Taking a Moment to Ask Myself “Why?”

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Last month Mur Lafferty shared her confusion over a certain type of feedback she’d received from folks explaining in detail why they aren’t reading or listening to one of her works. I meant to comment, but my thoughts on the subject seemed fairly divergent from that of the other commenters and I held off. I’m currently re-reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and parts of it brought Mur’s question back to mind. The two things collided, and here is the result. So while I’m not directly responding to Mur, without her post I may never have thought this through, and realized I once was “one of those people.”

This issue is up there with the people who tell me when they didn’t like a podcast or a story or a book. They’re entitled to their opinion, I certainly don’t begrudge them that, but I don’t understand why I need to know about it. Do they want me to edit? Never write something like that again? I don’t get it.

I think my major disconnect is I find myself making the assumption that these folks are offering this feedback not in the hopes that Mur will rewrite for them, but that it will in some way inform her future works. I can’t imagine if they’d written her off completely as not worthy of their time and attention that they’d email her at all. If I’m wrong about that, I don’t know what they want either.

Confessions of an Accidental Troll

Back in the late 90s1 I once set an author an email asking them why they insisted on doing something just to piss people off (it was a shared universe novel line, and I was far from alone in my concern). Part of the uproar centered around the fact that he was the only author at the time with the license to use certain critical characters, so there was a feeling that he was abusing this power.

Filled with “fan entitlement” of George-Lucas-killed-my-childhood proportions I tore into him. That email was not my finest hour.

The author send me a well thought out reply, which made me feel like an ass for the tone of my first email. He wanted fans to be able to enjoy his book, but he also had to tell his story his way. After some more friendly back and forth he asked for input in the form of research, letting me know that while he’d read and consider it he made no promises as to if it would change his story.

I can’t say for certain how much impact I had on the book overall, but he did say he found it helpful and made use of it. He even thanked me in the books acknowledgments.2

I really don’t know what I expected when I sent that email, and I don’t know what the author thought I expected, but his response seriously humbled me. In the end he wrote the book he wanted to write, gained a great deal of respect from me, and got some free research out of the bargain.

Never again would I send that type of email to anyone. But when I look back, the reason for sending it was that really I wanted to be able to enjoy his book, and from what I knew of it I wasn’t going to be able to. I like to think he saw that I acted like an ass because I cared strongly about something he also cared strongly about, and he was able to turn it around into something constructive.

Also, I no longer feel entitled to anything just because I’m a fan.3

I not saying anyone needs to react like he did, or that what he did was the best choice even. Instead I offer this as an example of this type of exchange, and an exploration of where my own opinions on the matter stem from.

  1. Yeah, we had email back in the dark ages. I used elm, and I liked it. Now get off my lawn! []
  2. If you’ve seen my name (mis-spelled Jason Penny) in the acknowledgments of a late 90s media tie in book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. []
  3. I still reserve the right to get angry at bad remakes. []

Available August 25th: Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps in Print

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

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Next Monday, August 25, Mur Lafferty‘s Playing for Keeps will be available in print1 from Swarm Press. I’m really psyched about this one.

Welcome to Seventh City, 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, like bar-owner Keepsie Branson and her friends, are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, absolute control… over elevators. They 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 egotistical heroes and manipulative villains.

Playing for Keeps does a great job of showing what it might really be like to live it a world where some people have super powers. It does this not by focusing on the heroes and villains, but on the folks with lesser powers. But it’s not all “I wish I had a cooler power and people liked me” angst (although there is some of that). It’s about friendship, about the dangers of seeing things as black and white. It’s also an action packed romp that’s a whole lot of fun.

But wait, there’s more!

The Podcast

Playing for Keeps was first release as a serialized podcast (in both audio and PDF form). The unabridged audio version is available from Podiobooks.com where it currently has five star ratings across the boards. This is how I consumed the book, and I recommend you check it out.

The Theme Song (now with video)

The audio version also featured the books theme song, written and performed by Beatnik Turtle. Mur recently held a contest where fans sent in video clips of themselves dancing, or lip syncing, or acting out a scene, or whatever to make a music video for the song. The results can be seen here.

