In this special episode of StoryForward, co-host J.C. Hutchins chats with transmedia storyteller Jan Libby about her creative career, and her latest project, Snow Town.
Links from this show:
Tell us what you think of the show by giving co-host Steve Peters and I a shout at info at storyworldpodcast dot com!
Hey, everybody! After a long hiatus from regular podcasting, I'm back to the digital airwaves as co-host of the ARGNetcast, a show that covers the transmedia storytelling space. I'll be posting episodes of that show here in my podcast feed (unless folks pipe up and tell me not to). Tell me what you think of the show by giving co-host Steve Peters and I a shout at info at storyworldpodcast dot com! Now, on to the episode's show notes!
On this show, singer/songwriter Thomas Dolby joins hosts Steve Peters and JC Hutchins, as they discuss Science, pushing creativity forward through technology, and the unique game project he co-created for his latest album, The Map of the Floating City.
Links from this show:
- Thomas Dolby
- A Map of the Floating City (game and website)
- A Map of the Floating City (iTunes album link)
- Thomas Dolby Time Capsule Press Release
- Thomas Dolby Tour Page
- Transmedia LA
- StoryWorld Conference
- Mouth Taped Shut
- Robot Heart Stories
- Zombies, Run!
- StoryForward Podcast
Few writers have captured my imagination the way Jonathan Maberry has. His Joe Ledger novel series -- which chronicles the adventures of the "Department of Military Sciences," a secret government rapid response team that handles horrific technology-created terrors -- has entertained and inspired me in countless ways. Maberry's horror fiction always bets big, the stakes are always high, and the payoffs always rock your socks. This dude can write.
When Maberry recently gave me a shout, eager to tell me (and you!) about his latest novel Dead of Night, I leaned in and listened good. I've never been much of a zombie fiction guy, but Maberry's zombie fiction is smarter, meatier -- and sometimes, just plain meaner -- than most zombie stories out there. Maberry delivered the goods in his 2009 novel Patient Zero ... and he's done it again with Dead of Night.
This is a helluva good read -- so good, in fact, that I asked Maberry if I might share an excerpt of it here via my blog. Maberry did me one better: He not only hooked us up with an excerpt; he agreed to an author Q&A, and tossed in access to seven Dead of Night bonus scenes. Hot damn, it's Christmas all over again!
Maberry has been one of my favorite storytellers for years now, and Dead of Night didn't disappoint. Let's dig into my Q&A with Maberry, and afterward, I'll provide links to that PDF excerpt of Dead of Night and a link to bonus material!
~ ~ ~
J.C. HUTCHINS: We all have a scary memory from our youth. What's one of the scariest things you recall from your childhood? Has it directly influenced your work?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I grew up in a fairly violent and abusive household, so just waking up was scary and coming home from school was scary. Two things happened as a result. First, I began studying martial arts with a friend and his dad –and later in one of Philadelphia’s major dojos -- which made me tough enough to survive and ultimately escape that environment. And second, I escaped into my imagination -- and in that world the ‘monsters’ could be defeated. Both of those informed my whole life, my outlook, and certainly what I write.
People often ask me why I write about monsters, and I tell them that I don’t. I write about people who overcome monsters. Big difference.
HUTCHINS: I'm head over heels for your Joe Ledger novels and Dead of Night. One reason is because you infuse elements of other genres into your horror fiction. What are some of those genres, and why do you enjoy bringing them into the mix?
MABERRY: I’m a total science geek. I love cool science and freaky science and totally weird science. So, pretty much anything I write is going to have some kind of science back-story. That’s actually how I came to write both the Joe Ledger series and my my latest novel, Dead of Night.
Back in 2008 I was approached by a publisher to write a nonfiction book on zombies. This was a couple of years after Max Brooks lit the world on fire with the Zombie Survival Guide. There weren’t too make nonfic zombie books out there apart from either books on zombie movies or attempts to rip-off Max. I had no interest in doing either, so I told the publisher that I’d like to write a zombie book with some hard-core science in it. Since one of my other loves is forensic science, I pitched Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. I interviewed over 250 experts in a variety of fields (police, science, medicine, the clergy, the press, psychologists, etc.) on how the real world would genuinely react if something like Night of the Living Dead actually happened. Not one person turned me down for an interview, and I’m talking Homeland Security, SWAT teams, award-winning journalists, celebrities and even priest, pastors and rabbis. Every single one of them already had some sort of opinion about zombies. Crazy, right?
So I wrote the book and it’s been a big seller for me all over the world.
Now, while researching and writing the science chapters, I cooked up a pretty reasonable -- if scary -- scenario for a zombie plague. That sparked the thought: “What would happen if this science was 100% real? Who would be likely to misuse it?” That fast I had the idea of terrorists using a weaponized zombie plague. The 2009 novel Patient Zero was the result, which kicked off the Joe Ledger series. Granted, only the first book in that series deals with zombies, but the book has a big audience. It gave me a real taste for zombie fiction.
After Patient Zero hit it big, that publisher (St. Martin’s) asked me if I had any ideas for a standalone zombie novel. I did, because I kept researching the science (being the geek I am) and I cooked up an entirely different and even MORE plausible scientific explanation for zombies. That book became Dead of Night, and everyone’s been telling me that it’s my best novel so far.
HUTCHINS: Way back in 2010, you wrote the novelization of the movie The Wolfman. I've got a lot of love for that movie. I've also been curious about the adaptation process. What writing challenges did you experience adapting The Wolfman to novel format? Was there anything that was unexpectedly easy about the process?
MABERRY: I was contacted directly by a vice president at Universal Pictures and offered the gig. I did not get to see the movie, however, until a week after the book came out. I worked from the original script by David Self. I was asked to turn in the completed novel in eight weeks, which is pretty fast. It was the fastest I’d written a book. Of course, it was also a shorter novel than my previous books. Ghost Road Blues was my shortest previous novel, but at 140,000 words it was fifty-five thousand words longer than The Wolfman.
To write the book, I first read the script through end to end without making notes. I read it to appreciate the story, the characters, the writing, the dialogue and the pace. Then I re-read and made notes on things I needed to research and things I wanted to include. Ideas occurred to me during the first two read-throughs and made a bunch of notes on themes, character traits and motifs.
After that I pulled out a scene and did a draft to get a feel of the voice. Understand, I never got to see the film. I was working entirely off of the script, a movie trailer and a handful of early production sketches. So, I had no idea how the actors would interpret the lines or how the director would be crafting mood through camera angles, lighting, etc.
When I asked Universal how they wanted me to approach the writing, they said to make it my own. I took them at their word, and when I sat down to write I was determined to write the best novel I could. Understand, I wasn’t trying to novelize a movie script, I was writing a novel. I wrote it so that people would enjoy reading it.
