Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Saturday, October 7, 2017

SOUPCHAD Cover Reveal

I'm marking my return to the blogosphere with a cover reveal of my next book. I'm very excited about SoupChad, and about the book cover itself.

I'm not sharing much just yet about the plotline, except that Chad loves soup...and will not tolerate anyone who likes salad. It's a fun ride that just might give you something to think about, too.

I'll reveal more about the book over the next few weeks. For now, think of me anytime someone asks, "Soup or Salad?"




Monday, May 1, 2017

If Only the Rest of My Life Was Like This

Scenes from the making of "The Ghost of Pacific Lodge."
Faces are blurred for privacy reasons.

As a volunteer, I’ve led video production workshops in a variety of settings and for ages ranging from teenagers to the elderly. One workshop, however, was especially meaningful.

At a chance meeting with the development director of Pacific Lodge Boys Home (Now Pacific Lodge Youth Services), a youth home dating back to the 1920's.  I mentioned that I’d conducted filmmaking workshops in the past. I was asked if I’d consider a similar workshop at Pacific Lodge.

I admit some reluctance at first. These were kids fresh out of juvenile hall, with backgrounds that were difficult if sometimes brutal. However, they’re also kids that the courts felt still had the chance to change their lives in a positive direction. By sending them to Pacific Lodge, a bucolic wooded setting where there were no walls or guards, they’re given the chance to work with counselors and therapists to set things right.

At first glance, you wouldn’t think I would have had anything in common with the boys. I was never in trouble as a teen, much less had been anywhere close to juvenile hall. My family life wouldn't have been called “dysfunctional.” On the other hand, previous experience in working with teens had taught me that showing respect and belief in their abilities went a long way in creating a positive experience. I decided to give it a try.
 
Pacific Lodge hosted a "red carpet" premiere,
complete with a limousine and dinner for
the boys and I at an upscale restaurant.
In late 2003, I began a six-month video production workshop with a group of eight boys. With the help of a great staff and a well-respected counselor with whom I worked hand-in-hand, I visited Pacific Lodge twice a week as the kids wrote, shot and then edited a half-hour film, “The Ghost of Pacific Lodge.” Together, we built a mythology inspired by PL's long history, crafting a ghost story that begins with the discovery of mysterious diary hidden in one of PL's spooky basements. Each boy participated in every stage of the production. Each had the chance to be a camera person, an audio boom operator, a special effects wizard, a director, and an actor.

It was challenging at first. For kids emerging from their first stay at juvenile hall, self-esteem is nearly non-existent. Despite their bravado, many of the boys were terrified. Some wouldn’t hold the camera at first. Others couldn’t imagine taking the lead as director. 

I'll never forget the moment when a fourteen-year-old boy turned to me and asked, “Why do you waste time with us? We’re all losers.” I shrugged and made a point of making the answer seem obvious, “If I thought you were losers, I wouldn’t waste my time.” 

Speaking after the premiere, thanking
the boys for a job well done.
Trust is extraordinarily powerful. Once I established that I was for real—by simply paying them the respect of showing up as promised every week—they became more willing to take part. 

Once the film was completed, the administration of PL held a grand premiere. Staff and benefactors cheered the boys as they emerged from a limousine and walked down the red carpet (after a five-star dinner at a nearby restaurant—personally paid for by the Director of PL). I had the great honor of not only telling the audience what these boys had accomplished, but thanking the boys individually and presenting them with mini-Oscars. 


Not every boy made it through to the end. Some were sent back to juvenile hall, or worse. 


Most boys, however, made it to the finish line...


...including the one boy who had been convinced he was a loser.






Sunday, April 23, 2017

Virtual Reality: Boxless Thinking

Recently I spent a couple of days at the Los Angeles Convention Center, enjoying the sites, sounds, and creative energy of the emerging Virtual Reality industry. I sampled new worlds and met extraordinary people.

