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.)
Yesterday, I released 7th Son: The Soundtrack, nearly 30 minutes of classical music inspired by my 7th Son technothriller trilogy. If you haven't already, you oughta take a listen.
The terrific music was composed by University of Rhode Island student Brandon Winrich, a talented young man who's set his eyes on someday creating musical scores for films, TV shows and video games. If his 7th Son music is any indication, Brandon won't have a problem finding work after graduation.
In addition to providing a recording of that evening's performance, Brandon gave me some incredible liner notes, packed with comments and artistic insights about the creation of 7th Son: The Soundtrack, all written by him. He was keen to share his creative commentary with my audience. I was happy to oblige, and designed a downloadable PDF for you.
A link to these liner notes is below. If you've ever wanted a behind-the-scenes peek at a composer's creative process, you should check it out.
Early last month, I traveled from my Denver home to Rhode Island to meet Brandon Winrich, a music composition major at the University of Rhode Island. It was the conclusion of a remarkable artistic journey for him, and was a life-changing day for me -- a day three years in the making. In 2008, Brandon contacted me, asking for permission to compose orchestral music inspired by my 7th Son sci-fi thriller novel trilogy. As a lifelong fan of classical music, I was humbled and delighted ... and I gave Brandon the green light without reservation.
The following year, Brandon composed and helped perform Movement 1: Descent, a 6:45 song inspired by the events in the first 7th Son novel. This was part of a project for his musical studies. In 2010, he paid similar homage to Deceit with another public performance. But this year, for his third and final 7th Son-inspired composition (and senior recital), Brandon emailed and asked if I might personally attend the live performance of movements 1 and 2 ... and a first-ever performance of Movement 3: Destruction. The trilogy of songs would be played by 10 musicians, and conducted by a URI graduate.
I booked the flight that night.
The audio file at the end of this post is a recording of that live performance. Click play, and you'll hear the work of a talented young man embarking on what can only be an incredibly successful artistic career. I am deeply touched and honored that anyone would be so inspired by my work to create something so compelling. I'm grateful Brandon allowed me to freely share this recording with you.
Here is a guide of the 7th Son Trilogy scenes Brandon re-created in this 25-minute performance. Note that movements -- each named after 7th Son novels -- are introduced by a long note played by horns ... the very hmmmmm "scene change" sound heard in the 7th Son podcast novels.
7th Son, Movement 1: Descent is comprised of 8 sections:
- "The president of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy."
- A Former Life
- Send in the Clones
- Descent / The Womb
- Contacting the Outside
- Following Alpha's Trail / "I Comply" / Hacking the CDC
- Showdown at Folie à Deux
- "It's Never Over"
7th Son, Movement 2: Deceit is comprised of 8 sections:
- John Alpha(s) and Special(k)
- Homecoming / To the Fallen
- Alert Status 1: Lockdown
- The Proto Womb
- Hack Back
- Prime Time
- Escape from Prophecy, Texas
- Wild Card / Tanker Chase / The Fifth Wheel
7th Son, Movement 3: Destruction is comprised of 12 sections:
- 760 United Nations Plaza
- The Cavalry Arrives
- A Fateful Ride
- The Life and Times of Kilroy 2.0
- Return to the 7th Son Facility
- Commotion in the Common Room / The Madman's March
- The Final Battle
- Epilogue – 6 months later
Tomorrow, I'll post a PDF of incredible liner notes, packed with comments and artistic insights written by Brandon himself. He was keen to share his creative commentary with you, and I am delighted to oblige.
Before I present the recording, I want to introduce you to the 10 musical performers of 7th Son: The Soundtrack. The musicians are URI students. The conductor is a URI alum. All are supremely talented.
- Geri Muller -- Flute, Piccolo
- Theresa Procopio -- Oboe, English Horn
- Brandon Winrich -- Clarinet
- Charles Larson -- Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
- Chelsea Anderson -- Trumpet
- Erin Dawson & Michael Rayner -- Trombone
- Benjamin Boisclair, Zachary Friedland & Christopher Vinciguerra -- Percussion
- Stephen Grueb -- Conductor
I hope you are as dazzled by this three-movement performance as I was. It's further proof that 7th Son fans remain the greatest fans in the world.
Today, I posted on Twitter, Facebook and Google+: Yo, I need YOUR help! I'm sniffing around for new things to listen to. What are your THREE FAVORITE podcasts? Hit me!
Here's what you said. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions!
