JM Frey

thewriterjess

JM holds a Masters of Communications Culture from Ryerson and York Universities, as well as a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts from Brock University and a minor in Classical Mythology. She specializes in fanthropology: the study of media audiences and fans. She also appears in several documentaries and radio shows speaking on this topic. JM is also a professionally trained actor, voice actor, an award-winning vocalist, and a published poet and science fiction author.

Album Review: Victor Sierra’s “The Manchurian Pass”

Album Review: Victor Sierra’s “The Manchurian Pass”

I am very happy to once again have the privilege of filling my head with the glorious sounds of my Parisian friends The Legendary Converted Princess, Big Machine, and Commander Bob a.k.a. the marvelous steampunk band Victor Sierra.

Their fourth album – take that in! four albums – was released earlier this month, and it is yet another wonderful, fantastical jaunt into the realms of alterverses, distant planets, and eternal social struggles.

I’m a storyteller at heart, and what I love best about Victor Sierra’s albums is that enjoyed individually, each song has a tale to tell – a disenfranchised defector, the crashlanding of a spaceship crew on a distant planet populated with the statues of long-dead fantastical creature, the cry of a woman in this age of Fake News – but taken together, the whole album has an overarching narrative to relay.

This time the intrepid crew of their ‘punked up airship the Hydrogen Queen has travelled off world, and into realms of bizarre bazzars, aborted missions, and strange realms.

What I have always liked best about Victor Sierra is how distinctive their music sounds – not just among other industrial rock groups, but other steampunk bands as well: Vaguely atonal, always just a bit uncomfortable, deliberately off-beat in places, voices honest. There is nothing pretty, or pre-packed, or overly engineered about their sound. Victor Sierra is not a slick, shiney fabricated music with autotuned voices, poppy sounds and insipid lyrics.

They dare to sound exact as they are – raw, authentic, cobbled-together. This is Maker-Space sound. This is what the beating heart in the clockwork chest of Steampunk sounds like.

And yet, this time around, while the songs absolutely still sound like Victor Sierra, the melodies are fresh, and this album infinitely hummable. I will admit, there’s nothing I like more in a song than my ability to sing it later all by myself!

We open the album with Visitors, which is an apt title for the theme-setting song of the narrative of discovering the new and the weird.  I especially like the chugging backbeat of this song because it sounds like the train featured on the cover and sets the pace for the rest of the album – relentless, sometimes exhausted, sometimes triumphant, but all about what it means to keep going, keep going, keep going at all costs.

My favourite has to be Track Four – “Arguments & Facts”, featuring Mark Rossmore. It’s framed as a woman refusing to bend to the pressures of her society – and as a steampunk world we can imagine what sorts of issues she must face – but is also a scathing critique of modern media, fake-news sharing culture, and Google Science.

The lyrics are:

 

PAIN RUNNING ‘ROUND MY BRAIN ALL DAY
I MUST GET A GRIP ON MYSELF
THEY WANT ME TO THINK THE SAME OLD WAY
AND LEAVE MY SENSES ON THE SHELF

I’D LIKE TO FLEE THIS KINGDOM OF ENNUI
AND SPEAK WITH THE MASTER OF CLOCKS
WE’D FIGHT OVER THE THEORY
AND SPEND EVERY NIGHT ON THE DOCKS

SUSTAINING A NEVER ENDING INNER FIGHT
WHILE VERITY IS FADING AWAY
SOME PRETEND TO BE BEACONS IN THE NIGHT
STRUTTING WITH VERY LITTLE TO SAY

ARGUMENTS AND FACTS / INTELLECT VS QUACKS
BETTER USE YOUR NEURONS AND SYNAPSES TO THE MAX
ARGUMENTS AND FACTS

THEY CHOSE NEW SPINELESS KINGS TO ENTHRONE
IT’S A CORNERSTONE OF THE BOHO’S ROUTINE
I DRINK TO THE SPIRIT OF THE UNKNOWN
EVEN THOUGH THEY PUT ME IN QUARANTINE

SOMETIMES TALKING TAKES SUCH A HEAVY TOLL
SOMETIMES I’M LOSING CONTROL

My only critique is that I do wish there had been one or two ballads where the relentless pace of the chugging machine had slowed for a few minutes. But maybe that’s the point.

