Thursday, 28 July 2011

Depth of Deception - synopsis

Since some of you were asking what my novel, The Depth of Deception, is about, I've posted a synopsis  on my website:

http://depthofdeception.weebly.com/

Enjoy,
Alexander Galant

My novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery) can now be purchased at an introductory rate of $0.99 from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007O3IKTY as well as in other e-book formats from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/144531.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Judging a book by its cover.

            You know the old saying, 'You can't judge a book by its cover."  Well, let's test that out.  Looking at the cover in the above photo, can you figure out what the book is about?  There is a very large iceberg and the image of a familiar ocean liner sinking into the water.

            If you guessed the book, Futility, is about the infamous ill-fated ship, RMS Titanic - you would be wrong!

            In fact, this book cover was designed and published in 1898 -  fourteen years before the Titanic set sail. But the irony doesn't stop there.  The ship in the above novel was called: Titan.

Both the fictional Titan and the real Titanic had many striking similarities: both were considered to be 'unsinkable', both were over 800ft long, both were moving too quickly (Titan: 25 knots, Titanic: 22.5 knots) on a cold April night, both hit an iceberg on the starboard side, both sank 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and neither of them had enough lifeboats for their 3000 passengers and therefore both had a tremendous loss of life.

            It is one of the strangest cases of life imitating art. After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the novel Futility was re-printed with an extended title, Futility or the Wreck of the Titan.   The publishers wanted it in the title to capitalize on the recent sinking of the Titanic. It has had the extended title ever since, which is what makes this original 1898 edition so rare.   This one pictured above is not mine, but it is for sale at about £10,000 ($15,574.01 USD).  It is in tremendous condition for a 114 year old book.  If anyone is seriously interested, I can give you the contact information of the private seller, who seems like a very nice guy.

            The book Futility becomes an important clue in my historical-thriller novel, The Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery). 

My novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery) can now be purchased at an introductory rate of $0.99 from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007O3IKTY as well as in other e-book formats from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/144531.    

http://depthofdeception.weebly.com/




Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Killer Research!

           So what does a writer do while he waits to hear back if his book will be bought by any publishers? Well, the best idea was to start work on the next novel. After all, when I met with Michele (my literary agent in NY) regarding my current book that she sent out, she asked, "What's next?"

            I'm doing research. The book is set in two time periods:  Victorian London and present-day New York.  I've amassed a great deal of research material about Victorian London, including old maps, photos, language styles and etiquette.  I used some of this information for Dracula the Un-Dead.

            At present I'm researching the 'profiling of serial killers' (not light bedtime reading).  This is not just to get into the mind of a serial killer, but, more importantly for this novel, to get into the mind of a profiler.  The protagonist in my next novel is a profiler so in order to find her authentic voice I need to find what motivates one.

            I have ordered some books that detail some profilers' case studies, and it's been quite fascinating to read the train of thought of a profiler as they explore the darkest side of humanity. Psychologist Carl Jung believed that everyone has a darkness or shadow inside of them. He also said, "Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people."

            Real life is very different from the neat and tidy crime-fighting format that you see on certain current TV shows where the murder is solved and the sociopath brought to justice.  More often than not, killers are still out there because the law interferes with justice.  Police departments and District Attorney's offices refuse to listen or re-examine the evidence.  Reading these cases, it's hard not to get infuriated by narrow-minded pigheaddedness.  Something I can relate to, on a lesser scale, as I've experienced the law enforcement's impotence when I was a victim of fraud. Even though I had a huge papertrail of evidence, the local police, the FBI, the RCMP, NYPD and the District Attorney's office of New York were not interested in helping me... they just passed the buck or ignored me. I can't even begin to imagine how that must feel for the profiler or the victim's family when the 'Law' allows a killer to roam free because there is no rule or law that states they have to investigate a crime even if it's inconvenient for them. Profilers encounter these issues all the time, and yet they carry on.

            I try to be analytical as I read of some horrific murders that have taken place and the facts are far more disturbing than anything I've seen on television.  Now, as I try to create my fictional killer, one thing that is clear from these cases and from the most diabolical figures from history: evil people don't see themselves as evil. In their own sick, twisted way they are doing what seems logical in their minds.  As an author I have to find that truth in the motivation of my character.  

