Edit my fiction, win prizes!

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Have you heard of Bite-Size Edits? It's a brilliant site that my friend Hugh McGuire (a founder of LibriVox.org, an all-volunteer project that makes free, public domain audiobooks; they were Podiobooks before Podiobooks was cool) and other talented folk recently debuted. Bite-Size Edits is such a spiffy idea, I kick myself every day for not thinking of it first. From the Bite-Size Edits site:

Bite-Size Edits connects readers and fans with writers, right in the engine room, where sentences are honed and improved. Bite-Size Edits takes a text, chops it into pieces, and serves those pieces randomly to editors. Players get points for editing text, for providing useful comments, and for helping to get a text completely edited.

Crowdsourced editing. This is stupefyingly cool. You can help edit the works of popular writers and earn points for your participation. Even cooler, now you can edit MY work too!

My novella Personal Effects: Sword of Blood is now available at the Bite-Sized Edits site, chopped into itty-bitty segments, for your editing pleasure. You'll recall that Sword of Blood is about Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital art therapist Zach Taylor, and his descent into a world filled with mystery and ruthless subcultures.

Bite-Size players -- that's YOU -- get points for editing Sword of Blood's manuscript. Even better, folks receive many many more points for edits that I personally approve. Top editors will win copies my novel, 7th Son: Descent, from St. Martin’s Press.

So whip out your red pen and start editing for points here at Bite-Size Edits -- and be sure to sign up (or log in, if you're already a member). That way, your edits will be tallied by Bite-Size's database, and you'll earn those muchly deserved points!

Get your learn on about Bite-Size Edits here. I'll publish another post with the winners' names soon. In the meantime, get editing Personal Effects: Sword of Blood!

--J.C.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be... C.C. Chapman

This is the first of several When I Grow Up… posts I plan to write in upcoming weeks. It's my small way of thanking the people who've influenced and inspired me. It's also my way of introducing you to creative people whom you may not know. I have the great fortune to call C.C. Chapman my friend.

I've personally known him since 2006, though I feel like I've known him for at least a year longer than that. His Accident Hash show was one of the first podcasts I ever heard, back in those wild Early Adopter days. He regularly appeared on Adam Curry's influential Daily Source Code, and -- in a groundbreaking turn that I believe fundamentally changed (and improved) the way musicians promote their work -- helped spearhead the Podsafe Music movement. That alone is huge, but for a cat like C.C., it represented merely the beginning of his career in the social/new media space.

In person, C.C. is a big man with a boisterous, infectious laugh, and a personality that could fill a ballroom. The wit on this dude is katana-sharp; the brain behind those eyes moves a mile a minute. I've quietly watched C.C. in public settings, and folks just gravitate to the man. This may sound peculiar, but I say it with absolute respect and awe: C.C. Chapman is the Sanka coffee of social settings.  Shit happens instantly with C.C.  Boom, instant friendships, instant hugs and handshakes -- he's conversation caffeination. Just add water, and you’re off to the races with this guy.

Here's a guy who, six years ago, was working at a Boston college and -- within mere months -- became a progressive personality in the podspace, spotted online trends long before others, and helped found Crayon, one of the world's first social media-friendly marketing companies. He moved on to co-found The Advance Guard, another successful social media-centric marketing company. The Advance Guard was recently acquired by Campfire, a company that has concocted some of the most creative and resonant online campaigns I've ever seen. (It's no wonder: one of Campfire's founders is Mike Monello, one of the brilliant brains behind the creation and viral promotion of The Blair Witch Project.)

C.C. is future-friendly, baby. Plug and play. While most folks in this space are shilling for Twitter followers, or writing the most un-fucking-helpful Top 10-style blog posts about the social media douchebaggery du jour, C.C. remains ever-able to see things more clearly, spot trends more easily, comment more insightfully, and -- most important -- cut through the masturbatory fishbowl bullshit better than nearly anyone I know. He leads by example.

The dude probably knows he's a player, but he always downplays it. That's cool. I can brag about him all I want.

I can count on one hand the people I've met whose optimism burns as brightly as C.C.'s. I read this in his blog posts, I especially hear it in his enthusiastic Managing the Gray podcasts, and have seen it in person. This boundless optimism has personally inspired me throughout the years -- I might have unwittingly channeled a sliver of C.C. in my own exuberant Hey, everybody!-powered podcast persona -- and I know I'm not the only one.

Funny thing about C.C.: In his posts and tweets (and in emails to me), he'll often capitalize the word Friend. It took me a few times seeing this to grok that this was not, in fact, a typo. I reckon that for C.C. (whose generosity is legendary, if you know him), the word Friend is indeed a proper noun, a thing that is worthy of capitalization, nigh-sacred. If you're a Friend, the dude will go to bat for you again and again and again, and will never ask for anything in return. If that doesn't warrant a respectful capitalized Friend in your book, then I got nothin' for ya.

I'll cite a recent example of C.C.'s generosity and Friendship. Within the tiny subculture of podcasting, there's an even tinier subculture of folks (like me) who create and listen to podcast fiction. One of our own -- Tee Morris -- recently experienced a death in the family, and was confronted with the terrifying reality of raising his daughter as a single dad. An online auction was created to raise funds for Tee's daughter.

C.C. was there. He promoted the auction, and participated in it. He purchased at least two items. (I'm humbled that both were items that I either created, or helped create.) Out of respect to C.C., I won't share how much he contributed to this cause, but will say that it was enough to move me to tears. That is the act of someone who truly values community, and the people within that community.

