Monday, November 27, 2006

Interview With Tee Morris

Tee Morris, author of Legacy of Morevi and Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword, and host of the podcast, The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy, makes podcasting sound easy. And once you read this interview, you'll see why.

What made you decide to start The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy?

It was shortly after the premiere of Legacy of Morevi in 2005. Two weeks before, I had completed the MOREVI podcast, and I had a blast doing that. I was thinking about podcasting another novel, but I wanted to wait until my next WiP was closer to completion. Throughout Westercon 58 (in Calgary, Alberta, where my publisher is based and also where Legacy debuted), I had people coming up to me complimenting me on how I was marketing and promoting myself. What people were commenting on, though, was common sense to me, and that was when I noticed that many writers just never thought about their books past the printing of them. It's the truth, and few if any publishers give advice on how to get the word out. Many of the big press authors are told "Let Publicity take care of the details..." and then suddenly their names are passed on future sales according to current numbers. Writers need to promote in order to survive...

...and in October 2005, The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy launched.

What I'm thrilled about are the amount of NON-Fantasy authors who listen to the show. Mystery, Romance, and non-fiction authors chime in their two cents, and I have a few podcasters that listen so they can snag promotion ideas. I have a modest audience, but they sure are dedicated, and I feel very lucky to have the fanbase I've got!

I hear the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment is the most popular part of your show.

*LOL* Yeah, the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment. It's amazing what stupid things writers will do to either sabotage their career, their image, and themselves. I've even had a few trip-up's and have showcased them in the WTF Moments, to show that while I point out the faults of others (with names changed to protect the ignorant) I will not hesitate to turn the WTF on myself. I'm always on the lookout for WTF's, and one I just heard about one this weekend concerning an author that has so much experience that the author-in-question should have known better. Very tempting, but here's the risk though in naming names, describing situations, and just going out on a limb with the WTF's -- depending on how I present it, I can step on a lot of toes and even go out of my way to burn bridges for future work. Writers who believe the writing industry is an open community welcoming all kinds from all backgrounds is half-right. There is still politics. There is still a hierarchy. Piss off the ruling class, and you're going to face an uphill battle in getting published and STAYING published.

However, avoiding names (which I've suspended only twice -- once for an author who tried to sell her fanfic on Amazon and the other time to take an alternative look at the James Fry plagiarism) makes it sound less personal and puts more focus on the poor judgment the author in the WTF Moment which is the point of the show's segment. I've been accused of being "bitter about not being published with a big house" and "unable to practice what I preach" to which my reply is "I'm not naming names. The WTF is applicable to me as well as others. And if I was really coming across that way, why is it the most popular segment of the Survival Guide?"
It's all about perspective.

What are the Morevi books about, and how did you come up with the idea?

The best way to describe the series is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Pirates of the Caribbean. The hero of the book, Rafe Rafton, discovers in "The Graveyard of Lost Ships" a rift in the space-time continuum and a realm known as Morevi, a kingdom that falls under the rule of Askana Moldarin. She is known in her realm as "The Black Widow" following her swift and bloody ascent to the throne. She is also the heroine of the book. Askana has led a revolution, the downfall of the old government duly replaced by a rule of women. She has unearthed hidden traitors in her own regime threatening to destroy everything she has won. She knows that her kingdom hangs in a delicate balance and that someone close to the throne is about to move against her. Askana, independent of council, seeks help outside of Morevi to reveal the conspiracy against her...

Enter Rafe Rafton, captain of the Defiant. From there, the adventure kicks in!

As far as how _I_ came up with the idea, it was actually how _we_ -- Lisa Lee and myself -- met in an online RPG chat room called Nia's Tavern. It was merely a morning's diversion. I had entered Nia’s early one morning and was casually observing the clientele. A character popped up on my screen and caught my attention. Alongside the character's chatroom post was one of the most unique portraits I had seen for a character. Her character motto read ‘The female of the species is deadlier than the male.’ The name was Askana Moldarin, First Queen of Morevi. I knew, whomever this player was, this character would be a lot of fun to roleplay against. Lisa told me that she was heading out of the Tavern when on her way out of the Tavern, she caught my post. She described it as "He roleplayed with me as if the tavern's roof was on fire!"

Lisa's such a flirt.

