Podcast: Interview with Michael Bekemeyer, Filmmaker

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In this episode, J.C. chats with Florida-based independent filmmaker Michael Bekemeyer. We learn about Michael's filmmaking experience, J.C.'s current screenwriting ambitions, and Michael's current project, the short film Gush -- and how creators and fans are helping him raise funds to make it a reality.

Sites mentioned in the interview:

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 Special Message from Author Seth Harwood

I rarely let anyone commandeer my website -- or my podcast feed -- but Seth Harwood's got something important to share, and I can't say no to ultra-talented colleagues. I hope you enjoy his audio message, and support the release of Young Junius! --J.C.

THIS BLOG NOW HIJACKED BY YOUR BOY...

What’s up, everybody, it’s your favorite crime caper commentator Seth Harwood aka Your Boy here to take over J.C.’s feed and give out some audio Young Junius lovin’!

This recording comes from an event I did recently at Borderlands Books here in San Francisco with Scott Sigler. That’s right, the FDO himself showed up and read a few lines. I know you’ll enjoy this section!

Click here to download or listen now.

If you’d like to order your own copy of Young Junius the print novel from Tyrus Books, listen to the complete podcast or read it as a free PDF, come on over to my site now. I hope you’ll spread the word about it if you do.

Enjoy and have a happy holiday!

--Seth

Book Review: Content Rules

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I can't rave enough about Content Rules, the new book by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. Here's what the book is about. My review follows.

Whether it's bite-sized tweets that allow you to forge relationships on Twitter, blog posts that give your readers must-have advice, ebooks or white papers that engage (and don't bore), videos that share the human side of your company, interactive webinars that deliver a valuable learning experience, or podcasts that can be downloaded and listened to on the fly (and more!) . . . now more than ever, content rules!

Today, you have an unprecedented opportunity to create a treasury of free, easy-to-use, almost infinitely customizable content that tells the story of your product and your business, and positions you as an expert people will want to do business with.

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, business writers, speakers, and marketing thought leaders for clients such as The Coca-Cola Company, HBO, and Verizon Fios, show you how to leverage all of today's tools to create content that truly speaks to your audience.

My review:

Packed with verve, zero-B.S. insights, tangible examples and success stories, Content Rules absolutely delivers on its promise of providing a practical and achievable road map for businesses to embrace -- and celebrate! -- content-fueled marketing. Especially heartening is its applicability far beyond the affluent walls of big business; independent businesses and creators will especially benefit from this book.

There's wisdom in Ann Handley's and C.C. Chapman's words, mostly because they hail from the gumption-soaked world of content creation themselves. These authors do far more than pay lip service to the value of content -- they breathe it and create it every day.

I rarely endorse books without reservation, but Content Rules is one of those works that is truly a Must Read for businesses, indies, salty creative veterans and curious newcomers. The book is brimming with incalculably valuable anecdotes, how-tos, and hard-earned advice. A steal, at any price.

As a seasoned creator who uses content as a marketing tool to promote his work, I cannot recommend Content Rules more highly. Pick up a copy at Amazon. You won't regret it.

--J.C.

How Long Does It Take To Make A Podiobook?

I just received an email from an aspiring podiobook author, who wanted to know how long it takes to create a single podcast novel episode. I thought I'd share my reply with you guys. When I was creating and promoting the  7th Son podcast novel trilogy, the workload broke down like this. These results were also typical for the other podfic projects I've completed. For a finished 45-minute episode:

  • 90 minutes to record
  • 5 hours to edit
  • 2 hours to write/record/edit "talky talk" openers and closers
  • 1 hour to upload and post, with shownotes

This doesn't include the heroic number of hours spent promoting the podiobook, or interacting with listeners via Twitter, Facebook, email and IM. That was often as many as 30 hours a week -- from the time I got home from the day gig to the moment I went to bed.

This also doesn't include the time it took to write, edit, and rewrite the novels before they were recorded as podcasts.

That's a lot of time, peeps.

--J.C.

New digs, new office

I get a lot of questions from folks about writing and rituals: How many words do you write a day? What software do you use? Do you listen to music when you write?, etc.  Over the years, I've also encountered questions about my workspace: What does it look like? I recently moved from South Florida to the Denver area, and have spent the past month working hard to make my home office (which I use for my creative writing and the day gig) a warm and welcoming place for me to herd words for hours on end. I'm becoming increasingly proud of the office, and -- partly to finally answer the question What does it look like? and partly to selfishly, proudly preen at how it's shaping up -- I reckoned it was time to post some photographs. I pray you'll indulge me. :)

Here's a shot from the far corner of my new digs: my sole bookshelf is on the left (I'm ditching hard copy in a big way, forsaking the fetishization of printed books and buying ebooks almost exclusively now), and my main desk is on the right. The darkened monitor resting on the filing cabinet is for my Mac mini, which I use as the house's wireless streaming media server.