More significant, it is the act of someone who Gets It. All of these tweets, these blog comments, these one-and-zero-soaked lives so many of us live, they mean nothing if we give nothing. C.C. gives spectacularly.

I dare not deify the man; that's not my intent. I simply wish to illustrate what kind of impact one person can make through friendliness, intelligence, talent and generosity. I think C.C. loves to love -- something he and I have in common. He falls head-over-heels for people and projects and products, and enjoys sharing that passion with others. I admire him for that.

I used to be a newspaper and magazine features reporter. I often view things, and people, in terms of stories. C.C.'s story has been an incredible one so far: the communities he's help build … the artistic works of others that he's shared ... the creativity he's helped facilitate in his day gigs and beyond ... the endless enthusiasm for this world and the people around him. Big man, big heart.

But the best part about C.C.'s story is that it's nowhere near over. From the sidelines, I'm watching him grow. C.C.'s still in Act One, in that part of the movie where the hero's just hitting his stride on that mythologized Call To Adventure.

Peculiarly, I'm reminded of Dr. Seuss right now. Today is the author's birthday. But I know C.C. well enough to know Seuss's story Oh, the Places You Will Go! has made a big impact on him. With C.C. still in the early days of his success, it seems fitting to walk off with a snippet of that story:

Oh! The Places You’ll Go! You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights. You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Hey. If you know C.C. -- or if you don't -- send him an appreciative tweet. Remind him of the positive impact he makes.

Thank you for all you do, C.C.

Your Friend,

--J.C.

Interview: Keith and the Girl, authors of What Do We Do Now?

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Sweet. This week, J.C. chats with Keith Malley and Chemda -- the brilliant and funny minds behind the awesome and ultra-popular Keith and The Girl podcast -- about their new book, What Do We Do Now? -- Keith and The Girl's Smart Answers to Your Stupid Relationship Questions.

The book is an intelligent, practical look at dating and beyond ... and it's very very very funny. And so are Keith and Chemda, in this interview. You'll learn about their podcast, the book and a little about their own relationship.

What Do We Do Now? is a terrific read: It's an R-rated, utterly honest Q&A book culled from the best and funniest questions posed by Keith and The Girl devotees -- perfect for everyone tired of boring and tried-and-not-so-true relationship advice.

Dig what you hear in this podcast? Tell a friend! Use the "Share This" feature found at the end of this post!

The anthem for Hey, Everybody! is "Chip Away" by Jane's Addition, distributed freely via BitTorrent and the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour site, Ninja2009.com.

An update on the 7th Son sequels, 2010, and my creative plans

It is not without a sense of irony that I write this on the four-year anniversary of 7th Son: Descent's Podiobooks.com debut. I've been sitting on this news for a few days, pondering how to best present it to you -- you very cool, very gracious people. I realized that my breed of pondering is often an excuse for procrastination, so I'll get on with it and articulate this as clearly and constructively as I can.

St. Martin's Griffin, the publisher of 7th Son: Descent, has chosen to not publish the 7th Son sequels. As with every aspect of our relationship, St. Martin's was kind, clear and up-front with me about this. This honesty has been something I've treasured since I signed with the company in 2007. I consider the team with whom I worked at St. Martin's to be absolute professionals, genuinely interested in my talents, my ideas and my work.

Brass tacks: 7th Son: Descent's sales performance has not made a compelling business case for its sequels. Given the heroic outreach I and St. Martin's marketing/publicity teams put forth to effectively promote Descent, and the ultimate sales results of that outreach, the publisher believed releasing a sequel would not make good business sense. Despite my disappointment as 7th Son's creator, I am able to see the wisdom of St. Martin's decision.

I will not attempt to find another publisher for 7th Son's sequels.

I am not angry about these circumstances. Publishing is a business. Authors who earn a place at a publisher's table must justify the monetary resources required to feed them. St. Martin's took a chance with 7th Son: Descent, and that risk has not yet paid off. I fully understand this, and so should you. I remain head-over-heels for the folks at St. Martin's. We're all still friends. My editor there is very keen to see the next J.C. Hutchins project.

Typically, I'd present a cheerful, rousing plot twist at this point -- a cheeky Hey, everybody!-style rallying cry for which I'm so well known. This time, I cannot.

It became very clear to me very quickly that 7th Son: Descent was not performing as expected. I dare not assign responsibility to anyone but myself for this. Examining the lead up to, and release of, the novel, I cannot see how I could have promoted it any better than I did. I literally went broke promoting this book and Personal Effects: Dark Art (another novel that will not have a sequel; it also underperformed). I conceived numerous brand-new online marketing campaigns that dazzled you and others. I asked you to purchase the novel, and many of you did. I asked my professional allies and friends to assist me in spreading the word, and they did. Those fans and conspicuous colleagues who did not lend a hand undoubtedly had their reasons, which I accept.

7th Son: Descent made history in the way it was promoted: It was the first mainstream novel to be simultaneously released in free serialized audiobook, PDF and in text format (at BoingBoing.net). It was the first book to use serialized prequel audio short stories as part of its release promotion. It was the first novel to have an accompanying music album (the Anyman EP) sung by a character from the book, timed to its release. I am very proud of these groundbreaking accomplishments.

