Bringing a story to life

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Filming the book trailer was an incredible experience!

Ken Spurgeon arranged for us to use the Old Cowtown Museum site in Wichita as our setting. We had a sunny, cool, and windy November day–perfect for our needs. About three dozen historical reenactors (all volunteers) came out to help. Ken found three young actors to play the parts of the main character Lucy Thomkins, her brother Joseph, and runaway slave Phoebe. Some veterans of other Lone Chimney productions played the roles of Lucy’s parents and some menacing Border Ruffians. Others strolled the boardwalk of our pioneer town as residents of Lawrence. Mostly, I tried to stay out of the way and let the professional filmmakers handle it, but I was able to help set up some scenes to help recreate some details from the story.

When we climbed the stairs in the Cowtown drug store to film the scene of Lucy writing in her poetry journal, I had an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. The upstairs of that building was almost exactly as I had imagined the upper floor of the Thomkins General Store. When young Anna Spencer sat down at the desk by the window, I nearly cried with joy. It was an amazing moment. Now, whenever I am asked to read from the story, I know I will visualize Anna as Lucy.

Near the end of the day, one of the actors approached me, introduced himself, and said, “Thanks for letting us come out to play.” I could only respond, “Thank you for coming out to play!”

I feel extremely fortunate to have found Lone Chimney Films. I am so grateful for all the actors and crew who came out on a November day to help bring A Voice for Kanzas to life. I know Ken has many hours ahead to review all that raw footage, choose just the right bits and camera angles, create transitions and add the voiceover parts to produce a film less than two minutes long. I appreciate his enthusiasm for the project.

My movie adventure begins…

My husband and I are off to Wichita, Kansas this afternoon. Tomorrow we will be there while Lone Chimney Films works on scenes for the book trailer. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to see at least some of this process. After the filiming, Ken Spurgeon and his crew will work on the voice-over and editing magic that will bring a little bit of A Voice for Kanzas to life.

Besides the excitement of the filming itself, I’m really looking forward to meeting the LCF folks. As I have looked through the short bios of the LCF board and crew, I see teachers, writers, runners, artists, musicians, and horse-wranglers. Above all, it’s a group of people with a passion for learning and for bringing history to life for the present generation. Definitely my kind of people! We’ll have no shortage of fodder for conversation. I can hardly believe my good fortune in being able to work with this awesome group of professionals.

Photos and more to come soon…

Networking (You’ve got friends!)

Soon after I announced to the world that A Voice for Kanzas would be published, a friend of mine (who had another friend whose debut novel would come out 2012) told me about a great group. It seems that somehow a whole bunch of writers who had debut novels coming out in 2012 had linked arms and decided to sashay down this yellow brick road together. They called themselves, Apocalypsies, with a tag line of “Read ‘Em Like There’s No Tomorrow.”

They welcomed me with open arms, added me to their blog page, set me up on the list serve, and even told me how I could order the official t-shirt. Within days my email box was filled with the happy chatter of soon-to-be published novelists. There’s a Facebook page now, too. There is even a special group page for those of us who are working at getting into shape before our books debut. We share our new book covers as we get them. [Some are tweeting these things like crazy, but I have to admit that the Tweet is something I know not of.]  We post news about reviews. We share frustrations over long waits or seemingly impossible expectations of editors.

Through the posts of my fellow Apocalypsies I have learned more about what to expect about having publicity photos made, how to put together plans for a book trailer, how to use Goodreads to help me promote my book (I’m still learning on that one). We’ve all friended each other on Facebook and “liked” each other’s author pages. We planned a get-together at SCBWI-LA and actually met!

I think the group of 2013 is already forming now. If you’re reading this with hopes for your own debut in your near future–hook up with them. It’s great to have a support group in this little journey.

Mirror, mirror…or Camera Lens

November 11, 2011

It had to happen…the day I’ve been putting off…the publicity photo shoot..

I knew last spring I would need to have publicity photos taken. I guess most people don’t like the way they look in photos, but the fear and loathing is made more intense by the knowledge that these photos will be “out there” for everyone to see. The images will be on books, posters, press releases, etc.

The panic set in immediately. I began a diet, a new skin care regimen. In desperation I even began running–training for a marathon to be precise. My friends and family were shocked. “Whatever possessed you to do that?” they asked. Desperation, my friends. I just had to drop some weight before I went before the camera.

Publicity photos have a few challenges that you don’t encounter when embarking on regular family-photo adventures. Most importantly, the copyright issue. In order to have your photos reproduced by your publisher and for your own publicity purposes, you need a copyright release. Our Apocalypsies blog had some experiences of our peers who were going through this. Depending on the photographer and the local going-rate for these things, some of the writers were spending big bucks. I checked with a few local photographers and found prices ranging from $200 to $500 for a photo shoot at the location of my choice. Most charged an additional fee for the copyright release.

I hesitated. Spring turned to summer.

I moisturized, I exfoliated, I masked.

I ran. And ran. Eight miles, ten miles, twelve miles. All in the heat of summer.

Still, I hesitated. Summer turned to fall.

The photographer I’d orginally planned to use was pregnant, and due soon. I still couldn’t decide on the perfect location. My son offered to do the photos for me. He chose a nice location. I chose a shirt in a color I loved. But I just wasn’t thrilled. Maybe the afternoon sun was just too intense. The photos were okay, but I wasn’t ready to send them out in the world to represent me.

My marathon training stretched my running excursions to lengths I’d never dreamed of. On October 23, I ran 26.2 miles and nearly collapsed when they hung the medal around my neck. Could I have lost that fifteen pounds some easier way? Probably. But the confidence boost I gained from the experience was worth it.

