Tales of the Stop

I am sitting on a mountain of awesome things right now, my friends. Things I have not yet told you about, but will be talking up in the coming weeks! And thing #1 is: Tales of the Stop. If I may steal a few words from the project creator as written over at Chuck Wendig's place:

A few years ago, I wrote a story called Azrael’s Stop. It’s a fantasy story about a teenager named Ceph who’s had to deal with a lot of death in his life—his whole family, a childhood friend, his best friend from school… And it’s kind of fucked him up. He thinks that everyone he loves is going to die, and so he won’t let himself get close to anyone.
Then a mysterious man brings him to a bar called Azrael’s Stop—said to be the watering hole of the Angel of Death Himself—and sets him up as the bartender. People start coming to the bar, people who are either ready to pass on from this world and just need someone to share their story with, or people who, like Ceph, have experienced death and need help dealing with it.

I have a short story in this volume called Changed and Changing. As with much of my short fiction over the last few years, it is thematically about the complexity of motherhood. I think it's a lovely, sad little piece, and I would enjoy it if you would read it and let me know what you think. (Note that it's also in my own collection of shorts Shiva's Mother and Other Stories if you've read that before, but I'd prefer if you buy Tales at this point. And if you liked Changed and Changing from the other collection, well! You'll definitely like the rest of the anthology!)

I know Lucas J.W. Johnson from way back in the transmedia salt mines, and I've always admired him for the way he thinks big and then acts on those visions of his. Azarael's Stop is a transmedia project start to finish; go and read that post at Terrible Minds to see learn more about its creative vision and implementation. It's worth your time, I promise. 

And then buy Tales of the Stop! This book is available in all the stores for the low price of $4.99! LOOK AT THESE BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo or buy it from Lucas directly as a discounted bundle at Silverstring Media!

More awesome things incoming. Stay tuned!

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The Complete Adventures!

AVAST! Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day, so it is only just and fitting that today is the official launch for The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart: The Complete Adventures! This all-new edition includes all twelve gorgeous cover illustrations without the pesky title text for your max enjoyment of Heather Williamee's art, a solve appendix that gives you the answers to all the puzzles and how to get to them, and a second appendix that decodes Captain Robert Carver's journal entries, which are what you get on the website if you solve the puzzles!

You can find The Complete Adventures in ebook format for $6.99 on Amazon, iTunes,  or directly through me on!  Barnes & Noble and Kobo are coming soon, and for the same price. There's also going to be a paper edition, but alas production on that got held up a little too long to make today.

But! If you want to hold off, the black and white trade paperback edition will cost $14.99 and comes with Amazon Matchbook for FREE, which means if you buy the paper edition through Amazon, you can also have the ebook for free through Amazon! Huzzah! 

I'll keep you posted as editions trickle out. But for now: Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey! Blue skies and smooth sailing on your adventures!


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Confessions of a Transmedia Pundit

If you're a long-time reader here, it won't have escaped your notice that I stopped talking about transmedia a while back. I'm not writing about craft anymore, I'm not giving talks at conferences, and I've been increasingly winding down or declining commitments to run workshops, speak to classes of aspiring digital professionals, and so on. But it's not because I've left transmedia, and not that I don't believe in transmedia anymore.

Partly this is because I'm in an extremely fortunate position wherein haven't needed to hustle for new projects for a long time now. But it was already in the cards when I was still hustling. Mostly it's because I don't want to sell snake oil, and when I talked about transmedia, snake oil was where I was headed -- and definitely what audiences wanted from me: promises that if they just did what I told them, they'd get more engagement, attract more eyeballs, and make more money.

That's not always true. Transmedia is not your magic bullet; you can use every technique in the toolbox and still make a project nobody ever looks at or cares about. Sometimes implementing a transmedia strategy is a waste of precious energy and resources. It's hard to say that when your goal is to get people to hire you for money to do things, though. But look: transmedia isn't synonymous with innovative or interesting, nor is it a replacement for a traditional marketing plan.

Anyway, I didn't want to become someone eternally pitching something I didn't believe in anymore. So I stopped punditing, basically.

There's another reason, too. While I was still on the conference circuit, I found myself increasingly talking about work that I'd done or experienced three years before, five years. Meanwhile the amount of work I was actually doing was paltry, and I don't think any transmedia work I've done has been noteworthy since... well. *coughs* It's been a while. 

I got into this field because of the art, because of the audience relationships, because when you make something amazing and electric, there's nothing else like it. I got into this because of The Beast, because I was told a story and gifted with an experience that changed my life. I want to do that, too. 

I wasn't ever, ever going to do that by speaking to a group of brand strategists about the engagement pyramid.

When something isn't working for you, when you find yourself walking down a path that goes somewhere you don't want to be, the only answer is to turn a corner and head somewhere else. So what have I been doing instead? I doubled and tripled down on making instead of talking

I've got a really magnificent long-term project that you could probably call transmedia I'm working on -- details will come eventually, I swear. Hopefully in the next couple of months!

