Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Trailers

What is a book trailer? Well it's kind of like a movie trailer, only instead of getting people excited for movies, they get people stoked for books. If you go to YouTube and search for "book trailers" you get about 17,000 results. You can narrow your search however. When I changed the search to "YA book trailers" I got 158 results.

Now, not all of the trailers are something I like. I watched one for The White Gates by Bonnie Ramthun (which comes out in November 2008). If you like three minutes of watching snowboarders crash, it's great. For a book trailer, I think it just dragged out a little too long. Then I found another one for the same book that's about a minute long and much more interesting.

I also found a book trailer I love for Wake by Lisa McMann. It's also about a minute long. The only drawback is the ad banner that pops up across the bottom, but the rest of the trailer makes up for it.

And here's one more example of a book trailer. This one is for Airhead by Meg Cabot. It's a little different from the other two.

As you can see, I prefer book trailers that are around a minute or less. It could be that I just have a short attention span, but a lot of the videos seem to run less than a minute and a half. So, if you have a book that needs a trailer, make it interesting. Keep it short. And give it good music if that's the way you want to go. Basically, keep it professional and make it something to pique curiosity in your book. I know, easier said than done, right? The best advice I can give is study the book trailers that are out there for your genre, focusing most of your attention on the videos with the most views, and don't be afraid to try it again if your first attempt falls flat. Remember, I found two videos for The White Gates by Bonnie Ramthun. I would suggest that if you do make more than one trailer because that first just wasn't doing it, take down the one you didn't like. You never know if that's going to be the only trailer a potential reader will see.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More on Manga...

Shortly after writing last Thursday's post, I talked to my little sister about manga since she loves the stuff. She loaned me the first volume of Suikoden III. Boy, was that a fast read. I finished it in an hour to an hour and a half. When I discussed it with my sister, I learned she and I have different views on manga.

I thought it seemed a little shallow with no real depth given to either the characters or the story. Yes, the plot was interesting, but there were so many places where the story skipped from one thing to another with no transition. I prefer stories that go into the character development and make them 3D through description and thoughts. Manga doesn't really do that, at least not the one I read. It gives enough to give you an idea of the character, but there isn't enough development for me to form a bond with the characters and actually care what happens to them. That's what I mean when I say shallow. It just isn't for me.

My sister, on the other hand, didn't think it was shallow. I explained to her everything I've said here about it, but she still doesn't see it the same way I do. I guess I'll stick with novels, and she'll stick with a combination of novels and manga.

I don't guarantee I'll never read another manga. In fact, I'm considering finding a copy of the first volume of Serenity series manga published by Thomas Nelson. I've read a few things about the series, and I'm curious to see how they handle it. If I ever read a copy, I'll post my thoughts on it here.

In the meantime, leave me a comment with your thoughts on the whole manga vs. novel debate.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Are Comics Taking Over?

Recently, I've noticed a trend toward comic books. Stephen King has several novels either already adapted or being adapted into comics. Ted Dekker has some novel to comic books adaptations going on. Then there's the boom in the manga (graphic novel) market. Not to mention all the movies and TV shows with comic book-type superheroes and the movies based on comics.

Is this an indication that adults don't want to grow up? Or an attempt to interest kids and teens in reading? Or is it just a new way to make money?

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I don't think I ever read a comic book. My friends didn't either. We all read novels that we pulled off the library shelves or sometimes each other's book shelves. Before you think my childhood coincided with the Dark Ages, let me assure you I'm not that old. I grew up in the eighties and nineties. Comic books were around and superheroes were popular, but they didn't seem to take over the way they are today. My friends and I read a wide variety of books, but the highly illustrated books we read were picture books and we all outgrew those at a fairly young age. By high school, I was reading books from the adult section of the library because I'd already gone through most of the young adult section.

Kids who were born six or seven years after me can't seem to get enough of the comic-type books, shows, movies, etc. These kids are now old enough to vote, yet they still gravitate to manga and movies with characters who have superpowers. There's also this strange fascination with zombies, but that could just be a weird quirk of the people I know.

Perhaps the influx of comics is a means of escaping reality. If the story's told with pictures and short snippets of text, it's easier to handle than the real world. I'm just guessing here, and I admit I'm probably way off. Most likely it's just the latest fad in entertainment, one that seems to be lasting an awful long time and growing more popular as time goes on. I just wonder if the wide availability of comics and graphic novels, as well as the encouragement to read them, will prevent kids and teens from discovering all of the wonderful non-illustrated literature out there.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against comic books, manga, or superheroes. I think they're great, but I also think that like video games and sitcoms, they should be taken in small doses. If you read only graphic novels, try picking up a regular novel. You might be surprised at how much you like imagining the scene and the characters rather than looking at them on the page. If you read only traditional novels (no illustrations), check out a manga. Some of those artists are really talented, and the stories can be very entertaining.

