A Trick and A Treat...

            In Chicago we live for our summers. They tend to validate our own belief about the winters; that it’s worth suffering through because in April, hope springs eternal and we can look forward to the City’s vibrant summer culture: the patio seating at our favorite watering hole; skipping work to go to baseball games; long hot days on the lakefront; wearing shorts.

            That being said, I’m a fan of autumn in the Midwest. My imagination gets fully charged. I’m not sure why that is. The beast in me smells the change in the air and notices the dying hues in the sunlight. The world begins to expose colors that signify the end of a cycle. Greens become reds and yellows. The blue sky fades more and more into deep shades of purple. The planet tilts on its axis and our place in the world gets a little bit darker. It’s still our world, just slightly off, and that crack in the universe forces us to see things differently and to feel things differently.

            Ray Bradbury’s writing relishes this time of year. He was raised in Waukegan, Illinois for a time, which is a little over an hour North of Chicago. Bradbury likes to write about this time of year. He has referred to this time and place as “The October Country”.  It’s the landscape of his imagination populated with characters that reside in a place where opposing forces in the universe coexist side by side: the dark and light, past and present.  I wouldn’t say that his writing is horror or fantasy although its been classified as such, but in the spirit of autumn and the Halloween season I can recommend “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

           In his bibliography this novel completes a trilogy of sorts, the first book being “Dandelion Wine” and the second “Farewell Summer”.  It isn’t necessary to read the first two books in order to enjoy the third. This trilogy exists in a loose form because the novels take place in Greentown, the fictional Waukegan of Bradbury’s youth. The characters in the first two novels are different from the third, but thematically the world of the third is same, just a little off. It’s probably no accident that Greentown becomes a darker place in “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. There are hints of the underlying darkness of the town in the first two novels, which take place in the summer and late summer into fall. That darkness exists not only in nature but also in the town folk’s dreams. Whereas the first two novels can be viewed as sentimental, the third, like the change in the seasons exposes how sentimentality can be turned on its head to become regret. A great read. Spooky on its own, and thought provoking when considered in it’s entirety with the earlier two books.  

            In the spirit of the season and as homage to one of my favorite writers I present to you dear reader a short story, “Ray Bradbury Park”. Happy Halloween!

Your host dressing the part of “A Drunken Fool” (aka “A Typical Saturday Night”) this Halloween.

New Markets, New Strategies

Friday, August 12, 2011

Starting a Social Content Strategy

I started Ion Training in 2008 as a media training resource for consumers who were passionate about video, audio, photo and graphics. With a background in storytelling, film & video, product training, project management and software integration, I naturally expanded the services I offered my clients. Over the past 2 years I have repeatedly been asked to generate content and strategies that instruct my client’s potential customers in all aspects of their product, services and company.

One key principle kept surfacing: customer education.

Customer education is key to all parts of any company’s sales and customer retention strategy, from informed research and customer stories before the sale and product-in-action materials during the sale to post-sale training and support. While Ion Training has been devoted to these principles for quite some time, I’m just now starting to re-position our online presence to reflect our mission, Educating Your Customer. I hope you’ll follow along as I share details on the various customer educational campaigns that we’re involved in. I’ll be taking a candid look at the industry, the strategy and the results we’ve achieved. I hope that the information I share will help you better create and position your own customer educational and social content strategies.

Starting an eBook Publishing Campaign

Our first story involves author Michael Crame from Chicago and the launch of his new novel. Michael has chosen to forgo the traditional industry method of using a publishing house and instead align himself with Ion Training.

We’re developing a personalized “Author Awareness” campaign leading up to his book release event. Our campaign will promote Michael, his unique viewpoint and his upcoming eBook release.

You can follow Michael’s story and get a first-hand look at the social content strategy as it’s developed and see for yourself what works, what doesn’t and how having a flexible, nimble strategy can drive a successful product launch.

