Inkshares Interview - Prescott Harvey & In Beta

When two friends realize they’re NPCs in a video game,  they hack reality to make their lives awesome and wind up targeted for deletion.

In_Beta_cover

Prescott Harvey's IN BETA is one of my favorite books currently funding on Inkshares. Harvey's the author of The World of Warcraft’s Guide to Winning at Life, and creator of the viral video/open letter telling JJ Abrams how to make Star Wars great again, which Abrams incorporated into The Force Awakens. All in all Harvey sounds like a pretty cool dude, and I'm digging what I've read of IN BETA.

Elon Musk thinks we’re living inside a video game, and this novel is primed to run with that notion and then some. This is an awesome high concept paired with a brilliant proven quantity in Prescott Harvey — dude, sign me up as an IN BETA-tester! - Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of ROBOPOCALYPSE

Who is Prescott Harvey and what's IN BETA all about?

I tend to think about my life like this: My 20's were about expanding my universe, and my 30's are about shrinking it back down.

My 20s were for adventure. Traveling abroad, trips to Burning Man, living a feral existence out in the woods, sailing the Pacific Coast. Etc.

Now, in my 30s, it's about living in a neighborhood, biking to work, getting to know a community, giving back, establishing roots. It's about depth over breadth.

So that's a narrow overview of me. IN BETA is a book about two lazy high schoolers who realize they live inside a simulated reality. Instead of trying to escape, they hack reality to make their lives awesome. And then they get targeted for deletion by a systems admin.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

It's been years in the making. I don't say that to imply that it's some sort of masterpiece; more that it's been a very difficult story to develop.

I'm a fan of bad movies, and a friend recommended I watch "The Miami Connection." I did, and was blown away. The movie is not nearly as good / bad as the trailer makes it seem, but it's still amazing how quintessentially 80's the movie manages to be. If you haven't seen it, it's about a group of friends who are in a rock and roll band, and they're also all blackbelts in karate, and of course an evil ninja clan threatens one of their girlfriends. It has kung fu, (surprisingly good) music, machine guns, motorcycles... basically, everything you'd want in an 80's movie. And I started thinking "God, wouldn't it be amazing to push this even further?"

So I started by researching all my favorite 80's cliches. From lightsabers, to time machines, to hoverboards, to Nazi's, to rock and roll, to video games. Even cliche 80's phrases like "lock and load", "let's roll", "let's ride" etc. I don't even remember what was on the list, but it was long. The working title was "Awesome Movie." (and yes, it was originally going to be a movie).

But I needed some sort of device to tie it all together and make it work. How can you effectively have every awesome thing in a story, without it all falling apart? The device I came up with was a magical VHS tape that got struck by lightning to release a Jumanji-style 80's experience. But even that was still a little too loosey goosey, and I was having a hard time staying invested in the story. Which, when you're whole premise is one schlocky joke, that's of course going to be an issue.

Around this point, the trailer for Kung Fury came out. Not only did it beat me to the punch, but it did an awesome job of it. And then Lego Movie came out, and I started realizing I wasn't the only one pondering a 'more-is-more' approach, where everything and the kitchen sink could be refreshing and fun.

Long story short, I got to rethinking my premise. I finally struck upon a device I enjoyed (The Matrix as a comedy) that allowed me to do the things I wanted, but could still ground the characters and give them depth. I personally am already starting to tire of the "more is more" approach. And if I am, I'm willing to bet others are, too.

So I started thinking that if I wrote it as a book, I'd get to spend more time with the characters, not focus as much on gags, and could explore interesting existential tangents without sticking so purely to genre conventions like a movie would require me to do. A book sounded more and more appealing, and here we are.

Why Inkshares?

I'd been aware of Inkshares for a bit. I even had a different novel that I was planning to crowd fund, maybe next year. Then they announced their videogame competition with Nerdist, and suddenly it was (to quote another 80's cliche) "go time."

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm going to be honest, at the risk of alienating people. I don't read a lot of new books. I mean "new" in the sense of recently published, and also just books that I am unfamiliar with.

When I tell colleagues and coworkers this, they always look at me like I'm some elitist snob. Which, you know, I hope I'm not, but I've heard the accusation enough (mostly from my wife) that I'm willing to consider the possibility.

Here's my rationale:

Reading books takes time. Just like watching a movie or a TV show (which I'm also careful about). When I do venture out and read a new book, I am nine times out of ten disappointed. It's probably because I'm older now, and have less free time, but I have no stomach for mediocrity in storytelling. I have my selection of favorite books. When I re-read them, they move me. I laugh. I cry. I put them down and regard life. There is so much in each of them, so much to be gained on every re-read, it saddens me to think I will probably only read them a dozen times before I die.

