Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 010 -- Jackie Turnure

Jackie-2_170_170_s_cy_100_gra

Veteran transmedia producer Jackie Turnure (Fourth Wall Studios) joins J.C. and Steve in this jam-packed episode. Their discussion spans her past Alternate Reality Game projects for LOST, Flash Forward, Salt and more, and leads up to an in-depth conversation about Fourth Wall Studios’ just-released project, Dirty Work and their new transmedia platform, RIDES.

Jackie talks about what makes Dirty Work different, and the unique challenges that a transmedia entertainment studio faces.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 009 -- Brian Clark

brianclark_pttp-300x199.jpg

In this bonus episode, Brian Clark (GMD studios) defends his controversial assertion that “transmedia” has outlived its usefulness as a descriptive term for storytelling … and how refining the definition of this emerging breed of narrative will contribute to its long-term viability. Links mentioned in this episode:

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 008 -- Adrian Hon, Jim Babb & Mur Lafferty

Transient

Note: J.C.'s recent conversation with Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman was re-broadcast at the StoryForward site as episode 007 of that show. This explains the "missing" 007 episode of StoryForward in J.C.'s podcast feed -- it was already published.

In a special roundtable discussion, Mur LaffertyAdrian Hon (Six to Start) and Jim Babb (Awkward Hug) join hosts J.C. Hutchins and Steve Peters as they talk about their recent Kickstarter campaigns.

If you’re in the midst of, or thinking about, starting a Kickstarter campaign for your creative project, you won’t want to miss this episode. Best practices and great advice abound!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Comment

J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 006 -- Jay Ferguson & Kate Sullivan

Transient

In this jumbo-sized episode, hosts J.C Hutchins and Steve Peters spend some quality time with Jay Ferguson, the creator of the interactive thriller Guidestones, and Kate Sullivan of Candlemark & Gleam.

Jay talks about his recent real-time webseries Guidestones, and Kate and J.C. talk about how transmedia is affecting new models of publishing.

Links from this show:

Podcast: Interview with Jordan Weisman, on "Shadowrun Returns"

weisman

Today, J.C. brings you an exclusive interview with legendary transmedia creator and game designer Jordan Weisman. In his first audio interview on the topic, Jordan shares the news about a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development and release of Shadowrun Returns, a videogame that will bring players back to the ultra-imaginative RPG world of Shadowrun. Longtime players of paper-and-pen role playing games know Shadowrun well; in fact, the near future tech-meets-magic RPG setting remains a beloved storyworld for many gaming enthusiasts.

Here, Jordan shares stories about the beginnings of his RPG company FASA, the creation of Shadowrun in the 1980s, and the opportunity to "Kickstart" a new tablet & PC video game set in the Shadowrun world. Along the way, he describes the game itself, and the nuanced, multi-faceted play it will deliver.

It's a terrific talk with a true ultracreative in the transmedia and game industries, and a chance to support the creation of a cool story-driven video game!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Upcoming Presentations & Conferences!

I've been a busy bee this week, finalizing travel plans to several transmedia/game conferences in the upcoming weeks. Now that these engagements have been booked, I can share the news with you!

Multi-PlatFORUM 2012

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada March 27-28

Multi-PlatFORUM is a two-day networking and professional development event focusing on digital content creation from both creative and business perspectives. I'll be speaking about how transmedia storytelling can help companies achieve their financial and marketing objectives. I may also be on a multi-guest panel discussing transmedia.

Transmedia, Hollywood 3

Los Angeles, California April 6

Transmedia, Hollywood is a one-day public symposium exploring the role of transmedia franchises in today's entertainment industries. Academics and practitioners converge to share insights and best practices. I'll be an attendee.

PAX East

Boston, Massachusetts April 7

This legendary east coast convention is dedicated exclusively for gaming, created by the folks at Penny Arcade. I'll be speaking with transmedia superstars Jan Libby and Marie Lamb in a presentation called "Transmedia, Alternate Reality Games and Storytelling -- Why Players (and Creators) Should Care." We'll examine past attempts to expand game worlds beyond the screen, discuss what worked and what didn’t, and ponder the future of this kind of storytelling.

