To kick off 2015 I decided to do something a bit different: a roundtable discussion!
There’s much to be said for Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, but how do major Tolkien fans feel about it? I was curious to find out, so I grabbed four people steeped in Hobbit lore and held a discussion full of delicious nerd rage. We talked about the changes made for the movies, the nature of Hollywood, and the difference between dragons and wyverns, among many other topics.
This episode’s panelists were:
Here’s an update of stuff I’ve got going on in the writing and podcasting worlds! I recorded this last Sunday evening and for the last few days I’ve been scrambling about finishing up the current project you’ll hear me discuss in this episode. I also mentioned a few publications my work has recently shown up in.
(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)
MF: How are you doing, Jim?
JR: Good, good! Good to have you on here.
MF: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it!
JR: Of your many projects that you’ve got going on, something that I find particularly interesting as a writer is this 12 for 12 project that you’ve got going. For anyone who’s not familiar, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what that is?
MF: Sure. It’s this crazy idea I had last summer. I thought, “Hey, I write pretty quickly. I bet you I could write a novel a month.” (chuckles) Which is like this insane bar bet. And you know, it may have come up at Gen Con, actually last year – the gaming convention.
JR: Oh yeah?
MF: And I looked at it and I thought, you know, I’d love to do that, actually. I think it’d be a lot of fun. I think I could certainly do it. The trouble is that I also have a lot of other gigs that I do as a freelance writer. Like I write the Magic: the Gathering comic book for IDW. And I have a few other things: computer games, toy work, a novel – Carpathia – coming out at the end of the month here from Angry Robot. So I didn’t think I could give all that up and I didn’t want to give all that up, right?
MF: So, I thought, “Let me trim this down a little bit and instead of writing like 80,000 word novels, which is what I usually go for, I’ll try writing 50,000 word novels, which will give me a little bit more breathing room.” And I decided to launch that program back in last November as a Kickstarter and said, “Look, hey guys, I really want to do this but I need to be able to eat so I’d like to basically take preorders for these books. And we’ll do some special editions. There’ll be autographed and hard covers and soft covers and things like that for people who are interested, and you can sign up for a high pledge and get your name in the book or create a character or something like that.” And it did pretty well. It started in November and ended on December 4th and we ended up racking up something over $13,000 for the first three novels. And I’m currently – just about a week and a half ago, launched the second Kickstarter for the second trilogy of novels. And that’s already up just shy of $5000 at the moment, I believe.
JR: That is awesome. As someone who has tried NaNoWriMo and just sitting there – and I’m still at like 30,000 words from last November…
JR: …when I saw this project I was like, “Is he insane?!” (chuckles)
MF: Well you know, I’m a full time writer, right? This is my day job. I look at my daily word count and I know I can do this, right? Back before I had a whole bunch of kids as a full-time freelance role-playing game designer I would write regularly 5000 words a day. Since the kids came along they cut into my writing time a little bit so I’m down to about 3000 words a day. But on good days I get to the 5-6,000 words.
JR: That is very cool, and I think anyone who’s aspiring towards being a writer full time is definitely going to try to hit that goal.
MF: Well, now if you’re getting paid by the word, generating more words helps. They all have to be quality words, mind you.
JR: (laughs) That’s true.
MF: They have to be publishable words. But being able to generate them quickly – and after you’ve been doing it for some 10-20 years you do get quite a little bit quicker at it.
JR: Very cool, very cool. So the first trilogy you already mentioned is already funded.
JR: And that was for your Brave New World novels.
JR: And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?
MF: Yeah, that’s based on a role-playing game – not the Aldous Huxley novel. The original quote for Brave New World comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” actually, where Miranda, who’s the daughter of the wizard Prospero, sees a man washed up on the shore of their private island – for the first time in her life she’s ever seen anybody but her father. And she looks up at this handsome guy who’s about to become her love interest and she says, “Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.” And I thought that was perfect for a superhero role-playing game. So, back in 1999 I came out with a superhero role-playing game called Brave New World through Pinnacle Entertainment Group and it was later published by Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG. And it’s been basically lying fallow for the last ten years or so. We did about eight or nine different books in the line and then cut it off. But we’ve had some people over at Reactor 88 Studios working on doing an independent film based on it. And I said, “Geez, you know, we’ve got this good fan base of game players out there and we’ve got a lot of people who are interested in my writing. Let’s see what happens if we cross the streams and combine them for this first set of trilogies.” And so far it seems to be going pretty well. For me it’s a lot of fun because I get to return to this world that I spent a lot of time and effort creating a dozen years ago.