Here are some of the books on this list: Lord of the Rings, Sometimes A Great Notion, Watership Down, Confederacy of Dunces, Wind in the Willows.

I just finished The Once and Future King for the second time, and it's going on the list. I'm about to start The Fountainhead for the 3rd time.

Now there is a tremendous and obvious downside to only rereading your favorite books, and that is you don't get exposed to new things. I'm very aware of this, and try to rectify it as best I can. I do take recommendations from trusted sources. Two years ago I read House of Leaves on a friend's recommendation, and absolutely loved it.

But yeah, I'm actively working to not be such a snob.

Who are your greatest influences?

The Simpsons, Michael Crichton, Ken Kesey, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast. A random list I know. For better or worse The Simpsons have shaped my sense of humor. I started watching in 2nd grade. Now I can trace the rhythm and meter of my every joke back to a classic Simpsons line.

Michael Crichton because, as a kid, I read him more than anyone else. I still study his books to find how he keeps his readers hooked. Other authors (Stephen King) are arguably better writers, and I enjoy King, but I love that Crichton re-inventing and re-popularized the victorian adventure novel. Genius.

Ken Kesey nailed (perhaps formed?) my worldview. Especially in Sometimes A Great Notion, his melancholy world tinged with awe and beauty, and the mixture of defiance and despair his character's grapple with... he more than anyone is responsible for showing me the themes I want to explore.

And lastly: Beauty and the Beast. A good friend once tried to tell me that Jame Cameron's AVATAR was the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. What, he argued, was more aesthetically amazing than that movie? The Mona Lisa? The Sistine Chapel? I thought for a moment and then responded BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. With the exception of one gratuitous and superfluous song ("Be Our Guest"), this movie is the pinnacle of storytelling. Every story beat has a purpose, serves multiple functions, and flows together beautifully. And while the orchestral score is not as iconic as other movies, I would challenge anyone to find a score that better serves its purpose.

What's next for you as a writer?

Get better!

I'm lucky enough to write for a living, working as an advertising copywriter. Writing in different brand voices, writing headlines with only have 3 - 5 words... this has helped me immensely. My goal, for the rest of my life, is to continually get better. I want to be a great writer. There. I said it. Gauntlet thrown.

But that's not a very tangible goal, so: There's a book after IN BETA. It's not as lighthearted or "fun" as IN BETA. It's a Crichton-esque book that (hopefully) has a little more depth. It's a Western that takes place in the last remaining slice of American wilderness, and it's inspired by "Heart of Darkness." And that's all I'll say.

You can read a sample & pre-order IN BETA on Inkshares.

Wrestletown is Go!

Wrestletown is go! Temp Cover

Officially announcing the launch of my debut novel, WRESTLETOWN, on Inkshares! WRESTLETOWN is an illustrated novel featuring cover and 10-15 illustrations by the incredible Andrew MacLean (Head Lopper, Image Comics).

Inkshares is a publisher that functions similar to Kickstarter (crowdfunded) except it is by copy and not dollar amount (therefore pursuing a goal of reaching readers and avoiding vanity press issues, etc). My local bookshop, Papercuts J.P., published their debut anthology with them, and I've been very impressed with the quality of books I've seen them put out. Wrestletown is a success at 250 copies (POD) pre-ordered, upgrading to an offset printing at 750 copies. Inkshares provides editing, marketing and distribution (functioning like any other publisher). The campaign runs through October 30th, with publication in 2017.

You can read the first five chapters of WRESTLETOWN on Inkshares, and each week I'll be sending out updates to backers on inspiration and story. An official cover reveal is set for late July/early August with interior illustrations to follow.

I hope you'll give the book a shot and consider supporting the campaign. WRESTLETOWN is my favorite work to date and the most fun I've had writing.

Let's kick this pig!

WT_Update

Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE and be entered to win a copy of BURN CARDS!

sitv-header Happy Wednesday, folks.

As you all know, reviews are a difference maker when it comes to visibility for books, doubly so for small press and lesser known authors.

In an effort to drum up some reviews, 280 Steps has put together a little promotion:

Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE on Amazon or Goodreads by 3/31 and be entered for a chance to win one of five copies of BURN CARDS.

***AND paperback copies of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE are currently 34% off on Amazon***

It's madness, I tell you!

Check out the details HERE - good luck and thanks as always for your support.

Back to work!

RECAP TIME! On to 2016

Bent Eight I've been neglecting the blog a bit as of late. Between the holidays and kicking off the new year with a new book, I've let things slide. BUT IT'S NEVER TOO LATE, KIDS. NEVER!

