The Roundtable Podcasters Interview, part the first

•March 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Today, I have the distinct privilege of having a sitdown with not one, but two absolutely awesome and wonderful people who have not only helped me, but helped not only dozens of writers personally, but countless others through their podcast, appropriately named The Roundtable Podcast, a finalist in the Parsec Awards for 2012 in the “Best Content Creation SpecFic Podcast” category. It is here that, twice a week, the two masterminds behind the podcast, David Robison and Brion Humphrey, either spend twenty-ish minutes talking to an author to gain insight on that writer’s upcoming works, or spending an hour or so working with an upcoming writer who has an idea they would like to, in the words of Dave Robison, transform their ideas into literary gold. This process is invaluable to those writers who have that idea in their heads or on paper or both and they want to try and coax into existance, but just aren’t quite sure how. Between Dave, Brion, and their guest-host author, the story flows, the ideas coalesce and the words burst forth into a cataclysm of creativity.

Yeah, Dave does introductions so much better than I do. It’s a gift.

Regardless of how bad my intros are, Dave and Brion have graciously agreed to answer a few questions not only of the podcast kind, but also the literary. Dave Robison has always been a creative sort, having started writing at age eight, acting at age ten, music in the form of the trumpet at twelve, going on to going quite possibly anything and everything devoted to the expression of creation. Magazine cover art, audio scripts, and building board games are just a minute few of the talents David Robison has to offer this world. His co-host and friend, Brion Humphrey, is just as talented, with acting, writing and directing credits to his name. He also has a hand in molding the future creative writers of America by teaching creative writing and English in high school. He’s penned articles, short stories, radio scripts and right now has a novel he knows he needs to work on. Both men are indubitably the bee’s knees when it comes to tossing ideas back and forth, and even helped some incredibly talented and modest guy make a story about the Devil’s innocense become a reality in the form of the book In The Details, with the help of guest-host Myke Cole. Dave and Brion took a few minutes out of their day to give some insight into their creative outlets.

Welcome to the both of you!

Due to the awesomeness that is the Roundtable Podcast, I’m going to break the interview into two parts., with the first five questions from both gentlemen for part one, and the final five for part B. No matter what, if you’re a creative type, you’ll want to read both parts. The second section will drop in four days, as to better allow you awesome party people to absorb the coolness that is the Roundtable Podcast.

1. For those who haven’t had a chance to listen to the Roundtable Podcast, they’re really missing out, and the first question anyone would have is: How did the Roundtable Podcast get started?

Brion: Dave had this great idea and I latched on with claws laced with gorilla glue and refused to let go.  Really, Dave and I worked together on some radio theatre in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We found that even though we didn’t always agree on how a story should go, the process of bouncing ideas back and forth gave us infinitely richer material than we would have come up with individually and while I kept him grounded, he forced me off my feet and into worlds I was afraid to venture into.  When Dave left Colorado, I found myself utterly without an outlet for my creative needs.  Then he called one day and said, “Hey, let’s do a podcast.”  And I said…”what the hell’s a podcast?”  And the Roundtable was born.

The RTP got started because of traffic, rabbit holes, and my theater degree.

Dave: I had a long commute to work (1 hour) and a bad case of road rage. NPR wasn’t cutting it and I needed something to get my mind off the automotive lunacy that was unfolding around me every day. A good friend had turned me on to Mur Lafferty’s “Heaven” series, which ended up being my gateway drug to the whole podcast experience. One of my favorite podcasts was the Dead Robots’ Society and every now and then they had an episode where they would brainstorm each other’s story ideas. I LOVED those episodes! They made me nostalgic for the conversations and debates I’d have with my buddy Brion back in Colorado.

See, Brion and I had done some great work together with a non-profit radio theater company called Rabbit Hole Radio Theatre. We worked with a writing team scripting and producing dozens of half-hour radio scripts.

Now, there’s an old theater joke that goes, “How many actors does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The answer: 1,001. One to screw it in and the rest to say “Oh hell, I can do THAT”. So I’m sitting there in my car one day thinking that I love to brainstorm ideas, I have the audio production chops to handle the technical stuff, and I’ll bet Brion would get a kick out of it.

Voila! Instant podcast… made possible through an alignment and sequence of events YEARS in the making! : )

2. The podcast has had a veritable plethora of “literary alchemists”, such as Justin Macumber, Phillipa Ballentine, Myke Cole, Mur Lafferty and Nathan Lowell. What is the selection process for finding these literary alchemists, and how do you choose the right one for the workshop episodes?

Brion: This is a process question, and since I have greedily allowed Dave to do all the heavy lifting — actually Dave does do all the work, I just show up and look pretty — Dave should definitely take this one…

Dave: Initially, we figured it would be best to approach authors who are at least comfortable with the idea podcasting, so we listened to who Mur and Justin and everyone were interviewing and followed up with them. We also pursued authors who were podcasting their own fiction… they were clearly progressive thinkers and would be less inclined to turn us down.

Because, you see, we were utterly terrified. We were convinced that these fine people would have better things to do with their time than hang out with the likes of us for a couple hours. It didn’t take us long to discover that A) these were really wonderful charming nice folks who B) LOVED to talk about their work and their craft! It was marvelous and liberating, and we continue to have a blast exploring everyone’s unique perspectives and processes for the writer’s craft.

We expanded our network to include authors with wider circulations or from different genres (YA, Thriller, etc) and even different formats (like comics or music) just cast as wide a net as possible in the exploration of this amazing creative process. We listened to other podcasts, we follow folks on Twitter… and THEN we had an inspiration!

Let the guest writer decide who they wanted to be their Guest Host!

It was brilliant! They’d give us a list and we’d instantly zoom in on the people we DIDN’T know, purely in the interests of exploring new vistas of the creative horizon! It was fabulous… got to meet Andrew Mayne that way, and we’d have NEVER had the courage to approach Seanan McGuire if a writer hadn’t requested her. Our writers are our greatest resource!

3. As a semi-followup to the previous question, I know every one of the authors you’ve had on are awesome, so who are the ones you would love to have twenty-ish minutes to pick their brains?

Brion: You’re absolutely right, every single author has been amazing, but for me, there are two that I just didn’t get enough time to dissect: Lou Anders is a force to be reckoned with, and while twenty more minutes might actually cause my own brain to go into synapse overload, I dare say…it would be worth it.  I felt like we all should have been conferred with honorary Masters degrees just for talking to the guy.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.  And my second choice would have to be Emma Newman, who is equally insightful, and just plain fun to talk to.  And to listen to.  ‘Nough said.   

Dave: Definitely Harlan Ellison. That sonuvabitch blew my mind in high school and continues to do so to this day. He’s a poet with a rusty razor, a visionary who casts his illuminating gaze to the dark shadows of the heart and (like Pandora) finds some frail tremulous hope there. Sometimes. He’s honest, visceral, merciless, and utterly unpredictable. I love his work.

Another one would be Guy Gavriel Kay, author of “Lions of al-Rassan” and “Tiganna”, two of my favorite books in the world. I’d love to speak to him about how he creates cultures that are utterly familiar but completely new and then peoples them with stories and characters whose tread makes pages vibrate. On the topics of characterization and worldbuilding, there could be no finer tutor.

4. Every writer out there, no matter how much they’ve written, has that “moment” where they all but stand up and scream “Nailed it!” Be it a scene, a description, or even an entire chapter, what was that “moment”?

Brion: Fourth Grade.  Seriously.  I reconstructed the Little Jack Horner nursery rhyme.  It went like this: Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner, eating a retina pie.  He stuck in his thumb, and what felt like a plumb, was really a decomposed eye.  I really never had to write another word again, cause that pretty much will never be topped. 

Dave: I’d hope those moments aren’t so rare… personally, I’m hard pressed to pick one. But I know what causes it. That feeling of exaltation comes from either making, revealing, or discovering a connection. That perfect bit of dialog? You just found a way to connect the reader to some aspect of a character’s essence. A wonderful description? Same thing… usually using the fewest words possible to achieve the broadest meaning possible.

For me, those moments bring clarity to the story or to a character or to a relationship between the two. The clumsy awkward fumbling of a word sculptor – trying to expose the right combination of detail to suggest a much larger concept – falls away and for that moment, you touch something potent. You see bigger and farther, everything makes sense, you’re the ruler of all you survey.

And then you hit the NEXT paragraph… 😉

5. What have been at least one or two of the more interesting moments of the podcast? Not necessarily the “literary gold” moments, but just moments that were etched into your mind with an icepick and no amount of brain bleach with get it out.

Brion: There was an episode…I don’t even remember why, I don’t know if I challenged Dave, or if the guest host razzed him or what.  But Dave left for a full ten minutes and forced me to improvise and take on the running of the podcast while the smug son of a bisquit just sat there in front of his microphone grinning at my severe ineptitude. I’m not a Host-host.  I’m a color-guy-host.  I’m the co-pilot who pretends to be important but panics if the pilot passes out and really never passed the final exam at flight school.  I get chills, night sweats, night sweats DAVE! 

Dave: The interview with Seth Harwood back in July 2012 really sticks out in my mind, mostly because it was an opportunity to explore the craft from a “non-speculative genre” perspective. Brion and I are colossal nerds and so (I think) are the bulk of our listenership (and I say that with love and admiration… geek is the new cool) so the majority of our writers and Guest Hosts have come from the spec-fic world. Seth is an incredibly gifted writer of gritty noire thrillers and having him on the show felt like getting a fresh perspective on familiar creative terrain.

You know, that question sent me trolling through my memory of past episodes and then to the website to do the same thing. What’s interesting to me is that my memory and the website don’t match. I mean they DO – I don’t “remember” episodes that never happened – but there ARE episodes there that I didn’t recall until I reviewed our past schedule. Once I saw them, I remembered them of course, but I’m intrigued by the exercise of examining the episodes that reside in my mental RAM as opposed to the ones that are tucked away on my mental hard drive.

I think it comes down to the fact that the mission of the podcast and my own personal objectives have become parallel but not entwined. With each episode the Roundtable has become more than just “Dave and Brion talk with writers”… every host and writer is adding to the direction and relevance of the podcast and that’s something completely beyond my control. And that’s really kind of cool… and a challenge for Brion and I to continue to evolve as creators AND as hosts of the show. We can’t do the same thing over and over… it can be familiar, but it should never be stale.

