The McKinnon Account

I made a thing! And I'd like to share the thing with you!  It's called The McKinnon Account, and it's a story told over the course of a morning via several emails and a few text messages. The fabulous and warmhearted Ben Scofield wrote the platform, and one day I'd like to make it open-source.

You can sign up for this little story at Hunter, Brown & Shen. Once you've registered, it begins for you at 9am the next day. (For extra verisimilitude, sign up on a Sunday so it plays out while you're at work of a Monday morning.) Just to be clear, it's not a game, just a story, and you can't do anything but read it. Call it an ARG without the G? 

This is just a tiny prototype for a larger project I'm hoping to make later this year, assuming I find the time to write it. That one is called The Attachment Study, and it's an experiment with a few things I'd like to try: single-player replayable immersive narrative; the illusion of interaction, where no real branching or player agency is actually possible; and for the real thing later in the year, the emotional texture of a character in the story falling in love with an audience member. The McKinnon Account does two out of three, and along the way incorporates some of the narrative techniques I plan to use in The Attachment Study  -- attributing actions to the player, for example. 

One more thing! Services to send email and text messages aren't entirely free, so running this story is likely to cost us a (very small) amount of money. If you think The McKinnon Account is super cool and you enjoy your time working for Hunter, Brown & Shen, maybe buy us a cup of coffee? I've set up a Gumroad product where you can pay what you like, if you are so moved. (The downloadable is a photo I recently took in Vienna, just so's there's something there. It is not actually related to the story of The McKinnon Account.)

So! That's the thing! Since this is a prototype, it's important I find out how this actually works for you. Please, please tell me how the story plays out for you; what you liked, what didn't work for you, thoughts on how it could be improved or modified to be better. Comment here if you can, or on Facebook or on Twitter, or reach out to me privately by email through my contact form. Even if you don't like it, that's valuable information I can use before I spend some months working on a story that everyone will hate.

Thank you! And congratulations on your new job at Hunter, Brown & Shen. Good luck!

UPDATED: If your phone number isn't in the U.S., alas you'll only receive the texts as emails and not to your phone -- but you will still get them, no worries!

Revision Cover Reveal

My debut novel, Revision, now has a cover and preorder links and a release date! The date is May 5 of 2015, you can get preorder links from Fireside Fiction, and the cover is... well.... let me just show you.


Meanwhile, I've gone through a very complicated reaction to the cover design process, and I thought I'd share it with you. The original cover designs were very much like this final cover; basically we combined the visual treatment of one with the text treatment of another, and BAM. Magic.

This is a very serious cover, I think. This is the cover for a book that lays a hard claim to being a science fiction novel. And that's what I wanted -- in fact, my most heartfelt addition to the cover brief was "no girl cooties." Revision is indeed a book upon which you could put an engagement ring on the cover and it wouldn't be... entirely misleading. Except that it would mean I couldn't get the kind of attention for this book that in my secret heart I want to get, because hahaha chicklit amirite?

And yet, and yet, I had a bit of panic at the idea of having such a serious cover for this book. When I drilled deep down into my psyche, I found fear, as one always does, and this time the fear took this shape: "What if they find out this is a GIRL BOOK about GIRL THINGS and they get angry? Because this is not a serious book."

Let's unpack this a little.

"This is not a serious book" is something I tell myself so it won't hurt if people dismiss it, but under the snarky, funny candy shell, this is to its core a book about privilege, about human nature, about trying and failing and trying again. It's not a serious book in that it's not The Handmaid's Tale, but it's not NOT a serious book, either. So why am I afraid of presenting myself as a serious author?

It's because we've created a false dichotomy where a book about a woman, where the core relationship is a friendship between women, where the most important plot drivers are to do with relationships and trust -- everything else falls away, and suddenly that book can't be serious. I can't be serious. So that cover is misleading.

In the interests of feminism, I've decided to stomp the hell out of that voice telling me it's too serious, too misleading -- because Revision is no more nor less serious a book than, say, Wool is, and I don't blink at that equally serious cover for a second.

