Story Research Made Awesome (Self Publishing Podcast #150)
The dreaded “R” word, the one task that sends some writers away screaming just at the mention of it—RESEARCH. Do you shy away from research? Do you hate it? Do you avoid writing certain yarns in your story garden just because you’re paralyzed by the gobs of research you know you’ll have to suffer through? Or, on the flip side, do you love and embrace a deep and wondering investigation, so much so that you may never get around to actually writing anything?
Either way, this episode may be just what you need. It’s fascinating to see how Johnny, Sean, and Dave see research in a very different light, and how researching a story may not be nearly as scary as you think.
And, even if you don’t care about research as a topic, this episode is worth listening to just to hear Dave’s giddy ayahuasca jokes!
Here’s the video version:
Show Episode Transcript
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Welcome to the Self Publishing Podcast, where if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself and now here are your hosts, the three guys who had ewoks on the forest moon of Endor, Johnny, Sean, and Dave.
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to the Self publishing Podcast, the Podcast that follows three full item authors as we attempt to change the face of Indie publishing. Join us and our trail blazing guests as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment, and occasionally screw up. I’m Johnny B. Truant and my co-hosts are Sean Platt and Guy Fiare. Thanks for joining us everybody.
Sean: Fuck you die. Dave looks very neat maybe, for a guy who woke up…
Johnny: I like that you hesitate on neat, like it’s not a complex adjective you are looking- neat?
Sean: Right, but I don’t want to offend him and you never know what’s going to send him off.
Johnny: No, it actually is a good look, like I’m just– it’s just so different, it is a good look though.
Dave: No it isn’t.
Johnny: No, I think it is a good look.
Sean: I think it a good look too, it’s pretty boss.
Dave: Weighing on Dave’s look everybody.
Sean: But we are talking I think less than five minutes because he got on straight up at the hour and I don’t think he had been up five minutes yet so.
Dave: I was up long enough to take a shower, yeah, I went got a haircut. It’s- I’ll tell the story on BOU I guess.
Sean: I thought we were having a BOU.
Johnny: Any problems with your cut today? Okay.
Sean: You are talking with your hat, how about with my son, is my son annoying you?
Johnny: Oh, good stuff, good stuff. So we’ll do our cool things and so forth, but today we don’t have a guest and this is my inspiration even though it will sound like it was Dave’s idea. I thought it would be kind of interesting to do a show on research, but not in the way that it makes you run screaming, not in like well that sucks, research sucks, not in a Unicorn Western I’m not going to do it way, but in ways to be awesome way, but it should satisfy everyone.
Dave: [Inaudible] [00:02:29]
Sean: Yeah, no I actually we’ll talk about this when we get to the topic, no you said getting to the topic early, no jinx.
Johnny: No, that would be crazy. Anything new for you guys? Just in general, just in general, anything new? Any new self publishing landmarks or anything?
Sean: Well, I am– this is not something awesome right? This is just something like what’s up.
Johnny: Yeah, like how’s 12 going or what’s I don’t know, Dave’s over there laughing, he think this whole line of questioning is ridiculous. Why would we talk about our books in self publishing?
Dave: [Inaudible] [00:02:56] for people and you are going right to me.
Sean: So we a right now…
Dave: We should get a routine?
Johnny: Either of you, either of you.
Sean: Well, Dave just finished his next pass on 12 and now I’m on 12 and as soon as I finish with 12, this is probably the most bottle necked.
Johnny: Oh my God.
Sean: Ever, right, this is my…
Johnny: It looks like a 70 hour week.
Sean: Yeah, it’s been really hard but the way it felt, we have something really awesome that we can’t talk about yet.
Johnny: No, ding, take the drink.
Sean: That’s going on with 12 that require us to have the draft done like two week ago, and then we have Contact which is doing really well in pre-orders, I’m very pleased to say…
Johnny: Doing well in preorders on all the platforms, not just Amazon.
Sean: Yeah, it’s stacking up and that’s really exciting but it also means cool, we have an immovable date there too.
Dave: That’s your problem; you should not have promised anybody anything.
Johnny: Well, before Sean continues with the story let me just add a very important piece of information. If you haven’t done pre-orders on Amazon, they you know, Amazon– like I love Amazon but they do, they don’t trust us, you know what I mean, like they are clearly you Indies, you know you guys and so they, there is a ten day, it’s like you are buying a hand gun right, like it’s a ten day waiting period, so they lock you out of your pre-order, ten days before it publishes.
So Contact publishes on April 9th and so we don’t need to have it done by April 9th through April 8th, through April 7th, it needs to be done by March 30th, you know the minute it’s March 30th and they are kind of bitchy about it, like they are just like you will lose pre-order for a year if you miss this deadline and there was one that had no– My Step Brother the Groom, the Lexi title had no pre-orders and we had to literally just had to put it up, it literally just went live and we decided to do an Apple exclusive pre-order.
So we want to cancel it but you go, don’t you cancel that pre-order, everybody will be refunded and you will not get pre-order for a year, and so we contacted support and they said yeah, go ahead and do it and so I said you will not get pre-order for a year and I cancelled it, and they said you are fucked on pre-order for a year and then I got and email saying, it was like a passive aggressive mother.
Sean: It was so passive aggressive, it was so area.
Johnny: It’s like we’ve cancelled your pre-order as you requested, but just so you know you are naughty-naughty and we’ll never get to do it again if you must. So anyway that’s the end of the– you can continue with the story but my point is we are compressed because of them, because we need to beat that deadline.
Sean: Yeah, it is pretty cool on our other pre-order, on Apple where they put a pre-order for Step Brother of the Groom, which sampled chapters which could be downloaded immediately with links to buy the book just; they understand funnels there which is kind of awesome. Anyhow, yeah, we are really compressed on this, we need to get Contact done and we need to get 12 done and there are just back to back to back, and last week I was gone most of the week at a mastermind and so I get that…
Dave: Forget about that cult meeting.
Sean: Right and so it’s been like really, really compressed and then I get back this week and I had to had a ton of stuff to do over the weekend and then you know, getting ready for 12 and Actually last week I was finishing editing Contact, and so what I have ready to go is the polish. I’m finishing 12 while Johnny does another pass on Contact, and then I’m going to switch off tomorrow and start on that and this is my kid’s spring break so basically…
Johnny: And I was going to be coming by for a South by Southwest but did not.
Sean: I’m glad that didn’t happen actually, like I was– Johnny told me he couldn’t come to South by and I was really disappointed, I thought oh, that’s too bad because there was something that specifically I wanted to brainstorm right immediately coming back from the mastermind and…
Dave: [Inaudible] [00:07:04] no ideas.
Sean: Do I ever have enough ideas? Do you think I’m just going to be like, I’m done? Hey stop waiting.
Dave: He’s going out to get– he’s going out to get more ideas and then listening to audio books on getting more words.
Sean: Yes, that’s exactly right. So-
Dave: More heroine, more heroine.
Sean: So yeah, so it’s just been, it’s just been really dumb.
Dave: That’s what this feel like.
Sean: Really-really-really heavy-heavy schedule, but again it’s really awesome and actually that ties in to my something awesome that I’ll talk about in a moment.
Johnny: Why don’t you talk about it now, unless anybody has anything to add.
Sean: Well it’s okay, there is two things here, first of all there is something awesome isn’t that I lied, that’s in another sequence that I want to do called what the fuck is up with Amazon, so but there is something awesome there. But my something awesome is I don’t know, have you guys heard of Meerkat?
Johnny: Meerkat, it’s an animal.