If you're attending any of these fine events, please come see me and say hi!

--J.C.

 

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 005 -- Christy Dena & Tom Salamon

Transient

Hosts Steve Peters and J.C. Hutchins talk with Tom Salamon, the co-creator and writer of Accomplice, an ongoing live action/transmedia show with performances in New York, Los Angeles and London.

Also in this episode, J.C. talks with Christy Dena about the perception of value of artists who work in several media.

Links from this show:

Podcast: Interview with Kate Sullivan, of Candlemark & Gleam

Constellation-Games-Final-201x300.jpg

Today, J.C. chats with Kate Sullivan, the mastermind of indie digital publisher Candlemark & Gleam. The company, which has been publishing books since 2010, pioneers the emerging digital publishing space, and often experiments with promotion and distribution. In this conversation, Kate shares the story behind Candlemark & Gleam, and dives deep on the innovative business and distribution model fueling the recent release of C&G's latest title Constellation Games, a sci-fi comedy novel written by Leonard Richardson.

It's a fun and fascinating look at the publishing marketplace, and how indie publishers are uniquely poised to move fast, bet smart, and win big.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 004 -- Michel Reilhac

3896387916_8bc61cbeae-199x300.jpg

Hosts Steve Peters and J.C. Hutchins have a fascinating chat with Michel Reilhac, who is the Executive Director of Arte France Cinéma and Director of Film Acquisitions for ARTE France. A passionate evangelist of Transmedia Storytelling, Michel shares his experiences pitching and producing projects in Europe, and talks about the changing transmedia landscape there. Links from this show:

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 003 -- Joe Lidster

photo-300x279.jpg

In this special episode of StoryForward, co-host Steve Peters talks with Joe Lidster, a television writer best known for his work on Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and most recently, the online story content for the BBC series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

They talk about the unique process behind the TV show, which, in true transmedia storytelling fashion, simultaneously spans your television screen, multiple websites and more.

Podcast: Interview with Josh Viola, Creator of "The Bane of Yoto"

yoto-posters-213x300.jpg

J.C. chats with his friend Josh Viola, writer and creator of The Bane of Yoto, a compelling science-fiction / fantasy mashup narrative that's currently unfolding on mobile devices as a free downloadable app. In this conversation, Josh describes the creative roots of the Yoto storyworld, and its fascinating journey from novel to multimedia iOS app.

If you're keen to learn how independent creators are taking advantage of emerging technologies such as the iPad to tell compelling never-before-seen stories, this episode is a must-listen.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Best. Infographic. Ever.

The most epic infographic in the history of the multiverse, created by ultracool transmedia pro Carrie Cutforth-Young, quoting a grumpy tweet I made today about infographics. (Click the image for a larger version.)

Creator Spotlight: Narrative Designer Jonathon Myers & "Sleepwalking Backward"

JonathonMyers-300x224.jpg

I've been keen to contribute my storytelling skills to the video game industry for more than a year now, and during that time, I've met some incredibly talented folks in the business. One of them is narrative designer Jonathon Myers. Jonathon hails from a play- and screenwriting background, and presently works for Zynga Boston, as a Game Writer for its Indiana Jones Adventure World Facebook game.

I recently learned that Jonathon had participated in this year's Global Game Jam, a worldwide celebration of video game creation. There, participants are given only a weekend to make a working video game based on a specific theme. It's truly inspiring stuff, as is Jonathon's co-creation (called Sleepwalking Backward), which you'll soon learn about in this Creator Spotlight.

If you're interested in video games or storytelling, consider this conversation with Jonathon Myers a must-read. A special thanks to Jonathon for making the time to chat!

--J.C.

~ ~ ~

J.C. HUTCHINS: Before we dig into Sleepwalking Backward, let's talk about your love of video games and game writing. What games, or game narratives, have made an impact on you over the years?