In this modern world, we all have our side hustle, our crazy schedules, our personal and societal battles, or ideals and convictions. And Victor Sierra gives us the soundtrack for fighting the good fight.

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I was provided a copy of The Manchurian Pass by the band for review purposes.

 

JM FreyAlbum Review: Victor Sierra’s “The Manchurian Pass”
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?

This is a question I see a lot from new writers – “Yeah, sure, I want to write a book, but everyone knows that the real money is in screen adaptations. How do I get that?”

The answer (take it from someone who has had a few close calls) is “not easily.” It can happen, but it is a very long process, with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, and nothing that you can control until you are already a multi-billionaire who can afford to pay other people to adapt your work as a vanity project. (And even then, you still have to convince a team that your property is going to make them money for them to make it and distribute it.)

So, first things first –if you’re writing a book solely on the hope that someone will turn it into a movie/TV show, I would encourage you to consider that maybe you should be expending your energy on screenwriting instead of novel writing. If that’s where your heart lies, then follow that!

If your heart is still set on the idea of writing a novel, then I’m happy to outline the steps that a book takes from page to screen.

  • Write a novel.
    1. No, seriously.
    2. Write it. Finish it. Edit it. Polish it.
    3. People don’t license adaptation rights for unfinished works/ideas unless you are very, very famous and a proven cash cow. You wanna sell a thing? It generally has to be a FINISHED thing.
  • From the minute you write that novel, you own the copyright on the Intellectual Property (IP) of the world, characters, individual and particular details of the novel. In Canada, you don’t need to register it, but I believe you may in the USA.
  • Publish the book.
    1. You can self-publish it, or go the traditional route.
    2. The book has to be published, or filmmakers will never know it exists. Again, you need to prove that you can finish a thing, and they need the whole story to know what they’re agreeing to. Usually the whole SERIES, if there’s more than one.
  • When you publish a book with a publisher, they will not be buying your book, but paying you in royalties (and maybe advanced royalties if you’re lucky) for the right to license your IP and create a product called “a book” out of it.
    1. There will be subclauses for “a print book” and “an ebook”.
    2. There may also be subclauses for an “audiobook” if the publisher has an attached audio production house and/or is willing to shell out to get it made.
    3. Most indie publishers do not have the money to make an audiobook, and won’t take the rights for that.
      1. In this case you can either pitch it to a house or produce or pay to/make it yourself.
  • HOWEVER, publishers are not production studios and 99.99% of the time will NOT ask for further rights.
    1. Though they may include a clause saying they get to participate in negotiations for those dramatic adaptation rights for your IP.
    2. If they do ask for more rights, consult your i) agent, ii) lawyer, or iii) a friend in the biz to make sure it’s all on the up-and-up.
    3. Again, most indie/small press publishers won’t even bother including a clause regarding dramatic adaptation because they have no connections and no intention to pitch it around for you.
  • Once the book is out in the world either:
    1. An interested party will contact you/your agent (acquisitions folks read review mags and sites all the time), or
    2. The Entertainment Lawyer/Agent at your literary agency will pitch the IP to production houses, or
    3. You the author will start pitching it to production houses/creators, or
    4. You the author will decide to write the screenplay and produce the whole production out of pocket. (In which case, skip down to the celebration part of the list).
  • If A, B, or C: in the event that you get a bite, the interested party (it could be an agent, an actor, a director, a producer, a screenwriter, etc.) will enter into negotiations with you/your agent for the rights to license your IP for a screen adaptation.
  • Like the publisher, the company/individual petitioning for the right to adapt your IP for the screen will arrange to pay you for the right to do so. Generally this comes in three segments – an Option, a Greenlighting Fee, and a Back End Deal.
    1. An Option is a set amount of money that the interested party agrees to pay you annually for exclusive access to your IP and your promise that you won’t sell it out from under them while they work to amass funding/interest/cast and crew to create the adaptation. Basically, they’re paying you to have exclusive right to use your IP, when they get around to it
      1. An option is not a guarantee that the production will be made – people lose interest, funding falls through, studios change hands, screenwriters quit, etc.
      2. But it’s a way for interested parties to ensure that you don’t go wandering away with the IP while they work to contract a screenwriter, audition actors, ask for funding money, and build sets/costumes, and basically revv up to make the thing.
      3. Not every creator gets an Optioning Fee, and sometimes there’s a statute of limitations – i.e. after 10 years, if it still isn’t made and you’ve collected 10 option fees, then you get to take your toys and go elsewhere with them. This is actually good for you, because it makes the interested parties be serious and not just buy your IP to sit on it.
    2. A Greenlighting Fee is a percentage of the budget as it stands when the production is ‘greenlit’ that is gifted to you as a thank you when the production begins.
      1. Not every creator gets a Greenlighting fee, and the percentage changes.
    3. A Backend Deal is a percentage of the box office/merch profits you receive as a royalty after the production has been paid off, and the cast/crew paid out.
      1. Not every creator gets a Backend Deal, and the percentage changes.
  • Once that contract is negotiated between you and the interested party, you can make additions like asking to be the screenwriter (can be a good thing, can be a not good thing), asking to be on set, asking to be in the writing room for a series, asking for input on casting, or to be the story consultant.
    1. Be aware that the interested party can say no. If you don’t like that, then you have to decide if you want to license it to them anyway and remain hands-off, or if you’d like to cancel the deal.
    2. They may ask you to compromise – if you have no prior experience in screenwriting, which is a very different beast, they may pair you with a pro. Or if you don’t know how productions are made, what an on-set script supervisor is or a writing room is, etc. then they may pair you with a teacher-buddy. It’s not an insult. It’s just to make sure you have a support system when new stuff gets tossed at you.
    3. They may say yes. Make sure you really, really, really know what you’re agreeing to.
  • Assuming everything goes well, and you/your agent ink a deal you’re happy with, then an announcement will be made that the screen adaptation is in the works!
    1. Yay!
    2. Productions falter or get trapped in pre-production hell. This is STILL not a guarantee that it will actually happen.
    3. But you have a greater chance now!
  • The production company/ interested party will then get onto the business of sourcing funding, hiring actors, hiring a screenwritier, etc.
    1. You may or may not be consulted in this.
      1. They may really want you there, and really want your involvement.
      2. They may really have a vision of their own and don’t want your input. You need to be ready to just take your money and butt out, if it comes to that.
  • In the meantime? Write something else.
    1. Seriously.
    2. Distract yourself. Making films/TV shows takes YEARS.
    3. Other people might reach out to you interested in what else you may have to license when your first deal is announced. Make sure you have something when opportunity comes to knock!
  • Okay – so, contract signed, production in full swing, adaptation gets made! Yay! Celebration time! Enjoy the premiere!
    1. Oh god, wear comfortable heels. Red carpets are long, and you tip all over the place in stilettos cause the carpets can be squashy.
    2. There’s a photo of me falling on my face. It exists and I cannot make it unexist.
  • You still own the IP.
    1. Unless you signed it away.
    2. Read everything you sign very thoroughly.
  • Start over!

