Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Money Tap



I continued to experiment with WattPad's Tap, a creative writing app for Android and iOS devices, this time with a story based on characters I created in my book series. As in My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, The Prank finds Alexander cautious about non-existent dangers at his school. In the chat-based world of Tap, Alexander texts his friend Anthony and explains why he's waiting for just the right moment to enter the school gate. Anthony tries to convince him that he's being unreasonable, but Alexander isn't convinced.

In this Tap-only story, Anthony conspires with Darrell and cooks up the perfect prank to teach Alexander a lesson. Alexander, though, sees the world in his own way, and things don't turn out like Anthony thinks it will.

This time, the story takes place in six separate scenes, with a total of 306 "texts" between Anthony, Darrell and their friends. I posted it a few days ago on Tap, but my little comedy is somewhat lost in the Tap world of horror, romance and fan stories.  I'm happy to say, though, that both this and my previous story, Played, will turn up if you search under my Rickflix name.

I enjoyed the on-the-go ease of creating in this format, allowing me to create at any random moment during the day.

Unfortunately, as I've discovered the pay-as-you-go scheme that Tap is using, I'm not certain if I'll continue with this platform. In the app, Tap will allow you to read my story for a couple of minutes, and then present you with a message, Are you addicted yet? and prompt you to either wait 25 minutes to continue reading any story, or "Upgrade to Tap Premium," which can cost $2.99 a week, $7.99 a month, or $39.99 for 12 months of unlimited access to all content. I wonder why I would contribute content to a site that charges readers, but doesn't offer authors compensation for creating readable content. 

If you wait the full time to read for free, you can continue reading for a short time, perhaps enough to finish reading the story and start another one, but soon a new prompt will require that you wait another 25 minutes.

To read my story, you could start at the above desktop link, but it will prompt you to download the app on your Android or iPhone, and then the Are you addicted yet? cycle will begin. Suddenly, just reading my little story becomes a chore.

Considering the wide range of free content available elsewhere, I also have to wonder if this concept will work at all. Would you pay for access to uncurated fiction? 

Tap is a promising concept, but in the current version, I wonder how much support it will find. Perhaps offering exclusive content by pro authors might encourage subscriptions, but there doesn't seem to be any compensation or reward for those who might develop popular content on the site. That will invariably turn people off.

I'd rather see an ad-based version, which seems to work well for so many other apps. Many readers and writers would support the option of purchasing an ad-free edition. I did that for Words With Friends. I wouldn't mind doing it for a creative app. 

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Experiments in Storytelling: Wattpad's "Tap"

I recently engaged in a bit of experimental storytelling using a new app called Tap. Created by the people at Wattpad, the creative writing site (and available for both Android and iOS), it also allows authors to freely create and share their work with a wider audience. What sets Tap apart, however, is that it's all about telling stories "chat" style—in other words, through the back and forth texting that dominates so much of our lives.

The opening lines of Played.
The story is told entirely through dialogue. There's no description or third person observation. The scene must be set and the story told entirely through text. Character names can be indicated as one might find in a group chat, and a background image for the chat screen can help set the scene. Also, if the story occurs in more than one setting, that background image can change to indicate a change in venue.

Finally, the author can add a book cover (in this case, a simple representative image), and add a short description and category (or multiple categories)—for example,  romantic, scary, magical or suspenseful.

My story, Played, is the tale of two young gamers planning to meet IRL (In Real Life) for the first time. Will the meeting happen—or is this all a game?

The story selection screen looks nice, but
so far, it's not possible to search anything but
  category. I haven't yet found my story. 
Played is told in a total of 177 messages. The reader will either Tap the screen (if in the App, or tap the "Tap" bar, if on a desktop) to move on to the next text.

Here's my story. You'll be guided to the desktop reader if that's where you're clicking.

I encourage you to follow the link, Tap through the story, and tell me what you think here on the blog or through my social media channels. As the App is in its early days (feature improvements are promised), I'd also appreciate if you would share it as well. Reader feedback isn't built in (yet), so

I had great fun creating this story, and I'll likely create a few more Tap experiences. It's a great stream-of-consciousness exercise and brainstorming tool, too. I'm very curious to see what readers think.

And who knows, it just might inspire my next book...