JONATHON MYERS: When I was young I loved the Zelda games and other titles that enabled me to feel like I was the hero of my own adventure story. And yet, something about those early NES games and RPGs like Final Fantasy were different in their story delivery when compared to novels or comics or movies. The interactivity and immersion better enabled me to pretend I was a participating character in a fictional world. As the story unfolded, I became an agent of action that had an effect on the world and a control over the outcomes.

Much later, I began to encounter games that focused directly on the power and possibilities of an interactive narrative experience. I played Passage by Jason Rohrer. In less than five minutes, I had a profound emotional experience from a very simple game. It enabled me to exist inside a simple sequence of events while my imagination pieced together a story during structured play.

While playing BioShock, I experienced a recognition and reversal as the protagonist of a classical story arc. I discovered that basic storytelling techniques could be applied to video game storytelling in refreshing, innovative ways.

HUTCHINS: What lessons from those experiences have you brought to your writing at Zynga and the Global Game Jam?

MYERS: Good interactive narrative is about the player’s experience of the story during gameplay. Good game stories seldom come from a writer or a designer first developing and then narrating a story to the player. It’s about the player having agency within the constraints and conventions of a gameplay system. Events are not told, or even shown. Events are available for player experience and events are accomplished by the player. Story is what happens inside the player when those events are encountered during gameplay.

Indiana-Jones-Adventure-World-Logo-300x128.png

That is the challenge of being an interactive narrative designer and writing for games. Not only are you working with at team to implement stories, but the system will often determine a large portion of the experience before you write one word. You must come to understand the gameplay system and ensure that any narrative elements are not at odds with the experience of that system.

For example, my writing at Zynga Boston on Indiana Jones Adventure World is episodic, and even inside those episodes it usually displays in strings of 123 characters or less. Story nuggets and events are encountered by the player in bits and pieces for a few minutes here, a few minutes there, some today, some tomorrow, some next week. For a piecemeal experience like that, if you attempt a big story in which one moment is dependent on the previous moment for a long string of events -- well, it just won’t work. The attention span isn’t there, because if someone plays a little bit every day or every other day for a couple weeks, there’s not much potential for that player to remember what started the story or what happened that long ago.

We (the design team and I) now try to think of very simple and non-subtle information delivery opportunities that fit this system. We try to use repetitive elements in short term episodes that release weekly or bi-weekly, like serialized content. We embrace our adventure genre roots and the system of our platform. I study the old Flash Gordon Sunday comic strips and the characterization in daily comic strips because their efficiency in keeping simple and to the point is an ideal parallel.

When I’m fortunate enough to be part of something in which the narrative matters or in which people care about quality writing, then I must always recognize that I am only one part in a larger whole that is developing a player experience. I look back to the games and interactive story experiences I loved. I recall that the most exciting aspect of player story experience is portrayal of an agent of action in a fictional universe of gameplay. Many of the writing basics still apply, re: character, conflict, goals, obstacles, etc. However, you’re in trouble as a game writer the moment you forget that the end goal is an experience over which you have only indirect control.

There is a fine line, though. Does this mean we need to always tell hero stories that feed an inner fantasy? Do we always need a narrative experience to be uplifting, enjoyable, and triumphant? I don’t think so, and that’s where we enter the lesser explored territory. I often like to explore that territory whenever I get an opportunity to work on something as a non-commercial side project.

HUTCHINS: On to Sleepwalking Backward. Tell us what it's about, and what experience you and your Global Game Jam team were trying to create with the game.

MYERS: We wanted to make a game for the Commodore 64 in one weekend and that was our start. We all liked the idea of using constraints in order to push ourselves creatively. As we began, it was clear that we wanted to provide an emotional experience in the simplest way possible.

The simplicity of the narrative came out of the simplicity of our mechanics. It would take too long to have gameplay that was more than controlling a player character to push squares and move from room to room. We envisioned that each room would include an image that the player would piece together. We were slightly bound by the Global Game Jam theme and interpreted it as a backwards yet ever-present cycle, like walking up the down escalator.

screenshot7_1-300x192.png

As designer/writer, I drew initial inspiration from a haunting song I had heard several times, Somebody That I Used to Know by Goyte. It was apparent by that point that our game would have a narrative focus and we were all interested in exploring something dark and moody. We explored our own processes while constantly checking in as a team to retain a unified vision. This guaranteed that the text, display, music, art, and mechanics would work in harmony.