But I doubt, and I worry. The fear is always there. Because that's what it is to be a woman author; to always be threading the needle between "woman" and "author." Let's hope this time we got it right.

In Loco Parentis and Doing Solo Work

Last week, my story In Loco Parentis went up on Escape Pod. OH MY GOD, you guys. It's happening! For real!

I wrote this piece originally as a sub for Women Destroy Science Fiction (though obviously they declined it) so it's about a teen girl and a crush and mothers and daughters and relationships. And AI that lives in your head. But it's also about how we use new technologies to do the same human things we've always done... maybe more efficiently, but always for the same ends. Read it! And I hope you like it!

It's been fairly well-received so far, or at least nobody has said anything mean to me about it? This is a tremendous relief. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting something terrible to happen.

See, this counts as my first-ever professional science fiction publication, which is simultaneously hilarious and overwhelming. I've been writing science fiction and fantasy professionally for several years, of course, but always in the context of a team, or work-for-hire, or else one-off goofy experimental projects. Lucy Smokeheart is a lot of fun, but it's not putting my heart on the line. I'm not trying to say anything. But this is the year I'm showing the world what's inside of my heart, as opposed to what comes out of my brain when I'm given a particular writing problem to solve.

So the other night I took to Twitters to talk a bit about what it's like to write for games vs. books (and solo short stories!) and why the latter feels much more frightening to me. Annnnnnd here's the Storify. You know, in case you missed it.

Transmedia Rolodex 2015

Friends, colleagues, artists all: I'm in a great position right now. I have more work than I can shake a stick at, and it looks like things are going to stay that way well into the foreseeable future. But it's not that way for everyone, and I'd like to do a little something about that.

I present to you the Transmedia Rolodex 2015.

If you're someone who's worked in the transmedia space -- an experience designer, a web developer or coder, a writer, an artist, video producer, anything -- leave your name in the comments here, along with a portfolio link and a suggestion on the best way to contact you for work.

I'll use this rolodex myself when trying to think of someone to refer work to, and indeed should I find myself needing someone to fill a particular skill gap in my team. And it's my hope that other people will also use this as a reference for finding people familiar with the particular needs and peculiarities of working in our liminal art. 

So please, leave your info here -- and if you get hired as a result, hey, drop me a line? I'd love to hear about it!


Goodbye, 2014

This sure has been a corker of a year, huh? Up and down, up and down. 

I feel like I shipped practically nothing this year -- the only things I can point to and say "I did this" are National Geographic's Expedition Granted plus a handful of short stories and Lucy episodes. Not enough. Nowhere near enough, and that's not just the neurosis that insists nothing is ever enough.

But this has been the year my daughter almost had glaucoma (but then didn't) and we almost didn't have health insurance (but then we did.) The year I had my gall bladder removed. The year I had skin cancer. (Again.) The year I had freaking pneumonia, and in fact I am not quite recovered as I write this. And so this has been the year of blown deadlines and despair. The year of extenuating circumstances.

But this is also the year The Walk game came out. It's the year I started to sell original fiction to publishers, including what will be my debut novel. The year I got to eat gluten again, and the year I got to go to London's Worldcon and even attend the Hugos party. It bears noting that this has been a year in which I got to see many layers of kindness from my friends and colleagues, who have been universally compassionate about the neverending litany of extenuating circumstances with which I have wrestled.

New seeds have been planted, too. 2014 is the year I started thinking about and inching toward some larger-scale indie transmedia works, the fruits of which are not yet ripe. Perhaps most important of all, this is the year Lothian Airsoft came into my life, again, the fruits of which are, again, not yet ripe. 

And next year is looking really amazing

So. 2014. It's been a wild ride, and somehow I've lived through all of it, not much worse for wear -- arguably better than ever. There's been a lot of bad but so much good mixed in that I can't quite resent you.

Welcome, 2015. You're walking into some very high expectations. But you're up to the job. I believe in you.