Thursday, February 27, 2014


We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to celebrate a fellow author. Or rather, authors.

You may remember The Brothers Washburn from my in depth interview from last year. Lawyers.

Their next book MOJAVE GREEN, sequel to their very cool and successful PITCH GREEN comes out later this year. It's the next book the Dimensions of Death series and I got hold of the cover. I was not sworn to secrecy and even if I was, I'm not afraid. I know demons.

Check it out.

Pretty damn sweet.


Camm and Cal thought they had killed the unearthly creature that preyed upon the people in their isolated mining town deep in the Mojave Desert. Off at college, they feel safe, until they hear news that Trona’s children are still disappearing. Caught in that nightmare since childhood, Camm feels responsible for the town’s children. As her life-long best friend, Cal feels responsible for Camm. With unsuspecting friends in tow, they return to warn the town’s innocent people, but things have changed.

Death comes in a new form. The dimensional balance is altered. Crossovers multiply. The situation spirals out of control, and Cal is pulled into another world where his chances of survival are slim. Without Cal, Camm seeks help where she can, even from the dead. Soon, she is on the run from relentless federal agents, who are hiding secrets and pursuing their own agenda. The mysterious depths of the Searles Mansion may yet contain a key to stopping alien predators, if it is not already too late.


A. L. Washburn and B. W. Washburn are licensed lawyers and full time writers, residing in Colorado and southern Utah. They grew up in a large family in Trona, California, a small mining community not far from Death Valley, and spent many happy days in their youth roaming the wastelands of the Mojave Desert. After living in Argentina at different times, each came back to finish school and start separate careers. Living thousands of miles apart, they worked in different areas of the law, while raising their own large families.

Each has authored legal materials and professional articles, but after years of wandering in the wastelands of the law, their lifelong love of fiction, especially fantasy, science fiction and horror, brought them back together to write a new young adult horror series, beginning with Pitch Green and Mojave Green. They have found there yet remain many untold wonders to be discovered in the unbounded realms of the imagination, especially as those realms unfold in the perilous wastelands of the Dimensions in Death.

Author links:


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reflections on LTUE #32

I’ll get back to Book Trailers, but first let me tell you where I was last last week and what we all, as humans, should know about the power of sharing.

"You want to buy my book? Yeah right."
I’ve attended the Life the Universe and Everything conference three times in my life. The first was way back when the earth was young and I got to play Magic the Gathering with Richard Garfield, the inventor of the game (he signed some cards for me - one says “tap: Johnny wins.” Totally legit.)

The second time was last year and now I just got back from this year’s conference. I’d say I was a regular now for going twice in a row, but the conference has been going for 32 years.

I seem to remember LTUE as being another sci-fi con, Star Trek and Babylon 5, some costumes, a few books, movies and a dealers room where you could by D&D dice. Fandom might have been the case then, but now, LTUE is a writers conference now. It caters to authors at the beginning of their careers – authors struggling to complete manuscripts, looking for clues to break into the world of publishing and learning the craft from those who still remember what it’s like to be where they are. There’s still a dealers room with dice and some gaming events - even a Magic the Gathering Tournament, but there be writers there now.

This year, for the first time, I was asked to sit on panels and share what little expertise I’ve clawed out of the ether about these things. I applied to be on a bunch of panels when and to my surprise, I got place on seven of them. I dare say, the best seven. Life’s good that way sometimes.

Larry Correia, Michaelbrent Collings,
 >>>>   Me,   <<<<
Holli Anderson, Michelle Witte
Being an insecure writer, (that’s a redundancy, I know), I wondered why I was chosen to represent as much as I was. Seven is a lot. I tried to remember any bargains I’d made at crossroads recently or look at the planners and figure out if any of them owed me money. I couldn’t find a clue. Maybe I was just available those days, maybe I had a relative on the committee I didn’t remember. Maybe it was magick. Maybe they’d made a mistake. Maybe I was just lucky.

I never found out why I was selected, and I stopped worrying about it. Instead, I realized I had an opportunity.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m an expert in anything – ANYTHING (I’m not even sure I could find a hammer in this house, and don’t even start on me what that thing on my back is - spider bite? new arm? I don't know), but I have been scratching at the wall a while and know a few things I’d wished I’d known before.