To be continued in part two on Tuesday… See? Told you these guys are amazing. Go see them at www.roundtablepodcast.com and follow them on Twitter at @WritersPodcast. While you’re at it, go Like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RoundtablePodcast. You know you want to.

Just a quick note…

•March 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Oh wow, do I have a surprise for you awesome party people. Watch this space in eight days. Going to be awesome!

Where The Heart Is

•February 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This is a spanking brand new story idea I just came up with. Not sure where it’s going or if it’s going anywhere. My mom came up with the suggestion of a kid’s coming of age coming back from school. I decided to give it a bit of a twist. Let me know what you think.

“Ma! I’m home!”
Billy kicked the door closed behind him as he dropped his single duffel bag on the floor. It had been a long six months at school, and he was glad to be home. There had been so much he had had to learn, his head hurt with all he had in it. Even though Billy was home for the holidays for the next three weeks, his mind was still racing with the formulas, the catechisms, all the other pieces of information that had been crammed into his head by what he called cruel and exacting taskmasters and what the headmaster called professors.
“Ed! Billy’s home!” Sonia floated into the room, bypassing the dark green bag and wrapping her arms around her son. She squeezed him tight, as he bent down to return the hug. Billy had inherited his mother’s black hair, but his father’s blue eyes and height. “Oh, you’re skin and bones! Aren’t you eating up there?”
He laughed as he inhaled the scents of family and home. Familiar, bringing him back to his formative years. Billy caught the hint of the chocolate chip cookies she made on a weekly basis to send to him. There was her sachet, light in the air, permeating everything with a welcome scent. So comforting, so heartwarming.
However, the smells were alien after so long away. Each time he came home during his breaks, and he was by now in his junior year, the disconnect from his youth was stronger, deeper, and the memories of his life before school seemed to belong to someone else.
Like he was never young.
Like he had never grown up there.
Like his life had not started until the moment he had walked into his first lecture at school.
“I’ve been eating when I can, Ma,” Billy said, smiling down at his mother. He marveled at how little she had changed over the years, though he knew why she seemed the same. Much as he had wished otherwise before, he knew why. He knew also he had to change the subject or she’d be forcing food into him, and she always made it impossible to say no. “How’s Dad?”
“Oh, you know your father,” she said, releasing him and gesturing at the door to the basement. The lights brightened for a moment. “He’s down there, trying to blow everything up.”
Billy theatrically rolled his eyes. “Again? Didn’t he already get a warning from the zone manager about that?”
Sonia swatted at her son with a dishtowel. “Yes, and it went right into the furnace with the rest of the warnings he’s gotten over the years.” She gripped Billy’s hand and led him past the basement door, towards the last place he wanted to go: the kitchen. The boyish fat he had had growing up had finally left him after many weeks of sweating in the gym, and he had only maintained the muscles he had discovered by keeping to a diet and passing around the care packages he got from home. “He’s a lot more careful these days, but you know him.”
Billy knew that his father being “careful” meant he would only blow out the windows of the house and not every house in the neighborhood. That did nothing for his sense of well-being but quite a bit for his nostalgia. “Yeah, I know how Dad is.”
“Oh, aye, ye think ye do, boy?”
The voice was gruff and coming from behind the young man. Billy, usually able to be pulled anywhere by his mother, stopped in his tracks. His father had always had that effect on him for any number of reasons, though he had tried to break that power for years. Billy turned to face his father, a smile forming on his face.
It died the moment he saw his father.
“Ye took yer sweet time ta come home, William,” Aristotle grumbled, leaning his left shoulder against the door he had just came through. A giant of a man, both in substance and personality, Billy had never heard his father call him anything but William, and always with a tone of, perhaps not disapproval, but something very close to it. Aristotle’s dirty-blonde hair was cut short save for a mop on top of his head, the close-cropped beard giving him a look of aristocracy. Billy knew the beard was only to cover several scars from the older man’s youth, and the lesson of how he had gotten those scars had given Billy nightmares for weeks.
“The cab couldn’t get through the gate, Dad,” Billy said as evenly as possible.
“Oh, aye, ye took a cab, did ye, William? Aren’t we fancy?” Aristotle fluttered a hand the size of a dinner plate at his son. “An where did ye get the money fer that? Yer mum? Some floozy ye shacked up wit at the bleedin school we sent ye?”
Billy silently counted to ten before answering. He wouldn’t lose his cool in front of his mother; he wouldn’t give the old man the satisfaction of throwing the first punch again. “No, Dad, I got a job. It isn’t much, but it pays what my scholarships won’t cover.” Billy accented the word scholarships, so his father knew that Billy was there as much by merit as by money. “I do the best I can.”
Aristotle pushed away from the door, an imposing head taller than his son, and twice as broad. His dirty white shirt, covered in soot, stretched over his chest near to bursting, and Billy knew from harsh experience that there wasn’t an ounce of fat on his old man. “Aren’t ye so soddin proper? Ye fergot the last time ye cracked wise ta me like that?” Billy said nothing, not sure why his father was so ready to fight again, but readying himself for the confrontation. “Can’t ye talk, boy?”
“Aristotle,” Sonia hissed, “stop it! Billy just got home!”
“I kin see that fer meself, woman,” he rumbled, the sound of deep thunder on the horizon. “He’s home ta try is hand at me again.”
Billy found his voice and injected it with the steel he had discovered buried deep within him. “I’m not here to fight, Dad. I came home to visit.” Looking from his mother back to his father, he said with finality, “That’s all.” Billy turned away from the both of them and headed for the kitchen. His back was open and he knew his father wouldn’t be able to resist.
He was right.
“Ye useless git!” Aristotle shouted. “Don’t think ye’ll catch me off-guard like that! I did that ta me own father before ye were a gleam in yer mum’s eye!”
His mother’s scream was the only warning he had, and even then it was close. Too damned close. Billy twisted to his left, against his dominant side, bringing up his left hand in a claw and aiming the palm at his father’s chest, which had been left completely exposed by the older man’s attack. Billy knew the attack; it was a textbook stonehand, one technique with which he had plenty of experience receiving. Aristotle had always known exactly where to hit his boy in the back and not hurt him permanently, at least not physically.
The younger man felt the fist scrape his back, the Power emanating from his father’s hand burning through the cloth. Billy gritted his teeth in pain and, with his own left palm nearly resting against his father’s chest, he focused the pain into his own Power and whispered a Word.
Foce.”
Aristotle flew back off his feet, hurtling through the hallway and coming to an uncomfortable stop against the mithril door he had forged several hundred years ago. The older man crumpled to the floor, a bright red spot on his now-shirtless chest, his head hanging lankly down. Tendrils of smoke curled from the burn, wafting upward into the semi-conscious man’s face. There was an actual dent in the metal door, something that anyone, especially Aristotle, would have thought impossible.
Billy kept his hand in the same position, drawing Power back into himself for the next part of his attack, and his defense, if needed. Twirling his fingers on his right hand in the Way, he sent out five bands for power, whispering his Words carefully. He knew he had very little time, as his father was old, crafty, and much more powerful than Billy. Surprise would only get him so far for so long.
Each band wrapped around a wrist or an ankle, and with the Word spoken, they tightened. “Carcerati,” Billy hissed, each syllable infused. The fifth band found its way around Aristotle’s mouth, covering it and pulling his head up and against the door. Billy pinched his thumb, fore- and index fingers on his right hand together quickly, humming the Word “Gravise” over and over, the bands sunk into the floor and door, pulling Aristotle’s limbs down with ever-increasing force. The young man had spent weeks perfecting these bonds; he suspected not even the Headmaster could escape them without resorting to asking for help.
Still, Billy kept his left palm up, the fingers still curled, the hand itself thrumming from the Power he held at bay with his will alone. For the first time he could remember, he was no longer afraid of his father. He knew that, even if he never returned after this day, he would always know that he had shown his father that he was no longer the boy.
Aristotle had completely regained consciousness by then, and if the movements of his mouth behind the golden band were any indication, he was furious. Billy could see the hatred in his father’s eyes, could see it was hatred brought on by fear. Aristotle had not been thrashed this way since he was a boy. Fear was good, and necessary for the last. It was time for the third and last part of Billy’s attack.
Billy’s combat magic instructor had always said that a good plan always has three parts: Initial, Follow-up and Follow-Through. One of his classmates had been foolish to ask the instructor why there had to be a Follow-Through, since by the time the Follow-up was complete, there was not likely a response coming. “If you beat him,” the fool had said, “he’s not going to ever come after you again, right?”
“Master Hosen,” the instructor had intoned, “you would be correct were this a retaliation scenario, where you had no time for a plan.” Serrabed continued, “However, when you are the attacker, you must defeat your enemy utterly.”
“That’s the Follow-up, though,” Hosen had interrupted.
“No.” The finality of the word finally shut the student up. “The Follow-Through is to drive home the point.”
Billy took the obvious question in an attempt to save Hosen. “What would be the point, sir?”
Serrabed saw the ploy for what it was, but answered anyway. “The point, Master William, is to make sure that your target knows that they were utterly defeated, and that you will do it again.” The slit-eyed instructor’s skin around his mouth, that day a scaly green iridescent in the light, rippled in what one would call a smile. “You would happily do it again, and you would enjoy it.
“You want the target to fear you.”
Billy had that fear in his father’s eyes; he knew what it looked like, having seen it reflected back at him for years on end. The young man kept the pressure up on the bonds, which he knew were keeping the equivalent of Jupiter’s gravity on his father. Billy smiled slightly, and it was not a smile of triumph, but of sadness.
“Dad, I didn’t want this to happen,” he said, trying to ignore the pain on his mother’s face. “You wanted a man as a son. You got him. You won’t push me around anymore. You won’t hurt me anymore. I learned my lessons well, and I owe that to you.” Now the smile became bittersweet, as did the words. “You taught me how to hate, how to plot. I don’t hate you, though. I hate what you nearly made me become. I will never go down that road again.
“I love you, Dad,” Billy continued. “This was a long time coming, and I love you. I won’t let you keep hurting me because of Clara, though. It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t Mom’s fault, and it sure as the Nine Hells wasn’t my fault!” Billy roared, letting pain through to his voice again. “She died, yes. She’s gone, yes, but Mom and I are still here! We’re still family! We didn’t die that day!” Billy sighed, the hurt and the anger fluttering out of him. “I’m just sorry it came to this.” A single tear slipped down Billy’s cheek, then steel came into his voice. “Don’t think, though, I won’t do this or worse if you try it again. You taught me too well.”
The older man had struggled against his bonds at first, but stopped when he saw it would be futile to continue. Aristotle listened to his son, for the first time since sweet Clara had died from such a stupid accident. Had he been that blind?
Sonia wept openly, working her own Way to get the bonds loose. She recognized the Words her son had used; she had supplied the idea herself, even though Billy had been so circumspect about it. She had kept the peace for so many years, even after Clara, her only daughter, had passed on. It was almost more than she could bear.
“I’m sorry, Ma,” Billy said, the tears held back by his will. He lowered his hand, letting the Power he had built up flow out like a breeze over a field. “I’ll go now. I’ll come back soon.” Billy took a deep breath and turned to grip up his duffel bag. He took a moment to collect his thoughts before standing up. As he did, he heard a very large man stand up.
And keep his distance.
Billy turned to face his father, his right hand holding the bag’s strap. Aristotle stood, his arms at his sides, the hands loose. There was nothing threatening about his father now, and Billy was unsure how to feel about that. For so long, Aristotle had been the aggressor, the attacker, and yet…
And yet, his father stood, his shoulders trembling in suppressed sadness.
“Ah’m sorry, son,” he said, the burr in his voice blurred by long unshed tears. “Ah’m sorry aboot everythin. It’s joost Clara dying…”
“She was my sister, Dad,” Billy said. “I loved her too.”
“Ah knoo,” Aristotle said, shaking his head, covering his eyes with his hands. “She was me little lassie, ye ken. My little girl.” A few moments passed as Aristotle dropped to his knees, weeping openly. Sonia held him in her arms, cooing to him in their secret language, one they had developed over their decades together. The older man buried his face in her bodice, shuddering from the braying sobs, all the time whispering that he was sorry. Sorry to her, sorry to his son, sorry to his daughter, dead so many years. Sorry for it all.
Billy shouldered his bag. He hadn’t wanted things to go this way, would have preferred just another frosty visit with his parents. The young man turned to leave through the kitchen, not wanting to cause any more problems. He made it three steps before his father stopped him, not with Words.
With words.
“Billy, Ah’d like ye ta stay fer a wee bit, if ye could.”
“You sure, Dad?” Billy said, not trusting himself to turn to his father for fear of tears running down his cheeks.
“Ah only lost one o’ me children, son. I dinnae want ta lose t’other un.”
This time, Billy turned, smiling. He set down his bag and for the first time in so very long, he ran to his father instead of away. The mountain of a man enveloped his wife and son, the Power of all three humming as it had not done since the night Clara had been taken away from them. For the first time in forever, Billy was home.
When they finally released and Aristotle stood, he asked his son, “Noo, whut in the bluidy hell did ye hit me with?”
“The force of one-tenth of one-percent of a F5 tornado,” Billy smiled.
“An the bracelets?”
“The core of Jupiter, at least as near as astrophysicists can tell.”
Aristotle shook his head. “Och, in my day, we didnae have such fancy things. We went by guess and by gosh an we liked it!” He slung an arm around his son and pulled him close. “Might have ta show ye that sometime.”
“I’d like that, Dad. I’d like that a lot.”
Welcome home, Billy.

