Ultracreatives Interview #17: Mur Lafferty

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After an unexpected -- and shame on him, unnannounced -- micro-hiatus, J.C. Hutchins is back with a new UltraCreatives interview. This episode features the triumphant return of author and podcaster Mur Lafferty. There have been some tremendous developments in Mur's career since she last appeared on the show back in February. J.C. and Mur discuss her novel Playing for Keeps, and how it was recently purchased by indie publisher Swarm Press for mainstream release. Mur also chats about the reactivation of her "Stories of the Third Wave" podcast, her ambition to rush the Amazon.com charts on August 25 and much more. It's a fun, fascinating interview.

Find Mur Lafferty on the World Wide Everywhere:

In the intro to this episode, J.C. also explains just where the hell he's been for the past three weeks, what commitments have kept him from releasing 7th Son: OBSIDIAN content, and when that content will return to the feed. (Hint: It's goddamned soon.)

As promised, here are links to some important sites (including MINE, J.C.'s new pop culture blog project) and some writing he's done in recent weeks.

Help spread the MINE meme!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently debuted a new and ambitious social media project. It's called MINE, and it's a hearty helping of pop culture goodness, designed to delight. If you dig what I'm doing over at MINE -- or just want to show some support for my creative endeavors -- you would rock my little world by posting one of these spiffy MINE Headline Widgets seen below (or here if you're catching this on an RSS reader) on your blog, website, Myspace, Facebook page, etc. Simply click the "Get Widget" tab at the bottom of one of these cheerful guys, snag the embed code (or follow the easy instructions to send to your favorite social media profiles), and tah-dahhh! post it in your webspace!

Like my podcast fiction projects, MINE is a zero-budget endeavor, and depends greatly on word of mouth to become successful. I'd appreciate any help you could provide me and my team of volunteer MINERS in getting the word out. It's another way to make MINE yours.

Pop Rocks!

--J.C.

What is MINE? MINE is yours.

I've been tweeting it up a storm for the past week, sharing the news with personal friends, and even gave it a nod in a recent blog post, but it's high time I told you good folks about my new social media project, MINE. MINE is "your one-stop shop for entertainment news, crazy rumors, Internet memes, whimsical news bites, music, gossip … you name it. We’ve amassed a small army of savvy, slightly-snarky writers — we call them 'MINERS' — dedicated to extracting the most fun and interesting stuff from the webscape."

I wrote that copy over at the MINE site (and there's more where that came from), and it truly represents my vision for the project. In a lot of ways, it's my take on what a pop culture blog should be: always fun, a smidgen smartass, not too geeky, nearly always useful or memorable, and never cruel. For me, MINE is a celebration of bubblegum conversation -- it's intended to remind you of the friends you had in high school or college (or if you're older and lucky, the pals you have now), sitting in a creaky vinyl horseshoe booth at Denny's, sharing fun stories and information as the clock ticked past midnight.

While the site has been live for only a week, there are already more than 100 stories in the MINE archives, merrily waiting to be consumed. The site is already ranking high in Google searches, and folks are linking back to our stories. Not bad for a newborn.

MINE is a sister site to Myxer.com (my employer), and represents a progressive experiment in brand- and community-building. I won't bore you with the details, but I created MINE with not only the users of that site in mind, but the entire online community, as well. We want to entertain as many people as we can, including you. If we're worthy, we'd like you to tell your friends about us, re-blog, re-tweet and circulate our stories ... and of course, come back for more. (We'd also really like it if you subscribed. It's convenient! :) )

While MINE will sometimes promote noteworthy Myxer.com content, it was not created to be a 24/7 shill-fest for the company. If I have a say -- and I do, I'm running the show with minimal editorial oversight -- it'll never be that. In a way, MINE is mine ... but more important, MINE is yours.

I say "MINE is yours," and I mean it. Part of the fun of a blog like MINE is user-contributed story tips. We have a place for that at the site, and I'd be delighted if you submit cool links for coverage. Commenting on the blog is open, and encouraged. The most-popular stories and recent reader comments are displayed on every page. Down the road, there'll be contests and opportunities to share your own creative content on the site; I'm taking the very best lessons from my experience building the awe-inspiring community here at JCHutchins.net, and incorporating them into MINE.

MINE is also yours in that I'm not the star of the show. You are, and people just like you. I've gathered a cadre of extremely talented volunteer contributors from the ranks of Twitter and the new media communities, including:

MINE's coverage is currently 90-plus percent "didja see this?" content -- meaning it's a link blog, providing a MINE-fueled perspective on the fun things we've found on the 'Net. But there is original editorial content at MINE, and it's terrific: we have Mur Lafferty's Geekgasm!, Jared Axelrod's excellent comic book essay series The Millennium Canon, "Indiana" Jim Perry's ultra-useful DVD Date Night, and original reviews (such as my recent critique of the new Lost Boys sequel). More original series are planned, including beer reviews and more columns by brilliant (and familiar) names in the new media space.

While every gem we excavate may not glitter brightly for you, there's likely something -- and more likely, several somethings -- at MINE that'll tickle your interest. I'm very proud of what I and my team of MINERS have achieved so far, and I'd love it if you took a gander.

So put on your helmet, grab a pickaxe and see what we've dug up for you over at MINE. Have fun, and remember: MINE = YOURS.

--J.C.

Cellphone-centric story "7th Son: Runner" is live!

