Episode 4 of The 33 Will Be Late. Here's Why.

It's May 1st, and the fourth monthly episode of The 33 hasn't yet been published. It should've been released yesterday.

While several freelance commitments have interfered with my writing, the delay is largely due to the sheer size and scope of the episode. Episode 4 is also the final installment of Pramantha, The 33's super-sized inaugural adventure. Readers of the series know that we've been building toward an epic confrontation for several episodes now. Episode 4 is the big finale. Lots of action, hard decisions, sorcery and sacrifice. Oh, and explosions. A whole crap-ton of explosions.

When I outlined Pramantha many months ago, I knew it was a big story, but it's proved to be even bigger (and far more fun to write) than I expected. Lots of character moments, hints at secret histories, sassy dialogue and action. Episode 1 was around 10,000 words. Episode 2 was around 15,000 words. Episode three was over 20,000 words.

The episode I'm presently writing will likely clock in at 30,000 words. Them's a lot of words! I'm currently in the home stretch of the first draft, but it ain't done, and won't be for a few days.

I'm aiming for a publish date of mid-May. That should give me enough time for editorial revisions, ebook production & proofing, and recording & producing the audiobook.

Since The 33 episode 4 will be released later this month, the next full-length episode of The 33 (episode 5) will not be released at the end of May, as expected. Instead, episode 5, tentatively titled Needles, will debut at the end of June.

To make up for this delay, I'll release a short piece of The 33 fiction in early June. This story won't be a conventional The 33 episode; it'll be shorter, and likely more intimate and character-driven. It will also be free.

Subscribers to The 33 newsletter will automatically receive this free short story when it's released. Those who aren't subscribers can watch my Twitter feed, or revisit my site, for the announcement. (I recommend signing up for the newsletter for updates.)

Episode 4's increased length will not affect its price. This "double issue"-sized story will sell for the same price as all other episodes.

I'm very sorry for episode 4's delay. I'm working very hard to make it a fun, terrific read. I cherish your support, and know the conclusion to Pramantha will be worth the wait.

As always, give me a shout if you have any questions. Thanks for your patience.

Help Kickstart Storium, the New Online Storytelling Game

I think a lot about creative writing, guys. I love and live the craft, and want others to, too. The world needs great storytellers. The world is a better place when diverse perspectives are shared through story.

The trouble is, it's hard work.

There's so many challenges: It's tough for most folks to get into a persistent writing groove, invent and explore a cool fictional world, and tell great stories with memorable characters and plot twists. Some writers say this stuff is easy. Know this: These guys are no-good liars.

But here's the intriguing thing. Telling stories is actually super-easy in our everyday lives. When you answer the question How was your day at work?, you're telling a story. When you play make-believe with your child, you're telling stories. When you gab with your pals over drinks, you're telling stories. Storytelling is like Star Wars' the Force: It surrounds us and binds us. It hides in plain sight.

I'm convinced some of the world's best writers also hide in plain sight. They aren't yet writers. These folks simply don't have enough incentive or gumption or time to embrace the craft. I understand this all too well. Like I said, it ain't easy.

But what if there was a safe environment that actually could make it easy? An experience that made written storytelling fun and engaging — and fostered good habits of persistence, which lead to that all-important writing groove?

Storium might do that very thing. I'm very proud to say I've had a small hand in creating it.

Storium is an online storytelling platform. It merges the very best elements of storytelling with writing, and makes it a game you play with friends. It's an actual honest-to-goodness-fun-to-play experience. It presents folks with a safe, judgment-free environment that embraces fellowship, conversation, collaborative play and spontaneity. It works with any story genre, and it's for players of all ages, backgrounds and level of experience.

At its heart, Storium is a game, and all games have rules. But Storium's stay out of your way. They're there only to provide the ingredients for fun, creative, story-driven play.

It's the easiest way I know for you and your friends to tell a story together online. No joke.

Storium's been in the works for more than a year. I'm a proud advisor for Protagonist Labs (the startup company behind Storium), and have been gabbing with Protagonist Labs co-founder Stephen Hood for a year now. He, co-founder Josh Whiting and lead game designer Will Hindmarch — yes, THAT Will Hindmarch, of Vampire: The Requiem, the Dragon Age RPG and Lord of the Rings Online fame — have been building and iterating an online multiplayer experience that's easy to learn and effortless to play.

