Author Interview: a stump

Authors come from all walks of life and a stump is no exception. While this author may claim to be a mere hobbist, I think he has much more going for him than he might realize, for a stump is a literary author with over thirty short stories published in over fifteen publications. Read on and see if you agree with me. Please welcome a stump to No Wasted Ink.

Hi Wendy! When I think about who I am, I’d like to begin be saying that I’m a man—a pastor, even!—married to a beautiful, supportive wife with four amazing sons. I don’t think of myself as an author, but certainly enjoy the hobby of writing. I love being outdoors, and I love drinking coffee. I’m a slow, but avid, reader. I read about 150 words per minute, which makes me an “auditory reader.” So, being such a slow reader, I have to be very judicious in my reading list.

When and why did you begin writing?

My best friend, N.D. Coley, is a writer. I saw what he was doing and how his stories were getting published, and I thought, “I’d like to try doing that.” I did, and it worked!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

From the get-go, I knew that I was a writer. I had had a lot of English and writing classes in college, so I knew the mechanics of writing. I understand vocabulary and writing quite well, so I know what works. I also have a working knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, and German, and I’m working on Old Norse, Old English, and Anglo-Saxon. That being said, I don’t view myself as an “author.” It’s not the main thing I do, only a hobby. I’m happy, however, that people seem to enjoy my writing.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I have one book, The Endless Summer, that I’m advertising now. It’s the right time for it, as kids are getting out of school and teachers are assigning reading lists and such. It’s a bit of a fantastical romp through my own childhood in the 1980’s in upstate New York. Of course, it’s not just nostalgia, but infused with the supernatural. I have a mermaid, a genie, and a vampire in my story, all interacting with a group of ten year-old boys. I think that that’s when the magic happens—between childhood and puberty. There’s a liminal phase there where childhood belief mixes with some sort of adult notion that the world is a really gritty, complex place.

What inspired you to write this book?

It began as a short story called The Storm Drain. It was eventually changed to Keep Off the Grass and published in the online magazine, Jakob’s Horror Box. When I had finished that story, I felt the characters begging me to tell more. I did. I wrote several short stories, and they all became a single piece that turned into The Endless Summer.

Do you have a specific writing style?

If I had to pick a single style, I’d say “Literary.” I really want to write stuff that everyone wants to read. As such, I use a lot of descriptive and grammar structure to make my writing broadly appealing. My Book, The Endless Summer is written for a young adult audience, but will also be appealing to adults. In fact, one reviewer stated that she read the book twice in a row for the beauty of the writing.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

One of the stories/chapters in this book is called “The Endless Summer.” It’s one of the few stories in the book that hasn’t been published previously. After writing it, I thought that it encapsulates the idea of a childhood summer—never ending. The story takes place over one whole summer, and it seemed a fitting title.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes! Some people might think that the message is something like “there’s magic everywhere” or “childhood is magical.” In reality, I think that the truth of the book is that “things aren’t always as they seem.” Being disillusioned is one of the hallmarks of the journey from childhood to adulthood. The jading that happens somewhere in adolescence is quite unfortunate. My book captures the twilight magic that happens somewhere between those two bookends.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in
your own life?

Every story is somehow autobiographical. All the characters are some part of me. It takes place in upstate New York, which is where I spent several years of my childhood. It was formative for me, and a natural backdrop for my stories.

What authors have most influenced your life?  What about them do you find inspiring?