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Got a question about the craft or business of writing? Ask it here.

Read other Words for Writers blog posts here.

 

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Think Up New Ways To Promote Books?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Think Up New Ways To Promote Books?

A fellow author James Bow asks: Where do you get your ideas for promoting your work?

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One of the mantras of marketing your novels, especially in genre work, is Know Your Audience.

That is, to know who they are. Know their demographics. Know their age. Know their gender, sexuality, average spend on books, and what they like to read in terms of comparable titles and preferred tropes.

But I would argue that it’s not enough to simply know the audience – you need to know where they live, too.

Now, I don’t mean in a stalkery sense. Don’t, you know, go to their houses and stare in their bathroom windows as they try to read in the tub.

I mean – know where they live on the internet.

Build a profile of your “Everyfolk” by looking at a slice of your reviewership. Where do they post reviews of your work? What do they like best about it? What other interests can you glean from their profiles? Do they have social media accounts? What do they talk about most on those accounts? And most importantly… where do other people like them learn about new books and fandoms to buy and read and love?

As an example…

If I were a writer of cottage-cozy mysteries, I might look at the lives of ten of my reviewers (making sure, of course, not to pick my own family or friends). In looking at those reviewers let’s pretend I build an Everyfolk profile that says on average my reviewers, and thus my readership, learns about my novels from my personal newsletter and a still-active Yahoo-Group about mysteries with protagonists like mine, spends a lot of time on Facebook primarily, and has side interests in baking strange pinterest recipes.