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For curious tech-heads: On the main desk, I've got a vertically-mounted MacBook Pro running the show, a 27" LED Cinema Display, some Bose speakers for audio, and a ScanSnap document scanner.

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Another shot of the desk, before I added the speakers and a statue of Thoth, the Egyptian god who invented writing (whose photo follows this one):

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Some spiffy bling on the bookcase shelves include my collection of fan-made, hand-crafted "Beta Clone" figurines and my small Transformers collection. (You can take the boy out of the 1980s, but...)

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Being surrounded by inspiring artwork always revs my creative engine. Here's a rundown of some of what's now on the walls.

First up, a priceless hand-painted portrait of The Spirit by the late Will Eisner, one of history's most influential comics creators. I wrote a profile about him for The Palm Beach Post in 2000, and he sent me this magnificent piece as a thank you. Eisner was the best.

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Next up: a delightful propaganda-style poster supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund -- a worthy cause. I bought this guy about 10 years ago, I think. Finally had it framed when I moved to Colorado.

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Here's a exceptionally dramatic and cool print of a Soviet-era propaganda poster. It reads, "We will smite the lazy worker." It's placed behind me, and looms like a thundercloud. Whenever I get whiny, I think of the mantra behind my head and keep typing.

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More art, on the far walls, include this awesome print of the cover from the June 1957 issue of Amazing Stories. Humans rising up against their robot oppressors? Can't beat that with a stick, folks. The magazine also has a great story from Harlan Ellison in  it. How would I know?

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Some more geeky goodness, including a print of artwork from the uncut edition of The Stand, signed by artist Bernie Wrightson, the original page 22 from Superman: Metropolis, painted and signed by Ted McKeever, and a sublime signed limited edition print of a girl wearing a jetpack. Because girls with jetpacks are, and will always be, awesome.

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I still need to acquire a futon for this far side of the office (sleeping accommodations for guests, and a soft place for me to sit), and perhaps an area rug to make some colors "pop" throughout the room, but aside from that, I think I'm all done decorating. :)

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Hope you enjoyed the tour. If you have any questions about my setup, give a shout in the comments. I'll see if I can answer them!

--J.C.

How I Survived High School

Everyone I've ever spoken with says they had a lousy high school experience. I've never had a reason to disbelieve them. All I know is that my four years were likely much worse than most folks' (due to nigh-countless tumultuous economic and emotional distresses that I'll keep to myself), and that it's a Christmas miracle I didn't come out of the experience a stark-raving lunatic, a dropout, a criminal, or all of the above. I credit two things that saved me back then -- and even at the time, I knew they were saving me:

  • My best friend, Aaron
  • Storytelling

Aaron and I were thick as thieves back in the day. We were very mischievous, but rarely unlawful -- while we were both dealing with serious shit at home, our parents had raised us right enough, and had armed us with mostly-functioning moral compasses. We did, however, fuck off in school, were far smarter than we ever let on, coasted (and slept) through classes, and very likely exasperated every teacher we had.

We weren't bad kids, but we were remarkably bad students.

I spent much of those years feeling psychically bruised, due to my personal misfortunes. I had few friends, and fewer still with whom I hung out after school. I worked a lot after school, sometimes helping keep the lights on at home, and didn't have a car. It was a lonesome, lonesome time, and I'm glad much of it is gone from my mind.

But I can easily recall my adventures with my friend Aaron, and my love for storytelling. To escape from my lousy circumstances, I sank nearly everything I was into writing, drawing and coloring comic books. My heroes weren't Superman or Wolverine. They were Aaron and me.

Inside those poorly-drawn panels, we could be anyone we wanted to be ... and we were. Aaron and I slayed school bullies, traveled to the Amazon, got laid, were wrongfully arrested (but we busted out of jail!), traveled to the past and the future, died, came back to life, and -- in the "final issue" of the series, which I never completed -- led a cadre of student warriors in defeating an alien invasion.

This was absolute escapism, my therapeutic way of coping with what I rightly perceived to be a fundamentally rotten and unreliable world. I had enough sense at the time to know this, and took quiet comfort in it, penciling page after page, probably hoping that things would get better someday -- maybe as good as they were in the stories I was writing and drawing. They always had happy endings.