Dave: It’s an app.
Sean: Yeah, Dave’s got it, the app. So-
Johnny: No, it’s an animal, come on man.
Dave: It is not only an animal.
Sean: Have you guys had of Five Nights with Freddy?
Johnny: No that’s your Friday night.
Dave: Is it not that fight finger Freddy?
Sean: So Meerkat is apparently some app and I think we are going to give this a try at the summit next month. Oh and by the way the summit is sold out, yeee [Inaudible] [00:08:29].
Johnny: I think Amy should get that round of applause.
Sean: Round of applause to Amy Schubert. So Meerkat was apparently the big thing at South by Southwest this last weekend, and it’s a twitter app where I think you stream live video using twitter. I don’t really understand it, but I’m hearing a lot of buzz about it and I think that it’s kind of a cool way to tweet some of that cool things that happen at the summit in a really natural way because I think, for Johnny and I most the social media stuff really still confounds us, but twitter is easy so I want to check that out.
Dave: Isn’t that pretty much the definition of South by South west? I don’t understand it, but there is a lot of buzz about it so.
Johnny: And it can be cool for the sake of cool too. Why would you do that? I don’t know but it’s awesome.
Sean: Well, well I’ll tell you where I heard about it later you guys, but it seems interesting to me.
Dave: I know, it’s getting a lot of attention in the text circles that I follow, so I’m just busting your balls.
Sean: Yeah, that it’s like, I think that it’s just really-really easy to use, and it’s so naturally integrates with twitter and I don’t exactly know, but I think we are going to explore it at the summit. So anyway, anyone coming to the summit load Meerkat on your phones.
Johnny: No, does that mean I have to?
Sean: Yeah, I think you should. So Okay, so I’m going to talk about something awesome, but really I want to bitch about Amazon for a moment too, that something awesome is…
Dave: Hold on, let me get the gasoline and torch us so you can burn all of our bridges, go ahead.
Sean: Well actually, this is a specific bridge too.
Dave: Real good.
Johnny: No, I can’t wait; I hope it’s the one that you’ve burned so much that it is cinders by now.
Sean: Well okay, so I’m reading a book, it’s by Jim Henson and it’s called ‘Make Art Make Money’ and it’s interesting, like I really dig it, and it’s all about– have you read it?
Dave: No, I haven’t. I thought you’d stop there and not out me, but yeah I haven’t.
Sean: All right, well, there is a couple of interesting things about that I like quite a lot, I’m not that far into it maybe 30% and but it talks a lot about collaboration in ways that I really-really like, and how he really didn’t just want to do anything by himself because it wasn’t as much fun, like he just wanted to work with awesome people and he always thought that art was a lot better if there was more than one mind in the art even to the point where you know you would have, you know like Ralph the Muppet had like one person doing the head and one person doing the other part of his body, and that everything was really collaborative and I thought that was really interesting.
I though the outcome between making art and making money and the way he approached it was really-really interesting, and I’m really loving learning all about that. I also like that the dude was just a handshake guy. Like he’s like, I hate business and that the way Sterling and Stone is, like we are very much handshake guys and I love that, I relate to that. So I like the book itself, it’s very fact based, it’s interesting, tons of annotations, okay, but here the what are you thinking Amazon part. This was a kindle serial, all right.
Dave: [Inaudible] [00:11:53] on average I don’t mind.
Sean: This was a kindle serial, all right, if there is nothing serialized about this, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. I even think that in the right circumstances, non-fiction could be serialized, this is not a serial. This is the reason why serials failed, if this is the kind of– this is– to be fair this is the only other serial I’ve read other than ours in the serial program, but if this is a fair example like, oh my God, no wonder it failed, are you kidding me? It’s stuffed with annotations, it should not be serialized. If I was reading this live, I would be so annoyed waiting for the new ones and I didn’t like a cool cliff hanger kind of way, like oh I got it, I can’t wait for the next episode, but just like, really? You are breaking up my nonfiction book; I do not understand how this is.
I just fry, I cannot understand how this could be a serial and right now I’m on episode four and it actually say episode four and I’m like no, that’s a chapter, it’s not an episode, stop it. So I didn’t even know it was a serial when I started reading it until I opened it…
Dave: And that was your failing, clearly, that’s a serial.
Sean: There is this whole thing about, welcome to kindle serial, exciting way to– you know the whole pitch that you get with kindle serials and anyway I just can’t believe this is a serial and that is just there you go Amazon, that’s why kindle serials did not take off.
Dave: It’s your fault. We got comments.
Johnny: All right, let’s hear them.
Dave: You want comments?
Dave: All right, okay.
Sean: Are they about your guy [Inaudible] [00:13:37]?
Dave: James Thorn says, wow! Cool hair Dave, I think James is lying.
Johnny: Basically we’ve just swapped hair, I mean because I used to have that hair.
Sean: Oh, go get an apple? Can you take a picture biting an apple, please?
Dave: What is exactly used to be [Inaudible] [00:13:56].
Johnny: If I were to pat mine differently now I could probably have the old Dave hair.
Dave: Actually if you go to the hair dresser she can have the old Dave hair, there is like a whole floor full of it.
Sean: Why didn’t you collect it, we want pillows. You should make pillows out of your hair.
Dave: I’ll make it out of my pubic hair.
Sean: Okay, too far.
Dave: Dylan Perry says, Dave looks so fucking metal with that hair, I think a new author photo is called for. Kate Morgan says, holly cow, what happened to Dave’s hair. The anti-Dave or-
Johnny: Hold on Dave’s hair.
Dave: Is this what happens? Is this what happens when he gets past the wedding scene? Kate Morgan says, don’t promise anyone anything [Inaudible] [00:14:39] David Wright, talented and ugly, and Dylan Perry says, am I the only one who thought of this when David came on screen and I will share that with all of our video people, it is a Super Saiyan and go, so yeah so.
Johnny: Can we see that YouTube viral video that’s going around for a while about the lady who was saying that that she was going to go Super Saiyan on MacDonald’s or something.
Sean: Oh my God, in the MacDonald’s? Yes because they were out of nuggets or something, that thing was amazing.
Johnny: It’s fantastic.
Dave: That lady was my sister.
Sean: That was so fantastic; I showed that to my children, they couldn’t believe it, good stuff.
Johnny: I have a something cool that I actually stole from Sean; I’m just starting to steal from Sean now instead of stealing from Dave, because you see that’s tapped out like he needs to produce some more shit. Although we did get a– I won’t mention this, we did get some new covers, and we got Yesterday’s Gone cover, because everything that we’ve had done is been Sean and Johnny. So we got Yesterday’s Gone with Sean and Johnny as the authors and I was like, “Fuck yes, master plan complete.” No the something interesting is just another sort of multiplatform comment, that I have really noticed, I have noticed a lot on Apple, but it seems to be– I mean it’s obviously true anywhere else for obvious reasons is.
I’m noticing that– okay so Invasion is doing well everywhere, but it’s doing as well or better on other platforms than Amazon. I can’t help but get this really distinct feeling that I could be totally wrong about this, but it’s almost like I think there’s this whole big pool of KU people who aren’t buying, because they’ve already spent their KU money and it’s not in KU. It kind of makes me a little pissy about like Amazon readers as a whole, I mean like obviously the people who are buying our books are great, but those who aren’t I’m just kind of like…
Dave: Oh and get that gas back out, we’re going to burn all down.