            When Robert Bloch wrote the novel Psycho, which was later adapted into the famous Alfred Hitchcock film, he loosely based the character of Norman Bates on some newspaper articles he found about the serial killer Ed Gein.  The newspapers at the time did not publish the gory details of Ed Gein's murders and mutilations. Only after his novel was complete, did Robert Bloch finally read all the ghastly details.  There was one startling similarity that Robert Bloch created for Norman Bates that Ed Gein actually committed.  Art imitating life by chance. It was so disturbing for the author that Robert Bloch couldn't look at himself in the mirror just after that discovery. 

            I put my research down, and go watch a sitcom on television to try to shake it off.  But it's hard to do. I make some notes, then go check on my daughter who is asleep in her room. At six years old, she still sleeps with a night light on, and insists that her closet door be kept shut.  I understand. I recall as a child fearing the monsters that lurked under my bed.  Eventually l grew out of it and learned that there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. No green, hairy fanged beasts with horns. The real monsters look like the person down the street, and rarely have a 'sinister' look to them.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Creating Yoda Cameo - Old School

           Even when making a film, it can be useful being a historical researcher.  The past has so much to teach.

            When writing our Star Wars spoof, we wanted to have a cameo of Yoda via hologram projection as a Keynote Speaker for this Group Therapy session.   We also knew that we wanted Yoda to be a puppet as he originally was, rather than computer generated animation.   My wife has been a puppeteer and we have a few friends who build puppets.  The tricky part was, as an entry to the Atom Film Star Wars Movie Challenge, anything 'Star Wars'-related appearing in the film had to be officially licensed by Lucasfilm. We did have Han Solo's blaster, a Lucasfilm licensed  toy, originally bright red so that no one is fooled into thinking it's a real laser blaster... my wife painted it to look like the blaster in the film.  Likewise, the lightsaber handles were licensed toys that were modified for sword-fight choreography. Yoda was more of a challenge. We ordered a couple of different licensed Yoda puppets from e-bay. While we were waiting for them to arrive, we picked up a Yoda mask from a local costume store. Did a few camera tests with the mask...  it so didn't work.  Not at all.

            One of the puppets that arrived was ugly but could be workable. The problem was that his 'hair' was moulded rubber, as were his clothes. With the help of Meghan Sullivan, a colleague I had worked with on a few films, we created new 'clothes' for Yoda, added crepe hair and modified it so that the mouth would move. It became a decent working puppet, just much smaller than Frank Oz's original. We hoped the holograph effect would hide any flaws.

            Then came the challenge of how to do the hologram effect. I already had a friend and great visual effects artist, Paul Stodolny, doing the lightsaber effects. He did an amazing job,  taking the edited footage and adding each glowing light beam ... frame by frame. (Think about that for a moment. There are 30 frames per second.)  Everyone involved in the project donated their time for free, so there's only so much I can impose or ask. I went on-line and Googled "Star Wars Hologram projection effect".  I found a link to a 47-page document explaining how to create the illusion in Adobe AfterEffects.  Forty-Seven pages!  It detailed a ridiculously long and  time consuming plan to replicate the hologram illusion. There had to be a better way.  After all they didn't have  AfterEffects... or even computers back in 1976 when they were filming Star Wars. How did they do it then?

            Then I remembered my wife (a huge Star Wars fan) had a book from her childhood that had some 'behind the scenes' info and pictures from the original film. And 'yes' she still had this book. Looking through it I found how the fledgling FX crew that would eventually form Industrial Light & Magic created the holographic effect.

            They filmed Carrie Fisher against a blue screen, then  took that footage and transferred it to video (also a new medium unheard of by many consumers).  They then connected the video player (which in the 70's looked like a reel to reel player) to a TV set and played the footage while filming the TV screen with their movie camera.  As I mentioned above, video plays back at 30fps (frames per second), a film camera shoots at 24fps.  The frame difference causes that horizontal flicker effect that you sometimes see on movies where they didn't sync the playback. Then using optical effects, they super imposed that flickered image of Carrie Fisher into the scene.

