Month: July 2013

Kindle Worlds: Legitimizing the Rabbit Hole to Fan Fiction

If you haven’t already heard of Kindle Worlds, it’s “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games” and get paid for your work. Amazon have partnered with the copyright owners of certain titles and created a place where you can legally get paid for the fan fiction you write. The titles are only available through Kindle, of course, but when a title you’ve written sells then you get paid, the copyright owner gets paid and Amazon take their percentage.

There are a few comic titles participating, but most interesting is that Warner Brothers have launched with a selection of their shows. These include Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. Presumably the planned spin-off of the latter, Ravenswood, will either be included in this deal or will be imminent; both shows exist in the same universe and have some character cross over, so it’s hard to imagine how a separation would work from the perspective of fan created content.

It will be interesting to see what resources Warner Brothers put into fostering a writing community on Kindle Worlds, or whether they’ll let it grow or die organically. It looks like they’re already supplying the basics for consistent covers, such as a series footer and title fonts, but how far will they go in providing additional content for Kindle World creators, and how involved will they become in promoting the work of the community?

There’s an excellent post on Transmedia fiction and it’s importance to a franchise by James Waugh that talks about just this. Content that is ‘in world’ and across multiple media types has been an integral part of building narrative-based brands since they began producing Star Wars toys in the late seventies. Centered around the movies, that brand now also spans multiple comics, novels, computer games, cartoons, collectables, playing cards, theme park rides and who knows what else, as well as non-canonical cross branding with other popular products such as Lego and Angry Birds.

Some people view these cynically; opportunistic deviations from the core product that make a quick buck but cheapening your brand in the process. They’re actually critically important for a narrative brand to sustain long term. Feature films are hugely expensive, and there’s a limit to the number that can be made around a single narrative world; It would only need one or two films in the franchise to not make the expected numbers and investors would begin to look elsewhere, plus there will be a natural rate of attrition in the audience.

Through extending the brand across a diverse range of media (all of which are cheaper to produce and market than a movie) they create multiple touch points with their core fan base and the opportunity to explore stories on the periphery of the main product. These touch points retain the importance of the brand for the user in the times between movie releases, keeping them engaged and excited.

The titles that Warner Brothers have launched with in Kindle Worlds don’t have the fan base or (I would wager) the longevity of a brand like Star Wars, but if they succeed in engaging fans (who are either creating on-brand content or consuming that fan created content) it will make the platform more appealing to the owners of other, larger brands.

So, if you have ten years worth of Star Wars fan fiction you’re itching to monetize, your hope rests with the success of fan fiction for Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl.

[Time] + [Energy] <> [Infinity]

“Time and energy but not an infinity around.”

I have no idea what the above sentence means, but I quite like it. Last night I fell asleep while writing, and this was the last line I wrote. The scene was about someone in a police interview room waiting for their lawyer, so that offers no clue.

It’s quite possible it’s some kind of equation to the universe; a literary equivalent to Einstein’s E = mc2. I guess I’ll never know.

Religious Protests of Comic Con

Bryan Young put a picture on Instagram of some christian group outside Comic Con. I don’t know the agenda that brought them there; perhaps they were protesting in the belief that a comic convention is unholy; perhaps they were just trying to push their brand and were too cheap to pay for a booth.

Whatever brought them there, it seem that religious protests outside Comic Con have now become more widespread.

Cthulhu:


Thor:

Loki:

Game of Thrones:

Dumbledore:


Blade Runner:

Star Wars:
Prometheus:

American Gods:



Heroes:

DC Comics:

The Leaking of Galbraith

As you no doubt know by now, J.K. Rowling has written a mystery novel, The Cukoo’s Calling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It was well received. People like reading it. They looked forward to reading more in the series. It good decent reviews. No one disliked it on principal for being written by J.K. Rowling . No one who compared it to Harry Potter. At least, until the news was leaked barely two months after it was published.

Obviously this was never going to be a secret forever, but Rowling has revealed that the information was leaked through her lawyers. One of the firms partners had told his wife’s best friend in:
a) strictest confidence
b)breach of client confidentiality and
c) in breach of presumably half a dozen other guidelines lawyers are supposed to adhere to.

This friend then, in somewhat less strict confidence, told a Sunday Times journalist through Twitter. After that, all cats were out of bags.