MF: And the fans seem to really be enjoying it so far, too.
JR: Can you actually tell us anything about how the movie’s going?
MF: Yeah. It’s currently on hiatus. We got a proof of concept video made which is about five to eight minutes long – I forget. It depends on which edit you look at. And basically the first eight pages of the role playing game are a comic book, and we took those and filmed those. And then we have a screenplay that follows it off after that and tells you what’s going to happen in the world. But we filmed the proof of concept hoping to go out and find funding for the rest of the movie. The problem is that being an over-the-top, high-action role-playing game with superheroes in it, this is not a cheap movie to make, right? (chuckles)
JR: (chuckles) Yeah, I can imagine.
JR: That is such an awesome game.
JR: I really enjoy it.
MF: Oh, we got a kick out of it. We love that stuff. I love Jared’s stuff from way back, actually. And so we have a screenplay that I and a guy named Jeff Dohm worked on that actually was shot last year and is currently in post-production, so that’ll be out some time later this year. And the idea there again is to prove to people with money that we have a team of people who can make these kind of movies and make them do well. And then hopefully use that as a means of leveraging funding out of people so we can make a bigger movie later on.
JR: Excellent. I wish you the best of luck with that because I really want to see these movies! (chuckles)
MF: The InSpectres one is a boatload of fun and I honestly think this kind of slacker ghostbuster thing is a lot easier to shoot on a shoestring budget than you would expect.
JR: Let’s move on to your second trilogy, which is – as of this recording – still being funded.
JR: So the Kickstarter is still open for it. That’s the Shotguns & Sorcery novels. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?
MF: Yeah, people have until March 11th to get in on this Kickstarter. And just go to kickstarter.com or go to my web site at forbeck.com and you can find out about it. But it’s based on a setting called Shotguns & Sorcery that I originally developed as, again, a role-playing game setting for Mongoose Publishing back in about 2001. But then my wife got pregnant with quadruplets and that kind of shattered everything to hell as far as getting that done. (chuckles) So I never actually got very far beyond the notes and selling it to Mongoose. And the rights reverted back to me. I said, “Geez, I’ve had this idea sitting around for a long time. I’d love to get back to this! It’s a lot of fun.” It’s kind of this noir-ish fantasy setting in this city called the Dragon City which is on the coast of this continent that’s basically overtaken by undead and other types of zombies. The city basically has a dragon emperor who controls the entire place and protects the people from the dead. But it’s striated – as you go up the mountain you get more and more powerful people. Like the orcs live at the bottom and the humans and the halflings live about a quarter of the way up, then you have the dwarves, then you have the elves, and then you have the dragon, who sits up top. So it’s got this great Chandler-esque, Hammett-esque kind of noir going on, but in a fantasy setting, right?
JR: Yeah, that is very cool. I really love that mashup. I was actually just last night – I was looking at Goblintown Justice, the short story that you’ve put out.
MF: Yes, that’s available for free for anybody who wants to read it, of course.
JR: As soon as I got to the part where you’re using flying carpets as taxis, I was totally sold on it.
MF: Yeah, I think that’s such a great image, you know.
MF: It’s like I can flag down a flying carpet, you know. “Oh! Yeah, okay!” Suddenly you know exactly where you are – even if you’ve never seen this before.
JR: I love both genres and just the whole mixing of them – the sweet and sour effect – is very cool there, I really like that.
MF: Thank you.
JR: So folks again have until March 11th if they want to get in on that.
