Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My High School Dreams

A visit to my old home town, Amarillo, Texas for my wife's class reunion kindled some old memories, and while she visited with her classmates, I had a chance to track down something I remembered from 42 years ago.

In 1968, five high school seniors won National Merit Scholarships, myself included.  The local newspaper, the Globe Times, sent reporters out to get a human interest article on the winners.  I remembered that interview, and had a vague memory of the newspaper article and also a TV studio visit.  I knew that the newspaper reporter had been interested in my writing and had taken a picture of me hunched over my desk, but no copy of that article remained in my files.  So, like everything else, I began my search online.  The Globe News site mentioned that their archives older than a decade or so could be located at the city library.  The reference librarian said, "Good news.  We have an index for 1968."  She handed me the two large tomes and I began hunting.  "Henry Melton"-no.  "Students"-no.  "Awards"-no.  "High School"-no.  Eventually, as I was losing hope, there was "Scholarships - National Merit" and several references.  That led to a couple of spools of microfilm and three different articles.  I found what I had remembered, and it was fascinating reading.

Reading about myself as a high school student brought back many related memories.  Yes, I didn't study.  I never learned to 'take notes' in class like the good students, and it definitely hurt my grades. And, oh yes, I was constantly experimenting with my own home-grown gunpowder and blowing things up.  This was good clean fun at the time.

I was also a writer back then.  I told fantastic stories to my neighbors as far back as grade school, and eventually graduated to writing them down, although perhaps the idea of being a novelist wasn't quite fully formed.  I was a short story writer at the beginning, and stayed that way for decades.  But I wanted to be in print, to get my stories out there were people could read them, and I have to wonder if my early part-time job running the printing press gave that a push. Reading this article, I realized I had been impressed by a couple of great science teachers and I really wanted to be the cool teacher who set things on fire and blew things up in class and inspired students to be more than just note-taking machines who just were there for the grade.

The memory of being an editor of the "Hot Line" had been lost over the years.  Only now, after reading this, can I vaguely remember it.  It makes sense, and I seem to remember working with the youth group adult leaders on this, but boy, that was a long time ago.

That student in the articles, the one who blew off studying to read and blow up things and write stories feels a lot like me today.  The tinkerer who learned how to make metal offset masters and to correct errors on the light table with dabs of paint is the same guy who experiments with layout using InDesign today.  The editor of the "Hot Line" is now the editor of "Wire Rim Books".

Some dreams were set aside, for good reasons.  My plan to get a teacher's certificate didn't survive past my first exposure to the reality of education classes.  My idea to be a chemist didn't survive my color blindness.  The University of Texas bumped out Abilene Christian when my wife-to-be planned to attend UT.

But I was a writer, from the beginning.  My high school dreams were vague and only partly formed back then, as is common at that age, but the important ones survived.  I am a writer.  I edit and produce my books, many people read them, and some have won awards.  I've also had opportunities come visit schools and be a guest teacher. I enjoy that and I'll do it again at the slightest invitation.

High school dreams can come true.  They did for me.

I'll be at Archon 34 in St. Louis

October 1-2-3, I'll be in St. Louis for Archon 34.  It'll be on the Missouri side of the river this time, so if you plan to attend make sure you check their website for more details.

My schedule showed up this morning, and I rummaged through the events to see what they planned for me.  Here is a summary:


Can I take It In The Tub? 
E-readers versus paper? 
Cheryl Medley, Nancy Nutt, 
Henry Melton, Tony Mast 
Basel 5:00 PM 

I guess I'll be taking my iPad and iPhone to that one--as well as a stack of books. I'm really working both sides of the fence on this one.

Just a chance to sit down for an hour and talk. 
Limited to 8 attendees per guest table. 
M. R. Sellars, Henry Melton, 
Carolyn Ives Gilman, 
Haley Elizabeth Garwood 
Bern 6:10 PM 

I would guess this will be the best chance to really connect with a small group of people...and that's what I like to do best.  If you're coming to Archon and this appeals to you, make sure you sign up as quickly as possible.


Twitter, Facebook, New Media and Marketing 
Creative places for creative people to promote their visions 
Cullen Bunn, Den Dotson, 
Henry Melton, Cheryl Medley 
Basel 3:50 PM 

Like ... today I'll be tweeting and blogging and posting to Facebook about the panel on tweeting and blogging and posting to Facebook.

Autograph Session 
Henry Melton, H. G. Stratmann, Deborah Millitello 
Versailles Hall 5:00 PM 

This is another chance to come and chat.  I'll have all my cool colored pens in case you have something to be signed.


Podcasting 101 
Is this a fad or cutting edge for getting your intellectual properties noticed? 
Ryu Cope, Henry Melton, Tony Mast 
Lugano 1:30 PM 

You have listened to my podcast version of Falling Bakward haven't you?  The whole novel in chapter sized sound files.  Find it on iTunes.  Search for "Henry Melton" or "Falling Bakward".

And I'll of course be wandering the halls and rummaging through the dealers room.  If you see someone who looks like Santa in a Hawaiian shirt, that could be me.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Checking Out the Flooding

With over 24 hours of rain falling on Central Texas as the tropical storm Hermine moves north, the local streams and rivers are showing the effects.  Mary Ann and I spent the morning visiting various water crossings and bridges, checking it all out.

The high point for me was seeing the bubbling on Highway 29, and the low point was the RV destruction.  The video is almost 9 minutes, but if you've got time, there are some interesting things in there, especially if you live, or have lived in the area.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Making My First Book Trailer

When I saw my first book trailer on YouTube some time ago, it started the itch.  I wanted to make trailers too, for all my books. Unfortunately, there were problems.  I had no resources to film the kind of trailers that first came to mind.  While I could script and come up with settings, I had no actors.  Most of my stories are YA, so ideally I would like to find a collection of dramatically oriented high school aged people in my local area.  I put out some feelers, but nothing happened.

There are, however, trailers that seem to be slide shows, with music and floating blurb text.  I could certainly do one of those, but I wanted something better.  My first attempt was a hybrid, with all the video being scenes from Google Earth, with a character voice behind it--the person 'driving' the computer screen.  This was for the novel Falling Bakward.  I put together the video, but again, I was unable to come up with an actor to be the voice of Jerry Ingram.  I still may do that one, when it all comes together.

But, for my latest novel, Follow That Mouse, I took a different tack.  The only voice I could count on was my own.  I had the photos I took while researching the locale for the story.  The only thing I needed was a script.  This time, I didn't try to stage anything.  This was me, the author, talking about the book and how it came to be.  The hardest thing to do was to trim down the images to make a short, one minute trailer, so that it wasn't boring.

iMovie on my mac did a decent job making the still images into a video montage, and I retreated to my RV to record my voiceover track with a minimum of background noise.  I didn't have to make too many false starts to put it together. It's hardly professional film-making, but I'm content.  I'd rather make the second one that go back and tweak this one.

All I need is another idea.