Peggy Eddleman putting up with me
When I started on this crazy career, I made a few rules, collected a few aphorisms to help guide me. I may have mentioned some of them: “Get your butt in the chair,” “Finish what you start,” “It only takes one yes to erase all the no’s” and, one of my favorites, one of the pearls of wisdom I gleamed from my exile in Oregon: “To achieve your dreams, help others get to theirs.”

That’s what the opportunity was for me. A chance to give back.

I don’t make a secret of how, for example, Michaelbrent Collings has influenced my career. He’s a workhorse. He’s a blue collar guy who grinds out greatness. My work ethic has much to do with him, if only in positive reinforcement and focus.

So many panels are just people talking about themselves. The ones that offer concrete useful advice are golden. Collings was golden. I want to be him, I want his success, I want to he lp others as he helped me. LTUE gave me an opportunity.

My coffee cup.
(And Orson Scott Card)
I was on a three part panel about writing a novel which was the awesomest panel in the whole convention. Really. I was also on a great one about writing horror. I moderated one about the apocalypse which was fruitful and offered advice on writing plagues. The one I was most stoked about, because it was going to be the most well attended was one on writing in culture. The keynote speaker, guest of honor, sci-fi legend, Mormon cultural lightning rod, Orson Scott Card was set to be on it. We’d have packed the house on that one. But, my luck ran out (or not) and Scott got snowed-in back east and didn’t show until the last day.

I prepared for each panel and fueled myself with caffeine and reflected energy from the crowds. I left it all on the field.

I think I might have done some good. I tried. I was asked to publish my panel notes online. I did. Here they here. I was surprised there was interest. And gratified.

I connected with lots of folks at LTUE. Not just at the panels but in the hallways and audience, in the coffee lines and lounge. LTUE is great that way. It’s the biggest writers convention I know, but it’s also the most intimate. I sat down with J. Scott Savage and Peggy Eddleman in the lobby and come away a better writer. Really.

(Jeeezz - look at that hover-hand!)
Candice Kennington, Me, Kasie West
Photobomb by Renee Collins
And this is my confession: for as much effort as I put out to give back, I took away twice as much. I feel like a cheat – a vampire sucking the energy and experiences from those around me. Luckily, it’s not a zero sum game. The energy is created out of the air, from the souls and hopes. Magical thing people connecting. Magickal.

I doubt I said anything that Larry Correira didn’t already know, but he said things that will echo in my career. Chatting with David Brown over lunch opened new ideas of self-publishing and school interaction. Absorbing the traditional publishing vibe from Renee Collins and Kasie West was like a stolen perfume. Talking tie-dye with other ex-Oregonians made my day. Meeting people with similar interests, problems and goals is positively powerful. Seeing how they’re coping with the problems is like money in the bank – knowledge and power. Shared with friends.

I didn’t sell many books, but boy am I richer for going to LTUE.

Can’t wait for the ComicCons and WesterCon. WHC in Portland? Fandemonium anyone?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Trailers Part 3 - The Narrative Snippet

In case you’re new here, or missed my last couple weeks, I’ve been looking into the weird and wonderful world of Book Trailers.

I looked at a bunch and then decided to categorize them into five catchy nearly arbitrary categories depending on their approach.
I would encourage you to go back and read the previous two relative short, but awesomely entertaining posts before proceeding with this one, because it will familiarize you with the subject and I like to watch the hit counts go up. (it’s so cool.) And besides, I can say with a straight face (because I’m a trained liar) that it is absolutely vital to national security that after reading the previous posts you buy my debut Occult Thriller, BEATRYSEL, now available on Amazon and at the King’s English Bookstore in Sugarhouse.

Go ahead.

Done? Okay, good. Your country thanks you. (I can feel the royalties rolling in.)

Book Trailers Part 3, the Narrative Snippet.

Book trailers are a convergence of film making, literature and commercials. In the Narrative Snippet, the film making aspect is most pronounced.

