Trailer Talk: What’s in a voice?

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The Movie Preview Guy

Don LaFontaineDon LaFontaine has been the most recognizable voice in movie trailers for decades. His voice had a tenor and resonance that established him as a legend throughout the voiceover industry.

His passing was a huge loss, and the people who have tried to take his place don’t come close to matching his game. To hear “The Voice” tell his own story, go here: Don LaFontaine

Thank goodness for Pablo Francisco and his hilarious spot-on impersonation of LaFontaine—in his standup comedy routine.

Why don’t they hire Pablo to do the voiceovers for movie trailers. WHY?

Pablo Francisco ~ Little Tortilla Boy


A First-Draft Mad Dash ~ And the Not-So-Pretty Truth

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The one thing I have to accomplish—or I won’t be able to live with myself—is to be a traditionally published author. I know. It makes no sense in so many ways. Yet this is the rainbow bridge of my dreams.

Rainbow Bridge

Because life isn’t always about making sense. It’s about living without regrets.

I came close to my goal with the book I queried late last year.  But close isn’t good enough. I realized a little (?) too late that the story, while good, wasn’t unique enough for a debut author. No worries. I’ve heard of a number of now-published authors who didn’t make it out of the gate with their first book. Then when they sold their second book, the first was sold too. That’s the success scenario I choose to believe in.

So…  Now it’s time to kick up my game with a new project that has a unique concept. It’s time to dig in and get serious with the infamous First Draft.

First Draft ~ Fact and Fiction

Pounding out a first draft is different for every author. For some,  the words flow out of their fingers like milk and honey in the promised land. Yeah, right. So. Not. Me.

For me, a  first draft is all-consuming. It’s when the characters blossom to life in my head, transforming into three-dimensional people. Usually with a healthy dose of attitude. Story wrinkles slap me in the face—plot pits big enough to swallow a T-Rex whole—I didn’t foresee in the initial planning phase. It’s a fictional wrestling match and dance party rolled into one, an oxymoronic medely of inspiration, frustration, and a high flying creative dopamine rush.

Yes, folks. The writer’s high is real. And it’s free for anyone crazy enough to venture down this path.

I’d like you to think that my First Draft Dash is as fluid as an Olympian going for the gold. But let’s be real. My first draft process looks a lot more like this…

Running of the bulls in Arizona

In the race to keep the momentum flowing, real-life stuff falls off the truck, only to be trampled beneath the hooves of those bulls.

Dust, dishes, and laundry be damned… and the better part of social media too.

Ready…Set…Go!

Starting lineThe good new is, first drafts don’t last forever. In fact, this is going to be a relatively short sprint.

Head down and fingers to the keyboard on March 21st.

Crossing the deadline finish line on June 21st.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Yeah… about this blog…

During the first draft dash, I won’t have the bandwidth to come up with thought-provoking posts on a regular basis. In February, when I was plotting out the new project, I did Zip. Zero. Zilch blog posts.

I didn’t want this blog to go dark for the next three months, so I’m bringing out a series I’ve been thinking about for some time. It will be based on a series of letters written to me by legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas over a number of years. The correspondence originated out of my love of animation and computer graphics, but ultimately brought me to the path of writing fiction for young readers.

Coming up next:
“Letters from Frank ~ Insights on Animation, Computers, and Elephants”


WAnt to share your First Draft process?


Be Your Own Hero

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It’s amazing how four simple words can resonate with such great intensity:

Be your own hero.

Hugh Jackman as The WolverineI tweeted those words, because they felt *solid* and *true* but without knowing why. I certainly wasn’t thinking or feeling like the Wolverine.

But as with so many other tweets, once I hit Send, the words were forgotten.

That is, until the retweets flooded in. Apparently those words felt solid and true to a number of others.

But WHY?

What does it mean to ‘Be Your Own Hero’?

That’s the question I asked myself when I saw the response to that tweet. And not in the Hollywood-action-film-hero context either. Even though that’s the first imagery that usually comes to mind.

Heros_1

Characters who travel the Hero’s Journey in film and fiction provide valid role models on “how to become a hero” on a number of levels.

But “being your own hero” goes deeper.

It’s not about storming the castle, taking down the evil warlord, or finding the golden fleece. In fact, the exact criteria will vary as wildly as there are people in the world.

