My Interview with James C. Burns

coldwater - james c burns

It is always important to love what you do. This might sound like some kind of cliché, but seriously it’s true. The reason is life is hard and anything you do has its ups and downs. The difference is, when you love what you do you don’t mind when the going gets tough because when you reach you goal you feel even better because you love what you are doing so much.

Last week I had a chance to interview actor James C. Burns about a number of things including his upcoming film, Coldwater. We had some technical difficulties at first, but we worked through it and had a great time. I was awesome doing the interview and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed doing it.

The Next Steps

AmazonStudiosLike anything in this world you have to step out, step forward to get to where you want to go. Long time ago I made the first step by writing down a short story and showing it to my friends. When it came time to submit my work online to a workshop it was a frightening experience, but you get over it pretty quick.

I think you have to understand that no matter how much you work on your craft there will always be more work to do. You will never please everyone and sometimes you won’t even please yourself, but you have to put yourself out there and be prepared for the good, but mostly the bad because that is what comes back the most.

The funny thing about writing is you have those that love just knowing they are working on something. The guy that has been writing a novel for ten years and swears that’s the best way to do it, then you have the guy who rushes out anything to try and make a buck. Then you have us, in the middle who try to do it right but not take too long because you need to get on the next step or steps as they really are.

Like being rejected when asking for a date, all rejection gets easier over time. You also find out like any art, people have varied views of what they consider good. Just ask someone to name a great movie. Either you will get the same cookie cutter responses like Citizen Kane or a fight over one person thinking their choice is good and the other is complete crap. The point is the creator needs to write what they enjoy and accept that there will be those who won’t like it.

The key is to keep going and so I begin the real push towards script writing. Most of the other writers in film school are looking towards feature films. I prefer television because it feels more like a book worthy story could be told. Just typing that makes me laugh since so many authors hate, or claim to hate television. One of my professors was so surprised I wrote three novels and want to write for television.

Well I do. I love comedy in television. I am a longtime Seinfeld fan and like the more dialog based comedy, single camera, no audience or laugh track like, it’s Always Sunny.  Before I even thought of going to film school I wrote a series of mini scripts for a short I called, Dinner Theater which is based of dinner conversations I have been part of. I knew I loved writing comedy and specifically dialog, so when I began film school I focused on that.

I pay close attention to the television networks and online series and companies like Netflix and Hulu. Honestly, I rather write a show for one of them than network. I began working on a sitcom called Relations. It was my anti-relationship sitcom to make fun of other sitcoms as well as explore relationships you normally don’t see.

I came across Amazon Studios while watching shows on Amazon Prime video and learned they are looking for shows that are different than what you would see on network television and so I submitted a script. I have no idea what will happen, but just like my novels, you have to put your work out there and see what happens.

J.A. Laraque at Amazon Studios

So the journey continues, my fourth novel is coming along as well as my television scripts and of course all the changes with Obsolete Gamer and other article writing endeavors. If you are interest in checking out my project you can follow it via this link.

Onward and Forward.

The Problem with The Gatekeepers

stop

If you have ever tried to get in contact with someone important or famous you have undoubtedly run into someone’s whose job is not only to inform the person of whom they need to contact, but to keep unwanted contact from them as well. This is understandable for many reasons. Consider that every day we all get spam, in our e-mail and even in the mail. We get unsolicited calls and sometimes people even showing up at our home.

Think how you feel when that happens. Even if you are at work, seeing an already filled inbox bloated even further with e-mail that has nothing to do with you or your job can get on your nerves. Ever been bothered in public, say someone wants to try and sell you something, ask for money or even someone you might have met at a business function that you really rather not have a conversation with outside of business. Now take that and magnify it by a thousand.

I myself am a weird mix between being a people person and being a very private person. I like to meet people, but if I am not in the mood to be friendly I rather everyone stay away. However, even before writing and the website, I knew that even if you rather just be alone you have to get out there and meet people and be open to people wanting to meet you. This is even more important is business. Contacts are huge and if your business relies on them or if you need to promote yourself then you have to be much more open even if it is against your nature.

