Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Coming Soon to a Living Room Near You

Sharon Wildwind

Just in case you’ve missed the hype, Poison Pen Press is holding a virtual mystery convention, in your living room, on Saturday, October 24, 2009. You can check out details at their convention website.

I registered on line and identified myself as an author. They asked if I wanted to participate in some of the activities? Of course, I did. List up to three of my books, with ISBN numbers. That was easy. Did I have a web site? Yep. Did I have a blog? Yep. Was I on Facebook? Yep. Did I Twitter? Yep. Did I have a camera and a microphone and did I want to participate in a virtual video panel? Whoa, wait a minute . . .

Both a camera and a microphone came installed on my computer. Until now, they’ve been toys for when I am really, really bored. The camera comes with Effects: Set 1 and Set 2. Set 2 distorts the photo like a fun-house mirror. I can make a two-headed version of myself, or make my head disappear completely. It’s good for about thirty seconds of mindless distraction. Set 1 is more useful. It produces neat effects, like transforming photos so they appear to have been drawn with colored pencils or taking a thermal image photo.

The microphone is useful for recording such phrases as, “Make it so,” or “Take us up, helmsman. All ahead, steady.” depending on whether I’m playing Star Trek or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at the time.

But do a real, live convention appearance from my living room? My first and second thoughts were the traditional, “I’ve got nothing to wear!” and “My hair is a mess.” Then came the technical question. Okay, I have the camera and microphone, but how do I use them as real broadcast tools instead of toys. The answer, it seems, is I need software.

Simple enough answer. I’ve mastered enough new software to believe that if I got it, I could figure out how to use it.

Having done a microscopic stint as a DJ on a small-town community-based radio feed—30 minutes of recorded music interspersed with announcements like, “Mavis B. wants her friends to know she’s out of the hospital and feeling better, but won’t be up to visitors for a few days”—I know every one of my audio bad habits. I say “Um” far too much. I get tongue-tied. I like to think about what I’m going to say. Fifteen seconds of dead air is a killer. On the other hand, if I take the time to conjure up my southern accent and drop my voice an octave, I sound killer sexy.

Is killer sexy what I truly want to put out on the Internet, where everything is public, and whatever is posted lasts forever?

My video career was even shorter than my DJ career. I’ve been videotaped a few times at work, doing workshops or panels, and I know, visually, I stink. Hi, my name is Sharon and I’m a fidgeter. I run my fingers through my hair. I slump. I lean either forward or backward when I’m truly interested in what another person is saying. I put my fingers in front of my mouth. I play with my earrings, often managing at the same time to rub my forearm over the lapel mike, creating a shussing sound that completely obliterates what another person is saying.

The deciding factor in me checking no, I DID NOT want to participate in a virtual video panel was that I didn’t want the world to see my living room. I had visions of potential thieves cataloging the goodies visible behind me. Not that we’re talking Royal Dalton china and priceless Japanese woodcuts. More like discount store plastic boxes and an extremely untidy book collection. It still felt like an invasion of privacy, and I didn’t want to go there.

At the same time that I checked no, I envied those writers who were checking “yes.” I know that there are tons of people out there ready to step up the video plate, and that in this, like so many other things, I can’t afford to be left behind for much longer.

You know, the simple solution would be a folding screen. It would only have to be about three feet high. Plain wood framing, and squares of Tenplast. I could even vary the color by using wrapping paper over the Tenplast. Take every thing off the desk behind me (20 minutes work), put the screen up, and I’d have both a neutral background and hide my living room. There’s that lighting thing: how to look good on camera instead of like Dracula’s lunch. A little experimentation should take care of that.

I need a new dress and a good haircut anyway.

I could get the software and practice by making short videos. Which I could post on my web site once I got the bugs out. Bonus.

So maybe this October a video panel isn’t in the works, but maybe by Christmas time? I could do a Christmas message, like the Queen does.

Yeah, right. We’ll see.
Quote for the week:

The only way to learn to flip things is to flip them.
~Julia Child, chef, author, and woman who made a mess of flipping a potato pancake on national television, to the relief of many not-so-confident cooks


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is a reminder that I need to get into my Yahoo account and update my information! I registered, but haven't gone any farther with it.

I'm with you,Sharon. The video thing would make me nervous. I'm doing a radio show next month and I'm wound up enough about that without having any more stress! :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lonnie Cruse said...

Whoa, I can't WAIT to see you on my computer screen, Sharon! Yeah, this does sound a bit involved and difficult but for a new dress and a new haircut? Good luck, if you do participate let us know so we can tune in.

Julia Buckley said...

Sharon, you crack me up. I think you would be great on video, but I totally understand your reticence.

And I think DRACULA'S LUNCH should be the title of your next novel. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone. I think it's neat that here we are three women, of certain ages, and we're embracing the techno-world.

Elizabeth, you're going to do great on the radio.

Lonnie, you don't know me and shopping. Getting the new dress may be the hard part.

Julia, maybe not the title, but I am using Dracula's Lunch in dialog in the next book.

Sandra Parshall said...

As a Poisoned Pen Press writer, I'll participate in the virtual conference, but no way am I going the video route! It will be interesting to see how many writers do.