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The first installment of J.C. Hutchins' serialized "cellphone-centric" text story 7th Son: Runner is now available for download! Runner is the first story of its kind from a podcast novelist: the tale isn't available in print or audio ... but is available for reading on your mobile phone. (Folks who do not have a mobile phone -- or have one, with no data plan -- fret not: the story is available for you, as well. More on this in a moment.) As with all stories in the 7th Son experience, you can enjoy Runner for free.

7th Son: Runner chronicles the story of James DeFalco, assistant director of the 7th Son facility. DeFalco was a small supporting character in 7th Son, Book One: Descent -- but here, he takes center stage. Astute 7th Son fans may recall DeFalco, and Book One's facility-wide evacuation that sent all "nonessential" 7th Son personnel topside until the John Alpha crisis had passed. DeFalco was one such employee, and Runner reveals much more about this nigh-anonymous doctor ... and the 7th Son legacy ... than you could have ever imagined.

This is the first time anyone, anywhere, can actually read J.C. Hutchins' fiction.

Runner was written for, and is intended to be read on, cell phone screens. Users must have mobile Web access to download and read the Runner .txt files as they are released. But that doesn't mean folks who don't have a data plan (or a cell phone, for that matter) can't enjoy the story. J.C. has made certain that anyone with Internet access can download this serialized text.

Visit this page to learn how to sign up to receive SMS "text blast" announcements when future Runner installments are released. If you're just now learning about Runner, you won't be able to receive the FIRST text blast -- that's already been sent into the wild -- but you can receive the next blast by signing up today.

All readers -- including those who sign up now, folks who do not have a data plan, or folks who are have a mobile carrier not supported by Myxer (the service J.C. is using to release this story), don't worry: you can find the URLs linking to Runner's episodes in the "cell phone" graphic found at J.C.'s Myxer Artist page.

The story's just started, so sign up -- and get ready to run. By the time Runner concludes, the 7th Son universe will never be the same ...

I have a new job! Thanks, Twitter!

As many 7th Son fans know, I'm a Twitter evangelist. I use the soc.media tool in my everyday life, "tweeting" my moods, my wild ideas for new fiction ... and especially, my wily experiments in new media marketing. From my forthcoming "Operation Grid Failure" viral video project to my feel-good pet Stweet Team concept, I try to bend the boundaries of Twitter as a means of self expression, and a way to build communities. The Twitter karma gods have looked favorably on my constant use of their tool, and have granted me a boon.

In early December, I spotted an intruiging tweet from Twitter follower Jeffery Sass (@sass). It read: "I am hiring. Here's my 'social media' recruitment video." There was a link to the video below. That was it.

Curious, I watched the vid. You should, too.

It's an effective recruitment video, particularly when the rest of the country is in its December shivers. But for me, it resonated on another level. I recognized that pier. I recognized that beachfront skyline. Turns out Jeff's company, Myxer, is based minutes away from my South Florida home. I immediately DM'ed Jeff (that's "direct messaged" in tweetspeak), introduced myself, hinted about my involvement in podcasting and "zero budget" soc.media marketing, and left it at that. I suspected I'd have to later conduct the traditional "brainbreaking" exercise of educating him on podcasting and soc.media marketing.

No need, Jeff said in his reply. He was already a fan of my podcast fiction, and was well aware of my marketing and community-building techniques. That, friends, is a testament to social media, podcasting, and online marketing/networking.

And now, I'm proud to report that as of Tuesday, March 4, I will be working for Myxer as its Social Media Marketing Manager.

Myxer's slogan is "Go with it," a brilliant allusion to its service. A less-catchy alternative would be, "Never pay for a cellphone ringtone again." Myxer is the world's largest provider of user-generated ringtones and wallpapers ... all of which are created by normal folks like you and me. It's a savvy blend of MySpace-meets-content creation, where everyday people can create their own ringtones, download them to their phones, tell their friends, download others' ringtones and wallpapers and more. The best part: the service is completely free, the ringtone-creation service is simple to use, and nearly all of the content on the site is free. (Creators can charge for their ringtones, if they wish.)

The site has more than 6 million users. They've downloaded nearly 60 million files of content. There are more than 330,000 ringtones and wallpapers in the Myxer catalog -- 99 percent of which is free.

Free content, created by normal people. Longtime fans of my work know why this is a perfect philosophical match for me as an creator and Myxer employee. (The shorts-and-T-shirt dress policy doesn't hurt, either.)

So what will I be doing as the Social Media Marketing Manager for Myxer? (Dig that job title acronym: SMMMM. Gotta love it.) I'll be podcasting and blogging, and reaching out to content creators such as bands and podcasters -- yes, podcasters -- to create new, killer content for the Myxer site. I'll also be creating marketing projects to attract brand new users to the site. In essence, I'll be getting paid to do what I've been doing as a hobby for the past two years. I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to be part of the Myxer team.

Oh, and they're sending me to South By Southwest next week. Wicked cool.

I owe much of this to Myxer peeps Jeff Sass and Steve Spiro, who saw a great opportunity for Myxer to benefit from my expertise. And I absolutely owe even more to the more than 36,000 worldwide fans of my podcast fiction (who have downloaded nearly 2 million episodes of my content).

But for now, I'll give all the credit to Twitter ... and to the wise Twitter gods, who permitted a wonderful moment of serendipity in which I was online, reading tweets, at the moment that Jeff broadcasted his recruitment video. If Jeff had tweeted five minutes later, I never would have seen his video -- and wouldn't be getting paid to play in the soc.media space.

Tuesday can't come soon enough.

--J.C.