Blast From The Past: Notes For "EvacSys"

I was scribbling in a beat-to-shit legal pad this evening on a new screenplay project, flipped the page, and was stunned to see words already on that page, scanned below. I then grinned like a fool.

Longtime 7th Son trilogy fans may recall Book Three: Destruction's elaborate action sequence aboard EvacSys, an underground bullet train designed to whisk United Nations leaders away from the Secretariat building during a terrorist attack.

The notebook page I discovered tonight chronicles the first brainstorm session I had about EvacSys. Unlike most of my fiction ideas, the concept for EvacSys changed very little from these proto-notes to the finished story. I can remember exactly where I was when I jotted these notes.

I was so delighted by this, I simply had to share it. I hope you enjoy it.

--J.C.

Transient

Convergence

They say life is imperfect. For a long while now, I've disagreed. This convergence right here -- me writing this hours (or days!) ago, and you reading it at this very moment -- represents absolute perfection, at least to me. The craziest and most unlikely of events brought us here, to this itty-bitty place, together ... a place that doesn't even exist in any tangible, traditionally meaningful way. What remarkable lives we tiny needles have led, to meet here, in this strange little haystack.

Open your mind to the billion-trillion ways our lives might not have intersected, and you just might weep from the humbling awe of it all. I have. Because instead of being in those theres, you're here. It could've happened countless different ways -- and perhaps should've -- but didn't. Our respective tempests intersected in this teapot, and make no mistake: it was a perfect storm that delivered us here. We're right where we're supposed to be.

I refer not to God or fate -- though you're welcome to imprint that meaning upon my words if you wish -- but to cause and effect. Decisions made by you, me, our families and friends and lovers and 6 billion others. Butterflies in China, hurricanes in Florida, that sort of thing.

By my reckoning, there is perfection in these impossible odds ... even when these convergences present heartbreak or other challenges. Earlier today, I reminded myself of this, as life-changing news was re-confirmed to me by a doctor on the other side of a telephone.

I can count on two hands the number of people who, until this little miraculous moment that's brought us together, knew this secret about me.

I am a diabetic.

I've known this since 2006, though I did nothing to treat this incurable disease -- and in fact actively engaged in unhealthy activity that likely worsened my condition since my initial diagnosis. The deeply-rooted, irrational, cowardly and misguided reasons for this self-destructive avoidance are mine to examine and rectify. I respectfully contend that there's not much value in sharing them here.

However, I also respectfully contend that you might find value in what brought me to this re-diagnosis, and how I'm dealing with it.

A few months back, I went to the dentist for the first time in 20 years, and explained the incapacitating pain I experienced on the left side of my face when I chewed food. X-rays revealed an impacted lower wisdom tooth. The only way to eliminate the pain was to yank that sucker out of my head. The doctor suggested I have my other wisdom teeth also removed.

I smiled, saluted, promised to take care of it, and learned to chew food on the right side of my mouth, because...

...three weeks later, I moved from Fort Lauderdale to my new home near Denver. The financial, and health insurance, dust settled mere weeks ago. I visited a local oral surgeon, presented my situation, and when he asked if I was a diabetic, I paused.

Lying would've been easy. I'd been lying to myself for nearly a half-decade. But lying to others is a lousy thing to do.

I'm glad I fessed up. The surgeon explained that blood sugar levels (which diabetes affects, among a frickin' Who's Who of other bodily things) are in fact required to be within certain limits during and after the surgery, due mostly to the anesthesia and other drug cocktail-y stuff used in the procedure. The health of someone with abnormally high blood sugar like me would be at risk.

I'm a heavy cigarette smoker. And so, I was also told that after this surgery, I couldn't smoke for several days -- lest I risk "sucking" special (and necessary) blood clots out of the fresh holes in my head. Dry socket, it's called. I was told it's excruciating. That's all I needed to know.

And did I mention I live a sedentary life? I've recently lost some weight by eating less fast food, but this First World wordherding homebody hates breaking a sweat.

For want of a nail. Or in this case, a tooth.

To eat like a normal person again, I realized I'd have to:

  • Get my blood sugar to a surgery-appropriate level, which meant I had to...
  • ...re-diagnose my diabetes, and diligently treat it with medication...
  • ...and change my diet to lower my blood sugar levels...
  • ...and exercise, which also reduces blood sugar levels...
  • ...and quit smoking, for a great many reasons, including a "dry socket" deterrent.