Maybe I write modern contemporary queer YA romance, and my Everyfolk spends a lot of time on Wattpad and Tapas, loves funny memes on Tumblr, and really only uses Twitter to yell at Trump and the NRA.

Maybe I write superhero novels, and my Everyfolk knows the MCU backwards and forwards, posts long blistering meta critiques of Netflix shows on their instagram accounts, and worships a handful of freelance illustrators who have a side hustle doing commissions work at comic conventions, or illustrating scenes from their fave fics as gifts.

And if you can’t find this information from your online research, then you know, you can just ask them.

Once you have your profile, then you can figure out how to reach these different Everyfolk where they live. And once you know that, you can think of all the ways to catch their attention.

The Everyfolk Cozy Mystery readers will be attracted to ads on Facebook, or promo codes and sales through your newsletter, or offered to their Yahoo Group. But you know what might actually really catch their attention – some kind of baking thing that ties in with your books. If they love baking, then engage them on that level. Make a series of videos where you speed-bake through one recipe per novel in the series (and hey, give the cake a neat twist, like making a lava cake where the chocolate inside is the color of blood).

For the Contemporary Queer YA Everyfolk, make ads on Twitter. Post part or all of the novel on Wattpad or Tapas (especially if it’s the first of a series.) but these are folks who like free, so do giveaways and contests for ARCs, too. And also make some fun internet quizzes, or meme-machines, or hop on the most recent meme-wagon and do some stuff adjacent to your book. (@DrunkAusten is a great account to follow for examples of these sorts of memes).

For the Superhero Novel Everyfolk, advertise your books on Instagram, and learn how to use some of the many fun plug-ins to animate your book. Study the #Bookstagramer and #Shelfie images and recreate them with your own novels. But also consider commissioning some of your own art from those fantastic artists to get your characters in front of the reader’s eyes – even better, combine it with some sort of promocode or giveaway.

The point is this – engage your readership in ways that they like to engage with one another.  And do it genuinely, too. Become a part of the community before you start to market yourself.

And don’t just ask them to create – don’t hold a fanfic, or cosplay, or art competition where they do all the work and you get all the free marketing as a result. That’s exploitation and frankly insulting. Throw your passions down in with theirs, show willing, and have fun. Offer something, instead of asking for something.

The goal here is create something that on the surface is nifty, fun, and has viral potential. But the secondary purpose, i.e. the B Plot, is actually marketing your books. (And before you release the thing, make sure your website is fully updated, because people will start Googling you if it’s successful. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down).

And if it doesn’t go viral and bring a lot of attention to your books, well then at least it was fun to do with a great new community of awesome folks, right?

Right!

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Think Up New Ways To Promote Books?
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“Triptych” has gone STRANGE!

“Triptych” has gone STRANGE!

There’s something STRANGE happening today!

Fuse Literary Inc., my literary agency and the publishers of the “Fuse” line of books (including Short Fuse – through which two of my works have been published) has announced a brand new imprint:

To celebrate, what better day to announce the creation of Fuse’s all-new Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror imprint than on Star Wars Day: MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU!

 

And to make the launch of Strange Fuse even more dynamite, Fuse is releasing four – yes, FOUR – titles today!

The Creature’s Cookbook

The Gophers of High Charity Wishes Folded Into Fancy Paper

And, of course…

Yes! That’s right! Triptych is back!

It’s been a while, but my debut novel has returned to print, this time in an Author’s Cut edition, with a stunning all-new cover (thanks Rodney V. Smith & Adrienne Kress!), and with some new never-before-in-print material.

You can pick up your copy of the book in eBook, Paperback and Hardcover.

 

And one last announcement… I’ve made what is perhaps a foolish wager with creature and cook Simon Alkenmayer. So to help save my soul – or at least my bank account because I’ve promised to buy Simon some really top quality “Canadian Blood” a.k.a. genuine maple syrup if I lose, and that stuff ain’t cheap – please consider pick up a copy of Triptych in the next three months, and leave a review on Amazon/GoodReads/Your Blog/anywhere you can!

May the Fourth Be with you all, and a very big welcome to STRANGE FUSE!

See you all tomorrow afternoon at my Urban Book Club live AMA!

(2:30pm EST.)

JM Frey“Triptych” has gone STRANGE!
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