An Old iPad As A Distraction Free Writing Machine

I love to experiment with writing tools and software. I don’t have many hobbies, I don’t bowl or collect things, but I’ve always been a tinkerer and since writing is one thing I am passionate about, I like to try new ways of pursuing the age-old craft of putting words to the page. We’ve come a long way since the early days of computing where a “portable” machine meant lugging a fifty-pound box around. We have endless choices, but with those choices comes added options that can cause a decrease in productivity.

I have been looking for the perfect machine for just plain writing and I think I’ve settled into something that works for me. This is my experience and it might not be yours, but I’ll highlight why I like it and also shine a light on some other options that you might find beneficial.

First off, here are some things that are important to me. I want something light and portable. I want enough battery life that I don’t have to worry about it and constantly monitor the power indicator. I want true cross-platform sharing. I want to be able to access my files no matter where I am.

I am a Windows user. This is not a discussion about platforms, I don’t care if you use Win10, Mac, Linux, or DOS. This is my platform of choice for general purpose computing and I have my reasons. Maybe I’ll talk about that one day, but it is not this day. I have a great laptop that is powerful enough to do podcast editing, writing, the minor Photoshop stuff I do, web coding and all that good stuff. I’m happy with it. I am not happy with the battery life, though. Not for portable writing at least. Three or four hours is great, but what if I’m stuck out somewhere with no power outlets? Not ideal.

There are single-purpose writing machines like FreeWrite. I am intrigued indeed, but I don’t have one so I can’t really comment. I do like the idea of loooooooong battery life and the simplicity of the single purpose design. I am reserving judgment. I’ve also seen some friends online that have been finding these little plastic writing devices from the 90’s that allow you to write in plain text and store a few documents on the device to later sync to your pc. It runs on AA batteries that last for a long time. Again, I am intrigued, but I don’t think the keyboard is great, and I’m kind of a keyboard snob. Not a snob, but I like what I like.

I have an old iPad Air (first gen) that I’ve had for several years. It doesn’t get used much, the occasional Netflix watch or Spotify listen on trips, or Scrabble games when we don’t want to get out the board. Other than that, it sits unused. I began looking at ways to use it for writing and I settled on a system that is working surprisingly well for me.

Software: I think I’ve tried every word processor, text editor, and word widget known to man. Probably not, but it feels like it. I used to use Scrivener, but I had a horrible syncing nightmare once and it scared me. I like a lot of their features, and I am waiting for the Windows version of 3.0 to release and I might revisit it. Maybe. I really like Ulysses for the iPad. It’s a great text editor and has some nice organization features. I like the look and feel of it. I bought a copy. Now they have switched to a subscription model and I hate the idea of paying perpetually for a piece of software I already own. Yes, I understand the concept of software “licenses” and the idea of actually “owning” software is a strange one. Again, a discussion for another day.

The other problem with Ulysses is that it is only Mac and iOs. There is not a direct counterpoint for the desktop when I want to work at the desk or sitting on the couch with the laptop. There are some great text editors for Windows that I like. Write! is one of them and I use it for lots of short-form writing. It has a distraction-free environment, full screen, and allows for multiple documents open in tabs. I really like this. But again, not exactly cross-platform.

Microsoft Word. I have been a Word user since Word was the underdog. This app has grown so far from its original use to now be more than just a word processor. If you are working with an editor (and if not, why not?), then chances are you are going to send your manuscript to them in Word format and you will get edits back in Word format. You will use the track changes feature back and forth. Having Word is almost non-negotiable. But I don’t necessarily like to write in it all the time, although there is a free version for iPad that is completely usable. But when I am going back and forth from the iPad to the Windows machines there can be some lag in syncing, and you have to use a cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox and it can be iffy sometimes.

Over the years I’ve used Google Docs here and there, mostly for collaborating on something small, and honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed. It just seemed like a stripped down word processor that lived on a web page. The fact that it lived in a browser window especially turned me off. Remembering the days of dial-up internet and the years of no connectivity makes me distrustful of always-on connections. What if my internet is down? Where is my work? These questions haunt me to this day. But seeing the iOS version of Google Docs made me take another look. My opinion began to change. Docs has really grown up.

One thing I like is that GDocs instantly saves and syncs, nearly in real time. It’s crazy to watch two machines sitting side by side and watch the changes update. You can also have your Docs sync to your PC so that you can access them even if you are offline. Same goes for your iPad. You can also create a shortcut on your desktop to the Docs page and it will open like a native app without all the distraction of all the browser bells and whistles. Docs feels less like a place to fall down the rabbit hole and more like a modern distraction-free writing app on the PC with just a few tweaks.