One of the challenges to adapting a novel is the fact that a line of script might translate to pages and pages of story. For example, in the first draft of the script I read there was a scene of the moon rising above some ancient standing stones. The script describes a visual and that’s it. I took that and built a motif of the moon as a predatory goddess of the hunt, and echoed that through the story.
HUTCHINS: You've written for Marvel Comics titles such as Black Panther. Totally frickin' awesome. Were you a fan of the genre before you started working with Marvel? It's a highly collaborative medium; as a prose author who often flies solo, was that a challenging adjustment?
MABERRY: I grew up with Marvel Comics. I remember going into a store to but my first comic book ... Fantastic Four #66. Brand spanking new. I was hooked from the jump, and I collected comics up until around 1990. Then I stopped for a while; but when Marvel’s editor-in-chief Axel Alonso reached out and asked me if I wanted to write for them, I started right back up again. Now I sink a bunch of bucks every week at the comic book store.
The process of adjustment was interesting. Writing novels is a very solitary process. It’s just you. Comics are different, and the process is faster. With comics it starts with a pitch to an editor, which comes with some discussion and idea-swapping. Then the writer does the script and dribbles it back to the editor, who often has notes. That’s a process. Then the artist gets the script and roughs it out. The editor gives him notes and lets the writer see the pencil sketches. After more edits, the artist does the finished pencils, then an inker steps in. And then the letterer. It’s complicated and there are a million emails firing back and forth. So, to make it work you have to learn how to play with the whole team, and to allow each member of the team to have an equal voice.
The biggest challenge for me was to write less and allow the art to say more. Novels are all about words, and even though writers do the comic book script first, at the end of the day the comic is a visual medium. Visuals tell the story.
HUTCHINS: I'm always interested in learning what entertainment my favorite creators consume. What creative content -- be it music, TV, books, film, games, etc. -- is really ringing your bell these days, and why?
MABERRY: I have pretty eclectic tastes. I’m a huge fan of Dexter. I’ve spoken with Jeff Lindsay, the author of the books, and I’ve been a fan of both the print and TV versions of Dexter. This season ended with a mind-blowing finale that actually had me screaming at the TV. I also fell in love with Homeland. What a first season! But I dig a bunch of other shows, like Modern Family, Parenthood, Doctor Who, Being Human, Primeval, Luther, Torchwood, Sherlock, and a very small group of reality shows -- Cake Boss, No Reservations, America's Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance.
As for games ... I’m in awe of anyone who can negotiate today’s modern video games. I apparently lack the gene. Snood taxes my upper range of skill.
I’m digging this season’s crop of movies. Loved Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes, War Horse, The Descendants and We Bought a Zoo. And I have really high hopes for upcoming flicks like Prometheus, The Hobbit, Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man, Superman and The Avengers.
My relationship with books is obscene. I buy so many -- in print and for my e-reader. All genres, too. Crime novels, thrillers, horror, westerns, literary, mainstream, fantasy, Steampunk ... I’m all over the place. Because of being on the road so much with book tours and convention appearances, I’ve mostly been listening to audiobooks. And ... yes ... I’ve listened to all of my own books on disk. It’s weird, because I don’t always remember writing some of what I hear. That’s fun.
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What an incredible Q&A, eh? Maberry's the MAN. Now, on to these free reads.
- Download the FREE Dead of Night except
- Download seven bonus scenes from Dead of Night via Jonathan Maberry's website
If you like what you read -- and I'm certain you will -- take the plunge and purchase a copy of Dead of Night via Amazon or another terrific retailer. Enjoy!
Hey, everybody! During my new media travels over the past five years, I've met a lot of terrifically talented and kindhearted folk ... but few are as classy and clever as author Bill DeSmedt. I've known him since 2006, when we were both releasing our science fiction novels as free serialized audiobooks over at Podiobooks.com. Bill has some terrific news to share about his book Singularity, and I've given him the stage to tell you all about it. I hope you're as delighted by this news as I am. Take it away, Bill!
~ ~ ~
Thanks very much, Hutch, for the virtual soapbox. And thanks as well to all you Beta-clones for lending a virtual ear to what I hope is some exciting news.
But first, perhaps an introduction is in order -- an introduction not to me, but to my book. Some of you who first encountered Hutch's 7th Son on the Podiobooks website may have lingered to give a listen to the podcast of Singularity by yours truly. But in case you missed it there, Singularity is an award-winning science thriller that kicks off with the most violent cosmic collision in recorded history -- and keeps right on building suspense with what Kevin J. Anderson calls "convincing research and locomotive pacing."
The collision in question was the Tunguska Event of 1908 -- a multi-megaton explosion that flash-incinerated a swath of Siberian forest twice the size of Greater New York in a blast felt a thousand miles away, yet left behind no crater, no fragments, not a shred of hard evidence as to what might have caused it.
Of all the explanations offered in the century or so since the Event, surely one of the weirdest is that the culprit was a submicroscopic primordial black hole -- smaller than an atom, heavier than a mountain, older than the stars.
Cool, no? But there's just one little hitch: A black hole that small and that dense should have cut through the solid body of the earth like the sun through morning mist and rocketed out the other side of the globe, wreaking as much devastation on leaving as it did on arrival. The failure to find any sign of such an "exit event" tolled a death knell for the black hole impact theory...
...or did it? What if the damned thing went in -- and never came out? What if that fantastic object is still down there, hurtling round and round through the Earth's mantle, slowly consuming the planet itself? What if you could capture it, and harness its awesome continuum-warping power to transform the world -- or end it?
That’s how Singularity starts out. As to finding out where it all ends up, that's where the good news I mentioned at the outset comes in.
Because as of today Singularity is available as an ebook, right here.
I hope you'll take a moment to check out what Larry Niven has called "a wonderful, intricate story, wonderfully well told."
Ah. You're here! Awesome. Make yourself at home. Take a load off. Put your feet up on my digital coffee table. Fire up the XBox. Hell, drink straight from the milk carton. Mi casa es su casa, right? Get really comfy, at least for a few paragraphs. Enjoy it while you can. Because the mind-wracking anxiety and discomfort will come soon enough ... and trust me: that's a good thing.
I want you to meet somebody I appreciate and admire. Dude's name is Julien Smith. I've followed his work for years. He updates his blog in hurricane bursts of creativity, intensity and razor-sharp insight -- often writing about how this titanic Internet thing affects how we perceive and interact with the world. He's co-host (with other whip-smart folk) on a podcast that, at its core, explores the topic of how we communicate online. Well beyond the social media nerdsphere, he's best known as the New York Times bestselling co-author of Trust Agents, the most resonant book about online relationship-building I've ever read.
But Julien's no Social Media Douchebag™. He's always been smarter, and always soared higher, than those buzzword-squawking parrots. Julien seems to strive for authenticity in nearly everything he does. This is a man who has no patience for excuses, and even less for bullshit. He's not an angry man. He's honest -- honest in a way that slices through the blubbery, blubbering excuses so many of us use to rationalize the fundamental dissatisfaction in our lives.
