Monday, October 20, 2014

Alexander's Adventures Continue!

It's been almost two months since I posted a blog - which is somewhat surprising to me, since I have a wide range of topics I've been wanting to share with you. "Own the Scrawny" is moving closer to completion, of course, but I also have a range of overdue news and views I'll bring to you over the next few days. It's been both a busy and harrowing time (if you work freelance, as I do, you know what I mean - more on that, too).
Today, I'll bring you up to date on both "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" and "Own the Scrawny."

"Own the Scrawny," if everything goes well, should be out on or about January 1st. 

I'm recording audiobooks for both "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" and "Own the Scrawny," narrated by the author. I've just finished recording "Food Chain," and I have some independent ears giving it a first listen before I send it off for distribution.  The recording experience was both great fun and infuriating. It also pointed out to me how the story and the characters have evolved in "Own the Scrawny."  As soon as I have the final manuscript for that book, I'll start recording. I'm hoping release of the audiobook can be simultaneous with the paperback and e-book. 

I'm in the process of switching over the artwork on the original book so that it matches the second book. The first book featured a boy that I essentially found out of an online catalog. The boy that appears in "Own the Scrawny" (known on YouTube as DrewDudeTV) and shortly on the first book, is someone who participated in a photo session specifically for my "Alexander Adventures." The photos, by the way, were taken by DrewDudeTV's brother, known on YouTube as Fur. If you're on YouTube, show your appreciation for their fine work by subscribing to their channels!

To tie the books together, editions going forward will include an icon of Alexander, along with An Alexander Adventure. I decided not to simply indicate "Parts," since I think each book can stand alone (though "Own the Scrawny" does immediately follow "Food Chain").

In a future blog, I'll share a bit of how I'm hoping to market the new book. Alexander's reaction to online trolls is a key element of this story - a topic which is particularly timely. 

I'll have more in the coming days–thanks for your continued support!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


For the first time, here is the cover to my new novel!

It was bad enough embarrassing himself in front of the entire school,
but it was worse when someone recorded it,
horrible when it was posted online,
...and a disaster when it went viral.
But it’s the comments on the video that just might send Alexander over the edge...

Stop the trolls...

Own the Scrawny!

"Own the Scrawny" is a new adventure featuring Alexander, the central character in my first novel, "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain." It's coming out this fall.

This cover is really a team effort. As with my last cover, Steven Novak of Novak Illustration, created this layout, and made "Scrawny" a great side-by-side partner to the first book. YouTuber DrewDudeTV (check out his channel) portrays Alexander, and his older brother, known on YouTube as Fur (check out his channel, too!) led a fantastic photo session. Thanks to all for a fantastic job.

In the coming days and weeks, expect a series of vlogs, blogs and other content as we move toward the launch of Own the Scrawny.  First up: A vlogging trip to the Santa Monica Pier!

For more info on the "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" series check out your favorite online book retailer, or visit my author site.

If you'd like to keep track of my progress:

Follow me on Twitter: @rickflix
Join the Facebook Page for My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain;
or sign up for the mailing list 

As always, thanks for your continued support!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sharing the Process: Andrew Eckhardt on Writing Serial Fiction

When I began writing “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain,” I had no desire to write in complete isolation. I This was my first novel, and I wanted to create an environment that would help me stay motived as I attempted to navigate through this entirely new territory. In short, I wanted to know I was writing something that would successfully connect with other human beings. I wasn’t looking for professional critiques, or human spell-check programs. I wanted gut reactions. It proved to be an entirely gratifying process (I wrote about it in some length in the acknowledgments in “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain”). 

Recently, I had the opportunity to get to know writer Andrew Eckhart in a Google Hangout in a Google Plus community entitled, Authors & Bloggers Seeking Cross Promo, a community of writers seeking ways to work together to achieve their individual goals.  Andrew, who has written several science fiction ebooks, also sought a path through which to connect with his readers. He took the process several steps further than I, and presented raw chapters of a writing project in serial form on a public blog, as he was writing. Though the book would evolve further as he moved toward publication of the actual novel, he chose to share the process publicly. 

In an article published a couple of years back on  the “Tuesday Serial” blog, Andrew wrote about the process of writing serial fiction, Serial fiction forces writers to focus and practice and produce...but it also allows writers to feel accomplished, acknowledged and legitimized, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to publish before.