On the iPad, I have all notifications turned off, and since I don’t have any social media apps or email installed, there is little to distract anyway. The Docs app on the iPad feels very similar to the desktop version and is easy to navigate in. I can change page and text colors to save my weary eyes and minimize the toolbar to get everything out of my way. The battery lasts over ten hours on the iPad, and if I switch off Wifi and dim the screen I can probably squeeze a little more.

I found a Bluetooth keyboard that I really like. The Anker A7726 is less than twenty bucks and uses 2 AAA batteries that I have yet to kill. It feels good and is super light. I can throw this keyboard and the iPad in just about any bag and take it with me. Super simple. I also found a case for the tablet that folds into a stand. Again, super simple.

I discovered something else, with this handy little “camera adapter” made by Apple, I can plug my big honking mechanical keyboard into the lightning port on my iPad. Not conveniently portable, but if I’m at home and want to write on the back porch or at the dining room table but still use my favorite keyboard, I CAN. So much epicness.

The iPad only uses wifi, so if I find myself in a spot where I don’t have the internet connection to sync up the latest changes in my Doc, I can use the wifi hotspot on my phone and let the iPad sync. It usually takes just a few seconds to download and uses very little data. Since it is syncing the same file on my iPad and my desktop, there is no worry about saving, syncing, and then converting for whatever program I’m using on Windows. Super simple.

When I finish a writing project and need to send it to my editor, I can simply export it as a .Doc file and Word handles it perfectly and I can go through edits using Word on my computer and never look back.

This is working really well for me. I’ve found a system that allows me great portability, battery life, doesn’t overcomplicate moving from portable device to “real computer”, and allows me to put an old piece of hardware to good use.

P.S.

I know that Chromebooks are a thing. Some of them have super long battery life, and since I’m using Google Docs, it seems like a great solution. I’m open to trying it, but honestly, most Chromebooks seem greatly underpowered unless you spend the same money that you could invest in a powerful Windows machine. My iPad has 64 gigs of memory,  and since I don’t have a bunch of junk installed it is still snappy even though it’s a few generations old.

The quest continues for the perfect writing machine, but in the meantime, I’ve found something that makes me happy.

How about you?

How To Be A Great Podcast Guest

So you’ve been invited to be a guest on a podcast. It can be nerve-wracking to think that you will be heard by an audience of thousands of strangers. The very thought of talking in front of people brings back pubescent memories of standing in front of a middle school English class, reading a book report with a frog in your throat. Not exactly everybody’s comfort zone.

We are approaching our 500th author interview on The Author Stories Podcast, and in conducting those 500 interviews you learn that there is a particular rhythm in conversation. These hours of recordings that I’ve collected over the last several years have been some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. I’ve learned more from these guests than I ever bargained for, made some really great friends, and as I hoped when I started, I’ve gotten a better understanding of what makes creative people tick and received insights into the creative process from some of the very best.

I tell my guests that the tone of my show is two friends talking about writing, and that is how I approach each interview. Two friends sitting down, sometimes with coffee or a Diet Dr. Pepper, talking about what makes the writing life what it is. Sometimes you meet someone and instantly hit it off, sometimes it takes a few moments to find the rhythm and connect with one another. If you are going to be a guest on a podcast and want your experience to be the best it can be, here are a few things that I think might help you have the best experience you can. I’ve also reached out to some friends that just happen to be some of the best podcasters out there to offer some thoughts of their own. You’ll find their thoughts sprinkled in with mine below.

Be prompt

This one really should speak for itself. If you commit to an interview time, do your best to be on time or at least email or call to let the host know what’s going on. We’re all human and have families and other commitments. Trust me, we know about life getting in the way. But if you are a professional, or striving to be one, then treat this podcast interview as if it is just as important as sitting down with CNN or a literary magazine. The honest truth of the media landscape today is that the humble podcast you’re guesting on just might have a wider reach than those prestigious legacy media outlets anyway. And even if they don’t, to be a professional you have to act like one. This is a great place to start practicing for that inevitable appearance on Good Morning America.