Music and Creative Writing: Stumblebum Brass Band

Jazz Ain’t Dead

Stumblebum Brass Band

Stumblebum is a Lower East Side, New York based trio. Their self-described music influence falls somewhere between Louis Armstrong and Nirvana. They played at my cousin’s wedding and their Jazzy/Bluesy/Ska-ish/Punk sound blew everyone away. I made note of their act and downloaded their album when I got back to Chicago. That was the Fall of 2009 and the music inspired me to pick up the manuscript again and push on with completing the work if for any other reason than just to get the story out of my head. If there’s a sound that screams like the manic energy of the French Quarter during Mardi Gras season, Stumblebum comes pretty close to the embodiment of it. In the book’s second scene the characters arrive in New Orleans after a long overnight drive. After listening to Stumblebum’s music, I couldn’t get this idea out of my head of frontman Smidge Malone singing “Jazz Ain’t Dead” on an empty street corner of The Quarter like a Shakespearean chorus. 

Expanding Your Community With Non-Traditional Social Networking Activities

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some Non-Traditional Social Media Activities

Note: This is the culmination of the last two posts outlining Milestones and Activities in your social media timeline.

When you create a social content strategy aimed at community-building, you start at the beginning. After you’re comfortable with the basics, it’s time to expand into other, non-traditional social channels. Now, this isn’t something you do without care or thought. It’s very important to understand how a non-traditional social channel fits into your community-building effort. Even new technologies that, at-first-glance, seem irrelevant to your efforts could prove to be the key pivot point in your social content strategy.

Luckily for us, Michael Crame has an open mind and is willing to try several social media channels as long as we make good cases for using them. This is helpful because Ion Training spends a lot of time experimenting with new technologies and social channels. Our initial discussions with Michael highlighted the strong role that images and music played in the development of his novel, Katzenjammered. We have based some of our non-traditional community-building efforts around 2 social media channels tailored to these types of communities.

Building Your Community Using Images on Instagr.am

Everyone has heard the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. As an author, Michael Crame controls every word that he puts to paper. He crafts each creative element, including the scenes, the characters, the dialog, the environment, the plot and the story arc. If he’s done his job well, the reader will be immersed in Michael’s vision and the story will “come alive” in his/her mind. That’s the beauty of writing - each reader gets to envision the story in his/her own unique way. The reader blends his/her own life experience into the narrative in vast and unknown ways.

What’s sometimes difficult is the subtle art of the hook. Some great stories take pages and pages of exposition to draw the reader into the narrative, the milieu, the environment. In today’s gadget-obsessed world, many readers are drawn to fragments, and it’s difficult to entice your reader and convey your entire vision in 140 characters. This is where Instagr.am enters the picture, so to speak.

If you’re not aware of the community and personal brand-building opportunity on Instagr.am, you need to pay attention. With over 10 Million users in 12 months, and only available on iOS (no Android, no Website), it’s a force to be reckoned with in the image-sharing world. Instagr.am lets users snap or upload photos, apply some cool filters or tilt-shift effects, add a caption and location, then post to the community, but that’s not why they’re popular. They’ve created a passionate community that uses images to tell stories. They beat Flick to the mobile punch and have adoring fans worldwide. Big Brands have taken notice and many are developing their own content strategies around image sharing on Instagr.am.

Three Reasons To Use Instagr.am To Build Michael’s Community

The rise of Instagr.am is important to Michael and his community-building efforts for three initial reasons:

  1. Michael has pictures from over the last 10 years of the people, places and happenings that inform his novel, Katzenjammered;
  2. Many of Michael’s images are stories unto themselves, and he can use these images to locate his audience in a specific time and place, quickly;
  3. The Katzenjammered images serve as the visual hook, a starting point for the community to engage with Michael and his story.

We’ve asked Michael (aka @penmonkey on Instagr.am) to group his Mardi Gras photos into themes and associate each theme with a certain section of his novel or his writing process. Once that’s finished, we’ll plan his Instagr.am content publishing strategy. I call it a content strategy because it’s actually not just the images that we’re concerned with. Michael will be publishing the image, but making good use of the photo’s location, the photo captions and hash tags to group his photos into themes or collections on Instagr.am itself.

This is the beginning of an overall publishing strategy where we take Michael’s initial content from one channel and re-publish it on different social networks. This allows Michael to build upon his previous content using the elements that each social network is best known for.