Which brings me to mind-wracking anxiety and discomfort ... and The Flinch.
The Flinch is Julien's new ebook. It was released today over at Amazon. The Flinch is a brisk read; you'll tear through it in an hour or so. And it's FREE, and always will be. Go to Amazon and get your copy right now.
I know you didn't click that link. You're still here. That's cool. But know that what I say next, I say with absolute certainty:
You need to read this book.
I have absolute confidence making that proclamation because I needed to read this book. See, I am haunted and held captive by something Julien calls "the flinch" -- the self-preserving flight instinct in the famous fight or flight equation. Here's the rub: You're haunted by the flinch, too. Julien explains:
The flinch is your real opponent, and information won't help you fight it. It's behind every unhappy marriage, every hidden vice, and every unfulfilled life. Behind the flinch is pain avoidance, and dealing with pain demands strength you may not think you have. ... Behind every act you're unable to do, fear of the flinch is there, like a puppet master, steering you off course.
Everyone is haunted by the flinch. "It's a reaction that brings up old memories and haunts you with them," Julien writes. "It tightens your chest and makes you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving forward. ... Whatever form it takes, the flinch is there to support the status quo."
Can you accurately count the times in your life when that chest-tightening fear overpowered your desire to change -- to surge beyond the doldrums of Status Quo? I can't. Hell, I can't accurately count those instances in my current daily life. Oh, all the things I pine to do! Oh, all the things I postpone because I know exactly what to tell myself to rationalize my fear-soaked cowardice. When I stop squinting and honestly examine my life, I see that I'm surrounded by the flinch.
I bet when you stop squinting, you'll see the flinch everywhere too.
Julien's thoughtful, zero-bullshit, examination of this fear is well worth the download and read. The very fact he was able to give such a powerful force an instantly-recognizable name is worthy of your peepers, too. But let's not kid ourselves: Naming a fear makes it easier to identify and discuss ... but calling something "the flinch" doesn't provide much backbone in overcoming it.
Thankfully, that's what the rest of Julien's ebook is about.
I dare not reveal the steps Julien suggests to address and rise above the primal fear of the flinch ... or the simple yet revelatory "homework" assignments he gives readers. That stuff, you can easily discover on your own. However, I will promise that by reading The Flinch, you'll learn something about yourself ... and you might see that you have far more gumption than you ever imagined.
The Flinch isn't a brutal book, but it does challenge you to toughen up, glare at the opponent inside you, and step into a boxing ring to take care of some serious fucking business. As Julien writes:
In a fight, there is a fundamental difference between boxers and everyone else. The guys who have trained are different. If you hit them, they don’t flinch. It takes practice to get there, but if you want to fight, you have no choice. It’s the only way to win.
Which is why you must get brave, and acknowledge the mind-wracking anxiety and discomfort -- the flinch. It's why you need to read this book.
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
Hey, everybody -- J.C. Hutchins here. Not long ago, I allowed my pal and fellow new media author Seth Harwood to commandeer this here blog to tell you about some exciting things he was working on. Today, I'm doing the same for the supremely-talented Jeremy Robinson, a storyteller who excels at telling tales in many genres. Jeremy wants to introduce himself to you fine peeps -- and I thought be best-possible way to do that was to let him choose any three topics he wanted, and share his thoughts about them with you. Along the way, he'll share some cool news about his latest novel The Sentinel and tell you about an opportunity to win a free Amazon Kindle e-reader. Two Kindles are up for grabs, so it's worth your while to learn about Jeremy's work ... and how you might become a lucky winner.
So long from me -- the rest of this post is all Jeremy!
Welcome to Jeremy Robinson’s Great Kindle Giveaway and Blog Tour...
“Hurray for free Kindles!” you say, but who the hell is Jeremy Robinson? Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the author of 11 mixed genre novels, published in 10 languages, including the popular fantasy YA series The Last Hunter, and the fast-paced Jack Sigler series (also known as Chess Team -- not nearly as nerdy as it sounds), Pulse, Instinct and Threshold from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. I’m the co-author of an expanding series of novellas deemed the Chesspocalypse, which take place in the Chess Team universe. If that doesn’t wet your whistle, I’m also known as Jeremy Bishop, the #1 Amazon.com horror author of The Sentinel and the controversial novel, Torment. For more about me, or my books, visit my website.
J.C. told me I could tackle any three topics I wanted in my guest post -- so I did just that. My three topics are below. I hope you enjoy them.
Also know that there are rewards for sloughing through the questions and answers. I'll be giving away two Kindles to two randomly selected readers who sign up for my newsletter. Details on the giveaway can be found below. On to the Q&A!
You published two novels, Beneath and Kronos as free podcasts novels a few years back. What was your podcast experience like, and why haven’t you released another podcast novel since?
In general, my experience with releasing the two podcast novels was great. Kronos has been listened to, in full, 19,500 times. Beneath has been listened to 16,600 times. From what I understand, those are very good stats. Maybe not Sigler or Hutchins stats, but respectable. But have that podcast fanbase translated to sales of my other, non-free books (which is the goal when giving something away)? It's impossible to say for sure, but my guess would be no. In fact, when the podcasts were new and being downloaded in large numbers, there was no noticeable uptick in sales of my non-free books. I suspect this is because there is a glut of free books available now, so why bother paying for something when there are other free options?
That said, there are some hardcore podcast novel fans who are dedicated to supporting the authors they listen to. And I've heard from many who have bought my books, but it's a microscopic percentage of total listeners. And that's why I haven't put out any more free books. I'm a crappy narrator, so I actually spent thousands of dollars creating each book. I’m glad I did it, but I can't justify doing it for the rest of my novels. I am, however, using ACX and partnering with Jeff Kafer, the narrator of my podcast novels, to get the rest of my books selling as audiobooks via iTunes and Audible.
You've written more than a dozen books, but your interests seem to expand into other forms of media: screenplays, an iPhone app, and game, and are always putting out video trailers and viral videos for your books. Do you plan to expand your career, officially, into other forms of media?
I'm going to say something that might be surprising. I am not a writer. Sure, I string together words in a way that other people call writing. But unlike most writers, I am not in love with the English language. I can't quote rules of grammar. I’m not a living thesaurus. I loathe most classic novels. These things don't even interest me.
