Discussion: Adapting books

I just started watching the TV show True Blood (my dad will be happy–he’s been telling me to check it out for almost a year now πŸ˜‰ ), which of course I know is based on a series of books by Charlene Harris. I haven’t read any of the books, but it was interesting to find out, poking around online, that the creators made a few rather major changes when writing the show. Particularly with the character Tara.

Right now, Tara is probably my favorite character. (Though Lafayette and Sookie herself provide some pretty tough competition.) She is made of awesome. It’s hard for me to imagine the story presented in a way where she is so peripheral she doesn’t even turn up until the second book! But technically, I guess, that’s the more “authentic” version, since it’s the version that came first. Of course, TV show and movie creators are always taking liberties when they adapt books. Sometimes for good reason (not everything that works on the page also works on the screen; condensing is almost always necessary), sometimes for reasons it is hard to perceive (I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling from Harry Potter fans about bits of the book left out while other, seemingly irrelevant bits, were added in).

As book fans, how do you feel about adaptations? Are you happy as long as it tells a good story, regardless of how true to the book(s) it stays? Are there certain sorts of changes that particularly bother you–or, on the other hand, that you particularly like to see? What do you look for when you see a book you enjoyed made into film or TV?

Wonder: Questioning assumptions

One of the things I wanted to do with GIVE UP THE GHOST was present a different way of looking at the “I can see ghosts” special power. In most of the books I’ve read with a character who can communicate with ghosts, the character is scared of them or sees them as a hassle, and wishes they didn’t have that ability. But it seemed to me there could actually be a lot of benefits to having a talent like that. So I wrote my ghost book with a character who likes what she can do.

(Granted, Cass didn’t always enjoy seeing and hearing ghosts, but it didn’t take too long for her to figure out there were some up-sides to it.)

So I wonder, what other supernatural “problems” might not really be so problematic? Or not-supernatural “problems”, for that matter. Is there anything you usually see presented in a negative light in books, that you think might actually be kind of cool/useful?

And on the flipside, is there anything that’s usually presented as a good thing that you think would be way more trouble than it’s worth?

For the book bloggers

I know at least a few of you have asked to receive a review copy of GIVE UP THE GHOST and didn’t receive one. As I’ve mentioned, the publisher only has so many to give up. I only wish I could get one to all of you.

But wait! Maybe I can. I’ve entered GHOST in the One ARC Tours (I’ll actually be giving more than one ARC to be handed around), and anyone from the US can sign up! (Sorry international folks, if I find another way for you I’ll let you know.) The full rules are here; basically you just have to be willing to read it quickly after you get it and then mail it on. And there are lots of other great books on tour there, too! So check it out. πŸ™‚

Flashback: Traumatizing Moments

January 19, 1994 (Megan is 13)

X wanted to ask D if he liked me. I didn’t want her to because he would think I liked him. She did anyway and I didn’t find out ’til Friday.

X and I went up before school started to see [our teacher]. We were waiting for her near the gym. D had a basketball practice. (This was Friday.) He walked out to get a drink. On his way back he touched the sleeve of my shirt and said Hey (or Hi) Sexy. I didn’t know what he said at first and X was laughing so hard. I figured it out and we both laughed.

X told me then and I think he was teasing me because he thinks I like him. X thinks I do too and she keeps trying to prove it.

An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Discussion: Naming the competition

Okay, so this isn’t about books, but it is about words and how things are written, which is good enough, right? πŸ™‚

In the last couple months there’s been an ad campaign war of sorts between two major Canadian companies. Both are claiming to offer a service for less than the competitor, and both are clearly targeting the other. The difference is in how.

When I first saw this ad, and the TV ads that go with it, I thought it was kind of cute. The reference to the competitor is quite sly (the competitor’s logo is blue).

A couple weeks later, these ads started showing up, and my jaw dropped. Calling out the competition by name! Really classy. πŸ˜›

Companies calling out their competition is nothing new–I grew up with Duracell vs. Energizer commercials. But to me, how it’s done has a pretty big effect on how I feel about the ad. And ads that go out of their way to name their competition… just seems like poor taste to me. I’m actually less likely to buy a product or service if I see a company turning to those sort of tactics.

(Actually, I could see this coming up with book promotion, too… To me there’s a pretty big difference between saying something like, “No sparkly vampires here!” and something like, “My book is way better than Twilight!”)

What about the rest of you? Does it bother you when a company (or whatever) targets another in their promotional efforts? If it’s subtle? Overt? Or do you figure anything goes in advertising?

The making of a book trailer

First off, thanks to everyone who’s already entered the Spill Your Secrets Giveaway and shared your stories!

Second, as promised, I’m going to talk a little today about the making of the GIVE UP THE GHOST book trailer, in case it’s helpful to anyone planning at some point to make a trailer of their own.

