Villagers

Winds of change:

Twenty-five years ago, owning a two-story town-home was not an issue. I saw the stairs as a physical challenge. Two steps at a time, opposite arms extended while carrying light hand weights. I looked forward to it. A good way to get a steady flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.

Being on a canal was a big plus. One of the first things I did was buy a fiberglass canoe. Depending on wind direction, I’d paddle to a nearby lake or fish the canals behind the homes.

I’ve worn the skin off my thumb more times than I can recall from landing peacock and large-mouth bass.

Our development was tucked in a corner bordered by I-75 to the north and State Road 27 on the west side. The Florida Everglades owned most of the real estate on the perimeters.

A section of the development was dedicated to remaining wild: the mitigation area. The only thing indicating humans had left their mark on the landscape was a sidewalk. A great place to take a stroll and see animals and birds.

Don’t look back:

Times change.

The physical challenge of stair climbing has evolved into low-impact navigating designed to avoid injury. Difficulty in launching my canoe and getting in and out has drawn a curtain on fishing. The sidewalk undulating across the mitigation area hurts my knees. Nature walks in the mitigation area are no longer an option.

We’re pulling up stakes and moving on to the Villages, a 55 plus community. For some reason—could be a recent news broadcast or a current book I’m reading—I want to be among fellow baby boomers.

Another thing I want to do is build a Japanese rock garden in my new backyard. It’s small so it looks doable. Exact measurements will be taken. The dimensions will be scaled. From this, a miniature tray will be built. The features will be added. The small garden will be the model for the main garden.

But wait, there’s more.

An overhead tripod is going to be set up over the small tray. Stop motion photographs will be shot showing the results of the rock raking. A drone will be used to photograph the same changes to the main garden. Sounds like Zen to me.

Phase 2

Cover up:

A working cover for the Time Phantoms series has been created. A quick and dirty thing that will be the back drop for each installment. The only changes being the different titles. Save time and effort by reduction of steps. A wise man once said, a former boss, “You only get a certain amount of steps in this life.” Words to write by.

Initially, I wanted to do a warped time space grid thing. It didn’t work out, besides, it looked a bit muddy when zoomed out. Trying to go for cover art that is presentable at icon size. Screen display is critical on the virtual bookshelf.

Forty scenes theory:

On the latest Scrivener podcast, monthly interviews with authors who utilize Scrivener in their workflow, in episode 3, the guest speaker made good use of the outlining techniques: she used a method called 40 scenes. Forty linear scenes, which can be nothing more than a few sentences, are laid out. Main character takes a walk on the beach and finds an old coin could be a single scene. From the scenes, the author crafts at least 2,000 words, her chapter targets.

I use a technique that is similar. There have been three podcast episodes to date. Each one has provided a take away.

First Phase of Production

Story file:

A course to publish a series consisting of three stories has been plotted. The thread binding the yarns is woven. The first installment is on production. It is in a genre that has remained an all-time favorite with me for decades: science fiction noir.

Time travel and master criminals is at the core of plot.

A project file has been created in Scrivener my writing weapon of choice. In this instance, if it were the old days and I were a duelist, the current project would be my preferred three-barreled shotgun. Loaded with folders containing the relevant data designed to carry the story to completion.

Sometimes, I can see my writing escapades being perpetuated on a mobile device. If compiling to an ePub from Scrivener for iOS was on option that would put me one step closer to the goal. My favorite graphics packages—Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are available for mobile. Don’t think this option would eliminate the need for a desktop computer though.

Cover file:

For the cover graphic, a document has been setup in Affinity Designer. In the early stages three art boards populate the file. I’m not sure what the covers set will be at this point. Will probably know more within the next week. The first stone has been cast onto the water and the first ripple is expanding.

New Writing Jag Strategy

Reaching for the next level:


After reading Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks, I decided to adopt the methods outlined in the book. The book has become my Bible. I’m always referring to it. In the embryonic stages, after the first read, I wrote and published BRAIN STORM, a science fiction, time travel yarn.

I’ve been trying to mold my latest stories to fit into the engineering space. So far, there’s been three attempts and three calls for abandoning ship.

Another book crossed my path: How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market by Ricardo Favet. I haven’t finished reading the book but my main take away so far is researching popular genres through the use of software that can decipher how many books are sold per day based on overall ranking status.

Once a suitable genre is targeted, the author recommends writing three books in succession and publishing one per month in “rapid release”.

I’m going to give it a shot.

Carving my own path:

The first book mentioned above is dedicated to producing a manuscript that might make it past a literary agent’s desk and eventually lead to a traditional publishing contract. The second book focuses on independent publishing to the digital universe, specifically Amazon.

My goal is to merge the components of story construction: plot pacing, character arc, and the four story elements (setup, inciting event, conflict, resolution) with the fast paced output required to keep a steady stream of eBooks on the digital shelf.

There is a series in development right now. Production should be underway in 14 days. My first publishing goal is set for December 1, 202.

Stop Motion Log: Entry 1

Stop motion origin:

My first exposure to stop motion animation was when I saw King Kong on television. Seeing the big ape battling the other creatures on Skull Island set the hook in my young mind.

Later, the films of Ray Harryhausen captured my imagination. I remember seeing the half-page, full-color advertisement for Jason and the Argonauts in the Sunday edition of the Miami Herald. I was heavy into Greek mythology in those days. Harryhausen was a master craftsman and he delivered a near perfect piece of technical cinema to my young eyes.

Stop motion now

Not long after retiring I lost interest in social media. It wasn’t like I was deep into it. My Facebook account had about 50 friends. I was in five groups. One was dedicated to Harryhausen. By far my favorite. Guess I ran out of things to contribute.

While wandering around the internet, one of my favorite pastimes, I stumbled upon a stop motion application for mobile devices: Stop Motion Studio. It happened when checking out a video from Tapocketa Studio. In the description was a link to the app used to build the animation. I checked it out.

Looked like a descent tool. It’s a free download but some of the more advanced features can be unlocked for five bucks. Not bad.

The learning curve is not steep but it’s not simple. A background in animation would make it smoother. There are skeletons of motion graphics in my digital closet. I have a head start.

This is all in the research and development stages. I’ve gone through the user’s manual three times. It recommends using some kind of method of holding the camera steady. At first, I zeroed in on the inexpensive models. They came with low price tags but a high number of bad reviews. You get what you pay for.

Digging deeper, I came across this. An adjustable stand with built in ring light. Good reviews. Looks like it would work for me.

The price is holding me back right now. If I bought this thing I may feel obligated to make good use of it. Maybe it’s a fear of commitment thing.

Time will tell.

When the first entry is the last:

I decided not to go with the adjustable stand and light rig. Couldn’t see myself putting that much time effort into it. Besides, I didn’t want to spend the money. Instead, I thought about using the stop motion software as an snapped animation platform for graphics. Then I figured it would be more efficient to work with the desktop version of the software. The product reviews were not good. The word “crash” came up. I backed off.

Somehow, I ended up on a search result that lead me to something I wasn’t aware of: the APNG file format. The Animated Portable Network Graphics format supports different levels of transparency and a bigger color palette than GIF.

I laid down my four dollars and took the app for a test run. It’s too simple to be problematic and it exports a good looking cartoon. I think the grand-kids will dig it.