Without a doubt, Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, and Ursula K. le Guinn.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I write my own prose and poetry. While I’m influenced by a lot a authors’ styles, I try not to mimic them.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I did it. Because I’m broke! I’d love for someone else to design covers for me, but I’m broke and can’t afford graphic design. A designer actually volunteered to design a cover for me, but none of the proposed designs really fit the book. I think that any designer needs to read my writing before submitting a design. My writing is often dark and brooding. Even with a title like The Endless Summer, it’s not a flowery book.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just write. Write what you love. Who cares if it’s published? Also, when you’re ready to publish, it’s ok to give some stuff away, but don’t give everything away. Giving writing away cheapens our craft.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Please, please, please leave a review for the work that you’d read! Even one sentence! Obviously, five-star reviews are preferable. But even one word reviews (like “Awesome!”) make a difference for authors. I’ve sold a lot of copies of my titles, but have relatively few reviews. Granted, they’re all five star reviews, but it would be really nice if the amount of reviews were reflective of sales!


a stump
Greenville, PA

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The Endless Summer

Purchase at
www.astump.com

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Welcome to No Wasted Ink’s top ten list of writing craft articles. As the weeks go by, I earmark articles that I find go a bit above and beyond and bring them here to share with you. I hope you enjoy this batch!

The Peer Review Process: What Sets University Presses Apart

Why Everyone Should Write (Even if You Think You Stink)

Memoir’s Primary Argument: Making Sure Your Memoir Is Universal, Not Just Personal

Why Editing Matters & Simple Ways to Make Your Work SHINE

How to Make Large Conflicts Exciting

Building a Fantasy Army — Weapons & Tactics

Changing Your Reader’s Perspective

Word Count Is Not the Only Metric for Productivity

Story Pacing: 4 Techniques That Help Manage Your Plot’s Timeline

Close Encounters of the Initial Kind – Tips for When Characters Meet

Cinematic Book Trailers On A Budget by Ian Lahey

RED Camera
Image by TheArkow from Pixabay

WARNING: In this article I showcase two book trailers I made. I think they’re pretty awesome and above the average self-made material out there. Despite the evident awesomeness, the objective of this article is not to boast about my outstanding multimedia skills, but simply as a case study. The ultimate goal here is for you to become aware of the software tools which are available for free (or for a moderate investment) as an alternative to spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, (up to $15,000) on a professional job. IF, and I repeat, IF, you are willing to climb a few learning curves.

First of all, I would like to discuss WHY you should invest time (or money, should you choose the professional option) in a book trailer.
Book trailers are living blurbs. They engage the senses with a concentrated, sizzling bomb of pure narrative. Compared to a properly designed trailer the typical text blurb is no more than a footnote. Prospective readers can see your protagonist, hear the soundtrack and survey the setting. A book trailer can convey the atmosphere, the theme of the novel, and will make it clear to the viewer that if the trailer resonates with them, then they HAVE to buy the book.

In order to reach this goal, whichever route you choose to take, you need to be able to produce at least a decent summary of what your story is about. An illustrated storyboard of the trailer would be ideal. I mean, you can always toss a copy of the manuscript in the artist’s hands and let them come up with an idea but:

1. it’ll cost you more and
2. it’s YOUR story, dammit.

To me it’s like asking the neighbor to pick your daughter’s prom dress, and hoping he doesn’t get the wrong idea and follow his personal hentai tastes. So, no matter what, either make a pencil & pen ink sketch of your trailer, or use storyboarding software.

Boords” is a free-to-try storyboarding platform, but they’re so cool about the whole deal they also give you links to alternative options.
If you wish seek the help of a professional for your book trailer, then you can stop reading here. There are many excellent videomakers out there and not one of them offered to sponsor me, so no links.

If you wish to know how I made my own book trailers, and want to try yourself, then we’re ready for the next step.

Storyboard

Yes. you have to do that bit anyway. It is essential for you to get a clear idea of the timing, because a good trailer lasts between 20 and 30 seconds, and there is always the tendency to try and cram too much in that time.

A storyboard will let you visualize your scenes and realize you’re never gonna fit the whole book in five panels.

So? What should your trailer be about? Think about your story…does it rely on strong characters? Does it narrate a fall into darkness, a rise to higher levels of being? What color is your novel? Try to visualize your work in terms of movement, color, light and character.