MF: The way it works is – what I did was I set a very low goal for the first book in the trilogy and then we try to see if we can hit stretch goals where we can unlock the second and third books in the trilogy. So right now we shattered the first one very quickly, I think in 32 hours. And now we’re stretching out to see if we can get the second book unlocked and then the third book unlocked. And usually this has me chewing my nails right until the last second. (laughs)
MF: But it’s good fun and you know, usually what happens is you have this big spike at the beginning, and then it kind of levels out in the middle. And then in the last week everybody says, “Oh! Oh! Oh! I’ve got to do that or I’m going to forget it!” And then it spikes up again. And you know, the trouble of course is during that middle period you’re always sitting there going, “I hope the spike comes! I hope the spike comes!”
JR: (laughs) Yeah, totally! Totally. Well, let us hope that that happens! Can you tell us anything about the remaining two trilogies you have planned?
MF: Well, I can tell you a little bit. The fourth one I’m not quite sure about yet. I’m actually contemplating a set of thrillers for the next one that are more modern-day stuff. And for the fourth one I’m thinking either science fiction or maybe some combination of three individual one-shot books. So I’m going back and forth between them. Those are still a little bit off for me. Actually I have a really good idea for the thrillers that’s going to set them apart from everything else but I’m not quite ready to announce it yet.
JR: Cool, well we’re looking forward to that, then. And just looking over your Coming Soon list on your web site here, you’ve got – to put it mildly – quite a few plates in the air.
JR: But I noticed that you have here – and you also mentioned that at the end of the month you’ve got a novel called Carpathia coming out. What’s that about?
MF: The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up on April 15th and the ship that picks up the survivors of the Titanic was called the Carpathia. And the Carpathia, of course, is also named after a set of mountains that ring part of Transylvania and is actually the mountain range in which Castle Dracula sits. So the connection here is: what happens if the ship that picks up the Titanic survivors is actually full of vampires on their way back to Europe?
JR: (laughs) That’s awesome.
MF: What kind of hell comes out of that? (chuckles)
JR: (laughs) I think that qualifies as irony.
MF: (laughs) Yeah, I mean my publisher is like, “The lucky ones went down with the ship.”
JR: (laughs) Yeah.
MF: You want to be respectful because this is a real disaster, right? I mean, it’s been 100 years, so that means we can play with it a little bit. But I mean there were a lot of people who died in this, but I’m taking care to be very respectful of the actual real-life individuals. And I concoct a lot of – obviously – fabricated vampires and such to battle it out with each other. So it’s good fun.
JR: That’s excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we go?
MF: Well, I do also have the Magic: the Gathering comic book I’m doing for IDW, and that’s coming out. The next issue will be on February 29th.
JR: Is that based in like their core world or is there a separate world?
MF: It kind of jumps around. It starts out in Ravnica. They don’t have really one core world, but the first issue starts out in Ravnica and from there it goes to Innistrad, which is where the current block is. It’s a kind of horror-themed block. And from there – I shouldn’t probably reveal where it’s going to go from there quite yet.
JR: That sounds like a lot of fun.
MF: Yeah, let’s hope we can keep rolling on with them.
JR: Well, now if folks want to find you online – you and your various projects – where should they go?
MF: Go to forbeck.com. That’s F-O-R-B-E-C-K dot com. And I try to keep it updated fairly regularly.
JR: I’ve been there. There is a lot of stuff on there and it is all very awesome. Thanks very much for talking to us!
MF: Thanks for talking to me, Jim. I really appreciate it!
JR: Thank you, take care.
MF: You too.
Click below to hear the interview:
Music by Kevin MacLeod
Just wanted to let you know about a few things of mine that are seeing the light of day.
A couple of my monologues were recently published in Main Street Rag, which is a local magazine. It’s the first time any of my monologues have seen print and I am very excited about that!
Also, the From the Dark Side anthology has just come out. It’s a charity anthology benefiting Letters and Light – that’s the organization involved with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). So if you’re interested in helping support and encourage new writers, I suggest you check it out. The anthology includes a short story I wrote quite a while ago called The Looking Glass at Lughnasa, where I kind of put a fey twist on a few of Lewis Carroll’s ideas.
