Good Stuff: L.I.F.E. in the 23rd Century by Jason R. Richter

wp-1489438469973.jpgI realized recently that you can measure the state of the union with Saturday Night Live as a barometer. It’s dark days for America when SNL is entertaining, troubled times when they have material to work with.
Following that notion, it’s no shocker to find a lot of comedy in new dystopian stories, and Jason R. Richter’s L.I.F.E. falls right in that vein. His vision of the future takes some of our brightest* qualities and cranks them to eleven: mindless consumerism, war-mongery, xenophobia, Christano-centrism (is that the word?), dependence on quick-fix psychopharmacology, hyper-sensitivity, reactionism, sheepism, use of the word “freedom” as a distracing bludgeoun while destroying the reality of the concept, our inability to deal with anything, and generally being collectively f$@#-witted.
(*: I said brightest qualities. Most visible, not best.)
I think this needed to be a comedy. Without the buffering jokes, the disheartening reality of the world in this book would hit way too close to the life we live in. It would feel like a tale of tomorrow, not of 200 years in the future. And that’s the point. Comedy functions to package awful concepts in palatable forms. You laugh and say “That’s so true!” But you keep on thinking about the idea, the concept, the warning. And you stop laughing. That is where this book fits; it its credit, and our detriment, L.I.F.E. is more of a mirror than it initially seems to be.
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NAME THAT HERO!

It’s contest time, fans and friends. Time to put your name up in lights!

But first, a little housework.


Now onto the juicy story! I’m going to re-name George after one of you! Yep, there are two protagonists in Beneath White Clouds, and one of you gets to be him/her. I can’t take this to the presses with the guy named George. If you can’t guess why, you’re too young. Let’s just say that the name “George” is just a little too close to the mark. So I’m going to rename him after one of you.*

How?

Anyone to place a super-reader order (3+copies ordered) by Sunday, Oct 2nd (by midnight pacific time), will have their names put into a randomization engine (which may or may not be a hat). One of the lucky ones will be selected to have George re—named after them.

Now you might wonder, “What if the winner’s name is totally feminine, like Samantha or Kisha or something?”

Well, then, it’ll be time for a social experiment of sorts. George is written as a male. If I end up with a feminine name for him, then he’ll go “under the knife”, so to speak.

I’ll change all pronouns and references to match his new gender, and might have to adapt a few gags, but otherwise I’ll leave his/her character, dialogue, behavior all the same.

That’ll be interesting to see, won’t it? Get those orders in – all supporters will be acknowledged in the book, but only one of you will get to be this guy:

I mean, srsly, who wouldn’t want to be that guy? Looks like one happenin’ dude right there. Guy’s got it going on.

*:  If you win, and your name happens to be George, we’ll figure something out. Re-name George after your Mom or Goldfish or something.

Writer ≠ Videographer

Before launching the Inkshares campaign for my “Beneath White Clouds,” the book needed a trailer. An audio-visual wunderfest to introduce people to the story. So I made this:

Making this was a helluva learning experience. Like with any DIY effort, it was a total pain in the ass… but worth it, and fun. I’d like to share with you some of the resources I found to put this together.


7072482_origWindows Movie Maker. This is nothing new. I used this briefly  back in college. Might not be what pros use, but it’s a powerful tool with an easy interface to  handle  the grunt work of  splicing slides, audio and video together. Limited in some ways, and a little twitchy, but it got the job done. Specs don’t say it’s compatible with Windows 10, but it worked just fine on my computer.


Now here’s where the trickiness ensued. Movie Maker was fine for putting my slides, captions and music together, but I hit some hurdles trying to record myself making a statement.

Well, the first hurdle is that delivering a prepared statement to the camera sucks  bad. Took me 50-odd takes. Many people across the web can probably offer better advice than me on that subject. But aside from tripping over my tongue over and over and over, I ran into some technical issues, probably related to having a  cruddy mic and webcam. The audio from my raw recordings was out of synch and quiet as a church mouse. No bueno.

So I had to rip the audio from the video, amplify it, then tie it back together. I found an easy tutorial on how to do it here. But I ran into hurdles with step 1; convert the video to an audio  file. The trouble is that free is not free.  The tutorial video is from 2011, and perhaps then RealPlayer was completely free. Nowadays, if you try to use the conversion part of RealPlayer, it will only convert 2/3 of your file. How lame is that? You have to buy  the full version to get it to convert an entire video file. So I looked around, and found a copycat industry. If you search for anything like “free video converter,” every “free” program you can install will do the same thing – do only 2/3 of the job until you pay up. I think most of them were just re-brands of the same software, and some were infected with garbage. Dookie.


tencoder-logo-iconI found what I needed  when I finally got smart enough to search for “open source.” Duh. I tell ya, reeally dumb for a smart guy sometimes. Anywhoo, I found TEncoder, a fantastic video  converter. I can”t tell you everything this program does, but it certainly had no problem delivering me a .wav soundtrack from a video. Piece of pie. The program’s got that open-source  feel, which means the GUI isn’t all shiny cotton-candy wiping your butt for you. But it does the job, and there are plenty of FAQs,  guides and boards to help you over any hurdles.


audacity_logoAudacity was the last new tool I added to my toolbox in the pursuit of crafting a goofy video.

With the isolated audio track in hand )or in hard drive, whatever) It was a cinch to pop into Audacity, amplify the volume, and export as a new, loud audio track. And that’s just scratching the surface. I don’t know everything Audacity can do, but I know it makes identifying and deleting white noise so stupid easy you’ll spit.


After that, it was a piece of pie to stitch the loud track to the raw video in Movie Maker, tweak it to synch up properly and export a good, useful video file with decent audibility.

The result  isn’t professional-grade, but it’s better than anything I would have thought within my capabilities before trying. So I end with a message of encouragement to all of you doers and makers: MAKE, and DO, and don’t ever think you can’t. We’re in an era where both artistic and technical power are in everyone’s reach. I’m not a director, editor, or sound engineer… but now I am (a little bit). So if you’ve got anything you dream of making, stop dreaming and give it a bash. I guarantee; the results of your attempt will be better than the results of hesitating and dreaming.

Polls are open!

An update on “Beneath White Clouds'” Inkshares campaign.

We start out week 3 with 22 orders – almost 10% of the way to Quill publication. WooHoo! That’s great, but we’ve got work to do yet! Put your name on a copy, and please help spread the word.

Now for the fun stuff. When working on cover art for this book, I couldn’t stop myself at 1. I had to go an make 4 conceptual drafts for the face of Beneath White Clouds.

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So, these are drafts, not finalized versions. Now I need your help to figure out which concept I should develop into a final version.

You get to vote! Follow this link to pick your favorite!

Which image grabs you? Which one looks the most like a book you’d want to pick up? Take your pick, then share the poll with your friends. Vote early, vote often, let your voice determine the face  of my next book.

Feel free to leave feedback on how you think the art could be improved in the comments at the end of the poll or on the Inkshares page.

Happy voting!

Crowdfunding begins!

inkshares-620x300I’ve hit the big red button!*

Aye, that’s right me lovelies, Beneath White Clouds is up, active, and funding.

Now I need you. Check it out, scope out the trailer, spread the word, and lend me your support.

I love this story, love the pace, the energy, the razor’s edge it walks between comedy and tragedy. I want to give this story the greatest entrance into the world I can manage, and I can do that with your help.beneath-white-clouds-cover3

*: It’s actually not a big red button. Small, clean, rectangular and green, if I recall. Did have the word “launch” on it, though, so that’s fitting. And I didn’t “hit” it because, you know, I don’t want to replace my laptop. It’s all figurative, you know? But you can dig that, cuz you’re into fiction. But maybe Inkshares should consider making it a big, red launch button?

But whatever! Travel yourself on over to Inkshares and give me some love, eh?

Good Stuff: God’s War

god's warGrabs you by the face and doesn’t let go. I have never read a book like this before. Can’t even tell you if it’s a sci-fi or a fantasy. Doesn’t matter, because the story is great. Way-future setting in a culture gone so shattered that the dregs of high technology are seen as magic.

Nyx and Rhys both begin their journeys low, grievously wounded in more ways than one, and they come together broken, lost, and burdened by past sins. The setting of this tale is brutal, filthy, and unforgiving. The people match. You would never want to be friends with Nyx. And yet, set in the deep depravity of an endless, irrational war, her tenacity and twisted code of honor shines. In the hell of war, even a tarnished star seems to shine heroically.