Our initial exchange in Nia’s lasted barely fifteen minutes, but it was enough to begin an e-mail roleplay. The device was simple enough. We exchanged information about one another’s characters and then one would begin with a series of events, leave an open ending, and the other would respond with a resolution, leading to yet another unresolved situation for the other to begin the next installment. It started very innocently. First she sent a page and a half. A follow-up meeting to the brief roleplay between us. I responded with about three pages. Lisa’s response was another three more pages. I sent back five. She responded with five. Every week there would be a little installment in our e-mail boxes.

Then a tragedy in my family sent me out of town and out of reach of e-mail, but with PowerBook in hand I wrote to give myself a bit of peace in such a dark time. When I got back, Lisa had e-mailed fifteen pages of story. I was afraid after sending it she would be overwhelmed by it all. Her next installment was over twenty pages. From there, we threw caution to the wind and before we knew it, we had a novel!

Are the Billibub Baddings books as hilarious as the titles suggest?

I sincerely hope so as I'm turning Billibub Baddings into a podcast in 2007.

If the Morevi series is "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Pirates of the Caribbean" then Billibub Baddings is "The Lord of the Rings" if Mickey Spillane wrote it. This all-out spoof of the hard-boiled detective novels, epic quest fantasy, gangsters, and any other tropes appropriate for this mafioso-murder-mystery. This book scared me more, I think, than Morevi did because this was a Fantasy that was a cross-genre work, and it was a comedy to boot. When one review came in that said "I've not had this much fun since Who Framed Roger Rabbit" I breathed a lot easier.

Now I'm busy working on the sequel and beginning work (as well as the hype machine) for the Billibub Baddings podcast. It's still in the early planning stages right now, but I've got a LOT of support behind me and even some help from Scott Sigler and JC Hutchins. So yeah, I'm very proud of Billi, and I hope it makes readers (and soon, listeners) everywhere laugh.

Has music been influential to your writing, and if so in what ways?

Music has been an influence all my life. My first album (as in one I chose and bought, not bought FOR me) was the soundtrack for Star Wars. Yeah, a soundtrack. This was before soundtracks were considered "cool" so I was listening to the album waiting for words or SFX, and instead I got music, music, and MORE music...and that was when I started getting into music. I found that music could conjure vivid images from either scenes of film, or even create new ones if I listen to specific pieces. Then I started studying music, playing trombone throughout junior high school, high school, and college. I played everything from classical to jazz to marches, and the more I explored music the more diverse my musical tastes (and collections) became. While I studied music, I found a passion in theatre, and it was in my senior year I read Shakespeare's The Tempest, a play that relies heavily on music and song. So I took that idea and ran with it, developing an unofficial soundtrack for the production. The actors involved, I felt, embraced the music of the production and a few faculty members even commented that the music became a character in itself. Something I took great pride in.

Certain songs inspired scenes in my books, and since Morevi I have gone so far as to compose playlists on my iTunes for all my works-in-progress. I have selections of soundtracks from martial art films, epic fantasies, and even a few space operas for both Morevi and Legacy of Morevi, crime jazz, Mobster themes, and The Rat Pack for Billibub Baddings, and a collection of anime and trance tracks for my Science Fiction work-in-progress. Each helps me with characters or settings, and can inspire new directions. And then in the podcast of Morevi, I was having a great time composing new music with GarageBand. So yes, music plays (pardon the pun) a lot in the development of my works.

When it comes to adding music to a podcast audiobook, what are some of the challenges involved in doing so?

First and foremost are levels. The most common mistake that new podcasters make is bringing in brilliant music that will create a nice tone for the scene but it overpowers the action. You have to tinker and tweak until finally you have a balance between the music and the story. It's amazing how much I see this problem not just in podcasting but in television and motion pictures, especially from people who should know better. The next challenge comes in the music selected or composed. You want it ot be multilayered, dynamic, and dramatic; but sometimes the perfect music is so tough to mix in as a "backdrop" that you struggle with it. Music should capture the flavor and feel of the action, but sometimes keeping the music to the basics works best. For example the music of Mark Snow (The X-Files) and Sean Callery (24) keeps the tension high and adds an eerie depth to the action on the screen but when you listen to their soundtracks, these composers keep it simple.

The best advice I have for new podcasters is to know your music before you start mixing. Really know everything about it and how it works. That way, you know what will and won't work for your podcast.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Interview With Taylor Kent

Taylor Kent, host of the podcast show, Snark Infested Waters, is one of the coolest guys around. So getting to interview him was just pure fun.

How did you get started in podcasting?

How?! Like most everyone else, I bought a headset and got some recording software and just starting recording.

But to answer your real question, why did I get into podcasting, is a long and sorted tale of intrigue and adventures. Okay maybe not, but it is more interesting than "how".