Case study: The Descent

For my Historical fiction novel “The 45th Nail” I didn’t take too much to find the correct format. The narrative starts as a light-hearted escapade to Italy, but gradually descends into a dark quest of a man seeking impossible forgiveness. The key-word there was “descends”. And the trailer is a long, slow scrolling movement downwards. A narration, in the voice of the protagonist, gives a first-person retelling of the blurb while a few items flutter past and the whole background darkens. The final landing displays the title of the book.
https://youtu.be/8jjVnxs70M8

How I did it:
I used a free image editing software called “Gimp” to patch together images into a long, vertical strip. If you have Photoshop or have worked with it, Gimp is fairly similar and there are a lot of tutorials online to learn the basics you need to stitch pictures together. Time: 3 hours

The image of the golden “bulla” was created using a free 3D tool. (The one I used back then is not available anymore but there are many titles out there. If you can create a sphere, flatten it, and apply a picture of a gold medallion as texture, you can make the bulla. Depending on the software it may take you more or less time to figure out how to animate it spinning on itself. This was the result:
https://youtu.be/l5tEYOH8ViA

Notice the black background. Some programs will let you create videos with transparent backgrounds, but they’re usually not free. Black is a good workaround. Time: 2 1/2 hours.

All the other things you see floating up in the video are static .png images I made using Gimp. .png images can have transparency. Time: 30 minutes.

I found the music on freesound.org which is exactly what it looks like: a free sound library. You are required to create an account and, if the composer requires it, mention them in the credits. I used Audacity to put the sounds together with my own voice. I was able to balance the levels and darken the tone, after twiddling around a bit with the various effects. Time: 1 hour.

I put it all together with video editing software. There are free video editing programs (DaVinci Resolve is Hollywood-grade production software and it’s 100% free. It’s also bloody murder to figure out.) I bought Filmora, which is $60 and is much more intuitive. Time: 2 hours.

A total of nine hours of work, and I got to keep the video editing software for future book trailers. Did I do it again?

You bet I did.

Case study: The Character

For my recent novel “To Cipher and to Sing” I wanted the viewer to do two things: get to know one of my main characters and get really suspicious about him. Once again I opted for the downwards scroll. I may have a thing about vertical drops, I don’t know. Anyway, this time the fall had to be a real one, a drop from a futuristic high-rise.

The trailer begins as a futuristic ad for some kind of A.I. chip. As the chip upgrades make it faster and more powerful the ad itself glitches off as the technology evolves into a robotic skeleton.

As the figure continues to evolve the camera speeds ahead and, upon reaching the bottom of the building, it witnesses the landing of the finished product, a complete android with eerie golden eyes which turns towards the camera and, in a not altogether disturbing way, smiles.
https://youtu.be/CNF0KGebvd0

How I did it:
Again, I went hunting for freebies and found Kitbash 3D, an amazing team that produces professional cityscapes and which, occasionally, gives out some free kits. I got their “Utopia” city, a $199,00 value, for free. The sheer quality of their kits has me thinking seriously of spending some real money the next time I need a 3D cityscape and I’m not lucky enough to find another freebie. I also used it as background for the cover of the book.

I used Meshmixer to select and move the buildings around, and save the result as an .obj file. Then I used it in Daz 3D Studio, where I created my character.

Now, Daz 3D is a BEAST of a program. It relies on high-performing computers to give you photo-realistic poseable humans. Yes, it’s free.

But you need to pay if you want to buy more props and characters. The prices are not terribly high and if you need something specific, you might want to spend twelve dollars on top of a fully-fledged 3D video studio which you just downloaded for free.

It takes a while to figure out all the things you can do with Daz3D, so take your time. All in all, between creating my character, finding some stray 3D skeleton on-line, importing everything, lighting and animating, it took me over ten hours.

Plus another FORTY HOURS to render the final animation. Luckily I was able to render blocks of frames and save them as clips, so I could use my computer for other things. Otherwise, while rendering, the intense CPU usage made it impossible to even browse the Internet.

Once more, I used Filmora to patch the clips together and include the soundtrack and sound effects from Freesound. I also made use of the excellent title kits and special effects included in the video editing software.

