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So let's talk about SOME THINGS I ENJOY. One answer to this is really obvious: I like supernatural teens, in a vaguely grubby British setting, overwhelmed by terrible problems. Often the problems are: their personalities.

Why the grubby British setting? I'm not really sure. There's a lot of history there, obviously, and I like the lack of high gloss and super-attractive people that American media has. This is not to say I don't like American books (too many examples to count) and American shows (my devotion to The Vampire Diaries is well documented).

Possibly it's just because Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series and Diana Wynne Jones got me at a young age, and made me think That Is The Way Things Should Be. One of my favourite scenes from a fantasy book, ever, is when in Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs the main characters accidentally sow dragons' teeth in a parking lot (the myth: sowing dragons' teeth reaps you a harvest of warriors). Angry bikers spring up in the parking lot, and the main characters - a new stepfamily who aren't getting on any too well - have to make their escape by chucking groceries at them.

That is the kind of thing I call 'putting the magic out with the milk bottles' - mixing up magic with extremely basic real life in a way that makes the magic seem absolutely convincing. And I see it with this setting a lot. Which is why I like to use grubby British settings a lot myself. ;)

One example of this kind is a show I am mad about called Misfits, a series set in a fictional borough of London about young offenders sentenced to community service, who all get super powers. (One of them: That kind of thing only happens in America.) Their total lack of control of said powers mean they have to run around hiding dead bodies and getting into embarrassing situations all the livelong day. There's a lot of hilarious dialogue and people who can't deal with their feelings even slightly.

Another example, and the one which spurred this post, is a series called Becoming Human. It's a spinoff of another show called Being Human, but let us lay that aside, because the reason I like the series is in the title. It's why I write teen fiction - because the process of 'becoming' is so fraught and fascinating, because when you're still working out who you are you can do some terrible things and then come back from them. Or not.

Quick summary: a teenage vampire goes to school to try and live a normal life. What's that I hear you cry? Sounds, um, familiar? Sure, but I love vampires. And this is the way to get me to love vampires more: make them embarrass themselves. Adam the baby vampire is forty-six, which is just horrifying instead of being a glamorous century plus, and he constantly makes eighties pop-culture references that mystify his classmates. Additionally, he seems very young adult, as his parents who fed him their blood and moved around the country with him, keeping him in a cycle of eternal childhood and causing him to have literally lost the ability to shut up oh God Adam please shut up, have just died.

At his new school, chances of a normal life are immediately nixed by his meeting Christa, who recently had a mysterious bad break-up and changed her look abruptly from pigtails to black duster jackets, who is enormously grouchy, and who refuses to admit she's a werewolf. (How I like werewolves: anger issues and confusing transformations!) And Matt, a ghost who never felt he had much of a life, who wants revenge against his former bullies and revenge against his murderer, and who convinces them to help find out who said murderer actually was. Supernatural Brick style shenanigans ensue.

Another thing that I enjoy: strange partners who fight crime. I have high hopes that Christa, the smart one, could become a werewolf Veronica Mars with differently-living sidekicks. I also have high hopes that Christa and Adam will overcome the barriers of their species and personalities, and be together forever, but that is a side issue...

The way I like all supernatural issues: Use the supernatural thing as an analogy to real-life problems to some extent, and then use the myth for its own scary, interesting sake as well. Real life, but take it further.

And speaking of taking things further. Becoming Human is actually a web-series. And it has all these little online extras to go with it, like character profiles and an excerpt from Christa's diary.

All of which I totally read, and which got me thinking about the different ways online promotion works. Ideally it should enhance the experience of being a fan of something, and get you more excited about something. It should provide you with a little something extra.

Misfits has twitter accounts for several of the main characters, which I love because I love twitter, and the way it inspires mini-conversations. (Just last night on my twitter I was doing 'two characters stuck somewhere together' tweets. On a prompt of 'The one I REALLY want is Alan and Sin Start a Detective Agency' I had fun with: 'CLIENT: Help! ALAN: Trust me. SIN: Don't.')