A Social Content Publishing Strategy In Action

As an illustration, Michael will publish several of his Mardi Gras photos on Instagr.am over the course of a week. Each will have captions of 140 characters or less which will tell a very short story, all related to the theme of the photos. He’ll start adding these photos to specific #collections using the hash tag symbol. He’ll also add a comment to each photo with a bit more detail. When he publishes on Instagr.am, he’ll have a tweet sent automatically to Twitter. Each photo/caption set will tease a greater story.

At the end of the week, Michael will publish the final theme image with a URL to his Tumblr blog, which will also be published to Twitter. The blog post will contain the images and their complete back story, which will fit into one of the category themes that Michael writes about each week! This gives you an idea how a single piece of content can be successfully re-purposed across multiple social channels.

Building Your Community Using Music on Last.fm

When we have Michael create a Last.fm profile, we’re following a similar concept of building a community using a non-traditional social channel. Just as an image can better attune his audience to a specific tone he wants to evoke, music sets the mood for entire chapters of Katzenjammered. In fact, Michael has curated a soundtrack that captures the spirit and mood of his writing. He’s using Last.fm to publish a playlist of those songs which, if you listen to them in order, will give you some emotional insight into the character’s development and the story line.

As Michael blogs about his writing process, he’ll explore each of the songs and artists in his Last.fm playlist and bring his audience into his mindset. Readers will get to study the influence that music and lyrics have in the creative process.

Since music is such a driver in Michael’s writing, Michael will be linking his Last.fm playlist to his Tumblr blog. Once he’s done that, he can embed some of the music that motivates and inspires him to write into his blog posts. His community will get to listen in on his thought processes as he writes several short stories that will be published as Kindle Singles on Amazon in the months leading up to his novel’s release.

the world can be so unkind 
a mix for adeline trevelyan and her grey warden

1. wicked game // gemma hayes 2. the dull flame of desire // bjork 3. this night // black lab 4. wading in deeper // katzenjammer 5. losing heart // brandi carlile 6. what the water gave me // florence and the machine 7. little lion man // mumford and sons 8. adeline // kasey chambers and shane nicholson 9. ghost towns // radical face 10. wait another day // uh huh her

02unit-png asked:

1,6,12,27 :^) hi birb friend, how are ya

hello buddy hello buddy!!! >:3c already answered 1 n 12!

6. Two OCs of yours that look alike despite not being related?

Minnie and Valentine look a LOT alike! Valentine was originally going to be Minnies brother because of this, before I put him into an entirely different universe. 

27. Any OCs that were inspired by a certain song?

Oh boy like… half my cast?

Soprano Lucia Lamb is inspired by Lucia Di Lammermoor sung by Vitas specifically

Bernadette the Ballerina and Josephine Schönbein (loosely) is inspired by Bernadette by Iamx

Minnie Dei Amande is inspired by Love is the Drug from Suckerpunch and Dramophone by Caravan Palace (Dramophone and Love is the Drug both inspired the entire concept of the Sassy Sisters!)

Bonnie is inspired by Papa Paname by Vanessa Paradis

Diabelle Yuen was inspired by a ton of Angelspit, mainly Jugular!

Quinn Thumying(and her relationship to Piper) was ENTIRELY inspired by Katzenjammer’s Demon Kitty Rag! Her character pretty much developed to the songs Le Pop, Demons Kitty Rag and A Bar in Amsterdam

Sunny An was inspired by Primadonna by Marina and the Diamonds!

Theres probably more but those are the ones at the top of my head! 

a fanmix for neferpitou. simply enough. meow. listen.


1. when i am queen - jack off jill // 2. red - the birthday massacre // 3. demon kitty rag - katzenjammer // 4. invader invader - kyary pamyu pamyu // 5. my cat - jack off jill // 6. alice practice - crystal castles // 7. happy birthday - the birthday massacre // 8. affection - crystal castles // + bonus

cover art by elektrisktmonster. :3c

A Random Bourbon Inspired Thought

9/17/11; Late; early morning.