I listened to industry leaders both inspire and caution entrepreneurs about the future of the VR platform. John Riccitiello, the CEO of the ubiquitous Unity game development platform, believes that the industry will continue to progress, but won't reach massive acceptance for a few years yet. Pie-in-the-sky predictions aside, he believes it will be a few yet until true VR tech will be in the hands of one hundred million users and the industry can be considered well-established.

At the same time, excitement was palpable, and proof of the technology was everywhere.

Applications varied wildly. Here's just some of what I was doing at VRLA:
Inside Mindshow
From Mission:ISS

Floated inside and outside a meticulously detailed recreation of the International Space Station, produced with the involvement of NASA.  https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1178419975552187/

All were great experiences, and show just a hint of the wonders that VR will hold in store in the coming years.  The VR industry is moving lightning fast, and many of the companies and projects on the exhibition floor didn't exist a year ago.  Of course, perhaps half of those companies or more may not be around in another year, but that's the reality of any new venture...high risk, for the potential of a high reward.

The technology is real. Unlike the recent launch and crash of 3DTV, VR has something valuable to offer gamers, educators and even bed-ridden patients in hospitals. It's just a matter of time.

At the moment, VR tech is still expensive and somewhat complicated for most consumers, but that's rapidly improving. Most haven't experienced any sort of VR, and most of those who have, experience it through cardboard viewers (into which one inserts a smartphone). Personal experience has shown me that people don't "get it" until they've tried it.

While I'm impressed by the tech, the industry and the VR experiences, I'm fascinated by the people that are making this all happen—the coders, content creators, writers and entrepreneurs who by necessity have had to think outside the box—because the box doesn't exist.
 






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tapping Back

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about my experience using the Tap app on my iPhone, in which stories are told entirely in the form of text messages. As you may recall, I tried it out, wrote a couple of stories, and then decided that the pricing structure wasn't to my liking, and decided to move on the sister app, Wattpad, a long established creative writing destination. I actually like the app itself, but doubted it viability as a successful venture.

Yesterday, Tap was brought to my attention when I received an email from the Tap offices, asking to feature one of my stories on their front page. I agreed. It hasn't happened yet, but it drove me back to the app to check on the fate of my stories.

Played, the story Tap wants to feature, doesn't have too many views - it hasn't grown much in several weeks. The other story, The Prank, which is based on characters in my book, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, is trending upward, with over 145,000 "taps" and rising. I'm not certain precisely how that translates into individual readers, but the number is growing daily and my "friends" list is expanding rapidly (it had been entirely empty at last glance).

I'm still not convinced about the pricing scheme, but I have to admit that the growth in my Tap account is fascinating. I'm curious what will happen when/if my story is featured, and I've decided to create an additional story or two and see what happens. I still wish I could share the stories more freely, as I do on Wattpad. but for the time being I'll give it a go and see what happens.

I also have a suspicion that The Prank may have cross promoted my Alexander books (and sold a few copies). If it gains more readers, will I see a spike in book sales? Very interesting...

At the very least, I don't want to disappoint my new friends!



Monday, April 3, 2017

Author Update (aka what am I doing?)

Here's what's going on in the world of Rich Samuels (Author Edition):

  • I continue work on the audiobook of "My Epic Life," the third of my Alexander books. I've been busy with other things, but I'm still hoping to have it ready in time for summer road trips. I hope to publish both an audio edition of this book, and a compilation of all three books—which will make for a fun 7-8 hours of drive time! If you think you might like to relive your most awkward middle school moments, let me know through my social media:  Once the audio book's published, I'll have codes good for free downloads! 

  • If you don't know already, I'm posting ongoing stories on the Wattpad, the creative writing site. This is (if readers respond) a way for me to experiment with new genres, and engage in a little bit of reader feedback. I'd love to hear from you. Which would you like to see evolve into novel form?  If you're already on Wattpad, please follow me - I'm new there, and I have just about zero visibility!  Here are the works that I'm currently working on (I update each at least once a week): 

SoupChad is a tale in the spirit of my Alexander books. It's a story about a boy who loves soup, and had no patience for kids who like salad. If you've ready my books, you know how much I enjoy obsessive characters. Chad fits right in. You also might find this to be an allegory...











