The ‘Writing Process’ blog hop

Jill Pennington, the entrepreneur true-life author of Diary of a Single Parent Abroad asked me on FB the other day if I had a blog, and if so, would I mind following up her guest post on Tottie Limejuice’s blogspot as the next author to answer the same three questions as her?

51uNDQAk4yL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_

After telling her yes, I have maybe eight blog sites scattered around, and hadn’t done this blog hop thing yet on any of them, I said sure, why not. Pretty much everyone else I know has done one already, so I’m probably the last one ever. (Hooray, I hear you all cry).

Anyway, without further adon’ts, let’s get this mess over and done with, so we can all move on with our lives and never speak of this again… :)

Question one: What are you working on?

I’m working on a Toshiba M400 tablet laptop upgraded to Windows 7. I bought it off ebay. Highly recommended :) Oh, the real answer? :/ More Zombie of Oz books for YA, more Lauren Boutain romance for the definitely adult, some sci-fi (including designing an open-source planetary setting that anyone can write about), some more parody/steampunk, and some more introspective stuff, which may or may never see the Kindle-fuelled light of day.

Question two: Why do you write what you do?

Because it’s there, in my head. If I don’t write it down as a creative outlet, it tends to manifest itself in other ways. Life would be unbearable with all those zombies turning up in reality. Me and Junior yell ‘Money should be falling from the sky!’ at least five times a day, because our nonsense creative conversation gets echoed back to us from the TV or by something occurring in real life. So writing down the nonsense is the safest place for it to go. Still waiting for the money to fall from the sky. That’s the real joke :)

Question three: How does your writing process work?

I switch off my ‘external monitoring’ and transcribe what I see and hear in my head. But I don’t need soundproofing or isolation to switch off my outside awareness. I like background noise, or TV, even doing laundry at the same time. Writing is just part of my normal life, and has been since I was 7 years old. I was doing it to kill time while waiting to make friends, did that, then later to kill time while waiting to have my first relationship, and I’m still waiting, so still basically killing time. There’s nothing really technical or methodical about it. I don’t need to ‘get into’ author mode, or put on a writing hat or anything. When I was younger I would have loved to grow up and be Barbara Cartland wafting around in a pink dressing-gown writing a book every day after lunch, now I don’t see being an author as having an idealised image attached to it. I can write for fun, and still be me, especially as all I’m doing for a living now is writing, since I’ve given up freelance IT support due to sports injuries that I’m awaiting surgery and rehabilitation for, so there’s nothing to hide and nothing to prove about it either.

I find I’m a more interesting person when I’m not talking about my writing, so I’m going to end there before I bore myself to sleep :)

I haven’t asked anyone if they want to be tagged, because they’ve all done the godforsaken deed already, so I’ll just recommend a couple of authors I know, for their indie inspiration:

Robert Rankin - also on Facebook

Sophie Neville - also on Facebook

You should check out what they’re up to, and how they market themselves and their work. Everyone’s different, but even though these two have a genuine hook they can exploit, they’re still working tirelessly to get out there in the real world and meet the public to promote their writing, rather than just banging away on social media.

Enough already – time for bed!

:) xxx

Inspiration and book trailers – using open source Audacity and sound FX to create audio

What started out as a music track remix turned into something else once I got distracted :) Click here for alternative link if you can’t see the video above.

I was reading a blog post somewhere recently about free and Open Source software tools that authors can use in their promotion packaging, and came across a mention of Audacity, a track-mixing and recording desktop program, that authors can set up to record their own voice-overs, music, and mix their own copyright-free audio material to use in book trailers. This grabbed my attention initially, because one of my hobbies is music mashups over video (click here for an example of a soundtrack I made using Holst’s ‘Planets Suite’ recorded electronically by Isaio Tomita, combined with Rob Dugan’s epic dance anthem ‘Clubbed to Death’ and a loop sample by Brandon Billings, dubbed over NASA’s Mars Rover 10-minute promo animation).

Having used demo versions of track-mixing software in the past, I was on the lookout for a full version of a program with no nagware attached and unlimited potential.

I found a starter tutorial for Audacity on Youtube, and it seemed pretty similar to other programs I’d tried out, with a lot of additional features.

Like Tony says straightaway, I downloaded it from the official Audacity site. It’s not a huge program file, and was installed and ready to use within a few minutes. I haven’t used the recording voice-over tool so far, but there’s a lot of instruction on this in the above video.