I am also very proud of the long hours I spent re-recording the 7th Son: Descent serialized audiobook to celebrate its print release, and the effort producer Shawn Bishop put forth in creating an excellent product. I also stand by the time investment required to participate in nearly 30 guest posts/interviews for blogs willing to promote the book (for which I am extremely grateful), and more than 40 podcast interviews (for which I'm equally grateful). I do not regret spending thousands of dollars to personally finance additional promotion for Personal Effects and 7th Son. When you're up at bat, you swing for the wall.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to make a living wage telling stories. That day has not yet come, and I fear that it won't, unless some serious decisions are made. I've made these decisions, and I apologize for how this will affect you.

Creating podcast fiction does does not generate direct revenue for me. Based on anecdotal and statistical data, very few people are willing to pay for general podcast content, much less podcast fiction. Since my goal is to make a living wage with my words, the current monetization models -- including in-show advertisements -- will not deliver this. Dedicating time and effort to my non-fiction podcast projects will deliver equally underwhelming monetary results.

It is also apparent to me that using the Free model to promote a tangible product, such as I did with 7th Son: Descent and Personal Effects: Dark Art, does not deliver sustainable sales results. I have friends -- some of whom are my best friends, the most talented people I've had the privilege to know and work with --  who have absolute faith in this model. I treasure their trailblazing efforts and enthusiasm. My faith, however, has been fundamentally rattled.

Put simply: The new media model viably supports only the most blessed and talented of authors. The time, effort and money I invest in entertaining you for free pulls my attention and talent away from projects that can generate revenue. While podcasting, podcast fiction, and -- most importantly -- your support and evangelism has positively impacted my life and career in ways I'll never be able to fully express, I cannot continue to release free audiofiction if I wish to make a living wage with my words.

My plans to release a serialized audiobook of Personal Effects: Dark Art are now aborted. My plans to release The 33 as free audiofiction are on hold. I'm particularly heartbroken about The 33, as I'm very proud of the world and characters I've created so far. Unless I experience a financial windfall, or conceive a monetized podcast approach that provides equitable compensation for the effort I invest in writing, recording and editing those stories, I cannot dedicate the resources to freely release The 33.

While these decisions were not made in haste, you are well within your right to feel disappointed or betrayed. My soul aches, for I truly feel that I am letting you down. I do pray you'll look back at the four years of entertainment I've provided, and cherish those stories and memories. I certainly do. Rest well knowing that I owe you far more than you owe me. You made my dream come true. How many people can claim such a miraculous thing?

For the past two years, I've nigh-obsessively wondered about the viability of podcast fiction, and if this distribution method is as powerful and disruptive as it was during its scrappy, eye-opening 2005 and 2006 roots. It's far too early to say. Its days of newness are certainly gone ... but new creators are coming on the scene every day, with new stories to share. I wish them stratospheric success in on- and offline marketplaces.

It's also far too early to say if this model will deliver the kind of mainstream publisher attention it did for creators such as Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, myself, and others. Blessedly, several additional podcast novelists have secured deals with mainstream publishers; their works will debut in bookstores in the upcoming months. I hope the Free promotional model continues to serve them well, and that the listener and creator communities enthusiastically support them.

I pray this model becomes a viable, sustainable business-driven movement -- and not the fleeting moment I fear it may be.

Regardless of its fate, I cannot currently contribute to it, if I wish to make a living wage with my words. Aside from the sporadic release of nonfiction audio interviews, my podcast feed is going dark. I've spent years "feeding the feed" -- my podcast feed, that is -- and the real-world results of that effort have put in me the red emotionally, creatively and financially.

Some of you amazing people -- you very cool, very gracious people -- are owed far more than an apology. I have made sincere obligations to you, and will deliver on these promises. Fans who are owed Personal Effects "swag bags" and 7th Son "Beta Clone Army Rewards" prizes will receive them. You monetarily supported my work in good faith -- faith in the novel, faith in me -- and I will absolutely honor these obligations. I beg for your patience as I right myself financially, so I can smartly dedicate the monetary resources to making these promises a reality.

For those who bought 7th Son: Descent and Personal Effects: Dark Art, know that I owe you my undying respect and thanks. For those who experienced the audio and text content for free and were not persuaded to monetarily support my work, I appreciate your time, and hope you were entertained.

For the hundreds of fans, friends, and colleagues who went the extra mile in generously sharing the news about 7th Son and Personal Effects with others: I treasure your support above all.

When folks ask me for writerly advice, I usually reply with two words: Writers write. What I rarely say, but absolutely believe, is that writers should be paid for what they write. It's time for me to write. To write my ass off, to tell stories that can be sold in many media, so I can continue to entertain you, and achieve my career goals. I am honored by your friendship, and hope I have clearly explained the circumstances that led me to these difficult decisions.

A final word regarding the 7th Son sequels: I may self-publish Deceit and Destruction later this year. If I do, I'll let you know. It seems like a shame to keep the series' "mad hacker" in a drawer for too long. Kilroy2.0 needs to be everywhere.

Thank you for your love and support in the past, the now, and the to-be.

With endless affection and appreciation,

--J.C.

Interview: Chris Hanel, creator of the meme-killing "Meta Hitler" video

Welcome up, listeners! J.C. Hutchins and Hey Everybody! returns with a fun interview with Chris Hanel, creator of what can be best described as the "Meta Hitler" video, the ultimate Downfall parody vid.