Feeder is part zombie tale / part vampire tale / part experiment in creepiness. This is probably the most experimental of all the stories I've posted so far. What do you think?











Marcus on the Train
 (as well as Soupchad) is a thriller I've been tooling around with for quite a long time. This one is about a teen runaway whose unwanted companion is proving to be more than a little unbalanced. 











Offline, I'm working on a couple of novels that I'm not quite ready to talk about yet. One is a science fiction tale, and the other a thriller/mystery. I'm hoping to have one or both available next year...I hope to share more soon!

(VR Update coming soon!)



Monday, March 27, 2017

Writing Evil (and other things)



If you read my recent blogs,  you know that I had a less than satisfying interaction with Wattpad's TAP creative writing app (see The Money Tap). Now, I'm launching another storytelling experiment at Tap's parent site, Wattpad.

Wattpad is a well-established (since 2006) creative writing site with social media elements built-in.  Demographics here tend to include readers under thirty, so it will be interesting to see if I can create any kind of following (an ongoing objective as an indie writer). To make this especially fun, I'll be experimenting in genres of which I'm less known: Horror, thrillers, and who knows what else. This will be a place, at least for a while, to experiment. Because Wattpad allows for writing and editing on my iPhone, I'll be able to write some of these chapters on-the-go.

Some of what I post will be totally unplanned, and may begin and end on Wattpad. Other stories may have earlier origins, but haven't yet been seen publically. These stories may not be as polished as my published work, but I'll do my best to make each story a fun ride.

I invite you to join me (I need some initial followers!) and read my first ongoing story, Feeder, a horror story of sorts with zombie and vampire elements...like I said, a totally different experience! I've written three parts/chapters so far (they're running about 400-500 words each), and I'll continue posting every few days. This isn't planned, so your comments may very well have an impact on the course of the story.

I'll be adding other stories...hopefully to create a few simultaneous adventures (and more opportunities to connect. Right now, you can also find a short story based on my Alexander books, Why Do You Think They Call It a Ghost Town?

See you there!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What IS New Media, Anyway?

In a couple of weeks, I'll be speaking at the "Pathways to Employment" event being held in San Pedro, California by the San Pedro Neighborhood Council. My topic will be New Media, which is both an exciting and challenging area to consider. 

The very definition is elusive. Ask a dozen people what "new media" means, and you'll get a dozen answers. It changes depending on rapidly developing technology. What's "new?" Something that just emerged last month? Last Year? Ten years ago? Or, does "New Media" include all emergent media platforms since movies, television and radio? 

Virtual Reality is certainly considered New Media. YouTube, at twelve years old, is considered New Media. Podcasting also falls into that definition. The New Media Institute defines it as "a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound." In other words, it includes nearly every way we communicate today.

I've experimented in varying degrees with New Media. For example, I've blogged for myself and for corporate clients, I've been on YouTube, I've podcasted here and there, and I'm currently diving into Virtual Reality. I've watched with fascination how creators have built their media presence, or failed to take advantage of their unique opportunities. The one question that's always lurked in the back of my mind: how does this all work together?

One of the most fascinating chapters in his process was a series of short interviews I conducted and posted with several dozen YouTubers. Young or old, I asked them all the same question: Why do you do it? Some simply wanted to be stars, of course, but most had other reasons: friendship, building skills and opportunity, helping or inspiring others. Some were kids in their early teens, while others were retired. Most were somewhere in between.

What ever their motivation, I found that many shared an entrepreneurial spirit—a desire to see where this adventure would lead, and the willingness to put themselves out there to make it happen. I was inspired to follow their example—not to make more YouTube videos, but to focus on the core of my own passion as a storyteller. 

New Media directly inspired me to create traditional media. To date, I've written three young adult novels, which in turn are promoted and distributed and promoted across various new media platforms.

New Media isn't so much about platforms. It's about strategy and learning to use these new tools effectively for your own "bigger picture." That's a skill that most individuals and corporations are still finding elusive, and where the real opportunity lies for young creators.