If you’ve agreed to a time, make sure it’s on your calendar and you’ve set up alerts, had your VA set up alerts, or otherwise just have some reminder to be there. Sitting and waiting for a guest who turns out to be a no-show is infuriating, and doesn’t exactly make me want to bring you back for a re-do.
That said, when you DO have to reschedule, do it as early as possible and reach out to let me know. Don’t make me track you down just so you can tell me you had a conference call.
Treat me the way you’d treat any client, business partner, or other professional contacts. Remember, this is for YOU. I’m giving some of my time, which is important, in exchange for some of your time, which is also important. But the end result is more about promoting you and your work than anything. Show some professional courtesy.
Give me some valid contact info, including a way to reach you last minute. And show some trust with giving me your contact info. Sometimes it’s me that has to reschedule, and if you’ve gone through a PA or PR agency or some other go-between, it all works best if I can reach you directly.  – 
Kevin Tumlinson, The Wordslinger Podcast

“As a guest be punctual. Realize podcast hosts might have a ‘real’ job and this is the only day or time they can record, or they have multiple guests on that day to record and not being on time might screw up their recording” – 
Armand Rosamilia, ArmCast  and Project Entertainment Network

Can you hear me now?

The internet has opened up avenues of communication never before available. Most of the interviews I conduct are over Skype. Some podcasters use YouTube or Google hangouts, and there are always new technologies emerging that enable us to connect with people, sometimes across the world. These technologies are relatively easy to use, and can utilize what most of us already have in our homes or offices. But there are a few things you need to consider.

Most podcasters take pride in the sound they have worked hard to cultivate. We invest in microphones, fast computers with lots of memory, and sometimes outboard equipment that helps us tweak little things here and there. You as a guest don’t need to worry about all that, but you do need to make sure that you are in a quiet environment and have a decent microphone and headphones. Life happens to all of us and the occasional dog barking or toddler squealing is completely understandable, but a television in the background will wreak havoc. You can buy an inexpensive microphone on Amazon that is more than adequate. Also, a set of headphones that are comfortable for you will eliminate feedback and will keep the host from hearing him or herself repeated, which can be confusing and throw off the conversation.

Talk. Please.

When I first started podcasting, I recorded a show that never aired. I invited someone on that had just hit a milestone in their career and had a pretty nice following. This does not automatically translate to podcast gold.

I don’t script questions, and most of the podcast hosts that I know don’t either. We usually have good background information about the guest, are familiar with their work, and have a question or two in mind to start with. Anyone that has listened to Author Stories knows that I always start with the same question: “What is your first memory of wanting to be a writer or storyteller?” This question always springboards us into a conversation that lasts for thirty minutes to an hour, and we wrap it up when the conversation has come to its natural end.

“Tell stories. Don’t be afraid to talk.
Don’t give yes or no answers. Get into the show.
The host and their listeners are listening because they WANT to know about you and what you have to say. This is your time to let them get to know you.
When in doubt, elaborate. It’s much easier for a host to work with someone who talks, than someone that speaks in one sentence answers.
Have fun with it. Ask people that know you to tell you things about yourself they like, or they don’t like, that information can be helpful in painting a true picture about yourself. – 
Josh Hayes, Keystroke Medium

The key here is conversation. If you are sitting in a room with a friend and they ask you a question, you don’t just answer with single sentence answers. That’s not much of a conversation. Well, when this conversation wrapped up I looked down at the clock and we were twelve minutes in. I had nothing left to ask or say. It was terrible. Don’t be afraid to elaborate and expound on what the host asked. When they ask you a question, that is your cue to run with it and tell us an interesting story. We WANT you to talk.

The soft sell.

This is a biggie. Most of the time when someone invites you to their podcast, it’s because you have something to promote, or have done some interesting things that we’d like to hear you talk about. We know you have something to sell and promote. The nature of the business is that we all have something we’d like to bring to people’s attention at any given moment. But here is the fact of the matter, people tend to fall in love with a person and then support their work more than the other way around. Tell engaging stories, offer advice about something you’ve learned as you honed your craft, tell us something funny or heartbreaking, but above all else, give us something to like about you and something to connect with. Then people will buy your stuff. And don’t worry, we as podcast hosts are more than prepared to give you plenty of time to talk about your new project, we asked you here so that you could. But let’s get to it in the natural course of conversation.