- ElanaRoth -- Elana All of the How Stuff Works shows,
@neiltyson's Star Talk radio, and anything from Slate.
- PeterKelly82 -- 1) NPR: On The Media, 2) NPR: Planet Money, 3) NPR: Radiolab (I really like NPR)
- ONoesUDidnt -- 1) Functional Nerds 2) P2RTransmission, 3) SFSignal, 4) anyone who happens to be interviewing
@pascallangdale at the time
- Silvervale -- The Gearheart, Disasterpiece Theatre, and Sigler (the list is longer, and you used to top it, but you've kinda pod faded ;)) ...
@TeeMonster and @PhilippaJane are also strong contributors.
- rampantpanda -- 3 favorite podcasts: I Should Be Writing, Writing Excuses, and HPPodcraft.com
- trekkie -- SMODCast, Slice of SciFi, and Real time with bill maher
- griner -- These probably got mentioned, but I'm a big fan of Film Sack, Giant Bombcast, History of Rome, RadioLab & This Is Only a Test
- HoppingFun -- Was hoping to catch live show in LA, but must settle for podcasts:
- sophialoving -- top 3 podcasts: age of persuasion, spark and q with
- Tonamel -- Right now, mine are probably
@theshaftpodcast @allsongs and @nerdist
- elizasea -- citizen radio, qn, Star Talk with
- Mark_D_Harris -- Major Spoilers, Ihnatko Almanac, Macbreak Weekly.
- ZombieFarmer -- anything and everything by darker porjects and we're alive
sullybaby -- Nerdist, Adam Carolla, Skeptics Guide to the Universe.
- Jennifer Schooley Bengel -- I listen to two podcasts- Handel On The Law and Freakonomics.
- John Wilkerson -- Mac OS Ken, Get-It-Done Guys Quick and Dirty Tips, Security: Now!
- Matthew Wayne Selznick -- Studio 360, Selected Shorts, In Our Time
- Rob Suarez -- Old news but I am currently hooked on Decoder Ring Theater. Another really well produced audio drama series is Star Trek: Outpost from Giant Gnome Productions.
- Grant Baciocco -- THe Art of Wrestling Podcast. SOme great interviews and 'road stories' from pro wrestlers.
- Aaron Osgood -- Escape Pod
- Paul Pearson -- The Critical Myth Podcast, The Moral of the Story Podcast, TOFOP: Aussie comedy podcast.
- Chris Mc White -- Scott Sigler, WNYC Soundcheck and Harry Strange
- Jim Schmidt -- The only podcast I listen to any more is Mac OS Ken - well, that, and as much of NHK World News that will fit into my morning commute
- Blair Herzig -- All excellent Podiobook Novels free on itunes: 1. The Leviathan Chronicles 2. The Rookie 3. The Prophet of Panemindorah 4. Morevi 5. Shadowmagic 6. Murder at Avedon Hill
- Paul Knowles -- Leviathan Chronicles, 7th Son, Urban Shooter, ProArms, Traders Tales, Bigger on the Inside, anything by Scott Sigler or Tee Morris or Paul E. Cooley, JRR Tolkien, and more.
- Gabe Reed -- Mysterious Universe, Nature Podcast, TWiG
- Steve Pountney -- Other than you, Radio 5 Live F1 (UK), Mike Bennett, The Bellfaire Podcast, The Escape Pod
- Amanda Tikkanen -- Weird Things, Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and Coverville, and Skeptoid!
- Void Munashii -- (This is excluding Escape Artists podcasts) The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Weekly Geek (which is, sadly, ending soon), Planet Money
- Mike Anino -- Decoder Ring Theater, Thrilling Adventure Hour and Nerdist
- Jennifer Navarrete -- We're getting ready to kick off National Podcast Post Month on November 1st. 30 days of podcasting from folks around the globe. For now you might want to look at PsuedoPod (scarey) or PodCastle (fantasy).
- Chuck Schell -- Patrick E Mclean. How to succeed in evil.
- Daniel Schreiber -- Right now my three favorite podcasts are Risk, WTF with Marc Maron, and Radio Lab
- Marc Lombart -- My three: Slice of SciFi, Grammar Girl, and I Should be Writing.
- Tabitha Grace Smith -- I'm pretty sure you listen to This American Life, so: Radio Lab is one of my new favorites. Other than TAL and Radio Lab the only other podcasts I listen to are mine or IntroCasts.
- Dave Minkus -- Because I refuse to self-promote, I'll throw out anything that Leo Laporte does (my personal favorite is The Tech Guy), FilmJunk and GeeksOn.