I unearthed these comics after my recent cross-country move from South Florida to Denver. I thumbed through them, smiling at memories of making these things in World Civilization, Biology and many other classes. I can't remember a single lesson from those cinderblock classrooms, yet I reckon I was learning anyway. I was teaching myself how to tell stories, and showing my affection for my best friend the best way I knew how.

Aaron and I keep in touch, though it's far too long since we spoke last. Things are great for both of us. We can't complain, and yet we do, because that's what being friends for 20 years is all about.

Here are the covers of those comics -- I'm the blondie named "Chris," Aaron's the better-looking longhair. (Not that any of my characters were much in the looks department ... I was, and remain, a lackluster artist.) There's nods to my favorite stories here: Back to the Future, the Bill and Ted and Indiana Jones movies , even V (represented by the spray-paint graffiti). They were a helluva lot of fun to create, and a hoot to read many years later.

You're looking at what saved me back then. I, more than anyone, am grateful this story has a happy ending.

--J.C.

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Podcast: Interview with Jim McLauchlin

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After a long hiatus, J.C. unearths the Hey Everybody! interview podcast for a very worthy cause. In this episode, you'll meet Jim McLauchlin, a former Wizard: The Comics Magazine writer (like J.C.) who's presently spearheading an incredible new project -- a documentary about the influential work created by 1950s comics publisher EC Comics, and its lasting impact.

EC made big waves in the 1950s, thanks to its daring approach to storytelling ... but its trailblazing stories and art garnered the attention of censors, and the company eventually folded. McLauchlin and his collaborators want to interview EC creators -- and big-name creators of present day such as Stan Lee -- and he needs your help to make it happen!

Learn more about McLauchlin's EC Comics documentary project, and help fund it, at IndieGoGo.com/EC-Comics-Documentary!

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.

Free PDF: "Young Junius" by Seth Harwood

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When asked, I never pass up an opportunity to vociferously champion the work of fellow new media creators -- which is why I'm thrilled and honored to present this free PDF of author Seth Harwood's brilliant thriller, Young Junius. Here's the jacket copy for Young Junius:

In 1987, fourteen-year-old Junius Posey sets out on the cold Cambridge (Mass.) streets to find his brother’s killer in a cluster of low-income housing towers—prime drug-dealing territory. After committing a murder to protect his friend, he finds himself without protection from retribution. His mother gives him fifty dollars and instructions to run, but Junius refuses to live a life in hiding. Instead, shocked by the violence he’s created and determined to see its consequences, he returns to the towers to complete his original mission.
I've read this book, and it's wonderful. But don't take my word for it -- check what these mainstream book critics and influencers have said about Harwood's terrific work:
"Harwood’s cutaway view of a single bloody day in a housing project is an impressive feat . . . Harwood’s empathy runs deeply indeed." -- Booklist (review: Young Junius)
"Searing ... a vicious black comedy of murderous errors. Harwood pulls no punches." -- Publishers Weekly (review: Young Junius)
"I loved the way he drew a canvas and filled it with characters. I'm still afraid of some of them." -- Seth Godin on Seth Harwood's Jack Wakes Up
Want to learn more? Check out the free PDF (linked below), and learn how you can support the print release of Seth Harwood's Young Junius by visiting Seth's website.
--J.C.

My New Car Stereo, or Arthur C. Clarke Was Right

This Friday, I'm packing a few boxes into my beloved beige Corolla named Jesse Quick, firing up my TomTom GPS, and leaving South Florida for good. The destination for this round-faced man? My new home near Denver. Yes, I'm driving. And yes, I name all my cars after female superheroes.

I love epic solo road trips like this one. They give me plenty of quiet time to process the gobs of stuff in my head -- process some baggage, brainstorm creative and entrepreneurial ideas, the works. But I love my tunes and podcasts, and my 8-year-old car stereo has been giving up the ghost for the past two years.

My drives were filled with First World problems. The detachable faceplate took great glee in spontaneously detaching. When it was attached, the connectors to the radio proper would misalign, often resulting in me jabbing buttons to no effect, or watching the digital display flash like a discotheque strobe. Sometimes the only way to get things working again was to play the lone CD I own, a Conway Twitty greatest hits album. (Anyone who doesn't love Conway's Hello Darlin' has no heart.) Finally, the auxiliary cable that snaked through the dashboard -- which connected to my iPod's headphone jack -- was falling apart from the inside, resulting in audio playing through the right speakers only.