I can’t say that any of this is the best way to make a book trailer, of course, it’s just what happened to work for me. πŸ™‚

1. Concept and script.

Before I started doing anything on the computer, I sat down and figured out how I wanted the trailer to “pitch” the book. What elements did I want to focus on? How could they best be presented? I decided to structure it by first setting up my main character’s unique situation (she prefers ghosts over the living), and then to introduce the main conflict (guy needs her help).

Then I wrote out a script for the trailer. It went through a few edits as I trimmed it down (I think it’s best to have as little text as possible in a trailer–stick to the most important stuff–so you don’t risk confusing or overloading the viewer with details) and adjusting wording. This is what it looked like in the end:

Cass prefers the company of the dead
over that of the living.
for good reasons…
1. Unlike her classmates, the dead don’t judge her.
2. Unlike her mom, they’re always there for her.
3. Unlike her best friend, they’d never betray her.
4. Using the secrets they share, she’ll never be that vulnerable again.
But when golden boy Tim
asks her to contact his recently deceased mother
there’s one very good reason to let him in…
She’s the only one who can help him.
And Tim needs help more desperately than anyone suspects.
To set things right, Cass will have to face the one thing she’s still scared of…

The first line and the bits about Tim come more or less directly from the jacket flap copy. I set up Cass’s “reasons” as a list because that’s something she does here and there in the novel, and I hoped to show a bit of her voice.

2. Imagery

Once I had my script, I figured out what image(s) I wanted to show to go with each line. Then I headed over to StockXpert, my favorite royalty-free stock photography site, to find them.

The hardest part was the characters. After much searching, I was lucky to find a few pictures of one girl who was a great fit for Cass, so that she could stay consistent throughout the trailer. The two images of Tim are actually different people, but since he’s covering his face in the second one I felt I could get away with it–I just tried to match the hair as closely as possible.

I also had to do a little photo manipulation to get a couple of images I couldn’t just find. The opening picture with Cass and a ghostly friend and the picture of a ghost whispering in her ear I created myself using two photos merged together, adding various effects to make the one figure appear ghostly.

3. Video

I created the trailer itself in Adobe Flash, mostly because I’d used it before and so had a little familiarity, and because my husband makes Flash games so I knew he’d be able to help me out if I needed it.

First I just put in all my images and text in the correct order, and tested it until I’d figured out what seemed like an appropriate about of time for each to remain on the screen. My aim was for the trailer to be not much more than a minute long. (I find trailers that are much longer start to lose my interest.) Then I added effects to make the images more active. I had them zoom in and out, fade in and out, and pan in various directions.

As I went, I noticed places where I felt the trailer dragged. Originally certain bits had no image, just a simple black background. That seemed boring, so I found a video clip of smoke that I liked which provided a little atmosphere without distracting from the text. I also broke up one “scene” into two, adding an extra photo.

4. Music

I knew, based on my script, that I wanted the music I picked to do certain things. I wanted it to swell in the second half of the trailer, and to have an abrupt stop to go with the last bit of text. I also had in mind a certain mood and feel, and wanted a steady, somewhat fast tempo.

First I listened to a bunch of songs I couldn’t have used anyway, from my CD collection, to focus my ideas of what I was looking for so it’d be easier to recognize when I found it. Then I went searching on royalty free music sites. It look a lot of testing songs out, but I finally found a piece that was both the perfect length and everything else I needed at Shockwave-Sound, which I checked out thanks to a recommendation from fellow Deb Pam Bachorz. (Pam has her own awesome post on making book trailers which is well worth checking out!)

Once I had my song, I had to edit the video to fit. Some parts got a little longer, some a little shorter, matching up the appearance of text and the image transitions to the beat and changes in the music.

5. All done!

Once the trailer was “finished”, I shared it with some friends and with my publisher, and made a few tweaks based on their suggestions. And then, of course, it was uploading time!

If you’re considering making a trailer of your own, and you have any questions, feel free to ask. πŸ™‚

The Spill Your Secrets Giveaway – on until August 24th

The GIVE UP THE GHOST giveaway is now over. Thanks to everyone who participated! Keep an eye on the contest page for future giveaways!

It’s time for another GIVE UP THE GHOST giveaway! Open to everyone in the world.

What you could win:

What it’s all about

In GIVE UP THE GHOST, Cass is on a mission to expose her fellow students’ bad behavior. With the help of her ghostly friends, she catches kids lying, cheating, spreading rumors, vandalizing, stealing, and bullying both in school and online. And Cass herself has been the victim of rumors and bullying.

Those sorts of cruelties and crimes happen in the real world all the time. Did you ever do something you probably shouldn’t have, or find yourself a victim? Are you willing to expose those wrong-doings?