I also love online short stories. Because I think fans deserve presents, and because they're what I was talking about earlier: something extra, and exciting. I have a ton of short stories up set in the universe of my books. Kelley Armstrong has a blog where she tells short stories from other characters' POVs and does giveaways.

Holly Black has taken this a step farther and done a series of vignettes from the point of view of the heroine of White Cat which are both awesome in themselves, and have extras from the world of the Curse Workers series, like TV ads and posters.

Basically Becoming Human got me thinking about online extras, what works, and what I like. And I was wondering, dear readers, what do you like? There's a lot of awesome stuff. Carrie Ryan's going to have a novella out for super cheap. Cassandra Clare has a tumblr for a new character in her series. Baen, to talk about a publishing house instead of writers or TV shows, gives away tons of free e-books.

Fans can make truly spectacular things. I am watching the entries come in for Promotion Notion ARC contest with great joy (round-up of entries so far to come soon) and I will never get over the amazingness of the Demon's Lexicon told through lego. I am not a quarter talented enough to do such things! But I did wonder about people's thoughts on creator-generated extra content.

So: what works for you, and what do you like to see? Anything special? Just hand over the TV shows and books and nobody will get hurt? I would like to know! And talk about it further.

I will also be talking about how I like my vampires, and about mixing up real life settings and magic, again. But you all knew that. ;)


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 21st, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
Curses! Yet another awesome sounding show that we can't get over here, argh,gnarg.
Mar. 21st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Misfits has box sets, and Becoming Human has links in its (moderated) comments to youtube uploads, I imagine sanctioned to spread the word? So: youtube. Only an hour long all told. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
(no subject) - martinemonster - Mar. 21st, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sartorias - Mar. 21st, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dgjamie - Mar. 21st, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sartorias - Mar. 21st, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - evawhimsy - Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 21st, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
"Are you mentally deficient?"

"If I was mentally deficient I would have missed." *Nathan points to smashed in car proudly*

Sorry, that had to be said *clears throat*

I saw the twitter prompts when this morning and was LOLed embarassingly on over the Detective Agency one on the train into London (effectively weirding out other passengers I'm sure).

As far as talking about online extras go, I generally like them when they're well done. For instance I love when E4 posts the videos Simon makes online, or the minisodes of the US office. True Blood also did a reasonably good job doing fake "I'm a Vampire" PSAs if memory serves? I think they're a great way for fans to get our "fix" of something when we inevitably tear through the actual content (the show, the books etc.). At the same time I'm also a big fan of the addage "quit while you're ahead" and am always kind of wary when any brand just spams with extra content. Extra things should happen when the person producing the content has something extra to say or add or something, not just do it for the sake of doing it.

That's what I liked about the twitter prompts, they were funny and spontaneous. But sometimes I've seen twitter feeds, for webcomic characters for instance, that just seem to devolve into the self indulgent, or don't really add to the primary content we're already getting, or can even distract from it. So I'm sometimes a little leary of extra online stuff.

I guess that's a roundabout weird way of saying that for me, it depends, not on the nature of the content, but on the intent behind it.
Mar. 21st, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love Nathan. Not quite as much as I love Simon and Alisha, but a lot!

True Blood did do a lot of fun advertising! And I remember musing on how the Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl TV shows advertise in a sexy way that'd get YA books into a lot of trouble if they tried it. ;)

It's true there's a balance to be struck with promo, as with everything: too much of a good thing is still too much. I'm not sure if a twitter account for a book character would work, for instance! (And yet I'm not sure it wouldn't either.)
Mar. 21st, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
I love the idea of putting up short stories / vignettes from other character's POV. Often I find myself loving the supporting cast equally if not more than the main characters. Seeing a scene or a story from their POV would deepen my understanding of them and make me happy.