A framework emerged that focused on a male player character moving backwards through the memories of a past relationship. The memories became naturally related to the images in the rooms. The gameplay exertion of into putting pieces back together led to the deeper narrative exploration. Given that narrative starting point, the system of action seemed to denote a denial and a need to fix something that had broken at some point in the past.

I won’t go beyond that because I don’t want to spoil the experience or provide a specific interpretation of events. The story is only in the player experience and ultimately it’s up to them to decide exactly what has occurred and what it means to them.

HUTCHINS: Tell us about the creative challenges the Global Game Jam presents to participants, and how you and your team overcame them.

Left to right: Arshan Gailus (Music), Elliott Mitchell (Art), Ethan Fenn (Programming), Gregory Kinneman (Programming), Jonathon Myers (Design and Writing), and (not pictured) Courtney Stanton (Producer).
Left to right: Arshan Gailus (Music), Elliott Mitchell (Art), Ethan Fenn (Programming), Gregory Kinneman (Programming), Jonathon Myers (Design and Writing), and (not pictured) Courtney Stanton (Producer).

MYERS: From meeting up and pitching ideas, to forming a team and completing a game, participants have less than 48 hours to accomplish their goals. So time is the biggest challenge. You can’t really think too much about decisions, you just have to stay focused and trust your instincts.

Good team communication also became a major factor while working within the time constraint. We used Google Docs and regular check-ins to gauge our progress. We had the good fortune of working with site producer Courtney Stanton, who consistently kept us on track and reflected back to us our scope and the consequences of our decision-making. If we suddenly recognized we didn’t have time for a feature or idea, we immediately readjusted and scaled back.

It would take another full blog post to explain the obstacles we specifically faced in making a Commodore 64 game! Two of my teammates have already written and posted on that, as you can see below.

HUTCHINS: If we wanted to learn more about the game and your work, where should we go online?

MYERS: You can see our Global Game Jam page to get some immediate information, a Commodore 64 disk image and a link to the playable game. The game itself is hosted and playable here on the site of our musician, Arshan Gailus. It only takes about 2-3 minutes to play. If you’re interested in our process and the constraints of making a C64 game, check out these postmortem blog posts by our programmer Ethan Fenn and our artist Elliott Mitchell. While I’m at it, I’d like to give a shout-out to teammate Greg Kinneman. His programming, QA, and feedback on the narrative were crucial to the success of the project.

If folks want to know more about what I do, they can check out my portfolio site here.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 002 -- Mike Monello

StoryForward_Logo-300x300.jpg

In this episode, Campfire partner and Chief Creative Officer Mike Monello gives us a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Blair Witch mythology and how to navigate the fine line between creative storytelling, marketing and clients. He also discusses "Dark Score Stories," Campfire's transmedia campaign that supported the release of Stephen King's Bag of Bones. Links from this show:

Tell us what you think of the show by giving co-host Steve Peters and I a shout at info at storyworldpodcast dot com!

Coming Soon

Coming soon, exclusively in ebook format, to online retailers near you. :)

I might redesign the covers before they hit the marketplace, but I think these are final. :)

--J.C.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 001 - Jan Libby and Snow Town

StoryForward_Logo-300x300.jpg

In this special episode of StoryForward, co-host J.C. Hutchins chats with transmedia storyteller Jan Libby about her creative career, and her latest project, Snow Town.

Links from this show:

Tell us what you think of the show by giving co-host Steve Peters and I a shout at info at storyworldpodcast dot com!

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 000 -- Interview with Thomas Dolby

Transient

Hey, everybody! After a long hiatus from regular podcasting, I'm back to the digital airwaves as co-host of the ARGNetcast, a show that covers the transmedia storytelling space. I'll be posting episodes of that show here in my podcast feed (unless folks pipe up and tell me not to). Tell me what you think of the show by giving co-host Steve Peters and I a shout at info at storyworldpodcast dot com! Now, on to the episode's show notes!