For years, geeks and creators have used a four-minute clip from the Hitler bioflick Downfall to skewer topics from Xbox to Twitter ... but Chris' video takes the meme out to the toolshed. The video recently went truly viral, appearing on BoingBoing.net, The Huffington Post, Kotaku, the Bad Astronomy blog, and other prominent online venues.

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait hailed the video as "the transformative end-of-the-meme bringer. Anyone making a Downfall parody after this is basically an SEO professional getting a Twitter account now."

Here's Chris' video:

In this interview, J.C. chats with Chris about the creative inspiration for his meme-slaying video, his years of experience creating "meta"-themed online content such as Star Wars fan films and his new online comic, The Daily Blink. It's a fun chat with a true UltraCreative. If you want a front-row seat to witness how a video can go viral, this interview is a must-listen.

Dig what you hear in this podcast? Tell a friend! Use the "Share This" feature found at the end of this post!

The anthem for Hey, Everybody! is "Chip Away" by Jane's Addition, distributed freely via BitTorrent and the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour site, Ninja2009.com.

Interview: Ami Greko and Pablo Defendini from The New Sleekness

Welcome up, listeners! After weeks of radio silence, Hey Everybody! returns with a terrific interview with Ami Greko and Pablo Defendini from The New Sleekness, a blog that provides brilliant and progressive analysis on the mainstream publishing industry. Ami and Pablo are two (of several) talented contributors at the site.

Both Ami and Pablo hail from the publishing biz, and know their stuff. Their perspectives are influenced by their involvement in digital content creation, marketing and publicity ... as well as years of exposure to the traditional publishing model. If you're looking for a respectful and progressive exploration of the state of publishing and where it's going, this interview is a must-listen.

Dig what you hear in this podcast? Tell a friend! Use the "Share This" feature found at the end of this post!

The anthem for Hey, Everybody! is "Chip Away" by Jane's Addition, distributed freely via BitTorrent and the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour site, Ninja2009.com.

A Call For YOUR Creativity: Crowdsourcing Kilroy!

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Yo, 7th Son fans -- I've got a killer concept cooking over here, and I need YOUR help. With the help of some super-savvy iPhone app developers, I'll soon unleash a cool Kilroy-themed app for the iPhone and iPod touch. We're cramming lots of goodies inside, but the show-stopping main feature will be a sassy, talking Kilroy2.0!

The gist: When you give your phone a solid "shake," the mad hacker Kilroy2.0 himself will spout one of dozens of random quotes. He'll be a delightful, giggling mess, saying such things as "Shake, shake, shake your Kilroy" and "I just rooted your iPhone" ... and of course, "Kilroy2.0 is evvvvrywhere."

The twist: We've got an aggressive deadline for this project, so I need YOUR help to write dozens of funny Kilroy quotes for the app, which I'll record and port into the program. Are you up for "becoming" Kilroy and putting words in my most famous character's mouth? If so, keep reading!

Participating in this fun, creative crowdsource project is easy-peasy:

  • Simply think of as many fun (and funny!) one-liners that you think Kilroy would say, and post them in the comments.
  • You can include many quote ideas in a single comment.
  • The best user-created quotes will make it into the app!
  • Be sure to include your name in your blog comment ... we'll include your name in the app's credits!

And that's it! If you wanna participate, you gotta do so at Hutch-speed -- and I move fast. The deadline for your Kilroy2.0 one-liners is this Wednesday, Feb. 3. So channel your inner Kilroy, cook up some fun one-liners and post them in the comments!

--J.C.

Help A Friend In Need

Two days ago, the wife of podcaster and author Tee Morris died unexpectedly. In addition to the devastating loss, Tee now faces the challenge of raising his daughter as a single dad.

I spoke to Tee on the evening of his wife's death. Despite the incalculable loss, the eternal optimism Tee is known for was still there, in his voice. He was deeply moved by the support the community had shown for him, and appreciative.

We cannot change yesterday, but we can help ensure Tee and his daughter have a brighter tomorrow. Please help them by contributing to a fund that will help cover funeral costs, and create a trust for his daughter. Give generously, if you can.

--J.C.

Interview: Rebecca Keegan, Author of The Futurist

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Happy 2010! In this episode of Hey, Everybody!, J.C. chats with Rebecca Keegan, author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron. With cooperation from writer/director James Cameron himself, author Rebecca Keegan has written a truly terrific and insightful biography. Learn how Keegan connected with Cameron, and what she discovered about this amazing storyteller during the creation of the book.

Expertly reported and masterfully written -- and featuring an exclusive chapter about Cameron's new film Avatar -- The Futurist is a must-read for admirers of Cameron's work and beyond.

The anthem for Hey, Everybody! is "Chip Away" by Jane's Addition, distributed freely via BitTorrent and the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour site, Ninja2009.com.

What is The 33? (Part One)

I'm not ready to tell you about The 33's storyline yet, but I'll absolutely tell you the creative philosophy fueling it. I'm a geezer in the podcast fiction game. I've been a podfic creator for four years, and a podcast listener since February 2005. I was there for the debut episodes of Scott Sigler's Earthcore, Stephen Eley's Escape Pod and other fiction projects -- and I was dazzled by those scrappy creators' ingenuity and the quality of their work. Podcast fiction was a curious storytelling anomaly back then, but soon became legitimized as dozens -- and then hundreds -- of authors embraced the distribution model. These days, I receive an email a week from a determined creator who's hungry to launch her or his own podcast novel. That's pretty cool.