Johnny: I’m just kind of like really-really like why because it should be like you would think it will better on Amazon, Amazon’s the juggernaut, but it does as well, it’s doing better on Apple and it’s doing as well on Nook and Kobo hasn’t, it hasn’t really taken off yet, but there’s a promo next week on that. It’s just it’s an interesting thing I think about the ecosystem of Amazon, where I think a lot of the buyers have kind of been trained, if they’re in KU to sort of like, “Okay, well I’m just going to go ahead and just get KU books,” which is a plus or a negative. But you know…
Sean: Well, one thing, I’ll say about Apple and Dave can roll his eyes at this I’m sure, but Apple like that’s kind of the reader that you want. If you think about the average Mac user right, these are people who have Apple devices, who have iBooks on their phone and already, like they’re used to paying a little bit more for stuff. They’re not as– they’re just not going to be as price conscious as probably the average Amazon reader. Now I know that’s a huge-huge generalization I get that, but I do think that we’re starting to see that bear out a little bit, with our own experience. And I’ve heard a couple of things also that support that, and I don’t know, I think that there’s such a glut of free stuff and unlimited stuff on Amazon that I think your average Amazon buyer is different than your average Apple buyer.
Johnny: Dave was tired of you talking about Apple, he split. So I’ll tell you my something cool and I’ll keep it kind of brief, just this is just another cool storytelling thing. So we talked a few times about it– and it’s another not new thing, so I think my last from a Big Hero 6 right. So like not a new movie, and it’s a movie, it’s entertainment, it’s not a tidbit, but you can take the Apple one if you have a problem with this and that’s it. I was reminded of it because Sean and his family just watch Edge of Tomorrow [crosstalk].
Sean: I like that.
Johnny: That movie I just love it, like I can’t help but appreciate it as a storyteller in addition to just thinking it’s awesome.
Sean: Because it did stuff that was really hard to do and it did it really well, and like I get off on that that’s, I mean that fractured timeline stuff I love and that could have been really complicated really confusing and it wasn’t, it was it was pretty slick and unique.
Johnny: Yeah I saw that. Did you see Edge of Tomorrow Dave?
Johnny: Did you like it?
Dave: It was all right.
Johnny: Oh Sean and I really liked it. Like you Sean I like Tom Cruise, I don’t care if he’s crazy, I think is awesome so.
Sean: Yeah me too, I saw Rain Man last night again, I haven’t seen that in like I don’t know 15 years.
Dave: I want to rewind to where you are just pissing all over Amazon, okay.
Johnny: I wasn’t pissing on Amazon.
Dave: Well I have a theory on why Invasion isn’t doing better there.
Johnny: Okay, well it’s not doing poorly by any means, but yes go ahead.
Dave: Okay but, I don’t think it’s that all the KU readers have used their money and now they’re not– I mean there’s some of that sure, it might even be more specific to certain genres. But I also think that the KU borrows and the stuff they help you with more with visibility, and you’re probably not as visible on Amazon, because you’re not getting the KU borrows. The KU borrows drive…
Sean: Yeah I agree with that.
Johnny: I think it’s a yeah it’s a combination, but it’s sort of a chicken and the egg thing, if you can’t– it’s the reason that I continually have a problem with Select, like I get it for a lot of authors but it’s the it’s the reason that I have a problem with it conceptually. Because you’re just you’re trapped, if you’re in that you’re trapped, because you’re counting on those borrows, and if you don’t get the borrows you’re not as visible and then you have to stay there and you can’t branch out. One of the things…
Dave: It’s like heroin.
Johnny: Just like heroin Amazon like heroin, David W. Wright. His Twitter handle if you want to have like a problem with that is [inaudible] [00:20:59].
Sean: Well it is like heroin where you’re always chasing that first high that you got on Select.
Johnny: What I was going to say is that one of the things that we’re noticing I did– there were two things recently that happened literally on the same day from the Realm and Sands site anyway, is we had a Book Pub promo on Fat Vampire on the box set, and then Invasion’s launch was the same day. So it got a lot of exposure, we got a lot of exposure; our company got a lot of exposure on other networks. One of the things that’s starting to happen slowly, but it is happening is we’re starting to see sales of titles that we never saw sales of before. So we’re seeing a real nice halo effect. Robot Proletariat ticks on, and we have a new cover for that too, so I think it’s going to do really well with a new cover, but like…
Sean: The new covers is awesome too.
Johnny: Robot Proletariat is selling on Apple, it’s selling on Nook, and we’re seeing some Unicorn Western and Genesis, we mentioned what’s another one that’s been selling, I don’t know remember, but we’re seeing a halo effect.
Sean: It’s across; yeah it’s across the line.
Johnny: And it takes time for you to build those people up, so it’s like the longer you wait to be on other platforms. It’s just it’s a damned if you do damned if you don’t sort of situation for most people I think which sucks, so anyway. Dave do…
Dave: You’re always damned no matter what you do.
Johnny: Oh yes, so what’s different. Did you have anything cool Dave or did nothing cool happen this week?
Dave: Nothing cool happened to me this week, this was like the worst week ever.
Sean: I think Dave finishes a really-really good book and it’s the worst week ever. I love Dave.
Dave: Yeah I finished– okay here’s the funny thing, okay, I finished 12 and really I got no right to complain, because you and Johnny are writing like 15 books at once, it feels like I’ve been working on this one for three four months. Well like when I’m done I’m like okay, I just need a fucking break, I need to relax, I need to clear my head, I need to flush my head out of all this…
Johnny: Go get a haircut.
Dave: Okay, yeah I need to get a haircut; I need to change my identity. So I’m just like I just want to just crash, I just want to collect my thoughts and shit.
Sean: And you did crush last year.
Dave: Fuck you and already like already, okay, I know we’re jumping back on to the Yesterday’s Gone train, and I’m starting to get some cool ideas for that, and then I had like two more ideas for things that I want to write. In addition, to three or four other things that I want to write that we’re not able to write.
Sean: One of his ideas is, I mean they’re all great, but one he woke up like I don’t know some dream fug and sent an email and it was really good, I’m like, “I could write that tomorrow,” and what was cool about it too is that it’s a version of a pitch he’s given me before that it’s been pretty hard for him to get me excited about this particular concept. I’ve been willing to do it, but I haven’t been really genuinely hyped on it, but I was hyped on this one I thought, “Oh that’s juicy, I like that.”
Johnny: What’s really funny is to go back and replay the last like thirty seconds and just assuming that Sean’s talking about something sexual.
Dave: There’s always a sexual undertone with us.
Sean: So do we want to talk about how awesome– what a difference covers make to our business.
Johnny: It’s like you don’t trust my spontaneous– whatever I feel the need to divert specifically because you’ve raised to the topic to something else.
Sean: Well I’d actually like to make this point hold on, any objection to me sharing the Robot Proletariat cover or the Namaste cover or any of those?
Johnny: No, I don’t have an objection.
Sean: All right, I’m going to share one which [crosstalk], which one do you think we should share? I want to do– I’m going to Robot I’m pretty into that one.
Dave: Yeah that’s fine.
Sean: All right hold on.
Johnny: Is there a reason you’re only doing one?
Sean: Well yeah just because I don’t want to labor the plane, I want to get to our impromptu awkward discussion quickly.
Dave: This whole show is impromptu.
Johnny: That’s our tagline much like it is a podcast is Better Off Undead’s tag.
Sean: Okay so this is our new cover for Robot Proletariat if you watching on YouTube, and I love this, I think this looks fantastic.
Sean: Can you guys see that yet?
Johnny: Yep, I can see it.