“As a veteran health podcaster since 2006 having conducted more than 2,000 interviews over that time period, I’ve literally seen it all when it comes to podcast guest etiquette. Some people are very natural at being lucid, engaging, and informative while others make me work hard to get any useful content out of them. But if there’s one pet peeve I have about a podcast interview guest that supersedes everything else, it’s who I will refer to as Car Salesman Carl. Poor Carl tries so very hard to sell you on what he is offering and neglects the details of what it takes be a good guest. When you only show up to an interview to sell your product and not provide information, you’re just gonna frustrate the interviewer and all of his audience of listeners. But if you provide nuggets of practical information throughout the show and the host promotes what you’re offering at the end, then you’ll likely get more people buying your stuff. It’s only common sense. Don’t be “that” guest that never gets invited back for another interview or recommended to other podcasters.” – 
Jimmy Moore, The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show, Keto Talk, The Nutritional Pearls Podcast, The Keto Hacking MD Podcast

“As a guest, sell yourself. Not your book. Show your personality. Have fun. This is to promote YOU, so don’t turn off potential readers by seeming boring or cocky. You’ll sell way more books by smiling when you answer questions and showing you are fun.” – 
Armand Rosamilia, ArmCast  and Project Entertainment Network

Be humble

This one should be self-explanatory, but here goes. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If a host has invited you to their show, chances are they’ve already put in hours of preparation to get to know about you and your work. Then they will spend somewhere near an hour with you. Then after the show they will spend several more hours editing the audio, writing show notes, publishing the show on various platforms, and promoting it everywhere they can. Thank the host for having you. Act like a guest in their home. Be nice. Be humble.

Don’t be an ass.
Be humble. – 
Josh Hayes, Keystroke Medium

Now this is not to say you can’t have fun, and if the conversation is going well and you and the host have a rapport, be funny if that’s your style. But be cognizant of how your words might be interpreted to the audience. You want people to want to know more about you, not be impressed by your rapier wit and cynicism.

Help people follow you.

You’ve spent the time preparing for an interview, you’ve told witty, engaging stories, you’ve sold the audience on your new book or widget, now give them something to remember you by. Be sure to share your website and social media with them. Don’t have a web site? This isn’t 1985 anymore. Stop right now and setup a site. You can start a site at WordPress.com for free until you can have a professional help you. This is non-negotiable in today’s world. Give people a way to follow you forward and to find out news about you.

Share.

The podcaster that has invited you on their show has gone to great pains to build up a loyal listenership. They will share you and your work with their audience and appreciates if you will do the same. We all benefit from exposing our personal networks to each other’s work and in the end the exponential nature of networking works for all our benefit.

SHARE YOUR INTERVIEW. The idea is for us to combine our PR powers, reach our mutual networks, and spread this thing as far as possible. It helps promote you, it helps promote me, we are promoted. We are in bliss. ” – 
Kevin Tumlinson, The Wordslinger Podcast

I hope you find these thoughts helpful, and thank you to Jimmy, Josh, Kevin, and Armand for chiming in with their thoughts and experiences as well. Podcasting has grown from a frontier technology to the very center of the mainstream. I hope we help you find a new audience and continue to share your stories with us. Without great guests like you, we couldn’t do what we do.

Let me leave you with one last thought. Relax. Have FUN. You’re going to do great.

If you liked this article, please share widely. 

Be sure to follow my guest podcasters at:

Jimmy Moore

Josh Hayes

Kevin Tumlinson

Armand Rosamilia

The Author Stories Podcast

Release Day For Richard Gleaves’ Newest In The Jason Crane Series

Salem: Blood to Drink
Salem: Blood to Drink

I am a big fan of Richard Gleaves, and subsequently, his fantastic series based on some of the best-loved American traditional stories.  On several episodes of Author Stories, Richard and I have talked about his love of Washington Irving and the stories that became American classics.

Richard has taken those stories and brought them into our present age while maintaining historical integrity. Richard completed the first trilogy a couple of years ago, and since then he has been working on expanding the series which now takes us to Salem with SALEM: Blood to Drink (Jason Crane Book 4)

Richard and I have a tradition of podcasting around Halloween each year, and while you wait for this year’s festivities, you need to read Salem: Blood to Drink. Let’s just say that the story continues in a big, bad way in classic Gleaves form.

The Jason Crane Series on Amazon
The Jason Crane Series on Amazon

Here’s the blurb:

The Jason Crane Saga continues in Salem, Massachusetts!

Jason Crane thought his life was back to normal. The Headless Horseman had been defeated, his guardian Hadewych Van Brunt was presumed dead, and he had finally inherited the Pyncheon Legacy, worth over a hundred million dollars. But there’s more than just one murderous and vengeful ghost in the world, and the Pyncheon Family has its own dark past.

Now Jason must learn the origins of his fortune, the reasons for its strange conditions, and the deadly consequences of breaking them.