You’ll see the links to both of those in this article and as a new part of the general sidebar on my web site as well. It’s a really great honor to be included among the very talented writers in both publications and I’m really happy about it! And I’d be very pleased if folks would go and take a look at them.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. See you suddenly!
Click below if you’d like to hear me read the article:
Music by Dave Girtman
(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)
JR: Welcome to jimyesthatjim.com, the blog that continues to exist in spite of itself. For those who are listening or reading this I am online with Jennifer Hudock, who is the author of Goblin Market. The thing that I find most interesting actually that I wanted to just sort of address first is that you are a full-time writer, and that is something that is incredibly impressive to someone like me. And, I just was wondering, how did you end up doing that?
JH: I went to college when I was 26, and the funny thing is that I actually went at the time – I mean, I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. It’s all I’ve ever done. I had tried to get things published traditionally before I went to college, and when I went to college I actually went for Criminal Psychology. I was on campus for about a year before I switched my major over to English and Creative Writing. And my advisor at the time thought I was insane and said, “I know somebody who went into that major and I’m going to tell you right now, she graduated four years ago and right now she works at Pizza Hut!” And that was discouraging, but I’m a pretty determined person so I told myself – before I had gone back to college I had worked in retail, I had worked in restaurants and offices – and I told myself that after I graduated I was NOT going to get another job like that. So, once I graduated I started looking into freelance venues and I started working. It wasn’t even writing at the time, it was more internet research for a company that had just started off at that time. And because I was working with them, I got introduced to other people who were working for another company who was more focused on a combination of freelance writing and research. And I worked for them for about two years and somebody that I worked with through that company had moved on and was actually editing a blog for another company. And he really liked my writing and we had a good work relationship and he actually invited me to come and work for him. So, I have been working from home, freelancing and now writing full time for the last three years.
JR: That’s wonderful. I aspire one day to perhaps get to where you are if I can overcome my own sloth and other issues. (chuckles)
JH: (chuckles) It’s not easy. It takes a lot of discipline. I mean, there are days where I wake up and I would rather stay in bed and sleep in until noon like I used to do but because I have to focus on my work like that it’s more disciplined. And because I learned that discipline of having to work at home and being responsible completely for your own income it motivated me in a lot of other ways, too – I mean, even with podcasting and writing fiction. You have deadlines and you have to meet them so, it’s been a help in a lot of different ways.
JR: Do you use any of those two years of Criminal Psychology in your writing at all?
JH: Actually, this is really funny. The thing that prompted me to go into Criminal Psychology was my love of The X-Files.
JH: I wanted to be like Mulder. I actually wanted to join the FBI at the time that I applied to go to college. So, I did have about two years’ worth of psychology before I really switched my major. It’s interesting because – psychology – you learn a lot about how the mind works and I definitely do use that when I’m creating characters because one of the things, being inside a character’s head, is knowing how they psychologically process things. So, it does help. Yeah.
JR: Cool, absolutely. Goblin Market, your podcast, is coming to an end, is it not?
JH: Yes, I have one more episode to record and it will be done! I do have to go back – the first seven episodes, the sound quality was just atrocious because my equipment was poor. I went back and I rerecorded the first episode. I haven’t put it out yet, but after that I have six more that I need to rerecord before I can put it up on Podiobooks.
JR: I really liked it. I’ve been enjoying it for some time now. I first heard about it I think when I was – I’m following Mur Lafferty in her feed – in her Twitter feed – and she mentioned it. And so I went and I checked it out. And it’s really cool, I think! I can see very clearly your fandom of things of the ilk of the Rossetti poem and Labyrinth and all that, but you’ve also gone in other directions with it and I think that is cool that you’re coming up with newer ideas to apply to that kind of thing. Where did your primary inspiration for Goblin Market come from?
JH: It was kind of a cross between Labyrinth and the Christina Rossetti poem. The very first chapter of the novel is sort of the younger sister who goes into the market in the Christina Rossetti poem. And I actually introduce it in the podcast with four lines from the poem – you know, “We should not look at goblin men.” And it was kind of a cross between that. And the funny thing is – and a lot of people probably don’t know this – some people might if they’re big fans of Brian Froud and the Labyrinth – but the Goblin Market was originally a Labyrinth fan fiction that I wrote.