Shadow of Doubt

•February 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This is yet another bit from Parts of the Whole, a free ebook available on Smashwords. This gives a little bit of plot exposition, and gives a bit more insight into where The Statford Chronicles is going. It’s going to be… interesting, to say the least.

Shadows of Doubt
Oh, Thomas.
I often wonder if you know how long I have seen this world, and how much of it I have seen, and how much of what I would tell you that you would believe. So many years, so many lifetimes, so many triumphs and tragedies. So many questions.
I have seen them all.
I do not remember what I was before, if I was anything before. Did I really have a body? Was my hair always so luxuriously blond? I do not know, nor do I care. My earliest memory is of a single question. Anything before that is nothing, a blank that I know will never be filled. All I had was that one question pounding into my form as I sprang from nothingness, and it is a simple question, but one that I did not understand. Not at first.
I wondered how many before me had answered that question wrongly.
The first Keeper. Even after sixty centuries, I still remember the first mortal to wear the mantle. He was brave, and true, though not the deepest thinker. I did my best to help him fulfill his destiny, at least when he would listen to me. Perhaps his destiny was to help me be a better guide? With thousands of years on which to look back, I find it both exciting and frightening that I have not thought of such a thing before. It shows that, even with my age, I still have much to learn.
As do you.
I never told you of the first Keeper, and how lost his life in battle against a terrible foe. He fought bravely, but he truly never had a chance. A pity, I assure you. As the life left him, he held out a hand to me, and I reached to grab it. We touched, for the first time in however many seasons we had known one other, and I knew he was not long for the world. He beat the one he faced, but died regardless. It is only across this gulf of years that I do not weep, for even spirits may shed tears of sadness.
As I will one day soon.
The second Keeper was much more interesting, and I, still a newborn spirit, not knowing any better, accompanied a young man in exile. A wanderer, marked by a wrathful deity, a murderer. The mantle goes where it will, and it went to this man. I learned much from him, possibly the wrong things, as it turned out, but I watched him closely. He made me realize the difference between good people doing evil things out of necessity, and that all actions, no matter the aim, have consequences. Rarely would such results show immediately, but there are always results, for good or ill.
I never wanted anything to happen. Nothing like this.
After the wanderer founded his city and cast off the mantle, I was attached to one Keeper after another, watching them go by like snowflakes in a storm. Sometime during that millennium, I barely cared about those I was assigned, for I knew each would fall in likely a horrific way. Some retired the mantle, proving to themselves one thing or another; I cared not, as they were like guttering tapers in a whirlwind. Others threw themselves into their work, trying to be more than mortal, trying to compete with the gods who kept bickering like children, trying to keep them from tearing reality apart for no better reason than sheer ennui, all to make sure that this tiny corner of the universe would still be around the next day.
Does that sound familiar, Thomas?
Life after life. Place after place. Civilization after civilization. It all became the same. Whether it was the lyrical songs of those original settlers of the Fertile Crescent or the enigmatic Dreamwalkers of the island continent of Australia, for those thousand years it was all the same. There was nothing in that time that I can honestly remember in particular other than I was a spirit who wanted to die, because I had nothing left for which to live. That I could not die only added to my torment, which made me care less and less. A life of lifelessness, very much what the children of the time would call “emo”.
I needed something to bring me back.
She was my first woman Keeper. It was in what is now Egypt, and she was glorious. There could be no other word to describe her. The first Queen of the Nile, an inspiration to her descendant Cleopatra, Hatshepsut was the greatest queen, wise, brave, canny and beautiful. Gods, she was beautiful, Thomas, as if the gods had formed her from the stuff of Creation. Spirits can fall in love; I am proof. She said that Amun-Ra had called her pharaoh, and she was right. We met on the last weeks of her reign, her nephew set to take the throne.
You always were a romantic, Thomas; that is why you would appreciate this.
She asked me if the gods had sent me. I said yes. She asked if I had a purpose for her. Again, I said yes. When she asked if she would likely die in service to her gods, I could not help but stifle a sob and say yes. She was so open to me, Thomas; her heart was on her sleeve. This woman who, to stifle her critics because of her gender, wore a beard and dressed as a king, told me she was willing to die for the greater glory of the gods. Such naivete in royalty, even in those ancient times when the Pyramid of Khufu had stayed strong in the face of eleven centuries of wind and sand and sun.
What would you do with those ebony eyes looking at you, through you, and ask if they’re doing the right thing? What could you do?
I told her I would protect her as I could, but she was not serving the gods. She would, in fact, serve humanity, protect it from those who wished it harm. She actually smiled then, and I would have gladly given my soul to have her smile be only for me. When she said that such had always been her way, my heart soared. This was someone who actually understood what it meant to be the Keeper of the Conclave: to serve humanity, no matter the cost, in the face of incredible odds. Not because she had to serve, but because she wanted to serve. My interest in life, humanity, the world around me returned, and I was only too glad to serve her. We made our plans and disappeared after her nephew became pharaoh.
She was one of the few who died in her bed. A blessing for her.
Was I in love with her? Yes, and I believe I still am. Three thousand years is a long time to love someone, Thomas. I held her as she breathed her last, her frail form bowed but never beaten by age. Her body was light, lighter even that I am. When she passed from the mortal coil, I felt her pass through me. It was light, it was life, it was happiness, something I had missed for so long. Even as she died, even as her soul would cross into the realm of Anubis to whatever reward awaited her, she served one final time by imparting what she truly felt for the world to me. She showed me heart and soul above anything I had ever seen in the strongest men, and it was beautiful. She was beautiful.
Life is beautiful.
As time went on, Thomas, I kept that love in mind, in heart, in soul. I kept my charges safer, I cared more, I felt more. When a young Aztec became the Keeper, I led him through the lands to a place he would not be turned into a sacrifice, at least not for the priests. A Centurion from Rome, believing me to be an avatar of Mercury, traveling the world to protect it from itself. He never suspected I directed him away from Britannia to save not just his life, but a young boy from certain death at the hands of a dark cult. It was all so that boy would become the ancestor of an explorer.
Indeed, everything connects into one flow, one pattern, and we are the weaver and the woven.
A few centuries later, more exploits. It was with a very good bearded playwright that I could finally get some of the stories out of times past. Even with his penchant for anachronism, he got the point across quite well. His words would outlive him, I knew, and his thoughts would always be considered the greatest to grace the page and the stage. Centuries would be spent trying to decipher who gave him the words, the inspiration, and no one would guess it was a spirit gifted to him.
I wonder if he would have written had he known what I was meant to do. What I was commanded to do.
Thoughts of the times gone fill me more and more as the years go on. So many different lives, so many shadows of doubt in my soul. I never forget the love I was shown, but I know now I cannot be sure if my queen meant to do that, or if she was commanded to do that. We who are called free spirits are rarely one and never both. Perhaps she served others without knowing it, perhaps not. I know all whom I serve, most gladly. Others, however, I serve because I must.
A puppet who sees the strings is still a puppet, and he may never cut the strings, lest he become a broken toy, and a broken toy is always thrown away and replaced.
Even now, so many thousands of years later, I see the path that started with a single question. I see how it twists and turns and carries and ferries those in my care to their inevitable ends. I see where this question has forced me into places I do not want my soul to go, yet I continued anyway. I would not cut the strings, so I could give myself the illusion that I was fighting from within, that I was going to change things, that this time the end would not be because of me, just as it always had been.
Each time, I would be wrong. Over and over I would be wrong.
The Keeper before you was a good man. He was brave like all the others, wise like most of the others, strong like some of the others. Unlike all the others, however, he asked me one question, one I should have expected to be asked, the law of averages being what it is. With that one answer, he discovered that which I had had hidden from all, even my Queen. She never knew why I had been attached to her; even I did not know, not then. Not until he had asked me one little thing. It was not the same as that first question; had it been that, I would likely have been rendered to ethereal nothingness.
He asked me why I was there, and I could not lie, so I answered him fully and truthfully.
That Keeper shot himself, Thomas. He did not blame me for it, but he said he could not stand to live his life if it were not his. He smiled at me as he put the gun in his mouth just after telling me he did not blame me. I pondered telling him that what he was doing was preordained, that he was nothing more than a placeholder, a stepping stone on a six-thousand-year trail.
To you, Thomas.
You will never read these words, Thomas, but if you did, I believe you would understand them. You would know it was not my choice for what happened to you, to what will happen to you. You might possibly even believe me if I told you I had no control over these events.
That first question still haunts me. Who do I serve?
You will not forgive me; I know that fully well. When your rage and anger and hatred blot out all reason, I expect that you will not accept anything I have to say. That is not for now, though, Thomas, and I am glad we still have this time together. Before I forget to do so, allow me this one chance.
I am sorry, Thomas, for what must be done to you, and I am sorry for my part in it.

