Playing for Keeps

FREE E-BOOK: "Playing For Keeps" + new short story by J.C. Hutchins


It doesn't get any cooler than this, folks. To celebrate the upcoming mainstream print release of her superhero novel Playing for Keeps on Aug. 25, author and podcaster Mur Lafferty has released the full text of the novel -- and a never-before-seen short story called Parasite Awakens -- as a free PDF download. The PDF also features original comic book cover-style artwork by Jared Axelrod, Natalie Metzger and me, and was assembled by Paul Fischer and Martha Holloway.

Podcast subscribers should automatically receive a dowload of this PDF to thier podcatchers. Folks can also manually download the file, below.

I've been promoting Mur's work here on the site and in the podcast feed for a week now, and there's a reason for that: it's worthy of all the attention. Playing For Keeps both celebrates and satirizes the superhero comics genre. Defying expectations, Mur's novel is an awesome exploration of heroism, the life of an underdog, and the corruption of power.

It's pretty damned funny, too.

Here's a synopsis of Playing For Keeps, from publisher Swarm Press:

The shining metropolis of Seventh City is the birthplace of super powers. The First Wave heroes are jerks, but they have the best gifts: flight, super strength, telepathy, genius, fire. The Third Wavers are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, the grace to carry a tray and never drop its contents, the power to produce high-powered excrement blasts, absolute control. over elevators.

Bar owner Keepsie Branson is a Third Waver with a power that prevents anything in her possession from being stolen. Keepsie and her friends just aren't powerful enough to make a difference. at least that's what they've always been told.

But when the villain Doodad slips Keepsie a mysterious metal sphere, the Third Wavers become caught in the middle of a battle between the egotistical heroes and the manipulative villains. As Seventh City begins to melt down, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and even harder to tell who may become the true heroes.

It's great stuff, so check out the free PDF, and please be sure to support Mur Lafferty's rush on the charts on Aug. 25 by purchasing a copy of Playing For Keeps!


BONUS: "Gestalt" short story by J.C. Hutchins by J.C. Hutchins


As reported in my recent UltraCreatives interview with author and podcaster Mur Lafferty, Mur recently reactivated the Playing for Keeps "Stories of the Third Wave" fan podcast to promote the novel's Author Sanctioned™ release date of August 25 at This anthology of fan-created content is astounding in scope; Mur told UltraCreatives listeners that she'd received so many stories for "...Third Wave," she's resorting to a daily release schedule just to keep up. How cool is that?

Even cooler (at least for me) is that Mur invited me aboard to write a short story set in her Playing for Keeps universe. I was flattered by her offer and concocted Gestalt, my contribution to the project. It was also a blast to get back in front of the mic and reading my own fiction again.

Longtime listeners of the 7th Son podcast know that 7S was originally conceived as a superhero story ... but since I was (and to a degree, still am) convinced that believable superhero tales are extremely hard to tell in prose fiction, I abandoned that concept for a more realistic narrative. As I wrote Gestalt, I set to prove myself wrong -- and I think I did just that. Your reaction as a reader may prove differently, but I'm very proud of this little story, and I hope I did Mur Lafferty's universe justice with it.

If you've never heard the Playing for Keeps podiobook or the "Stories of the Third Wave" podcast, but like what you hear here, be sure to visit to subscribe to both projects.

And please help support Mur Lafferty's work as she rushes the Amazon charts on August 25. Here's a link to the book's product page at -- but please be a part of the community effort and wait to purchase Playing for Keeps on the 25th.

Stay super.


Ultracreatives Interview #17: Mur Lafferty by J.C. Hutchins


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

Find Mur Lafferty on the World Wide Everywhere:

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

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

"Double Trouble" and "Playing for Keeps" banners for your site! by J.C. Hutchins

I recently created some Web banners to support my friends Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (for their imminent "Double Trouble" print novel promotion) and Mur Lafferty (to amp up folks for the print release of Playing for Keeps in late August). Since I haven't promoted these much, I thought I'd rattle the cup here and encourage you to help support these authors by posting the banners on your site, blog, Myspace, Facebook pages, etc.

Note: The banners are at the end of this post.

Inserting these little guys into your online home is easy peasy. Simply paste the embed data below into a blog post, sidebar widget, etc. The image (and hotlink) should miraculously appear on your site, for all the world to see.

Of course, I'd be remiss in not imploring you -- politely, of course -- to do more than just advertise these authors' brilliant wares. Help reward their hard work by purchasing copies of The Case of the Pitcher's Pendant: A Billibub Baddings Mystery and Digital Magic on Aug. 8, and Playing for Keeps on Aug. 25. Not only will you be "giving back" to these authors (who work tirelessly to provide fans with free audiofiction), but you'll help make history, and validate their work as professionals.

Trust me: there's no greater thrill for an artist than being monetarily rewarded for his efforts. Enjoy the banners, spread the word, and happy buying in August!


double trouble advert

Double Trouble banner embed code: <a href=""> <img src="" alt="Double Trouble advert"></a>

playing for keeps advert

Playing for Keeps banner embed code: <a href=""> <img src="" alt="Playing For Keeps advert"></a>

UltraCreatives Interview #4: Mur Lafferty by J.C. Hutchins


In this installment of UltraCreatives, J.C. chats with novelist and podcaster Mur Lafferty. A brilliant storyteller and essayist, Mur has released her writing into the podosphere since 2004. Thanks to her "veteran" status in the community, she has a has a unique perspective on podcasting's roots, the state of podcasting today, and where it's going.

J.C. and Mur talk about that, her first memories as a writer, what allured her to podcasting, and more. Of particular interest are her thoughts on her Heaven series of audio novellas, and the conclusion of her hit podiobook, Playing for Keeps. The interview is about 90 minutes long, but Mur's conversation and anecdotes are stellar, and well worth the listen.

Find Mur's work here:

If all goes according to plan, next week's guest will be entrepreneur and founder Jason Calacanis.

Purples and Tigers and Fire, Oh My! by J.C. Hutchins

Something not many folks know about me is that I'm an amateur graphic designer. I used to do it for cash ... but these days, I do it for fun, and for friends. For instance: Nearly all of the typographical elements you see in the 7th Son covers and here at were designed by me. I'm no pro; it's just another way to flex my creative muscles.

When time permits, I lend my meager pixel-pushing talents to worthy causes -- namely, my friends' projects. One such pal is Mur Lafferty, author of the Playing for Keeps podiobook. Each week, I collaborate with brilliant writer and artist Jared Axelrod (and more recently, Natalie Metzger) to create the "comic book" covers seen in the free Playing for Keeps PDFs. But when Mur informed me that she had an idea to reward her faithful evangelistic Street Team members, I was stoked, and wanted to help.

Behold the fruits of that collaboration: Personalized online avatars and images for Street Team members. Folks who spread the word about Mur's novel will receive a cool "Third Waver" picture and avatar, complete with spiffy name. (Since I'm one of the many regular contributors to Mur's project, I'm a "First Waver.") You can use the avatar on Twitter, LiveJournal, etc. ... and you can post the larger image on your site, or blog. Mur has created yet another "first" in podiobook promotion! Very cool.

Visit the Playing For Keeps site, sign up for the Street Team and get evangelizing. Those who do will receive a custom-made hero and name (created by Mur Lafferty herself), and these whiz-bang cool rewards!