Like I said, First World problems. But I love my tunes and podcasts. I used the road trip to rationalize an upgrade.

Solemnly determined to Never Again be foiled by the degrading guts of auxiliary cables (for all cables' guts degrade after daily wear and tear), I decided to look for a replacement that used Bluetooth technology to wirelessly stream the audio from my iPhone to the stereo. It had been nearly a decade since I'd done research on stereos, so I expected this tech would be well out of my $200 budget.

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Not so. I browsed a local Best Buy store, talked to a few very helpful and pateint employees on site, and zeroed in on the Sony MEX-BT2800. Bluetooth built-in. $159. For another $50 and a 30-minute wait, I could have it installed right there, they said. After a few days of hemming and hawing, I pulled the trigger this morning.

I spent most of the day driving around the area, running errands and giving the radio a workout.

I fully understand that what I'm about to describe isn't breaking news for car nerds or tech-heads. But for me, it's been a day of living the famous Arthur C. Clarke quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This shit is miraculous:

  • Indeed, the music plays on my iPhone and transmits wirelessly to my stereo. Not a cable in sight.
  • I'm not an audiophile, but I honestly cannot tell a difference between the quality of this wireless Bluetooth connection and the wired solution in my last stereo.
  • In fact, the sound quality piping though my 8-year-old speakers is better than my old Kenwood, but that's probably a testament to the Sony's newfangled sound-making innards more than the Bluetooth.
  • I can wirelessly skip tracks on my iPhone, forward and reverse, using the stereo's buttons. I can pause too.
  • I can switch to music-free "phone mode," activate the hands-free feature using the stereo's built-in microphone, and vocally tell my iPhone to play specific artists and playlists. I then switch back to "Bluetooth audio" mode and listen to the accessed music.
  • Using "phone mode," I can do voice-activated dialing too.
  • If I get a call while the phone's wirelessly connected to the stereo, I can answer and disconnect calls with a tap of the radio's volume knob. The music fades out, and I hear the caller's voice through my car's speakers. I'm told the radio's mic works great. The music fades back in when the call's done.
  • I can also pipe the TomTom GPS' voice through my speakers (thanks to the GPS' own Bluetooth technology), but this eliminates my ability to listen to music via the iPhone. (Only one device can pipe audio to the radio at a time, my only minor gripe.)
  • If I have an audio player that doesn't have Bluetooth, I can always connect it via a front-facing minijack aux port.
  • The stereo also has some nice equalizer presets, for fiddle-free -- and to me, impressive -- results. Lady Gaga never sounded so good.

Plus a CD player, FM/AM (which sports a whiz-bang feature that shows what song's playing on the radio) and a crapload of other probably-standard-fare features that delight this old schooler.

Abracadabra, all for $159. (Or for $119, currently at Amazon.) For the kind of driver I happen to be -- I reckon my audio quality demands are average or a teensy smidgen above that -- on a less-than-average budget, it's a steal. Incredible value here.

And no wires, man. Hallelujah.

Come Friday, the world beyond South Florida won't be ready for Jesse Quick and the round-faced man behind her wheel.

I got magic in my car, see.

--J.C.

Be The Adventure You Dream

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Zellie Blake, a generous and beautiful woman -- a fellow writer and dreamer -- died two days ago. She was 27 years old. Zellie was a tireless champion of my work. She once said I was an inspiration for her own writing career goals, but she will always be an inspiration for me. Her friends say that throughout her treatment, Zellie never lost her sense of humor or optimistic verve. She wrote often, and well.

Her personal mantra was, "Be the adventure you dream." I am hard-pressed to think of a more inspiring and empowering personal philosophy.

Perhaps most inspiring: she never lost the tenacity that is required of a Writer.

Writers write, and then they try to find homes for what they write. In Zellie's case, she was questing for a literary agent up until the very end. From her blog:

I've got just a few more queries pending.  I haven't gotten so much as a partial request ... (but) this book is NOT going to be thrown in the ocean.

Hell yes, sister. Hell yes.

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Zellie was surrounded by wonderful people throughout her life and recent treatment. I know this because Zellie blogged about these people. (Her friend Orin created a magnificent beadwork bracelet for Zellie that read Fuck Cancer, which absolutely rocks.) I also know these people are wonderful because they've contacted me via Facebook and email. Zellie was my biggest fan, they said ... and they were Zellie's biggest fans. A few weeks ago, her friend Callie asked if could I help lift Zellie's spirits.