Personally, I will always be drawn to the written word rather than the illustrated page. But broadening one's horizons leads to a well-rounded individual. So perhaps I'll borrow a manga or two and see if I can figure out what seems to draw teens more to graphic novels than regular novels. At the very least, reading a graphic novel will entertain me for a weekend.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering Russert

I'm sure you've all heard by now that journalist and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert died Friday at the age of 58. My heart goes out to his family and friends. From all reports, he was well-loved by everyone who knew him, and he was a great family man. My personal experience with him is like the experience of most people: I knew him from watching Meet the Press.

No, I'm not a devoted viewer, faithfully watching week after week. But I did watch often enough to learn about politics and the state of our country. Mr. Russert presented the facts and asked questions to make his guests explain their views fully. He also had a way of talking about politics that made his enthusiasm contagious. Until I started watching him, I had no interest whatsoever in politics. I thought it was just a bunch of boring people in suits. Through his love of politics, he showed me that there is so much more to it. I learned that things I care about are also things politicians care about. Mr. Russert made the world of government real to me.

Even though I never met him, Tim Russert impacted my life and prompted an interest in the way the country is run. The current Presidential election really brought out his enthusiasm for politics in a way I'd never seen before. Whether discussing the primaries with political analysts on Meet the Press, interviewing the candidates, or acting as an analyst himself on the evening news, you could see his excitement. He had a way of making even the most boring facts of the election interesting.

He will be missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and viewers. Personally, I will miss the contagious excitement he brought to the world of politics.

Timothy John Russert, Jr.
May 7, 1950 - June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Writing Challenges

For once, I'm not talking about the challenges of being a writer. These writing challenges are the kind that crop up everywhere on the internet. You stop by your favorite blog or website and see the announcement of a writing contest. You have three days to write 200 words involving some random object, like a crooked barn. Of course you want to enter! With a prize like a free query critique, who could pass it up? Now you just have to come up with a fantastic entry that's sure to come out on top...

You enter your masterpiece, then scroll through the other entries and sob. How on earth could you possibly have thought your entry was great? You're certain you have no chance of winning.

Before you go and delete your entry, keep one thing in mind: all those other writers probably feel the exact same way you do. Very few people look at their work next to the work of others and think, "Hey, this contest is a cinch! I am a way better writer than any of these hacks." To be perfectly honest, I've never come across any writer who thought this way, but I've met people with that attitude about other things.

Did you catch the word I used? Attitude. That's what it's all about. If you have a positive attitude, not only will you feel better, it will come through in your writing and interactions with others. What does attitude have to do with writing challenges, you ask? Everything. If you take the attitude of, "Well, I could enter, but I know I'm not going to win. So, what's the point?" you're probably right about not winning. Not because your writing is as bad as you think it is, but because you probably won't enter. The whole point of these challenges is to take the plunge and enter just to get your writing out there and join the community of whatever blog or website you submitted to. It's also a great way to get used to working on a deadline, a useful skill once you have an editor who wants revisions on your 300-page manuscript in a month.

Another thing these challenges provide (other than the opportunity to have fun) is the chance to get your creativity going. Last night, I entered A Teensy Weensy Story Challenge on agent Rachelle Gardner's blog. I found out about it an hour and a half before the deadline. Normally, that would have stopped me dead in my tracks and left me lamenting a missed opportunity. But the twist with this challenge is that you had to write a complete story in 100 words or less and use the posted photo as a prompt. That photo got my creative juices flowing with the force of an adrenaline rush. Planning, writing, and revising took half an hour. I posted my story with just under an hour left in the contest. Unless you thrive on pressure like that, I don't recommend pushing the deadline that much. If it hadn't been for a busy schedule eating my blog reading time, I would have known about that contest much sooner. Would I have written a different 100-word entry? Beats me, but I sure had fun trying to beat the deadline last night.

"How do I find these entertaining writing challenges?" you ask. If you use my method, it's pretty hit or miss. I have a few agent blogs I try to read regularly (although I seldom achieve that goal), and I find out about most of their contests a day or so before the deadline for entry. I've also learned about challenges through writer message boards and e-groups. One challenge that happens on a weekly basis during most of the year is the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. Unfortunately, when I went to the site this morning, I discovered they won't have a new challenge until July 3.

Do you know of any writing challenges that happen regularly? Or that have deadlines closing in? Post a link in the comments section and I'll list it in a post even if it's not my day to blog. We can't let these great opportunities for writing fun pass, now can we?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Interesting Tidbit

One hundred thirty-eight years ago today (that's June 9, 1870 for those of you who are as bad at math as I am), literary great Charles Dickens died. During his lifetime, he authored such works as David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist. Everyone has heard of Charles Dickens, and most have read--or seen a movie based on--one of his works.