Writing for Greatness, or I Finished. Now What?

•February 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Show of hands: Who here has ever written something of a creative nature? Who thought it was better than the dreck being put out at your local chain bookstore?

Now, who here took the time and the chance to publish?

It’s true, the bar to being a successful writer/author/poet/creative type is high as ever, and it’s not one that is likely to ever go away barring a cataclysm of such magnitude that we’ll wish we were Rick, Maggie and Daryl on The Walking Dead, and our skills at writing won’t matter at that point. However, until that time, while the ways to the big publishing houses may be guarded, there are other ways to get your works out there. The best thing is, most of them are free.

And for those of us who wish we had a shoestring for a budget, that word “free”… Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Of course, like the man said, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. There’s an initial cost to publishing your work, but if you want it out there, you’re going to need to do it. Your first step is to decide which way you’re going to go with your work: electronic publishing, or ebook; or print-on-demand, meaning someone prints your book as requested and ships it to customers who came across your name and said “Gee, this looks interesting.” Either way, you’ll need the most important thing for your book besides what’s on the pages: The cover. Plenty of people will tell you when they’re going through a bookstore, the thing that catches their eye about a book is its cover. It catches their interest, and gets them to read the backcopy. It’s the hook and the line that pulls a potential reader in, so the importance of a cover cannot be overstated. Unless you’re a creative graphic genius (if you are, you’re a lucky sod), you’ll need to find an artist that not only fits you, but fits your work. Most artists are very flexible, and can work a multitude of styles. Your best bet is to check their portfolios. A good rule of thumb is “if you like what you see, go for it.” I wish there was more to it than that, but hey, you’ve already wracked your brain when it comes to your work. Let it happen.

The best place to find cover artists are, you guessed it, other authors. As in, we’ll tell you who we commission for our covers. An excellent place to find other writers is, not surprisingly, the internet. Facebook has a multitude of author groups that you can join. The great part is, you’ll not only find good information on how to get a cover artist, but you’ll find a ton of good stuff on how to (or more importantly, how not to) publish. This is a good thing, since most of these groups are run by people who want you to succeed as a creative type, and won’t purposefully steer you wrong. You’ll learn a lot more than you initially thought you would, and you’ll actually believe Facebook is good for something.

Yeah, I wrote that last sentence with a rueful smile, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Once you get your cover artist to make an awesome cover, you’re down anywhere from 75 to 100 bucks. Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of change, but you know what? It’s worth it. My cover artist, I wouldn’t trade her for anyone, and it’s a complete jazz to see the actual book in your hand, with an actual cover, on a book that you wrote. It’s like “I wrote this. Holy crap. It’s like I’m a real author!”

Slow down, though; we aren’t quite to that point yet. We still have to get the thing published.

There are several ways to get books published, and as I said, the ways are usually free to put your books out there. However, if you’re selling them, the places you’re selling your books on will take a royalty. No free lunches, remember? It’s okay, though, since it’s not a huge amount of money being taken. Most places will also advertise you a bit if you go exclusively with them. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is an example of that, and can be used in conjunction with CreateSpace, a Print-on-Demand service that Amazon also provides. However, KDP locks you in 90 days exclusivity, where you can’t publish anywhere else like Barnes & Nobles PubIt! service, or Smashwords, both very much great places to publish, so you’ll have to make the choice of how you want to have your work out there.

One thing to note here: Formatting. Get used to doing it yourself. There are services out there that will happily format everything for you… for a price. Smashwords offers a free (really free; no cost) style and formatting guide that works for all types of formats. It’s ostensibly used for access to the Smashwords premium catalog, but hey, if it works, it works. It’s not that difficult to do anyway, and just takes about an hour or so. You’ve already spents hours, days, weeks, and even months getting your book together. What’s another hour to make it look spiffy?

Now, here’s where it can get kind of tricky: How do you want it done? Ebook? Well, page count doesn’t matter, since readers can increase or decrease the font size, rendering any page count completely irrelevant. It’s also much easier to distribute, as it’s just a file. Sorry, I know that you worked hard on it, but hey, you should hear what I call my books. Keeping a PG-13 rating on this blog is hard work, I tell you. Regardless, if you’re publishing as an ebook, it’s just a matter of uploading the file, uploading your awesome cover in the right resolution (something any good cover artist will school you on), setting a price, putting a blurb about the book, and putting it out there. That is, in a nutshell, that.

Dead tree version… That’s the tougher part, and will run your cover cost a little higher, usually just 25 bucks, so it’s worth it in the long run. You’ll also need an ISBN. This is a serial number for your book that allows it to be sold as a “real” book. Depending on how you want to distribute (more on that later), an ISBN can run from free (awesome but slightly limited in usefulness) to about $100 (pricey, but opens up distribution opportunities). Print-on-Demand is a wonderful thing, but it gets a wee bit tougher, as page count matters, and your cover artist will want to know how many pages, what size your book is (6″x9″ is popular, but there are a bunch of sizes available), and what you want on your backcopy. I don’t care who you are: Unless your book is over 1000 years old, it needs a blurb for the new reader. It’s that little bit of fluff that you see on the inside cover of hardcover books, and what you read on the back of a paperback. It’s the sinker to the cover’s hook and line. So your artist needs that bit of information to put on there. After that, it’s a matter of getting the proof, which can be either electronic or physical. A proof is simply how the book looks. Whether you get it in electronic or physical form is up to you. I prefer electronic as it’s a lot quicker and looks exactly like the physical. Your mileage may vary, so choose your path wisely.

Once you’ve got your proof, you have to choose your distribution channels. Using CreateSpace, you can distribute for free on the CreateSpace store and both Amazon and Amazon Europe. Awesome, yeah? This gets you the most royalties, by the way, so this is a good thing. For an extra $25, however, you can use their expanded channels, though you’d have to get a different ISBN. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a pain, but since you’re doing the publishing, you get all the bonuses and the difficulties in publishing. This is one of those times.

After that, it’s pretty much all on you to promote yourself. So… do it! Go on podcasts that feature writers. Get a Facebook page and Twitter account to pimp your stuff. Network. The key is to BE SHAMELESS. As you are the author/publisher/publicist/everything but cover artist, you have to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to drop the fact that you have a book out, and where it can be found. Tell people that if they like it, they can tell their family, friends and neighbors; if they don’t like it, they can tell their enemies. Who cares as long as you and your books get talked about? The whole point is to get your name and your work out there. If you have the extra cash to spend on ads, spend it. Realize: No one knows who you are until you tell them who you are. No one knows how good your books are until you tell them, and they read them. All you have to do is talk about what you know, which is your writing and yourself. It doesn’t get easier than that.

To help all those who have gotten this far, here are some links for you:

www.designedbystarla.com : This is my cover artist, and she’s awesome. Starla will work with you and make sure you have the best cover ever. Of all time. Just awesome.

http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq : You can find all sorts of really good information here, not just for formatting, but stuff about publishing, literary agents and how to get your books out there.

www.roundtablepodcast.com : Just a great resource for authors. I’ll have an interview with Dave and Brion from the Roundtable Podcast soonish, but go there now and check these awesome fellows out.

http://deadrobotssociety.com/ : Don’t let the name fool you. This is an excellent podcast with a full-on plethora of stuff for both the up-and-coming and established writer.

 

These are just four of the starting places you can go to get your books published, or at least get the right start. Bottom line: Don’t be scared of the challenges being your own publisher poses. Take the plunge. Make a mistake? Fine. You know for next time not to do that. Just freaking publish. You might just surprise yourself and the world.

Just a little bit of news…

•February 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In case you aren’t on my Facebook or Twitter feed, I have a release date for The Blame Game.

Tax Day. April 15. New Statford Chronicle. Available either ebook or dead tree version.

Kickass.

Ten Questions with Veronica Giguere

•February 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of having a sitdown with the amazing Veronica Giguere. I’ve had the honor of knowing Veronica for nearly ten years, and she is one of the most creative, talented people I’ve had the opportunity with whom to work. Based out of her semi-secret lair in the Sunshine State of Florida, Veronica was, like many, an avid player of the online game City of Heroes, and it was here I met her and the rest of the RP Congress, a “guild” or group of players for the game. Veronica wrote many stories featuring her characters, and helped me write a few of my own, culminating in the story “Number One With A Bullet”, my first collaboration of that length with anyone. I’ll repost it here eventually, as it’s one of the best short stories with which I’ve ever been involved.