A Japanese story says that if you fold 1,000 cranes, you are granted one wish. Callie had a wish ... and a deep belief in the power of positive thought. I autographed the pink origami crane that arrived two days later. It was one of 1,000 Callie and many other friends personally folded -- and one of more than 1,500, counting the ones Zellie's loving boyfriend had crafted too. Callie's efforts were heroic: she even snagged autographs from the puppeteers from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Zellie was delighted by the amazing work of her friends.

That was six days ago. And now she's gone.

But here's the brilliant thing about being a Writer. Zellie's not gone. Zellie's friends helped get her novel Lightning Spliced into print. They've released it through the print-on-demand publisher Lulu, and are donating all proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

You can meet Zellie in a way, within the pages of her book. You can discover what fueled her creative drive, and unearth what kind of stories she was put on this world to tell. She forever lives, breathes and dreams in Lightning Spliced. She will always be alive, thanks to her words and your imagination.

Your imagination -- and generosity -- will ensure Zellie's story isn't merely told, but experienced ... which is the greatest honor any Writer can acheive.

If you have the means, please support cancer research and the release of Zellie's book by buying a print or ebook edition of Lightning Spliced. If you insist on sampling the book before you buy, there are free audio and PDF excerpts available for your enjoyment.

For years, Zellie provided me with her unwavering support. And through her life and death, she also gave me a far greater gift -- soul-stirring inspiration.

To Zell: Thank you.

And to you, reading this: Be the adventure you dream.

--J.C.

Fandom Addendum: Beautiful Creatures

Another terrific thing about Dragon*Con and the mighty power of fandom? Pretty ladies willing to pose with bashful writers! Such as: A devil girl who didn't need a pitchfork to put me in my place...

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...a she-trooper and a blue-skinned Jedi...

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...and Swoopy, for whom I'd do anything.

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--J.C.

The Unstoppable Might Of Fandom

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I'm home from a very brief, but delightful, Dragon*Con. In years past, I classified my Dragon*Con adventures as Fun Business Trips: "fun" because I was there to have some, and "business" because I was there to share expertise and shamelessly shill my fiction projects. This time, I attended with my awesome sister and rolled blessedly shill-free. It brought a fresh, positive perspective to the experience. It permitted me to enjoy the convention as a fan. It also reminded me of the unstoppable might of fandom -- the incredible love people have for the things that resonate with them, and the great lengths they go to display that love and share it with others.

As I stood in line for Dragon*Con tickets, I spoke at length with a woman who wore a Firefly browncoat. She spent $450 on that coat a few years back. She attends about a dozen sci-fi conventions a year, and is such a fan of one sci-fi show actor (whose name escapes me), she's traveling to England in a few months to see him perform in a play. She did this a few years ago, and watched him perform in the same play three times. Her personal love and passion for Firefly -- a TV show that didn't last a full season -- knew no bounds.

While in that very line, I reconnected with Clair High, a friend and former podcaster whom I'd met at the convention a few years back. We chatted about his life, his wife, and a wonderful West Coast charity bike ride he discovered a few years ago. He described memories of his introduction to AIDS/LifeCycle -- which raises money and awareness for AIDS treatment and a cure -- that were so vivid, I felt as if I were right there with him, feeling the awe and admiration he had for these cyclists when he first saw them. Clair wanted to become a part of that cause, and did. He has personally raised more than $10,000 for the cure, and is now an avid cyclist. That serendipitous encounter changed his life.

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I attended a panel featuring Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden and Bill Daily, regular cast members of the classic show I Dream Of Jeannie. They were absolutely brilliant -- funny, handsome and beautiful, and humbled by the love they felt in that packed ballroom. Hundreds of fans attended. Hundreds of fans attended a panel about a show that hadn't been in first-run release in 40 years. One attendee, several years younger than me, shared memories of she and her mother (who later died of cancer) watching Jeannie reruns on Nick At Nite. "It's my favorite show," she told the cast. "I love you."

Bestselling novelist and podcaster Scott Sigler hosted a solo panel for his fans, which I also attended. This room was also packed. I was very proud of my friend. I was equally proud of the loyalty and love he and his work has inspired.