On this show, singer/songwriter Thomas Dolby joins hosts Steve Peters and JC Hutchins, as they discuss Science, pushing creativity forward through technology, and the unique game project he co-created for his latest album, The Map of the Floating City.

Links from this show:

Creator Spotlight: Novelist Jonathan Maberry & "Dead of Night"

DeadOfNight_Cover-202x300.jpg

Few writers have captured my imagination the way Jonathan Maberry has. His Joe Ledger novel series -- which chronicles the adventures of the "Department of Military Sciences," a secret government rapid response team that handles horrific technology-created terrors -- has entertained and inspired me in countless ways. Maberry's horror fiction always bets big, the stakes are always high, and the payoffs always rock your socks. This dude can write.

When Maberry recently gave me a shout, eager to tell me (and you!) about his latest novel Dead of Night, I leaned in and listened good. I've never been much of a zombie fiction guy, but Maberry's zombie fiction is smarter, meatier -- and sometimes, just plain meaner -- than most zombie stories out there.  Maberry delivered the goods in his 2009 novel Patient Zero ... and he's done it again with Dead of Night.

This is a helluva good read -- so good, in fact, that I asked Maberry if I might share an excerpt of it here via my blog. Maberry did me one better: He not only hooked us up with an excerpt; he agreed to an author Q&A, and tossed in access to seven Dead of Night bonus scenes.  Hot damn, it's Christmas all over again!

Maberry has been one of my favorite storytellers for years now, and Dead of Night didn't disappoint. Let's dig into my Q&A with Maberry, and afterward, I'll provide links to that PDF excerpt of Dead of Night and a link to bonus material!

~ ~ ~

J.C. HUTCHINS: We all have a scary memory from our youth. What's one of the scariest things you recall from your childhood? Has it directly influenced your work?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I grew up in a fairly violent and abusive household, so just waking up was scary and coming home from school was scary.  Two things happened as a result. First, I began studying martial arts with a friend and his dad –and later in one of Philadelphia’s major dojos -- which made me tough enough to survive and ultimately escape that environment.  And second, I escaped into my imagination -- and in that world the ‘monsters’ could be defeated.  Both of those informed my whole life, my outlook, and certainly what I write.

People often ask me why I write about monsters, and I tell them that I don’t.  I write about people who overcome monsters. Big difference.

HUTCHINS: I'm head over heels for your Joe Ledger novels and Dead of Night. One reason is because you infuse elements of other genres into your horror fiction. What are some of those genres, and why do you enjoy bringing them into the mix?

MABERRY: I’m a total science geek.  I love cool science and freaky science and totally weird science.  So, pretty much anything I write is going to have some kind of science back-story.  That’s actually how I came to write both the Joe Ledger series and my my latest novel, Dead of Night.

Maberry-BookSigning-300x225.jpg

Back in 2008 I was approached by a publisher to write a nonfiction book on zombies.  This was a couple of years after Max Brooks lit the world on fire with the Zombie Survival Guide.  There weren’t too make nonfic zombie books out there apart from either books on zombie movies or attempts to rip-off Max.  I had no interest in doing either, so I told the publisher that I’d like to write a zombie book with some hard-core science in it.  Since one of my other loves is forensic science, I pitched Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. I interviewed over 250 experts in a variety of fields (police, science, medicine, the clergy, the press, psychologists, etc.) on how the real world would genuinely react if something like Night of the Living Dead actually happened. Not one person turned me down for an interview, and I’m talking Homeland Security, SWAT teams, award-winning journalists, celebrities and even priest, pastors and rabbis.  Every single one of them already had some sort of opinion about zombies.  Crazy, right?

So I wrote the book and it’s been a big seller for me all over the world.