So what am I then? I'm a storyteller, and I'm not married to any particular format. I started in comic books (writing and illustrating), shifted to screenwriting, and then to novels. I not only want to see my books turned into movies, I would like to write the screenplays for them. I would like to direct them. I have big aspirations, and may never get that far, but I'm going to try. I will probably always write novels. Turns out I'm pretty good at it and they pay the bills. But I'm going to try every form of storytelling I can. Making money isn't the point. I'm planning to direct a low/no budget movie, hopefully next summer, titled The Devil is in the Details. I'm going to write it. Direct it. Edit it. And release it. Will it be in theaters? I doubt it. Direct to DVD? If I'm lucky, but the odds are against it. I don't create for the money, I create for myself. For the first thirty years of my life, I drew, painted, wrote and made movies for fun. For free. Just because I now make a living writing novels doesn’t mean I'm finished experimenting with storytelling. If I manage to make a kick-ass movie and some studio picks it up, that might make it official, but money or no money, I'll continue to branch into whatever form of story-telling that fancies me.
Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
I think I’m supposed to say this is a hard decision, but it’s not. The Last Hunter -- Descent and the other books in the Antarktos Saga, are by far my top picks. They're written in the first person and the main character, Solomon, is a combination of my son, the real Solomon, and my childhood experiences. So the story is deeply personal for me, but that carries across to the reader as well. The stories feel real, despite being my most fantastic in terms of settings, creatures and scope. They're technically YA/teen books, but that's only because the main character is a teenager in the first few books. The books are as action-packed, violent and frightening as all my other books, but are balanced by more heart and deeper characters. As for what the story is about, I'll let Solomon tell you in his own words:
I've been told that the entire continent of Antarctica groaned at the moment of my birth. The howl tore across glaciers, over mountains and deep into the ice. Everyone says so. Except for my father; all he heard was Mother's sobs. Not of pain, but of joy, so he says. Other than that, the only verifiable fact about the day I was born is that an iceberg the size of Los Angeles broke free from the ice shelf a few miles off the coast. Again, some would have me believe the fracture took place as I entered the world. But all that really matters, according to my parents, is that I, Solomon Ull Vincent, the first child born on Antarctica -- the first and only Antarctican -- was born on September 2nd, 1974.
If only someone could have warned me that, upon my return to the continent of my birth thirteen years later, I would be kidnapped, subjected to tortures beyond comprehension and forced to fight ... and kill. If only someone had hinted that I'd wind up struggling to survive in a subterranean world full of ancient warriors, strange creatures and supernatural powers.
Had I been warned I might have lived a normal life. The human race might have remained safe. And the fate of the world might not rest on my shoulders. Had I been warned....
This is my story--the tale of Solomon Ull Vincent -- The Last Hunter.
Hope that was as good for you as it was for me. Now how about that kindle giveaway?
Here’s the deal: To be entered to win one of two free Kindles all you have to do is visit my website and sign up for the newsletter. That's it. The first Kindle will go to a randomly chosen newsletter signup on October 31. For the second Kindle, there's a catch. The second giveaway will only be triggered if one of my Kindle books hits the Amazon.com bestseller list (top 100). So pick up some books (most are just $2.99 a pop) and spread the word! If one of the books squeaks up to #100 for just a single hour, the second kindle will be given away to another randomly chosen newsletter sign up on October 31.
*When you sign up for the newsletter, be sure to include the name of the blog that referred you in the field provided. I’ll be giving away two $50 Amazon.com gift certificates to the blog that refers the most sign-ups and another to the blog who referred the first kindle winner.
** I will announce winners via Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and newsletter (which you will be signed up for!) but I’ll also e-mail the winners directly—I’ll need to know where to ship those kindles!
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Hope you enjoyed the Q&A, and good luck with the Kindle giveaway!
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."
Today, J.C. speaks with Jim Babb, a New York-based creator who uses transmedia storytelling methods, game design and people's curiosity to create fun stories that inspire audience participation. The latest project he and his company Awkward Hug are overseeing is the brilliant and charming Socks Inc.
In this chat, Jim shares how he was first exposed to unconventional storytelling, and how it influenced his life and career ... and how it directly impacted the development of Socks Inc. Along the way, we'll learn how Jim incorporated filmmaking, games, play and -- most important -- audience interaction into his projects.
It's a delightful conversation about a very fun (and funny!) online-meets-real-world narrative.
It is my earnest hope that a mutual friend's tweet or Facebook post brought you here. I appreciate your curiosity for clicking that link -- and since I also appreciate your time, I'll be quick. I'm J.C. Hutchins. I'm a freelance storyteller. I'd like to work with you.
I write transmedia experiences, novels, screenplays and more, all for hire. My trilogy of technothriller novels, 7th Son, was optioned by Warner Bros in 2009. A book I co-wrote, Personal Effects: Dark Art, is now in development as a Starz TV series.
My original stories have been enjoyed by tens of thousands of people in more than a dozen countries. My for-hire work has connected with hundreds of thousands. I continue to develop original IP, work with creators to expand new IP, and collaborate with agencies to enhance existing IP.
I also help craft multimedia marketing campaigns that create memorable connections between people and products. Most of these products were my own. Others were more high profile, such as toys (Nanovor) and television series (Discovery Channel's The Colony).
I've worked with pioneers in the transmedia storytelling space such as Jordan Weisman, and agencies that innovate branded storytelling experiences such as Campfire. I live to collaborate, rev it to the creative red-line when needed, and consider deadlines immovable objects.
Do you need a fleet-footed creator to help your company or client achieve its business goals? I might be able to help. Download my creative resume to see what I've been up to recently. If my skills and accomplishments ring your bell, toss my name in your Rolodex.
And please, introduce yourself. I'd love to learn more about you, and answer any questions you might have about me or my work.
Thanks again for your curiosity and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.
Note: This post originally appeared on the website WriterUnboxed. This is the one of several WU guest posts I’ll reprint here on my site.
I love reading prose fiction -- but in my heart of hearts, I'm a movie junkie. It's a brilliant way to economically tell stories, and I enjoy the creative constraints the medium has: running time, MPAA ratings, budget. The mission? To cram as much narrative -- both spoken and unspoken -- into the frame as possible.
Notice that I said "unspoken." That's key. I believe prose fiction writers can easily learn about voice by watching and studying movies -- especially when they pay attention to those unspoken bits.
Writing great books and short stories hinges greatly on your authorial voice -- but always remember that your voice requires tonal flexibility. This can be defined by a character's point of view, the pacing of a scene, or what's happening in that scene. Thoughtful characters and slower-paced scenes can permit a more lyrical authorial voice; peppy characters and action sequences often demand something else.
Now I can't tell you how to craft your voice; I believe your personal world view defines most of that. I also believe that the best authorial voices don't attract attention to themselves. But if you're looking for ways to appropriately use your voice for characters and scenes, I suggest popping in a DVD, muting the volume, and watching what unfolds.
Don't watch the actors. Try to ignore the blitz-cut editing. Forget trying to decipher what's being said. Instead, look for what's happening in the frame overall -- mostly the use of colors, color saturation and lighting. In the hands of filmmaking masters, these techniques represent the invisible art of cinema: the ability to wordlessly evoke emotion. To me, they represent the "voice" of the overall film, or a particular scene.
