Tower in the Crooked Wood by Paula Johanson

SF Canada member Paula Johanson is re-releasing an ebook version of her short novel, Tower in the Crooked Wood, with publisher Doublejoy Books.

Join Paula on her Facebook page today, November 30, 2020 at noon PST for an online book launch.

They were stolen in the dark to work for a night and a day, building a tower for the wizard Krummholz on faraway Copper Island, in a place where the trees grow twisted in a poisoned bog. Some of the unwilling workers were returned bewildered, bruised, and marked by whips — others died as the uncaring wizard called new workers to his tower. Now Jenia is the only one left of her family willing to leave her orchards and walk five hundred miles in search of her abductor, and the answers to questions burning inside her.

 

Why was she stolen out of the dark? What is wrong at the heart of the tower? And why does the magic twisting the very trees strike a strangely familiar note? All Jenia knows for sure is that she will not let herself be made a prisoner again, not by magic nor by force of arms. When a soldier tries to trap her in a lord’s garden, and a village of gentle people tell her to give up her hopeless quest, Jenia has to choose where to place her trust: in friends, in strength, or in the cunning in her own two hands.

 

And then the wizard Krummholz sends his call out again…

“A wealth of realistic detail lends authenticity to this engrossing tale of a young arborist, ‘a scholar of trees.’ Paula Johanson has created a magical alternative world both mythic in feel, and hauntingly evocative of our own.” – Eileen Kernaghan, author of The Snow Queen.

Paula Johanson is a Canadian writer. A graduate of the University of Victoria, she has worked as a security guard, a short order cook, a teacher, newspaper writer, and more. As well as editing books and teaching materials, she has run an organic-method small farm with her spouse, raised gifted twins, and cleaned university dormitories. In addition to novels and stories, she is the author of forty-two books written for educational publishers, among them The Paleolithic Revolution and Women Writers from the series Defying Convention: Women Who Changed The World. Johanson is an active member of SF Canada, the national association of science fiction and fantasy authors.

Learn more about Paula and explore her other titles at paulajohanson.blogspot.com.

Order your copy of Tower in the Crooked Wood at !ndigo, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other digital booksellers.

Action-Based Book Videos

Will They Help Sell Your Books?

by Susan Forest

The rise of independent publishing has spurred an explosion in innovative book promotions. YouTube provides a channel for creative people to reach audiences visually, so in the past few years, authors and publishers have experimented with book videos. Many of these show static photos of the cover or stock footage with narration, captions, or a few words from the author. Not highly engaging. So–looking for a way to make a small press novel stand out from the crowd–is it possible to create an entertaining promotional video, without breaking the bank?

As my publisher, Laksa Media Groups, is a small press, their budget for producing videos was virtually non-existent, but they were willing to support a series of action-adventure pieces by providing enthusiasm, research, and critique. In addition, they commissioned a song from a local song writer for the sound track. Armed with this, I called for help from family and friends. As of this writing, Laksa Media and I have produced three action-adventure videos and one Artist Response video, with a second Artist Response video planned for later in 2020.

We kept the videos short (2-2.5 minutes), not intending to capture the entire plot of my novel, like a movie trailer. Instead, they are in the style of music videos. Each video was story boarded with attention to actors, location, camera angles, and plot, to illustrate a narrative arc: sparking incident, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution. Of course, we took advantage of improvised moments as they occurred while shooting, as well.

As my novels are secondary-world fantasy, I needed primitive, wild, and castle-like settings. I planned three principal a shoots. My sister is a horsewoman, so we filmed on her acreage; a good friend let my use her stunning home for the palace scenes; and Calgary’s Edworthy Park has accessible cliffs.

Each video shoot needed several different set-ups (barn, garden, balcony, entryway). The actors could improvise their lines based on the idea of the scene, as there was no dialogue: all sound was stripped from the film, and the visuals put to music. We took a master shot of all the action first, followed by medium and close-up shots from different angles. It was amazing how we could capture the actors’ best moments (we had excellent amateur actors).