Veronica has since gone on to become a hot commodity in the fields of writing and especially voice talent, performing in the HG World series “The Diary of Jill Woodbine” as the voice of the title character, writing alongside best-selling authors Mercedes Lackey, Dennis Lee and Cody Martin for the podcast series “The Secret World Chronicle”, which if you haven’t yet checked out, go on iTunes and download it and listen to it, as it is astounding. Veronica has also read for such authors as Justin Macumber, Nobilis Reed and Abigail Hilton, among many others. This lady’s voice is everywhere, and for good reason: she’s one of the best. Ever. Of all time.

It’s an honor and a privilege to introduce the ever-wonderful Veronica Giguere. Thank you, Veronica, for taking time to visit and answer a few questions for us.

1. I guess the first question for those who don’t know you is the obvious one: How did you get involved in the podcasting and voiceover world?

The short answer is that I volunteered to help out some friends. When the folks responsible for The Secret World Chronicle podcast series had trouble finding consistent narrators, I offered to read one of the stories. When I finished the first, they handed me another, and another, and soon it was a consistent gig!

2. “The Secret World Chronicle” was how you got into voice acting and podcasting. What was your first foray into the creative writing world, and do you still have that story?

Well, I’ve always written stories. I wrote stories about friends and our alter-egos in high school, and I ran a Sailor Moon fanfiction site for several years. I do have the fanfiction stories on my hard drive, but I don’t think I’m going to share those. Besides, they’re somewhere on the internet. The wayback machine is an amazing yet scary thing.

3. I don’t think most folks realize how difficult it is to read aloud for an extended period of time. How do you prepare for a voice work session?

Aside from making sure that things are quiet, I warm up through general conversation and a bit of coffee or tea. I also make sure that I stretch my back and shoulders, since I stand when I record. I skim the part that I’m reading, take a deep breath, and start reading.

4. Who have been your biggest influences?

Wow… I’m not sure. When I started doing speech and drama competitions in high school, my parents were the ones who told me about tricks to estimate time based upon lines of copy and ways to improve my diction. When it comes to writing, it might sound silly, but Kevin Smith’s movies and the way he presents his dialogue helped to change the way that I gave life to my characters’ words.

5. What was the longest work you’ve ever done?

If we’re talking series, SWC is still going, so I suppose that’s the most continuous gig that I’ve had. Outside of that, The Ballad of Iron Percy by Edward Clark is the longest single narrative work that I’ve done. The script clocked in at over 650 pages!

6. Like most creative folks, you likely have a day job. What do you do when you’re not wowing people vocally?

I masquerade as a mild-mannered academic at a private university in central Florida, running first-year student transition programs and academic strategies courses. That means I teach things like time management, note-taking and reading strategies, and exam skills. It’s one part academic and one part life-skills, which means that not everyone sees that it’s relevant. I teach classes that many students don’t want to take, so I find some amusement that folks can’t wait to hear me read the next SWC or Jill Woodbine chapter, but my students sometimes wish that I’d just stop talking.

7. I imagine some of the scripts you work from have some very emotional moments. How do you deal with those?

To do those sorts of stories well, I find it best to just fall into character. It’s never reading the words on the page; rather, it’s acting out the story which includes the emotion behind the words. I move through the story and let myself become invested in the characters, and if I need to take a moment after I finish, I step back and breathe, then move on.

8. Also, I suspect that, as you deal mostly with fantasy and science-fiction, you have those passages with words that would trip most anyone up. How are those handled and what’s been the most tongue-twisting word you’ve had to say?

Gasp. I know that our protagonists gasp with fright or shock, but that word always catches me because I don’t want to swallow the second consonant. I slow down and let the words flow so as not to trip, but sometimes it just takes three or four tries. As for the tongue-twisting, I know for a fact that Misty and Dennis (SWC authors) love to find the most challenging Hungarian, Russian, and German combinations to give me in stories. They’ve even written in some Klingon.

9. You’ve worked with some absolutely amazing people. I won’t ask who’s your favorite, but I will ask what were a couple of the most memorable moments working with these folks?

There are so many… One of my favorite memories is meeting up with Dennis Lee, Cody Martin, and Edward Clark in Atlanta and just talking about characters and stories over mediocre food and crummy beer; the conversation was gourmet. Another involves “The Diary of Jill Woodbine” written by Jay Smith and the first time Jill spoke about the character Red Molly; Jill balances emotion so beautifully, and Jay’s words are a joy to read. And I’ll never forget reading a story for Nobilis Reed that had me in a fit of immature giggles for half a minute as I tried to get out the first few lines of a rather creepy-crawly erotica tale.

10. Finally, what projects have you got planned for the short and long term?

Short term? Finish recording “A Minor Magic” for Justin Macumber and keep on the scheduled recordings for The Secret World Chronicles podcast. Long term, I’m doing the second draft of Hollow, my graphic novel script turned urban fantasy novel. I’ve also got some collaborative projects in the planning stages with some authors for the second part of the year. Other recording plans include the sequel to Edward Clark’s “The Ballad of Iron Percy” and more novels via ACX. Oh, and if I play my cards right and get the paperwork set, I’ll graduate with my Education Specialist degree in Science Education by July.

Again, Veronica, I want to thank you for giving me a few minutes to give everyone a chance to meet the lady behind the voice. It’s a pleasure as always, and I’m looking forward to the next episode of “The Secret World Chronicle”. Readers can find Veronica at her own site, http://www.voicesbyveronica.com, which showcases her talents; http://www.secretworldchronicle.com, home of The Secret World Chronicle podcast; and http://www.incubatorpress.com, where she is a contributing writer and worldbuilder.

Sidebar Interlude

•February 6, 2013 • 1 Comment

This story is also from Parts of the Whole, the free ebook available at Smashwords. This was one of my favorites to write, and I hope you all like it, too. This is a story featuring Tom’s sister. Though she only gets a brief mention in The Sincerest Form of Flattery, this story shows how much family affects Tom, and what he will do for them. It’s also a pretty sweet story. Leave a comment!
Sidebar Interlude

I love my brother. I really do.

It’s the only reason I’m not killing him right now.

“Yes, I understand that Mr. Statford was present at the fire. That doesn’t mean he had anything to do with starting it.” I listened to the man on the other end of the phone for about three minutes as he meandered through four different versions of what happened at the warehouse before I jumped in. “Do you have any real proof? Anything at all besides the ramblings of three accused murderers who were,” I checked the notes, “stoned to the gills on a hallucinogen?” Another ten seconds of stammering. “That’s what I thought. You try bringing any of that to court, and I’ll have your license on my wall and you in jail for wasting the court’s time and impersonating a lawyer and possibly a human being. Are we clear?” I hung up, not waiting for the answer. Forty-seven minutes was enough with that slime.

It had already been a long day in my office, and that was the third call about my private detective brother in the last two hours. Though I was glad he kept me on retainer, I wondered if he knew just how much trouble I kept him out of. I had always thought it was the other way around, but he was family, and he never really did anything technically illegal, and it really was fun sometimes ripping apart some big time corporate attorney with a few well-placed precedents.

Leaning back in my chair, I closed my eyes, letting the oak-paneled walls, the desk that sometimes was clear of work but was usually elbow-deep, the certificates of appreciation and my degrees from college and law school with my maiden name, Jennifer Statford, just disappear so I could relax for just one moment.

The peace was shattered within seconds as the phone rang. My eyes snapped open, and I let it ring, taking in a picture of my kids I kept near the phone so I wouldn’t eviscerate the poor idiot who was calling me right off the bat. The picture was a shot from our picnic last fall, just after Tommy and Susy got back together. My daughter was the oldest and had inherited my husband’s lighter-brown hair while getting my dark eyes and somehow mixing our smiles into something that got more adorable every time I saw her. She was wearing the shirt Tommy had gotten for her, proclaiming her a self-rescuing princess. Hanna was my daughter, but she was her uncle’s niece through and through.

Screw it. I have voice mail. I could call them back.

My heart as always ached when I saw little Jacob. He was three in the picture, and he was still very small. His hair was darker, but his eyes were light, and he had the same smile as his sister. So very small, but full of life as Hanna posed with him, his arm around her neck. The necklaces they wore mirrored each other.

Fourth ring coming up, then off to somewhere I didn’t have to listen to it for awhile.

The pregnancy hadn’t been easy, and he had been premature by almost eight weeks. I remembered how tiny he was, how frail, when I saw him in the nursery. He didn’t cry. He couldn’t cry because his lungs weren’t developed enough. The doctors had given him one chance in two million that he’d survive, and I only got that information after I had threatened to sue them into bankruptcy.

The phone stopped ringing.

Jacob had been in an intensive care unit for nearly three weeks, not getting worse but not getting better, either. My mother had been with me the entire time, and my husband Arthur Gage had spent days looking for some other doctors who might give us a bit more help to save my baby. They couldn’t even tell us what was wrong, what was causing him to just not grow stronger as he got older. All they could do is tell me if he didn’t get better soon, his body wouldn’t be able to sustain itself as it grew. My baby boy would die, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Hanna and Jacob, such a pair of jokers. Where one was, the other wasn’t far behind. Hanna was fiercely protective of Jacob, as any big sister should be to her baby brother. His piping voice was always laughing as Hanna would joke with him, and she was always careful to include him in playtime. She kept him safe and he kept her smiling with his own laughter. They were so much my heart, and I didn’t know what I would do without them, and I never wanted to know.

At the end of the third week, the doctors had said there was nothing else they could do, and that my Jacob was going to die. They were blunt with me because I had begged them not to give me false hope, and my husband, being a trial lawyer himself, had badgered the doctors for treatments, experimental or otherwise. They had nothing, and knew nothing, and my baby was going to die.

Looking at him in the picture and remembering him hooked up to the respirator that was helping him breathe, it was almost like two different children. I had hated seeing him like that, and knowing I couldn’t do anything to help him. So helpless and defenseless, I broke down and cried the day I was told that he had less than a week to live. I cried for hours, trying to figure out just what I had done that was so bad that I couldn’t have two beautiful children, and why one had to die before his life was even fairly begun. I was glued to the window as the nurses changed his diapers and his linens and everything else, and I cried because that was my job. That was my baby, and I couldn’t touch him.