I found that music and sounds can be imported on the ‘File’ menu from MP3 files already saved elsewhere on my computer, which is my usual practise. I’d had an idea for a tune I wanted to mash up, and imported the original track (‘The Politics of Dancing’ by Re-Flex) and imported then trimmed and made a loop from the intro of another track (‘Humanoid’ Cry Baby remix by Stakker Humanoid).

At this point, I made a cup of tea, and got distracted by thoughts of scenes for another Zombie Adventures novel. When I sat down again with the laptop, I found a file saved on my computer called ‘Whoosh Pack’ from SweetSoundEffects, and also one called ‘Ultimate Fight Sounds’ which I’d used when dubbing sound effects for the short film ‘How to Train Your Zombie’ directed by Junior for one of her home school projects:

Listen for the crunch and stab sounds from 03:41 to 04.54 – the recording of sound effects on film dubbing is done by a ‘foley’  :)

What I’d found on the above film, when adding sound FX directly into Windows Movie Maker as a separate track to music, was that the music volume would become inconsistent and ‘fade’ temporarily while the sound effect was playing (as you can hear). I hadn’t discovered a fix for this in Movie Maker, and wanted to find a way of controlling the volume/gain or fade of each individual effect and music track so that they wouldn’t override one another automatically.

In Audacity, you can control every track you add in exactly that way – including where you want a fade to begin and end by selecting that area of the track – you don’t even need to split it. Each effect you add has its own separate ‘layer’ with individual controls, just like a full paid version of other programs. So you can mix and save a complete soundtrack to add to your book trailer or movie as a single MP3 file.

So, over the beginning of my Re-Flex re-mix, thinking about zombie mayhem for my next book, I added fight sound clips, whooshes, screams, and knife sounds. Having too much fun at this point, I went back to SweetSoundEffects online and downloaded more free audio FX samples, including gun sounds and explosions. These arrive via email link to download in a zip file, which you then extract on your computer to your chosen documents location.

The great thing about Audacity is that so far I’ve found no limit on the number of layers you can add and control on your soundtrack, so a single gunshot through a window noise with a hit and a scream added will consist of four or five different sound effects overlapped in separate layers, all timed to create that ‘event’ in the soundtrack. I think the most separate sound clips I’ve added at the moment to a complete soundtrack is about 100.

I was pretty pleased with the zombie battlefield din that I’d created (could perhaps use some groans, but I didn’t want to overdo it first time), so I cropped the soundtrack to about a minute and a half, and exported it as MP3.

Again, as the tutorial says, if you haven’t downloaded the required MP3 conversion program ‘LAME’ from where Audacity directs you to already, at this point you’ll be prompted and directed to the instructions and download link. Don’t click in the big sidebar adverts saying ‘download’ – make sure you select the right one beneath the instructions for LAME MP3, for your computer. Once installed, you might need to click on ‘Browse’ for the LAME MP3 program the first time you export your track from Audacity, but otherwise the file will convert and save automatically in your chosen location – I use ‘My Music’ files to save all audio.

You can then make a Windows Movie file using the complete soundtrack. Import your images or video first (I used a single image for the first track, as it was an experiment), and then your audio. Select the MP3 file of your complete, mixed soundtrack, and it will appear as a single track in your ‘My Movie’ project. Your images, movie or slideshow will then need to be edited in ‘running length/time’ to match the length of your soundtrack, given in seconds. Alternatively, decide on the length of your movie and fade out the soundtrack accordingly – it’s up to you. Add any captions or titles that you want to include. Then save and export your movie file as normal – the usual for upload online is to export it as a file ‘for computer’ although you can also write to DVD etc.

This method is ideal for book trailers, where you’re not trying to sync dialogue, and just want an easily-manageable soundtrack.

So, having succeeded, and wanting to play with adding a few more sound effects to my ‘battle scene’ soundtrack, I re-opened the project in Audacity, saved it as a different file name so as not to over-write the original, removed the music, and added an MP3 of different music and samples that I’d remixed earlier, to make another version:

O-Ren Ishii

Click here for ‘Chill Bill – Lucy Loses It Remix’ (contains strong language)

After that, and playing with more ideas for backing music and an even longer battlefield audio scene, I downloaded some aircraft sounds, extended the mix, changed the music again, made a tribute slideshow, and eventually ended up with this:

‘Nightmare Before Apocalypse’ – audio remix (backing track: Danny Elfman). Click here for alternative link if you can’t see the video above.

Not only did I have a ton of fun with this, I also got several new story ideas while mixing up music and FX – so whether you’re planning on making yourself a free book trailer and need to record voice-over, sounds and music, or are wondering what your battle scenes might sound like, or even just want some inspiration, it’s a great way to get even more creative.