            I was using a Panasonic DVX 100 to film my Star Wars spoof and was going to be shooting 24fps, so that it looked less like video. Using the technique from the past we filmed the Yoda puppet on a blue screen and repeated the process as George Lucas' crew did in 1976.  The final result was perfect and took a fraction of the time the Adobe AfterEffects would have taken.  

            A small example of how to learn from history and that some answers can be found in books, not just the internet.

Filming the Yoda puppet for Blasted Behavior.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

My Star Wars Film On-line

If anyone hasn't seen "Star Wars: Blasted Behavior", it can be found here on the official StarWars.com website:

http://www.starwars.com/video/view/000952.html

It can be also viewed on the Atom films website:

http://www.atom.com/funny_videos/sw_blasted_behavior/

Enjoy.
Star Wars: Blasted Behavior

Friday, 8 July 2011

My Star Wars film in Dragon*Con

     My spoof short film, Star Wars: Blasted Behavior has been accepted to the 2011 Dragon*Con Film Festival (a huge Sci-Fi & Fantasy convention) in Atlanta, Georgia.  I would like to go, but unfortunately I can't seem to get a hotel room for this event, being held over the Labour Day weekend.

     Blasted Behavior has been doing well.  My wife and I wrote it together in one day, and three weeks later, with the help of many of our talented friends, we shot it in one day, too.  We did it primarily to enter the 2008 Atom Films Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge.  After rushing to get it edited in time, we uploaded it to their website on the final deadline date. Unfortunately, due to so many others uploading at the same time, their system couldn't handle it and my film was one of many that simply didn't get there. We re-submitted the following year and were thrilled that Blasted Behavior was one of the finalist films in 2009 (George Lucas was one of the judges).

     In our spoof, the main characters from the original Star Wars Trilogy find themselves in a group therapy session. Unfortunately, these characters have unresolved "issues" and before you know it tempers flare and the lightsabers ignite.

     To prepare, I watched the original 1977 Star Wars film and muted the sound so I could study how George Lucas framed his dialogue and lightsaber fights in order to duplicate the look for my spoof.  Then I went out and bought a blue plaid shirt, like Lucas', to wear while I was directing.
     Kevin Robinson played Luke Skywalker with eerie attention to detail, and Erik Buchanan braved the full Darth Vader armour with grace. Both men are fight choreographers who put together a terrific lightsaber battle for this film that they should be proud of.
     Our film's music was scored by Graeme Wearmouth, who duplicated the famous John Williams Star Wars opening and end credit music, and expertly incorporated the main theme into the lightsaber fight. In 2008, it was unclear if there was a limit to how much of John Williams' music we could reproduce, but when we re-submitted in 2009, we found that we were only allowed to use two 59-second sequences. So Graeme had to go back and re-score to comply with the new rules. Although he was understandably not happy, he captured John Williams' essence amazingly well.
     Everyone, cast and crew, worked every hard in all aspects of the production and I am grateful to each and every one of them.  Last year Blasted Behavior won "Best Foreign Sci-Fi Short" in the New York International Independent Film Festival and now it is about to be screened at Dragon*Con.
     I am thrilled and proud.... now if only I could find a hotel room.
Filming Star Wars: Blasted Behavior

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Inspiration

Back in 1990, I was standing in line at the checkout of a supermarket. In the pre-digital age, I had no device to check my emails while waiting.  I had no choice but stare at the wall of tabloid magazines vying for attention. I hate tabloid magazines. Every year there is an end of the world prediction. No one ever calls them on it when the world doesn't end. And it's anti-climactic.

This particular day one cover caught my eye. The headline read:

Titanic Survivor Found On Iceberg
Trawler Picks Up Young Woman Dressed In 1900s Clothes!

She Thinks It's April 15, 1912 - And Her Dress Is Still Wet!

There was an illustration of the Titanic sinking, a photograph of an iceberg and a sketch-artist's rendering of the woman`s face but didn't show the 1900's clothes. I didn`t even pick up the issue. Even though there have been similar tabloid headlines from the same publication such as:
Titanic Captain Found In Lifeboat!  He Thinks It's April 15, 1912 - And His Pipe Is Still Lit!
And there was also: Titanic Descendents found Living on Iceberg.