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I like Star Trek, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to see a panel-meets-performance of "Gowron & Martok," in which actors Robert O'Reilly (who played the recurring Klingon character Gowron) and J. G. Hertzler (who played his rival Martok) donned the costume and heavy makeup of their Star Trek: The Next Generation alien characters to take questions from the audience ... in character. This was genius. Part well-oiled performance, part improv, the actors were supremely funny, knew their crowd and displayed an absolutely genuine appreciation for their fans. Several folks in the audience wore their own homemade Klingon costumes. I was amazed: the still-thriving subculture of Trek fandom permits these two actors to travel the country and make a living from it.

I also attended the Parsec Awards, for which Scott Sigler and I co-presented awards for two categories. During the event, my podcast-exclusive novella Personal Effects: Sword of Blood won the award for Best Novella. My four-year Parsec losing streak -- which I fully expected to remain intact by the ceremony's end -- was over. I'm extremely grateful to the Parsec organizers and judges for believing Sword of Blood was worthy of the honor, but am even more grateful to the Parsec audience, whose applause reminded me again of the epic, amazing power of fandom.

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Finally, the might of fandom was best represented for me personally by several meaningful one-on-one conversations with fans of my fiction, and especially by my sister Melissa. About a month ago, she told me she was getting a 7th Son-themed tattoo. I'm envious of my sis' willingness to ink her skin -- I'm not sure I could ever get a tat, though I desperately want one (of what, I have no clue) -- but tried to talk her out of this 7th Son tattoo business. She wouldn't listen.

I saw the tattoo in person this weekend. It's the mantra of my "mad hacker" character Kilroy2.0's faithful followers: I COMPLY.

I nearly cried, because there it was, again. The unstoppable might of love, and fandom.

--J.C.

"Personal Effects" Is Required Reading For College Course

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Color me gobsmacked: Personal Effects: Dark Art, the transmedia supernatural thriller novel I wrote with Jordan Weisman, is required reading for an English course at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The class is ENGL 376MM: World Building, and is taught by Zach Whalen, an assistant professor in the department of English, Linguistics and Communication. More on Whalen in a moment -- first, get a taste of what this class is all about:

Our goal will be to [explore] world building within the expressive practices supported by New Media technologies, and we will proceed by examining texts that imagine Virtual Reality technology or Alternate Worlds. The culmination of this will be to collaboratively design and deploy an Alternate Reality Game of our own.

Students are also required to become active bloggers during the course, build and describe a virtual world, and research -- and make a class presentation about -- a specific ARG campaign.

Dude, I so want to be in college again, just to take this class.

Dr. Whalen definitely has the chops to rock his students' socks: He teaches in the area of New Media Studies, and his research focuses on videogames. According to his website, he earned his Ph.D. "by completing a dissertation on the textuality of videogame typography. Also, in 2008, Vanderbilt University Press published Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games, the collection of essays I co-edited with Laurie N. Taylor."

His book looks awesome. I just bought it on Amazon.

Especially flattering is that Personal Effects is required alongside Neal Stephenson's classic, Snow Crash. (SC is one of my favorite novels.) Also on the reading list is the very insightful This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming by Dave Szulborski.

I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that my novel will be read in a college classroom -- but I'm absolutely jazzed by the news. I'm very proud of Personal Effects and the "out of book" experience we created for it, and am humbled Dr. Whalen felt it was worthy to include in his curriculum.

Most important, I'm delighted that teachers like Whalen understand the cultural significance of this emerging form of storytelling, are embracing it, and are sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with their students.

Pardon me. I must do the Snoopy dance now.

--J.C.

(A grateful shout goes to ARGNet's Michael Andersen for tipping me to this on Twitter!)

90 Seconds Of Pure Badassery

This is one of the coolest Hollywood action sequences I've seen in recent memory ... and it doesn't hail from Hollywood. Feast your peepers on this jaw-dropping 90 seconds from the Telugu-language film Magadheera. According to Wikipedia, the 2009 movie has the distinction of being "the costliest film produced in Telugu film industry." Budget: $7 million. Behold the badassery.

(via The Daily What)

--J.C.

Going To The Dentist

I went to the dentist today. For the first time in 20 years. I take no pride in this epic neglect, and am ashamed of the insidious fear that I somehow embraced years ago -- a fear that all but ensured I'd never sit in a dentist's chair again. I can't tell you when my pervasive fear of dentists began, or how it was formed. I can't tell you why the thought of someone examining my teeth eventually became far more than an uncomfortable one -- because for you, it's probably that: merely an uncomfortable thought and experience -- or why it detoured into a rat-toothed breed of to-the-marrow terror.

I can't provide you or myself a tidy "why," perhaps the most crucial element in conquering an irrational fear.