I think there’s wisdom there ... and if you look for patterns, you'll find them. For instance, most films these days depict workplace interiors -- no matter how much sunshine is streaming through the locale’s windows -- as cold, emotionless, antiseptic places. Filmmakers achieve this by clever lighting, or by processing the film (or digital footage) in such a way to suck the color from the moving images. The result is often a gray- or blue-tinged scene, with its characters looking as happy as a herd of zombies.
This is an immediate, visually tonal manipulation of the story. A word of dialogue may never be uttered, and yet we're emotionally steered in a particular direction. Our brains "get it," even if we as viewers never consciously get it.
Contrast that with movie scenes that take place in a happy home. There's often lots of lush, warm-colored wood, and amber, creamy tones in the frame. Subconsciously, our brains do the math: our society associates this palate of colors with warmth and comfort. Again, the "voice" of the unfolding narrative invisibly connects the overall setting with how the audience should be feeling.
We've all seen the original Star Wars movie. Contrast the earthy, oil-stained interior of heroic Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spaceship with the spartan hallways of the villains' Death Star battle station. This visual information alone conveys everything we need to know: the good guys are scrappy, underfunded ragamuffins ... and the bad guys are (literally) as imperious as it gets.
If you can make the esoteric leap from the visual voice of cinema to the narrative voice of prose fiction, you'll notice ways to appropriately use your authorial voice when handling specific characters, scenes or events within a scene. Just as oil stains would be forbidden in the halls of the Death Star, certain words and writerly observations would appear incongruous in particular scenes.
Is a violence-packed action sequence best served by lyrical, multisyllabic flowery prose? Probably not. Does a contemplative scene work best with clipped, one- or two-word paragraphs? Probably not. Using creative flexibility in your narrative's tone, vocabulary and sentence structure is absolutely critical to capturing the emotional core of your story. You may have a distinctive authorial voice, but be sure to tweak it as needed, depending on what's happening in your tale.
If you can do that, you’ll control the invisible -- yet critical -- art of emotionally moving people.
So pop in a few DVDs, and dial down the volume. See what filmmaking maestros do with color, set design and other visual cues, and try applying those tonal techniques to your own writing voice.
Note: This post originally appeared on the website WriterUnboxed. This is the one of several WU guest posts I’ll reprint here on my site.
There comes a point in the life of your Work In Progress when -- hot dog! -- it's no longer a Work In Progress. The sucker's done, you did it ... heck, you frickin' nailed it, and the time has come to query agents, or present it to your agent or editor, or self-publish. The rest of this essay assumes that your work will resonate with the appropriate gatekeepers, and soon soar beyond your grasp, off into the world, to be consumed by an audience.
This distribution could come in the form of a big-name publisher, an indie press, DIY-fueled print on demand, self-recorded audio podcast, home-brewed blog serialization ... whatever. Point is, it'll be out there. But unless you're blessed with an existing audience (fancy-pants publishers call this a "platform," though I prefer the term "wicked awesome fans"), few people are going to know about it. Your brilliant tale is bobbing in a sea of other brilliant tales. Your signal is lost in all that noise.
To leave the success of your work completely in the hands of a publisher publicist is foolish; that professional may be talented, but he's pimping at least 20 other books this month, and is spread so thin, he gives Silly Putty a run for its money. To believe that random word of mouth alone will differentiate your stuff from other novelists' is equally wrongheaded; how can people gab about something they don't know exists? You're a writer, which means you're probably broke, so self-funded ads are out of the question. And doggone it, Oprah isn't returning your calls.
There's a dozen-dozen ways to combat the great enemy Obscurity -- but I recommend making friends. It's good for business.
Cranking out that novel (or other creative work) was a solitary act: It was just you and the words. Now that it's in the wild, you're personally, ethically obligated to give it every chance to succeed. Reaching out to published peers and influencers can help. By contacting fellow players in the industry, you can earn the attention of colleagues, share your content across multiple fan-bases, and increase awareness for your work.
Now remember, making friends is good for business. And business is what you should be most concerned about, now that you're staring down the howitzer barrel of earning out that advance. Make-believe time is over. You're no longer a wordsmith; you're a businessperson. It's time to strategize. You gotta move books, man.
So make friends. Do some research. Find online-savvy authors in your genre -- or compatible genres -- who like to blog, are on Facebook or Twitter, or release content in other interesting ways (like podcasting). Examine what they're talking about in these spaces, especially if they're talking about other authors. This is a good thing, particularly if you're already a fan of their work. This is an opportunity to make friends.
Reach out to these authors with a respectful email that gently flatters and then gets down to business: You'd like to engage their audiences in a creative way that helps boost awareness for your work ... and in exchange, you'll promote the authors' works via your online outlets. It's a mutually-beneficial opportunity for you, the person you're pitching, and both audiences.
I'm all about making such offers, often with creators who've never heard of my work. Despite the seemingly impossible odds, I have found it to be particularly effective in not only forming win-win alliances with fellow creators, but making true friendships. Those are also good for business.
For instance: I'm a writer who released his novels online as free serialized audiobooks. Each week, new chapters of my novel (which I record myself) were released on my site and on iTunes as a podcast. I was part of a small-but-growing subculture of authors who use this content-powered "loss leader" strategy to build an audience for our stuff.
Scott Sigler is another popular podcast novelist. A few years ago, Scott and I got to talking. We're both thriller writers. (Scott writes brilliant sci-fi horror; I roll with technothrillers.) We were releasing our then-unpublished podcast novels at the same time, and we both craved larger audiences. What if we combined our efforts and promoted each other’s work in an innovative way? Since our manuscripts weren't yet published anywhere in "ink," we could alter the manuscripts, and make references to each other's novels within our own work. Better still, we'd host a contest for our listeners: They'd have to listen to both books to catch these "crossover" references. Those who spotted all six crossovers could win a prize.
The cross-promotion worked. Our audiences grew exponentially, and we still share a great many fans. We consistently promoted each other's work on our podcasts and websites. We found common ground, discovered an untapped opportunity to cross-promote, and ran with it.
Your cross-promotional pitches need not be so ambitious. You could scheme on something as simple as a series of mutually beneficial Twitter tweets, a blog post, mentions on your Facebook pages, an ad swap, a one-minute audio commercial to play on a podcast ... the low-impact list goes on and on.
Want to upgrade that cross-promotion? Consider a short fiction collaboration, serialized at your websites. (Part 1 would be at your site, Part 2 at your collaborator's site, and so on.) Team up for appearances at conventions, and promote this "twofer" appearance to your audiences. (This increases the number of attendees, and widens your net for new customers.) Same goes for book signings, if geography and budget permits. You're limited only by your imagination, and the interest level of your cross-promotional partners.