JR: Oh, really?
JH: And after I finished it I realized I had put SO many elements that had nothing to do with the original story into it that I could go back and change a few little details and it would be original. So I did that. The Darknjan Wald, which is the bizarre, disgusting, rotting forest that they have to travel through to get to the goblin castle was originally the Labyrinth. So, there was a lot that you could twist and turn into something that had nothing to do with the Labyrinth itself.
JR: That’s very cool. Yeah, I noticed that – that the environment starts changing and it gets less and less recognizable – I guess more alien – and I really liked that.
JH: Thank you.
JR: It’s very cool, it’s very cool. Well now, once Goblin Market ends, you’ve certainly got plenty of other irons on the fire, I think, to keep you busy right now! The Dark Journeys anthology – tell us about that.
JH: Well, the Dark Journeys collection is a collection of short stories. They are completely unrelated to each other and I put one out pretty much every Friday on Amazon and Smashwords for download for 99 cents to $1.99. I only have one right now that’s $1.99 and that’s because it’s novella-length. But they’re all completely unconnected to each other – but yet, they’re connected by the fact that life itself is a journey. And I twisted it into these dark elements that sometimes we face things in life that are really difficult to overcome. But instead of just focusing on difficult life elements I took it more to a supernatural level. One of the stories, Portrait of the Dead Countess, is about a young boy who becomes enchanted by a haunted portrait in his family’s summer home that is connected to the devil. And through the devil in this portrait he becomes mesmerized and he kills for this portrait to sustain its life – because the woman the portrait was painted of gained immortality by selling her soul to the devil, and the portrait itself was actually painted on human flesh – like, the canvas was human flesh.
JH: So, I mean, it’s completely against his will that he’s doing this – like, he’s committing murders to sustain the portrait’s life…
JH: I mean, which, you know – that happens every day. (laughs)
JR: Well, yeah! (laughs) I was almost thinking sort of a reverse Dorian Gray type thing there, where you’re just doing all you can to keep the portrait safe. That’s awesome, that’s great. So, what prompted this sort of buck-and-two-buck fiction thing going on?
JH: My fiancée, James Melzer, started a Deviant Dollars series a couple of months ago where he was selling short stories on Amazon and Smashwords for 99 cents. And I thought to myself, he’s a genius! Because I have been trying to sell my fiction for years and every single story in this collection has been shopped out or previously published on smaller venues like online zines or journals that are so obscure you would never even know about them. And I thought this is a good way to get your work out there so people can read it!
JR: Cool! And are people buying it?
JH: Yeah, yeah! I mean, surprisingly enough, some stories do much better than others. Two of the stories are zombie stories. I have the Zombie Double Shot, which is the shortest thing in the collection and it actually has two stories in it – it only comes to about 3000 words with both stories combined, but that one has outsold all the other stories like four to one.
JR: Well, that’s great! I look forward to seeing how that comes out because that sounds like you guys may be onto something there!
JH: Yeah, a lot of people are actually doing it now, and I’m not sure if they’re having success with it. I tend to approach it from – you know, if you help me out and help me spread the word about this I’m glad to give you the story for free. So, I think that helps a little bit. And the funny thing is that a lot of the people who do blog about it or spread the word about it, they’re like, “No, no. I want to support you. I’ll buy it.” And that’s touching.
JR: That IS great.
JH: Because the community that we’re a part of is just so amazing – I mean people just have no idea. (chuckles)
JR: Absolutely, absolutely. So what’s next? You clearly have, like I said, a bunch of irons on the fire. Any of them that you’d care to pull out and have us bask in the glow of?
JH: Well, I AM working on two collaborative anthology projects. I have the From the Dark Side anthology, which is a charity anthology. I have a bunch of people who are submitting work. We’re going to put the anthology together and sell it through Amazon and Smashwords, and if it does well I would like to actually put it out in print as well. We’ve had some amazing people who are just willing to give their stuff over and we’re going to donate all of the proceeds from the sales to the Letters and Light organization which is affiliated with the National November is Writing Month forums.