Now, while researching and writing the science chapters, I cooked up a pretty reasonable -- if scary -- scenario for a zombie plague. That sparked the thought: “What would happen if this science was 100% real?  Who would be likely to misuse it?”  That fast I had the idea of terrorists using a weaponized zombie plague.  The 2009 novel Patient Zero was the result, which kicked off the Joe Ledger series.  Granted, only the first book in that series deals with zombies, but the book has a big audience.  It gave me a real taste for zombie fiction.

After Patient Zero hit it big, that publisher (St. Martin’s) asked me if I had any ideas for a standalone zombie novel.  I did, because I kept researching the science (being the geek I am) and I cooked up an entirely different and even MORE plausible scientific explanation for zombies. That book became Dead of Night, and everyone’s been telling me that it’s my best novel so far.

HUTCHINS: Way back in 2010, you wrote the novelization of the movie The Wolfman. I've got a lot of love for that movie. I've also been curious about the adaptation process. What writing challenges did you experience adapting The Wolfman to novel format? Was there anything that was unexpectedly easy about the process?

MABERRY:  I was contacted directly by a vice president at Universal Pictures and offered the gig.  I did not get to see the movie, however, until a week after the book came out.  I worked from the original script by David Self.  I was asked to turn in the completed novel in eight weeks, which is pretty fast.  It was the fastest I’d written a book.  Of course, it was also a shorter novel than my previous books.  Ghost Road Blues was my shortest previous novel, but at 140,000 words it was fifty-five thousand words longer than The Wolfman.

To write the book, I first read the script through end to end without making notes.  I read it to appreciate the story, the characters, the writing, the dialogue and the pace. Then I re-read and made notes on things I needed to research and things I wanted to include.  Ideas occurred to me during the first two read-throughs and made a bunch of notes on themes, character traits and motifs.

After that I pulled out a scene and did a draft to get a feel of the voice.  Understand, I never got to see the film.  I was working entirely off of the script, a movie trailer and a handful of early production sketches.  So, I had no idea how the actors would interpret the lines or how the director would be crafting mood through camera angles, lighting, etc.

When I asked Universal how they wanted me to approach the writing, they said to make it my own.   I took them at their word, and when I sat down to write I was determined to write the best novel I could.  Understand, I wasn’t trying to novelize a movie script, I was writing a novel.  I wrote it so that people would enjoy reading it.

One of the challenges to adapting a novel is the fact that a line of script might translate to pages and pages of story.  For example, in the first draft of the script I read there was a scene of the moon rising above some ancient standing stones.  The script describes a visual and that’s it.  I took that and built a motif of the moon as a predatory goddess of the hunt, and echoed that through the story.

HUTCHINS: You've written for Marvel Comics titles such as Black Panther. Totally frickin' awesome. Were you a fan of the genre before you started working with Marvel? It's a highly collaborative medium; as a prose author who often flies solo, was that a challenging adjustment?

MABERRY: I grew up with Marvel Comics.  I remember going into a store to but my first comic book ... Fantastic Four #66.  Brand spanking new.  I was hooked from the jump, and I collected comics up until around 1990.  Then I stopped for a while; but when Marvel’s editor-in-chief Axel Alonso reached out and asked me if I wanted to write for them, I started right back up again.  Now I sink a bunch of bucks every week at the comic book store.

The process of adjustment was interesting.  Writing novels is a very solitary process. It’s just you.  Comics are different, and the process is faster.  With comics it starts with a pitch to an editor, which comes with some discussion and idea-swapping.  Then the writer does the script and dribbles it back to the editor, who often has notes.  That’s a process.  Then the artist gets the script and roughs it out.  The editor gives him notes and lets the writer see the pencil sketches. After more edits, the artist does the finished pencils, then an inker steps in.  And then the letterer.  It’s complicated and there are a million emails firing back and forth.  So, to make it work you have to learn how to play with the whole team, and to allow each member of the team to have an equal voice.

The biggest challenge for me was to write less and allow the art to say more.  Novels are all about words, and even though writers do the comic book script first, at the end of the day the comic is a visual medium.  Visuals tell the story.

HUTCHINS: I'm always interested in learning what entertainment my favorite creators consume. What creative content -- be it music, TV, books, film, games, etc. -- is really ringing your bell these days, and why?

