Skylark’s Saga Blog Series Part 2: All the Best Bits

Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a one-minute book trailer for JM Frey’s Skylark’s Saga.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the trailer yet, here it is!

This was a large undertaking for someone with a full-time job and several side hustles, and it was quite the journey. So much so that I felt it would be better to do a series of blog posts breaking down the experience rather than just one. Today’s post is about the animation process, and my favourite scenes. All of the blogs are stand-alone, but if you’re interested, the first instalment is here.

For me, one of the magical parts of animation, the thing that keeps me coming back over and over, is the thrill of taking a static drawing and making it live. Taking this:

And breathing life into it frame by frame. For anyone who has never tried it, it takes intense commitment, a lot of time, energy and commitment to near-perfection. Every drawing, for hundreds and even thousands of drawings, you have to commit to making the character express the themes of the story.

So what were the hardest parts of this book trailer? There were some unique challenges, for sure.

You may notice that there are a lot of explosions, and vapour trails, and moving clouds in this trailer. In scene 11, when Robin is flying through the battlefield, the explosions are the main event. Before doing this trailer, effects animation had never really been my thing. My co-op and subsequent film and jobs focused more on 3D layout, modeling and texturing, and so I’d never really gotten around to trying it. It took a lot of research and prep, but not only was I really satisfied with the effects animation, I think I may have found a new specialty, because I love it. It’s really fun to observe the physics of various effects and make them happen on screen!

The transformations were another aspect of animation that I have never tackled before working on the trailer. Because we needed to convey Robin and Velph’s connection with the Skylark and the Coyote, a transformation as they struggled ended up being an elegant and artistic solution. These ended up being really fun to try as well. The key is to just break the transformation down into its component parts, like any other animation, and to make absolutely sure that the movement is smooth.

So, what was my fave scene? Well, As above, I loved the scenes with effects animation and transformations, but I think for me, it’s tied between Scene 8, where Robin, rapidly turning into a bird, struggles against Velph and finally breaks free, and Scene 16, where Robin drops from the sky to slice the wing of Velph’s plane anime-style! In Scene 8, it was super fun to animate so many feathers slowly drifting to the ground while Velph sulks on his knees. It’s just a great image with a lot of drama and I was really happy with how it turned out. In Scene 16, I not only got to blow up a plane, but I got to do my own version of that anime visual trope where the sword comes down, flashes and then something is just cut in half! *Shing!* I’ve always wanted an excuse to do that, and JM Frey provided me a venue, so thanks again to her for feeding my inner 14-year-old.

In the third and final instalment of this series, I’m going to get a little personal and talk about what doing this trailer has meant to me. Bring your water wings, cause it might get a little deep!

The Skylark’s Saga Book Trailer: A Three Part Blog Series

If you follow JM Frey on social media (and you should go do that if you haven’t already), you may have seen that I animated a book trailer for her steampunk adventures, The Skylark’s Song and The Skylark’s Sacrifice.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the trailer yet, here it is!

This was a large undertaking for someone with a full-time job and several side hustles, and it was quite the journey. So much so that I felt it would be better to do a series of blog posts breaking down the experience rather than just one. Today’s post is about the origins and inspiration for my work on the trailer.

One of the cool things about being able to do this project was to be able to get a sneak peek at a really great set of books. I would highly recommend the Skylark Saga to fans of steampunk adventure, air battles, and strong, independent heroines. Robin is a brave and bold protagonist who wants to save her people and be able to fly as often as possible. The story has a lot to say about abusive relationships, and I think it is a valuable story for young people or anyone struggling with these issues.

The first thing I cared about when boarding this trailer was that the relationship between Robin and the antagonist, Velph, felt the way it does in the story. Velph is menacing, but it is a menace tinged with genuine feeling for Robin, which drives much of the conflict as she must figure out what is real.

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Early on in our conversations, JM Frey and I decided that the best way to show this in an entertaining way was through metaphor that showcases the characters’ two sigils. Velph is the Coyote, and Robin is the Skylark, and so a conflict between these two animals would convey the predatory, imbalanced nature of their relationship.

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Of course, a good air battle also helps. Preferably with lots of explosions.

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Once JM Frey and I had conveyed the conflict and themes through the storyboards, it was time to find an art style. Because the book is steampunk and involves a lot of planes and air battles, naturally I looked to the turn of the 20th Century and WWI for inspiration. I looked at the art styles of the time, but what really jumped out to me was the WWI photography available online. From the beginning, JM Frey had conveyed a vision of a greyscale trailer with colour accents, and so photography seemed like a perfect inspiration. The backgrounds became a haunting landscape of the silhouettes of dead trees and pieces of buildings, some recognizable and some sticking up like teeth out of the ground.

With our art style chosen and our story set, it was time to begin work on… animation! Next blog, I will write about my process in animation, what my favorite parts were, and more.

Ad Astra 2019 is Almost Here!

Hello Everyone!

The sun is shining, the heat is melting us all, and of course, your favourite writer friend has been busy, busy, busy! There are some new appearances in the works that I will announce later this month, and I am also gearing up to go to TNEO, the Odyssey Workshop’s incredible alumni event, but before that…

It’s Ad Astra Time Again!