Much like the circumstances that brought you and I together here, that bullet list represents a truly perfect storm. A storm filled with disruptive Change. A storm designed to frighten the laziness, ignorance and avoidance right out of my marrow, and shove me on a life path I should've been on all along.

And that's exactly what I'm doing. Easy, it ain't gonna be. But believe me when I earnestly say that I've survived far worse.

I wish I was motivated purely by desire and not a hearty dose of desperation ... but so often, so many of us require crises to rediscover our mettle.

You're a creative and intelligent person, so you know just as well as I that this will make me a better, stronger, smarter person. A healthier person. A person who'll live longer, and who won't live with the silent -- and occasionally paralyzing -- guilt of willful self-delusion and -destruction.

And now, on to the reason why I'm sharing this sliver of my life with you. Would you be surprised to know that it has nigh-nothing to do with me -- and nearly everything to do with you? Tis true.

Because we know -- you and me, we two needles in this strange little haystack -- we know that you're sitting on something that is impacting your life in a similarly-spirited way. It may not be a disease, or smoking, or gobbling Smartfood when you should be doing cardio. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the body. But it's there, and it's a thing that's been lurking, and occupying far too much of your mind and emotions, for far too long.

It needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be thoughtfully examined. And it needs to be treated, in the most positive and appropriate way possible.

You don't need a crisis flashpoint like mine to motivate you. You merely require a moment of clarity and courage to look into the mirror of Self, be more honest with your heart than you've been in years, and love yourself enough to make those meaningful changes in your life. Easy, it ain't gonna be. But you've survived far worse.

This moment of clarity and courage need not be epic. Nor must the steps you take to improve your life. They must simply be a series of perfect storms.

Thankfully, those are everywhere. Like the one we just shared.

--J.C.

Podcast: Interview with Michael Bekemeyer, Filmmaker

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

Sites mentioned in the interview:

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

A Special Message from Author Seth Harwood

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

THIS BLOG NOW HIJACKED BY YOUR BOY...

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

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

Click here to download or listen now.

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

Enjoy and have a happy holiday!

--Seth

Book Review: Content Rules

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

How Long Does It Take To Make A Podiobook?

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

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

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

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

That's a lot of time, peeps.

--J.C.

Be The Adventure You Dream

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

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

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

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

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

Hell yes, sister. Hell yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Zell: Thank you.

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

--J.C.

Fandom Addendum: Beautiful Creatures

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

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

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

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--J.C.

The Unstoppable Might Of Fandom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

90 Seconds Of Pure Badassery

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

(via The Daily What)

--J.C.

Going To The Dentist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

I'll Be At Dragon*Con!

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

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

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

The "7th Son" Book Trailer That Almost Happened

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

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

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

The End Is (Actually, Was) Nigh...

Let me take you back to mid/late 2006. In several key ways, the podcast fiction landscape was very different than it is today. There were probably 80 titles at Podiobooks.com (as opposed to the nearly 430 (!!!) at the time of this writing). The podfic space was essentially still forming, and creative and promotional precedents were consistently being set. The creator community was smaller (and as a natural by-product of this, generally tighter). Some of the current biggest names in the space weren't yet on the scene. While the current podfic space is obviously vibrant and thriving, there is little doubt for those of us who personally experienced that explosion of creativity in 2006 (and in 2005, from several brilliantly prescient authors) that there was a palatable newness in the air, a collective Go Out And Create Awesome Things vibe in the creator community. This was way before anyone snagged a major print deal. All we creators had was you -- our listeners -- and each other.

During 2006, during what I recall to be the height of this initial go-get-'em collaborative spirit, Mur Lafferty released her supernatural fantasy novella Heaven. It was, deservedly, a hit. In a brilliant plot twist halfway in the story, the world ends. Boom. Done. (Since the novella has been out for about four years, the statute of limitations on spoilers has passed, amigo.) And this incredible development set off an epic brainstorm in my noggin.

What follows is a document I wrote and pitched to Mur Lafferty -- and informally pitched to several podfic authors at the time. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the project. For a few weeks, many IMs were sent from author to author -- "A Crisis On Infinite Earths for podiobooks? Cool!" -- and the groundbreaking idea code-named The End Is Nigh, conceived before Mur wrote the Heaven sequels, looked like it might actually happen.