- Anne-Marie Skjong-Nilsen -- SModcast, Tank Riot, and RISK atm (but I got a bunch more I love).
- Rev Chumley -- The adventures of Mike Detective, Air out my shorts, Superego
- Elizabeth Fracek Nalagan -- The Geologic Podcast, AstronomyCast, and Radio Free Burrito (and that Mr. Wheaton needs to do a new episode soon!).
- Barbara Jungbauer -- Escape Pod, that bald guy... Scott Sigler ... and cruise through podiobooks. Oh! Dan Carlin's Hardcore History and any other art of history ones I can find.
- Kris Johnson -- The Tobolowsky Files, Pulp Audio Weekly and The *mumble*mumble*mumble*.
- Vincent Hopwood -- The Gearheart, Toothless. If you don't love 'em both, I'll eat my Facebook page.
- Clinton Alvord -- Judge John Hodgman, Tech News Today, Bells in the Batfry
- Nicole Gugliucci -- Geologic Podcast, The Death Panel, Skeptics Guide to the Universe
- Jonathan Howell -- DrabbleCast, Tech News Today, Escape Pod
- John Miley -- Cowry Catchers, or The Starter, if you're looking for episodic fiction, StarShipSofa, for more of a fanzine
- Daniel Andrlik -- Writing excuses, Nerdist, The Bugle
- Seth Hanisek -- Read It And Weep - three funny guys talk about bad books, movies and TV, 99% Invisible - short, brilliant pieces telling the stories of design, Necessary & Sufficient - discussions about pairs of words (much cooler than that description)
- Chris Grant -- I Should Be Writing, Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, Writing Excuses, Adam Carolla has a great, non-writing podcast, too.
- Kevin Lovecraft -- hppodcraft, thehorror!, thescopeshow
- Jess Hartley -- The Splendid Table (cooking/food), Car Talk (nominally cars, but really humor), Pulp Gamer Out of Character (mostly tabletop/board/card games) - Caveat for the last one - I used to guest-host on a regular basis, so I'm biased.
- Scott Roche -- Currently Flash Pulp, Decorder Ring Theater and WNYC's Radio Lab.
- Ryan H -- Decoder Ring Theatre (modern versions of old-time radio), Quirks and Quarks (science show from Canada's public broadcaster), The New Yorker (authors appearing in the New Yorker reading stories that previously appeared in the magazine and inspired them)
- John Jennings -- Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Geologic Podcast, DrabbleCast
- Evan Lecklider -- Geek Friday, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Back to Work
- Nobilis Reed -- DrabbleCast, Dunesteef, Bedpost Confessions
- R Taylor -- Non-fiction: Geek Out! with Mainframe, Nutty Bites, Polyamory Weekly. Fiction: Trader's Tales, Podcastle, The Gearheart
- Tim Mills -- Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews
- Ben Gerber -- History of Rome, Radiolab, Smodcast
- Doak Williford -- Astronomy Cast, The Moth, Le Show
- David Jacobs -- Check this dude out. mouselink
- Christopher Morse -- Never Not Funny, Thrilling Adventure Hour, Walking the Room
- Maurice Singleton -- EscapePod, Clarksworld and Lightspeed are all good. I like Starship Sofa too, but its usually pretty long. For reviews of "genre" tv, movies & pop culture, try SliceOfSciFi.com. NPR's Planet Money and WSJ Tech News briefing are good quick hits also.
- Martyn Casserly -- Hatchet Job podcast, Thinking Allowed, Gamers With Jobs
- Richard Green -- View From Valhalla, Parsec winners and finalists, Decoder Ring Theatre
- Jared Axelrod -- "This American Life," "Planet Money" and "How Did This Get Made"
- murph nj -- No Agenda, The Linux Link Tech Show, The Tin Foil Hat Show.
- Jonathan Kift -- Drabblecast (weird fiction and hilarity), FIlmspotting (fun, unpretentious film criticism), The Dice Tower (best boardgaming podcast on the planet)
- Tobias Queen -- The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Metamor City Podcast, FETIDUS - The Foundation for the Ethical Treatment of the Innocently Damned, Undead and Supernatural, Jake Bible Audio Fiction, Guild of the Cowry Catchers
- David Risner -- Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Tech News Today
- Natalie Metzger -- Current favorites include: FourCast, Radio Lab, Geek A Week
- Chris Thompson -- Geologic x3
- Alan Smithee -- Too Beautiful To Live, The Grapes of Rad, Air-Raid Podcast
I had the great honor of presenting the keynote speech at ARGfest 2011 (Aug. 18-21), a convention that celebrates transmedia storytelling and gaming. I was humbled by the transmedia community's kindness and support.