The main characteristics of this type of book trailer is long narrative reading and visual portrayal (acting) of the narrative. Material is usually pulled directly from the story, actors are often employed to portray characters from the book, and long narrative snippets are acted out or narrated over the action.

Because of their complexity, Narrative Snippet Trailers, also often include production credits because so many people can be involved in their making. They are little movies.

Now grab your popcorn and settle in.

We’re going to look first at a trailer for Ann Marie Meyer’s Middle Grade book, Up in the Air. (I interviewed Ann Marie a while ago and at the time didn’t know she had a trailer. Or I did and forgot. I’m glad to have an opportunity to publish it now. It’s cool.)
An absolutely lovely little trailer. Ann Marie told me that she had absolutely nothing to do with it, besides writing the book, that is. It was produced by her publisher, Jolly Fish Press, who is my publisher too for Eleanor and The Finger Trap, but more on that later.

Ann Marie’s trailer captures the essence of the book - childhood imagination and play. Who hasn’t dreamed of flying? Who doesn’t know the exhilaration of swinging? Who hasn’t tried to recapture that feeling at forty-six and found themselves throwing up at a school play ground?

You can see elements of the Book Blurb and the Mood Medley as I’ve discussed before particularly at the end with quotes from reviewers and such, but the heart of the trailer is the snippet narrated over the swinging girl. Those words are, appropriately enough, the first lines of Chapter One of Up in the Air. Spiffy.

Ann Marie uses this trailer not only on the internet but at live events. She tells me it
is a great ice-breaker for young audiences when she speaks at schools and libraries, which as a Middle Grade/YA author she’s want to do. It’s a fantastic segue into discussing the book as a whole and capturing kids’ attention.

While we’re in a light mood, let’s look now at the book trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen (yes, that Jane Austen) and Ben H. Winters.
This trailer captures the silliness that this book, and it’s predecessor Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, are all about. Like the book, the trailer pretends to be a typical historical drama but we get a twist. The trailer does in video what the book does in text - turn an established, recognizable genre on its ear.

We’ve all read Austen (I hope) and other period pieces, and seen our share of them brought to life on the screen. Maybe your wife just made you sit through an insufferable display of hours of Keira Knightley in gossamer clothes pining at the camera as Elizabeth Bennet looking like she’s waiting on a hiccup until you want to suck our own eyes out of your heads with a shop vac. Then again, maybe you haven’t had that experience, but you’ll still understand the reference to historical drama/melodrama that the video and book are all about.

Building upon established and familiar tropes - Jane Austen, historical romance, mealy-mouthed easily offended sniveling Nineteenth Century middle class English female characters, we’re entertained by the addition of a sea monster. It’s refreshing, and if we just endured Knightly’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice, we might even have cheered when one of the characters is dragged to a terrible death. Maybe it wasn't the exact character we wanted to see dragged away, but it’s close and that makes us happy. I know I smiled.

This trailer is great. It is effective and funny and I dare say, probably more successful than the book it’s selling. This trailer was Amazon's Best Book Video of 2009 (Editor's Choice). I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but there is, and this video won it. Cool beans. Thus the trailer itself has become an honored work of art, transcending its origin as a solicitation meant to direct interest elsewhere, to a piece of art in and of itself. I don’t know how many people actually bought Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, let alone read it, (I couldn’t get through the first one), but as of this writing, on YouTube alone, 382,000+ people have seen this two and a half minute trailer. That is some exposure. You’ll probably send a link of it to someone you know now. It’s that good.

I’m not sure that the dialog and events shown in the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters trailer actually happen in the book, but we can assume it’s a good representation of what we might expect to find in it. Similarly in the next trailer, I doubt what we see actually happens events from the story, but this dramatic narrative serves to introduce the book and present us with its moods themes it contains. Check out this trailer for Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
A great narrative snippet that uses extraordinary visuals to introduce the book. This trailer was written and directed and by the author of the book, Ransom Riggs, so, yeah, I’m jealous. Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children went on to be a New York Time’s best-selling book, number 1 in fact. My jealousy will not be going away any time soon. The trailer has 350,000 YouTube views which makes it very successful there too.