(Also, when I write, I make those stories up anyway, even if they won't get into the final book. That's how I get to know all my characters. Don't know if you do the same, but if so, it's a cheap way to make at least one reader very happy.) :)
Mar. 21st, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
I think you have to know the story from the point of view of all the characters, so you can write them from the inside out in a way that makes sense, so what you say makes a lot of sense to me also. And we all know the pain of loving the supporting cast more than the main characters sometimes. ;)
(no subject) - coralia13 - Mar. 22nd, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 21st, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Ye cats and gods, but I love Baen. :-D

I'm actually experimenting with extras right now. They're not freebies, though. The serial novel that I'm publishing, Hickey of the Beast is available as just the base subscription, but you can choose to pay more to get Neat Stuff, ranging from exclusive stories by the author, to an iron-on of the school crest, to a custom RPG scenario written by the author, set in the novel's world. If this works out, I'm going to be using the same "tiered bundles" scheme for other novels my company puts out - you'll be able to buy an eBook for cheap, but you can choose to step up and get, say, an exclusive story, or tea blends based on the world and the characters, or your very own Extrahuman Union persona and identification badge.

Someday, I'd like to encourage my authors to offer free stories and extras on their personal sites, in addition to offering some freebies on my company's site, but for now, the bundled packages with "superfun cool extra swag" seem to be going over pretty well, even paid.
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I keep stumbling onto writer blogs that say that you shouldn't post original fiction for free online because it devalues the fiction you want people to pay for, or something. Which is upsetting to me because I am a writer because I want to share stories, and sharing short stories online is one way to do that, and I don't want to stop just because I want people to buy my as-of-yet-non-existent book, too.

I love little extras like the stuff you describe. Finishing off a series and wanting more and then discovering that there actually IS more is great.
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
Well, as you can see, a ton of professional authors do it, so I think you can too! Neil Gaiman gave away one of his books too, if I recall correctly, and it's certainly done him no harm.

And yes on wanting more and finding more - that's really well put! I know I jumped all over the Becoming Human extras while waiting for the final episode to air.
(no subject) - mekthehatter - Mar. 21st, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
First of all, I think that the way you're currently doing online promotion is fabulous. I live for the 9th. (Just kidding. But it does make my month a little more fun.) I love the vignettes as well, especially Nick's First Word. Actually, especially all of them.

I really liked JK Rowling's online promotion for the sixth and seventh books--the elaborate schemes to get behind the Flash door and get these tiny clues about random characters. But that was a marketing scheme that requires a ton of Flash programming skill and a hardcore fanbase that pokes around the site for hours looking for clues, and that perfect storm might never strike again in our lifetimes.

I dunno. I love what you've done as far as online promotion, as a fan and as a writer. My writer friends and I have a joke that we want to be Sarah Rees Brennan when we grow up and get published. Maps labeled with different places in the books would be really cool, if only because I'm an American and I have no idea where Exeter is (although I have only myself to blame for that, but still, who doesn't love a hand-drawn map?) I also really like Jonathan Stroud's promotion for the Bartimaeus Trilogy ( http://www.bartimaeusbooks.com/ ) The main character has a little blog detailing one of his numerous swashbuckling adventures, and generally little goodies and behind-the-scenes looks at the characters and world. Also, and I have no idea if this is possible, but I crochet, and I crochet stuff for all my geeky joys--Gryffindor scarves, Jayne hats from Firefly, Ewoks plushies, Totoro, you name it--and if there was any kind of knitted or crocheted object that I could make in from this series, I totally would. I guess I could crochet an amulet, but it'd look kind of lame. Maybe an Anzu plushie? But anyway, if you can think of anything from this series that could be made out of yarn and then found someone to make it and write a pattern for it, you would rock my world.

Obviously, that's a pretty specific wish that probably would appeal to a small portion of your readership, but hey, you asked. :)
Oct. 17th, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
The Bartimaeus world is pretty much ancient Egypt up through medieval Egypt, and there are existing knitted stockings from around the tenth to the twelfth centuries AD. Many of them have "Allah" knitted into them. There are patterns, and the other ones aren't that hard to chart. Knit yourself a pair of Sultan's Socks.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Oct. 17th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks soo much for making me aware of the awsome that was Becoming Human. I've watch Being Human and didn't even know that existed! How badly I want there to be a whole series on that..