I think about when I first started writing and when I first began working with Ignacio on Obsolete Gamer. As a new writer you constantly want feedback and you have to get your work out there which means submitting to everywhere you can. When launching a website, particularly in gaming, you have to reach out to developers, publishers, public relations people and marketing professionals. For Obsolete Gamer, since I created Gamer Profiles, we had the added goal of finding celebrities of all types to get profiles for.

So you start with places and people you think you can get and if you have friends or existing contacts you being there. Nobody wants to be first, so when trying to get someone to put their name on your site, for whatever reason, they want to see other people have first. When sending out your writing it can be rejected for a thousand reasons and most of the time you will never find out which one it was. Also, people have their own ideas of what they think is good, what fits with their site and what their own goals are. Believe me, you can have your work rejected because someone just doesn’t like you or believes your work is bad even if later others say it is good.

So what happens when you begin to get positive responses, you want to build on that. You write more and you contact more people. The good thing is you can use your previous publications to get new ones and by the same token show previous gamer profiles to get new ones. Specifically with gamer profiles, when certain people see you got a certain type of person to respond they now feel as if they should be there or at least that it is a positive for them.

You can’t be bitter if you want to keep moving forward. Also, you have to remember that the higher you go the less likely the real person you are trying to reach even saw your requests. This is one of the first problems with the gatekeepers.

It does not matter if you are A list or D list. Once you get on the smallest radar people will come out the woodwork asking for things. If you are at a point where you have someone as your filter it is up to you to decide what your filter criteria will be and how much oversight you will do.  This is where the second issue comes in. It is clear if you are going after an A lister that you are not sending e-mails directly to them. In most cases, it is going to be a quite a few layers before you get to them. As you go down that can vary and some people outsource to a firm who may or may not really take time to consider who they turn down and who they don’t.

Obviously you cannot commit to everything and sometimes something that might seem easy to you could cause issues for them. The problem is you never know and if the person responding to you does not know how to properly deliver that message then you can be left with a sour taste in your mouth.

I see both sides. When asking for a gamer profile I consider that it should be one of the easiest things to answer. There is almost no controversy and it only takes a moment to do. On the other hand, being a writer and working in other pursuits even my name which is far below even the D list is just enough to get e-mailed for some of the silliest things you have ever heard of. I have ignored e-mails of people writing me, not fans, but random people asking for stuff and I had to decide if it was worth replying too. We are talking a small number, nothing compared to the amount some of the people I e-mail must receive.

However, the issue is not with the person turning you down, that happen and is a fact of the business you have to learn to deal with. The problem is when the gatekeeper appears to be making all of the decisions or leading you on. When it comes to e-mails this can be worse because you know they have seen it, but the art of replying even to say they are not interested is a lost one. We are more likely to delete or mark as spam. I rather have that however, than receive a reply and the led along for months only to come up empty.

Remember don’t call us, we’ll call you. This is magnified by infinity with e-mails. See, growing up in an office environment I was used to following up. If I sent an e-mail and you said to follow up, I will do so, again and again, weekly if I have to until I get an answer. It seems some gatekeepers have an issue with that. Why did they ask you to follow up? Perhaps you should have been able to translate the code and never respond when told to follow up except that in the media business that bears fruit all the time and I personally have had it happen so many times.

A bad gatekeeper can make you look bad. This is especially so if you rely on a community for support, for fans, for business and/or to make a living. You should never have to bow to your fan-base or the media, but if someone on your team is unprofessional, it could lead to some backlash. For the most part, those of us in media know not to hold the real person you were trying to contact responsible. It’s like getting a bad receptionist. Sure, they hired her, but they should not really be punished for her issues.

Now I do hold a person responsible when it comes to social media. I find it in bad taste to have someone running your twitter feed or fan page other than yourself. I am talking about personal ones here not a company. If all you do is hire someone to post about whenever you are appearing somewhere or releasing something, but cannot interact with the people posting there then you should shut it down. Make a website for that, send out press releases to media outlets, but I believe when you are on Facebook and Twitter and the page has your name on it, it should be you sending out the information. Otherwise, in all honestly, we are following a PR person. If I ever become too busy to post then that is my responsibility. Any PR or Marketing person can do their job without using a tool that, in a perfect world, social media should be used mostly for personal communications.

