took and make the tattoo’s outlines turn into dancing flames–hopefully. I also want to create a welcome sign for my fictional town, Winthrop. I will use a photo of a desert landscape and add the sign. I hope to have the “before and after” pictures for the next blog.

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer: Step by Step

In my other blog series, Creating a Low-budget Book Trailer: The First Steps, I went over the process I used to create my middle grade and young adult book trailers for under $40. This blog will go through the step-by-step process for my new book trailer from the original ideas to the final product and all the changes in between. Do not confuse low budget with easy. To create a decent book trailer that is one to two minutes long, you will have to invest a good deal of time. Are you ready?

Keep in Mind

I am not a professional videographer, and I do not put together book trailers for a living. I am not promoting any software or companies that sell audio or video. I am just an author on a really tight advertising budget, passing along tips to fellow authors. Even if you don’t find my book trailers as wonderful as I’d like you to, you may be able to pick up a useful tip or two to make an even more fabulous one of your own.

Although I have books published, the trailer I’m going to create will be for a manuscript that isn’t published. Why would I go through the trouble? The reason is simple: I want to be prepared. Hopefully, my agent/publisher will want to publish the book, and when/if I get the thumbs up, I can start promoting it to build interest.

Key Points of the Book Trailer

My manuscript, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, is a young adult, horror, supernatural adventure. It’s suspenseful and has some gross scenes. I want those points to come across in my trailer without giving too much away. The quick synopsis is: two 17-year-olds are very much and love and decide to run away just for the summer to escape their meddling parents. The juvenile delinquent Racer and college-bound Arloe are as opposite as their families. They go off the grid exactly like they planned to a remote town and wind up in a nightmare. Of course, their parents can’t help them because they have no clue where the teens went.

Show and Tell

I picked out a few scenes from the manuscript that would set up the story and let the viewer know the teens didn’t arrive at a pleasant place. On a sheet of paper divided into 10 sections, I roughly (as in Pictionary drawings) sketched my ideas for the scenes. I am very visual, so this helps me a lot. It took a few days to decide what to use; I didn’t zoom through it in five minutes.
Creating House rough sketch

I copy and pasted lines from the manuscript into another document. I chose short lines that I thought were interesting, informative, and would introduce my main characters, Racer, Arloe, and Sheriff Blue. Again, it was a time-consuming process. For the next blog, I’ll match the scenes with the lines. Examples of lines:

• Our parents will never find us—I made sure of that.
• Everyone we’d met in Winthrop had a name from the book of nursery rhymes. It was all too weird, and I couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
• “Jack hid bodies!”
I stared at the frozen face of a middle-aged man. His blue lips had frozen squashed against the clear plastic that encased his body, and his pale, lifeless eyes had partially rolled back in their sockets. “I think Jack is a body.”
• “We’ll never get out of here. Things are roaming all over this place.”
“What kind of thing is Blue exactly?”

Just like a manuscript, this is a first draft, but it gives me a starting point. From here, I’ll work on tightening the sentences, finding music and sounds to enhance the scenes and figure out where I’ll shoot or acquire my envisioned video and stills. I recently found this blog by author Kate Bloomfield that also has helpful tips, and I think her trailer is well done.

Check back on my blog to see how the trailer for Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell is coming along.