I can’t tell you how to be your own hero. But after a much thought, I defined a list of criteria for myself…

How to ‘Be My Own Hero’ — 5 Easy Steps

  1. Take that one thing I have to accomplish or “I won’t be able to live with  myself”, and make it happen. Against all odds.
  2. Do what I’m most afraid of. Because that’s what I most need to learn.
  3. Strive for excellence. Never settle for mediocrity.
  4. Stand up for myself. But more important, stand up for those who may be weaker and need the support.
  5. Live my dream to its fullest … remaining fluid, embracing life circumstances with open arms, while still holding true to the vision. Because that’s the stuff real dreams are made of.

What’s on your “Be your own hero” list?


The Selfie That Brought Down Twitter & Why It Matters

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The 2014 Oscars were last Sunday evening, March 2nd. If you don’t live in a cave, you probably heard about Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie that broke Twitter.

If you just came out of your cave and missed all that action, you can get the deets from the Los Angeles Times article about the event here and the New York Daily News article here.

2014 Oscars Selfie that broke Twitter

One Message ~ Over 2 Million Retweets

Basically here’s what happened…

Oscar host, Ellen DeGeneres, encouraged Bradley Cooper to take the infamous picture of her and the cozied-up group of A-List actors, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Long before midnight that night, Ellen’s selfie was retweeted more than 2 million times. The overwhelming influx of network traffic brought Twitter to its knees. Or, to use a highly technical term, “they were hosed”. So much so, that Twitter later sent out an apology regarding the 20 minute disruption in service that happened after 8 p.m. PST.

Why it’s a big deal…

People who don’t use Twitter don’t get how big this is, both on a technically and humanly—the way we work and live.

I’ve been a technical writer in the software industry for a number of years, and have been exposed to a broad range of technologies in some of the most influential companies in Silicon Valley. Twitter, and other high-profile companies that provide real-time services, have substantial server farms to compensate for traffic during peak times. Nothing short of World War III should bring them down.

So … for ONE TWEET to hose the services of a company like Twitter is HUGE.

But something else was remarkable about this phenomenon. It shone a lantern on how Twitter affects the way we interact and communicate as a society.

One message shared over two million times because it resonated with a population, is nothing short of amazing.

This says something powerful about instantaneous connectedness. How the world is a global community in which we share thoughts and ideas in a fraction of a second. More important, how much we have come to depend on this ability.

I was one of the many who live tweeted through the 2014 Oscars broadcast, talking with people across the nation and around the world, retweeting and replying to tweets. I experienced the “Twitter crash” in real-time, the frustrating sudden loss of being able to communicate with other tweeters.

The retweets-heard-round-the-world from Ellen’s single tweet demonstrated our power as a collective whole. Because at the end of the day, technology is nothing without us—the people who drive it.


How does technology affect the way you communicate and live?


Are You a Movie Maven?

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I’m bringing this post back, because it’s that time of year …

Time for the Academy Awards!

OutofAfrica

The following montage is created from the Academy Awards Best Picture Winners, starting with the first Academy Awards in 1929 through 2012.

How many movie titles can you name?

Leave your score in the comments. The titles are listed at the end of the video.

Academy Awards: Best Picture Oscar Winners
 from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo. Music: “November” by Max Richter.


Creative Courage ~ Blowing Away “The Box”

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David Garrett ~ Musical Maverick

When a friend asked if I’d go with her to a concert featuring violinist David Garrett (in San Jose last Tuesday), I expected an excellent show. After all, I’d heard Garret’s classical album, Legacy; proving his world renowned talent as a classical musician.

David Garrett

What I didn’t expect … was to be totally blown away…
Along with that box everyone talks about thinking outside of.

His show — Music, named after his latest release — was genre busting in every possible way. From the wide range of music, to the orchestration and technological presentation. He played everything from Beethoven, Queen, AC/DC, Bach, Brahms, The Beatles, Brazilian … you get the picture. All backed by a rock band. Mindblowingly awesome!

I am inspired by any artist (in any medium) who refuses to follow the customs of their group and sets new standards of excellence. The Maverick … who sees beyond the rules, envisions explosive possibilities, and then brings them to life. What I love most is Garrett’s all-inclusive approach to his art…

I use my instrument to endeavor into all kinds of music genres… ~David Garrett

He draws from “everything” he hears, then filters through the possibilities and permutations to create something fresh and new. He doesn’t see one genre as “less than” and another as “superior”, he embraces all … even technology … to drive creativity to new limits. Check out the video below and see for yourself.

Garrett’s performance turned my head around in more ways than one. It made me take serious look at my approach to my craft, and ask how I can make my writing and my stories fresher. What possibilities haven’t I considered? What potentials should I investigate? What can I do that hasn’t been done before?

Mavericks in Fine Art and Filmmaking

Every medium has its mavericks. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. Pablo Picasso and Joss Whedon pioneered new ground in the fine arts and filmmaking, respectively.