Having it revealed by her lawyers is a particularly painful breach of trust. You’d expect Rowling to sue; these are, after all, her lawyers and they’ve admitted responsibility to leaking the information. In these circumstances, people would normally sue for damages for loss of income, among other things, but here the breach of client confidentiality actually lead to an increase in profit. Clearly profit wasn’t Rowling’s aim in writing as Galbraith; if she wrote motivated by money then she’d have published under her own name in the first place. Or she’d just keep writing Harry Potter stories.

I imagine that writing as Galbraith was a means for her to remove the public expectation of ‘The Next J.K Rowling Novel’ and to have the pleasure and freedom of writing returned. It does make you wonder if this will be Rowling’s last pseudonym. I would think she’ll write continue to write Cormoran Strike books as Galbraith, but if she has other stories she wants to tell, will she adopt a second or series of pseudonyms to write under?

If Rowling were looking to write with complete anonymity, I wonder if she would self publish under a pseudonym? Have someone hire a marketing firm to help it gain traction and reviews and engage with critics and readers with no one carrying the heavy weight of ‘being determined to love/hate the next J.K. Rowling novel’.

Who knows, maybe she already has. Oh, and please don’t worry that I’ll end with either speculation or revelation that I’m J.K. Rowling. I won’t and I am not. But maybe I’ve read something by her recently and didn’t even know it.

The Tom Giles Series


Of course you want to know about the Martha’s Vineyard incident, with the yacht and the swimsuit models who sidelined in piracy. But that was blown out of all proportion and I don’t want to bore you with the details. Instead I’ll go back to the beginning, to Orange County, California, and tell you about the theft of the Josephine Necklace and how instrumental I was in recovering it.

That’s the opening of The St. Regis Affair, the first short story in the Tom Giles series. Tom is independently wealthy, English and a fan of lovingly made martinis. I’d wanted to write something light and funny; something that was a throwback to screwball comedies such as Some Like it Hot or the lightening sharp social farce of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Sitting around a hotel pool one day, I began daydreaming what might happen if a diamond was stolen, the hotel guests were the suspects and a rather charming man with a brutal hangover had to try and recover it.

This first story finds him staying in the luxurious The St. Regis Hotel in Orange County, California.  The hotel is awash with diamonds, but none match the grandeur of The Josephine Necklace, on display at an exclusive event. When Tom wakes the morning after to discover it has been stolen, he finds himself attempting to recover it before scandal ensues.

He must work through a monstrous hangover and a rogues gallery that include a glamorous magazine owner, a Russian oligarch, an aspiring entrepreneur, a collector of small dogs and a painter with a highly memorable technique.

Newly arrived from London is Tom’s new chauffeur, James, who is drawn into helping keep Tom out of trouble, and may just know more about jewel theft than he cares to admit.
Here’s another extract, where Tom discovers the necklace has been stolen:

It was perhaps six the next morning when, accompanied by the sun, an early morning swimmer woke me with his self righteous mutterings. I was on a lounger around the pool, there was an empty bottle of Veuve beside me and a sensation in my skull reminiscent of a 64 piece orchestra being tied together and rolled down a hill. I went through the quick morning inventory. I’d had the foresight to fall asleep in my sunglasses and a quick TSA style pat down of my suit jacket reassured me that my phone and wallet had both survived the night. My shoes were neatly placed to the side of the lounger and, with a meticulous attention to detail, were perfectly parallel. Less meticulous was the way my shirt had been crumple into a ball and dumped on the floor next to them.

The swimmer watched me disapprovingly, casting judgment each time he bobbed above the surface. I dressed and turned out my pockets in search of a breath mint. There were no mints, but there was a receipt for a staggeringly expensive pair of diamond earrings and an accompanying choker necklace. A second, more thorough, search of my pockets failed to produce either of these pieces of merchandise. I looked around the pool. It was a very nice pool and the morning sun caught it beautifully, but it was distinctly lacking in a beautiful woman wearing jewelry I had recently purchased. I gently lifted myself from the lounger and headed toward the hotel. I’ve always found optimism to be a valid lifestyle, and if a bejeweled model was not in my near future then I was willing to settle for aspirin, a shower and breakfast.