The phone rang again. Four rings, then voicemail. I wasn’t ready yet for another round of idiocy.

My eyes closed again and I remembered Tommy coming to me, his own eyes red from tears. I almost snapped at him that this wasn’t his child, but that was just anger and he had been watching Hanna while we were in the hospital. He took me to one side and asked me if I could watch Hanna for a couple of days. When I asked him why, he became guarded and told me someone named Larry had an idea, and it would be dangerous. He told me it was better I didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but if he was right, it could help save Jacob.

I didn’t even think about it. I said yes.

The picture of Hanna and Jacob was one of those high-definition glossy ones, where every detail jumps out at you, every twinkle of the eye, every emotion of the face, every wrinkle on a t-shirt, every grass stain on jeans. Their smiles were so full of life, and the camera had caught them both in mid-laugh, Jacob holding half a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, Hanna with a salami and cheese sandwich. She was half again as big as her brother, and the way she doted on him, even at the age of five, showed how full of love she was.

Tommy just disappeared for two days. I heard nothing from him, and his voicemail filled up the first day. I was getting worried; as if I needed more to worry about, my brother had gone missing trying to help my son. I was going to lose them both, and I hadn’t even thought about going with him. I couldn’t stand the idea of not being there for Jacob, just in case.

For Mother’s Day, Hanna and Jacob had made me a card. It stood in pride of place on my desk, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever been given. “To the best Mommy in the whole wide world,” it said in sparkles and glue and stickers and stars. “We love you.” That’s the word that always brings the tears close: “we”. I almost didn’t have a “we”.

Tommy showed up and he looked terrible. The coat he wore was torn in several places, and looked to have actually been on fire. There was a scratch down his left cheek, and it looked like he was shaping up for a black right eye. He moved with a limp, and his pants had dried blood on them. The small velvet pouch in his hand trembled a bit as he made his way to me. I hadn’t moved from the window since I had woken up fourteen hours prior. Arthur was with me, and had been holding me while we watched the machine no longer breathe for Jacob as it was removed. We both had cried until we thought there could be no more tears, and then we cried some more.

And here was my brother, looking like someone had run him through a meat grinder, and he was smiling.

“Let me go in there,” he said. “I can fix this.”

Arthur stood first and just said no. Jacob was already delicate and there was still a chance he could pull through, he said. If Tommy went in there, it would make things worse. Arthur was trying to be reasonable, but there was nothing in his words that were any more than knowing he was losing his son. Tommy just stood there, favoring one leg but not saying a word as Arthur put together one of the best arguments for going into our son’s room. He had argued before the Supreme Court before and won; this would be no contest. My brother wasn’t a Supreme Court justice. He was just some gumshoe who talked to himself and got caught up in messes I would always get him out of.

I stood also, and was about to echo Arthur’s words when I saw Tommy’s eyes.

His eyes were like both Jacob’s and Hanna’s eyes. Expressive and full of life. There was something else, though: confidence. Tommy knew what he was doing, and he knew this would work. I had seen looks like that before, usually on Arthur as he was getting ready for closing arguments, and always on me when I was dealing with some slimy corporate scum who gave attorneys a bad name. It was the look of someone who, even if you said no, would do it anyway, because they were not just right, but Right.

When Tommy smiled a crooked smile at me, I couldn’t say no. I put my hand on Arthur’s arm to get his attention. When he looked at me, I smiled and nodded. Arthur started to say something, then stopped talking and acknowledged defeat. Tommy put his hand on Arthur’s shoulder and pulled him close in a hug, which brought me close as well. I heard Tommy whisper something to Arthur, who nodded sharply several times. To me, my brother said, “Keep the nurses off me until I finish, and we’ll get Jacob good as new. Cool?” He could have asked me to capture the sun and moon for a chance to save my boy, I would have done it.

The nurses tried stopping him as soon as he walked in, hissing that he was filthy, that he needed to be dressed properly, that he couldn’t bring anything in with him. Tommy didn’t say a word as he pushed right past the two duty nurses, the velvet pouch jingling in his hand. He said something to one of them to the effect that if some ancient demon stabbing him couldn’t stop him, she didn’t have a prayer. When her partner put her hand on his shoulder to stop him, Tommy spun out of her grasp. “Touch me again, lady, and they’ll be picking your teeth up off the floor. That’s my nephew.” I had never heard him so serious, and I knew he meant it. Arthur took her to one side, his hands on her upper arms. I did my part by echoing my brother’s sentiments to the other one. The nurse outweighed me by twenty pounds, but I was a mother, and there was no way I was going to screw up the one chance Jacob had.

Tommy got to the little bed they had for Jacob and stopped. He looked like he was listening to something. “You’re sure?” he asked no one. “Latin?” He pulled the pouch open and pulled out a small necklace with a charm on it. It looked something like an eye. It couldn’t have been bigger than a bottlecap, but it looked made of gold and had the smallest pearl I had ever seen in the center of it. “Shouldn’t it be Egyptian?” Tommy said as he set the pouch down on a tray and opened Jacob’s incubator. “Gods, Larry, if this is wrong…”

He reached in gently, to the hew and cry of the nurses. They were trying to get to the nearest call button to bring in a doctor, security, or both. I wasn’t about to let anyone mess this up, so I took a nearby bedpan and smashed it down onto the call button. It shattered into a hundred plastic pieces, the cable now dangling uselessly. The implied meaning was very clear. “Larry,” I said, and I could feel the tears starting again. “Please save my son.”

My brother looked at me, then looked to his left. “You heard the lady. Let’s do it.” With a gentleness I had never seen before in my brother, he placed the necklace around Jacob’s neck. I didn’t know how he did it, but it was a perfect fit. From where I stood, my weapon in hand, I saw the winking of gold against my son’s pale skin. Tommy pulled another necklace from the pouch, identical to the first one except it had a ruby no bigger than the tip of my little finger in place of the pearl. He held it above Jacob, who was starting to cough.

“Rock and roll,” Tommy whispered. Then he spoke in a deep melodic chant, and I watched a warm golden light flow from the ruby to the pearl and back again.

“Horus, salutem dare ad hoc puer.
Tuum oculus vigilate super eum.
Protegam vestra nota mali.
Exaudi cordis placitum,
Hoc pueri vita
Ut semper amor.”

He said the chant again, the volume rising on each word until he was shouting it. Wind started to blow, sending papers flying into the air, different pieces of medical equipment falling to the floor and cracked and shattered. It was like a tornado as the nurses were thrown into us and we were all four driven back against and away from the crib.

It was completely still around my brother and my son. Tommy held his left hand up to the roof while dangling the ruby amulet over Jacob. His head was thrown back as he screamed the words again, tears pouring down his face. Whether from pain or something else, he was crying, but his voice was strong, even above the wind shrieking, and he finished the chant. On the last word, there was a huge flash of light from the ruby and a clap of thunder. Tommy flew back off his feet into the viewing window, cracking it into a spiderweb of glass. He crumpled to the floor in a heap.

The wind gone, I ran to my brother, trying to see if he was okay, or even breathing. Arthur came with me, the nurses behind us. I knelt down beside my brother, afraid to touch him since he now had a head wound that was bleeding. He looked like he was breathing, and the blood flowed into his shirt collar. His right hand still held the necklace; somehow he had kept hold of it after being thrown ten feet.

I touched his face, trying to get a response. There was none. I said his name, barely a whisper the first time, then again louder. Nothing. My brother had tried to save my son, and now he was probably dying in front of me and all I could do was kneel down next to him and do nothing to help.
That was when I heard a small cry from behind me. I turned around, as did Arthur. It came from Jacob’s crib.

Jacob raised his small hands, so thin, so fragile, and he started to cry, long and loud. I stumbled and fumbled and ran ten feet that seemed like ten miles. The crib was wide open and I gripped the side, looking down on my baby.

He had kicked his blanket away, his legs moving in time with his cries, and they were healthy cries. So very loud and healthy. His little arms waved, and he looked so mad with his face crying. I cried right along with Jacob, and gently touched his hand. He gripped my finger with surprising strength and I let him shake my hand as he caught up on his crying.

Arthur put his arm around me and we watched our son give a belated but welcome introduction of himself to the world.

The nurses were beside themselves, completely flabbergasted. One of them checked Jacob’s vital signs while the other left to bring a doctor. I heard a grunting from my brother, and the nurse’s eyes went wide. She put down the thermometer and went to Tommy, grabbing up a bandage. He pushed past her and said to me, “Is he okay?” When I nodded, Tommy began weeping. “Cool,” he smiled through the tears. “Give this to Hanna,” he said, handing me the necklace with the ruby. “Don’t let them take that necklace off him.” I asked him what these necklaces were, he answered, “The Eyes of Horus, a gift from someone who owed me big time.” Tommy pointed at the ruby, “This is the sun,” then pointed at the pearl, “and that’s the moon. They’ll protect them.” He breathed in deeply, then exhaled, saying five final words with a beatific smile.

“He’s going to be fine.”

And then he passed out.

Over three years later, and Jacob had gotten so much better. He was walking and running like kids his age, and though still smaller than the norm, he was strong. Jacob was my bouncing baby boy, and I never let anyone take the Eye of Horus off. Hanna loved the necklace, especially when I told her who gave it to her. She never took it off, even when swimming. The necklaces never interfered with anything, and always seemed the perfect length to not get in the way.

The doctors didn’t know what to say or do other than beg me not to sue them for giving up on my son and removing the respirator. I offered that I wouldn’t if they forgave any damages that might have happened in that room. They accepted without question.

Tommy was treated and released the same day, the cut on his head stitched, the three stab wounds disinfected and closed, and the bruised ribs bandaged. He refused to stay any more than he had to, but he at least allowed Susy to drive him home after getting dosed with Demerol. Tommy always was hard-headed.

My cell phone rang, and I saw my brother’s name. I answered it, a bit softer than I probably would have had I not been reminiscing. “Jennifer Gage, attorney-at-law and saver of your ass.”

Tommy laughed. “Ah, Counselor, I tried calling your office phone. You must have just gotten off the phone with Morris Haverman.”

“Yeah, I did. Tell me the truth: Did you set that warehouse on fire?”

