Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays *Plus* The Future of Publishing

A Christmas video for you... followed by what I think this video means for the future of publishing.

Kind of awesome, yes?

The drummer here is Sean Quigley, a sixteen-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). And what's remarkable here is not just that he can sing and drum, but that he rewrote all the music himself, played all the instruments, and directed and filmed and edited it (using a simple SLR digital camera). This is a true micro-production. It was made with talent, a standard digital camera, and a home computer.

A) this says something about the kid's talent. 1.3 million views and counting... I don't know how many downloads he's had, but probably a lot. In fact, he probably won't need a paper route or a job at McD's any time soon.

And B), I think this says something about the future of publishing and the digital revolution. I was going to say e-book, but why be limiting? Why think that ebooks are any sort of end point?

We've seen the rise of ebooks over the last few years, and we're still trying to figure out this new world. What is it, and how exactly do we use it? And this video really struck home to me the fact that I probably won't be the one to figure it out, to find a way to fully maximize the digital frontier in the process of making art.

But it might be my children.

I have a feeling that the Ebook (Digital) Overlords will not fully rise until the next generation, from children who grew up in a digital world, who have lived and breathed it and know only this. This video is, yes, a product of talent, but it also strikes me that this is someone utterly familiar with this new world. The technology of creation and editing and streaming and the omnipresence of Youtube's global market.

If I wanted to make a video, I would likely have to Google a bunch of How To explanations. Now, talent (if I happened to have any) and perseverence might, in the end, allow me to create something fine, depending on how well I teach myself the knowledge I need. But I don't think it will ever be the same as someone who has grown up in this, someone for whom these processes are as common as putting bread in the toaster. Toast! Wow! I'm sure, in my parent's generation, there were millions who were offput by computers and microwave ovens. Certainly, many adopted these things, and started to figure out how to use them. But for my generation these things have become second nature.

And now our children have a new digital age to grow up in. It strikes me that, in publishing, we are building something. Something for them. We're exploring the boundaries of this new world, charting and mapping, and settling here and there, trying to carve out a home, a living, a future. But the real future, the phantasmal cities of the imagination, may come from the children of these settlers and explorers.

People who know me will know that I love paper books. Everything about them: their individuality, their distinctness, their feel, their smell, the purity of how they operate in the imagination. And I hope they live in the world forever. But I can't deny that the future will be shared with (and perhaps dominated by) digital books and intertextual digital art. And I'm curious to see what this will look like. I'm curious to see what my children will make of this new world, and what strange new cityscapes will arise from the tapping of their fingertips.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Descending Plague, in D Minor

Okay, it may not be in D Minor. Not that I could tell one way or the other.

But, yes, I'm sick again. And trying not to spread the plague. Sorry, zombie kissing will only be allowed through e-mail.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bringing a Legend to Life - A Guest Post by Rick Daley

I like a challenge, but when I started writing a Christmas book that tells the origins of Santa Claus I didn’t know what I was in for. My agent at the time, a 20+year former Big Six Editor, told me with great confidence that no publisher wanted to see such a story; if no publisher wanted it, that must mean no readers wanted it. There’s little point in writing a book nobody will read, except maybe personal therapy.

But I had an idea for a story, and I wasn’t willing to drop it. I wanted to bring the legend to life; to make Santa real, and present him in a way that modern readers young and old can relate to. Someone you want to believe in. Kind of like Batman Begins, but with Santa.

The challenge was to preserve all the key items that make the legend what it is, but they could be thrown in haphazard. I had to bring these familiar characters and images together through the story. And if I did it right I could maybe succeed where others thought the efforts to be futile. They only surefire way to fail is to not try, so I had to do something.

First things first—a plausible premise. A young boy and his scientist father find an ancient book in an ice core taken from the arctic. There’s a sense of reality to the find, but it is no ordinary book; it tells the story of Kris Kringle and how he came to be known as Santa Claus. Now Jason and his dad have to make a tough decision: keep the book and get rich, or find a way to return the book to its rightful owner, i.e. Santa.

Next step—Kris Kringle’s story. Born human but orphaned as an infant and raised by elves, Kris doesn’t fit in and goes on a quest to find his real family. He has an emotional drive propelling him forward, and it’s something we can connect to: the longing to fit in. Now it’s a story-within-a-story.

But there’s another layer…a story-within-a story (within a story)—two kids just lost their parents, and their uncle is trying to rob them of their inheritance. His actions put his niece and nephew in mortal danger, and now Kris Kringle has a rescue operation on his hands. Unfortunately, Kris has complications of his own and with only days before Christmas he struggles to save the kids, deliver his presents, and find his family…

Within these three layers grow the beginnings of our most familiar Christmas traditions. Here’s one example: a sleigh with jingle bells.

Kris has two-dozen elves who agree to help him find his family. They leave their woodland home to set up camp in the Great Northern Glen, a legendary forest sequestered away among the ice and snow. They load a large wagon and set off. When they reach the arctic, they need to convert the wagon into a sleigh, and then continue on. They make their way north, the pots and pans hanging from the side of the wagon-turned-sleigh jingling as they cover the rough terrain...

The story pulls in other Christmas traditions in a similar manner: by revealing them through the actions of the characters and the flow of the story. Writing the story was like working a Sudoku puzzle…one wrong placement and the whole puzzle fails. Thanks to an awesome group of critique partners, I was able to weed out my initial mistakes in plot and characterization and revise and revise and revise until the puzzle was complete.

I hope you have the chance to meet The Man in the Cinder Clouds this Christmas. He’ll show you a history of Santa Claus you never knew…and will never forget.

The Man in the Cinder Clouds

By Rick Daley

A young boy and his scientist father made an incredible discovery at the North Pole—an ancient book embedded deep within an ice core. Even more incredible is the story the book tells: the long-lost history of Santa Claus you never knew…and will never forget.

This origins-of-Santa story is a great holiday read for the whole family. Its mix of action, humor, and Christmas spirit keeps younger readers turning the pages, but The Man in the Cinder Clouds is not just a kids’ book.

As one reviewer puts it, “THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop.”

This story-within-a-story reveals the origins of our most familiar Christmas traditions: from Christmas trees, stockings, and lumps of coal to jingle bells, the North Pole, and flying reindeer. Highly original and thoroughly entertaining, The Man in the Cinder Clouds will show you how Kris Kringle came to be known as Santa Claus. It wasn’t easy.

About the Author

Rick Daley has been writing professionally for over 15 years. His experience includes marketing copy for print and web, press releases, business proposals, training and technical manuals, and whitepapers. His essays, ranging from family life during the holidays to his first skydiving experience, have been featured in The Columbus Dispatch.

Rick lives in Lewis Center, Ohio, with his wife and two sons (and a neurotic schnauzer).