It goes like this... A friend at work was looking for a way to get something worth listening to on his long drive into work. At that time I was a satellite radio subscriber. He tried that out, but that wasn't really what he wanted. He wanted to be able to get shows he was interested in and listen to them whenever he wanted. Well, after some looking he discovered podcasts and told me about it because I had a long drive as well and I wasn't really happy with satellite radio.
So I began to check out podcasts. And I learned two things: there weren't that many good podcasts out there and that there wasn't much in the way of Christian podcasts. Then I started to think about creating the kind of cast I wanted to listen to. I am a passionate Christian, a bit of an entertainer, and a writer so I figured I give it a try.

Then in typical Taylor fashion I procrastinate about it. Then I got asked to preach at the church I was attending at the time. Well that was the catalytic that got me started. I figured if I could stand up in front of about 100 people and speak, I could definitely podcast.

And as they say the rest is history... (I did podcast the recording of my sermon on my show as well. You can find it here:

Podcast audio versions of short stories and novels seem to be catching on big. Why do you think that is?

I think audio fiction is becoming popular for two reasons. One, the ability to multi-task when listening to a story. Since most people's daily commutes are increasing and the quality of radio is going down, people are looking for alternative entertainment and podcasts, including podcast fiction, are filling that void as well as audio books.

How has the Creative Commons License been beneficial to both the artists and the public?

It has allowed people to easily and understandably protect their intellectual property while sharing it. Basicly it is a huge win for artists and a great way to stick it to the man!

How important is music to creating a good podcast?

That is an interesting question.

For me, I think music really makes for a better show. Personally, I think my show has been more successful since I added music and it gives me a convenient and fun way to break up the segments of my show. It also gives me the opportunity to showcase bands I like and share my love of funny music with my listeners.

Thinking about it, almost all the shows I listen to use music to some degree.

I guess overall, I'd say music can be a big plus in podcasting as long as it is used well (i.e., it fits into the show and it is not just tacked on as a gimmick), just like a good radio show makes good use of music

What are your future plans?

"Crack and Hookers, Scott! Crack and Hookers."

Or maybe I'll just start a cult... The Church Of The Great and Holy Snark of which I will be the prophet and leader.

But seriously, I plan to continue my show and continue to try new things with it. I would also like to create some audio fiction and even audio drama. I have a couple of fiction projects in the works, but it will be a while before they are ready for prime time.

Ultimately, I just want to be known as the man who killed the Burger King King!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Interview with Howling Syn

A Goth Metal band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Howling Syn has been "Staying Evil" for 6 years now. Possibly the friendliest "evil" people I've met, I hope you enjoy reading the interview at least half as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

Here comes the question that probably gets asked all the time: how did the band get started?

SOPHIE: Patryk started alone in 1998 with an instrumental project. When I met him in 1999, I encouraged him to put his instrumental demos on the late website. The feedback was so awesome that we finished those songs that were still instrumental and recorded our first album with Patryk's longtime friend Éric Mireault.

I noticed there seems to be a storyline that goes along with each album. What are the difficulties to writing songs that fit a story or concept, and what are the advantages?

SOPHIE: Actually, only the first one is a concept album. We didn't start in that direction, but the story took form quite naturally, one song at a time. For the next album, we asked ourselves if we should try to write it around another story, but we didn't want to put limits to our creativity and the songs didn't come out that way. Our third album looks like it will also be made of "standalone" songs. But it doesn't mean that we will never write another concept album.

I guess it wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to assume you're all fans of the Horror and Dark Fantasy genres?

SOPHIE: Of course, we can't and don't want to hide it! Our inspiration comes mainly from these two themes. I've always admired the "chiaroscuro" painters like Rembrandt, whose works have a deep, mysterious darkness that I find strangely enticing. It is that same darkness that I try to depict in our songs. Plus, we don't think that happy endings should be strictly for the "good ones". We like to take sides with the bad guys/creatures and have our own kind of happy ending.

How much of an impact do you think Goth Metal will make on the music industry over the next few years?

PATRYK: Of course I hope that this musical genre will have a much bigger impact in the music industry. Moonspell is one of the first international bands from this genre to get some recognition. They are sometimes too heavy for the mainstream music fans but they have proven to be like chameleons by using so many different styles over the years. They've also just won an MTV Euro award so the future looks bright for the gothic metal scene worldwide. We will carry on and try to add some new elements to our music so that this music genre will not die from lack of creativity.