One of the worst aspects of the gatekeeper is when they are willing to communicate with you and answer promptly when they need something from you. Once that is done and you ask for something you go back on ignore. It is like having a friend who only calls you when they need a ride to the airport and when you ask for a ride he or she doesn’t even answer his phone. Sometimes you make a contact with a nice gatekeeper and build on that only for that person to quit or be fired and the new gatekeeper doesn’t know you from Spambot 2000 and treats you as such. You would think part of their job would be to know about existing contacts, but I am sure fame works the other way as well.

A lot of the time it is about what you can do for them. Does their name being on your site, or they appearing on your podcast help them? You will meet those who do it for the love. We have had a lot of people work with us even when we had a small reader base because they loved classic games and really loved interacting with people.

Gatekeepers are often a necessary evil and one day you may find yourself going from dealing with them to having one of your own. My advice if that happens is check their work. You never know who you are interacting with. The unknown you ignored today can be the superstar tomorrow and the famous person today may become the forgotten tomorrow. Remember, you can burn bridges, even over the internet.

Excerpt 1: In the Absence

My next novel is titled, In the Absence. The overall story is a mix of love and loss story on the backdrop of the end of humanity. This book is my chance to take everything I have learned and combine it with all the things I have wanted to try in a book. Unlike my other novels this book with be graphic in language, sex, violence and theme. So I figure from time to time I will put out little excerpts from the book. I do not think myself as important enough to worry about spoilers, but most of what you will read won’t tell you very much. However, it might be entertaining or get you to want to read the full story. Either way, here it is.

the long cold dark road

The man standing behind a wooden pulpit was a sad caricature of a preacher. He had a pale swollen white face. He was sweating under the cheap lights taking deep breaths between every other word. The white suit he wore was cheap on purpose to fool his prey into thinking he was one of them. The man was not stupid. He chose his words carefully, mixing a tale of the end of days with the hope of salvation only he could help bring. The crowd of people spent little time in the cheap plastic folding chairs. They were not just cheering on his performance, but starting a rallying cry of revolution.

I could blame the crowd for their ignorance, but that would have only shown my own. Like all wars fought by our government, the toll was most taken on those who never held a gun. The people who did not fight suffered even more than those who did. Victory was a word for the rich, powerful and connected. Everyone else just watched more and more freedoms taken from them and less and less of an ability to peruse happiness.

A story of how the world would end and that the humble and meek would inherit the earth was more soothing than music to the masses. It was in fact a sirens song to lure the few coins they held in their pockets into his baskets. I saw in him a traitor, not to a country or flag, but to humanity. We were all suffering and he literally and figuratively was taking the food from their mouths. 

The Awaken Project: White

The Awaken Project  wgite

After putting together the first pieces in 2008, I’m happy to final published my third novel. This is my first step into a more action/adventure type book mixing the supernatural and swordplay. This is book 1 of 5, so I guess this makes the series my Harry Potter or Dark Tower. One can only hope. Within the next week the book will be available on all major platforms including iTunes, Nook and Google Play.

You can find my novels on the following formats:

The Awaken Project: White on Amazon

The Awaken Project: White on Nook

The Awaken Project: White on Google Play

My Promo Shoot with 1337 Lounge Live

 j.a. laraque 1337 lounge live

The Gamer Profile Story

So here is the story. When we first created Obsolete Gamer, one of my personal goals was to talk to as many people as possible and find out what their favorite classic game was. To reach this goal and bring people to the site I created Gamer Profiles. The idea was simple. We asked people what their favorite game was and why. At first it was hard to get people to respond, but we were lucky enough to know the founders of Origin PC and they became one of our first gamer profiles, but I was just getting started.

I wanted more and I figured if you can get one profile then why not 100. We added profiles from small indie companies all the way up to people from Capcom and more, but then I said: How about celebrities. I am a big fan of the Jace Hall show and wanted to interview the man himself. We sent out e-mails, but he was very busy at the time working on his web series as well as the remake of V. For a time I thought I would never get his gamer profile, but then after several delays he promised to send one.