I've watched the space grow, and -- as I did in 2005, when I considered releasing 7th Son as a podcast novel -- still study the most successful storytellers to understand why they are successful, and what they do that impresses their audiences. They lead by example, and I feverishly take notes on what seems to work best. (Speaking selfishly for a moment, I'm honored that these storytellers and others now study what I'm doing in the space. Some of us even collude, scheme together, and shamelessly steal from each other. It's a hoot.)

I'm stating the obvious here, but the very best podcast fiction shows fall into two categories: Short Form and Long Form. Both are amazing ways to tell stories. Both have strengths...

  • Short Form: Most short form fiction appears in "magazine-style" programs such as Escape Pod and Variant Frequencies. Nearly all of these stories are one-shots -- they economically build universes, narratives and characters. They are easily digestible, short and resonant. They stand on their own; there are no "previously ons," no need to hear prior stories in the podcast feed. Low barrier of entry for newcomers.
  • Long Form: Novel-length stories dedicate far more time to building rich characters, plots and subplots. In addition to the richness creators can add to the universes and narratives, listening to a serialized audio novel week-to-week is an experience like no other. Cliffhangers abound, and opportunities exist for fans to converge and discuss where the story's going. If you've listened to my stuff, you've been there. I've been there too.

And both also have weaknesses...

  • Short Form: Audiences craving an in-depth look into a short story's universe and characters may come away wanting more.
  • Long Form: Latecomers to serialized Long Form fiction have to start wayyyyy back at Episode One. (Or in some cases, Book One.) That's a huge time investment, and a high barrier of entry for newcomers.

I've thought long and hard about that high barrier of entry. I suspect I've lost listener-to-be's simply because they realized they'd have to listen to hundreds of hours of content to catch up with my unfolding stories. Since 2006, I've quested to make my content easy to obtain from a technical perspective and a narrative one. My recent Personal Effects: Sword of Blood and 7th Son: 7 Days prequels were specifically designed for newcomers -- they're both low-impact ways to introduce new fans to the Personal Effects and 7th Son universes.

As I schemed on a new podcast fiction project in late 2008, I realized I wanted a model that both celebrated the low barrier of entry of Short Form fiction, and the rich creative opportunities Long Form presents. I pondered this long before I considered the project's storyline or characters. I looked at other media for inspiration. The answer came pretty quickly, once I stopped thinking like a podcaster.

The 33 is episodic TV for your ears.

Like the best episodic TV, episodes of The 33 will have consistent lengths (45 minutes). Most episodes will be one-shots -- "monster of the week" stories (ala Buffy, Supernatural, etc.) so newcomers can hop aboard with any episode, quickly grok the characters and setting, and have a blast. Also like the best episodic TV, there will be season-length story arcs -- think of the Cancer Man eps in The X-Files -- that will unfold in some episodes. It's the best of both worlds.

Like the best episodic TV, there will be core cast members. Three of them, to be exact: Napoleon Black John Swords, Bliss and Knack. They'll be accompanied by lots of guest characters called Shifters -- folks recruited for specific missions because of their unique skills. (Some Shifters slated to appear include Mad Anna, Arachnarcana, Bada Boom and Kill Screen. Expect nothing less from a dude who grew up watching The A-Team and playing with G.I. Joe dolls. Codenames rock.)

And like episodic TV, there will likely be commercials. And like episodic TV, it might even be recorded in front of a live audience. And there may be spinoffs.

The format is very familiar but, to my knowledge, has not yet been executed in podcast fiction form. I'm having a blast concocting The 33 universe, episode plots and characters ... and I can't wait to unleash it later this year. (That's as specific as I'm going to be about its release. Check this recent post to learn why.)

So that's the creative philosophy fueling The 33. I'll share more in a few weeks. In the meantime, I'm heading back to my brainstorming.

Because the world needs The 33.

--J.C.

Baby, I'm Ready To Go

There are few songs that fire me up like Republica's US mix of "Ready To Go." While the mid-90s tune is actually about a damaged romantic relationship, its pop-rock beat and chorus are an anthem for anyone craving to break free and take on the world: Baby I'm ready to go ... I'm back and ready to go ... From the rooftops, shout it out. Shout it out. (Listen to the song here.)

Goodness, yes. A thousand hell yeses. From the rooftops, shout it out. With the new year here, are you ready to go? Ready to roll up your sleeves, put on a playful self-confident sneer, and get your hands dirty with some go?

I am. 2009 was an epic year. Personal Effects: Dark Art. 7th Son: Descent. Both on bookstore bookshelves, a dream come true. I conceived and personally executed several ambitious never-before-seen online promotions -- Commit Yourself To The Brink, groundbreaking "vlurb" book trailers, multi-site cross-promotional projects (including a 10-chapter 7th Son excerpt distributed across more than 20 websites, and the recent "In the Nick of Time!" holiday sampler). More than 30 promotional blog guest posts. More than 70 podcast and radio interviews. Lots of first-evers and more-thans and many-mores.

I spent most of 2009 running on three or four hours of sleep each day. I went broke promoting the books. (This is not an exaggeration. Flat-ass, overdrawn-bank-account broke. My finances still haven't recovered.) The result was stellar "Week One" debuts for both novels, followed by weeks of better-than-average sales. The publishing business is brutal and hyper-competitive, people. Standing out requires a lot of creative thought and effort (which I had) and money (which I didn't, and wasn't provided).

