Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Ron Martinez

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Ron Martinez, is Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Invention Arts. His primary focus is on [aerbook], a web-based publishing and marketing platform that helps books and potential readers find one another on the social web (www.aerbook.com). Ron is a prolific inventor, with close to a hundred and fifty issued patents and patent applications currently in flight. He brings a combination of, technical, creative, intellectual property development and management, design, and strategic and operational business experience to his work at Invention Arts, and finds that his initial interest in computing as an expressive medium continues to define his agenda.

His introduction to the medium was in the mid-80′s, when he was an aspiring novelist in New York, writing YA adventure books, contributing to humor anthologies, writing comics for Heavy Metal and other publications–anything to put food on the table. A book packager asked him to adapt an Arthur C. Clarke novel, Rendezvous with Rama, to graphic adventure format, perhaps the first major author’s works to be so adapted. Taken with the expressive possibilities of the medium, Ron taught himself to program software and built an interactive fiction system, and went on to use that and enhancements to it, as well as entirely new systems, to write interactive fiction, original murder mysteries, political simulations, and other titles for publishers like Simon & Schuster, Spinnaker, Philips Interactive Media, Electronic Arts, and others. By the mid-90′s he was deeply interested in the design of story-rich, massively multiplayer online games. His game 10Six was one of the first of these, a social/tribal million player game published and operated by Sega. (Though built in the late 90′s, it continues to thrive as an indie game at ProjectVisitor.com. 10six introduced ownable, transactable virtual goods for the first time, a technology Ron was awarded a foundational patent for in 2001. Virtual goods models have since emerged as a dominant form of commerce for social networks and social games.

Prior to his current work at Invention Arts, Ron worked for a number of years as Vice President, Intellectual Property Innovation for Yahoo! There he designed and built the IP Innovation function which over a four year period delivered high volume targeted, patentable IP and productizable innovation. He also initiated Yahoo!’s content IP asset management and operations program, implementing a global, real-time rights infrastructure called Rights Engine.

His interests include invention techniques; the evolution of books and the current reimplementation of the publishing industry, intellectual property strategy; content rights; content IP and social distribution; electronic payments; virtual property; online payments; networked games; educational software; social media; social media advertising and marketing; social media monetization; mobile media; media metadata; media sharing and reuse; media remixing; and distributed media production.

It was from Ron’s announcement of Aerbook that I learned of his work.  I was very excited as soon as I began exploring this project, because it launched just as I have been thinking about the implications of publishing as a social endeavor in the digital universe.  Aerbook in fact is created around the notion of book as a multi-channel conversation between writers and readers, and I think it demonstrates concretely how powerfully publishing can be re-imagined.  Ron’s experience as a writer who has mastered the skills and tools of software development and storytelling in a digital environment also brings forward the changes in how writers can work in this new environment.  I hope you will find this discussion as interesting and thought provoking as it was for me talking to Ron Martinez.  I think we are just now seeing the true beginnings of a “modern” form of publishing that will in fact expand the reach of writers and change their relationships with readers for the good of all.

Paul De Angelis: Dear Mrs. Kennedy, The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963

September 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-0312386153 – St. Martin’s Press – Hardcover – $19.99 (also available as an e-book at $9.99)

Are there more books about the Kennedys than about the Lincolns?  I don’t know, but I am certain that there are many of them and my guess is that many who lived through the Kennedy era and many who did not, may feel they know everything they need to know about the Kennedys, JFK and Jackie, and the rest of the family.  Reading this book may well change their minds.

In fact it’s a wonderful window into the heart and soul of America and in fact the world in the period just after the assassination of JFK in Dallas in November, 1963.  Now almost a half century beyond that time, these letters, written by the famous and the ordinary, old and young, depict a period of extreme pain, emotional and social disruption, grief, sorrow, and disbelief that affected an incredible number of people all over the world.  It gives us an opportunity to understand a great deal about how human beings respond to a devastating public tragedy.  And some of the letters are simply beautiful, and transcendent in their expression of sympathy and emotion.

The story of the letters themselves is amazing – over 1 million condolence letters, notes and cards were sent to Jacqueline Kennedy in the months after the death of JFK.  They were filed away and saved for many years, and despite a controversial culling in the 1980′s, there are still almost 400,000 letters, now cataloged and available for historians and journalists and the public to read and  review.  Editors Jay Mulvaney (who sadly passed away while working on this book) and subsequently Paul De Angelis, have given us a wonderful narrative and selection of letters that uses the words of the original writers to bring this terrible period in our history to life in an unusual and compelling tapestry of voices.

Paul De Angelis is a freelance editor and writer who lives in rural Connecticut.  He’s been an editor, editorial director and editor-in-chief for a number of publishers.   In our conversation about Dear Mrs. Kennedy, he talks about the process of putting this book together and highlights a number of the most interesting stories and letters in the book.  For readers who lived through the 1960′s, this book will bring back many difficult emotions, and for readers for whom this is only history, these letters can bring the events of that period to life in a very powerful and compelling way, as the writers of these letters always speak from their hearts.  You can see more from the book at Paul’s own website.

Full disclosure: the co-editor of this book, Paul De Angelis is a friend and occasional colleague, which does not make this book any less worth reading, of course.