JR: Which organization was that?
JH: Letters and Light. It’s a charity that helps promote creative writing in classrooms for kids.
JR: Cool. Excellent.
JH: So there’s that that I’m working on, and I’m also working on the Farrago anthology, which is another charity sort of anthology. It’s not as official, but my friend Michael Bekemeyer, who is a filmmaker, needs to raise money so he can actually put his film vision into the works. So, I mentioned it on Twitter: “Hey, would you guys be willing to donate a story to this anthology so we can help Michael raise money for his film project?” And I was just blown away by the amount of people who came out and were like, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” And, I mean, by the end of that day I had so many e-mails from people who wanted to help Michael out – people that didn’t even know him – that it just blew my mind!
JR: Awesome. Well, I am definitely looking forward to that. Give us your web site! How can we find you?
JH: You can find me at www.jennybeans.net.
JR: And that links to all your other projects?
JH: Oh yeah, yeah.
JR: Cool, well, definitely looking forward to seeing how these things develop. Thank you very much for talking to us!
JH: Thanks for having me!
Click below to hear the interview:
Music by Kevin MacLeod
Here’s a little suggestion I have for writers of fantasy and horror: fairies should be terrifying.
They are not your friends. They will not whisk you away to a wondrous magical land where you’ll never grow old and you can play happily in golden fields and under the lollipop trees for eternity. What they’re more likely to do is snatch you away to a horrifying, twisted nightmare realm where the flow of time and the continuity of space are utterly subjective.
There’s been a trend lately, you see, to put the Grimm back into fairy tales and I’m all for it, to tell you the truth. Why? Because it makes for much better stories.
Let’s face it. Stories are much more interesting when the main character suffers torment. Fairy creatures can potentially represent as much torment as you could ever need. These are beings with completely alien mindsets who act largely on whim. They’re pretty much madness incarnate.
Dark fairy creatures make some of the best antagonists. This is why so many people have been showing an interest in the versions of fairy tales that were told by the Brothers Grimm. For all its cheese, this is why the movie Labyrinth worked as well as it did. This is why I keep hearing so many people are applauding the new version of White Wolf’s Changeling RPG and saying that it’s superior in presentation to the iteration that came before it. This is also why Jennifer Hudock’s podcast novel Goblin Market is getting such good word-of-mouth.
Dark fairy creatures are awesome.
Of course, this is something people knew long before the Brothers Grimm came around. Shakespeare presented King Oberon and Queen Titania as forces of nature that are quite content to meddle in human affairs – and in some cases transform them partially into donkeys. The old Celtic and Germanic fairy tales had a plethora of tiny magical folk – and indeed, larger magical folk – who were anything but benevolent. You really don’t have to dig very deep to find references to fairy creatures with less than pure intentions. Even the Wikipedia article on fairies makes a nice jumping-off point.
The reason these kinds of beings make good antagonists is that they can instantly (and for the writer, conveniently) embody all manner of psychological trauma. A.N. Wilson posited an interesting thought in the UK’s Daily Mail – the idea that the original purpose of fairy tales was to help children understand the kinds of fearsome things they may have to face in life. Not actual child-eating crones or anthropomorphic wolf-men, necessarily, but complex interpersonal situations with strangers, friends and families – especially families of the dysfunctional variety. When it comes down to it, some people are crazy and some are downright bastards. Fairy creatures have a level of mutability that lets them very neatly personify the kind of distress anyone might suffer when being forced to deal with the issues of those individuals.
Need a horrifying, murderous glutton? Hire a redcap. Want a massive, thuggish bully? Ogres and trolls both do well in a pinch. Want to show how a passion to tinker with things can lead to massive destruction? Just snatch up half a dozen goblins, wind them up and watch them go. If you use fairy creatures in a story then the darker and more twisted they are, the more interesting and significant the tale can be. The results rarely fail to please.