During my presentation, I shared the important creative and business lessons I've learned during my 15 years a professional storyteller, and discussed a critical ingredient in becoming a creative professional -- something I call "getting to good."
In March 2010, my friend Lorelle VanFossen contacted me about a new project she and Kym Huynh (of WordCast) were creating: Stories of Our Journeys, an interview series dedicated to sharing a meaningful moment in a lifetime -- or a journey through that lifetime. Lorelle asked me if Kym could interview me for the program.
I was torn. Mere weeks prior, I'd learned that 7th Son's sequels would not be published by St. Martin's Press. I had announced I was leaving the Free podcast fiction space to pursue other creative opportunities. Was this the best time to chat about my writing career, and the professional decisions I'd made? I almost said no...
...and then remembered the deep respect I had for Lorelle, and that I absolutely trusted her. I agreed to the interview. It is now live, and included here in my podcast feed.
Now, months later, I remain delighted by this interview. Kym's questions were thoughtful and thorough, and so were my answers. It was a perfectly-timed convergence of his curiosity, and my willingness to honestly share my experiences, both good and bad.
If there's one interview of me you should hear -- to get the full story of my creative drive, my love of storytelling, my decision to join and leave the Free podcast fiction community, the promise and pitfalls of mainstream publishing and more -- this is it. I have never given such a forthright interview before this one, and doubt I ever will again.
I hope you find value and enjoyment in this recording, and earnestly encourage you to subscribe to Stories of Our Journeys.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have the unbelievable privilege to report that I have received the highest honor that can be bestowed by my home state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I am now a Kentucky Colonel. Yes, I can in fact put "Col. J.C. Hutchins" on my business cards. While you need not hail from the Bluegrass State to receive this supercool distinction (and true honor), I suspect most Kentuckians grow up hearing about the Colonels and maybe -- in their secret hearts -- quietly hope they might someday become a Colonel themselves. I certainly know I did. The title is an honorary one (it's the best deal ever -- it requires no duties, and carries no pay or compensation other than membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels), but is absolutely awesome.
How did this come to pass? Thank Jack Staples (left), a fan of my fiction. Jack secretly nominated me for this honor, which apparently survived the vetting process and was presented to Governor Steve Beshear for consideration. (Only Colonels can nominate others for commission; Jack himself is a Colonel.) Today, I received a package containing an 11"x17" certificate signed by Beshear and Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Also included was a hand-written note from Jack:
While no one can speak for the Governor as to why he writes a commission, I can tell you why I nominated you. It was for your selfless dedication to the people around you as you rose in the ranks of podcasting, as well as your contributions to the field of podcasting.
As I told Jack, I'm absolutely humbled that he believed anything I've done in the New Media space warranted such attention. The fact that this potboiler-writing (and pot-bellied!) wordherder was approved further stupefies me. :D
According to a document that accompanied the certificate, Kentucky Colonels are "Kentucky's ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world." This is very cool, but it's got me wondering: Does this mean I have to behave myself?
Unbelievably, I'm now in the company of Colonels such as Johnny Depp, Muhammed Ali, Elvis Presley, Winston Churchill, Whoopi Goldberg, Tiger Woods, Betty White, Babe Ruth and Pope John Paul II. I take greatest pleasure in knowing I have the same honorary Colonel-dom bestowed to Harland Sanders (the KFC colonel) and Tom Parker ("The Colonel," Elvis Presley's manager).
Personally, I'm hoping someone cooks up a fan-created "Novelist Version" of the Clue board game, if only so someone out there can someday say: "Colonel Hutchins in the Library with the Revolver!"
In all sincerity, I'm absolutely honored to be a Kentucky Colonel, and am especially grateful to Jack Staples for finding me worthy of nomination.
Call me Colonel,
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.
A few months back, I told you about how one of my favorite musicians, bret -- aka Blue Stahli -- gets it. Further evidence of the man's cleverness, creativity and marketing savvy? The video posted below.
Dig this: bret wanted to announce his remix contest in an interesting way (and, as he told me, "have an excuse to play with video stuff"). Behold what he created on a budget of $5, using an old jailbroken iPhone. He did all the editing, sound effects and musical score.
Truly badass stuff. Check it, and check the remix contest for his awesome song UltraNumb, which launches in mere days.
