Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

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 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...

Is Alexander Right for my Kid?

All Three Books Add Lexile Text Scores

I've taken an important step in making my books student friendly by obtaining Lexile® Scores for all three books. 

Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, tens of millions of students worldwide receive a Lexile measure that helps them find targeted readings from the more than 100 million articles, books and websites that have been measured.

My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain has a score of 690L, Own the Scrawny is 740Land My Epic Life is 640L.

So, what does this actually mean? For comparison's sake, popular books in the same Lexile range include The Maze Runner, The Book Thief, The Giver, Wonder, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Holes. 

Please forward this to educators and parents that might find this useful, and check out for a list of challenging words for each book, according to the Lexile Framework. Just select Parents/Teachers  on the menu and choose "Lexile Measures."

My Epic Life is now available as a $2.99 e-book on all popular platforms. 

I've also started recording an Epic audiobook. Remember, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain and Own the Scrawny are already available as audiobooks. You can find them on Amazon. By this summer, the entire series will be road trip ready!

I made an appearance at Barnes and Noble recently at a fundraiser for Bridgeport Elementary School, and once again attended the Santa Clarita Local Author Celebration at the Newhall Public Library.

Check out Greg Baldwin's fun behind-the-scenes video of my time at the Local Author Celebration.

Finally, here's an in-depth interview I gave on the new YouTube channel, Writing Fun.  Michelle Dunton covered everything from the origin of the Alexander books, to my evolution as a writer. She's also the latest in a line of homeschool moms who have found my books especially appealing. Watch the interview to find out why!

If you feel inspired, both of these YouTube channels would appreciate your subscription.

That's all for now! Remember, if you want these updates (about 4 a year) delivered straight to your mailbox, you can sign up here.