     Quarter to 4 a.m. I was writing for most of the day and decided to quit at about 8 p.m. last night. Not writing entirely but for most of the day my thoughts and effort were consumed with writing. I ended up quitting at around 8 p.m. in need of relief and good company. To that end I ended up at a local watering hole where my credit and reputation are still good. We drank well and ate like barbarians while our host, under the influence of an early onset of Black Lung, calculated the cost of our “VIP” status as we devoured his stock of goods. He’s a good man by God even if he is a heathen. I’ll swear to St. Peter for his credentials if he needs it. In any case, this is the consequence or benefit of years of drinking. YOU WILL MAKE FRIENDS IN BARS…and a few enemies. Your friends will care for you like a stray cat and feed you booze when you need it. Your enemies will turn you in to Animal Control to be gassed like the bad beast that you are: AVOID THE ENEMY AT ALL COSTS. They are killjoys and don’t understand US; that’s why they kill strays.

     After my meal I meandered down the street for a nightcap with Pookie. He too is a good man and we fell into a serious conversation about Quantum Physics (I swear). Why? I don’t remember but his grasp of these ideas is much more pure than mine could be at 2 o’clock in the morning after much alcohol. Apparently I am by school of thought a Galileo-an. He is with Einstein on this matter; which…at the moment is the prevailing reality—nothing moves faster than the speed of light. That is, apparently, the measuring stick of our universe. Pookie could not explain to me the “in between” in any way that I could possibly comprehend at this late hour; the feeling. What’s the metric for my emotion?  We tabled it for a later conversation and went to McDonald’s for cheeseburgers and fries. I believe in the physics in the universe, but I also believe in the spirit. How do you measure that? With religion? With philosophy? With art? With literature?  I don’t know, I just feel compelled to do. Do something. Maybe that’s why people write, paint, or pray.

     I am sitting at my computer at the moment writing. It is a little past 4 a.m. on an early, cool Autumn morning. I am smoking a cigar I bought two days ago and listening to a bomb ass CD that a girl made for me with PRINCE songs that she felt was “of my time”. A more than kind gesture on her part. It is well thought out and the progression of songs is just right. As I write and listen all I can say is “GODDAMN it’s good…”

     Time. A slippery concept. A two day old cigar. An early morning blog. A woman who was not yet born when this music was made. Songs that pull me back into my forgotten and cavalier past. Does it necessarily exist like Albert broke it down or is it that plus the unknown metric of your emotion and memory? I love the poetry of the math, and it is poetry, but how do we measure the in between? Maybe we measure it with emotion and memory. Maybe we can measure it with our words, our music, our memories. Don’t discount the routine. The Clock may keep on ticking away but the quality of those ticks are important. If not to Einstein then at least to you. And that matters.

Your host on another occasion contemplating the meaning of it all.

Social Media Activities When Publishing Your eBook

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Continuing Your Social Media Activities

Note: This is a continuation of last week’s post outlining the Milestones and Activities in your social media timeline.

Building a genuine community through consistent, quality interactions involves activities that can be time-consuming and seem overwhelming. A proper content strategy analyzes your social media comfort level then fits seamlessly into your daily routine; the activities will become second-nature. We continue to work with Michael Crame to help him fully understand the need to spend time building his community. As such, his third and fourth activities revolve around peer interaction to build the community around Katzenjammered. Michael is now spending hours each week engaged in conversations with other, like-minded writers and he starts a creative writing seminar series at the end of the month.

Building Your Community by Engaging Other Authors

This third activity is a direct result of our initial research into Michael and his writing motivations. We asked Michael to make a list of authors who have influenced his style. Since a majority of the authors and poets on his list are deceased, we used this as a stepping stone to explore more contemporary writers who possess some of the same qualities he admires.

Michael started researching authors, writers, bloggers and poets, basically anyone interested in literary and artistic endeavors. He began on Tumblr a few weeks ago. We showed him how to engage with the literary community by “liking” or re-tumbling blog posts. He’s learned how to start or participate in conversations using the comment field. He’s now following writers, poets and bloggers who have a similar or interesting style.

Expanding Your Initial Content Strategy

Hitting your social networking comfort zone feels good, but also means that it’s time to expand your reach and interact with a wider community.