MABERRY: I have pretty eclectic tastes.  I’m a huge fan of Dexter.  I’ve spoken with Jeff Lindsay, the author of the books, and I’ve been a fan of both the print and TV versions of Dexter.  This season ended with a mind-blowing finale that actually had me screaming at the TV.  I also fell in love with Homeland.  What a first season!  But I dig a bunch of other shows, like Modern Family, Parenthood, Doctor Who, Being Human, Primeval, Luther, Torchwood, Sherlock, and a very small group of reality shows -- Cake Boss, No Reservations, America's Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance.

As for games ... I’m in awe of anyone who can negotiate today’s modern video games. I apparently lack the gene. Snood taxes my upper range of skill.

I’m digging this season’s crop of movies.  Loved Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes, War Horse, The Descendants and We Bought a Zoo. And I have really high hopes for upcoming flicks like Prometheus, The Hobbit, Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man, Superman and The Avengers.

My relationship with books is obscene.  I buy so many -- in print and for my e-reader. All genres, too.  Crime novels, thrillers, horror, westerns, literary, mainstream, fantasy, Steampunk ... I’m all over the place.  Because of being on the road so much with book tours and convention appearances, I’ve mostly been listening to audiobooks.  And ... yes ... I’ve listened to all of my own books on disk. It’s weird, because I don’t always remember writing some of what I hear.  That’s fun.

~ ~ ~

What an incredible Q&A, eh? Maberry's the MAN. Now, on to these free reads.

If you like what you read -- and I'm certain you will -- take the plunge and purchase a copy of Dead of Night via Amazon or another terrific retailer. Enjoy!

--J.C.

Guest Post: A Message from Author Bill DeSmedt

desmedt_grey

Hey, everybody! During my new media travels over the past five years, I've met a lot of terrifically talented and kindhearted folk ... but few are as classy and clever as author Bill DeSmedt. I've known him since 2006, when we were both releasing our science fiction novels as free serialized audiobooks over at Podiobooks.com. Bill has some terrific news to share about his book Singularity, and I've given him the stage to tell you all about it. I hope you're as delighted by this news as I am. Take it away, Bill!

--J.C.

~ ~ ~

Thanks very much, Hutch, for the virtual soapbox. And thanks as well to all you Beta-clones for lending a virtual ear to what I hope is some exciting news.

singularity_photo_150

But first, perhaps an introduction is in order -- an introduction not to me, but to my book. Some of you who first encountered Hutch's 7th Son on the Podiobooks website may have lingered to give a listen to the podcast of Singularity by yours truly. But in case you missed it there, Singularity is an award-winning science thriller that kicks off with the most violent cosmic collision in recorded history -- and keeps right on building suspense with what Kevin J. Anderson calls "convincing research and locomotive pacing."

The collision in question was the Tunguska Event of 1908 -- a multi-megaton explosion that flash-incinerated a swath of Siberian forest twice the size of Greater New York in a blast felt a thousand miles away, yet left behind no crater, no fragments, not a shred of hard evidence as to what might have caused it.

Of all the explanations offered in the century or so since the Event, surely one of the weirdest is that the culprit was a submicroscopic primordial black hole -- smaller than an atom, heavier than a mountain, older than the stars.

Cool, no? But there's just one little hitch: A black hole that small and that dense should have cut through the solid body of the earth like the sun through morning mist and rocketed out the other side of the globe, wreaking as much devastation on leaving as it did on arrival. The failure to find any sign of such an "exit event" tolled a death knell for the black hole impact theory...

...or did it? What if the damned thing went in -- and never came out? What if that fantastic object is still down there, hurtling round and round through the Earth's mantle, slowly consuming the planet itself? What if you could capture it, and harness its awesome continuum-warping power to transform the world -- or end it?

That’s how Singularity starts out. As to finding out where it all ends up, that's where the good news I mentioned at the outset comes in.

Because as of today Singularity is available as an ebook, right here.

I hope you'll take a moment to check out what Larry Niven has called "a wonderful, intricate story, wonderfully well told."

--Bill