Using two cameras cut down on filming time but it was essential to take time to review footage after each take, as we had no way to assemble all elements again at a later date for re-takes. Each set-up took about 45 minutes to capture several minutes of usable film, which, once edited, was only seconds-long on screen.

The biggest challenge was the editing, but that was almost more inspiring than the filming, because of the creativity involved. Selecting certain cuts, altering elements of music, adjusting colour, and other techniques could strongly alter the final effect of the film. My daughter, who holds a BFA in Media Arts, has professional editing software which was user-friendly (drag-and-drop). Coordinating the action to the music meant cutting clips or stretching them to synchronize with the beat of the music. We rotated a horizontal shot, cropped clips to draw focus, made some clips partly transparent, and used special effects, such as rain. Titles and credits were easy to superimpose on the footage, and my daughter created the branding assets (brief animated logos) for the publisher and me.

Technically, the budget was $0. The publisher took care of the music and the musician. I bought two secure digital SD cards, material such as fabric, and lunch for the cast, bringing the “official” total to about $250. However, there was gas mileage for driving to my sister’s acreage, and I paid my daughter an honorarium, as the editing was time-consuming. We did not pay for costumes (donated), actors’ talent, location, cameras, or professional software.

Was it worth it? The actors, my daughter, and I enjoyed the process, particularly the discoveries inherent in the creative process. I learned much about filming videos so I’m confident I can create the next ones more efficiently. For example, I discovered it’s important to use a tripod, as shaky footage isn’t useable (though we did use a few follow-shots in the current video). As a director, I was busy with so many elements, I had to have confidence in the actors to jump in with little rehearsal or direction when the camera was rolling. When working with the larger cast, it was important to have someone serve as a gofer–gluing costumes and ensuring everyone had water.

Yes, it was worth it. I enjoyed creating work I’m proud of and sharing it, and I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback I’ve received on them. Did the videos sell books? Probably not. But they’re part of a larger promotional plan, (including my 2020 launch of Flights of Marigold, Book 2 of my Addicted to Heaven Series–quite a challenge during COVID) to build a brand over time by providing content to readers, even when a book is not pending. If people see one video, they might watch others, share them with friends, and watch for the next one coming out. Over time, I hope to build a following.

Interested in viewing the videos? Check them out (youtube.com/user/susanforest).”Like”and share generously!

Hoards of Glory by Arinn Dembo

SF Canada member Arinn Dembo wrote a new game, Hoards of Glory, for Kerberos Productions Inc. This title was released November 6, 2020 through STEAM.

Kerberos Productions, the makers of Sword of the Stars, have released a new tabletop simulation game for the PC. Hoards of Glory is a Viking-themed strategy game of dice placement, economy and combat for 1-4 players. Playable by up to four friends via the Internet, it also offers a variety of AI opponents to fill in when human players are not available.


Hoards of Glory is the first stand-alone simulation of a tabletop game that Kerberos has released. Their previous tabletop projects, The Pit: The Board Game and Planetary Control, were both modeled using the popular Tabletop Simulator software.

“This is really satisfying. Been missing games night a lot amidst the pandemic, and this scratches that fast paced card/dice game itch. It feels nice to play something with an “around the table vibe” and this game is easy to teach to my friends who aren’t really PC gamers, so I can play with anyone.” – STEAM reviewer

Purchase Hoards of Glory online at steampowered.com.

Discover other Kerberos Productions games at kerberos-productions.com.

The Human Template by Dale L. Sproule

SF Canada member Dale L. Sproule is launching a new book, The Human Template. This title is the first in a series, Book One of the Arboreal Realm Diptych.

Get ready to meet the BioGrid and reconsider what it means to be human.

Join the book launch for The Human Template online today at 2pm EST via Zoom.