A Halloween epic of witches and curses, Wiccans and Satanists, friendship, love, and fear, set in the modern Salem with fidelity to every street, rock, and haunted place.

Listen to Richard and I talk all about Jason and his friends here: https://hankgarner.com/episode-400-richard-gleaves-helps-celebrate-400-shows/

and here: https://hankgarner.com/episode-250-richard-gleaves-and-the-third-annual-halloween-spooktacular/

and here: https://hankgarner.com/episode-sixty-five-halloween-special-richard-gleaves-interview/

and here: https://hankgarner.com/episode-nineteen-with-richard-gleaves/

Read what Ed Gosney had to say about Salem: Blood to Drink at Cool Comics In My Collection

 

Recent Audio Book Picks

I listen to a ton of audiobooks, not only to keep up with research for the podcast, but for my enjoyment as well. I can listen to audiobooks anywhere and get to “read” twice as many books as I would if I had to depend solely on my Kindle or hard copies. I had a lively conversation with some great friends on Facebook with some friends about suggestions for new books and narrators and thought I might share some of my recent listens. Here goes.

The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

Who is Nola Brown?
Nola is a mystery. Nola is trouble. And Nola is supposed to be dead. Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she’s dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim “Zig” Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run. Zig works at Dover Air Force Base, helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig’s daughter and someone who once saved his daughter’s life. So when Zig realizes Nola is still alive, he’s determined to find her. Yet as Zig digs into Nola’s past, he learns that trouble follows Nola everywhere she goes. Nola is the US Army’s artist-in-residence – a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war’s aftermath and sharing observations about today’s wars that would otherwise go overlooked. On her last mission, Nola saw something nobody was supposed to see, earning her an enemy unlike any other, one who will do whatever it takes to keep Nola quiet. Together, Nola and Zig will either reveal a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power or die trying to uncover the US Army’s most mysterious secret – a centuries-old conspiracy that traces back through history to the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini. My thoughts: Brad Meltzer is a day one buy for me. I had this book on pre-order, even though I received an ARC in hard copy from his publisher. This book is old-school Meltzer in the very best way. Highly recommended. Also, catch Brad on episode 355. 

Supergods by Grant Morrison

From one of the most acclaimed and profound writers in the world of comics comes a thrilling and provocative exploration of humankind’s great modern myth: the superhero.
The first superhero comic ever published, Action Comics #1 in 1938, introduced the world to something both unprecedented and timeless: Superman, a caped god for the modern age. In a matter of years, the skies of the imaginary world were filled with strange mutants, aliens, and vigilantes: Batman, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the X-Men – the list of names is as familiar as our own. In less than a century, they’ve gone from not existing at all to being everywhere we look: on our movie and television screens, in our video games and dreams. But what are they trying to tell us? For Grant Morrison, arguably the greatest of contemporary chroniclers of the superworld, these heroes are powerful archetypes whose ongoing, decades-spanning story arcs reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves, our troubled history, and our starry aspirations. In this exhilarating work of a lifetime, Morrison draws on art, science, mythology, and his own astonishing journeys through this shadow universe to provide the first true history of the superhero – why they matter, why they will always be with us, and what they tell us about who we are… and what we may yet become. “Grant Morrison is one of the great comics writers of all time. I wish I didn’t have to compete with someone as good as him.” —Stan Lee My thoughts: As weird, trippy, and imaginative as anything you would expect from the author of The Invisibles, the late 80s rebirth of the JLA, and so many other iconic storylines in recent comics history. If you love comics, you’ll love this.

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

From the acclaimed author of Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing comes a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder – a sly and brilliant guessing game of a novel in the vein of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Patricia Highsmith.
Harry Ackerson has always considered his stepmother, Alice, to be sexy and beautiful in an “otherworldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years. Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead, and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, Harry returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help each other pick up the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father. Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way. Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous – even deadly – secrets…and that neither one is telling the truth. My thoughts: This book had me mesmerized from the first chapter. With alternating timelines that left you unsettled and wondering whether you should feel sorry for or afraid of several characters. Also, I NEVER saw the end coming. Highly recommended. Check out Peter on Episode 350.