Alas, we were all so damned busy. The End Is Nigh died on the vine. But does it have to be truly dead? I present that 2006 document here for you, below, for two reasons. The first is to provide a time capsule of a neat (if complex) collaborative creative idea that simmered for a few weeks back in the day. The second is to suggest that projects like The End Is Nigh remain entirely possible in the current podfic space.

While I'm not promoting the idea that creators should craft a project identical to The End Is Nigh (though you're certainly welcome to run with it if you wish), it's obvious that the spirit of creator collaboration is alive and well in the present podfic space. As a continual fan and supporter of podcast fiction, I'd personally love to see something like this -- a universes-hopping, creator-driven meta story -- happen.

Anyways. Here we go. Hop in the flying DeLorean, hit 88, and head back four years. Back when the end was nigh...

And so we go back to 2006...

In Mur Lafferty’s podiobook Heaven, the machinations of gods send two dead youngsters on an ethereal trek that -- in the end -- causes an apocalypse.

The endtimes actually happen on Earth, and the world as we know it is destroyed.

While the story in Heaven goes on, a question remains: What if that apocalypse affected not only the world in Heaven, but all worlds? A simultaneous wiping of the corporeal slate that affected all universes -- spanning space, time, dimension, etc.?

What if you could hear those stories, those fights for survival, on all of those worlds?

What if ... we could do all that at Podiobooks.com?

The Goal:

To ceate a first-time, history-making event at Podiobooks.com. By creating a multi-novel "crossover" series that hinges on the events in Heaven, we can generate interest not only in Heaven, but all of the novels that participate in the event.

The concept of crossover stories isn't new; comic books and television series do this often, and with great effect. Global crises often affect more than one title in a comic company's catalog, with characters of each title dealing with the problems in their own way. Sometimes these heroic acts affect the outcome of the "meta-plot" -- the story arc of the global crisis. Other times, the stories in these individual titles merely showcase the crisis, and how the characters handle the problems in a personal way.

The goal of this project is to create a new title at Podiobooks.com called The End Is Nigh. This title will feature the contributions of participating authors -- and the characters/stories of their respective podiobooks. Like the crossover events seen in comics and TV, some of these tales could affect the outcome of The End Is Nigh meta-plot. Others can simply be stand-alone stories in which the characters of an author's podiobook deal with the menace/events in their own way.

The Payoff:

What’s in it for podiobook authors? By creating an anthology of tales that, in the end, are a kind of "advertisement" for each podiobook that participates, The End Is Nigh will expose listeners to titles at PB.com that they aren’t listening to -- and may otherwise never have listened to.

Of course, nothing like this has ever been done in podcast fiction (there have been small crossover events in the works of J.C. and Scott), so this major event will create a cool "news peg" with which to promote Podiobooks.com. In addition, it may prove to be a fun creative exercise for the authors involved, and it may be a hit with the listeners.

By promoting the event in the podo- and blogospheres -- and in traditional media, if possible -- The End Is Nigh will bring brand-new listeners to PB.com. It will also bring current PB.com visitors to other titles at the site. The goal is maximum exposure for PB.com and its authors.

The Small Challenges (and Solutions)

#1: Events in relation to a podiobook’s feed Due to the "personalized" nature of the feeds at PB.com -- ten listeners of any given title can be listening to ten different episodes in that podiobook -- we simply cannot incorporate The End Is Nigh content into the feeds of our novels. And considering that these are "what if" stories that should never be considered canon by authors or listeners, we shouldn't want to do that anyway.

Instead, we'll create a new feed at PB.com that features this anthology of tales. To make things clear for the listeners, there can be an announcement in the opening of every episode that states while the tale features characters/plotlines from a particular podiobook, this specific story is part of The End Is Nigh, and should be considered a fun "what if?" exploration. The End Is Night should not -- and will not -- affect the "true" plot of any title at PB.com.

However, The End Is Nigh story should take place during the plot/events of participating podiobooks (or in the universes of those titles, at the very least).

This means that at some point in the events of a podiobook's story, events can deviate into The End Is Nigh event. Authors can choose at what point in their story this deviation occurs. This creates a continuity challenge, illustrated in the next paragraph:

Scenario: A podiobooks author chooses to participate in The End Is End. He decides to have the Heaven apocalypse occur after Chapter 10 of his book. He also chooses to incorporate plot elements from his book into his The End Is Nigh contribution. (This is a very reasonable thing to do.) How will listeners who haven't listened to his novel understand those plot elements? Further, how will listeners who are listening to his book -- but haven't yet listened to Chapter 10 in the story -- understand those elements?