Of course, the more successful the creator you're pitching, the more likely they are to either ignore your request, or reject it. That's cool. But don't let the fear of rejection stop you from pursuing an alliance. Heck, it didn't stop you from writing your book or querying agents, so why should the possibility of "no" stop you now?
In fact, my mantra is "All they can say is no." I've pitched popular podcasters, bestselling novelists, film actors and directors on my fiction, often asking them to lend a hand (or credibility) to my projects. This crazy-ass breed of chutzpah has scored endorsements from the creators of Friday the 13th, The Blair Witch Project, Final Destination, several movie stars, cameo podcast appearances by cast members of Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and more. Their assistance either dazzled my fans -- which is also good for business -- or helped move the needle with the promotion of my work.
I share these successes not to brag, but to prove that this strategy is extremely viable, and that it gets people talking about your work ... which is the whole point, right?
By approaching influential creators -- and equally important, creators on the same influential "level" as you -- and asking them to help evangelize your work, you're offering them an opportunity to provide something of value to their audiences. They'll be talking about something cool and interesting. People love to read or hear about cool and interesting things. Plus, these creators benefit by your cross-promotional love via your online outlets. Every fan counts, and new fans are precious indeed, whether you're a noob or a veteran.
By making friends, you'll also form meaningful bonds with fellow authors. Cross-promotional potential will become more evident, the more you correspond. These professional alliances become personal ones -- and even more opportunities can spring from these relationships. I've referred colleagues for freelance fiction writing work, and they've opened doors for me. It's not a magic bullet to a love-in, but goodness, does it make book promotion easier and fun.
So make friends, whenever you can. Target colleagues in your genre and reach out. They'll likely be flattered to know that you want to help tell the world about their work ... and may very well respond in kind.
I can't rightly say if it'll be a full-on novel, novella, straight read or transmedia experience (like Personal Effects: Dark Art). Hell, it could jump over into screenplay territory by the time it's said and done. All I know is that I've wanted to write a Western for years, I've got a title, and I can hear the low-frequency rumble of a spiffy idea growling in my gut. Oh, and a cover. Because the stock photo was free at iStockphoto.com, and I had two hours to kill.
On May 1, I'll start working on THUNDERTAKER, the first story set in the universe I've created for The 33. The 33 is a cross-media project that I'd originally intended to release as a free fiction podcast last year. The world of The 33 will now likely be first seen in a series of ebooks. That's what THUNDERTAKER will probably become.
Truth is, I don't fully know what THUNDERTAKER will be by May's end, save for the fact that it'll be gruff, gritty and as nasty as razor wire. And for me, there's something delightful in not knowing what unholy mayhem will soon unfold.
I'll probably keep you in the loop as the story develops. Stay tuned ... and watch the horizon.
Since every other windbag author has blown a few thousand words on this topic, I reckon I oughta chime in about ebooks, pricing and value.
To be clear: Right now, I don't have much skin in the ebook game. My thriller, 7th Son: Descent, was released in e-formats by St. Martin's Griffin back in 2009. I'm a couple thousand bucks away from earning out my low five-figure advance. Ebook sales have made a positive and meaningful impact on 7th Son's bottom line.
Thanks mostly to the Kindle's debut back in 2007, the ebook marketplace has exploded in popularity, and swelled with content. Particularly empowering is the unfolding revolution in which creators can now become entrepreneurs by self-publishing their works in e-formats. They can even set the price for these ebooks.
I absolutely support this empowerment. My five-year history as an independent / freelance creator, and my consistent vociferous and monetary support of my indie colleagues should eliminate any doubt of this.
That said, I've become increasingly concerned about authors selling their ebooks at rock-bottom prices. I'm not concerned about the widely-discussed (and, according to critics, destructive and unsustainable) "race to the bottom" pricing trend; ebooks for a buck set bad precedents, pundits say. I'm also unconcerned about indies moving aggressively into marketplaces once traditionally dominated by mega-corps. Stick it to the The Man, I say. Hell, stick it in and break it off. The Man has it comin'.
No, my concern is philosophical. Authors who sell their novels at ultra-low prices (such as 99 cents) use this pricing as a differentiator to attract new customers with a nigh-zero-risk proposition. 99 cents is practically free, after all. I spent years offering similar nigh-zero-risk propositions to consumers by releasing my content as Free online audiobooks.
I admire the at-a-glance savvy of the 99-cent strategy, but fear these creators wildly undervalue the worth of their work -- and the ultra-low price undervalues the work's worth in the eyes of the consumer.
Put another way: The only 99 cent ebooks I buy are from creator friends, because I know them personally and want to see them succeed. Beyond that caveat, I don't buy 99 cent books because I reckon they're probably shit. I don't buy $3 books for the same reason. Their (very often) inarguably shitty covers, and (very often) inarguably shittily-written product descriptions and synopses provide further reasons not to buy. Very few novelists are accomplished graphic designers and marketeers, yet most playing in the self-publishing ebook space seem to think they are. Regrettably.
But I digress.
The point: I associate price with quality. I unashamedly judge books by their covers. You'd be a fool to think I'm the only one, or that this mindset is abnormal. It isn't.
I have no doubt these bargain basement authors -- let's call them the 99 Centsers -- sell plenty of ebooks. But I wonder how many sales they've lost from customers like me: normal folk who rationally associate price with quality, and who would've happily spent $10 for the same product. (Provided it was packaged with the panache worthy of a monetary transaction.)
99 Centsers also often insist it's the consumer hive-mind that should define pricing, not the entrepreneur: The marketplace decides pricing. I get the fleeting wisdom of that, despite the inconvertible fact that consumers presently support thousands of authors/publishers who sell books for $10 or more. Shoppers can't pass up deals, the 99 Centsers probably say. Ten dollars is simply too much to pay for an ebook.
What self-defeating, prideless bullshit. Shame on creators who believe this insulting myth. And if there are ebook shoppers who actually believe $10 is too rich for their Kindle-and-PC-owning, very likely broadband-Internet-and-premium-cable-subscribing blood, shame on them too.
For your consideration: The federal minimum wage is presently $7.25 an hour. Yet with this anemic pay, it requires less than two hours of effort, at today's minimum wage, to earn enough cash to buy a $10 ebook ... a product that will provide many more hours of engagement to read and complete. That is, in fact, a great value. If the book makes an emotional impact, hell, ten clams is a frickin' steal.
Since it's fair to assume the average ebook consumer earns at least the federal hourly minimum wage (and likely more), $10 is a more-than-fair ebook price for both consumer and creator.
Your work is worth far more than a buck, 99 Centsers. You may never believe it -- and I truthfully don't care if I convince you; it's not my career -- but I believe in my bones that it's true. Indeed, 99 Centsers don't, in fact, make a solid buck off their sales. The online retailer through which they distribute takes a cut before authors get their cash.