Here we go!

2015 was pretty rad.

My second novella, BURN CARDS, dropped in April from 280 Steps, followed by my debut short story collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, in November, also with 280 Steps.

SitV-wraparound BURNCARDS

On the comics front - my first full-length issue, CHARRED KRAKEN, based on my short story, "Charred Kraken with Plum Butter," hit ComiXology in December. I also did a small print run, which turned out really well (and which you can still hit me up for!) I wrote a lot more...but it's all still in development or on the DL. Fingers crossed for some progress this year.

I highlighted some of my favorite reads of the year over at Spinetingler Mag.

Speaking of 'best of' lists...

Ian Rogers picked BURN CARDS as a favorite novella of the year.

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE landed on lists from Paul Tremblay, Gabino Iglesias and Scott Adlerberg.

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE also recently received two wonderful reviews - one from Papercuts J.P. over at Literary Hub, and the other over on Crime Syndicate Magazine.

And I kicked off the year chatting with Pam Stack on Authors on the Air, and the crew over at Miskatonic Musings.

I can't thank you all enough for the support and kind words over the past year, especially when it comes to SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE. It still feels a bit unreal to see how well people connect with the collection, and the variety of stories that are singled out as favorites.

NEXT UP!

2/19 Noir at the Bar Boskone! Cohosting with Errick Nunnally, featuring Dana Cameron, Christopher Golden, James Moore, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Paul Tremblay, and Melinda Snodgrass.

2/20 Boskone Panels

Hidden Heroes 10:00 - 10:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Sometimes the hero of a story isn't its true protagonist. A commonly accepted example is Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, who more and more centers the action as the story concludes. What other examples occur to us? Why might an author choose to focus on someone other than the hero? Can the hero ever be the antagonist?

How Story Works 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton claims in his TedX talk that "the fundamental promise of a story is that this tale will lead somewhere that is worth your time." Is there more to story than a well-told promise? What is story? How is it constructed? What compels us to consume story in all its forms?

2/26 Reading at KGB Bar in Manhattan 7:00 - 9:00pm

Prime Time Crime - heading down to NYC for a reading with Scott Adlerberg and Jason Starr.

Hope to see you guys out there!

That's all for now, but stay tuned for more posts on books, WIP updates, interviews, and more as I get back into gear.

December Giveaway! aka Got Reviews?

IMG_8762 I love small press. I can't say enough good things about 280 Steps and their support for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE over the past few months. It's been a lot of fun and I hope some of the momentum carries over into 2016 and beyond.

But as writer and proprietor of Broken River Books, J David Osborne, described so honestly in his recent blog post - Money Money Money Money (Cha-Ching) - there's only so much a small press can do. It's also on the author to drive sales and promotion of their work.

So what works? How does one do this effectively? I'm not sure anyone really knows. I'm repeatedly followed, unfollowed, and followed again on Twitter by "best-sellers" with thousands of followers in an attempt to make a quick buck. Then there's the relatively recent trend on Facebook to treat it as an impersonal selling tool as well, becoming 'friends' with as many strangers as possible in hope of increasing one's audience. I'm not sure how successful either of these strategies are, but they are too hard a sell for me. Everyone draws a different line in the sand. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have people who won't market at all and criticize those who do. It's impossible to please everyone, especially when there is no clear answer to the question - what makes books sell?

Reviews help, that's for sure. Online, in print, word of mouth - all drive algorithms and discussion that can only boost a book's signal. With that in mind, I have a deal for you:

Leave an honest review for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE by 12/13 and be entered to win a copy of WHAT HAPPENED HERE: Year One at Papercuts J.P. - a compilation of exclusive works by authors who visited Papercuts J.P., Boston's newest independent bookstore, in its first year - featuring my story, "The Push," a pseudo-sequel to "Digging a Deep," (from Safe Inside the Violence) as well as work from Paul Tremblay, Jennifer Tseng, Rory Flynn, Catie Disabato, and many more. 300+ pages of pure AWESOME.

Where? On a blog, newspaper, Amazon, Goodreads, the palm of your left hand in permanent marker. Be creative, I don't judge. Tell your people and spread the good word!

On Monday, 12/14 I'll randomly pull a name and announce the winner here.

IMG_8836

Thank you all for your continued support!

Week One Recap

Whew! Made it through a whirlwind of a release week. Thank you all so much for your amazing support, especially to those who came out to the launch party (packed house!) last Friday at Papercuts J.P. I couldn't have wished for a better night. Here are a couple pics from the event (by Jabari Asim)

image2 image1

and another by Papercuts J.P.