The issue can be remedied in two ways. The author can announce at the beginning of his The End Is Nigh contribution that listeners should probably check out his podiobook and listen up to Chapter 10 so any plot references made in his The End Is Nigh contribution make sense. Alternatively, he can choose to write a contribution that doesn't depend so heavily on plot elements in his podiobook. Neither solution is perfect -- the former can be an inconvenience for the listeners, and the latter can be creatively restrictive for the author. But by clever plotting or announcing the "must listen to chapter X" disclaimer, most The End Is Nigh contributions can play well to a new listener.

#2: Continuity strangeness The core concept of The End Is Nigh hinges on the description of the world's end as seen in Heaven. But The End Is Nigh takes the concept a step further by insisting that the world's end affects all worlds, all universes, and all eras.

This makes no rational sense. It's not explainable. But this conceit must be in place so that any podiobook title can participate in the crossover event. By extrapolating the "end of the world" to mean "the end of all worlds," any podiobook genre can participate -- present-day thrillers, historical fiction, fantasy, far-future sci-fi, etc. This also plays favorably with the gods/goddess/magical themes found in Heaven. As with most magical realism tales, it's just the way it is.

This "end of all worlds" solution can -- with the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the listener -- clean up any continuity strangeness.

#3: Making the stories accessible A final challenge for authors participating in The End Is Nigh is to understand that some listeners will be hearing the author's work (not to mention plot, characters, etc.) for the first time.  Listeners will not know the personality traits of the author's characters, or the era/universe in which their stories take place. Ultimately, The End Is Nigh should be viewed as a "gateway" opportunity, a chance to introduce the author's podiobook to the listener in a way that is easy to digest, and intrigues the listener to subscribe to the author's podiobook.

Stories in The End Is Nigh event can be as long as the author likes. Ten minutes, a half-hour or longer -- it's completely up to the author.

#4: Stand-alone stories, or “meta-plot”? One question remains. Should The End Is Nigh be a series of stand-alone stories describing the "end of the world" (or events leading up to that event) as seen through several podiobooks characters? Or should there be an over-arching meta-plot to the series in which the actions of some (or all) of the contributing characters can affect change?

Should The End Is Nigh be a series of short stories -- or a bona fide micro-novel?

META-Plot Possibilities: If The End Is Nigh is to be powered by a meta-plot, the authors' characters should be able to -- if the author chooses -- affect the storyline of the event. While the ultimate conclusion of The End Is Nigh will likely be total annihilation (we are talking about the end of the world, after all), the creative avenues to explore in the meta-plot are nearly limitless.

But how limitless? While authors will have plenty of creative freedom with their respective stories, the meta-plot requires a foundation of "rules" with which all authors should adhere. An editor would help oversee the creation of the meta-plot, and assist contributing authors.

Required is the involvement of Heaven creator Mur Lafferty. At the very least, Mur should provide a manuscript excerpt of relevant events in Heaven. In addition, Mur should provide any backstory or details that could prove useful for authors contributing to The End Is Nigh. Ultimately, a mini "bible" would be essential. The editor and authors participating in the event could use this document as a foundation upon which to create a The End Is Nigh meta-plot.

Make no mistake: The editor of The End Is Nigh would not the sole creator of the event storyline. Far, far from it. Contributing authors can -- if they choose to -- assist the editor in the creation of the meta-plot, and determine "key episodes" in which the storyline can shift.

This would require a collaborative effort by Podiobooks.com authors. It would be very challenging. But with the intelligence and creativity currently found at Podiobooks.com, a meta-plot could be created, and its narrative impact could be considerable. It's hard to say if all involved authors will be completely satisfied with the final meta-plot (every collaborative effort requires compromise), but it's an intriguing creative exercise. In addition, a bond within the Podiobooks.com authors can be created. Community and collaboration are good things.

Finally, Mur Lafferty would have final approval over the meta-plot, and its conclusion. It's only fair, seeing as how The End Is Nigh hinges on her creation.

In Conclusion...

Ultimately, a major crossover event such as The End Is Nigh will require time, dedication and creative investment by contributing authors.