Pablo Picasso was a maverick in the fine art world. He trained classically, painting in the realistic manner of the time through his childhood and adolescence. After that he experimented with different theories, techniques, and materials. His unique vision helped found the Cubist movement and made him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art.

Joss Whedon is a contemporary screenwriter, producer, and filmmaker who used his “genre salad” approach to story to create some of the most memorable TV series of our time. Whedon is best known for his TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a teen-angst dramedy with vampires, monsters, and hot chics with super powers who kickass and take names. Whedon stretched the genre envelope even further with the TV series Firefly, a space western drama. And that’s just two of his remarkable genre busting accomplishments.

The question we should all be asking ourselves is…

How can I turn my [type of creative work here] on its head, spin it around, and create something new?

Viva La Vida ~ David Garrett

In the following video, as in his live performance, David Garrett puts a fresh spin on Coldplay’s Viva La Vidausing technology to push the creative edge even further. Yes, he’s playing all the tracks in real-time (on a Stradivarius!), thanks to technology. Pretty awesome.

No powder throwing ravers at the live concert…
Is anyone else concerned about the violin in that scene?
Hopefully, that’s not the Strad!



LAST BLAST YAppiest WINNER! “Ten” by Gretchen McNeil & “Unremembered” by Jessica Brody

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17 YA AUTHORS + DISNEYLAND = THE YAPPIEST DAY ON EARTH!

YAppiest Day on Earth icon


The LAST BLAST YAppiest Giveaway! is for

Ten, by Gretchen McNeil and

Unremembered by Jessica Brody

TEN ~ Gretchen McNeil

Ten teens. Three days. One killer.

Ten cover

UNREMEMBERED ~ Jessica Brody

The only thing worse than forgetting her past … is remembering it.

Unremembered cover

And the Lucky Winner Is…

… Drum roll …

~oOo~

Faith McLaughlin

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

*** Tosses copious amounts of sparkly confetti! ***

~oOo~

I’ll contact you via email in case you miss this post.

For a complete list of all the YAppiest Giveaways, go here.

Book Covers for Giveaways


LAST BLAST YAppiest Giveaway! “Ten” by Gretchen McNeil & “Unremembered” by Jessica Brody

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17 YA AUTHORS + DISNEYLAND = THE YAPPIEST DAY ON EARTH!

YAppiest Day on Earth icon

If you couldn’t make The YAppiest Day on Earth, never fear! The YAppiness keeps rolling with epic read giveaways by each of the 17 authors.

This is the LAST YAppiest Giveaway! And we’re going out in YAppy style, showcasing TWO awesome books: Ten by Gretchen McNeil and Unremembered by Jessica Brody.

For a chance to win a FREE copy of each of these books, see the “How to Win” section below. For a complete list of upcoming giveaways, go here.

TEN ~ Gretchen McNeil

Ten coverIt was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine? [Synopsis]

Ten teens. Three Days. One Killer.

If you’re a fan of suspenseful, fast-paced stories with a rising body count, look no further. Be warned! Once you start reading this thriller, you won’t be able to stop until the last page is turned.

UNREMEMBERED ~ Jessica Brody

Unremembered coverWhen Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.

Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.

Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.

Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget? [Synopsis]

The only thing worse than forgetting her past … is remembering it.

If you enjoy a face-paced, exciting read with well-developed characters, this is a story for you. Jessica Brody knocks it out of the park with the first book in the Unremembered series. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series.

How to Win…

NOTE: The FREE giveaway of a copy of this book is open to residents of the United States only, due to shipping costs. My sincere apologies.

  1. Leave a comment on this blog–explaining WHY you want to read this book– by midnight, January 19th (1 entry).
  2. Tweet about this giveaway, including #yappiest in your tweet (1 entry).

I’ll tally the entries and choose a winner, then announce it on this blog on Tuesday, January 21st. Good luck!

Stay tuned for the next YAppiests Giveaway!

Book Covers for Giveaways

Music as Character ~ Buffy Wasn’t Just About Slaying Vampires

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Music that Shaped Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire SlayerJoss Whedon inspired many a writer (myself included) with his panache for strong story, witty dialog, and quirky characters in his irreverent series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What’s easy to overlook, though, is how Whedon broke new ground with music in the series. To the point where music became a character integral to the story.

Take the Bronze. Sunnydale’s hippster nightclub. Of 144 episodes of the series, 66 have at least one scene at The Bronze. Each of those scenes featured live bands, playing original music. [Wikipedia] By the third season, groups were clamoring to be featured in an episode of Buffy.