As I, too, felt with my tiny audience” Andrew felt a sense of obligation to maintain his output on a regular basis. Knowing that there were people out there that were waiting for his work provided the greatest incentive: Most importantly, serial fiction allows you to receive support from your readers. I promise you that whatever it is you’re writing: Supernatural Romance, Time Traveling Hijinks, a written reality television show based on the life of an amoeba that lives on the ear of a cat, you will find an audience that will enjoy your work.

He concludes that it can be stressful, hair-pullingly annoying and make one consider the pint of slow-churned cookies and cream in the freezer a viable “snack,” but it is incredibly rewarding.

In theory, I love the concept—and I hope to give it a try. In writing “Own the Scrawny,” the follow up to “Food Chain,” I had intended on repeating and slightly expanding the public side of my writing process, but soon discovered that this particular novel would be passing through quite an evolution. Sharing the process would have been, I believe, insanely frustrating for my prospective readers. The book that took shape is quite different than the book I set out writing months ago. In contrast, the original book had a fairly clear roadmap from the outset. I abandoned the sharing process after the first week.

I’m intrigued, however, with the challenge of writing serial fiction, and intend on preparing a future project with that specific approach in mind. Based on my limited experience with a hand-picked audience, the idea of creating a truly public blog and taking readers along on the adventure as it happens could be both exhilarating—and terrifying.

What writer could ask for anything less?

Follow my on Twitter @Rickflix

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Preserving Family History: "18 Miles"

One of the more interesting projects I’ve had the opportunity to produce over the last few months was “18 Miles,” a documentary/oral history project commissioned by a family that wished to preserve the story of their elderly patriarch for future generations. His daughter, Donna Weldon, turned to my colleague, Alexandra Nichols, and together we developed a concept which I hope we can replicate for other families.

"18 Miles" is the story of soldier Joseph Lincoln and his hometown sweetheart, Ruth Williams. Married for 54 years, this is the story of how they found in their lives together a union of hearts and minds. 

Through interviews with Mr. Lincoln (Ruth had passed away a year before), their children and friends, along with selected historical re-enactments, we tell the dramatic story of how Joe and Ruth met and then married in the early 1950’s. As Ruth was preparing for the wedding, Joe was at an army base, in training to earn his wings (and increased pay) as a paratrooper. His final jump was repeatedly delayed due to weather, as the wedding date drew ever closer. He achieved his final jump just in time, but he still had to make it home. A regional air force base offered a ride home – but his journey to that base would require a hike through backwoods in the deep south. As an African-American man in the 1950’s, he knew the very real dangers he might face.

This wasn’t a project created for television, cable or even online – it was created for the specific purpose of keeping family history alive. As Alexandra explains, her own heritage as an African American "requires me to honor the patriarchs and matriarchs in our communities by listening and learning from their wisdom."  Too often, family histories are lost after a generation or two. Even Oral histories—extended interviews with individual family members about their lives—don’t necessarily provide a sense of the true spirit of an individual’s life in a form that future generations can easily access and appreciate.

“18 Miles,” like any good documentary, told a story. With the help of Joe and his family, we focused on selected events in the lives of Joe and Ruth that paid tribute to their lives and their marriage, and preserved in a very real sense the spirit of who they were as a couple and a family.

“18 Miles” wasn’t just a successful project, it also brought the family together. Actors in the stylistic re-enactments included his children and grandchildren. Donna offered a rich selection of family photographs and documents that helped bring the tale to life. With the help of cinematographer Peter Bonilla, we were able to create a program created for a family that had the look and feel of a broadcast production.

Alexandra and I believe that “18 Miles” provides an exciting model for families to pay tribute to and immortalize their own history. Future generations won’t simply know their family history—they’ll feel it.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Writers Should Watch Entrepreneurs

I recently had the opportunity to see Paul Lazarus's film "Slingshot, a feature documentary about inventor/entrepreneur Dean Kamen's "15-year quest to solve the world’s safe water crisis." While many feature-length docs are simply too long and ponderous, this is a film that succeeds both in educating and inspiring the audience. In fact, it's probably one of the more inspiring films I've seen in a long while. It's worth seeking out.