“Would you believe they had already set the fire, and I happened to accidentally kick a plastic can of gas into it?”

A smile tweaked my lips. “No.”

“Oh. Well, how about on purpose?”

“That I can believe.” I laughed in spite of myself.

“Hey, they were shooting at me,” he said. “Said I was some great destroyer. Stoned off mescaline, they were.” I could hear him shrug and completely forget that he had helped destroy a million dollars of merchandise in a warehouse. “So how are my favorite niece and nephew?”

I love my brother.

An Interview with Brian Behm of Rooster Teeth

•January 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Brian Behm, or brianb, as he’s known on the site roosterteeth.com, is one of the people behind the success of the most popular webseries ever to exist, Red vs Blue. Based in Austin, Texas, Rooster Teeth started as a few friends doing videos and has grown into a huge conglomoration of creative minds. As the Rooster Teeth graphic designer/art director and part of the visual effects team for Red vs Blue, Brian is, in his own words, the “guy that makes sure everything looks cool.” If you have not taken a gander at some of the amazing work being done by Brian and the rest of the RvB crew… You have no idea what you’re missing.
 


Brian was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule (Rooster Teeth is putting out amazing videos on their site every time you turn around) to answer a few questions and give some insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the team’s offices in Austin, Texas.



1. You probably get this question all the time, but how did you get involved with and subesequently hired by Rooster Teeth?



A few years ago my wife and I moved to Austin, TX to be closer to the film scene. There’s a really vibrant community of film geeks here that have created something particularly special. There were enough reasons that we wanted to be here during the year that we decided that since there wasn’t holding us in Colorado where we were living at the time that we’d make the move to Austin.


One of the people in our group of friends is a filmmaker named Emily Hagins. A couple of years ago she was gearing up for her third film, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE. Another friend, Paul Gandersman, was producing the film and I offered to help Paul and Emily out with whatever they might need FX and art wise on the film. I was actively involved in postproduction for a (now failed) startup in town and was doing a lot of corporate production work. Visual Effects turn out to use a lot of the same skills as regular more mundane production. Anyway, the scope of the work I was working on grew and grew as production went on and by the time the show was finished there was poster work, a title sequence, a fake video game that I had to design the elements for, a few dozen visual effects shots that I worked on with a crew of other vfx artists, a website and a few other pieces of marketing material. The movie was good enough to get into SXSW and some other friends in the Austin community started asking me to help out with their productions as well.


MSTR led directly to working on a project directed by Aaron Morgan called NO WAY OUT. Aaron has been a friend of Burnie Burns since early in the days of Rooster Teeth and while I was working on the production I asked if he’d connect me with Burnie. Honestly, I just wanted to know if they needed any extra VFX help with Red Vs. Blue. I had always admired what they’d accomplished but wasn’t a die hard fan who wanted to work at Rooster Teeth. I just noticed that they were doing bigger more complicated animation productions and thought they might need an extra set of hands. The startup I’d been working for had finally failed and I was just lining up freelance work where I could. Aaron made the connection and I sent over a reel that was filled with title designs (which had always kind of been one of the things I’d focused on as I was doing corporate production). Unbeknownst to me, Matt and Burnie had decided at the beginning of the year that they should try and find someone who could design titles.



2. What’s your creative and educational background?



I’ve always been creative. When I was a kid I liked to use legos and Construx (really ugly building pieces that were sort of like Lincoln Logs but uglier and plastic-ier (I realize that’s not a word) http://www.splitreflection.com/const.html) to build spaceships and moon bases. My dad had a very early camcorder and I’d use it to try to make little films with my creations. The only problem was that I didn’t have an easy way to edit what I shot. Flipping through the cable channels one day I saw that the local public access station was holding an ‘access-a-thon’ and they were teaching people how to edit. We went down, I signed up for a class and ended up getting involved in volunteering at the local public access station and the high school production crew (I was a geek) all through the rest of junior high and high school.


Aside from the public access stuff i was involved in I worked with the newspaper doing layout and spent a lot of time in the high school graphic arts department. For some strange reason our school ran a commercial print shop (printing all of the school districts various sports team shirts, other shirts, calendars, diplomas, etc) and you could take a class that helped run the print shop.  I loved my photo graphics classes but I never really thought I could be a professional designer. You were either an artist who painted or drew or sculpt or you weren’t. I wasn’t particularly great at either of those first three things so I focused on other pursuits.


After high school I decided I was going to be a radio deejay and went and got an associates of broadcast communications from a little technical school in Minneapolis, MN. While I was there I got a job working at the public access station I’d volunteered at through high school and started getting interested in design and motion graphics. In the late 90s it was still VERY early in the switch to computers for editing and After Effects was JUST starting to come down out of the stratosphere price wise. Since they really didn’t have any money to pay people particularly well, the access station let you have a lot of latitude in what you worked on and I started trying to figure out how to move things around and make show opens. Humorously, there was no easy way to actually get something off of the computer so we’d end up taking a camera into a dark room and focusing it on the monitor. It was crude, but it worked.


I continued to work on developing my design skills reading everything that I could get my hands on at Barnes and Noble and the library and tried to start looking for an actual design gig, where i promptly discovered that I really didn’t have any of the design skills or chops that I needed so I headed back for a 4 year degree at a liberal arts college in Minneapolis called Augsburg. I never quite finished (a company I was working for at the time relocated me to Colorado Springs), but while I was there I worked on a double major in Graphic Design and Business Marketing with a minor in religion and an active role in the Honors department (which meant I was reading a lot of classics and philosophy).


Anyway, since then i’ve always been actively exploring and learning and as I’ve worked and learned and created, my work has gotten better.



3. I know that working at Rooster Teeth is quite possibly one of the best jobs to have ever of all time. I’m sure you weren’t originally expecting to work there. Where were you looking to work before getting hired at Rooster Teeth? Also, what other work have you done creatively?


I’ve spent my whole career bouncing between doing video production and graphic design. A lot of those jobs were in church and non-profit in-house departments. Like the public access station I mentioned before, you often have to do as much as you can with much less than you’d like and you really have to learn how to stretch. I’ve also done a lot of design work for medical device companies. I think I’ve probably got the strangest resume at Rooster Teeth. It turns out though that all of those jobs, whether they were sexy or not (and for the most part they really weren’t) played into teaching me a lot of the skills that I use every day in my job.


Aside from RT projects I’ve also continued to dabble in visual effects work on the side. I was a visual effects supervisor earlier this year on a film called Blue Like Jazz and I did vfx and title work for 30 episodes of Ain’t It Cool with Harry Knowles for The Nerdist Channel.



4. As the graphic designer and art director for Red vs Blue, what kind of equipment do you use?


The actual tools for graphic design and what I do at Rooster Teeth are fairly standard. Get a Mac, a copy of the Adobe Master Collection and a few plugins for After Effects and you could replicate my setup. I think more important than anything else to my job are my brain and my experiences. So much of who you are as a designer is influenced by what you’ve put into your brain. Design, fundamentally, is a problem solving exercise. I know that I have to create project A, which serves audience B. I know that this is what audience B likes and I know that the world © has currently been doing this. My job is to think and figure out a way where I can take A and C and turn it into something that appeals to B. A good chunk of that is experiential. It can’t necessarily be taught in a classroom, you just learn it from trying and failing and  then going back and trying again. Do that for enough years and you have a handy tool that you carry around with you wherever you go.



5. Anyone who has watched RvB has seen some amazing moments. Some pulse-pounding, some heartbreaking, some that made us cheer, and all of them just awesome. What were the one or two moments that just made you say “That was it! That was the moment!”?


I’m particularly fond of the scene with the director and carolina at the end of season 10. I will admit that I teared up when I first saw their interactions and then (spoiler) saw him basically commit suicide.


With regards to stuff that I worked on, I’d probably point to the season 9 training sequence or the break-in. We had some fairly crude compositing processes in season 9 for tracking things into a scene (tracking is the process where your computer figures out where in x, y, and z space things are so that you can take another object and make it feel like it’s part of the same scene). For whatever reason I just could not get a good track of the flamethrower guy in the break-in battle so I spent a good solid three weeks of work finishing both the flames for the flamethrower and then the manual tracks trying to figure out just how far the camera moved in that frame and how far the flamethrower man moved. It was a royal pain in the ass and was so stressful that when I finally saw everything finished it was quite the bit of cathartic relief.



6. Stepping away from RvB and Rooster Teeth for a moment, what do you like to do in your downtime?


Like I mentioned earlier, my wife and I moved to Austin primarily because we’re film geeks. We have a big projector screen at home and spend as much time as we can trying to catch up on the gigantic stack of blu-rays that continue to pile up during busy season.



7. Who and/or what would you consider your greatest creative influences?


It’s kind of a cliché for a designer to say Paul Rand and Saul Bass, but both of them radically influenced the world around me from a design perspective. I can’t give you a lot of individual pieces that have made an impact, but there was always something grabbing my eye. This must be the first piece of ‘motion design’ that really stuck with me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDm0PqjAF78.



8. Give an example of a typical day at the offices, during a “normal” day, and during “crunch” time.


Every day is a bit different. in general, I check e-mail and then sort out the list of tasks that need to be done for either the day or week then I figure out who in the art department is doing it and start to work through the list. I also make a couple of rounds every day to check in with the other departments inside the company and see if there are things they need from us or offer any input I can. Inevitably, there’s some sort of ‘fire’ that has to be put out and you focus on that. During crunch? It’s the same thing but the list you generate is longer. With not being as connected with animation production any more my crunches are different. Instead of ‘finishing the season’ my crunch is more like ‘getting all of the Christmas merchandise designed’. You just try to keep everything organized as best you can so that you know all of the items that have to get finished and can make sure that things are progressing. Keeping track of all the moving pieces is probably the most difficult part of being an art director.