Sean: All right so now– what’s awesome about this– if you see the old one, this actually uses the same exact robot from the old one up on the top, but I think that this is a really good example of why even if you are a graphic designer you shouldn’t necessarily do your own book covers. Because unless you’re Jason Garry. Jason Garry is allowed to write his own books and do his own covers, but for the most part it doesn’t make sense even if you have a good eye for composition let’s say, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily are– there’s a difference between a piece of art and a cover, right. So we’re going through all of our catalogue right now. We’re seeing how well things are converted once they’re more you know cover optimized, and that is something that as much as you want to do a cover yourself, just get professional help, because…
Johnny: Where would you find…
Dave: I get told that a lot.
Johnny: Professional help– where would you find professional help, I don’t mean this to be one discussion being a cause of another because– but just separately where would you find that help?
Sean: Well I think 99designs is awesome for that.
Johnny: Who the hell are you? Where’s Dave? Get out of here.
Sean: But I do think, we just got our…
Johnny: He’s still talking.
Sean: But I do think, we just got our latest one for 12.
Johnny: And he’s still talking, look at this dick hole.
Sean: All right I’m shutting up. I’m going to get some water, fuck this shit.
Johnny: Yeah way to blow up the punch line, that was actually not a pre– I just want to be clear that that was not a prelude to a 99designs ad, because that isn’t a 99designs cover, but we do use them and wait who would you find Dave who would do it?
Johnny: Oh I’ve never heard of them, what’s the process like?
Dave: The process is super easy, we’re doing okay…
Johnny: Sorry I just like interrupt to say that they’ve renewed us like what, why.
Dave: Wow, okay.
Johnny: They must like this crap that we do.
Dave: Okay so the process– okay 12 if you’ve been following for the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the 12 cover design process. Like I said before this was– 12 is a real precious baby to me story I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, and I want to make sure the covers right and like Sean was saying, “I could not do the cover myself,” I’m not that kind of graphic designer. So we went to our sponsor 99designs, and we put a contest out there. In the beginning now like the first few we got I was like, “Oh wow this isn’t good, is it going to be the first time 99designs disappoints me?”
Dave: No it wasn’t– they didn’t disappoint…
Johnny: No they came over there with show and snow in my drive way this winter those people.
Dave: Awesome wow, but once again the designers did not fail us, they delivered more awesome covers than we could even use. It was like, it was tough, so we run a poll and this one cover was the clear winner over all the others and I am going to share that with you now. This is not the final version, we’re working with the designer to just modify a few little things on it, but here you go, here’s the 12 cover. We’re going to remove a little bit of this to make the 12 a little clearer than it is, but this is the winning cover and I like it a lot.
Johnny: What was real neat about that was we had a story meeting and this is– we were between a few covers and what it ultimately really helped us decide was the fact that Dave had run a poll and that was the clear winner. And so when you’re able to ask people who are your readers which cover would attract to them, it’s not always necessarily what you think, like I don’t know I wouldn’t have chosen that.
Sean: Yeah, it’s not the one– I wouldn’t have chosen this one actually and it was really interesting. The one I personally like the best that– and this goes back to the art thing right. The one that I personally would have hung on my wall about that’s an attractive piece of– look like a movie poster to me of a movie I’d want to see was dead last, like dead last.
Johnny: Yeah, I think the one I like. That was– yeah.
Sean: It was the most visually attractive, and that’s the thing. And what’s funny is that I get this on a Web site level. Dave and I have had these conversations many times. I’m like, “Dude, ugly converts. Like the big” [crosstalk].
Dave: You’re saying that it’s ugly, what the fuck man?
Johnny: Didn’t we learn that about writers last week? That ugly converts, we had that discussion.
Sean: Yeah, we did. The point is that what you think is the most attractive to the eye isn’t necessarily the one that’s going to grab the most eyeballs. And so a book covers job is to grab eyeballs, certainly more than anything else. And the cover for 12 that I like the best was the most striking as far as– well that looks cool. But it also you know if I’m actually breaking it down, it was a lot of red. It was one color. I could easily get lost. And this one that we ended up going with, it will convert a lot better. And clearly it converted better for all the readers that we asked, and that’s kind of the point.
Johnny: All right everybody. So start your custom design today at 99designs.com/spp and if you use that link you get the free Power Pack upgrade that as Dave sort of implied there, superchargers you getting more designs, because they highlight your listing and so forth.
Dave: Yes. Use that.
Johnny: Use that. If you don’t then you’re crazy.
Dave: Then you might just get the crappy one.
Johnny: You might just get the crappy ones right. So that’s 99designs.com/spp.
Dave: Oh, one other thing I want to say about this, like I said we’re getting the final design done. This was like a new designer and this was the first contest he won. So it’s really cool to…
Johnny: Oh, awesome.
Dave: Be able to…
Johnny: I didn’t know that.
Sean: Oh, I didn’t know that. That is cool.
Johnny: All right, so our topic today is like I said its research, but here’s sort of– okay so you guys probably if you’ve been listening to the show for a while you know the beaten to death joke about Unicorn Western, and how Dave’s complaint was that he didn’t want to write a Western because of all the research. And we said, “Well you don’t need to do research.” And so research in my mind has kind of a bad connotation as a project for a lot of people because we just remember research papers. And of course since we’re old, I’m assuming you guys have the same memory of having to go to the school library and get the encyclopedias, right? Like,” What’s an encyclopedia?’ Kids today say. And just like slog through, and cite references, and just like I have…
Sean: I have been there.
Johnny: I have that in my head, like the whole thing of research. And so I always thought, “Well I don’t really like research, we can make unicorns.” But what I found more and more is that there are other forms of research that I– and I really-really do like it. Invasion what we’re doing right now, I’ve really been steeping in– there’s a theory, it’s called Ancient Astronauts Theory.
And basically the idea is that aliens have been here before, and that they helped with the pyramids and stuff like that. And so I’ve been watching, there’s this whole history channel this thing that’s on Netflix for ancient– It’s called Ancient Aliens, is the name of the series, but it’s about this theory. And just learning all about the things that people think about different spots around the globe where things have occurred, and what the theories are. That kind of research, like I find myself wanting to do more and more, I’m positive.
Sean: Yeah. It’s funny because I know probably more than any of us. I have the reputation as the guy who hates research, right? But I actually love research, in the same way that my teachers would have always said that you know I didn’t like to learn. I was always in trouble you know in school, but I’m actually a lifelong learner. I love learning. I love information. I love getting new things. But I hate homework. I hated filling in worksheets and that kind of thing. And if it’s tedious stuff then yeah I’m not into that at all, but I love learning new things, especially when I’m in the beats stage, I don’t like researching while I’m writing. That’s much harder. I’ll go jump over and figure something out if I need to, but I feel like it’s really distracting from the writing process.
For me research needs to be part of the pre writing process to be really effective. I watch a lot of videos, or I read a lot of stuff, and learn things. And then I apply what I learn into the beats, but I don’t like to stop writing to go figure something out because I think it detracts.
Johnny: Dave, as the person who that joke about research, that began with you. Do you actually dislike that sort of thing, or is it just that you don’t– what’s your opinion on doing research for stuff?
Dave: For me it’s an OCD thing, because I’ve done plenty of research. When I was a reporter I had to research stuff all the time. I think when it comes to writing a novel, for me it’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae of research. And some things I think are more difficult than others like writing historical things, stuff like that I think would be difficult because I don’t know all that I don’t know. Like I don’t know all the different styles of the day, the things that people ate. Little things you know real historians, and people that study the stuff know.