The level of commitment for each author will vary greatly. Some authors will want to write a story for the event and not want to be involved in the creation of the meta-plot. This is completely understandable. Other authors will want to have a more active role in the meta-plot, and assisting in the overall arc of the event.

Regardless, The End Is Nigh project can have tangible benefits to Podiobooks.com and its authors. From crossover listeners (current users at PB.com who will check out other titles showcased in The End Is Nigh) to a brand-new audience, the gains can be great. Since this will be a truly groundbreaking project, it is likely to be covered in blogs and podcasts. With the promotional assistance of all authors involved, mainstream media may also cover the event.

This could be the biggest promotional event Podiobooks.com has ever released to date. No conventional publisher has ever done something this ambitious. The flexibility of the podcasting medium -- and the creative power of podiobooks authors -- works to the project's advantage.

This is an excellent opportunity to bring podiobooks authors together, promote our work and do something that will be remembered for years to come.

Who knew the end of the world could be so cool?

--J.C.

YOUR goals for 2010

I recently asked on Twitter:

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

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

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

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

What's YOUR goal for 2010?

--J.C.

Avatar, and James Cameron 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See it. On the big screen.

What Matters Now - Free eBook

whatmattersnowcontrib

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

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

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

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

--J.C.

Your beloved books

Today, I asked on Twitter:

What's the most dog-eared book in your home? Mine's my copy of THE STAND.

Here were your replies:

http://twitter.com/CWSeidman/status/6436593692

http://twitter.com/Rasplundjr/status/6436588543

http://twitter.com/MarvelSmartAss/status/6436571187

http://twitter.com/Rasplundjr/status/6436469815

http://twitter.com/NukeHavoc/status/6436395897

http://twitter.com/PGHolyfield/status/6436359833

http://twitter.com/Quonundrum/status/6436298609

http://twitter.com/AlasdairStuart/status/6436286252

http://twitter.com/otherdoc/status/6436261538

http://twitter.com/pfischer/status/6436239493

http://www.twitter.com/MisterDubbs/status/6436135966

http://twitter.com/Cynical_Woman/status/6436934554

http://twitter.com/zard/status/6436127818

http://twitter.com/tabisue/status/6436088021

http://twitter.com/brucefp/status/6435985866

http://twitter.com/shiatis/status/6435909443

http://twitter.com/DanDanTheArtMan/status/6435895224

http://twitter.com/spiritualtramp/status/6435870801

http://twitter.com/martyndarkly/status/6435868046

http://twitter.com/DrunkasaurusRex/status/6435866457

http://twitter.com/mplested/status/6435862545

http://twitter.com/madpoet/status/6435848506

http://twitter.com/BetaClone076/status/6435819437

http://twitter.com/Battlemouth/status/6435801384

http://twitter.com/MistressJett/status/6435778298

http://twitter.com/SVAllie/status/6435771648

http://twitter.com/thegr8merlyn/status/6435759830

http://twitter.com/melissamdavies/status/6435756693

http://twitter.com/jramboz/status/6435742488

http://twitter.com/Selorian/status/6435740172

http://twitter.com/MsBobbilicious/status/6435729312

http://twitter.com/dcperry/status/6435725906

http://twitter.com/KateSherrod/status/6435725845

http://twitter.com/glemak/status/6435720000

http://twitter.com/mark_marshall/status/6435713205

http://twitter.com/brandg/status/6435711099

http://twitter.com/rsmit212/status/6435708756

http://twitter.com/amberh/status/6435693489

http://twitter.com/dreamrock/status/6436968197

Wichita Rutherford interviews Ricky Skaggs!

wichita

I hail from Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, and am proud to say that my fine commonwealth is the birthplace of bluegrass music. I love the stuff (whenever I'm in a bad mood, I put on my Bill Monroe: Live From Mountain Stage album and things turn around right quick), and also love listening to interviews. That's why I was absolutely dazzled by this interview recorded by the brilliant Wichita Rutherford. Wichita came up in podcasting -- he remains one of my favorite podcasters of all time; he's so precious -- and now hosts "The Grand Old Time Machine" Sirius/XM show. He recently spent some quality time with bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs ... and the interview is nothing short of awesome.

You've gotta check out this interview, even if you don't know much about bluegrass music. You'll hear an intimate take on Ricky's life story and family, and his journey into the musical life -- and learn a lot about bluegrass along the way. You won't regret it.

But you gotta move fast; Wichita says the MP3 will be available for a few days.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW

--J.C.