IMG_8584

In other news, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE received two incredibly kind reviews last week. I'm still pinching myself (and dreading...in a good way, the novel I need to rewrite this winter):

From LitReactor, where the reviewer called the book "a collection everyone should read — particularly if you’ve ever dreamed of writing this kind of fiction."

And MyBookishWays: "In his short story collection, ‘Safe Inside the Violence’, Irvin provides more proof that he may be the best new writer on the crime scene today."

Reviews have started to trickle into Goodreads and Amazon as well (thank you!) It's exciting to see the variety of stories readers report as their favorites, or those that stuck with them. Like all authors, I greatly appreciate the time and effort it takes to leave a review. I'm not sure anyone is certain how they function in the algorithms of these sites, but they certainly give books a boost. Thank you for spreading the word.

Hope to see you Wednesday at Brookline Booksmith!

FullSizeRender

 

April/May Noir Catch-All

It's been a busy couple of months! Between travel and scribbling away furiously as deadlines approach, the blog has taken a backseat. Here's a short recap: Noir at the Bar Crew[Left to Right - Dale Phillips, Connie Johnson Hambley, Errick Nunnally, Chris Irvin, Tony McMillen, Bracken MacLeod, Mike Miner, Stona Fitch, Patrick Shawn Bagley]

Noir at the Bar Boston II was a great success. Nine authors read some stellar fiction in front of a big crowd. Beers were drank, books were raffled, good times were had. Here's a recap courtesy of Dale Phillips. Stay tuned for news on the next event - June 15th, 6-8pm at Trident Booksellers & Cafe.

papercutsjp

Speaking of fun, Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts J.P. was a blast. Paul Tremblay and I read some of our favorite fiction by other writers that has inspired us (Shirley Jackson, Nathan Ballingrud) and had a great chat about crime and horror. Be sure to snag Paul's A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS when it drops in June!

Here's a shot Paul took of me talking to myself...err...my doing my thing..

Papercuts

Essay

Write The Individual - a short bit on me writing from a female first person POV, the Andrew Smith debacle and advice from Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Interviews

Terribleminds: Five Things I Learned Writing BURN CARDS

One Bite at a Time - Twenty Questions

Chatteriffic

Reviews

My Bookish Ways: Read This

Bracken MacLeod - I like my Noir dark, thank you very much!

Just A Guy That Likes To Read

Chris Dikes - Despair runs deep...

Goodreads

BB3_2

Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels 3

The third volume from Shotgun Honey is out! This baby was a ton of work and took a couple of delays to come together, but I'm proud of how it turned out. Give it a look - there is some fantastic stuff within.

Featuring 25 stories of crime:

“A Boy Like Billy” by Patricia Abbott “Border Crossing” by Michael McGlade “Looking for the Death Trick” by Bracken MacLeod “Maybelle’s Last Stand” by Travis Richardson “Predators” by Marie S. Crosswell “Twenty to Life” by Frank Byrns “So Much Love” by Keith Rawson “Running Late” by Tess Makovesky “Last Supper” by Katanie Duarte “Danny” by Michael Bracken “The Plot” by Jedidiah Ayres “What Alva Wants” by Timothy Friend “Time Enough to Kill” by Kent Gowran “Copas” by Hector Acosta “Yellow Car Punch” by Nigel Bird “Love at First Fight” by Angel Luis Colón “Traps” by Owen Laukkanen “Down the Rickety Stairs” by Alan Orloff “Blackmailer’s Pep Talk” by Chris Rhatigan “With a Little bit of Luck” by Bill Baber “As Cute as a Speckled Pup Under a Red Wagon” by Tony Conaway “Chipping off the Old Block” by Nick Kolakowski “Young Turks and Old Wives” by Shane Simmons “The Hangover Cure” by Seth Lynch “Highway Six” by John L. Thompson

cover

Bouchercon!

It's official - I'll be crashing Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC come October. AND my buddy Joe Clifford is up for TWO Anthony Awards - LAMENTATION (Best Novel) and TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND (Best Anthology or Collection) - the latter of which is extra-awesome as it features my story, "Death to My Hometown." Hope you see you there.

Until next time...thank you to everyone for your support of BURN CARDS. Can't wait to announce what's coming next.

BURNCARDS

 

 

Five Things I Learned Writing Federales

Terribleminds

In case you missed it, yesterday I had the pleasure of dropping in on Chuck Wendig's blog, Terribleminds, to talk writing and a few things I learned while writing FEDERALES. Chuck is an excellent source for advice on writing, and I recommend writers check out his blog (and books) for his great insight.

Check it out HERE.

Still with me? I talk Beginning with the End over at Do some Damage.