And I don’t and I don’t think– we don’t have an editor that knows. So there isn’t a safety net there if I wanted to write a specific thing. So I would feel a need to research every single thing about something. And for me to do a really good job, to make something that if you don’t already know, but you need to fucking get it right, you’re going to take six months to a year to do research.
There are a lot of writers to do that. And that’s not something that we can ever afford to do, at least not at the moment. We can’t take a year off, and just write one fucking book. So for me research is something that we can’t do that thoroughly at the moment. So…
Johnny: See, I feel like our definitions of research are different.
Dave: Yeah, it’s…
Johnny: So yeah. If you are writing historical fiction, if you are writing about Victorian London or something, a specific period that actually existed, you need to get it right because it’s not– so for instance Dream Engine is steam punk, which tends to use a throwback style with modern stuff, like a steam sort of era feel.
Dave: Yeah, that’s different.
Johnny: Right. So that’s like Victorianish, and that’s okay, because you can basically say…
Dave: Anything you get wrong is, “Hey, we’re writing about another world.”
Dave: Pink smoke.
Johnny: But that said, here’s one example that I was thinking of, I remember this came up like a year ago is- I remember saying to Sean that that for the next season of The Beam wouldn’t it be cool to go to New York, like as a research trip. I’ve been to New York, but to really go and I don’t know, walk around. Now our world or district zero, sorry, in the beam is 2097, the year 2097, so it’s in the future. You can argue that a lot changed, but just get the feel of it. I think that’s what the difference is for me is.
I tend to steep for feel, and then I go back for specific things that are specific facts. So here’s– I don’t know if this is it a– this isn’t a spoiler, I don’t think. But it is something that occurs in contact where there are these big rocks, okay. And they’re sort of modeled after monoliths that have occurred in the past with the Alien Theory and stuff. And I just wanted to know what they were about. What are they made of? What were those made of? And what you know granite, a lot of more granite, then what’s in granite? And so just little factual tidbits need to be sprinkled in.
I want to know about how much they weigh, and what are the metals that compose granite? And are they magnetic? And that sorts of things, those are the sorts of things that do come up during writing for me. But I steep ahead of time just so that I have maybe a passing familiarity with whatever sort of the hook of the story is, which is different from what Dave’s talking about I think.
Sean: Right, well I think…
Dave: The 12…
Sean: Go ahead Dave.
Dave: Well for 12, it takes place in a diner. So I wanted to get the feel a lot of it, explain it in a minute. I wanted to get the feel of a diner. And I’ve been eating at Diners forever. So I kind of have an experience there. But I also– I talked to servers. I took a tour of my local restaurant. I watched tons of videos, behind the scenes stuff on diners and such, just to get a feel for it. A lot of the information, I ended up even not using, but I feel like it helped from the story.
But even now after we’re done with the story, I’m seeing like these other books that people are talking about, they are kind of take place in not in a diner, but they have like a diner sort of thing. And I’m like, “Oh shit, maybe I should read that. Maybe I can like plug in some last minute things. I’ll make feel even more authentic.” I never feel like I’m done with the research. And it’s a totally OCD thing for me.
Sean: Yeah, I totally get that OCD thing. But to me that that can be very limiting…
Dave: Oh, again I’m not saying I’m right.
Sean: I want to get enough to certainly color, and again I really enjoy that. So for example for Invasion, when I was mapping the beats out for that, and the main character in that book, Meyer Dempsey, he does a lot Ayahuasca. And so I was watching a lot of videos from people who go…
Johnny: It’s like the fourth time Ayahuasca has shown up in one of our properties, just FYI.
Sean: Yeah, but this is the first time that I actually went and looked at all these videos, and read, I kind of exhausted them…
Johnny: Listen in Ted talks and stuff.
Sean: Yeah, well because before Ayahuasca was a by the way, but Ayahuasca in…
Dave: A bunch of hippie is doing Ayahuasca, awesome.
Sean: No, in this book…
Dave: I just laugh for an hour.
Johnny: It’s not hippies. It’s too expensive.
Johnny: Yeah, this isn’t a hippie thing.
Johnny: Rich hippies.
Dave: Okay, a bunch of hipsters. How about that?
Sean: But Ayahuasca was actually– when you consider almost…
Dave: You’re spinning my mind man, I’m spinning my mind.
Sean: When you consider almost a character…
Johnny: Look at Dave over there. I think he’s Ayahuasca right now.
Dave: I just think it’s all bullshit. Sorry.
Sean: But then when you consider it’s almost a character, Johnny.
Johnny: Yeah, well a minor character. It’s important. It is important.
Sean: So we needed a little more research. And so I was watching a lot of videos of people describing what it was like, and I coped through though. So I probably watched like 20 of them, and then left like maybe two or three for Johnny. Like, “Okay, here check this out.” And that’s interesting. I love that that’s part of my job. But I think that it’s also dangerous, in those same ways that Dave’s talking about. It’s really dangerous to get lost in the research. And my solution for that is pretty simple…
Johnny: Look at how much you fun he’s having over there.
Dave: I don’t want to be a judgmental freak, but I’m about to be.
Sean: Go right ahead.
Dave: I did some quote research myself, and I was watching some of these You Tube videos. And I swear to you there was like four or five– there was like this group of people that knew Ayahuasca on YouTube, and talk about it extensively. And every one of them sounds like the last person in the world you’d ever want to be stuck in the subway with. Because their brains are fucking fried, and they don’t even know it. They think they’re on this other fucking level but they sound like the crazy guy that’s talking to himself, and he’s just, “Okay, mmh.” Clearly this is…
Dave: Not a good drug to do a lot of.
Sean: Maybe we’re all crazy and they…
Dave: Yeah, yeah. Oh, they’re fucking off.
Sean: All right, anyway.
Johnny: Dave’s extensively research. When is your book on celebrity nip slips coming out? Is that coming soon?
Dave: Next week.
Dave: My entire middle school informed that I could write that book. If it concerns 80s movie nudity, I– I’m not so much in tune with it now. I have other priorities.
Sean: Oh, right. Who do you think believes that? Who are you talking to right now, me and Johnny, or the listeners at home?
Dave: My wife.
Sean: Are you trying– oh, okay got it, so anyway…
Dave: I don’t even look at other breasts, I swear.
Sean: I think that you don’t want to let that kind of thing hold you back. And I think it’s important to write what you know. And so I’m going to use Invasion again as an example, Invasion was an idea that we’ve had on the Collective Inkwell site for a while, but research is the reason that that book never got written, because that kind of thing intimidates Dave, and he says “Well I don’t know what the military would do.” Right and I’m like, “Well we don’t write about the military then, we write signs instead of Independence Day. It’s a small thing about this one family, and we just write from their filter, and their experience…
Dave: Independence Day is well known for its factual research by the way.
Sean: Right, well that doesn’t even matter. It’s scope that I’m talking about. All right, so I think that you can you can frame any story based around what you know, and then you can steep yourself in the things that you want to color the story with. But there’s a difference between writing a Tom Clancy book – which is you know very-very detail oriented – and then just writing a story, where you have all the color there. And to me I always want to just– I care more about the story, the narrative, the people in it.
And I think that research is great, but you can overdo it. And it can actually get in the way of the story. Because another danger too when you feel like you’ve done all this research, and you have all this work, and you see this in some books that are kind of clunky and poorly constructed. It’s because you can feel the authors need to just vomit all their research onto the page like, “Damn it! I learned this, and you’re going to fucking learn it too. Haven’t you ever read a book like that? Where you just felt…
Sean: Like you’re being told things that are not necessary to the story, because the author learned them. Well hearing for the story, and I think that’s even worse. So I think you just want to…
Dave: Yeah I read your book Ayahuasca Joe.