Hundreds of people have played the Storium system as Alpha testers. They love it. And so Protagonist Labs is going to push for a real-deal public launch later this year. The company debuted a Kickstarter today to help fund the remaining costs of developing the Storium platform, and they've brought me — and more than 40 other novelists, game designers, game writers and transmedia storytellers — along for the ride.

We're creating playable worlds for Storium, see — fictional settings where you and your friends can tell your own adventures. These worlds provide just enough info to get your juices flowing, so you can create incredible collaborative story-game experiences, together.

If we achieve our fundraising goal, you'll get to play in the world of THE 33, my new supernatural/sci-fi/action thriller series. You'll join a secret team of badass misfits tasked with protecting humanity from ruthless ultra-criminals, malicious technologies and hostile supernatural beings. You won't be saving the world — you'll be saving my world. That'll be cool for both of us.

You'll also get to play in super-imaginative worlds created by profoundly-talented creators like Delilah S. Dawson (author of Wicked As They Come), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Mark Diaz Truman (lead developer of the Firefly RPG), Jason Morningstar (designer of the groundbreaking story game Fiasco (!!!)), and many more. We've got settings from the Harlem Renaissance to 1980s Soviet Invasion alt-history, and gobs of stuff in between. I'm absolutely honored to be in these folks' company.

And we've got dozens of other ultracreative storytellers waiting in the wings to create worlds, if stretch goals are met. Folks like podcaster & author Mur Lafferty (you'll get to play in her Afterlife storyworld, where Heaven was set), and brilliant fantasy novelist Saladin Ahmed, and award-winning transmedia writer Andrea Phillips, and Leonard Balsera (lead developer of the Fate RPG system (!!!)), and more. Like, more than 20 more. New York Times bestsellers. Multi-award winners. Rock-star names in game design and RPG writing. They want to create worlds for Storium, and they can, with your help.

Watch the video above. Learn more about Storium and the Kickstarter, and consider becoming a backer. If you've ever wanted to write stories but couldn't find the time or gumption ... or if you miss the days when you and your pals got together to play games, but now can't because of time and distance ... or if you're keen to monetarily support an entirely new way, and fun, way to tell stories, please kick in.

This is a game that gets out of your way, that wants you to have fun. It puts story and players first. It works for every genre, for players of all backgrounds and levels of experience.

It's the easiest way I know for you and your friends to tell a story together online. No joke. Take a peek. Become a backer. We'd love your support.

Get A Sneak Peek: John Swords III


John Swords III, field commander for THE 33, is kind of a badass. He's got some badass combat duds, too. You'll see 'em in Episode 2, on sale Feb. 28.

Aw, hell. Why wait until Feb. 28? I asked award-winning artist and costume designer Jared Axelrod to draw and paint Swords in his combat gear, based on my written descriptions from Episode 2. Jared has. The piece looks GREAT — and I want YOU to see it well before the story goes live.

It's a The 33 Newsletter exclusive. Just mosey on over to my The 33 page and sign up for the newsletter. You'll get the awesome in a few days. And a few days after that, you'll get another newsletter-exclusive treat. Pretty spiffy.

(And hey. If you're new to the newsletter, you'll also snag a 33% off coupon for Episode 1. Mmmm, tasty savings.)

The World Has The 33

I'm delighted to announce that the premiere episode of The 33 — Pramantha, Part 1 — is now out in the wild, and ready to be consumed by your eyes and ears. Oh, happy day!

This represents a gale-force exhale for me. I've been thinking about, and creating, The 33 in one form or another since 2008. That's a helluva long walk, friends. But the project is finally here, and I'm proud of its first episode.

What is The 33? It's the A-Team meets The X-Files, a weird present-day world where science and sorcery coexist — along with gods, monsters, rogue AIs and anything else you could throw into the bizarre blender that is my brain. It's about thirty-three men and women — misfits, every one — who've been hired to protect the world from a cabal of baddies intent on jumpstarting armageddon.

In many ways, The 33 is my salute to 1980s TV adventure shows and comic books. It's my quirky take on team-based, save-the-world stories. It's also my spin on ebook publishing. The 33 isn't a novel. It's a series of short stories, told in season-long arcs — just like TV. Some adventures are multi-parters. Others are one-shots. Just like comics.

Episodes will be released monthly.

If you're diggin' what I'm transmittin', head over to The 33's page. There, you'll learn a little more about the The 33's cast of unusual (and ever-changing) characters, and find links to purchase the first episode at my site, Amazon and other marketplaces. (Ebook episodes are available at several stores, but The 33's audiobooks are sold exclusively here.)