Now, anybody who has read this blog for any length of time will know how wild I am about Ad Astra. Every year I go, and every year I have a great time and find a lot of great new friendships and of course, piles of books.

This year, I will be at the Renaissance Press booth signing The Face in the Marsh along with my wonderful colleagues MJ Lyons and Eric Choi, who will also be selling and signing copies of Murder at the World’s Fair and We Shall Be Monsters. I will also be on a lot of panels. Check ’em out below.

11:00 am Sat- Research Before You Write- Vaughan West

I think that there are going to be some really solid research tips for new writers on this panel. Research is literally my day job, so I’ll be sharing my best tips for web searching and other accessible sources.

1:00 pm Sat- Get an Editor!- Vaughan West

A panel of writers will speak about how to handle editing and work with editors. This should be excellent information for anyone who is wondering what the process looks like or how an editor can step up your game.

2:00 pm Sat- He don’t know talkin’ good like us- Oakridges

Writing dialect can be such a divisive topic among writers and editors, and I can’t wait to see how our panel tackles this one. I’m expecting to learn a thing or two from the others, as well!

8:00 pm Sat- Writing Animals in Speculative Fiction- Markham B

This is one of my babies. I absolutely love writing dogs and other pets, and I think it is such interesting territory to explore. Plus, I’ll be speaking a little about the re-release of Distant Early Warning. 😉

10:00 pm Sat- 2019- Is this the Peak?- Oakville

Omg you have no idea how much I love just doing straight up fan panels. With all of the franchises ending this year, what will come next? Will anything?

1:00 pm Sun- Empowering Marginalized People Through Horror- Oakville

It’s just me on this panel right now so I’m calling out to any POC, LGBT folks or folks with disabilities who might like to join in. Comment if interested! No experience/prior knowledge necessary, just interest.

New Articles and Podcasts This Week

Lately the news has just kept rolling in. Things are happening so fast that I’m having to condense them in digest form, which is super cool and exciting. Let me break down what is new with me this week.

Guest Blog on Nicholas Kaufmann’s The Scariest Part

This week, I had the opportunity to answer the question ‘What was the scariest part of The Face in the Marsh?’ The answer could be something in the story itself, or an aspect of writing the book that was extra scary. My answer was a little bit of both! It was a great writing prompt that really made me think about what fears I was channeling when creating this work.

Read it here!

Interview on The Gernsback Machine: An Amazing Podcast

If you want to hear in-depth interviews with some interesting folks working in speculative fiction today, you should really check out this new podcast from Amazing Stories. There have been some great guests so far, and now I get to be part of the line-up. I’m talking to long-time friend and editor of Amazing Stories Ira Nayman about inspiration, why and how I became an author, and the benefits of my unusual career path.

Enter The Gernsback Machine!

I’ve got even more appearances and interviews in the works, so the next couple of months should be jam-packed with more updates and fun. Until next time, friends!

Just in Time for Pride Month…

I’ve got an article up on Tor.com’s blog talking about five horror novels that move beyond the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope! This is a topic that is near and dear to me, as I think that horror as a genre has such liberating potential for people beyond the mainstream, but can also end up subtly reinforcing the cultural norms it questions if we’re not careful and deliberate in our storytelling.

I read a lot of excellent books to come up with this succinct list of five titles, but I think that the books that ended up on the list would be a great addition to anyone’s to-read shelf. If you’re looking for some exciting stories, or want to round out your Pride reading list, then check it out.

And, if you want extra points, send me your list! I am always looking for more LGBT-positive horror fiction.

Check Out This Great Review of The Face in the Marsh!

When you put a book out into the world, you never know how people are going to receive it. I think that the best authors realize that this is out of their control beyond doing the best job that they can in the production process. That is why it is so thrilling that my first formal review is so positive! Big thanks to A.E. Siraki for taking the time to read my book and write such a great article.

https://aesiraki.wordpress.com/2019/06/11/book-review-the-face-in-the-marsh-by-elizabeth-hirst/

And if, by chance, you have read the book and want to leave your own review, please drop by Amazon and let me know what you thought. Every review, good or bad, helps authors stay visible to folks that might like their work.

Giant News Post 05/29/2019

With the book launch growing ever closer, a lot is going on. Rather than make roughly five bazillion individual posts, I thought I would round up the highlights. First of all…

I was on the radio!

Last Friday, I got to chat with Kristin from I Heart Hamilton about the creative process, how I arrived at horror fiction as a genre, and the importance of local content in fiction. It was a great conversation, and it is free to check out at the link above. Thanks again Kristin for a fun chat!

Limestone Genre Expo

Next, I am super looking forward to this weekend because I get to travel to fabulous Kingston Ontario for the Limestone Genre Expo! After coming in early to enjoy some retail therapy and chill time in one of Ontario’s prettiest cities, I’ll be hitting the Expo, getting to see the newest work from some of Canada’s most exciting genre voices and talking about the work and legacy of Shirley Jackson. You don’t have to read this blog long to realize that I love convention season with all my heart, so I’m eagerly awaiting this kick-off event.

Book Launch Poster

Yeah, yeah, I know, I already plugged the book launch. But this poster is too good not to share. Look at this beauty! Thanks to Nathan Caro Frechette for putting this together.

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