But the Bronze’s live music wasn’t just a convenient plot device; it also shaped the mood and tone of the show. New bands from the Los Angeles area were showcased, as well as more well-known artists such as Aimee MannSplendidCibo MattoAngie HartMichelle BranchK’s ChoiceGarbage and Nerf Herder.  [Wikipedia]

The bands that took the stage at The Bronze weren’t everything, though. The musical scores that flowed through the seven season run, gave depth of story and emotion in equal measure.

Every Buffy fan has their musical favorites. Here are a couple of mine…

Prayer of St. Francis ~ Sarah McLachlan


Try as I might, I couldn’t pick just one favorite song from the classic musical episode, Once More With Feeling, in Season Six, so I opted for the trailer. If you haven’t seen the episode, do it NOW. It’s utterly brilliant. All the more so, when you realize the story, music, and lyrics were all written by Joss Whedon himself!

Buffy ~ The Musical: Once More with Feeling


What’s your favorite Buffy musical moment?


“Better Nate Than Ever” by Tim Federle ~ Hilarious and Heartwarming

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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Better Nate Than Ever coverNate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.)

But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

Now’s his chance to explore the city, wow the casting director, out-sing the competition, and hop the last bus home before anyone notices he’s gone. No big deal, right? But exciting as it is, the Big Apple can be big trouble. And if Nate isn’t careful, he’ll be lucky if he makes it through Times Square, much less the audition.  [Synopsis]

Over-The-Top Audacity … in the Best Possible Way!

Let me just say, I love Nate! Oh, and his best friend Libby too. Because without Libby, Nate never would have known about the  ET: The Musical casting call, much less attempted a daring escape to New York City for the audition. I know I’m biased, but here’s some relatively impartial insights…

What’s so great about Nate: A voice that’s fresh, funny, with a spot on middle grade. Nate has all the anxieties and self-doubts of any misfit. But what makes him so adorkable is his how he embraces his quirks, and motors right through his fears with improv that’s nothing short of genius. And then there’s Nate and Libby’s swear words, which are as unique as they are endearing. They curse with the titles of (real!) legendary Broadway musical flops, such as Dance of the Vampires. Who knew?

Reality with a dash of wacky: The Plan Libby and Nate concoct to get him into the audition in New York City is realistic and level-headed. The amusing flaws in their scheme spring from a ten-year-old’s naive view of the world. Still, things manage to work out for Nate. Like how he talks his way into purchasing a bus ticket—when he’s obviously under age—using his older brother’s ID. His brother Anthony is 16, at least ten inches taller, and has the face of an international model, which Nate so is not. Admittedly, the coverage of a local stabbing on the television monitor in the ticket booth was a saving distraction for the ticket salesperson, what with the gory graphics, eyewitnesses, and a crying woman holding a baseball bat. Still, Nate’s anxiety driven improv is ultimately what does the trick. From there on out, the wackiness spins into high gear… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Laugh-out-loud hilarity: The entire book is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. But I have to admit that I was literally reduced to laughing so hard I was sobbing, my head in my hands, by Nate’s audition performance. Nate claims his *special talent* is walking on his knees. So when the casting director asks him to perform his trick, Nate flips into manic mode … and then some…

…I’m circling their table, channeling my Fiddler on the Roof bottle dancing, flying by like we’re at the racetrack, the team’s little greyhound…

I’d share more, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just be sure to have a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them. I sure did!

Home is where the heart is: They say that comedy has to have an element of pathos to make it funny. In Nate’s story, the pathos comes from his disfunctional family. His parents are on the verge of divorce, his all-star brother hides beer in his closet, and then there’s his mother’s estranged sister. The very aunt who comes to Nate’s rescue (thanks to Libby) as a legal guardian, a requirement to get into the audition. The broken dynamics of Nate’s family, and how his wacky adventure helps put them on the mend, makes you care—and root—for Nate all the more.

I highly  recommend Better Nate Than Ever for most all middle grade boys and girls. Though I’d warn them to keep an eye on their parents. Because they’ll be sneaking this book away to read too.

About the Author

Tim Federle is the author of over seven hundred emails. Born in beautiful San Francisco and raised in character building Pittsburgh, Tim discovered show tunes in elementary school, prompting bullies to discover Tim. Armed with only grit (and his father’s credit card), Tim fled to New York City as a teenager. He has since worn a Tina Turner wig at the Super Bowl, a polar bear suit at Radio City, and a big fat grin in five Broadway shows. Better Nate Than Ever is Tim’s first novel. Soon to be followed by the sequel, Five, Six, Seven NATE! You can find Tim on Twitter @TimFederle. [Jacketflap bio]


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