Nicole Helget: The Turtle Catcher

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

978-0547248004 – Mariner Books – paperback – $13.95 (also available as an e-book)

I found this book, written by an author I had never heard of before, by doing something very old fashioned: browsing in a bookstore.  There are many forms of discovery, but finding a book you want to read in a store is still a great pleasure.  And when you take it home and start reading it, and find out you made a lucky choice to read an exceptionally fine novel, that is a true and deeply rewarding experience.

I was surprised to learn that The Turtle Catcher is Nicole Helget’s first novel – she doesn’t write like a first novelist at all.  The opening of this novel is absolutely perfect, and is beautifully written, setting the tone for a complicated, very often painful, but also engrossing story.  Helget’s novel is mystical and magical, but these moments of “magical realism” where she enters another plane counterpoint brilliantly with the almost plainspoken story she has to tell about immigrant families in a German-American community in rural Minnesota in the early 20th century.  The book is set in the now little discussed period just before, during and after World War I, a time that was very complicated for communities of recently arrived immigrants from the old country, with Germany now the enemy of their new homeland.  The tensions within the town provide a taut backdrop for Helget’s for the focus of her story.

The author weaves together the lives of two families living on adjoining farms in the small town of New Germany, Minnesota.  Liesel Richter and Lester Sutter are at the core of the book, along with their fathers and deeply suffering mothers, and what happens to Lester, told brilliantly and painfully in the opening scene of the book is the capstone to a long, rich story of families and communities, hidden wounds and deep suffering transformed into a kind of stoic transcendence Helget’s characters embrace, almost because it is all they are capable of doing in the face of such pain.

In The Turtle Catcher, Nicole Helget has created a multi-layered family story whose characters inhabit (and illustrate for readers) a specific place and time, but as with all great novels, through their story, they are transformed into something deeply moving and powerful.  I really loved this novel, and will read it again, I am sure.

I wanted to talk to Nicole about the emotional content of the book, how she came to create this novel (it started with a short story), and discuss some of the complexities of her really wonderfully drawn characters.  I think we succeeded in exploring this writer’s work in a really interesting conversation I hope will encourage readers to seek this novel out and read it for themselves.  I do think Nicole Helget is a terrific writer, someone whose work I am deeply gratified to have discovered.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Peter Brantley

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Peter Brantley is the Director of the Bookserver Project at the (totally cool) Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based not for profit library. He contributes regularly to several blogs on libraries and publishing, discussing transformations in media and information access. He serves on the board of the International Digital Publishing Forum, the standards setting body for digital books. Peter has significant experience with academic research libraries and digital library development programs, and was previously the Executive Director of the Digital Library Federation, a not for profit membership organization of research and national libraries.

As Peter pointed out to me recently, the word “rant” is a part of his name.  So we could expect him to have something interesting to say about almost any subject related to books and the digital landscape.  I think that comes across well in our talk.  He brings to bear his experience as a librarian but also has a broad perspective on many subjects simply because he pays attention to so many ideas and developments across a wide spectrum of subject areas and interest groups.  We had a lot of fun talking together, and hope listeners will enjoy our talk as well.

I am happy to say that this is the 100th post on Writerscast, a milestone of sorts, I suppose.

Avery Aames: The Long Quiche Goodbye

September 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

978-0425235522 – Berkley – Mass Market Paperback Original – $7.99 (also available as an ebook 978-1101188644 at $6.99)

I don’t often read mysteries, but a few weeks ago, right in the middle of summer, the season for entertaining novels (often known as “beach reads”) I decided to give this novel a try.  The tongue-in-cheek title first caught my attention, and I really liked the unusual setting for the novel (small town Ohio) and the quirky but very believable cast of characters.  So The Long Quiche Goodbye is definitely a fun read but not just a throwaway summer book.  Avery Aames is a good writer and she has deft with her creation and handling of characters.

As I mentioned, I am not a steady reader of mysteries, so I may not be as experienced as some are with the various forms and formats of mysteries – they do fall into a set of recognizable patterns, I know.  In The Long Quiche Goodbye, our main character is Charlotte Bessette, the proprietor of the family owned cheese shop called Fromagerie Bessette, in the small town of Providence, Ohio.  At the gala re-opening of the store after a full scale renovation and modernization, the store’s landlord (whom we already know not to like) is found stabbed to death with one of the store’s knives, and Charlotte’s grandmother is the prime suspect.

We’re off from there, with a full cast of local characters, friends, family, police, and a couple of other prime suspects in town to make things interesting.  And it’s Charlotte who takes the lead in finding out who the real killer must be, as clearly, she feels (and we come to feel as well) that it could not have been her wonderful grandmother (who is the Mayor of the town!)

Avery Aames had a lot of fun writing The Long Quiche Goodbye, I think, and her pleasure and involvement with her characters comes across in the way she writes their story.  I also had a great time talking to her about this well written book, her work as a writer, and the next books in the series that this book inaugurates.  It looks like this series will be successful, and deservedly so – this first in the “Cheese Shop Mysteries” is already a national bestselling mystery novel.  You can visit Avery’s website to learn more.