A man of his word, in a few weeks I had it and from there I was determined to get many more and so I created the sub category of GP All-Stars, but it did not end there with Jace. Later we got a full interviewand we teamed up to help our respected sites. I participated in video game discussions and talked with his staff about my ideas. Then I got an e-mail I never expected.

I was asked to come on the show 1337 Lounge Live. I was ecstatic and within a few weeks we shot the promo you see below. Here is the story of the video, the 1337LoungeLive hosts forgot about a very important interview with video game legend, Jace Hall, and try to cover it up! Xander and Jennifer are super cool and the whole experience was incredible. Now, this was a promo for my appearance on the show that aired on April 26th.

CREDITS:
Written by: Jennifer Zhang & Xander Denke
Directed by: Adam Rady
Produced by: Jennifer Zhang, Xander Denke, Adam Rady
Cinematography: Jared Hoy
VFX: Adam Rady
Starring:
J.A. LaRaque……. as himself
Xander Denke……. as himself
Jennifer Zhang……. as herself

It was a great experience and we had an awesome time talking with fans of the lounge and classic gaming. Since then I have been a regular fan, tuning in at least 2 to 4 times a week. Eventually, I began doing commentary on their weekly Gaming Talk Show, which is now a weekly talk show called, Game Talk Live. I now write articles for the Jace Hall Show page as well as the Game Talk Live website and will be appearing on the talk show in the future.

Abilities and Tactics: Retrieval & Stabilization

The following is information on various terms, concepts, abilities and inventions created and used in J.A. Laraque’s novel, The Awaken Project.

Originally when a human died it soul passed on from the living world to a dimension called the Negative Mirror. The Negative Mirror is an exact copy of the living world except that it is devoid of any sentient life that is beyond any other souls currently there. The Negative Mirror also appears almost colorless to human souls and is bland in color to Angelics and Demonics. Before the event that caused the Angels and Demons to disappear human souls would never spend more than a few moments in the Negative Mirror before they were guided by a reaper to the afterlife.

After the incident that caused the Angels and Demons to vanish the Negative Mirror and the afterlife itself became destabilized. In time stabilization returned to both dimensions, but the damage had already been done. The result was some human souls were not retrieved by the reapers and the Negative Mirror itself began draining the life energy of any inhabitants of its dimension. Though many human souls still passed on normally from the living world to the Negative Mirror and onto the afterlife some did not. It has been speculated the souls that did not pass on under normal continues are destabilized themselves due to the trauma of their death or unresolved issues in the living world.

When a human soul enters the Negative Mirror it takes on the appearance of its human body, but the longer it stays in the Negative Mirror the more of its life energy will be drained away. When this happens the soul begins to age changing in appearance to mimic an aging body. After too long the body will become weak unable to maintain its cohesion and break apart and absorbed by the Negative Mirror never to be retrieved. Angelics are tasked to venture into the Negative Mirror and retrieve these human souls.

Using technology created by the Angels they are able to track souls that enter the Negative Mirror. When an Angelic finds a soul it begins a process called Stabilization. It was discovered that the life energy within lost souls has become destabilized which causes it to become untraceable by the reapers, in essence they are ghosts to them. An Angelic coming in contact with a lost soul can channel some of its own life energy into the soul stabilizing it. This causes a flashback to the moment of death for the human causing them to relive it.

It is believe this process also helps the soul stabilize. Once the process is finished the reaper is able to find the soul and will appear to guide it to the afterlife. It is at this point the Angelic may ask the soul to join them if they meet certain criteria. If not the reaper performs its own version of stabilization which wipes the memory of the souls time in the Negative Mirror and puts the soul at peace for its final trip to the afterlife.

Every Step is an important one

j.a. laraque's imdb page

For many this may seem silly. It’s just a small self credit, but for my it’s one of my professional goals achieved.  Ever since I began writing I wanted to do something to earn an IMDb credit.  Now keep in mind, for some jobs they ask you to send them your profile so it has real work implementations. Now of course, once you get a credit you want more and they don’t give them for novels so I am working on earning more every day. Btw, feel free to check it out and if you wish to like it that would be awesome too.

J.A. Laraque’s IMDb page.