I'm honored and humbled by Publisher's Weekly recent review of 7th Son: Descent, which will be in bookstores next month... ---
7th Son: Descent J.C. Hutchins. St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99 paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-38437-1
Hutchins's debut SF thriller, the first in a trilogy, has the unusual distinction of starting life as a popular podcast. The fast pace set from the beginning serves the story well in audio or print, especially considering that most of the characters are clones of the same man. They're sent to find their “Alpha” after he rigs a proxy assassination of the president of the United States through stolen government technology capable of unleashing chaos everywhere. Hutchins successfully fleshes out each clone as a separate personality, from happy everyman John Smith to the priest who fears that, as a clone, he has no soul. Though there's not a lot for the hard SF crowd, thriller readers seeking edge-of-your-seat action flavored with conspiracy and futuristic tech will love every page. (Nov.)
I'm proud of my little book, and am absolutely thrilled PW dug it, too. And let's not forget why PW was able to review the novel in the first place: YOU.
For more than three years, you've cheered and challenged me creatively. I haven't the words to fully express my gratitude for all the love and support you've shown me … but know that it is reciprocated a hundred-fold. You inspire me.
If you know me, you know I'm a hardcore Celldweller fan, and a great supporter of Celldweller mastermind Klayton's work. For the past three years, I've used his killer music as the anthems for my podcasts, and I've talked him up something fierce, because I think he crafts music that is as brilliant as it is epic. Klayton runs a company called FiXT, which helps independent artists (often fellow electronica musicians) distribute their music to the masses. One of these artists is Blue Stahli, who is a stellar talent himself. His AntiSleep Vol. 1 album is packed with aggressive and awesome instrumental music, stuff I live to write by. Highly recommended.
Today, I purchased Blue Stahli's new single, ULTRAnumb ... and I was absolutely delighted by the email I received after I clicked the "buy" button:
Hi, this is bret from Blue Stahli. Just wanted to thank you for throwing down your hard earned coin on my brand-spankin' new single ULTRAnumb. i know there's much cooler stuff you could be spending your money on, like a feeder monkey, bedazzled cowboy hat, tub of whipped cream and a lifetime supply of rope licorice (but not for eating, if you catch my drift), so it's freakishly appreciated that you're supporting some music that you dig. More comin' atcha soon...
This, of course, was an automated email -- but it was an unexpected gesture, which I appreciated. When was the last time U2 thanked you for purchasing their most recent album? When was the last time James Patterson gave you a hat-tip for picking up the most recent Alex Cross novel? Did Joss Whedon zip you a grateful email when you snagged that copy of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog?
Blue Stahli and the FiXT crew get it. This email exceeded my expectations, and -- if only for a moment -- piped me full of warm and fuzzies, because the artist himself wanted me to know that I made a tangible difference by supporting his work, and that he appreciated it. It was a step beyond the expected. That's killer customer service, and it's something a great many of us -- myself included -- could learn from.
What are you doing to exceed expectations, either in your art, business or personal life? How are you delighting the world by giving a little more than is required?
I recently had the great pleasure to appear on Victor Cajiao's terrific program, the Typical Mac User Podcast, to chat about Personal Effects: Dark Art, new media, creativity, and how Apple products and software play mission-critical roles in my creative endeavors. Victor, TMUP contributor George Starcher and I had a blast.
Victor has generously provided me the audio from that interview, and I'm delighted to share it with you. I also heartily endorse Victor's world-class show, and hope that you -- regardless of if you're an Apple fanboy or a hard-core PC user -- check it out. And for the photographers in my audience, check out Victor's stellar Typical Shutterbug Podcast, too!
Last Tuesday, we had a helluva fun time watching Personal Effects: Dark Art ascend the sales charts during the day's liveblog event. To make things even more fun, I gave away six signed copies of the book. I've processed more than 100 qualifying entries from that day, and am thrilled to announce the six winners:
- Michelle Wolverton
- Daniel Rodriguez
- Jeffrey Conolly
- Donna Phillips
- David Taylor
- Doug from Geek Acres
Thanks to the more than 100 folks who participated in last Tuesday's giveaway! More ways to evangelize the novel (and score free books) are on the way...
The fan-created awesomeness keeps rolling in today. First, an amazing must-listen piece of orchestral music, and now a killer trailer crafted by German fan Merzmensch Kosmopol. Suspense ... spooky filmography ... shots of Dark Art's transmedia personal effects ... this has it all. You were born to hit play.