Finally, I want to briefly return to the topic of consumer and author expectations, and the exchange of currency for goods. At its simplest, if you're selling your ebook, you must be doing so because you have the nerve -- the wonderful, absolutely awesome, flipping-the-bird-at-the-odds nerve -- that your work is worthy of a stranger's time and money.
By god, it had better be. Because the very act of offering your work for purchase proclaims that you believe your work is worthy to compete against the likes of Dan Brown, Anne Rice, Brad Meltzer and anyone else's book coming out of New York City. And that means you've busted a heroic amount of ass to write, edit, polish (and repeatedly rewrite, re-edit and re-polish) that novel until it shines bold and bright. Hell, you've worked harder than those mainstream novelists because you wrote the thing, edited it, packaged it and promoted it, all out of pocket ... for no advance pay. You've assumed a shit-ton of risk.
And you're going to sell that book -- a book you soulfully believe stands up against the work of fellow pros, and worthy of a stranger's money (for why else would you sell it?) -- for a pitiful 99 cents a pop? Or an equally woeful three bucks a pop? My heart aches that so many creative people willfully sell themselves so short.
Folks who disagree with my perspective will delight in learning that I have no statistical data to support my claims about ebooks, pricing and value. I happily admit that I didn't birddog those numbers at all. For me, this isn't a debate or a discussion -- it's a declaration. I am genuinely unconcerned about crunching numbers and being numerically "right" about this. I am, however, deeply concerned about being philosophically and ethically right for me, and for my own creative and entrepreneurial path.
I am especially concerned because I'll publish ebooks of my own fiction later this year. I'll ship two novels -- 7th Son: Deceit and 7th Son: Destruction -- and at least one short story anthology -- 7th Son: 7 Days -- and at least one novella. I'll price novels at $9.99, anthologies and novellas between $4.99 and $2.99, and short stories at 99 cents. Why? Because I'm confident in my abilities, and believe any content I have the nerve to sell will deliver entertainment value that transcends these low prices.
And just as the 99 Centsers have a true believer's zeal for their pricing strategies, I'll very likely be equally unwavering in my own. I'll sleep soundly knowing I'm charging a fair price for my work. I won't bat an eye at whining shoppers who claim they can't afford a $10 ebook, for I'll know they are very likely lying, and probably don't value creative effort. If I can dictate my price, I can also dictate the quality of my customer. There is immeasurable value in that; ask any entrepreneur.
Call me creaky and slow-witted, but I simply wouldn't be proud to sell my stories for less than they're worth. From where I sit, that's an unnecessary compromise that would degrade the perceived quality of my work, and my reputation as an author.
I've worked too hard building both to sell them for a buck.
Today, J.C. speaks with Andrea Phillips, an influential transmedia writer and game designer. Andrea has worked and played in the transmedia space for a decade -- and has been a storyteller for far longer than that. In this epic 90-minute conversation, Andrea discusses her lifelong love of writing, how she was exposed to transmedia 10 years ago, and some of the lessons and unique challenges she's experienced while telling transmedia stories. J.C. chimes in with perspectives gleaned from his own transmedia creation experiences.
Andrea writes about games, storytelling, digital culture, and gender issues on her blog, Deus Ex Machinatio.
Note: This post originally appeared on the website E2BU. E2BU, aka the Enhanced Ebook University, educates authors and publishers on the creative and business potential of enhanced ebooks -- electronic books that transcend traditional reading experiences by incorporating video, online links and other multimedia elements into the narrative. Enhanced ebooks are an emerging storytelling form. I've yet to see an enhanced ebook that captures my vision for the platform's incredible narrative potential. I hope this post, which was originally written for authors and publishers, gets readers and creators thinking about the platform's potential.
Here's some enhanced e-book wisdom for my author colleagues: It all starts with you.
I'm approaching this from a fiction writer's perspective, though non-fiction writers can benefit from this advice. Prepare your work's enhanced ebook experience from the very beginning, as you conceive your book. As you plot and write, always remember that you’re now armed with countless opportunities to push your narrative beyond words. Take advantage of that, and the many emotionally-resonant strengths other media have over text.
Presently, enhanced content is often an afterthought, tacked on at the end of a production process as a blingy differentiator. We are now in an age of storytelling where that model is practically insulting to a reader. These days, there are few good reasons for creators to ignore the potential of integrating resonant multimedia elements into their stories.
From my perspective as an online- and transmedia-savvy creator, "enhanced" content should make a meaningful narrative contribution to the main story. Consider the narrative impact of experiencing fictional family photo albums, sci-fi computer dossiers, fake newspaper clippings, video blogs from your characters, etc. Every genre can benefit from this story-centric approach, and can move readers in new ways.
Make this content mission-critical to the narrative experience. Cleverly devise ways to structure your story so that photographs you choose to fleetingly describe in text (for instance) are visible via the enhanced ebook. Inject visual clues/foreshadowing into those photos that will pay off later in the story; savvy readers will be delighted. If you’re an indie creator rolling your own enhanced ebooks, take advantage of the cheap and free online tools at your disposal. Get free phone numbers via Google Voice and use them in your stories -- readers can leave voicemails to their favorite characters. Is there a crime scene video that's heating up your cop thriller? Include it in your enhanced experience.
Tightly integrate these transmedia opportunities into your stories. Don’t do what publishers are doing now. Don’t create a so-called enhanced experience that plays merely like a novel with some multimedia elements wedged into the narrative for the sake of spiffiness. Readers are smart, and they’ll smell that rat a mile away. They'll probably feel like they’ve wasted their money. That's bad storytelling, and bad for business.
Avoid self-congratulatory behind the scenes content such as author bios, old drafts of your manuscripts and the like. Only longtime/hardcore fans are into that stuff ... and most authors don’t have longtime/hardcode fans. There's very little value in this content; certainly not enough to charge the premium most enhanced ebooks command. Give people what they want: world-enhancing, emotionally-resonant fiction in various media.
Speaking from experience: If your funds and production capabilities are limited and you fear your enhanced elements appear amateurish, slyly manage audience expectations in your text by referring to it as feeling home-brewed. The Blair Witch Project did this to great effect. This way, the videos you shoot with an affordable Flip cam or cell phone don't feel cheap -- they feel authentic. Same goes for photos, and audio recordings.
If you self-publish an enhanced ebook and it becomes a viral or sales hit, know that a mainstream publisher will come a-callin'. An editor will wave a check under your nose, and you'll probably be appropriately wooed. Awesome. But as part of your negotiations, make certain to insist that the publisher create "more professional" versions of that enhanced content, if you have concerns about its quality. Make it a deal-breaker if you have to. Remember, you're doing the publisher a favor by signing on the dotted line, not vice-versa.