So here we have a self-made book trailer taken to another level. Riggs is a visual artist as well as an author and Quirk Books is a fan of the book trailer (they published Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) This produced a perfect storm of creative ability, license and budget.

This trailer is particularly effective at directing attention to the book it's advertising. It’s slick and engrossing, emotional and evocative and a cliff-hanger. It introduces the book without revealing much about it. My interest is piqued. And what is it about old photographs that is so damn creepy? Really. It cuts to the bone. Well done Riggs, well done indeed. Call me when you're in Utah. I'll buy you a drink. I know where to find them.

Speaking of creepy, check out this next trailer for Greg Chapman’s Horror Novella, The Noctuary.
We’ve seen some high budget trailers today, actors and sets, costumes, professional lighting and cinematography, and I was going to say that this isn’t one of them, but I’m afraid it is. Though it was made by the author himself – Greg Chapman is a talented artist and writer, he had professional help. Not in the editing, writing or animating, but in the voice work. The voice you hear is Richard Grove, a professional actor I know from Army of Darkness beside my beloved Bruce Campbell. Greg met Richard through his horror writing acquaintance, Lisa Morton, who’s at the heart of lots of things Horror, not the least of which is some kind of involvement with The Bram Stoker Awards which overlooked my debut occult thriller BEATRYSEL for first novel this year.

Not that I’m bitter.

The credits on YouTube claim that Greg’s trailer was “Made with Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Soundbooth.” Simple tools in the hands of a talented artist. Richard, as Greg’s friend, donated the awesome voice work. It’s good to have friends.

What I love most about this trailer is how straight-forward it is while still competing (if that’s the right word) with the other heavily produced examples we’ve looked at today. The strengths of this trailer are its images and words. These elements are the actual work of the artist (Dawn Dominique is credited for the illustration book, but Greg did these for the trailer). Add to this a sinister soundtrack, a professional voice actor, and simple video effects, it delivers a real chill for a chilling book. I’m interested.

Greg calls the trailer his “primary marketing tool.”

A trailer like this has much in common with an author reading– you know, those awkward events at bookstores publishers put together before parking a starving author at a table behind a stack of books looking forlornly at bookstore patrons trying not to make eye contact. Yeah, before the lonely sharpie spinning time at the table in the corner, the author often gets a few minutes and a microphone to read from their book. This is the live form of this kind of Narrative Snippet. Think how much heartbreak can be saved if video stores would just show cool book trailers like this one?

Since a book trailer can be seen online anytime you want, downloaded, owned, distributed and stored, a direct narrative snippet like this it can also be likened to a free chapter that publishers often offer online as way to grab a reader’s interest. In a lazy society like ours where attention span is measure in soundbites and reading for pleasure is a dying hobby, updating an effective marketing strategy like free chapters into a Narrative Snippet book trailer is a natural positive evolution.

I know I’m going long today. So we’ll wrap this up with a video sent me by Simon Sylvester who said “this is the best one I’ve ever seen.” Take a look at the book trailer for Gun Machine by Warren Ellis.
Mulholland Books published Gun Machine. They have some clout. Not only did William Gibson (my hero) give the book a blurb which appears in the trailer but they got Wil Wheaton to narrate it. Don’t get me wrong, Ellis is good, really good – his prose crackles and his book is awesome, but so is this trailer.

Gun Machine isn’t illustrated, but when you’re putting written prose to visual imagery, illustrations are a good way to go. Ben Templesmith (an illustrator of some renown) does the drawing here and it’s interesting to just watch the pictures come together in this video. Hell, I’d watch it just for that. Add, the noir narration and it’s a solid winner. Is it the best one I’ve ever seen? I don’t know, but it’s awesome.

Okay, I’ll leave you alone. Go back to work. Feel free to comment on this down below. I’d like to think someone’s getting something out of all this. Oh, and go buy BEATRYSEL too and look for my short story The Point, in Little Visible Delight.

Next week I'll be at the Life The Universe and Everything convention so there might not be a blog post, or there might be several, but about other things. But soon I'll get to "The God-Awful Informercial" and the "Hey Looky Here" book trailer, plus some quotes from insiders about the phenomena and effectiveness of book trailers. Maybe.