It was all laughable and lame, but the first one that I had seen had struck a chord with me.  I knew it was a load of crap. But I was very familiar with the Titanic, having studied the ill-fated ship in great detail out of interest alone. The wheels started turning in my head... What if? What if that really happened?  It would make a great movie... in a Twilight Zone kind of way.  So I wrote it down in my notebook - remember old fashioned spiral-bound notebooks and pens? All I'd have to do now is come up with characters, plot and a reason for such a bizarre thing to happen... hmmm. I would have to mull that over. 

Sixteen years later, I decided to enter the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest. It's such an insane idea to produce a decent story in 72 hours, I wanted to see if I could do it. I was allowed to prepare an idea and even an outline but no allowed to do any writing until the clock started. When I paid my $50 entry fee, I had no idea what I was going to do. I looked through my filing cabinet (junk) drawer and found my old notebooks. Skimming through them I found my scribblings of the headline, "Titanic Survivor Found on Iceberg". 

At this point in my life I had a one-year old daughter. Having a child changes your whole life's perspective. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my daughter to protect her. I would sacrifice my life and if it were possible, I would bend the laws of time and physics for her. From that, the plot for my story began to evolve.

I completed the story over that 72-hour period. It was rough... not only the process but the writing itself. It was just under 70 pages. Which such an insane timeline things like elaborate character development and scene description go out the window. So do grammar and spelling. Still, I was pleased that I did it.

I had planned to expand it to a proper novel and was going to do so in 2007 but the first three chapters of this novel got me another gig: working for the next few years on the novel "Dracula the Un-Dead".  It started out well but there were too many cooks in the kitchen and, in my opinion, it eventually disintegrated into an unholy mess. Though I was pleased with my 'work', it was a huge learning experience in how the publishing world worked and it opened doors for me.  I was proud that it was on the New York Times Best Sellers' List and many reviews praised my historical research.

Moving on, I was then encouraged to expand my short 70-page (17,000 words) story into a full novella. I did so - it was up to 26,000 words. Then my literary agent read it, loved it and felt it would do better as full-length historical-thriller novel. She suggested at the very least 60,000 words but preferred over 80,000. That's a massive expansion. Armed with notes and suggestions from her, I restructured and re-wrote the novel, adding another storyline inspired by a true unsolved murder from 1910. The novel was over 90,000 words when finally completed.  

From a tabloid headline 20 years ago, to this stack of paper pictured here. Inspiration can certainly come from anywhere. What a great journey!
Manuscript for The Depth of Deception.
 UPDATE: (April 2012) My novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery) can now be purchased at an introductory rate of $0.99 from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007O3IKTY as well as in other e-book formats from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/144531

http://www.depthofdeception.com/

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy 4th of July

Wishing a safe and Happy Independence Day to my American friends and colleagues.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Who am I?

So this is my blog. I guess the proper thing to do is introduce myself. My name is Alexander Galant and I am a... hmmm this is the part when I reveal my occupation or profession. Yet that had continued to change and evolve over the years. For a while I was directing short films and stage productions. Did well at both... enjoyed doing it immensely but the money was little to nothing. I never aspired to become a writer.  (Although I never wanted to be a director either but found I enjoyed doing so.) I started writing out of necessity. Most of my short films were self-financed and I was too cheap... er... frugal to pay for the rights to published work so I wrote for myself. It suited me fine. Most of my films won awards and I still don't have to pay the writer.

The problem was that more ideas kept coming to mind. I would jot down some notes and sometimes those ideas would get expanded. The Depth of Deception, my latest work, had sat in the back of my mind for 15 years before I wrote it out as a short story. Now I have finished expanding it into a full length novel (over 90,000 words). So, as my agent is currently sending that novel to various publishers, I have to finally admit to myself that I'm...  a writer.

Does that mean I'm no longer directing? Well no... and I have recently given it a lot of thought. Then it occurred to me: (truth be told, it was pointed out to me by my beautiful, brilliant, straightforward and talented wife)  I enjoy telling the story. Whether on stage, on screen or on a page, I tell the story.

So, my name is Alexander Galant and I'm a storyteller.  

----
Afterword:
My novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery) can now be purchased at an introductory rate of $0.99 from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007O3IKTY as well as in other e-book formats from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/144531