Ohh and thanks for linking the Lego Lexicon, awsome as well! I'm only half way through your second book and am loving it!

As for extra 'add-ons' for any media, I'm happy as long as its good quality :)

~Back to reading Covenant!
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're enjoying Covenant! And Becoming Human. I do hope it'll be made into a whole series where they supernaturally teen-sleuth all over the place.
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, The Ogre Downstairs helped me cope with having my very own ogre, *ahem* I mean stepfather when I was a kid. I'd completely forgotten the millons of nights I used to read it to my little brother!

I also second what you said about the use of the 'grubby British setting' making the fantastic and realistic mesh in a strangely authentic way. Uncomfortably so when it comes to Becoming Human. When Adam tries to suavely kiss Christa in front of the Crompton girl, I actually squealed with embarrassment at all the times that happened to me back in the day. Sadly, without the cute awkward vampire boyfriend!

And my fave author promotion is the short stories from the POV of other characters. When you're invested in a universe and a group of characters, getting more than just the book feels naughty and greedy, like being fed stolen chocolate cake...
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
I love that book!

Oh, awkward vampire boyfriend with his strange head-patting hugs. ;) It is horrifying to watch him try to win his lady, horrifying yet compelling.

And that is good to hear!
Mar. 21st, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
I like the little extras and hearing the character voice like the tweets you did the other night or even things like maybe what books they read or music they listen to etc. It's funny but when i'm out with my book loving friends we see things in shops etc and say 'omg, *insert character* would look awesome in that' etc.

i could just comment here and quote Nathan at you all night but that would require a great deal of typing

so i'll just say


Mar. 21st, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
Possibly it's just because Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series and Diana Wynne Jones got me at a young age

With those two, I read Lloyd Alexander, who is also The Way Things Should Be.

And I really appreciated those short stories you posted.
Mar. 21st, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
I loved the short stories you have up. More of those would be great. :^)
Mar. 21st, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
I really love that Castle's creators/network A) actually print a Nikki Heat book every year that I can buy and read in the bathtub Just Like Kate, and B) make lots of fan in-jokes in the canon, so I feel like they know I'm here enjoying their work.
Mar. 21st, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
I hear they do pretty well, too. ;)
Mar. 21st, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
I adore the short stories/vignettes from different characters' points of view. Holly Black's "Lila Zacharov" series was a real treat (and the website for the plaintiffs' law firm Mason Wilson & Black was awesome!). I think deleted scenes would also be a lot of fun, or an author's commentary on a particular scene or chapter, or a discussion of the evolution of characters/plot through the writing process. I love to know why writers make the choices they do!
Mar. 21st, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
OH I know exactly what you mean about the grubby British setting! Probably related to all my British-book-reading, too. And being a Beatlemaniac (hmm, urban fantasy set in 1950s Liverpool-- that might be interesting). I like supernatural teens overwhelmed by their terrible personalities problems, too. But I am definitely kind of a psycho-fan for grubby British settings. And non-grubby British settings. It MAY be that I have an Anglophilia problem, actually, but anyway we get to your question:

EXTRAS. I THINK my favorite extras are actually when the author talks about the inspirations behind various story points, or talks about why they did the things they did in the story. These are my favorite DVD extras too-- when the creators talk about how they actually crafted the Storytelling of the thing. But then, I am a boring grownup and a writer, and while I find this stuff utterly fascinating, I don't know how much it is to the average fan.

I DO definitely love extra stories, like yours, and things from other characters' points of view. These WOULD be my favorite FICTIONAL extras at least (the DVD equivalent-- deleted scenes, maybe?).

And see, now I am popping over to your Twitter to read those Two Character Stuck Together Tweets, so I do find that interesting. But I can't get a handle on the concept of actually KEEPING UP WITH ANYONE on Twitter, so it's not so much an advertising tool that works on me as much as another-fun-thing-to-go-check-out-when-someone-tells-me-something-I-need-to-check-out-there.
Mar. 21st, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, does your love of grubby British settings extend to Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible trilogy, from the 70s and 80s?
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