To learn more about Charles Dickens, his life, and his writing, check out this article at Britannica Online. It's packed with information. Of course, one the best ways to learn about Dickens' writing is to run down to your local library and check out one of his books. Who knows? He may become your new favorite author.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Things I Find Useful...

As you may or may not know, I receive several e-newsletters in an attempt to keep up with trends and happenings in the publishing world. One of the newsletters I receive is SLJ Teen from the School Library Journal. In this morning's edition, I learned about an awesome site that connects musicians with musical artists with a similar sound. The site, tuneglue, is unbelievably fun. I think I now have a new favorite way to waste time on the internet.

Yes, tuneglue is writing-related in a roundabout way. If you're like me, you write for teens at least occasionally. Music is a major part of teens' lives. If you need to include the name of a real band for one reason or another, tuneglue is a great resource for finding bands with a similar sound that your characters would likely know. Of course, your best option is to create fictional musicians with fictional songs. It saves the risk of the band that's so popular when you write your story becoming unpopular by the time your book goes to print. Plus, if you have fictional music, you can include all the lyrics you want since you don't need permission to use what you've written yourself.

Back to e-newsletters. They are a great resource, but they can also clog your inbox. Try to get only the ones relevant to what you write, and then only the ones you personally find useful. Some of the ones I like are Writer's Weekly, Publishers Lunch, the GalleyCat feed from, and a couple from Publishers Weekly. As I've already said, I also get SLJ Teen. Now, not all of these are daily. Some are weekly or bi-weekly. All have things I find useful in my writing/editing career. I've received others in the past, but the information they provided was no longer what I needed so I dropped my subscription.

Don't take on so many newsletters that you're overwhelmed. And don't feel that you have to read them as soon as they hit your inbox. Just this morning, I read a couple from yesterday because I didn't have the time to get to them when they arrived. Prioritizing is a big part of surviving being a writer who also works full-time. Figure out what's important and do that first. In my case, work comes before reading newsletters. When I have a little free time, then I read a newsletter, even if it's a couple of days old at that point. Cleaning out my inbox every day is my goal, but it's one I don't always achieve. Work and life get in the way sometimes.

If you know of any writing, editing, or publishing newsletters you find interesting and helpful, please tell me the name (and preferably the URL) in the comments section. I'll put links to them in a later post so others can check them out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Do Parents Need Credentials to Teach Their Children?

I saw an article in PARADE Magazine yesterday titled Should Home-Schooling Be Illegal? Of course, I have to say no. I was homeschooled (Note I didn't hyphenate that. "Homeschool" is only one word; just ask Merriam-Webster.). From first grade through high school graduation, my mom was my teacher. Occasionally, I'd attend a class provided by the local homeschool support group, which meant someone other than my mom taught me for a brief period. A local university provided gym class for homeschoolers to give education majors a chance to teach.

When I was a freshman in high school, my best friend's mom taught three classes: speech, literature, and writing. I attended all three, even though I was sure I'd hate the writing class the most. I know, that's a weird thing for a writer to say, but you have to keep in mind I struggled to pass English class for most of school career thanks to learning disabilities. Until that writing class, I absolutely hated writing and did everything I could to avoid it. Then my mom's friend taught us the basics of writing, and I fell in love with creative writing. She taught me about characterization, writing vivid descriptions, all the necessary elements to good fiction. Thanks to her, I fell in love with writing and haven't stopped since that class. I guess you could say she's the reason I became a writer.

If you go by the article in PARADE, she should never have taught that class. She never graduated from college and didn't have any kind of teaching credentials. She just volunteered to teach a couple of classes for our local homeschool support group. All of the students enjoyed her classes, and we learned a lot from her.

The moral of this story? Teaching credentials don't necessarily indicate competence as a teacher. I've met fully licensed teachers with years of experience in the public schools who don't meet the educational needs of children. Yes, they might complete the curriculum, but how much did the children actually learn? Parents, on the other hand, have the time to focus on the areas their child struggles with and can help them learn more than if they'd gone to the public school.

The majority of homeschool parents don't have teaching credentials. A lot of them never even went to college. Does this put their children at a disadvantage? Far from it! Universities, corporations, and even the military actively seek homeschooled students. Kids who had parents for teachers tend to be well-adjusted, intelligent, respectful, hardworking, and responsible. Academically, homeschooled students meet or surpass the level of their public school counterparts.

Do parents need credentials to teach their children? No. Look at the studies people have done to "prove" homeschooled children lack quality education. All those studies prove is that parents with only a high school education raise intelligent kids who go on to excel at the university level.

Don't take away a viable, and in some cases the best, educational option for kids. Vote in PARADE Magazine's poll and let your voice be heard.