Since Michael is now comfortable finding people on Tumblr, we’re branching out into other online communities. Next week, Michael begins interacting with writers, poets, film critics, authors and bloggers on Wordpress, Posterous, Blogger and Google+. He’s excited to have a social content strategy that provides a tactical approach to building his specific community by telling him why, where and when to publish, yet gives him the flexibility to post what he wants.

Building Your Community by Joining Writing Groups

The fourth activity that we have Michael participating in is creative writing classes and this arose from his own routine. Michael has always been focused on honing his craft and he frequently attends creative writing courses, classes and seminars to improve his storytelling skills, including tone, voice, pacing, character development, story and plot.

Michael has enrolled in the Elements of Creative Writing class at the Newberry Library in Downtown Chicago. This 8-week working seminar is being taught by author Brooke Bergan, whose publications include three critically acclaimed books of poetry as well as fiction, reviews, essays, translations and a play.

Participants will be focused on the yin-yang elements of creative writing, including suspense and conflict, figures of speech and point of view, rhyme and rhythm, setting and scene, form and structure, diction and dialog, exposition and narration, plot and theme. To follow up the eBook release of Katzenjammered, Michael has a slew of short horror stories that he’s working on for self-publication in the Fall 2012. He’s using this class to help him hone and craft his voice and the narrative elements in several of those stories.

Engaging With Informal Author Reading Groups

In addition to enhancing his skills and meeting other creative writing professionals, Michael will be joining a dozen writing groups on Meetup.com. Every city has at least one group focused on the writing process. The larger the city, the more groups to choose from. Chicago has at least 20 groups focused on authors and creative writing, plus many more for related niche topics.

Our first step is complementary to online community engagement; Michael will review each group and find the one’s with the most interesting events with the largest turnouts. His goal is to join these groups, attend the events and start networking with the other group members in the real world. The contacts he makes during any event will prove invaluable in building out his online network as well, plus it expands the sounding board for his own storytelling. Keep in mind that all Michael’s actions are reciprocated. He is equally interested in meeting new writers and learning from their work as he is to let them read his work.

The second step Michael will take is to become an Assistant Organizer for those groups he most treasures. What does becoming an Assistant Organizer involve? I’ll discuss the benefits of this strategy in a later blog post!

Ashley's favorite songs or "Genre? Never heard of it."

Tea With Cinnamon - Katzenjammer
Don’t Bring Me Down - Electric Light Orchestra
Have You Ever Seen the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival

I Don’t Wanna Be Me - Type O Negative
All the Young Girl’s Love Alice - Elton John
Lola - The Raincoats (and The Kinks)
Kiss Them For Me - Siouxsie and the Banshees
From Gods Perspective- Bo Burnham
Where Have All The Flowers Gone- Pete Seeger
She’s Always Singing -The Dear Hunter
Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie
Sunshine on My Shoulders - John Denver
Heard it Through the Grapevine - Creedence Clearwater Revival

amoredozzinale e vomitounicornosauri mi hanno taggata qui e se ho capito bene devo tipo fare lo spelling del mio nome con vari titoli di canzoni. cioè, oddio, mi viene una cosa infinita.
L ( La via di casa, Tre allegri ragazzi morti )
A ( Amandoti, CCCP )
C ( Costruito A Torino, Bull Brigade )
C ( Con un deca, I Cani )
A ( A Bar In Amsterdam, Katzenjammer )
P ( Punti di sospensione, Kintsugi feat. Brain, Murubutu )
E ( E’ finito il caffè, Gazebo Penguins )   
R ( Rainin In Paradize, Manu Chao )
C ( Caso limite, TruceKlan )
A  ( Aerials, System of a Down )
P ( Piano bar, Francesco De Gregori )
E ( Electric Heart, Devendra Banhart )
L ( L'uomo che viaggiò nel tempo, Murubutu feat. La Kattiveria )
L ( La mia Strada, Sparo Manero )
I ( I mostri che abbiamo dentro, Giorgio Gaber )

e boh, mi pare di avervi già taggati a sufficienza in precedenti catene, quindi nulla.