In my haze, my walk toward the room was leisurely bordering on indirect. It took in views of early breakfasters, several function rooms and wide staircases until I passed the coffee shop where I gratefully purchased the largest cappuccino it was possible for them to produce. The barista was in her early twenties, but when I asked her if I’d happened to give her diamonds the night before she said that I had not. Which was a shame, because right then I would have been willing to marry on the spot anyone who gave me coffee.

I was sipping from the blisteringly hot cup as I passed the room where we had seen the Josephine Necklace the night before. That was when I became acutely aware of someone jamming knitting needles into my ears and trying to force my brain out through my eyes.

That was my first assessment of the situation, at least. After swatting madly to fend off a non-existent attacker I took a second guess. I tilted my head in a series of unnatural and nauseating angles until I realized the source of my pain was a sound, and that sound was coming from the room next to me. It was a high, forlorn noise. If I had been in a more poetic frame of mind, I might have described as the noise of happiness ending, without the possibility of return. But I was not in a poetic frame of mind so it just sounded bloody awful. I opened the door to investigate, holding my coffee before me as a shield.

The room had been mostly cleared of glasses and bottles from the previous night, but it still contained a reasonable amount of clutter, furniture, sculpture and such. It also contained Curtis. It was from him that the god awful noise omitted. I approached him; cautiously, as he sounded like a propane tank in a forest fire. I touched his shoulder tentatively then leapt back a few feet, watching for any sign of combustion.

He turned to look at me with sunken eyes. I instantly felt sorry for the man; he looked as bad as I felt.

“It’s gone,” he said, his voice flat.

I stared at him encouragingly, hoping he would say a little more. He did not. I tried a little more hope. Still nothing. Those two words seemed all he was able to summon. I looked around for some clue as to the source of his paralysis. I braced myself to see a dead body, pretty sure I was in too fragile a state to handle anything like that.

There was no body, thankfully. But there was glass. Fragments of glass were strewn across the floor. The stuff was everywhere. The morning light streamed into the room and cascaded quite prettily across it. It was a nice effect, assuming you weren’t the one who had to clean it all up.

I looked at the windows but none seemed broken. As I scanned the rest of the room nothing suggested itself to me. Chairs were neatly stacked on tables. Trays of unused glasses waited to be collected. A four foot high plinth stood empty and unobtrusive against one wall.

I looked at the plinth again. On closer examination it seemed to be surrounded by more glass than anything else. And it wasn’t just empty. Now I looked at it, it was conspicuously empty. Embarrassed at how empty it was. That was when I realized it was the plinth on which the Josephine Necklace had been displayed the previous evening. A glass security case would normally have enclosed it, but that had been removed for the party.

I looked again at the numerous pieces of glass scattered across the floor. I could see it was spread in an arc around the plinth.

“Ah.” I said as the cogs of comprehension slowly clicked into place.

“It’s gone,” Curtis repeated. “The Josephine Necklace. It’s gone.”

Not really sure what I could do that was constructive, I put my hand reassuringly on his shoulder and patted it a few times. “I’m going to take you to the bar,” I said.

The St. Regis Affair

Life, at times, can get on top of the best of us, and it’s important to have a strategy to hit back and laugh things off. My strategy was Tom Giles in The St. Regis Affair. It started off as a welcome distraction, but turned out to be hugely enjoyable departure in style. 

Tom lives a carefree life, travelling when and where he chooses after he and his brother sold the company they founded. His brother was the mastermind behind their software product and Tom was the salesman, ensuring he golfed and drank with all the right people to win the defense contracts they needed. This first short story tells of his stay at the St. Regis Hotel in Orange County, California where he becomes entangled in the theft of the valuable Josephine Necklace and the attempts to recover it before a scandal erupts.

As he finds himself mixed up in the problem he meets James, newly hired to be Tom’s driver. James is a calm, sage sort of chap who, if pressed on the matter, may be able to offer an opinion or two on the finer points of professional jewelry theft. Tom must work through a monstrous hangover and a rogues gallery that include a glamorous magazine owner, a Russian oligarch, an aspiring entrepreneur, a collector of small dogs and a painter with a highly memorable technique.

The St. Regis Affair, available wherever good Kindle books are sold. Which is, of course, Amazon.