A conclusive thought:

I personally rely a lot on 3D animation, because I happen to have a background in multimedia design, and it comes in handy, especially if the subject is science-fiction. But bear in mind that I designed my trailers with the foreknowledge of the video footage I could produce myself or the 3D models I knew I could find.

You can reach great results even if you choose to shoot a whole live-action sequence with real actors and costumes, if that’s more in your set of skills. Use the material you are most familiar with, and your result will be more in your own style. Remember that in order for your trailer to be effective it has to focus on the emotion and the atmosphere more than the plot itself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this longer than usual article. I hope you found it useful and inspiring.

Author Ian LaheyIan Lahey, author, dreamer, and Olympic-level binge-watcher, teaches English Language and Literature in Italy. Apart from writing arguably decent fiction, he also cooks with nearly edible results, tinkers with computer graphics, and does quite a lot of gardening, since he needs to replace all the plants he’s inadvertently killed.
https://ilahey.com

Enjoyed this post? Then why not sign up to receive Ian’s newsletter (and also have the chance to win an Amazon gift card)
http://ilahey.com/newsletter/

To Cipher and to Sing Book Cover

 

Author Interview: Geoff Habiger

Part of the writing duo, Habiger & Kissee, Author Geoff Habiger says he writers to tell the stories that he wants to read and hopefully a few other people will also like them. He is also a fellow knight of the Scifi Roundtable. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Hello, I am Geoff Habiger, one half of the dynamic writing duo Habiger & Kissee. I grew up in the wild hinterland of the Flint Hills of Kansas. I would awaken in the morning to the sounds of peacocks and roaring lions (no, really – we lived below the city zoo) and I would trudge to school, walking up hill both ways. (Again true, since we lived at the bottom of a hill, and the school was also at the bottom of a hill. Welcome to the Flint Hills.) I attended Kansas State University and got a B.S. degree in geology, which really helped me work varied careers in fast food, retail, pharmaceuticals, and publishing. I have lived in New Mexico since 2005 with my wife and son.

When and why did you begin writing?

I actually started writing stories a long time ago when I was in high school. I had so many creative ideas that I wanted to share them with others. I wrote some short stories, and a novel about a mission to Mars, but none of that was ever published and I doubt it even survives to this day. I started writing in earnest about twenty years ago, writing more short stories and another scifi novel, again, none of which were published. Around 2010 Coy and I got the idea for the Unremarkable series and we started writing it, and the ideas for it, and our fantasy series just started flowing. My goal is still the same as when I was a teenager, to tell creative stories and just share them with others.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I first considered myself a writer when I started writing that long-lost scifi novel. I figured if I was writing a story, then I was a writer, even if I didn’t publish it. I “officially” became a writer when I sold my first piece (a short RPG adventure for D&D) back around 2003 or 2004.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Unavoidable is the final book in our Saul Imbierowicz vampire trilogy. In the previous books (Unremarkable and Untouchable) Saul has gone from the eponymous unremarkable everyman who is suddenly thrust into the world of gangsters and then learns that vampires are real. In book two Saul tries to take down Chicago’s biggest gangster (and vampire), Al Capone, tracking him to Atlantic City and a climactic battle.

Unavoidable picks up about a year later when Al Capone is released from jail, but that is the least of Saul’s worries. Eliot Ness has deemed the notorious gangster off limits, while Director J. Edgar Hoover has taken note of Saul and Christian’s activities and has his own plans for the two agents. Meanwhile, a mysterious vampire master finally reveals herself, putting Saul’s family in more danger than they’ve ever been before. Saul’s life is changing again, and not for the better. The choices that Saul must make in order to save his family, stop Capone, and deal with an old threat, might come at a price too high for Saul to pay.

What inspired you to write this book?