I also released two podcast-exclusive fiction projects in '09, both prequels: Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, and 7th Son: 7 Days. Both were written in the midst of actively promoting the novels, and I'm pretty proud of how they turned out. This brings me to 2010.

I love the crazy-cool creative challenge of podcasting and promoting my stuff. For the past four years, I've lived to entertain you with my stories, and dazzle you with unconventional, fun promotions. I've made deliberate, informed decisions on how to spend my time, money and creative energy. Since 2006, most of my free time has been funneled into projects designed for you to consume and enjoy, for free.

Businesspeople talk about ROI: return on investment. I realized long ago that it would be impossible to receive an equitable ROI on the time, energy and monetary investment I've made in being an active creator in the social media space ... so I stopped thinking about that. Instead, I bit into new media and social media with the same abandon I have when chomping into a nectarine -- and you rewarded me with amazing feedback and unrivaled devotion, and helped make my lifelong dream of becoming a published novelist come true. My wallet may be a burnt cinder, but my soul lives in a palatial emotional mansion thanks to your generosity and kindness. I am forever grateful for that.

But baby, I'm ready to go.

Here are some not-so-secret secrets about most social media creators: We obsess about statistics. We keenly watch our blog subscriber numbers, our downloads, our website traffic, retweets and more. We crow about consistency, and how a steady output of content ensures the sustained interest of longtime readers (or listeners), and attracts newcomers. We relentlessly "feed the feed," as I call it -- we pipe out stuff of varying quality in our blog/podcast feeds to keep you coming back for more. Some of us do this successfully, and turn a profit. Some of us do this successfully, and don't turn a profit. Still others feel beholden to these rules and produce content, even when they don't want to. Burnout. A lack of perceived value from the audience. Real world obligations. It goes on.

I've been obsessing and red-lining it for so long, I've forgotten what a normal life feels like. I need to know what a normal life feels like. What eight hours of sleep feels like. What writing fiction feels like.

That last part -- writing fiction -- is critically important, peeps. This year, I felt my most alive when I was writing Sword of Blood and 7 Days, and brainstorming new projects. I took great pride in creating stories around my promotions (World War 7 is a recent fictional scenario that was a blast to concoct and execute), but when just it's me and the page and the words ... oh baby-baby, that's the primo stuff. I live to tell tall tales, my friends. I've missed telling tall tales.

And so it's time to go.

Time to roll up my sleeves, put on a playful self-confident sneer, and get my hands dirty with some go, that is. You didn't think I was abandoning this site, and you, and several thousand other awesome peeps, didja? Heavens no. The party's just getting started. I may not be the ever-present host I was in 2009 and years past, but I'll certainly be here to entertain you in 2010.

There's lots to give you. The Personal Effects: Dark Art serialized audiobook. My new podcast fiction project, The 33. I'll still interview people who amaze me -- the people I call UltraCreatives -- and I'll post written and podcast updates on my life, creative projects and other sundries. (I know most of you care less about my non-fiction content than my fiction. That's okay. But these non-fiction projects are important to me, and I will continue to pursue them.)

So yes. Content shall abound in this blog/podcast feed in 2010. But I need to make something clear, in the kindest and most constructive way possible: this content will be released when my schedule permits. In addition to the Dark Art audiobook (which will debut by Spring 2010) and The 33 (which will debut not long after), I have other creative projects to pursue. There are movie treatments I owe my film agent -- original story ideas we want to sell to Hollywood for big bucks. There are other novels to write, which I want to sell to publishers for big bucks. God willing, there will be 7th Son books Two and Three to edit for print release. And I want to pursue ways of telling stories you've never seen before; stuff that's as wide-eyed and untested as a newborn.

Jeepers, all the stories. All the stories I need to tell.

If you choose to abandon my blog/podcast feed because I won't be delivering free audio content on a weekly basis in 2010, I understand. I do hope, however, that you have an equal understanding and respect for my decision. Of course, I also hope you'll stick around. There's a great deal of fun and adventure in what I do ... and you can't beat the price with a stick.

2010 is my year of go. Go beyond podcasting, beyond 7th Son and Personal Effects, and Twitter and Facebook, and my always-shameless, sometimes-crass ass-shaking. It's time to take down the megaphones. It's time to start building more worlds. New worlds. Go worlds.

Wanna come along? Just take my hand. There'll be weeks when I'm loud and sassy, and weeks when you may never hear a peep. But we'll be running toward the horizon together, grinning at the sun. Running together, adventurers.

Come with me. Baby, I'm ready to go.

--J.C.

7th Son: Descent - Episode 10

7th Son: Descent cover

Welcome to the final episode of the free audiobook, 7th Son: Descent. 7th Son is now available in bookstores and for immediate purchase online. Catch up with the story by downloading past episodes. Learn how you can support the novel's print release at this page.

7th Son: Descent's anthem is "Descent" by Celldweller. Learn more about the band at Celldweller.com.

Like what you hear? Tell a friend, and give a shout in the comments!

7th Son: Descent - Episode 10 PDF

Transient

Welcome to the final serialized PDF episode of the novel 7th Son: Descent. 7th Son is now available in bookstores and for immediate purchase online. Learn how you can support the novel's print release at this page.