Johnny: Oh I want to write that.
Sean: I want to write that my God Ayahuasca Joe.
Johnny: I think that the idea of becoming familiar so Dave talking about going to diners and stuff is kind of how I approach this is it is a case of you don’t know what you don’t know. And so I’m more want to steep. Like I am more want to have to feel– so for instance, I have worked in a Biological Sciences Lab and so I can write a scene in one of those places. We actually haven’t, although Biological Sciences and Philosophy my two majors have shown up a lot in our books in by the way sorts of ways. I kind of– but I want to I want to walk through something.
I want to see it being done like I’m not a– I don’t read police procedurals; it’s just not a genre that I really get into. But now that that shit you’ve got to know. Now is C.J. Lyons I only read Snake Skin, I haven’t read a lot of her books but she does that thrillers with heart thing where it’s like it is a lot about the people equally as much as the procedural part. So I think that you can skew in one direction or another and end up talking a lot about the mechanics in something like that, or you can talk more about the characters and then your research has to go accordingly, but it’s like Shawn said the difference between a Tom Clancy style book set on a naval ship versus if you were to go out on a naval ship for a while and get a feel for how they lived or something like that.
Like the research that I have in mind like I want to do more and more of this. I just– but I would just go to have the experience like I like learning things, I like experiencing things and once– so as an example one of the things that Sean got really excited about recently was this linguistic thing like the whole thing on linguists…
Sean: That’s a good example.
Johnny: It’s like I want the character who’s a linguist. Now the only time that that’s going to occur by the way is if I catch the same bug since I’m the first draft writer because I need– it’s not like a detail oriented thing. It’s somewhere beyond a passing familiarity, it’s a conversational ability to be in those shoes of like a linguist. The sorts of things that they would talk about, the sorts of things that the personality type. And so I would like if linguistic starts to fascinate me then I will want to write about a linguist too, but that’s the way it is, is that I feel like for me anyway I want to be– like I’m fascinated by that experience I want to learn about it and then once I’ve learned about it I would want to write about it.
Sean: Yeah and it’s funny if you look at a lot of Realms and Sands stuff there is a lot of Biology you know across. I mean it doesn’t– not just in The Beam there’s a lot of it in The Beam, but it’s because it’s that writing what you know type of thing. In CI, the general disgustingness of humans you know that’s a core belief of Dave’s. So it does show up where you know quite frequently. There’s also people are dipping French fries in most of our [inaudible] [0:48:12] at some point. It’s true, I find it…
Davy: It’s in a diner, what do you expect?
Sean: Yeah, but all of our books, all our books have it some point someone is dipping a French fry into something and then eating it.
Johnny: Dave tried to insert that chapter into Write Publish Repeat.
Dave: I love a good French fry scene in Whitespace.
Sean: Yes, there is. No there is. They are at the bar. Yes, no John, it’s onion rings…
Dave: Not French fries.
Johnny: It’s totally different.
Sean: Some fried vegetable. They are dipping fried vegetables in the sauce.
Dave: And see that was me stepping outside of myself because I’ve never eaten fried vegetable.
Sean: What do you think of French fries?
Johnny: It’s starch.
Dave: Yeah, it’s rubbish.
Johnny: Sean actually I have this thing where I want to understand– I’m always saying how would that work? Like that’s the way that I look at research– is how would that work? How would I– it’s not enough to– what was the thing Sean where you wanted me to write something and I said I don’t know…?
Sean: Oh you mean– was this yesterday?
Johnny: No no no I was going to say that and I will say that, but if it’s not a spoiler but…
Sean: I think it might be a spoiler but yeah I loved this idea and I pitched it to Johnny yesterday. And he’s like well how does that work? And it totally took– he Daved me. He just totally Daved me because I was really hyped on this and it was an idea for…
Dave: [inaudible] [0:49:48] in the balloon.
Sean: It’s really was. It was something for colonization and I’m trying to…
Johnny: That’s the third Invasion book.
Sean: And so I went on a walk and I came back and I had this idea…
Dave: [Crosstalk] like a walk.
Sean: I did not have an [inaudible] [0:50:02] walk. It was just a regular walk. Fuck you.
Dave: A walk about [Inaudible] [00:50:08].
Johnny: Listen to him today. He’s giddy, it’s like it’s midday.
Dave: I know.
Sean: And so I came back and I was super excited because I thought…
Johnny: I shutter all of that excitement.
Sean: Yeah I thought I had a way to explain one of mankind’s biggest mischief and apparently I didn’t and yeah, so Johnny Daved me. But what was the other example?
Johnny: Well that’s what I’m trying to remember. There was something– it was a project a while ago where you– and maybe we wrote it and maybe I just– we worked around it, but it was something where I wasn’t– I wish I could remember what it was. I wasn’t conversationally familiar with it enough. I hadn’t done it and whatever the meaning may be the main character’s job or something like that and we had scenes where things…
Sean: Was this La Fleur?
Johnny: Yes it was La Fleur because Sean had to steep me. So just to catch everybody up La Fleur de Blanc is a Lexi book that Sean and I wrote.
Sean: Dave was like nine today.
Johnny: Yes. There were two main things that that are sort of background, three main things that are background in that. One of them is…
Dave: How about four?
Johnny: It’s– we will go for three. It’s set in Southern California in a very ritsy rich snobby sort of an area based on Newport Beach I think. And so I’ve never been to Newport Beach and the woman owns a flower shop. I’ve never owned a flower shop and the other main player– one of the– no, no there’s two more– so it is four Dave you get your wish. The other two…
Dave: Thank God.
Johnny: The other two were– two of the other major players in that book are a restaurant, like a very specific kind of a restaurant so it needed to be like cuisine oriented, and there’s actually a food truck in there, like a higher brow food truck. They created some foods too that were– that I just didn’t know what kind of foods these were, like I’m not a foodie. And then the last one was her rival, the main character’s rival in the book owns a very fancy high end furniture store which I also didn’t understand.
And so I said, “I don’t know where to begin with this book.” He is like. “We’ll just write Southern California and here’s some pictures,” and I’m like, “But I’ve never– I need to walk through that.” I need to know like casually when you’re you know you– the things that you wouldn’t know to tell me. Like that people wear this certain kind of shoe– I’m just making that up, like I wouldn’t know that unless you specifically thought to tell me.
So one of the things we did– we did a few things. When I came to Austin for, it was for the World Builder summit with the three of us before Dave showed up because he would have made fun of us, is we went to this place actually I still have the catalog. This is a restoration hardware catalog, a very fancy furniture store. And we basically modeled Nouveau house after restoration hardware.
And so I needed this catalog so that I could casually mention something like English reclaim timber floor lamp, like I don’t have that vocabulary, but I do now. Like Sean is like here you go. And then we went to we went to a flower shop and Sean told me how you can tell the difference between good flowers and bad flowers and where they’re harvested from and what makes the difference, and that’s the stuff I needed to understand to even begin writing that story.
Dave: There is some design apps on the iPad which kind of almost serve the purpose of, you know, you can pretty much like design a virtual house in like– it’s aimed in like selling people stuff. But I mean it’s just like a cab, you can look at the stuff and get descriptions, you can get ideas and stuff. That could be an area that you could also consider for research.