For the past 20 years, this phobia dictated my life. I told no one. I became its slave. As the years went on, my fear of dentists was compounded by the fear of what might be happening inside my mouth, and what would be discovered were I to be examined. I've lost count of the times I've started awake, slick with sweat, from nightmares of tooth loss. Fear heaped upon fear.

I ignored warning signs of tooth pain; cavities, most likely. And for more than a decade, my tongue probed an ever-growing wall of tartar behind my front lower teeth that became so hard and large, it completely covered those teeth and nearly all of the gum below. I could no longer feel the contours of my individual teeth. It was like pressing your tongue against a ceramic bowl.

This specific, tangible representation of my situation inspired more dread within me than anything else I've ever known.

My girlfriend and I are moving to Colorado in two weeks, and she made it clear that visiting her dentist before our departure was something very important to her. She booked an appointment for me. I resisted, and eventually confessed my secret fear to her. She was supremely supportive and sympathetic. And because she was so supportive, I didn't bail.

I wanted to. I haven't the words to adequately express how desperately I wanted to. On the drive this afternoon, I gripped the steering wheel so tightly, my knuckles burned white. I prayed for a flat tire. I was pulled taut, could barely speak; red-line adrenaline revved through my capillaries.

I wept when I climbed into the dentist chair. I wouldn't open my mouth when the technician wanted to do an x-ray. I shuddered and sputtered, sounding stupid as the dentist -- a delightful, patient, round-faced 30-year veteran of the business -- tried to speak with me.

They'd pull out every tooth in my head. I was absolutely certain of this. Behold my mouth, a cathedral of neglect. Behold the ruination. Behold my lower front teeth -- rotten, bleeding, crumbling brown things -- tumbling onto my lips as the technician scraped that smooth wall of tartar with a fishhook.

But as the dentist spoke clearly and constructively, demonstrating his expertise and depth of knowledge, the feral thing inside me began to hush. There were no monsters here. And as the dentist commented confidently that the dental issues I described were common (did you know that most folks experience tartar buildup on their lower front teeth? it's due to their proximity to several enthusiastic salivary glands), I realized there were no monsters inside my mouth either.

I did the math, made a leap of faith, and let go. Two hours later, my tongue could feel the individual contours of those bottom teeth again, finally. For me, this is nothing less than a miracle. The woman I love and a man I'd never met changed my life today. They helped me slay a secret, decades-old, scheming, slobbering personal fear.

There are a handful of manageable issues to deal with in the weeks ahead. It's easy stuff. Maintenance will also be easy. My choppers are in surprisingly good shape. And if they weren't -- if the news had been much worse -- I believe in my heart that I would have accepted and embraced this, and taken steps to make things right.

For in the end, I realized that my fears were absolutely real ... but the monster fueling them wasn't.

I share this story with you because I know that you too have a scheming, slobbering personal fear. There's a beast prowling in the confines of your head that has dominated you and your actions for years. We all have at least one; I have several.

Perhaps you're terrified to love someone. Or leave your shitty job, or shitty spouse. Or go to the doctor to diagnose that mysterious lump. Or start writing, singing, pursuing a passion or starting a business. The fear you're feeling is legitimate, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But the beast behind that fear may be a vapor, an engine powered by nothing more than decades of the worst kind of self-affirmation, and ignorance -- a fundamental lack of understanding.

I don't think you need to know the "why" to overcome this fear. I think you just need someone to believe in you: either a loved one, or yourself.

There are people in your life who believe in you. I believe in you. You can believe in you, too.

So come on, come with me. We're going to the dentist.

--J.C.

I'll Be At Dragon*Con!

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Later this week, I'll be in Atlanta for Dragon*Con, the largest assemblage of gloriously smart and socially-awkward life forms this side of the Delta Quadrant. I'll fit right in. I arrive in town on Thursday and am presently planning on staying until Sunday morning. (The late-night Sunday concert Celldweller is hosting may very well force my hand. We'll see.)

What's my schedule? It's nearly impossible to say. I'm attending this con as a fan, not as an author/podcasting Guest -- which means zero professional obligations, zero panels to speak on, zero projects to pimp, zero responsibilities. I'm a leaf on the wind ... though let's hope I fare better than Wash did.

My lone commitment is attending (and presenting two awards with Scott Sigler) at the 2010 Parsec Awards. I hear that event is on Saturday afternoon, but I could also be completely misinformed. A few of my works are Finalists in the Novel-Length and Novella fiction categories, and I wouldn't dare skip an opportunity to lose for the fourth consecutive year in person. :)

Aside from the Parsecs, I'll be wandering aimlessly with my sister (aka @alphasis), attending panels and probably hanging with podcaster types and listeners. If you're attending the con and want to connect, shoot me an email using the contact form here and we'll work something out. I absolutely want to see you, and make time to chat!