Like what you've read? Tell a friend, and give a shout in the comments!

YOUR goals for 2010

I recently asked on Twitter:

GOALS! What are some of YOUR goals for 2010? Zip me one. :)

Here's what you said. Lots of creativity and ambition here -- and yet, all are attainable...

  • Buying a 50 inch plasma!
  • my goal is to double the reach of my podcast
  • To finish 'Outcast' by end of January, and its sequel by August.
  • i want to make significant progress on one if not more then one, of my books if not finish them.
  • Get first novel complete and subsequent audio drama started.
  • Same as my one word mantra: DO!
  • To get an article or story published in something with a pricetag, ISBN or ISSN on it. :)
  • Graduate law school! :D
  • to podcast on a more regular basis...
  • Finish writing my book.
  • Doubling my clients from 2009. Need 140 new clients for 2010 to do that.
  • Write more words, eat more bacon, make more friends. I figure if I walk around with a plate of fresh bacon...
  • my biggest goal is to get my comics and photography financially independant from me.
  • On a more practical note: To reduce my debt to just my mortgage, and then pay that off within 10 years or less!
  • To write, produce, and release the first Adventures of the Snarky Avenger Audio Drama.
  • Finish jobs needing to be done.
  • Shooting MB's Famous in early 2010.
  • To be fearless in anything related to my writing.
  • finish writing, editing and recording first novel and start 2nd that's already chomping at the bit to start already :)
  • love more, save money, write daily are my goals :)
  • Test for my green belt in Kenpo
  • my goal in 2010 is to star in the 7th Son movies :P
  • get "Closet Treats" published. Finish writing "Garaaga's Children" series and podcast it all.
  • Goals for 2010: Finish 2nd draft of my novel and find beta readers; organize and name all my digital photos
  • get back into shape after surgery on the 30th of this month
  • 2010 goal: Serialize my first novel
  • my biggest goal is to be a better father
  • To do more volunteer work for a cause about which I am passionate.
  • my plan is to read more. but i need quantifiable goals. so, read one book a week. and not just yours, over and over. :)
  • write 500 words a day. Submit one story for publication.
  • to write something polished enough to podcast... And then podcast
  • From 70% autonomous to 100%.
  • Making time & $ to attend a con - preferably one that you're at, so I can thank you in person!
  • 2010 goals: Start re-writing Mallville, and start podcasting it. Try to write some more short stories.
  • goal- finish novels #2&3 and get podcast author career off the ground. Been a groupie long enough.
  • goal for 2010 = write something publishable

More will likely flow in (which I can't add to the list here), but these 2010 goals are remarkable, brimming with drive and passion. Let's all exhibit some Pure Badassery™ and make good on these goals next year.

What's YOUR goal for 2010?

--J.C.

Avatar, and James Cameron 2.0

Just came from seeing James Cameron's Avatar. Loved it. The movie demands to be seen on the big screen. I won't bore you with a review of plot points and performances; that's what Google and Roger Ebert are for. I want to talk about the flaws of the movie, why they don't matter ... and why James Cameron is now officially in the "2.0" phase of his career.

I came up in the same era in which Cameron was cutting his teeth as a writer/director. I've lost count of how many times I've watched and rewatched his movies. I'm convinced that if there's any one storyteller to study, it's him. His movies are often dark and dystopian, packed with memorable, brilliantly-written ensemble casts. They're perfectly contained stories, yet feel untamed, subversive. They bristle, hungry to make with the violence -- and they always deliver it.

Something seemed to change within Cameron's stories in the 1990s. The decade started strong for superfans with Terminator 2 (dystopian, violent science fiction). A few years later, he delivered True Lies, an action comedy. It's an optimistic gunblazer, great popcorn fare. What the film lacked in brains or story, it more than compensated with action and visual effects. A rock-solid B for superfans like me.

Titanic became his obsession. Say what you will about the story (and I will, in a moment), but it was a cinematic masterpiece. Avatar is even better. Both deliver stories with the epic scope of the Truly Great films such as Gone With the Wind; seeing these things on anything less than a movie house screen is a mortal sin.

But both also represent a shift in Cameron's writing, which in many ways disappoints superfans like me ... but also showcases a breed of brilliance worthy of admiration. The man is smart, understands narrative, understands audiences -- and it's now clear that he deeply understands the business of making narratives for those audiences.

Long gone are Cameron's days of bubblegum-and-a-prayer movie budgets. He now makes supermovies -- stupefyingly expensive movies. Avatar's budget was at least $250 million, but rumors put the pricetag as high as $350 million. That's money that defies meaningful understanding.

Supermovies are high-risk endeavors for producers, and there are well-documented tradeoffs that come with superbudgets. Make the film PG-13 to ensure as many people as possible can see it ... make stories simpler to accommodate that mass appeal ... make the concepts of the story more universal as to snag the support of international markets and filmgoers ... it goes on. The worst supermovies, like Transformers 2, fully embrace these compromises and treat their audiences as idiot children.

Cameron does not, though savvy superfans like me spot the compromises in what I'm calling the  "2.0" stage of his career. Titanic's story has been characterized as "romance on a sinking boat," and Avatar is now getting the inevitable (if unfair) Dances With Wolves comparisons. Both parallels are completely accurate, and yet absolutely inaccurate. To keep focus on Avatar: It is not a dumb movie. It is a movie that has a simple storyline with nigh-universal theme and appeal. There isn't much development in many of the secondary characters. And I insist that's just fine.