Heir to the Empire: Star Wars Legends (The Thrawn Trilogy) (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy Book 1) by Timothy Zahn

It’s five years after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build. Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years! My thoughts: REAL Star Wars, Timothy Zahn. Nuff said. A lot of SW fans are going through a bit of burnout with the recent movies. This will cure what ails you.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power – plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish – to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil. My thoughts: Now that the series is finished I thought I would finally dig into the Iron Druid Chronicles. This series is amazing and made more so by the impeccable narration from Luke Daniels. Seriously. Get this book and series! I have tons more to share from my Audible library so I’ll make this a weekly post. In the meantime, stick a book in your ears! If you aren’t an Audible subscriber, you can get a one-month free trial and a free audiobook at audibletrial.com/hank. If you cancel, the book is yours to keep at no cost.

Avengers: Infinity War Made Me Realize That I’m Now A Marvel Fan

A strange thing happened at the movie theater the other night; I realized I’ve accidentally become a Marvel fan.

I’ve been a life-long DC Comics fan. I got my first Superman and Justice League comics in the first grade and have never looked back. I have dipped my toe in the Marvel universe from time to time, I mean, who doesn’t love Spider-Man? But I never really cared about the larger universe and what was going on.

When the first Iron Man movie came out ten years ago I remember wondering if anybody actually cared about Iron Man as a character. I know I had not thought of him in a couple of decades at least. But this was a time that we were not inundated with superhero movies, so I supported the movie with my dollars and I was not disappointed.

With each subsequent addition to the MCU, I have shown up with my dollars and time, all the while saying that I’m not a Marvel fan. I have to admit that looking back over the last ten years brings back fond memories of these stories. While sitting in the theater with my family Saturday night, I laughed and monitored my blood pressure as the tension ramped up until that final scene where I was audibly yelling at the screen with the rest of the packed audience.

My first reaction was anger and outrage. I stewed on it a couple of days and then I found myself looking through Amazon to find the back issues that might give some context and to ease my fears. That’s when I realized I cared.

This goes to prove that if you tell engaging stories and make people care about your characters while making the audience feel like they have something invested–and possibly something to lose– in those characters, then that audience will follow you into territory they never thought they would.

PS I still love DC Comics and the DC movies, but I have made room in my heart for both.

Matt Mullenweg On Internet Publishing and “Owning Your Masters”

Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, talks about the changing landscape of internet publishing. This whole interview is eye-opening in a lot of ways, but this quote really stood out to me.

“Musicians learned that you have to own your masters. We have a generation that is growing up and learning the hard way that if you don’t control your digital destiny then you are at the whim of these other parties whose business model is going to change and is likely not aligned with yours.”

Interesting to think about in the age of Facebook dominance…

What say you?

Who Owns Your Content?

Does building a platform mean you have to give up control?

Before Facebook, Twitter, and the plethora of also-rans, blogs were all the rage. A writer could build a following because they talked about things that interested them, maybe talk about the craft or the industry, gave tips to newcomers, and maintained a space to be themselves.

This started to change a few years ago as Facebook especially increasingly became a platform for publishing, and why not? Everybody was there anyway. This company was offering to give us a place to publish for free and to connect with the already intact audience. You could post your thought and have instant input from the potential pot of over a billion members of the network. Creative people felt like they had stuck it to the man by going directly to their audience.

But then it began. When the big network captured all these content creators that were now publishing on its platform they started monkeying with the algorithm and the organic reach began to dwindle. This could be fixed, of course, by paying to reach the same audience you previously took for granted. All of a sudden the streets of publishing gold transformed into golden handcuffs. People started asking questions like can I afford to abandon the platform where I connect with my audience?

For authors, I think it’s fair to ask if social media actually moves the needle on book sales. Not to say that social media isn’t good for meeting and connecting with people that like what you do, but if you’re looking at it as a place to sell books, I don’t know that it’s the right place or the right motivation for being there.

I think we’re at the place where we need to be asking hard questions about platforms and what we’re using them for. If you’re an author, and I know a lot of you here are, then ask yourself if you’re in it for the short term dream of selling a ton of books before you go do the next thing you’re interested in. If you write because you believe you have something to say, and you want to form long-term relationships with readers, I think you need to be building systems that will outlast whatever mechanism is hot at the moment. Blogs might be old hat, but when the social media basket that you put all your eggs in fails and you’re left out in the cold, you’ll appreciate that old hat.

I am inherently distrustful of systems that don’t produce anything but rely on other people to do all the creating and provide no lasting benefit to the creators. Not only that, but these systems control who sees what you publish and share and own your work. Is that worth the convenience the seemed to provide? It might be painful to start taking back control of your content and connecting with a whole new audience, but I believe it’s worth it in the long run.

If you’d like to connect with a large community of writers and readers, be sure to check out The Author Stories Podcast. For readers and writers, by readers and writers.