Dean Kamen, from "Slingshot," a film by Paul Lazarus.
Dean Kamen holds nearly 440 patents. This list of his accomplishments is long.  As the film's website says, while he's Best known for his Segway Human Transporter, Kamen has reconceived kidney dialysis, engineered an electric wheelchair that can travel up stairs (the Ibot), reworked the heart stent, built portable insulin pumps, founded FIRST robotics to inspire young students, and on and on. Holder of over 440 patents, Kamen devotes himself to dreaming up products that improve people’s lives.

The film traces his efforts to develop a process to transform water - regardless of contamination - into usable, drinkable distilled water. As the site describes, he's developed an energy efficient vapor compression distiller that can turn any unfit source of water (seawater, poisoned well water, river sludge, etc.) into potable, safe water without any need for chemical additives or filters.

I'm fascinated and intrigued by the entrepreneurial spirit. Individuals like Kaman are extraordinary in their willingness to seek out solutions to seemingly impossible challenges.  In Kamen's case, it's a single-mindedness enhanced by a drive to "give back."

Principled and driven isn't a bad thing.

I'm constantly looking for an entrepreneurial approach to distributing my work. I can't say I've found that path as yet, but I have to admit, I have almost as much fun learning about the lives and philosophies of entrepreneurs as I have pursuing the writing process.

They're eccentric, they're flawed, yet they're ultimately successful human beings - just like any great literary hero.

How can a writer resist?

Follow me  @rickflix

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Own the Scrawny" Advance Team!

When I first wrote "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain," I went a step further than "Beta Readers." (the first readers of the completed novel). I had readers experiencing the novel as I wrote it, in the tradition of the early days of published fiction, when an author would publish a novel in serial form, chapter by chapter, creating interest as he or she went along. For an author publishing my first novel, it was a great way of testing the waters. I was able to get an early sense of whether I was engaging readers. It worked great, and really helped build up my confidence as a novelist.
I'll be working on an entirely new
graphic design, too!

At first I thought I would take the same approach with "Own the Scrawny," the follow-up to "Food Chain." Shortly after initiating the writing process, however, I realized that sharing the first draft as I wrote it might not be as useful as I'm imagined. Though I sent out the first two or three chapters to my recruited readers, I discovered that the process in this case would be much more complicated.

"Food Chain" was based very roughly on a screenplay I'd written some years ago. Though characters and events are greatly evolved in the novel, the general theme and outline remained intact.

"Own the Scrawny" has had a much more complicated evolution, taking shape only recently and with the help of my editor (a process which is still continuing, by the way!). The first few chapters I sent to readers have been altered and rearranged to the point where they're nearly unrecognizable. Sharing the writing process further would have been confusing.  In addition, I'm excited about sharing Alexander's newest adventure in its final form. It's a fun ride, and I certainly didn't want to spoil the experience for early readers with the inevitable rewrites and dead-ends.

Mid-fall, I'll be sharing advance copies of "Own the Scrawny" with a select, limited group of readers prior to its release. I didn't do much advance work with "Food Chain," but I'll be offering some of you a first crack at the new book. My hope is that by the time the book is officially available, reviews, blogs, vlogs and perhaps other creative work will already be out there by the time we launch.  If you would like to be part of the advance team, let me know! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dipping My Toe Into the Short Story Pool

Once, I realized that "Own the Scrawny," my follow-up novel to "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain," would have an extended development, I wanted to create something that would help keep Alexander alive for my readers, and perhaps introduce new readers to the world.

I decided to release a short story, "Why Do You Think They Call it a Ghost Town," which sets thirteen year-old Alexander in the real-life ghost town of Bodie, California.  At first wholly unimpressed by the remains of this old-west mining town, Alexander's unique anxiety and over-active imagination turn the visit into an unexpectedly creepy adventure.

I think it's great fun, and I hope you'll give it a try. Distributing an e-book-only short story is even trickier than marketing a novel, but I think this this is a fun 'extra' that both stands on its own, and adds a little dimension to the "Food Chain" universe. Building a readership for the short story helps build awareness for the full length-books as well.

You can purchase "Why Do You Think They Call it a Ghost Town." for only 99 cents from the usual retailers. It would also be a huge help if you would review, rate, etc. as you see fit.

Remember, you can also follow my activities on Twitter @rickflix
Alexander has a new mailing list, where you can find out the latest about all the books in the series.