There's a lot of Metal bands with female lead singers popping up these days. What do you think makes such bands so popular, other than the obvious uber-babes with great vocals appeal?

SOPHIE: When we started Howling Syn, there weren't many bands with a female singer. The one who really inspired me back then was Vibeke Stene from Tristania. I admired the softness and power that her voice added to the songs and the elegance that she projected. I think that a female voice can make a band more accessible for those who don't necessarily like extreme metal and that the metal-girls can relate more to those bands.

PATRYK: Sex sells and humanity knows that. Howling Syn is not about this gimmick, Sophie's role in the band is much more important than just selling her image to sex addicts or anything like this. She is the portrait of a strong woman with a brain! Besides the singer duties she also takes care of a lot of stuff in the band like promotion, translation and much more. She has a more theatrical presence on stage that has nothing sexual to it. Some may find it attractive and that's fine but that's not our goal. She looks great and sings great, that's what we want about her - oh and by the way, you can look awesome without looking like a whore ;). And some other metal bands thinks that way and they have huge success so that proves that the music can also sell.

What's in Howling Syn's near future?

SOPHIE: We will continue to feed on the energy from our two big Halloween shows and take some time to prepare the last details before we enter the studio in December to record some new songs for our third album. Having already two albums gives us the opportunity to take what we think was best from both of them and blend it with our personal experiences and learnings. So the expected result should be Howling Syn's best album to date. And of course, everything that goes along a new album will follow...

PATRYK: After that, we'll need to find a good label to help us reach all the synners out there! We will have to build a new live show with the new songs and I hope that will lead us to play outside Canada cause the demand is there.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Get Interviewed on Snark Infested Waters

Taylor Kent, the host of Snark Infested Waters, interviewed me on his show. All-in-all, I think it went well.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Interview - Mur Lafferty

When I decided to add podcasters to my list of potential interviewees, I also knew that an interview with the "Grande Dame of Podcasting", Mur Lafferty, would be a good one. If you haven't been over to I Should be Writing or Geek Fu Action Grip, then I suggest you head over there immediately after reading this interview.

How did you get started at podcasting? And what were your reasons for starting your I Should Be Writing podcast?

Two years ago (Oct. '04) I learned about podcasting and wanted to give it a try. I had tried to get essays published through traditional means (magazine, NPR, etc) but no one was biting, so I decided to publish them via podcast. I started Geek Fu Action Grip then, my outlet for my essays and other geeky talk.

I started I Should Be Writing in August 05 when I realized that I wanted give inspiration to other wanna-be writers - and have an outlet for me to talk about writing to work out my own issues. I essentially wanted to tell people that they can get rejected and still live, that they can have regular adult lives and still be writers.

Some writers are podcasting their stories these days. What advantages are there in having a story done as an audio podcast, and what are the disadvantages?

Podcasting is still considered very new, and that's both a positive and a negative to writers. A tiny percentage of writers are podcasting, which gives podcasting writers considerably less competition. Listeners are embracing the free audio-book-like stories and books, and most are enthusiastic. Disadvantages? Not many have presented themselves... I guess I'd say that some magazines might see the podcast of your story as already being published, but publishing online is becoming less of an issue as time goes on.

How So?

It used to be that putting something online was viewed as publishing. It was available for free, so why would someone then buy it? Then JohnScalzi wrote a novel on his blog, and Tor discovered it and bought it. Cory Doctorow released an entire novel for free on the Internet at the same time it was being published. Some publishers realize that if something's on someone's personal site, it's likely tens, maybe hundreds, rarely thousands of people have laid eyes on it, so it's still a good commodity to purchase.

How important is selecting the right music for audio books and podcasts?

For me it's less about the right music and more about the fact that many podcasters can't get the levels right - their music is WAY too loud and their voice is WAY too soft. There are so many outlets for podfriendly music (my favorite is that if you're patient you can find something that fits your work.

How big do you think podcasting will get over the next few years?

Well, look at how the Internet has grown since 1995. And how blogs have grown since 2000. Podcasting is growing quicker than both of those, and considering that computers, Internet access, ISPs, and audio equipment are cheaper than ever, the number of podcasters will continue to grow. Now if only we can convince the general population that they don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts, there will be no stopping us.

And what's in Mur's future? More cool stuff, I bet.

I'm about to release the second season of my serialized fiction, Heaven. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo in November. I have some comic book projects in the works to propose to publishers, and I will be starting my agent search soon. So a lot of potential coolness, but not a lot of definite... :)