Stories of the Third Wave

One of the most interesting thing that was done to promote the original podcast, was Stories of the Third Wave, a companion podcast featuring fan created content2 . For the print release Mur has started a new season of Stories of the Third Wave featuring short fiction and in-universe radio programs. You can get them all by subscribing to the feed at PlayingForKeepsNovel.com. So far it’s quite the line up:

  1. Easter Egg Commentary 1 — featuring the Easter Eggs originally hidden in the PDF version of the podcast
  2. Manic Mondays #169 — a PfK themed episode of Tom Rockwell’s Manic Mondays
  3. Super 107! — featuring Casey Shultz of SciFi Surplus and Natalie Metzger of Radio Isopod
  4. Geek Survival Guide — a PfK themed episode of Zach Ricks’ Geek Survival Guide
  5. Political Heroes — from Christopher Lester and Bryan Watson
  6. The News from Bewilder Pond — from Matthew Wayne Selznick
  7. Faith Matters — from Dr. John Cmar
  8. The Cockroach’s Bite — fiction from DK Thompson
  9. Conversations About Things With Wheels — from Joe Mieczkowski of On The Podcast
  10. LoveLines — a full cast program, produced by Kimi Alexandre
  11. Knit Spirit — a PfK themed episode of Ivy Reisner’s Knit Sprit
  12. Gestalt — fiction from JC Hutchins
  13. Block Party! — a PfK themed episode of Jason Block’s Block Party
  14. This Seventh City Life — from Christiana Ellis
  15. A Klamath Home Companion — from Grant Baciocco

The PDF

Want to give the book a read right now? Then head on over and download the entire book in PDF, including a all new short story Parasite Awakens, not currently available anywhere else3 .

Still Not Convinced?

Look, Playing for Keeps is an awesome book. You should buy it, next Monday, August 25th, from Amazon.com. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

  1. Technically the book is available right now due to the fact that Amazon listed the books when they arrived, but just ignore that. You can also ignore it if Amazon says “Out of Stock” because it’s practically meaningless. []
  2. I contributed to Episode 6 []
  3. This story is intended to bridge Playing for Keeps with it’s planned sequel []

“Brave Men Run” Web-a-Thon Tomorrow

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

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Sovereign Summer Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tomorrow, Sunday July 13th, Matthew Wayne Selznick‘s Novel Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era is being released in a all new paperback from Swarm Press, and he’s asking everyone who can to buy the book this Sunday from Amazon.com. To promote the occasion Matthew will be streaming live video throughout the day tracking the books progress on the Amazon.com charts.

A Teen Movie / Comic Book Mash-up

Brave Men Run is the story of Nate Charters. Born different, unsure of his origins, he’s an outcast at Abbeque Valley High School, a self-proclaimed “boy freak” with few friends and low self-esteem. When the Sovereign Era dramatically dawns, Nate finds himself in a quest to discover the truth: is he more than he seems, a misfit in a miraculous and powerful new minority… or something else entirely?

All New, All Free Sovereign Era Content

Every hour on the hour from 10am Eastern until 5pm Eastern Matthew will be reading brand new short stories set in the universe of Brave Men Run by J.C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell, Matt Wallace, J.R. Blackwell, P.G. Holyfield, and Jared Axelrod.

You can find more information about the the web-a-thon and what Matthew hopes to achieve here. I will be there! Will you?

Links of Interest (January 9th 2008 Through January 25th 2008)

Friday, January 25th, 2008
Playing for Keeps Characters – Set 1
Three of the character cards Natalie Metzger produced for Mur Lafferty’s “Playing for Keeps”. Shown side by side with the black and wite ink versions.
Fresh Pics of Mulder & Scully
Slice of Sci Fi has three photos of Mulder & Scully from the new X-Files movie. There nothing super special, but seeing these I’m a lot more excited about seeing this when it comes out.
Scott Brick Presents
One of my all time favorite audiobook narrators, Scott Brick, has launched a blog. If you’ve never heard one of his productions I recommend you seek one out and give it a listen.
New PDF reading software for Sony Reader: Reflowing and resizing will help cope with small-screen issues
Apparently Sony Reader is going to have a way to reflow and resize PDFs for reading. My opinion is the PDF is the single worst e-book distribution method, but this would at least make them usable. Hopefully other devices follow suit.

Links of Interest (January 8th 2008)

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
An Interface of One’s Own
Virginia Heffernan covers alternatives to Microsoft Word for writers including Scrivener (my personal favorite), Ulysses, WriteRoom, and Nisus Writer.
Future of Ajax.NET Professional
With the release of VS2008 and .NET 3.5 Michael Schwarz is ending development on Ajax.NET Professional (an alternate Ajax toolkit for ASP.NET that predates Microsoft’s own).
The Secret Lair
An all new podcast hosted by Chris Miller and Kris Johnson.
The transformation of a writer with Mur Lafferty
Wayne Sutton interviews Mur Lafferty about social media (video).
IE7.js version 2.0 (beta)
Dean Edwards IE7.js has been updated after a long period of inactivity. The new version is split in two files IE7.js brings IE5+ into the same level of compliance as IE7, while IE8.js contains further standards compliance fixes beyond what IE7 currently

Go Listen: Stories of the Third Wave, Episode 6

Monday, January 7th, 2008

The latest episode of Stories of the Third Wave, the companion podcast to Mur Lafferty‘s Playing for Keeps features a segment written by yours truly (performed by my lovely wife and I). It also features another great song from always entertaining Ookla the Mok.