The BioGrid is a vast biological computer housed in the root network of a genetically engineered forest. When it self-identified as a forest and refused to work with its creators, someone had to teach the newly sentient trees to see the world from a more human perspective. Dr Veejay Naidu’s breakthroughs in transferring the consciousness of his terminally ill son into an AI made him the obvious choice, but only one upload was completed before a catastrophic solar event took humanity to the brink of extinction.

Fragmented into diverse factions and locked in a never-ending feud, the badly damaged BioGrid lost contact with humanity for hundreds of years. When one of the factions discovered the remains of the human template and resurrected Raine Naidu, the BioGrid started working together toward the common goal of re-establishing an interface with humanity. But the attempt ended in betrayal; with the mind of a curious toddler named Glory turned into a stew of unsalvageable data. At least the data seemed irretrievable, until the child’s older sister, Adoris, worked out a way to access it.

Re-introducing 21st century technology to the ravaged world enabled Adoris to eliminate all opposition on her path to leadership; gaining direct access to the BioGrid and bending the most powerful of the factions to her will. When she took the entire BioGrid hostage, Raine was forced to rally his arboreal friends in a desperate bid for survival.

Learn more about Dale and explore his other titles at dalelsproule.com.

Order your copy of The Human Template at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Chapters, and more.

Externalities by Geoff Hart

SF Canada member Geoff Hart has a new story in the November issue of After Dinner Conversation.

“Externalities” is about a travelling wise man who gives each customer the service they need while teaching his apprentice a valuable lesson about externality. After Dinner Conversation is a digital philosophy and ethics magazine designed to start in-depth intellectual discussions.

After Dinner Conversation believes humanity is improved by ethics and morals grounded in philosophical truth. Philosophical truth is discovered through intentional reflection and respectful debate.  In order to facilitate that process, we have created a growing series of short stories, magazine, and podcast discussions, across genres, as accessible examples of abstract ethical and philosophical ideas intended to draw out deeper discussions with students, friends, and family.

Geoff Hart has been working as a technical communicator (an editor, translator, and writer) since 1987. He mentors others and travels to give talks and workshops about his work. Geoff has also been writing fiction (mostly “literary” science fiction and fantasy) sporadically for most of his adult life.

Learn more about Geoff at geoff-hart.com.

Subscribe to After Dinner Conversation at afterdinnerconversation.com. Or download a free sample with code DINNER.

Night Folk by Barb Galler-Smith

SF Canada member Barb Galler-Smith has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Issue 47 – November 2020. Her fantasy story “Night Folk” explores retired life from the viewpoint of supernatural creatures.

Galaxy’s Edge is a bi-monthly online magazine published every January, March, May, July, September and November. Select material from the magazine is free for online viewing. Downloads in multiple formats are available from a variety of different venues.

This November issue greets our readers with new articles from regular columnists L. Penelope and Gregory Benford, and reviews of the latest and greatest fiction by Richard Chwedyk.
… “Night Folk,” by Barb Galler-Smith, also takes part in the absence of daylight, where some aging creatures of the night put aside their walking canes to battle some geriatric hunters. It’s not often that we read about retired supernatural creatures, and this story doesn’t disappoint, flipping well-known tropes in this unexpected read.

Barbara Galler-Smith is co-author of DRUIDS, CAPTIVES, and WARRIORS, the DRUID SAGA novels. Barb holds two degrees: Zoology and Education. She’s spent the last eight years substitute teaching every grade and every subject.  Barb also works as an acquisitions editor and sometimes copyeditor for award-winning OnSpec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic.

Barb wrote her first story in the third grade for her new elementary school. The school chose it for inclusion in a 50-year time capsule set beneath the school’s flagpole. She’s been writing science fiction and fantasy ever since.

Learn more about Barb at gallersmith.ca.

Purchase a digital or print copy of Galaxy’s Edge, Issue 47 – November 2020 through galaxysedge.com.