How to enter

Send your stories about junior high or high school misbehavior to secrets at megancrewe dot com by August 24th. It could be something not-so-nice you did, something not-so-nice someone did to you, or something you saw happen to someone else (a friend, classmate, teacher, etc.). For examples, check out the stories already posted!

Don’t worry–unlike Cass, I won’t reveal your secrets. All stories will be posted without name or contact information. I’ll separate your e-mail address from your story as soon as I get it and delete the messages, and even *I* won’t know which stories belong to the winners.

Make sure each story includes your age or grade at the time of the story (should take place during junior high or high school). Other than that, be as creative as you like! All the current examples are written stories, but there are lots of other options (just send me the file):

-create an image around your secret (a la PostSecret)
-draw a picture of what happened
-record an audio file of you telling your story
-make a video (without showing your face–cover it, do a slideshow with voice-over or text, it’s up to you!)

You can submit as many stories as you like–each story counts as one entry in the draw.

The prizes

1. The grand prize is only available to those who present their secret in one of the more creative ways listed above. Those whose stories include an image, drawing, audio file, or video will be entered to win…

A large GIVE UP THE GHOST prize pack, including:
-A signed advance copy of GIVE UP THE GHOST
-All five ghost scent samples
-A 10β€³ LED paper lantern (from the book: Get [Paige] interested, though, and she brightened up like a Chinese lantern.)
-A friendship bracelet (from the book: I’d kept thinking of Danielle as my real best friend. We had the extra four years between us, that back history of friendship bracelets and sleepovers and secret sharing.)
-A sticker set featuring the main characters of the novel
-A GIVE UP THE GHOST button (not pictured, but I should have them by the time the contest is over)


First choice of THREE of the ARCs pictured above (ALPHAS by Lisi Harrison, ONCE A WITCH by Carolyn MacCullough, CRAZY BEAUTIFUL by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, TRICKS by Ellen Hopkins, SOULSTICE by Simon Holt, CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins, RIOT by Walter Dean Myers, DEMON PRINCESS by Michelle Rowen, FOREST BORN by Shannon Hale, DEVIL’S KISS by Sarwat Chadda, and ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr).

2. The second prize can be won by anyone who submits any sort of story, and it’s pretty awesome too! It includes…

A signed advance copy of GIVE UP THE GHOST

A medium GIVE UP THE GHOST prize pack including
-All five ghost scents
-Small paper lantern
-Friendship bracelet
-Sticker set

-Second choice (after the grand prize) of TWO of the additional ARCs

3. Five additional winners will receive a small GIVE UP THE GHOST prize pack (same as medium but only one ghost scent) and choice of ONE of the remaining ARCS!

Seven chances to win, twelve great books! What are you waiting for? Send those secrets in now!

And once you have, feel free to post this button on your website or blog:

Code (cut and paste):

<a href="http://www.megancrewe.com/gutg/readerstories.html"><img src="http://pics.livejournal.com/megancrewe/pic/0001fge0" height=150 width=150></a>

Flashback Commentary: Journaling

My first journal entry is May 23, 1993 (I was 12). My last is July 4, 2004 (though there are *really* long breaks during the late ’90s and early 2000s). I wrote most frequently from May 1996 to December 1997, because I was doing “morning pages” every day as part of the exercises in THE ARTIST’S WAY as well as my usual journal entries. The idea of morning pages was to write three pages as soon as you woke up, whatever popped into your head. Generally, the only thing I found to write about was stuff that had happened the day before (or my dreams, but I’ve mostly spared you those).

Some visuals:

All of my journals, from oldest to newest.

Sample journal entry, age 12

This is how I differentiated between morning page entries and regular entries — with an (MP) after the date.

My last journal entry as a teen — I didn’t write in this journal again until I was in my twenties.

The entries were not all writing. I sometimes drew diagrams to show things like where I was sitting/standing relative to some other person mentioned in the entry when something important happened. A few times I printed out e-mails that I mentioned, so I’d have them on hand for reference. And I doodled all over the place. πŸ™‚ Mostly eyes and flowers.

An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Discovering new authors

Throwing this out there: When you read a book by an author you were previously unfamiliar with, and love it, do you immediately track down everything else they’ve written and read as much of it as you can get your hands on? Or to you spread it out slowly to savor it (or, from a more pessimistic standpoint, to avoid getting sick of it)? Or does it hardly affect whether or not you’ll pick something up by the same author, because you find your likes aren’t really that consistent?

My instinct usually is to do the first, but my budget means it ends up looking more like the second. And sadly, I maybe should follow the third to some extent–when I fall in love with the first book I’ve read by an author, I rarely enjoy any others quite as much.