--J.C.

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

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Welcome to the new JCHutchins.net. After using the same WordPress theme for nearly three years, I decided to spruce up the place. Same content, new look. There's plenty of tweaks to make -- that's what happens when you move into a new home; you lose some stuff in transit -- but I'm pretty happy with how things look. If you're reading this post on my website, you'll notice that the right sidebar has been stripped down to nigh-wordless simplicity, but still features lots of content to explore. (My new mantra: "Less talk. More action.") There are also some easy ways to find posts, pages and the like.

On individual posts like this one, there's plenty of ways to share my content, too. Just click those fancy icons on the left to share the love. And take a look-see: up in the navbar, there's several ways to connect with me via other social sites.

And hey, since you're here: If you like what I do, click that RSS logo to subscribe to my blog feed. You can read my stuff as soon as I post it.

Now that I've built the sucker, it's time to give it a test drive. Let the tweaking begin!

--J.C.

Warren Ellis, Will Eisner, Gaiman, Wrightson, Grayson & Me

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As I pack for my upcoming move from Florida to Colorado, I'm discovering gobs of dusty items from Years Gone By, including newspaper and magazine articles I wrote as a features reporter. I recently unearthed a stack of Wizard magazines from the late 90s, stuff I wrote as an intern and freelancer for the publication (which covers the comic book industry). I recycled the magazines, but scanned some noteworthy stories to share with you here. In this PDF, you'll find an interesting look at the state of comics in 1998 and '99. Regrettably, I couldn't find the issue featuring my interview with Alan Moore -- but I was blessed indeed to speak at length with influential creators such as Warren Ellis, Will Eisner, Neil GaimanBernie Wrightson and Devin Grayson, whose stories you'll find here.

Talking to these folks was so cool. Ellis was as wily, depraved and effing brilliant as he is now. Eisner was a gentleman, absolutely worthy of the stratospheric regard in which so many creators hold him. Gaiman shared his love for Eisner's work in sublime ways. Wrightson was as down-to-earth and real as it gets. Grayson's enthusiasm for the craft was infectious. All were supremely patient with this then-twentysomething reporter as he bumbled through the interviews.

Writing for Wizard was one of the highlights of my entertainment journalism career. The writers and artists with whom I spoke were a Who's Who of the biggest and brightest names in the business then and now. I occasionally miss being a reporter -- particularly interviewing creative folks I admire, which happened daily when I worked with Wizard -- but am grateful to have met so many cool and ultracreative people during those years.

I hope you enjoy this peek into the work from my past profession, and get a kick out of these interviews.

--J.C.

Hug Club

The first rule of Hug Club: Tell everyone about Hug Club. The second rule of Hug Club: TELL EVERYONE ABOUT HUG CLUB.

And if this is your first night at Hug Club ... you HAVE to hug.

--J.C.

The "7th Son" Book Trailer That Almost Happened

Back in 2009, I schemed relentlessly on creating a video trailer to promote the October release of my thriller novel, 7th Son: Descent. I scoured stock footage sites such as iStockphoto for killer shots, and edited them into a very rough cut, intending to enlist a professional video editor to craft a final version once I'd purchased the footage.

Sadly, I did the math and discovered that my Hollywood-style book trailer would cost at least $1,300 to produce; this price didn't include time and effort. I regretfully abandoned the project to focus my increasingly-dwindling funds and creative resources on other promotional efforts.

I recently rediscovered the rough cut of that trailer on my hard drive, and thought I'd share it here. While this cut is far from the final version I'd hoped to realize, I think it presents a clear, if incomplete, blueprint of where I was going with the project.

Music for the video was created by Celldweller and remixed by Blue Stahli, with whom I have long and positive creative and promotional relationships. Learn more about Klayton and his brilliant music at Celldweller.com, and bret's work at BlueStahli.com.

I hope you enjoy this peek at a project that Never Came To Be, but was my labor of love for several weeks last year.

--J.C.

Note: All of the footage in this rough cut is clearly watermarked and low resolution (and visible for free on sites such as iStockphoto), so I don't believe there's a rights conflict here. I'm not monetarily profitting from the video's release in any way. If a copyright holder has an issue with this video's release, I'll dutifully remove it.