We've yet to see a truly resonant enhanced e-novel experience, but this is probably mostly due to ever-conservative publishers being unwilling to pony up cash to get experimental -- and authors embracing the self-defeating notion that they "can only write books." The former is short-sighted. The latter is preposterous, and insulting to one's creative abilities.
Embracing multiple narrative media ensures that you're not just building "enhanced" content -- you're learning new creative and artistic skills, which will improve your life and work.
I believe a killing can be made in this space, but it requires resources -- measured either in publisher dollars or indie creator sweat equity -- a lot of beyond-the-page creative thinking, and a willingness to embrace risk.
Are publishers willing to pull the trigger? They've been pretty gun-shy so far. As with most evolutions in storytelling and entertainment, it'll probably require an indie creator to prove the model works ... or a publisher identifying a qualified creator or two, paying them, and making a business leap of faith.
Note: This post originally appeared on the website WriterUnboxed. This is the first of several WU guest posts I'll reprint here on my site.
I submit this for your consideration: Expand and improve your media vocabulary. It might positively impact your career now, and certainly will in the future.
I define "media vocabulary" as the various media one uses to tell resonant stories. Since most readers of this blog are authors, I reckon we're fluent in the vocabulary of text-based storytelling. But how many of us have more than a pedestrian consumer's knowledge of other media such as video, audio, photography, or graphic design? How many of us use those media in our stories?
Based on anecdotal and professional experience, I believe in my marrow that now is the time for talespinners to get savvy with several storytelling media. Within years, I expect we'll see an explosive rise of enhanced ebooks, app-based fiction and transmedia narratives that will leverage technologies and trends that have already become mainstream.
Fret not, hand-wringing wordherding purists: These multimedia, aka "transmedia" -- or as I sometimes call them, "mergemedia" -- stories will never replace a printed book or text-only ebook. But publishers will soon get into the enhanced narrative business in a big way, and will keenly quest for stories that organically incorporate disparate media into cohesive, resonant narratives.
And who better than you to deliver that very thing? You'll be a hot tamale, on the front lines of a business trend that'll reinvent the way audiences experience stories.
Few authors are prepared for this dramatic storytelling shift. I'm blessed to say I'm one of them. I recently co-wrote a novel that included tangible artifacts that came with the book -- real-life, convincing items such as IDs, business cards, family photos and more. These artifacts had clues hidden within them. When readers combined clues in the novel's text with clues in the artifacts, they could experience more of the story in other media: audio phone messages, fake character blogs, websites of locales mentioned in the book, and more. They learned aspects of the story my novel's hero never discovered -- including a beyond-the-book twist ending.
I've dabbled in video storytelling. I've written screenplays for an animated web series. I was Head Writer for an immersive transmedia online narrative that promoted a Discovery Channel show. I've recorded my own audio fiction, been a voice actor for more than a dozen other audio fiction projects, incorporated photography and graphic design into my stories ... and even crafted book promotions that invited my fans to become "patients" in my fictional insane asylum.
Am I exceptionally gifted in all of these media? Of course not. But I'm clever, creative and curious enough to know it's in the best interest of my career to bust beyond any self-inflicted Perception Prison and just be a "writer" or "novelist." I'm a multifaceted Storyteller. If I can't stellarly execute a particular multimedia storytelling element, I'll ask around until I find someone who can help realize it for me. That's what the Internet is for.
I understand, as you should, that different media convey different narrative information and evoke different emotional reactions. We, as storytellers, should absolutely leverage that to our advantage. Consider this:
- A smartly-crafted paragraph about an elderly woman's house burning down
- A photograph of her porcelain doll collection by the window, ablaze
- Video of those doll's faces shattering from the intense heat
- An audio recording of the woman wailing at her loss, with the roar of the inferno and sirens in the background
Now consider these related -- yet unique and equally emotionally resonant -- elements presented together in a cohesive, organically-constructed narrative, experienced on a hand-held device. An iPad. An iPhone. The next generation Kindle. A laptop. Doesn't matter.
What matters is this isn't a gimmick. This is, very likely, the future of storytelling.
By dipping your toes into media other than text -- be it writing for the screen or comic book, envisioning cool opportunities to take your story "beyond words" and into a medium that appeals to an entirely different sense (and evoke unique emotional reactions), or developing and deploying story-enhancing online destinations (such as a fictional company's website) -- you're expanding and improving your media vocabulary. This will expand and improve your storytelling skills, and will differentiate you from the thousands of other writers who merely put one word in front of the other.
Differentiation is good for business. As I wrote this post, I received an email from an independent game developer who wanted to hire me for some voice acting work. That opportunity never would've occurred had I not expanded my media vocabulary to include audio storytelling years ago. (I said yes to the offer. That's paid work, homes.)
Same goes for my transmedia novel work and the Discovery Channel gig. I created narratives using several media, became well-known for them, and was hired to participate in those projects. I can't guarantee that you’ll experience similar opportunities, but your chances are hella better when you get experimental and go beyond your creative comfort zone.
How do you start down this path? I won't waste precious words, or your time, with a technical how-to. We're nowhere near ready for that. Instead, let me offer some thoughts on how to get your creative mind into the philosophy fueling my perspective. You’ve spent years crafting tales with words. You need to think beyond words.
Noodle on your work in progress, and then ask yourself questions such as:
- Are there ways to incorporate narrative portals to, say, a website where more narrative information can be delivered in an unconventional way? (Such as a character's video blog.)
- Can you leverage real-life everyday objects and conventional behavior in new and interesting ways? (Such as including a phone number in your story --which is actually a free Google Voice number you've registered -- for people to call and hear a message from the antagonist.)
- Are there familiar items that can enhance your narrative by adding an element of "real world" credibility to your story? (Such as fake classified blueprints, viewable at a password-protected website -- a site mentioned in your story.)
- Can you deliver a kind of real world interaction between your audience and characters? (Such as a blog written by your character, who responds to fans who comment on her posts.)
I'm scratching the surface here -- only your personal knowledge of your story and creative curiosity can determine if what you're presently writing can benefit from these "beyond the page" experience-based narrative tools. But my point should be clear: these narrative opportunities exist, and can be downright cheap (or free) to execute.
We storytellers now stand at the convergence of several world-changing trends: cheap tools to help us create multimedia story elements … increasingly available (and affordable) Internet access for consumers … portable digital devices that can talk to the Web and play that multimedia … and an always-on 24/7 resource (the Web) that can put us in touch with creators who can assist us, should we not have the skills to execute our projects on our own.
There's never been a better time in history to be a storyteller -- and there will likely never be a better time for you to become a first mover in what will soon become a prosperous storytelling space. If you're reading the same writing on the wall that I am, you'll want to start expanding and improving your media vocabulary.
You don't need to be an expert. You just need to be creative, and ask for help if you can't execute on your own.
Don't let the future of storytelling pass you by. It's already here.