Go Listen: Lafferty, Sigler, and a Barrel of Monkeys

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps […] tells the story of Keepsie Branson, a bar owner in the shining metropolis of Seventh City: birthplace of super powers. Keepsie and her friends live among egotistical heroes and manipulative villains, and manage to fall directly in the middle as people with powers, but who just aren’t strong enough to make a difference. Or that’s what they’ve been told. As the city begins to melt down, it’s hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Mur Lafferty’s latest podiobook officially launches tomorrow (although you can hear the first chapter right now). If you’ve ever listened to I Should be Writing you’ve probably heard of it (although perhaps under the title Keppsie’s Bar). It looks like Mur is trying out some new things with the Playing for Keeps Experience feed which will feature a host of additional content, including PDFs of the chapters and Stories of the Third Wave, a supplemental podcast.

Listen to the Promo and subscribe.

Scott Sigler’s Nocturnal

Something lives deep beneath the streets of San Francsico. Something that has been there for centuries, something that comes out at night … to feed on the dregs of society. A sub-culture, with its own myths, its own legends of leader named The King that will lead them out of bondage, and their own demon, a hunting shadow known only as Savior.

But the legends of Savior’s brutality have faded, the fear passed into stories told to frighten the young ones. When The King finally appears, just as foretold, the Nocturnals know their time has time — the time to come out from under the streets and hunt humanity in the open.

Scott Sigler’s newest podiobook thriller launches tonight at midnight EST. As usual it sounds like quite the ride. If you’ve heard Scott’s stuff you already know what to expect, if you haven’t you can head on over to Podiobooks.com and grab Earthcore and Ancestor at any time.

The print version of Nocturnal is currently scheduled for 2010, but the podcast launches tonight, so why not listen to the promo and subscribe.

The NanoMonkeys

NanoMonkeys Coverart

Hosted by PG Holyfield, Chris Miller, and Kris Johnson, the NanoMonkeys aim to help get you through the madness that is NaNoWriMo.

For those of you, like me, that are participating in NaNoWriMo, and thinking “Gah! Who has time for new podcast novels?”, I’ve got just the thing for you. The NanoMonkeys is a daily podcast (approximately five minutes per episode) that runs throughout November offering writing advice and encouragement. This year the line up features a number of guest authors (including me on November 3rd). I made listening to this part of my daily routine last year, and I recommend you do the same.

This year’s welcome episode is available now. What are you waiting for, subscribe?

Go Listen: SOLIDARITY! Explained

Friday, September 14th, 2007

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or via my Lifefeed you may have seen some recent references to SOLIDARITY! Check out I Should Be Writing #76 in which Mur Lafferty interviews JC Hutchins about the phenomenon. You’ll also hear a rather rushed sounding voicemail from Yours Truly.

Links of Interest (June 21st 2007 Through June 29th 2007)

Friday, June 29th, 2007
Pirate keyboard
CORSAIR Ergonomic Keyboard For Pirates
David Allen Company Podcast
David Allen Company podcast
Writer Stalking
Vlog-paparazzia stalk author/podcaster Mathew Wayne Selznick at Balticon.
Locus Online: New Books, mid-June 2007
Locus online’s listing of new SF/F/H books for mid-June 2007
The Dawn of Dilbert
The original batch of Dilbert strips that were submitted to the cartoon syndicates (with reactions).

Links of Interest (April 27th 2007 Through April 28th 2007)

Sunday, April 29th, 2007
The Dragon Page » Contest: Crystal Rain Giveaway
In honor of the May 2007 paperback release of Crystal Rain, author Tobias Buckell has graciously consigned us 3 signed hardcover copies to give away to Dragon Page listeners
Ninjawords – a really fast dictionary
Finally a dictionary where you don’t have to know how to spell the word before looking up how to spell the word. Pulls from Wiktionary and Princeton WordNet. I especially like that you can lookup multiple words at once (use commas to separate). Oh and
MythShow 07
Interview with Mur Lafferty
Transcription of the Panel at Lunacon 2007
A transcription of the ‘Ask The Editors’ panel at the 2007 Lunacon, recorded by John Joseph Adams, and featuring Douglas Cohen, Marvin Kaye, Hildy Silverman, and Wendy S. Delmater. Contains link to mp3.
User-Generated Content Is Top Threat to Media and Entertainment Industry, Accenture Survey Finds
Media and entertainment executives see the growing ability and eagerness of individuals to create their own content as one of the biggest threats to their business, according to results of a survey released today by Accenture.
First look: Downey forges a bond with ‘Iron Man’ role – USATODAY.com
Look like this could be good (please let it be good).