Enjoy :) x

Current events – Writing Buddies 5th Anniversary exhibition at the Central Library, Southampton Civic Centre, 12-17 May 2014

DSCF2379

The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Southampton (Councillor Ivan White), centre, with Pam Whittington and Penny Legg, the founders of Writing Buddies, cutting the celebration cake yesterday at the opening of the exhibition. All photos: Lisa Scullard

I joined Writing Buddies back in 2010, having found them by chance while looking for a local writing group close to the New Forest.

DSCF2368

Writing Buddies is unique in that it isn’t a feedback and critique group, but rather a support group for the technicalities of living as a writer – where to take your writing, who can help, and if you are inclined, the technical details on how to publish.

DSCF2369

It’s free to join and we pay a couple of quid at the group meetings towards hire of the room at the Mercure Dolphin, Southampton, on the first Friday of every month.

DSCF2376

The 5th Anniversary cake was created by Christine Donovan, previous Rubery Book Award winner, who studied cake-making at Brockenhurst College

DSCF2382Members are from all ages, backgrounds and abilities, and as well as sharing progress on individual writing careers, they have supported other projects, including recording audio stories to be played on the radio for the visually impaired.

DSCF2385

Penny Legg discussing the work of Southampton Sight, with the Right Worshipful The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Ivan White

Individuals can also volunteer to give informative talks at these monthly meetings. In June’s meeting, I’ll be giving a talk on copyright.

DSCF2370

The exhibition runs until this weekend, where you’ll be able to see examples of all of our work and other creative projects, in the main body of the library near the entrance.

DSCF2394

For more information on Writing Buddies, email Penny on penny@pennylegg.com

DSCF2380

Christine’s lovely cake went down a treat :)

DSCF2366

Until midnight Friday 16th May 2014, PST, you can download three of my ebooks for free from Amazon Kindle – Death & The City: Book One, Death & The City: Book Two, and One Stolen Kiss, written under my pen-name Lauren Boutain

DSCF2367

Enjoy  :)

Another tutorial: Linking to multimedia in ebooks

Hello! Spring has sprung, the holidays have come, and hopefully we’re all outdoors getting some sunshine and healthy fresh air, not indoors with a TV movie marathon and a serious hand-blanket-stitching cosplay costume-making addiction. Just me on that one, I think…

Ok now, we all want to publish ebooks that stand out in the current market, and one thing you can do to perk them up is to add links to multimedia content.

Remember that you must own the content to share it (visual AND audio), and you must keep in mind that many of the more basic e-readers will not be running Flash player, or support video and audio content, and you don’t want their own enjoyment of reading the rest of the book interrupted with large blocks of non-functioning embedded content.

Check out the ‘Look Inside’ preview of this ebook that I formatted for a true-life memoir author, Sophie Neville: The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons.

She’d shown me some old home-movie footage her family had taken at the time the film was made, and I suggested editing it into short clips that could be linked to in the text inside the book, as well as create a book trailer from it.

You’ll see hyperlinks under the first two photographs on the title pages of her ebook, linking to footage uploaded onto the author’s Youtube channel. (I also edited the footage for her, and used music soundtracks available from the copyright-free libraries). I edited the ebook’s description on Amazon to include the line “contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets” – so that customers would be aware of how this worked.

If you own one of these non-browser, non-Flash Kindles or e-readers, you can download the reader app to your PC or other internet device to read and view books with multimedia content, where the links will work on your PC or device with an internet connection and fully-functioning browser.

On the iPad or iPhone, for example, when you tap on the video hyperlink in this ebook, the video appears full-screen, ready to watch. When it has finished, you just tap on the Youtube prompt ‘Done’ – it closes automatically and you’re back on your page in the Kindle book. Neat stuff.

Here’s how to format and publish a standard text or illustrated ebook – click here.

Start with your content – you have to own it, as will become clear shortly, and also have permission of anyone (or their property, or music) who appears in your footage, whether it’s made using stills or video. Make sure you include a written acknowledgement of their contribution in your ‘Thank You’ list at the end of your book, for granting you permission.

Firstly, set up a Youtube channel in your author name, and upload your edited content.

In your video’s description on the Youtube edits page while uploading, include the words ‘(Book title) Copyright (your name) (year) Thanks to (names of contributors in this video). All permissions obtained.’