Today I had the photos done. I decided to use a store-front studio in my area that is part of a national chain. (Portrait Innovations). They offered a “business package” that included several changes of backgrounds and clothing, digital images available immediately, and copyright release for several images, all for under $100. We had used the studio before for family portraits, and I liked their system. The photographer took dozens of images and I was able to choose my favorites just minutes after the shoot. I decided on several that I liked, and walked out with prints, digital images on CD, and copyright release less than an hour later.

Mission accomplished.

Here are some images:

The only downside? I ended up with lots of prints (many more than I’ll ever want or need). Maybe that means my Christmas shopping is already finished.

Bookmarks and postcards…Oh My!

The bookmarks and post cards arrived earlier than expected!



On the recommendation of my son, I used, and I am really pleased with the products. [They really look better than these scanned images.] The process was all done online, and the company has templates that are pretty easy to use, even for me. I chose the 4 x 6 size for the postcard, and the 2 x 6 for the bookmark. The prices were reasonable, and I ordered 250 post cards and 1000 bookmarks. I could have lowered my per-piece price by ordering larger quantities, but decided not to. (I wanted to see how they came out before I found myself stuck with a a gazillion paper pieces I didn’t like.) I saved the image files, so I can reorder later.

The card stock is a nice weight and I like the glossy finish. On the back of both articles I placed “teaser” text to pique interest in the story. I’m glad I ran the draft of the designs past the marketing person at the publisher: she had me add the publisher logo and an additional web address of the parent company.

I’ll use the post cards to send to some libraries and other organizations to promote personal appearances as well as to publicize the book. Later, I’ll also use them as invitations to my book launch party for friends who may not be on Facebook (where I’ll send most invitations).

The bookmarks are small enough to keep in my pockets and purse to hand out at work, at church, and everywhere else. I’m doing a class presentation in a Children’s Lit class soon, and I’ll give them. Of course, I’ll give them out at any personal appearances I do. I may need to order more before long.

To market, to market

I’m fortunate that Kane Miller has a nicely articulated marketing plan to support their new titles, but I still need to do my part to help them do their part. I’m currently working on a media contact list of local newspapers and broadcast media who might be interested to receive press releases. I’m also making a list of libraries and bookstores who might want to receive preview copies. Since the book is set in a historical era, I’ll also compile a list of historical societies and museums which might be likely to carry the book in their gift shops. This may sound easy, but I have a very long list, and I will need to look up addresses for all of them.

I have put together images and text for postcards and bookmarks, and have placed an order with a printer. I intend to send postcards to libraries and bookstores fairly soon, in the hopes of scheduling some appearances close to Kansas Day. I expect the cards and bookmarks to arrive in a couple of weeks, so I’ll need to be sure to have my contact information and scheduling details up on the site very soon.


Next stop, Hollywood! (or maybe Wichita)

I’m excited to be working with Ken Spurgeon and his crew at Lone Chimney Films on a book trailer! We’ve been discussing ideas for a live-action short film to promote A Voice for Kanzas. To see more about Lone Chimney (and why I’m so stoked about this collaboration), go to   I plan to post more about the process as we move forward with the film. Lone Chimney has also used the talents of a group of musicians called The Freestaters. They play wonderful songs from the Territorial era, and I’m hoping we may be able to use some of their music in the trailer as well.

Cover Reveal!

Okay, I thought I’d seen cover art with the new file of VFK, but it turns out that was actually the beautiful front page of the book. Kira sent the real cover art today, and it’s lovely! I spent most of the day showing it off to friends, posting it on Facebook and Google+, and just generally basking in the glow of it all.

My next big task will be arranging for business cards, post cards, and bookmarks with the new image.

And here it is:

A real book…and a trailer!

October 4, 2011

I received a message from editor Kira Lynn today. She was asking me to proofread the final version before it goes to press–especially the excerpts quoted from primary documents, since she doesn’t have access to those. No problem, really, since I have hard copies of all of those. I opened the PDF, looking forward to seeing the book laid out and found….


Wowsers! I love it! I’ll post it here when I have a jpeg version. I clicked through a few pages of the book and discovered the beautiful job they did with the text and visual motif. The chapter headers (all primary documents) are printed on special pages that look like old paper. Lucy’s poems and letters are set in script font that looks like handwriting. It’s all really quite lovely.

Tonight I had a great phone conversation with Ken Spurgeon of Lone Chimney Films. Ken’s film company does dramatic films based on events in Kansas history. I met him at the Kansas Sampler festival last spring and asked if he might be willing to do a book trailer. Tonight we brainstormed some ideas (we were both thinking along the same lines already), and Ken is as excited about the project as I am. Ken also knows some musicians who play music from the 1850s era, and I’m hoping to see about uploading some music to the website.

Suddenly, it feels like things are moving very quickly!

The countdown begins…

October 1, 2011

My editor tells me that A Voice for Kanzas will be available in January–just three months from now. Amazing! And suddenly my head is whirling with things to do: photos, and website, and trailer–oh my!

I was fortunate to attend a workshop on marketing for authors at this summer’s SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. Susan Raab shared many ideas with us, and her book, An Author’s Guide to Children’s Book Promotion, is an excellent reference. I feel almost overwhelmed with the tasks before me, despite my excitement and anticipation of the release of my Debut Novel (I love that phrase!).

I have procrastinated on having publicity photos taken. I have a fledgling website that needs new photos and content. I have a long list of potential sales outlets for which I must look up addresses and then send to the marketing department at Kane Miller. I need to find the perfect place to have my book launch party! I should be contacting some libraries now to line up some book talks for Kansas Day, January 29, where I can appear with books in hand. I’m hoping to see cover art soon, so that I can have bookmarks and business cards and post cards made.  And on and on…

And then there’s that marathon race three weeks from tomorrow…26.2 miles in the shadow of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.