And I've also been chipping away at a long-term plan to build some credibility as a writer, and maybe start some organic growth so that one day I can go to a publisher or a production company and have the gravitas to get more complex things made... without having to start a studio my own self. I've done independent works like Lucy Smokeheart and The McKinnon Account. I've also somehow turned into a legit science fiction author. I've written a novel, I've published a few short stories. I'm represented by Zoe Sandler at ICM now, and I'm a member of SFWA. I have a game on the way, and some secret stuff, too. I'm making again. It feels... amazing.

But I'm still here, and I have big plans. Long-range plans, to be sure. But hopefully when we get there, you'll find it's been worth the wait.

And who knows, maybe when the time comes, I'll finally have some new things to say about transmedia, too.


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Imaginary Friends

A few years ago, my friends at Stitch Media had a wonderful idea. What if you could give your child a book, and have the events of that book spill over into the real world? It would require a little help from the parents, of course -- but as parents, we already bring the Tooth Fairy and other small, personal sparks of magic into our children's lives. What if you could expand those little sparks into a full-fledged adventure?

And so Imaginary Friends was born, a concept for how we could provide a story and framework for children and parents to build something magical together.

That's how I came to write Circus of Mirrors. You can call it an interactive children's book, but that's not doing it justice. It's not an app where you can click on the flowers and watch them sproing. It's not a book with a website attached to it. This is a story where the characters are the child's friends, where they rely on the reading child to help them out of a pickle again and again. This is a book that lets the reader be the hero.

And the world of this book is, I think, full of whimsy and delight: magic mirrors that take you to an enchanted circus; cotton candy that tastes like lightning; the Strong Lady and the Bearded Man. Also: a mean witch! A mysterious fortune teller! A missing magician! This is a story full of love and sadness, mystery and deception, unbridled joy and mild sibling rivalry.

Right now, Imaginary Friends is being Kickstarted. But it's already down to the last couple of days, and it's not quite there yet. If you'd like to visit the Circus of Mirrors, get your ticket while you can. 

"Ready?" Sofia asked.

Max pulled back for a moment. "Wait a second," he said.

Sofia squeezed his hand as tight as she could. "Come on," she whispered. "Don't you want to have an adventure?"

Just on the other side of the mirror, the mysterious colored lights of the circus glowed, warm and promising. The music urged them to come closer. A crowd they couldn't yet see cheered. The scents of fresh popcorn and hot sugar drifted toward them.

Max smiled. "I'm ready. Let's go," he said.

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Karen Memory

Let's just get this out right away: Elizabeth Bear's novel Karen Memory is a flawless jewel of a book. This has all of the qualities of something I wish I'd written: inventive, thoughtful, fun, with elegant prose and a plot that winds around itself into a perfect, self-contained knot.

It starts with the voice. First-person Karen Memery herself is a rich and fully realized person with her own distinctive cadences and color. Frankly the voice alone is so enjoyable to sink into that it almost doesn't matter what else happens in the story at all. Spending time with Karen listening in on her thoughts is that good, you guys. She feels like someone you've almost met before. Someone you might even run into today waiting tables at a truck stop in Montana.

This is a big deal to me, because a lot of books lose me at the prose level. I'm sensitive to choice of words, I suppose. And sometimes when a book doesn't have music to it, when the language doesn't flow right, it grates on me so much that I have trouble enjoying any other element of the book, even if the plotting and pacing are perfectly executed. This one, though: this is all music, and nary a sour note or an off beat.

But there's more to love here, too. Karen Memory takes place in a fictionalized Gold Rush-era a lot like Seattle. But this isn't the Old West we're used to; this is both more and less real than that. On the less-real front, we have that whole steampunk angle; this is a world that includes surgical machinery and a Mad Science Tax on your Inventor's License.

But for all that, this novel incorporates a lot of the realities of life in the west that tend to get glamoured out of the picture: the way Seattle was built up an extra level to deal with the sewage problems that came with high tide; the disproportionate number of "seamstresses" in Gold Rush towns, a euphemism everyone knew perfectly well meant prostitutes; virulent racism and its consequences, including the threat of lynchings and the law looking the other way instead of protecting people of color; sex trafficking; the true fact of a diverse and cosmopolitan city. 

That all makes Karen Memory sound relentlessly grim, but for all that underpinning of profound realism, this book is at its core fun to read. It moves slowly at first (but not too slow), letting you get your bearings in the world. Indeed, it starts out seemingly as a small-scale drama about a brothel vs. the law, or maybe vs. the religious folk. But the scope and the pace ramp up gradually and inexorably until by the end you've found yourself on a rollicking adventure full of explosions and fist fights, local and international politics, romance, and Saving the Day.

So good. So good. You should buy it. I fully expect this one to take home a bucket of awards next year, and if it doesn't, I... I might be a little angry. I'm already warming up my nominating finger, I tell you what.

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