Copy the shortlink to share the video you want to link from the ‘Share’ tab under the video on Youtube, e.g. http://youtu.be/chXkQ8m8tKM Make sure you only have the link to your video copied. Don’t copy any longer links from the address bar, which may contain ‘play all’ loops or playlists, which prompt the link to include the rest of your videos, or ones with the same title or search terms in the content that plays when the link is clicked on. If you can only copy the link from your browser’s address bar, make sure that if it contains the symbol ‘&’ you first select the ‘&’ and anything that appears after the ‘&’ symbol, and delete that part, before copying the first part of the link only. Also delete the ‘s’ from ‘https’ at the beginning of the link – otherwise your link is set to ‘private browsing’ and will only work if the reader is also signed in to Youtube.

If your ebook is illustrated, you can do the same as I did for this particular author, and put links under appropriate illustrations. This means that folk with regular e-readers still get something nice to look at, and the video is just enhancement for readers with fully-functioning browsers. Don’t link the video to the illustration itself – this will mess with the ‘zoom image’ tap function on touchscreen tablets, and no-one will know it is there! It’s best for clarity to type the line ‘Click here for video’ or something similar as I have done, and hyperlink the sentence.

Highlight the phrase you want to link on your document in Word/OpenOffice etc, click on the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Hyperlink’, select ‘on the web’ in the left-hand sidebar of the control box that pops up, and paste your video’s link into the box saying ‘web address’, then ‘Apply’ and ‘Done/OK’.

Once you’ve added your video hyperlinks, whether they’re book trailers, vlogs, author interviews with yourself, you dressed up as one of your characters acting out a scene etc, finish formatting your ebook document, and upload and submit it for publishing as described in the Formatting Ebooks tutorial.

Your book will appear in the Kindle store. Now, at some point, you will receive an email from KDP stating that your book ‘contains content freely available on the web’ and to ‘verify that you are the owner’ of this material, otherwise your book will be removed and the rest of your author account as well. You must reply immediately, as they only give you a few days’ notice to answer. All you need do is send a polite and prompt reply confirming that it is your own footage on your own Youtube channel (see name on your Youtube channel) and has been uploaded for the purpose of marketing your book (see book title and author name in your video descriptions). The same goes for images if queried, or your own written blog posts, that you might have replicated in your published books. Also follow any prompts they have given you in their email to confirm ownership by re-submitting the book, by opening the edit menu of your book on your KDP dashboard, re-selecting ‘All territories’ on the ‘Rights & Royalties’ page, and re-submitting your book for publishing. They will later reply to your reply, confirming acknowledgement of your right to publish the content. These emails are not automated, and your content and written verification will be checked by actual people.

For the above reason, make sure that any video content you have created to link to in your ebook does not contain anything illegal, defamatory, plagiarist, obscene, or that could be interpreted as an actual declaration of war in our Universe or the next.

Also, be aware that browsers with some child-safety ‘nanny’ programs running to block adult content may be set up by readers with families on shared computers (to whom your own book and content might be perfectly safe and suitable, as is the one I formatted), but the fact that your book contains Youtube links will mean it does not appear on their home computers in online searches. This is because Youtube and other video sites overall contain content blocked by these programs, and there’s nothing you can do to get around parenting shields that detect and block Youtube and video links (I’d be very concerned if there was a way around it). If the parents have alternative access on other computers and tablets without these parenting shields, they will be able to find your book without any problems. Just because your book doesn’t appear on or is blocked on one family’s computer doesn’t mean it will be blocked on all of them. (One of my author clients got quite excitable when she thought her extremely tame book had been ‘banned’ after trying to look it up at a friend’s house and found it was blocked by their online family filter).

So it can be done, and managed effectively, and if it all ties together nicely it makes a really good transmedia reading experience for the customer – you only have to see what the Amazon reviewers have said about the video content in the book I formatted for Sophie Neville (although she has allowed one reviewer to give her ALL of the credit for technical wizardry, LOL!)

…If you are formatting a paperback version later on, change your hyperlinks to the original shortlinks as above. That way readers can find your video content by typing in the address itself, as there’s nowhere to click on paper yet :)

To learn how to format and publish a paperback or hardcover, click here.

Have fun, and good luck. And remember to get out more ;) xxx

Q&A: Lisa Scullard – writer, editor, formatter, parkour enthusiast…

Lisa Scullard:

A surprise invitation from David Powning of Ink-Wrapped…

Originally posted on Ink-Wrapped:

Today I’m delighted to welcome writer Lisa Scullard, who works across the zombie, parody and romance genres. She caught my eye recently after releasing a novel under a pen-name with no fanfare or marketing frenzy, and yet achieved surprising results. Lisa also works on the editing side of things, and is a font of knowledge when it comes to formatting.

I was intrigued by your blog post about releasing a book under a pen-name, in a genre that you hadn’t previously written in before, and with next to no promotion. What prompted you to do this, and how surprised were you by the reaction?

