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Not Vamps this time…

Dagger&Brimstone quotes5

Racer finds out what’s under the step. You can, too.

Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. Amazon .99 SALE.

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In Time for Halloween

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Town from Hell is the first book in the Dagger & Brimstone series. It is young adult, paranormal/horror and recommended for readers 17+.

Supernatural, Paranormal, Fantasy or Science Fiction?

There doesn’t seem to be a cut and dry answer when choosing a genre for some books. If a book has a ghost element, is it paranormal, supernatural or fantasy? When does a book with a vampire, werewolf or demon cross over from the supernatural or paranormal category into horror? Some books, such as Twilight, may fall under romance or thriller although most of the characters are supernatural. This is my take on paranormal and supernatural, using my book Pirates Off Kilter as an example. Please feel free to leave comments if your opinions differ.

Supernatural Characters Include Phantoms and Ghosts

In Pirates Off Kilter, pirate captains François l’Olonnais and Red Boots add a ghostly element. To me, ghosts are supernatural characters. L’Olonnais is evil, but not evil enough to make the middle grade book a horror. The Klopt family, who l’Olonnais frequently haunts in the Pirates Off series, may disagree.

Paranormal Characters Are More Solid

Witches, sea witches, vampires, werewolves and ghouls are paranormal in my book. Literally, sea witches are in my book. Volange and her brother Dedris are sea creatures that cause problems for the Klopt family. Enchanting but scary, Volange’s voice is melodic like a siren’s—a creature that is both paranormal and mythical. Dedris is just as powerful and tricky as his sister is. He may appear passive with his fiber-optic looking hair and lavender eyes; however, he turns Hoody Klopt into a statue with a wave of his hand.

Dedris Sea Witch

Science Fiction Is a Whole Other Realm

Science fiction doesn’t have to be in outer space, but Star Wars and Star Trek come to mind first. An alien invasion of Earth and weird science are science fiction, too.

 Any way you look at it, it’s all fantasy—to most people. The bottom line: if a book is good or even marginal yet entertaining, it doesn’t really matter how you categorize it. If you like supernatural, paranormal or fantasy, check out the Pirates Off series available on Amazon.

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.

Try Before You Buy

Wattpad is an interesting website that allows you to read part or all of a book without spending any money. As a writer and a reader, I created my free account, posted some of my work, and built a library of other authors’ works. Some of my posted work in available on Amazon while others are only manuscripts that I hope to have published one day. Check out the Wattpad site and see what you think.

From Roaming the Streets to the Town from Hell

Entering a town from hell might seem like a bad thing, unless you’re Siren, the cat. She is the featured “Kirchner Zoo” member whose picture appears on my young adult, supernatural/horror book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. Her story ends happily. You’ll have to read Town from Hell to see if my characters Racer and Arloe are as lucky.

“What a difference a year makes” is a statement that is especially true for this cover cat. A year ago, Siren braved the Kirchner Zoo backyard, roaming with ferocious beasts—not an exaggeration for a 7-pound cat—to tear into our garbage bags to feed herself and her unborn kittens. Skin and bones with a dragging belly, Siren had no collar or microchip, and nobody claimed her through ads and posters. Fortunately, through the persistence of my daughter and the help of friends, Mary and Patience, Siren’s four kittens were born healthy in a comfortable and dry room while rain poured outside.

I could say Siren is one lucky cat, but it’s more accurate to say that we’re the lucky family because she chose us. If you check out my other books, the Pirates Off series and The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich series, the author bio always features at least one of my furry kids, and sometimes, they turn up as characters in the book as well.

Siren small
Siren courtesy of Jelly Bean Photos

Kitten Doctor small (1)

Kitten Odysseus small

Kitten Sir Pounce small

Pepper cat 2

Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell Book Tour

It’s official–Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, a young adult horror/supernatural book, is available on Amazon and making the rounds on Bewitching Book Tours. Visit the tour and sign up to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Some of the stops feature interviews and a sample from the book. The trailer for Town from Hell, which is on YouTube, was the subject of my previous blog on ‘How To Make a Low Budget Book Trailer.’

Town from Hell Button 300 x 225[1]

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 4: The Completed Project

The book trailer is completed for my Young Adult horror/supernatural Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. The book will be published in April 2015 and available on Amazon. Since I shot all my own video and only purchased two audio files from iStockphoto, which were one credit each, the cost came in around $10.

The desert scenes were actually shot in the Nevada desert, although the ‘Winthrop’ and ‘Welcome to Nevada’ signs were added in Photoshop. The coyote howls were captured at a golf course, the wooden planks were at Bonnie Springs Ranch, and most of the other scenes were shot at home. View the video on YouTube.

Differences from the Original Layout

In the first part of the series, How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer: Step by Step, I showed how I created a storyboard before shooting the video. Most of the ideas from the storyboard were shot as scenes in the final version; however, after having friends view the first version of the trailer, one scene that confused them was deleted. The handwritten notes from Racer and Arloe were replaced by boots and backpacks sitting next to a door. Also the scene with a door, which would have had Blue’s symbol emblazoned on it, was replaced by a treasure chest—possibly hiding a body—watch the trailer to find out.

Special or Not-so Special Effects

I created a burning symbol in Photoshop that glows within Racer’s tattoo on his bicep. The original tattoo wasn’t very good, so I worked on it to get a better version. The flaming symbol isn’t perfect, but I think it portrays what I was getting at. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’ve had mixed reviews on it so far. It gives me incentive to work on my Photoshop skills.

The Final Installment

Overall, I’m happy with the final trailer and the fact it is completed weeks before Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell is for sale on Amazon. Hopefully, it will stir up interest about what’s going on in Winthrop and what Sheriff Blue really is. As I bring this series in my blog to a close, I hope that any or all of it has helped inspire you to try making a trailer. Good luck with your endeavor!

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.