Sean: Yeah. I think it’s- actually pre-beats, you know those packages that is research, right? If you’re figuring out what locations they are, that’s all I would consider that research. It’s not the same as you know really learning about historical era for a historical fiction novel, but it’s research, it’s prep; it’s preparing your– it’s pre-writing. And I think pre writing as an exercise, is really important. And also going into what you know, so let’s take Axis of Aaron, has a good example. That island is essentially the island that Johnny has spent a lot of summers at. Now it’s not exactly that island, but it’s that island enough to where Johnny could write from a first…
Johnny: And Amy’s cottage is very much the cottage that I spent that time in. And if you had been in that cottage you would recognize some of the things that, you know, some of the descriptions. And so that’s– I have that mental map in my head and I know the sorts of things that that occur there and what the seasons are like. I did another sort of prep for that was I watched Mulholland Drive, Vanilla Sky. I watched some mindbendery sorts in movies just for mood, so there’s that.
Sean: Yeah, actually that’s a good point.
Dave: You are watching for celebrity nudity come on.
Johnny: That’s what my next book is going to be about.
Sean: Whenever– a lot of what I choose to watch and or read is directly influenced on what we’re about to write, what I’m preparing for mentally because mood is really important and like anything– excuse me– can help me generate better ideas for that specific project. So both non-fiction and fiction, a lot of it will be very much geared to whatever it is that either me and Dave are or me and Johnny are going to write next.
So I think that that’s all part of research. I think that every writer will do themselves a great service by kind of broadening their definition of research, and instead of thinking of research as this one thing, like doing encyclopedia stuff in middle school, it’s not. It’s what do I need to do…
Johnny: Like what do you want to learn about?
Sean: What do you want to learn about? How do I best prepare for this story that I’m going to write? If I have 10 hours blocked out to just research before I write the first sentence, how am I going to do that? What will serve my story best? And it may not be learning about my new show, about one little thing, it might be better to just watch some movies and get some color because….
Dave: Oh I’m sorry.
Sean: No no go ahead.
Dave: A good way to do it is first start broad, watch a movie, read a book on this subject and then whatever you think will help you– like if you see something that sparks an idea, if you see something you’d like to really drill down into it, then go to YouTube, just look up. People make videos about everything on YouTube. You can get tons of…
Sean: Including taking Ayahuasca.
Dave: Yeah yes.
Sean: Ayahuasca Joe is on there.
Dave: For presh, I watch the videos of car accident scenes and not on You Tube, there’s another website which has just horrifying…
Johnny: This is in addition to his usual watching of tragedies.
Dave: Yes. Just horrifying death stuff which is I wish I had not seen it, but I did, it was able to color the story in a way that maybe would not have. And I have been witnessed plenty of actual accidents in the past including one very horrifying one so that also helped, but I mean you can pretty much go to YouTube. Like I found lots of diner stuff, people– even funny ones like servers bitching about like stupid shit customers do. And pretty much it can help you really drill down, so yeah.
Johnny: One of the things that I do and I don’t know how most people would describe this, but I think of it as qualified talking out my ass. So The Beam is a great example of this I think. There are scenes where you’ll read about something very technical happening. Now the beam is set again in 2097, so I don’t need to be faithful to today’s technology, we just sort of need to tip a hat.
Actually Sean may have mentioned this in some of the stuff that I was doing for Contact is you got a few real details in there, right, so that the rest of the stuff– you have enough window dressing so that you can kind of then go on from there. So The Beam has these passages where it isn’t jargon, like it isn’t empty jargon, but if you know a few, if I know a few tech buzz words or sort of generally how things occur, the characters end up talking– I don’t know how I’m describing this. There’s enough veracity and there’s enough real stuff that when you then go off in sort of a logical tangent, it makes sense, like it’s believable. And you don’t have to…
Johnny: Yeah, go ahead.
Sean: Well yeah, so the thing that Johnny was alluding to earlier that when I went on the walk and I came back and he’s like, “Well how do you explain that?” It was because I was trying to draw a parallel from something that’s happening in the not too distant future to something that happened thousands of years ago. So I was trying to explain how the pyramids got there, and I came up with what I thought was a really cool solution with how the pyramids came there.
Johnny: He thought it was so cool that I felt a little bad knocking him down.
Sean: He felt bad Daving and so I explained it to him in slack and he said well explain the science behind that. And I’m like, “Motherfucker that’s what you are supposed to do.” I’m just supposed to tell you the awesome idea…
Johnny: Okay. Since we’re not going to do it, I can say what it is right? Because we’re not going to do it, and if we do the very end then it will be okay. Okay, so Sean had the idea that the pyramids were grown, like they didn’t build the pyramids, they grew them.
Dave: Like cheers?
Johnny: Yes. Exactly like cheers, more than you may realize.
Dave: Che che cheers.
Johnny: And so I said, “Well okay but isn’t that like why not just build them, right?” Like they just use…
Dave: See what happens when you do a lot of Ayahuasca.
Johnny: I see pyramids.
Dave: Wait-wait, I got an idea, okay. I know that she is going to just blow your mind…
Sean: First of all….
Johnny: That’s exactly how he did it too.
Dave: Pyramids– they grew themselves and I know the man– the man doesn’t want you to know this because cup of the alien man [inaudible] [1:00:51] Obama is an alien. Do you know that? Obama is an alien. And if you do so my Ayahuasca you will understand. Everything will start to make sense and the pieces will come together and all of a sudden you’ll see everything all spread out man.
Johnny: Are you imagining the transcription too Sean? It’s pretty good. All right so here’s that– he’s giddy, he’s on helium.
Sean: I think we should have Dave on Ayahuasca Joe.
Johnny: I know. And I love that he doesn’t want to do Better Off Undead, this is when we have to do it. So the idea was that the pyramids were grown. And so first of all I’m thinking like Ockham’s Razor like why invent a more complicated idea, that there are stones and why not stack them up, like they use their beams and stuff because that’s an allowable level of fantasy to me for this. It’s like you don’t make up the growing of the stones, you make up the magic that lifts them right? So that’s the UFOs helping the humans back in the day. And so couldn’t…
Dave: It was Obama.
Johnny: It was Obama. Couldn’t they like create like a form or something like that and then they grow them from crystals like from seeds? Like you can grow a crystal and I said, “Well but that’s crystals,” like crystals grow and then I said, there’s– rock is basically sediment that has been compressed over thousands of years, or it is metamorphic that comes from a volcano or it is you know igneous rock and it just doesn’t make sense. Like the idea of the rock growing, it just didn’t make sense. But to me that was an unnecessary– in Unicorn Western we would have the pyramids grow themselves. That’s the difference because there’s magic in that world, but the world of Invasion isn’t the magical world, it’s an alien world which is different. Unless we wanted to have the aliens be unicorns which I kind of like.
Sean: I’m down.
Dave: Oh Jesus.
Sean: Anything we can do to grow pyramids because I think it’s awesome.
Johnny: So anyway that was– I feel a little bad stopping Dave though because he is so– oh I do have one more bit of– do you want to go on about Obama a little bit more before I say this?
Dave: Obama– go ahead.
Johnny: Is sort of an ancillary form of research that has worked well for us and I assume it works for you guys to the CI side is partner based research. So with The Beam…
Sean: Oh yeah.
Johnny: The beam has this great scene. Well I think it’s great where they’re at dinner and it’s a scene where they’re at dinner. So maybe you could get in on this one, they are dipping French fries. Now it’s a very fancy…
Sean: There are no French fries…
Dave: The French fries in John’s world.
Johnny: No French fries. It’s a…
Dave: [inaudible] [1:03:30]…
Johnny: It’s a very…
Dave: No freedom fries.