9. What would you consider the greatest thing about working at Rooster Teeth and Rooster Teeth in general?


For me probably the best aspect is the latitude to be ME. Like i mentioned earlier, my entire career I’ve bounced between being a designer and a production guy. In most workplaces those are ENTIRELY different departments and never the twain shall meet. Rooster Teeth has allowed me to be able to bounce between both. It’s probably one of the only places I’ve ever been where I didn’t feel stigmatized that I wasn’t able to exercise both parts of what I am. The other thing that’s really satisfying is just knowing that the work I do is seen by a big and really appreciative audience. They might not know that it was me that worked on it, but they’re impacted by it. We just relaunched the YouTube channel design. It’s not perfect and there are things I’d like to change/tweak, but there are thousands and thousands of people who will be able to better see when our programming is coming out and maybe connect with the brand and the content in a way that they weren’t able to before. That’s really satisfying and it’s a bigger audience than I’ve ever reached out to in the past. There are plenty of other perks, but those are the big ones.



10. I really appreciate you taking time to answer some questions, and I promise this is the last one for at least ten minutes: What do you suggest for the budding designers and creative types out there that would help them realize their dreams? Not just creatively, but as far as marketing, promoting, et cetera?


Work on your craft. Develop your taste. Read then read some more. Find that rabbit trail where one book leads you into something else and then something else. As a designer you’re only as good as what you’re inputting into your creative diet so start to pick up design annuals like the ones Communication Arts and Print put out. Read websites like FFFFOUND! and DesignFloat. Put that good stuff into your head so that it lives there and starts coagulating with all of the other things you’re reading and learning. Get sleep and drink your water. Seriously, I don’t do enough of either of those last two things and as a designer you have to think. if you’re impairing your ability to think, you’re screwing up your tools. (like I said, preaching to myself on that last one). Honestly, learning, networking, practicing. repeat ad infinitum.



Once again, I want to thank Brian for dropping by and being kind enough to give this interview. For more work by Brian, you can check out (of course) roosterteeth.com and enjoy some of the greatest and funniest moments on the internet that actually happen on purpose. Until next time, you awesome party people.

An Interview with the RT AfterDark Podcast crew.

•January 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have the honor of knowing a lot of creative people. I mean, yeah, I have my moments, but there are some amazing creative folks in my life. I recently asked the crew of the RT After Dark podcast about how they got started. A little background for those not in the gaming/animation scene. The RT, or Red Team, After Dark podcast are several rather amazing people who decided to get together and talk about their interests, their ideas and, well, any other topics they fancy. I had the privilege to be on their podcast a few months ago, and they were gracious, funny, and absolutely awesome people. I asked them a few questions, and grouped their responses to each question. Needless to say, it was both informative and entertaining. Also needless to say, no names were changed to protect the guilty.

1. How did you get involved in podcasting?

Amanda: I was invited to join the podcast on a whim one day after I got home from school. The first one I was on wasn’t released but then the following was released as RTAD’s very first podcast

Crash: A couple of us (fookmi, Tina and myself) had the idea to bring people from the community into a spotlight to share the cool stuff that they do.

Redball: – I got involved by turning on Skype and talking to some people I met online. #totallynotweird

Nameless: Well…. I blame Polty. He wasn’t going to be on podcast number 3 so I asked Crash to be on. Now I’m trapped.

GregLathrop: Aside from listening to Rooster Teeth and Internet Box Podcast, RTAD is my only other podcasting experience. As soon as I saw RTAD on the RT site I joined the group. I knew a few members and fans but I knew Nameless the best from him helping me with Minecraft Hunger Games. He was the one I talked to trying to get the chance to play some games with the rest of the original crew. As I got to know others on the podcast the more we bro-onded and when they needed a new member of the podcast they came to me and I couldn’t have been more excited!

2. How and why did you decide to start this podcast with each other?

Amanda: When I was brought onto the podcast, the group had already been established. Fook Mi and I were friends and he asked me one day if I wanted to be on a podcast; good thing I said yes haha.

Crash: The 3 of us that started the idea decided to pull some people together that we felt would be good to join us. From there it was a lot of testing and trial and error. We are still learning and evolving today.

Redball: – carpeyolo right?

Nameless: I had no part in creating this. But it is fun.

GregLathrop: I wanted to join the podcast because of how much I love and want to be involved with community not to mention fucking around with these assholes is a shit ton of fun!

3. Who and/or what have been your biggest influences on you, as far as writing/creating content/etc?

Amanda: The biggest influence on my writing has to be reading, I know it sounds weird. But I love to read, and if I can create something that others will enjoy, be it a podcast or video or story, then I will be happy.

Crash: Content wise i think Roosterteeth would be a good start, for myself writing wise Micheal Crichton was a big influence.

Redball: – There’s this other group of people who took the RT out of our name and decided to call it something else. They’re way better at it, so I’ll go with them.

Nameless: I would say…. BEER.

GregLathrop: Michael Jones has been an inspiration as far as starting a small original gaming series and growing to become one of the greatest personalities on Achievement Hunter. RoosterTeeth’s story of how they started and grew is a big inspiration for me and obviously had a great influence on all of us on RTAD.

4. Besides RT After Dark, what other creative things do you do?

Amanda: I am not an overly creative person, thought this fall I wrote two books (not sure if I will do anything with them).

Crash: I do some paper craft, writing and video/audio editing.

Redball: Wait! there are other things?

Nameless: Does Minecraft count?

GregLathrop: I pursued a singing career for a long time. I traveled across the country to go to different auditions and did well but never got a ‘big break’. I also make a gaming series called ‘Generation Gap’ and eventually want to make a machinima series.

5. What do you use, equipment-wise, for the show, and how does the recording process go?

Amanda: The only equipment I use it my computer and a pair of head phones. The recording is relatively easy, we join the Skype call, whoever is doing the intro that week counts down to the recording and then we all press record. Once we are finished, we send our records to Exavior who edits them all for us.

Crash: Equipment wise we all have our own mics that vary. We use Audacity as our recording program and a normal show we have a guest who share what they do or just tell us about themselves. From there we usually talk about gaming or personal stories that we have.

Redball:  I use a mic and then I hit the red button.

Nameless: A heatset that has a mic. I use it for work too.

GregLathrop: I have a ’08 Mac Pro, Blackmagic Intensity Pro capture card, Blue Yeti microphone, and use Audacity and Final Cut Pro. The podcast is recorded individually in Audacity and we sync up in a Skype call then Exavior edits all our tracks together.

6. How do you prepare for a podcast?

Amanda: Throughout the week, we will write down possible topics for the podcast and try to fit them in with what we are talking about that week on the podcast. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t; but this way we usually don’t run out of things to talk about.

Crash: I usually keep a notebook throughout the week with items i would like to talk about. Just before the podcast we all get together and loosen up by joking and talking.

Redball:  I say hello in a really annoying voice and if people respond I know I set it up correctly.

Nameless: I would say…… BEER. And counting. Definitely turning my heat off.

GregLathrop: Mainly just make sure there are no interruptions, get comfortable and have a drink that is easy to refill, not to mention sacrificing 3 chickens and a puma.

7. Best/craziest/most ridiculous moments of the podcast so far?

Amanda: I don’t know about crazy or ridiculous, but my favorite moment from right before we were going to record the podcast was when the police showed up outside of Crash’s apartment and were using a bullhorn to yell at one of the residence.

Crash: we had a time where we were starting the podcast and fookmi’s audacity program kept erroring out over and over. After the 5th time we were all dying laughing.

Redball: – Oh man, this one time on the podcast the police showed up.

Nameless: There were cops one time. I fell asleep… ONCE. People never let things go.

GregLathrop: Most frustrating moment in a podcast has to have been when I was recording while housesitting and the dog I was looking after kept barking. Best moments are when we get to have guests on the podcast and being able to share there story. Most ridiculous moments are whenever I hear a new Crash story!

8. Any advice for up-and-coming podcasters or people who are thinking about starting one?

Amanda: It is worth the work and effort. Don’t give up when it gets hard because once you get everything sorted out it is so much fun.

Crash: Get people together you enjoy spending time a lot of time with and have as much fun with it you can. Youve got to enjoy what you are doing whether the success comes or not.

Redball: – I’d say my actual answer but I believe a show company might sue if I say it.

Nameless: Do it! Don’t think about doing it. Just go and do it.

GregLathrop: Make sure you have a group of people who you have a good time with the rest is just logistics.

9. Any special events in the works, and any events going on hosted by RT After Dark?

Amanda:Every Saturday night RTAD hosts a Community Playdate that is hosted by one or more members of RTAD, usually in Halo. We invite our podcast listeners and community members to join us and we just play games and have fun all night.

Crash: We hold community game nights every Saturday night at 7pm EST and we allow everyone to be a guest on the podcast.

Redball: – Suit party RTX 2013! (Note: This is the Rooster Teeth Expo, held for the third time in Austin, TX. Yes, I plan on going.)

Nameless: Maybe… They don’t tell me much, and give me beer to stay quite.

GregLathrop: We hope to make a noticeable appearance at RTX and after the convention closes our mouths sure as fuck won’t lol. Also, Nameless and I are starting a new RT fan event in Washington state we are going to call RTNW:RoosterTeeth NorthWest we hope to hold it half way between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. We have a lot of ideas and plans in the works so keep an eye on our RT group called RT Pacific Northwest roosterteeth.com/groups/profile.php?id=15183

10. And where are the many places people can find the RT After Dark podcast and its members?

Amanda: The best place to find out content in on our website rtafterdark.com. Our IT people have put a lot of work into it and it works wonderfully. You can also find us on roosterteeth.com on our group page RT After Dark. We are also on YouTube, youtube.com/RtAfterDark.

Crash: We are on Itunes, youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/RtAfterDark?feature=mhee), rtafterdark.com/ , Twitter (https://twitter.com/RTAfterDark) and all of use or on Roosterteeth.com and have personal profiles and a group profile.

Redball: – THE INTERNET! kbai

Nameless: You can find us on twitter and youtube. Also the RT site and even our own site! rtafterdark.com

GregLathrop: rtafterdark.com iTunes Roosterteeth.com group: roosterteeth.com/groups/profile.php?id=15199 Twitter @RTAfterDark Find StrikingHobbit on the RT site: GregLathrop, twitter: @AH_Greg, youtube: MrGregLathrop

As you all can see, they’re a varied lot, and very entertaining. If you get a chance, check out their Let’s Play videos on YouTube, as those are better imagined than described. The podcasts are not to be missed, and if you like, go ahead and stop on by roosterteeth.com for comedy, gaming and community. Again, I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking time out to answer a few questions and let everyone take a look behind the microphone.

 
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