And hey. While you're over at The 33's page, take three seconds to sign up for The 33's newsletter. Do that, and you'll snag a free excerpt of Episode 1 in text and audiobook formats. You'll also get a coupon for 33% off your purchase of Episode 1. Freebies and deals. Not bad.

Unlike my past digital fiction projects, The 33 isn't free. I hope you're cool with that. I am, 'cause I gotta eat. But I've made sure the prices are fair for you, and for me.

I hope you'll check out the first episode of The 33 … and if you like it, I hope you'll tell a friend or two. Or two dozen!

As always, if you have any questions or feedback — or if you're a blogger/podcaster/reporter who'd like to learn more about The 33 — don't hesitate to drop a line. Thanks so much … and remember: The world needs The 33.


Next-Gen Console Reviews from Polygon

Polygon isn't a perfect online publication, but it's often thoughtful and deliberate in its coverage of video games entertainment. Story for story, it's become my go-to site for well-written, timely coverage of video gaming news. Its long form features are especially good.

The Polygon team recently reviewed the next generation consoles, the PlayStation 4 and  XBox One. While the site's long form text reviews (XBox One's is here; PS4's is here) are insightful and well worth reading, Polygon's video reviews of both products, seen below, represent some of the best the site has to offer.

If you follow video games journalism for any length of time, you soon discover that so much of it is ill-written, hyperbolic and downright bad journalism. That's because most of it isn't journalism at all, but attitude- and personality-driven punditry. Blech. Polygon strives to transcend that, and often succeeds.

I'm a PlayStation guy, so I'll eventually pick up a PS4. (My PS3 games backlog, right here on my bookshelf, is still too big for me to justify a PS4 purchase at present.) Polygon gave the XBox One an "8" in its review; the PS4 received a "7.5." For invested console gamers, those scores are interesting — and perhaps even underwhelming. But Polygon is examining the big picture, confident both consoles will improve in time, as new games, UI improvements and software patches are rolled in for both consoles.

These are terrific text and video reviews. They show us what great games journalism looks like.

Is Second Screen Content Actually "Transmedia"?

Laith Graham, an Australian buddy who's followed my career since my 7th Son podcast days, asked me this transmedia-related question on Facebook. I thought I'd share Laith's Q, and my A, here.

Hey J.C.,

I've been wondering about your thoughts on TV-related Apps and Social Media integration, and if it is "transmedia." For example: Sporting events like Formula One and iPad apps that show live track position, or Big Brother showing viewer Tweets and Facebook comments, as well as extra footage going to the viewer's iPhone app while watching the show live.

Is this now mainstream transmedia? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Here's my take: 

These days, the word "transmedia" is being slung about in strange ways, and being applied to different content strategies. By some folks' reckoning, having such "second screen" content is indeed a breed of transmedia — it's certainly content rolling in through a separate channel/medium (the tablet, for instance), and is designed to enhance the experience of the core content.

Personally, I approach and define "transmedia" from a narrative point of view. For me, it's all about story ... which means I think it's best-suited for fiction programming. In this case, a second screen experience that actually pushes in-world narrative content to the viewer in real time (or permits time-shifted engagement) is a more authentic use of the word and content strategy. I'm talking about canonical content, not tweets of what other viewers think of the show, etc.

Of course, this strategy need not start and stop with mobile apps or social media. Savvy showrunners can, and have, hired creators to populate the web with in-world narrative content on YouTube, "personal" blogs, etc. The TV show Castle even features novel titles written by its crime novelist hero ... which then go on sale weeks later in real stores. Crazy cool.

Anyways, that's a longwinded way of saying I personally believe the most valuable application of transmedia storytelling is when it expands and enhances the storyworld of the show — and not merely (and crassly) promotes the show itself. Doing so can deepen interest and evangelism in the show's actual content and characters — which also accomplishes a marketer's mission of promoting the show itself. Everybody wins.

So, that's my hastily-written perspective. What's yours? Am I giving non-fiction and reality programming short shrift? Are there resonant, current examples of TV-based transmedia experiences — be they non-fiction or fiction ... story-driven or promotion-only — we should know about? Pipe up in the comments.


Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 35 -- Christian Fonnesbech

Hey everyone! You’re really gonna like this episode a lot, trust us! In it, Steve chats with Christian Fonnesbech, the Transmedia Director for the upcoming project Cloud Chamber. We talk about story, challenges and more.

Also, J.C. chats with ARGNet’s Michael J. Andersen about the latest happenings in the world of ARGs, and we talk about Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Present Shock.

Links mentioned in this episode: