Category Archives: Production Notes

Synesthesia Theatre: An Audio Drama Podcast

About a year ago I co-founded Burning Brigid Media, a production company, in order to make videos, web-series, transmedia projects, and other works that go well beyond the books I’ve been writing. It’s a way I can engage in more collaborative art forms with other working creatives, including actors, artists, sound engineers, etc.

Our first major project is Synesthesia Theatre, an audio-drama serial anthology podcast. That’s a hefty mouthful, so let’s break it down.

Audio Drama

We’re producing audio drama. Think modern versions of old-time radio shows like The Shadow or Little Orphan Annie. While they’re somewhat rare in the US, barring last year’s Serial, the BBC has been producing various audio drama programs and never really stopped.

Another way to look at them is as full-cast recorded audiobooks, though that isn’t entirely accurate either, as we write scripts for the actors rather than simply having them read aloud. We actually produce them very similar to the way video entertainment is produced, though of course we have no need for cameras or any visuals. Instead, the focus is on sound engineering.

Serial Anthology

Serials are stories broken up into episodes that, collectively, tell a story. Unlike a series the episodes themselves are not entirely self-contained, but end on cliffhangers that lead into the next episode.

Synesthesia Theatre is not a single serial, though… instead, it’s an anthology of serials, stories that are themselves 6-12 episodes long.

Podcast

We’re releasing these stories, for free, as a podcast. Episodes air twice a month, every other week, and will be available through iTunes and the podcast’s RSS feed.

Iron Horses Can't Be Broken has become an audio dramaIron Horses Can’t Be Broken audio adaptation

Our first project is an audio-drama adaptation of the sixth Galvanic Century novel, Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. It’s an 11-episode steampunk western story starring a dozen local Chicago actors, produced over the last months of 2015. It’s written in such a way to be accessible to listeners unfamiliar with the series.

Why adapt Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken? Simple. The story was already written. While adapting to a new media is work, it’s not as much work as coming up with a new story whole-cloth. It’s a way to make use of the work we’ve already done, and to draw in fans of an existing series without making it difficult for new listeners.

Synesthesia Theatre launched at the beginning of February. If you’re interested in giving it a listen, you can check it out on iTunes. If you enjoy it, it would really help if you would consider writing a review to let us know what you think. If you really dig it, you can get cool exclusive bonuses by donating to our Patreon.

Side Project: Taoscordian Games

I’m a storyteller. Always have been, always will be. Long before I was an author I was writing and drawing and making comics and telling stories. Between the ages of eleven and thirty or so, one of the primary forms I worked in was tabletop role playing games.

I got my start, as many do, with Dungeons and Dragons. Even before my first game I was familiar with the brand through the 80s cartoon and general cultural awareness. At eleven, some of the older kids in my Boy Scout troupe let me in on a game.

I played Sparky Spelljammer, a wizard. I stole a hat from a goblin, and cast a spell. That’s literally all I remember. I’m old. It was a long time ago.

But after that gaming became my primary form of creative expression. I’d run weekly games for as long as they captured my interest, coming up with elaborate storylines and weird house rules in a variety of systems and settings. I viewed my players as a participatory audience, moving through and changing the story as they experienced it.

Good times.

Last Minute GM

These days I don’t have the time for it, sadly. Too busy writing, producing, adulting. The hobby still calls to me strongly, though, and to that end last year I started a tabletop gaming blog, Last Minute GM, where I could share my thoughts on the games and as a form of hobby-related output.

It’s been fun, but I’m ready to take it a step further in 2016.

Taoscordian Games

TaoscordianSlideTaoscordian Games is an imprint of my publishing company, Pomoconsumption Press, through which I plan to release RPG gaming supplements related to my books. Cool, right? Our first product was a compilation of several LMGM blog entries about using literary techniques in RPG game design, but this year we’re going to get more ambitious.

I’m currently working on a Galvanic Century setting book for the Fate rpg. It’s based on the notes I’ve made during the last five years I’ve been writing the books, so the work itself is mostly just prettying them up for public consumption and coming up with a nice layout.

It’s a project I’m working on in my spare time, and like all my side-projects, development is funded by my Patreon. The more donors I have, the more time I can devote to working on it. So if this sounds like your jam, go ahead and drop a dollar or two in the hat.

What about you? Are you a gamer? Does the idea of RPG supplements based on my work interest or appeal to you? Sound off in the comments and let me know.

Shadow Decade Cover Reveal

Here’s the cover for Cold Reboot.

ColdReboot600x900

I’m happy with how it turned out. Cold Reboot releases on the 20th. Sign up for the mailing list if you want notification when it’s out.

Erica finds herself in the world of 2025 with no memory of the past ten years. She has no money, no recent job history, and finds that the world has passed her by. All of her old friends seem to have moved on… and half the new people she meets want to kill her. Her sole assets are incredible physical fitness and an impressive set of new skills — will they be enough to keep the dangers she’s forgotten from catching up to her?

Shadow Decade Kickstarter Postscript

I ran a kickstarter for Shadow Decade, my upcoming near-future science-fiction book series. Not to write it… it’s written… but to afford quality cover art.

Covers are important

Platitudes to the contrary, people judge books by their covers. That’s why covers exist… to attract readers looking for what you’ve got to offer. Buying a good cover is investing in your business.

I don’t have a lot of capital to invest — while I’ve been successful, I’m coming from nothing, so most of my income goes into basic living expenses… food, rent, bills. Whatever’s left goes right back into my books, but a good editor and quality covers can cost hundreds to thousands.

So: Kickstarter

I’ve run cover-art kickstarters twice in the past, first for Bartleby and James, then for Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. They did well, with Iron Horses funding to over 1000%. In exchange for their donations, readers can get advance copies, signed books, and other exclusives.

With Shadow Decade, I’m funding covers for the first three books in the series. How well did we do?

 

300%

We funded all the way to the first stretch goal, which is impressive considering the series doesn’t have any fans yet. Our funding level buys a commissioned cover for book 1 and stock art compositions for books 2 and 3. We’ll also be adapting the first book, Shadow Decade, for Burning Brigid Media’s Synesthesia Theatre audio drama podcast.

Thanks so much

Thanks to those who have enough faith in my writing to support my foray into a new genre. For those of you who missed the funding window but want to check out the books, you can either sign up for my mailing list and get a heads up when the books go on sale over the next few months, or donate to my Patreon to get a free copy upon release.

2015 in Review

As we reach the end of 2015, I can’t help but look back at the year that was, and wonder if I made the best use of my time.

Production

I released one novel this year, Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken, the sixth Galvanic Century book. I had originally planned on Of Steam and Samsara being the sixth and Iron Horses being the seventh, but various issues with Samsara led me back to Iron Horses.

Switching back and forth between books murders my productivity, so in the end Iron Horses didn’t get released until October.

Earlier in the year I’d started two other non-book projects. The first was a podcast, That Which is Known, a short weekly musing on different topics from the research I do for my books. TWIK lasted for 33 episodes until I decided that the time invested wasn’t worth the results I was seeing.

I also wrote the audio drama script Simple Harmonic Motion for the upcoming Synesthesia Theatre podcast, and the short story adaptation released on Amazon. I was happy with how this turned out.

We also adapted Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken into an audio drama, recorded it, and started on pre-production. It’ll be serialized through the podcast starting late next January or early next February.

I’ve also been writing the first three books in a new cyberpunk series, Shadow Decade. The first two have been written and revised, and the third is being written. Look for an early release for those next year, too.

Fundraising

I ran three kickstarters in 2015, two successful and one less so.

The unsuccessful kickstarter was for Burning Brigid Media’s webseries Sleep Study. We had a lot of backers and raised thousands, but it wasn’t enough to reach our goal. Web series are expensive, especially if you plan on paying everyone. Maybe after BBM has a bigger fanbase.

The Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken cover art kickstarter was far more successful, reaching 1000% of goal. We were able to afford a great cover for what I consider to be the best Galvanic Century book so far.

My third kickstarter, for the Shadow Decade series cover art, is ongoing, but we’ve already hit 150% of goal. It’s not too late to get in on that, so if you like cyberpunk, give it a look.

That was 2015

Four novels. One short. One audio-drama and the start of another.

I’m looking forward to see what I can manage in 2016.

 

Preliminary 2016 release schedule

The end of the year draws near, and I’m hard at work. If you follow the blog you know that I’ve got a novel I’d been working on for NaNoWriMo, but as this is my job I don’t just finish and then chill out for the rest of the year. After I finished writing the first draft, I put it aside for a month and start working on the next book.

I’m pretty ambitious in my publication schedule. As written, it assumes that I’m working a full-time 40 hour schedule, most of it writing, revising, and planning the next book. However, I acknowledge that things happen, life happens, and that there are many ways my ideal can get thrown askew.

So, while my plan is fairly meticulous, at this point I’m only revealing three potential releases in 2016. I hope to do more, and if it looks like that’s coming through I’ll mention it. As it is, here’s the minimal release schedule for next year.

Shadow Decade

 

 

 

Erica wakes up in 2025 with no memory of the past decade, only unanswered questions, mysterious skills, and sharply-honed reflexes. Her attempts to assimilate into the future with no contacts, no work history, and no resources are complicated by a series of attempts on her life.

Can she adapt to the harshness of a world with a permanent unemployed underclass and widespread environmental devastation long enough to uncover the mysteries of her own past, or will the attempts on her life succeed before she can learn the truth?

Minimum: My NaNoWriMo project is Cold Reboot, the first book in the Shadow Decade series of cyberpunk thrillers. The draft is being written this month, I’ll be editing it in December, and ideally seeing an early 2016 release.

Optimum: I’d like to release a few more books in the series this year, depending on how many unforeseen circumstances I have to wrangle and how well sales go. I spent last week plotting out book 2, Network Protocol.

Profane Apotheosis

 

Small towns can be built on big secrets. There’s a wall of silence around the car accident that put popular track star, salutatorian, and deacon’s daughter Lily Baker in a week-long coma and killed her best friend. The adults aren’t talking, her peers are whispering, and instead of memories all she has is survivor’s guilt.

When she goes looking for answers with local troublemaker and fellow adoptee Gideon Cermak, they find more than a conspiracy to keep things quiet – they find a supernatural secret that calls into question not only the trust Lily has placed in the adults in her life, but the very nature of reality itself.

I published Infernal Revelation last year as a serial. That’s not really where my strengths as a writer lie, so I wasn’t really happy with the result. I’ve unpublished it almost everywhere, though you can still buy the paperback if you go looking for it.

Minimum: I plan to rewrite and revise Infernal Revelation as a more cohesive novel to relaunch the Profane Apotheosis series, sometime in Summer 2016.

Optimum: If I’ve the time I’d like to publish Dark Exodus, the second in the series, as well.

Galvanic Century

While Alton and Aldora are off in America, James and his adopted daughter Xian visit scenic Belgium for the 1913 World Expo. Geopolitical forces conspire to make this vacation less than restful as the forces of Germany and France square off over the issue of space travel as the precursor to a conflict that will shortly envelop the globe. Can the engineer stave off World War for one more year?

Lighter than Aether will be the eighth Galvanic Century book. Look for a late 2016 release.

Other Releases

Alongside the novels, watch for the launch of the Synesthesia Theatre podcast in January, beginning with the audio drama adaptation of Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. You can learn more about that over at the Burning Brigid Media website.

Also look forward to some RPG releases over at Last Minute GM — something about the near future, and something about the ancient past.

Keep up-to-date on these and other projects of mine by signing up for my mailing list.

Which of these releases are you interested in? Which do you suppose you’ll pass on?

NaNoWriMo Postscript

This year I partook in National Novel Writing Month for the first time because November 1st coincided with the time I was set to start writing the first book in my new near-future sci-fi series, Cold Reboot.

It’s the story of Erica, a woman who finds herself ten years older with no memory of how she spent the last decade, no record of her activities, and no clues other than the scars she seems to have picked up along the way. Can she adapt to this cold new world in time to figure out why people keep trying to kill her?

It’s a story about poverty and desperation, about people doing the best they can, about adaptability, identity, and the persistence of memory. It’s about trauma and our sense of self. It’s about the way the world flows, and the likely future we’re facing in 2025.

That was some of the most fun, I think, researching futurist predictions of the next decade and extrapolating from that. I tried to take a middle-of-the-road approach, neither overly cynical nor blindly optimistic, in describing a future that will come to meet us if we continue along our current path.

The Process

NaNoWriMo challenges entrants to write 50,000 words in a single month. That sounds like a lot, but to someone who writes full time it really isn’t, especially for a first draft. First drafts are light, breezy, easy… it’s the revisions that are the work.

In fact, that was a bit of a trick, for me. See, I write in layers. The first layer is the story’s structure. The bones. The bare “what happens” in a lean and economical style. I get the basic of story down without concern for the quality of my prose.

The second pass is the meat. I add substance. Subplots. Fleshed out lines of conversation.

Third pass is the surface, the skin, the chrome. I make everything pretty. Tidy it up.

Point is, my manuscript grows with each revision. I trim away the excess, but I add quite a bit as well. And that means that my first drafts — what I write for NaNoWriMo — are light. For Cold Reboot, it barely reached 50,000 words. By the time I’m done with my revisions it’ll probably come in at 60-80,000 words.

But that’s later.

Now, during December, Cold Reboot is going to sit and marinate and do its thing in the back of my head while I write the sequel. Then, in January, I’ll revise the book, get it ready, and — beta-readers willing — release it.