Unavoidable is the third book in the trilogy, so the actual inspiration started with why we wrote book one, Unremarkable. The concept for Unremarkable was born from a conversation that we had as we drove back from a trip to Chicago on how the supernatural could have played a part in actual historical events. We latched on to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre as something that could be explained as part of a vampire turf war, and that led to the inevitable discussion around how powerful Al Capone really was, and why it was so hard to take him down. The pieces all just fit together really well, so we ran with it. We always planned to write this first part of Saul’s story as a trilogy and Unavoidable now concludes this particular chapter in Saul’s new life.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I have a particular writing style. I just think up the story and the characters and then try to tell something that will entertain the reader. I like to plot things out ahead of time, but also my characters will often change up the plot when the situation needs it.
As to writing with Coy, we work on the plots for our stories together. I then write the first (very rough) draft of the story and hand it over to Coy. He cleans up all the bad grammar, spelling errors, and corrects all of the dialogue to make it sound better and be true to the characters. We then work together on edits to the story before sending it to other editors and beta readers.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The title for this book came during the previously mentioned trip to Chicago when we first came up with the story. We knew we wanted the first book to be about Saul, so the natural title was Unremarkable. The follow-up book, Untouchable, was the logical sequel to it playing on the team that Eliot Ness created to stop Capone, the Untouchables. Finally, the events that played out in the trilogy came to the Unavoidable conclusion for Saul. The titles all flowed together and help tell the story.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That even if you think you lead the most boring life (like Saul) that extraordinary things may happen to you. And, when that happens, it is important that you stay true to yourself. Don’t try to become something you are not, even if you physically change (or become a vampire).

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Nope. We invented everything for the characters pretty much whole cloth. We did read biographies about Al Capone and Eliot Ness to get a feel for those characters, but everybody else we created for the books without basing them on anybody in particular.

What authors have most influenced your life?  What about them do you find inspiring?

There were a couple of authors whose works I read growing up that really inspired me, both in how to live my life but also to instill in me a desire to tell my own tales. James Harriot, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and CS Lewis were all inspirational to me to be able to tell wonderful stories. I acquired my love of reading from them, as well as kindling my desire to tell my own stories.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Even though I have never met them, I consider Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston to be mentors. Not only do they write exciting thrillers that I want to emulate in my own stories, the fact that they write together gives me insight into how Coy and I can write together. Now, among writers I have met, and learned a few things from, is Eric M. Craig. If you don’t know the name, Eric is a self-published sci-fi author and I routinely bounce ideas off of him, but mostly what I learn from him is in the area of marketing. That’s often an overlooked skill for a writer, and I am happy to have found somebody who does it well and is willing to share what he has learned with me.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

For the first two books in the Saul trilogy (Unremarkable and Untouchable) we used old photographs that we then added a touch of red (blood) to the image. When it came to Unavoidable. we couldn’t find an image that we liked that we could get the rights to use, so I reached out to the extremely talented Ian Bristow of Bristow Designs. We “met” Ian through the Scifi Roundtable group on Facebook and I immediately loved his work. Ian had already done some other covers for me and we knew that he would be able to deliver the right feel to the cover that we wanted. And he did. We love the cover for Unavoidable.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Two bits of advice: One, don’t quit your day job until you have that six-figure deal and check in hand (and even then, don’t burn your bridges when you go to write full-time). Two, don’t listen to “writer’s advice”. I have seen a lot of “advice” out there, especially on social media that is actually masking as gatekeeping. There are very few hard and fast rules for writing (basically, spelling and grammar) and even those can be bent (or broken) when the situation and story calls for it. Everything else is just opinion, so do what you want. Write how often you want, in whatever style that works for you. If you can tell a wonderful story with compelling characters, then bravo! you are a writer and now you can give “advice” to others.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for believing in our stories and supporting us by buying our books, leaving us reviews, and hanging out with us at cons and book events. Knowing that people look forward to our next story is very humbling and gives us fuel to keep writing. Also, there will be more stories coming involving Saul, Christian, Sarah, Joe, and the other characters from the first trilogy. We have more tales that we want to tell, including a couple of stand-alone stories and at least two more trilogies that we want to write involving Saul.


Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee
Geoff lives in Tijeras, NM and Coy lives in Lenexa, KS.

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