Johnny: It’s a very fancy– look he is like Sean interrupting me adread, look at this motherfucker. But it’s a very fancy restaurant and so I don’t know like what are some of the things you listed off? Like there’s a scene where they’re listing the foods and the things that they are doing in this restaurant…
Johnny: And I don’t even know this chef, so I said just put– and I think my original thing was like their dinner is put fancy shit here I left him a note and Sean will go fill in all those details because he’s hoity-toity.
Dave: I do that [crosstalk].
Sean: Yeah in the Available Darkness season two, there’s just a big empty spot he said, “Okay bitches are in a picnic you write.” So but yeah I agree, actually we did that in two different ways with flowers that I thought were both really effective. One was in La Fleur of course, where there were just big question marks fill in shit here. Actually there was food and flowers that were fill and here in La Fleur but in…
Johnny: But I need to have some level to even get to the fill and shit here that’s a thing, Sean would just say, “Just leave the scene for me,” and I’m like “Oh no I need to have this people talking and I can stop every two seconds say, “Insert this, insert this.” Like I have to have a passing familiarity or it won’t flow.
Sean: So Axis is a really good example of this, and this should probably be the last story. But in Axis there’s– actually can I do this without– is it a spoiler.
Johnny: It’s definitely a spoiler, but I think we can talk around it by saying there are differing versions of reality.
Sean: Okay so there are different– differing versions of reality, and…
Johnny: He wants to make an Ayahuasca comment so bad.
Dave: Go ahead Ayahuasca Joe.
Sean: So there’s Amy one of the characters in the book owns a flower shop, or owned a flower shop at one point. And so in one version of reality she’s talking very factually about flowers and in another she’s totally talking out of her ass. So Johnny just basically talked out of his ass in all of the scenes and all the ones that are supposed to be accurate I just changed them to factual stuff, and I think mine…
Johnny: Mine are all things like red roses are the best flowers, everything should have babies breath, these are the things that a non flower person i.e. me would think and that somebody like Sean would go, “You cretin, you don’t know things about flowers, red roses are not the best,” and I think in one point I said that how what a profitable day Valentine’s Day was for florist, which from Sean I know is not a profitable day, so in his work…
Sean: Well, it’s a risky day, it’s a risky day is what it is. I mean think about you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars worth of perishable product, and so you know if it rains like you’re fucked, but if it’s a great day it’s awesome hot.
Johnny: But I would just figure that it’s Valentine’s Day, flowers, red roses, baby’s breath like this is what you do so.
Sean: Right, well it will be natural to assume that like profit margins are great on Valentine’s Day, because the flowers are so expensive.
Johnny: But the danger is if you write from a non knowledgeable person’s point of view, and the reader is that person. So with horses this is my wife, “They are too egregious [ph],” in her words. Horse related errors in the first episode, first chapter I think of Robot Proletariat.
Sean: Unicorn Western.
Johnny: No Robot Proletariat and I know there are going to be some in Contact, because there’s some horses. One is…
Dave: That they don’t talk?
Johnny: That they don’t talk, no at one point there’s a character and she has a bun on her head, she has her hair in a bun and she has a riding helmet over it. Robin is like, “You would not have a helmet over a bun, that would never happen you would have it in the back,” and so that’s the sort of thing that somebody who knows that. In Contact there’s some kind of survivalist stuff, and I had to look this up too because where I’m standing as a lay man, I’m not a survivalist. So I’d think okay well you have a generator, but the problem with the generator is it runs on gas, and gas has a six months shelf life. Now if I didn’t know that and I just I’m writing them running in generator for power for months, and months, and months, or years, and that doesn’t make any sense to somebody who goes through and is like, “What the fuck you didn’t even look.” So we have a sustainable…
Dave: Yeah, [crosstalk] rip your ass apart if you didn’t get that shit wrong,
Johnny: Yeah and we probably still got shit wrong, but at least we try to be conversant enough that it doesn’t look terrible, and hopefully at most…
Sean: Well, okay. But here’s a good example too, we wouldn’t have a character who is a survivalist, because…
Johnny: Right, these people are fallible. They’re not survivalist. That’s why I think some of it works.
Sean: Right and that’s the point. If you’re not a survivalist, or if you don’t know enough about that, then don’t make one of your main characters a survivalist. That’s what I mean about writing around what you know.
Dave: Or become a prepar [ph].
Sean: What’s his name? Meyer the main character had a lot of money to prepare. So he prepared with money instead of knowledge. He had to a cursory knowledge, enough to get what he needed done, done. But it’s not like he was one of these survivalist guys. That would be…
Johnny: But even then if you set a scene from the point of view of one of his kids, then you got a shit ton more leeway, because they’re not…
Johnny: Necessarily going to understand any of it, and then they just kind of have to know what they know, know what they see, and then you can even– I think facing things Sean is actually saying something about this. He just read Robert McKee’s book story, was talking about this. If you look the reader in their eye and basically say, “This doesn’t make sense.” Then you’re kind of forgiven in some ways, because you haven’t just pretended that it made sense. And my version of this is sort of people can wonder. Okay, so in the Dream Engine there’s lawns right? Underground. In the underground city there’s lawns. And at one point Aila the main character is wondering about why the hell grass would grow down there. Now I could have tried to figure out how to explain that…
Dave: I would.
Johnny: But it’s from the Aila’s point of view, and I just say, “How would that happen? She doesn’t know.” So something like that.
Sean: In copywriting that’s called addressing objections. If your buyer is going to have a question about something that you’re selling, you can’t pretend that something doesn’t exist. You have to acknowledge it. You have to say, “This exists, and this is why it’s okay.” And I think as a fiction writer, you really want to do the same thing. You can’t pretend something stupid isn’t stupid. I think all stories have something in them, right?
Johnny: Wait hold on, I want to speak for Dave. But you’ve been doing that with the LOL line all along.
Sean: No, we’re not pretending that’s not stupid. When did we ever pretend that’s not stupid?
Johnny: Yeah, don’t interrupt Dave.
Sean: All right, so we’re done with it?
Johnny: You got any final…
Dave: Yes we’re done.
Sean: Any words from ayahuasca Joe?
Dave: Spider Mickey says it’s an old dialog here “Dave, I’ve been watching horrific car accident videos all day, Sean, “Researching a new story?” Dave, “Nope.” Cate Morgan says, “I totally love research. I wrote a violinist for one of my books, and ended finding tons of amazing musicians, ended up learning to play myself.” That’s cool.
Sean: Oh, that is cool.
Dave: Quotidian Ray, “I’m in the middle of this research hole as I began operation ‘Support Literary Fiction With a Pen Name,’ in addition to all the literal paper library research, I plan to spend a few hours in the better parts of Oakland and hovering around a few dojos.”
Johnny: Yeah, exactly.
Sean: Lexi watches a lot of porn.
Johnny: Yeah, I was thinking that would be fun research.
Dave: I did a newspaper story where I was in ‘bad part of town’ and a riot almost fucking broke out with me in the middle of it. It was awesome.
Sean: Oh, that sounds fantastic. Want to tell a story on BOU, also about how you were angry with my son.
Johnny: All right. Well let’s finish up then. So thanks everybody for listening to this Self Publishing Podcast. I no longer have anything to say about the summit since that’s sold out, but I guess I’ll just say if you want to get our best advice without all the off topic bullshit – but what fun is that? Get our book Write, Publish, Repeat at selfpublishingpodcast/wpr and we will see you all next week.
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