Much like Titanic, the movie is gorgeous, and absolutely convincing in its execution. It's the first film I've ever seen in which the extended use of CGI didn't harm the overall product. I was spellbound throughout, dazzled and dwarfed by the world Cameron created. It's not a perfect story, but it's a perfect movie -- it fully embraces the big screen experience.

Did I pine for scenes that better-illustrated the main character's inner conflict, or better-explained the reasons why the villians were being so villainous? Sure. Do I think that, given the compromises a filmmaker must make when they're $300 million in the red, the movie suffered greatly from those omissions? No way.

Avatar is a cinematic masterwork. It doesn't hail from the uberbrainy tradition of the best science-fiction stories. (Neither did Star Wars back in 1977. And while it's my favorite movie, Star Wars is a rather simplistic and noisy tale.) It doesn't hail from Cameron's dark and dystopic sci-fi roots, either. But it is absolutely beautiful, ultimately optimistic, and an absolute blast to watch.

See it. On the big screen.

"In the Nick of Time" - Free 300+ Page Holiday Sampler of Bestselling Books!

Books make terrific holiday gifts, but finding those perfect books for friends and family is always a challenge. If only we could flip through those books’ pages on our schedule. If only if the bookstore could come to us.
That’s the idea behind this In the Nick of Time! holiday sampler PDF. Inside are excerpts from a dozen new novels and nonfiction books by New York Times bestselling authors, successful entrepreneurs, and wickedly talented storytellers, including:
Laurell K. Hamilton -- Divine Misdemeanors
Seth Godin -- Tribes and an exclusive excerpt of Linchpin, out next year
Joseph Finder -- Vanished
Cory Doctorow -- Makers
Chris Brogan & Julien Smith -- Trust Agents
Robert J. Sawyer -- Wake
Mitch Joel - Six Pixels of Separation
Cherie Priest -- Boneshaker
Tara Hunt -- The Whuffie Factor
Scott Sigler -- The Rookie
Seth Harwood -- Jack Wakes Up
J.C. Hutchins -- 7th Son: Descent
If you spot a great gift opportunity, you can order from online retailers directly from the PDF. You can also print the order form at the end of the document, and present it to your local bookseller. Helpful staff will find what you’re looking for.
From high adventure to savvy business advice, you’ll find something special for the special someones on your holiday list -- including you. You're also welcome to share this free sampler with friends and family. Refer them to this web page to download In the Nick of Time! -- http://JCHutchins.net/hoy .

I'm delighted by this project, which I coordinated -- and am honored to have worked with the amazing authors who participated...

Books make terrific holiday gifts, but finding perfect books for friends and family can be a time-consuming challenge. If only if the bookstore could come to us.

That’s the idea behind this In the Nick of Time! holiday sampler PDF. Inside are excerpts from a dozen new novels and nonfiction books by these New York Times bestselling authors, successful entrepreneurs, and wickedly talented storytellers:

DOWNLOAD THE IN THE NICK OF TIME! HOLIDAY SAMPLER

Spot a great gift opportunity? Order from online retailers directly from the PDF, or print the order form at the end of the document and present it to your local bookseller. Helpful staff will find what you’re looking for.

From high adventure to savvy business advice, you’ll find something special for the special someones on your holiday list -- including you. You're also welcome to share this free sampler with friends and family.

Click here to download the In The Nick of Time! holiday sampler -- and have the happiest of holidays!

7th Son: Descent - Episode 9 PDF

Transient

Welcome to the ninth (of ten) serialized PDF episodes of the novel 7th Son: Descent. 7th Son is now available in bookstores and for immediate purchase online. Learn how you can support the novel's print release at this page.

Like what you've read? Tell a friend, and give a shout in the comments!

7th Son: Descent - Episode 9

7th Son: Descent cover

Welcome to the ninth (of ten) serialized episodes of the free audiobook, 7th Son: Descent. 7th Son is now available in bookstores and for immediate purchase online. Catch up with the story by downloading past episodes. Learn how you can support the novel's print release at this page.

7th Son: Descent's anthem is "Descent" by Celldweller. Learn more about the band at Celldweller.com.

Like what you hear? Tell a friend, and give a shout in the comments!

What Matters Now - Free eBook

whatmattersnowcontrib

It's not every day that the world's most popular marketing blogger asks you collaborate on a project designed to get folks thinking about their lives, the world, and positive ways to improve them. So when bestselling writer Seth Godin invited me to participate in What Matters Now, I dove right in.

As Seth wrote in his post announcing What Matters Now, this eBook "encourages people to focus and use their energy to turn the game around," providing big thoughts and small actions to make a difference in the world. More than 70 authors contributed to the project, including big thinkers I've followed and respected for years: furturist Kevin Kelly, publisher Tim O'Reilly, writer and programmer Gina Trapani, artist Hugh Macleod, brilliant writers and entrepreneurs such as Merlin Mann, Derek Sivers, Chris Anderson, Guy Kawasaki, Paco Underhill ... the who's who list goes on and on.

I'm honored to be in such ultra-creative, ultra-talented company. My contribution, titled "Gumption," can be found at the end of the eBook.

Each contribution is well worth your time, and may provide a nugget of resonance -- or encouragement -- for you as we enter the new year. If you find value within its pages, please share What Matters Now with your friends and coworkers.

--J.C.