Saturday band discovery: Katzenjammer

Random thoughts on a chilly Chicago night

The booze has run low. I had a bottle of Makers buried amongst the stacked dishes on my kitchen countertop. I had every intent of polishing it off after I did the dishes, did the laundry, and could relax and enjoy a night in. Why not? I thought. It was a long week but at the end of the year there never seems to be enough time to do things, especially as a lawyer. This being my primary excuse for ignoring my social media duties (but don’t tell the Hammer that). In truth it’s a mix of both work and fatigue. The last thing you feel like doing after sitting in front of computer all day drafting pleadings and researching cases is sit in front of a computer after work. To that end I have my lovely iPad2 which some have accused me of being addicted to. Perhaps. You would think that would lead me to combine (with apparent ease) vice with my social media interests but alas, I’ve spent more time being a voyeur and consumer of the media stuff rather than a contributor. I’d like to think that my “hiatus” has allowed me to make some personal observations. What did Lincoln say? 

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.

That being said, let me be a fool now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts.

Instagram. Hmm. I like it. And I like photos of hot girls and puppies as much as the next man but enough already. I haven’t been on it long enough but apparently there was a “Belle Epoch” before it became a billboard for guys’ abs and chicks who want to be models. There was art, so I’m told. There still is, and there are some really talented people out there professional and not doing some creative things with the app. It is evolving as a social media platform so perhaps the flood of cute animals and cute girls are growing pains or maybe… maybe I just don’t get it. Probably the latter.  Time, as it is said, will tell.

Now where’s that bottle?

Your host opening his mouth and removing all doubt.

Developing Your eBook Publishing Social Media Timeline

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Milestones & Activities In Your Social Media Timeline

Choosing your social media strategy and sticking to it can be difficult. A few weeks ago Michael heeded our recommendation and made the decision to launch his novel Katzenjammered in February, 2012. Six months to build an audience for an unknown author is difficult, but if you have the passion, a plan and a timeline, it’s doable!

We’ve taken the high-level details from our initial whiteboard drawing and solidified them into Milestones and Activities set against a 6-month Timeline, as you can see in the image below.

Creating Your Social Media Milestones

Our 6 Milestones correspond to the 6 months until Katzenjammered is released on the Kindle and iTunes eBook publishing platforms. You can see the Milestones along the top of the image. These are broad labels for our monthly initiatives and include:

  1. Building a Baseline Community
  2. Adding Social Media
  3. Building Additional Buzz
  4. Soliciting Critical Reviews
  5. Leveling Up (or increasing the intensity for you non-gamers out there ;)
  6. Releasing the eBook

Creating Your Social Media Activities

Each Month and Milestone has a range of corresponding Activities linked to it. Completing these Activities establishes Michael’s social media foundation and continuing with them every month helps build out his community and establish his credibility. For September, we have 6 main Activities where Michael will be involved:

  • Writing Blog Posts
  • Writing Book Reviews
  • Engaging with Other Authors
  • Interacting with the Instagr.am Community
  • Participating in Story Groups, both Online & in Chicago
  • Creating Playlists for the Last.fm Community

Building Your Community by Blogging

This month we’re focused on Building Michael’s Baseline Community. We’ve already started his community building efforts and have established a blog where Michael has begun sharing his thoughts in 3 thematic areas:

  • Details on his Process for Writing the Novel: Katzenjammered
  • Thoughts on Developing Your Own Creative Process
  • Reflections on Self-Promotion and eBook Self-Publishing

So the first activity is blogging and it’s well underway. Michael has committed to writing 4 blog posts a week, which include a mixture of the 3 themes, but with an emphasis on the creative process in general. Michael Crame’s blog can be found at the following link and is titled Katzenjammer: A Discordant Clamor. Check it out and let us know if you see the benefit in our complementary blog posting strategy! Or let us know if you think of anything else that you’d like to see that’s relevant to the process.

Building Your Community with Book Reviews

The second activity has Michael writing high quality book reviews to be published on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Each book review is written with the care of a short story and examines the book’s qualities as well as Michael’s subjective experience with the story, the theme, the narrator and the author. Michael has a certain wit and style that really draws a reader into his reviews, so we’ve set a high target of 6 book reviews a month, with a stretch target of 8! Luckily Michael is an avid reader and fairly prolific writer. He already has several book reviews completed and another handful of books being prepped.

We’ll discuss the remaining 4 activities in our next blog post later this week.