I’d dreamed of writing romance from the age of about thirteen, and had a very rose-tinted view of it – meaning I never felt qualified. I believed for a very long time that romance authors all led very romantic lives, whereas I’m more self-isolating and insular…

View original 2,490 more words

…Apparently, I can…

Hey, happy Sunday :)

I’m not sure what I expected would happen, publishing an unknown pen-name into the most overcrowded genre, with no advertising or solicited support. A dive into the community pool of obscurity, most likely. The genre has the highest turnover of readers as well, who devour a book in a day and are in a hurry to pick up the next one, like a chocolate fixation. Interest at the most optimistic level is likely to be fleeting.

I jumped the gun too, having had the book requested in full by Harlequin M&B and waited three months for a response after submitting. As the novel, a stand-alone story, only took me five weeks to write (76,000 words, a cakewalk compared to some of my others) I justified that part as not thinking it decent that I should have to wait more than twice as long for a reply than it took me to write. And I’d started writing four more in the meantime, which if I finish this year to follow it up with, would be unlikely to find such quick slots to fill in a traditional publisher’s catalogue.

Anyway. From my previous experience of running repeating freebies as promotion, when I put it on KDP Select to release it as free in the first weekend after publishing it last week, I was expecting a few hundred downloads on Amazon.com, a few dozen on Amazon.co.uk and one or two elsewhere. After the freebie ended this time, however, I had 1732 downloads on Kindle UK, outstripping everywhere else almost three times over, and had reached the UK #4 in its category and #24 in the Kindle top 100 bestsellers in Free ebooks. Two 5* reviews had turned up from nowhere, and it has continued to sell (and be borrowed on Amazon Prime) at an average rate of 1 per hour ever since.

As I only tweeted it about a dozen times for the freebie, and didn’t solicit or advertise for any promotion or ask friends for help, all I can guess is that folk genuinely like this book and are recommending it.

That’s a writer’s dream. Still early days, but at the the moment I feel as though I should be pinching myself to see if it’s really me dreaming it.

Possibly in danger of giving myself a small identity crisis, but that’s nothing new. One audience for the zombie parody, one for the psychological introspection, and now another, under a new name altogether.

And it means the opportunity to invest more time in writing :)

It wasn’t a quick decision to write in another genre – I’d been writing experimentally in this genre for about twenty years, but never published anything. Writing and publishing my other stuff turned out to be relevant experience – the more you write, the more fluent you become. You can learn something new about language and prose every day, which I discovered when writing a novel as a blog in 2012. When you write in a fully-conscious state of mind, you’re less likely to repeat yourself or slip into stereotypes associated with writing.

But I found I also have to be aware of being a storyteller, imparting an atmosphere and emotional tone as a major priority – allowing the reader’s imagination to have as much control without distracting them with ‘wordplay’. There’s good writing that demonstrates the mental gymnastics and intellect of the author, and then there’s good writing that you forget is writing because you’re absorbed in the story. In this case, I was aiming for the second one – which meant switching off the part of me as a writer which wants to flash around some skills and intellect and behave as if I have something to gain by proving them. If being too clever makes your writing inaccessible, it’s like pricing your books too high – they may be praiseworthy, but only a few folk will invest in them.

For me, writing will always be a spontaneous activity, meaning that most of what I achieve is down to luck and enjoying the time spent by myself working on it, which includes any social media (I have a great deal of writer friends, but I’m not known for turning up ubiquitously on dozens of blogs or joining marketing campaigns and the review culture). One reason I enjoy writing as a career is it doesn’t involve any group effort or teamwork – and I’m not into competitive sports either :)

Genuine success will always be down to the readership in that particular genre and their judgement. It’s a very grounding and humbling thought, knowing that as the writer, you’re always outnumbered by the potential readers, by millions to one :)

L xxx

I went for it…

Originally posted on Lauren Boutain:

Jensen AcklesJensen Ackles – another dreamboat from my Pinterest muses board and Facebook page

So – you can see what I have been up to, on my new ‘Books’ page. And for more insight, you can treat yourself to the complete ebook on Kindle.

I had some great feedback, and also won a Romance pitching contest in the last two weeks, which has fuelled my current writing even further – so I decided not to wait around for the publisher’s response to the full manuscript they requested three months ago, and yesterday I published it…

For five days ‘One Stolen Kiss’ by Lauren Boutain is free on Amazon Kindle worldwide, until midnight 10 February PST. After that – 99 cents offer until the end of February, as it’s new, as am I, to this genre. My expectations are ‘hopeful’ :)

Let me know if you enjoy it… and I wish you…

View original 17 more words