One: The Making of a Novel

One Cover

There are a ton of stories sitting in people’s heads or on their desks and computers that will never see the light of day. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time making up stories for my toys long before I put my hands on a video game controller.

When I was in school, I did some early writing, but then dropped off of it and really did not think about it again until I was in my late teens. In between delivery runs, I wrote a novel about the afterlife, which I hope everyone will get to read next year. To think now that I wrote a novel by hand amazes me, even more because I stopped writing again around age 20 and did not write again until age 30.

A good friend of mine had me pick a book to read from her collection and I picked What Dreams May Come. I had already watched the movie and wanted to read the book. I really enjoyed it and read it cover to cover within a few days, something I never did before. I wanted to resurrect that old book about the afterlife and so I began the writing process.

Before I knew it, I had written that novel and a second that was much more action oriented, but also based on the afterlife. Again, I hope to have those out in the future, but during this time, I began thinking about my life and the changes I had undergone.

Even though it had been more than a few years, my mother death was still in my mind more often than I thought it would be. I was lucky because I had many friends who were there to help me even though I felt I could do it all alone. I began to realize that since then I had withdrawn more. Sure, I hung with friends, but I valued being alone and kept thinking it was the best. I even began to think being alone was a virtue and it made me better, stronger. I believed I could adapt to anything life threw my way.

Strangely enough at the same time I turned to humor to make me feel better and had been a longtime member of the comedy site Something Awful. Since I was writing, I hung out in the creative message boards and one day I saw a post asking what would you do if you woke up one morning and everyone disappeared.

What captured my attention was not so much the premise, but that many people replied that they would not be that affected. Some people talked about how it would be fun or that they are alone all the time anyway so they would adapt. It made me think about my own feelings and I realized that most of these people don’t get what being truly alone is.

Later I talked with my sister about the question and told her I wanted to write a story about it. She loved the idea being a horror and Stephen King fan. I told my sister I didn’t want to write your standard last man on earth story and that it had to be about the character not so much the environment. I decided to take a part of my feelings and pull and stretch at it until Timothy was created.

Timothy is a 20-year-old man who believes he is dealing with the death of his father, who just a year prior was killed by a drunk driver. He believes it is his mother Martha and sister Ashley who are putting their own issues onto him. Timothy is smart, perhaps too smart for his own good and having to deal with his family and his girlfriend Christine, believes he just might be better off alone.

The next morning Timothy awakens to a world of one. Now Timothy not only has to find out how everyone disappeared, but why he is suddenly plagued by visions of his recent past. What keeps going through his head is something his sister told him the night before.

When you’re all alone and the only voice you can hear is your own, you find out the truth about yourself.

I wanted this story to be a mystery as well as a tale about how we view our life and how we deal with it. My hope was to put a new spin on these types of stories and when it was done, all I wanted was for people to see it.

The problem is you can never get a story 100% right. You can read it a million times, edit it, have friends and people you do not know read it. However, each time you come back and look at it you will feel something isn’t right. Also, you know there are people who want nothing more than to rain on your parade and no matter how many times you say it does not matter, you do care what people think of your work.

Getting something published is like becoming a movie star. You can be a great actor or not, you can be lucky or you are not. What I mean is there will always be great, new stories out there people will never see for many reasons be it that you are not well known, you don’t know people who can help you, you don’t have money or all of the above.

This is not to say I think my story is great or even new because I frankly do not know. The point is, many people will become discouraged by publishing houses that rather push out books from reality stars than spend the time on an up and coming writer.

What did I do, I stepped away and worked on my other novels. I was scared. Scared to fail, scared it wasn’t good enough, scared to succeed. However, I kept writing and I thought that was good enough. As time went on I came back to the story and polished it over and over, but I was never trained in writing and even with friends who read it for me and helped me edit it, I felt there must be a mistake I missed, a typo, a comma missing, something.

Finally, a good friend told me to just do it. Forget the rewrites and get it out there. Sounds simple and in the end it was. Places like Amazon and Google and even ITunes makes it simple to self-publish. The hardest part is letting go and putting it out there.

There was more editing that I did to try to catch what I could and I formatted it to look good on phones or Kindles or what have you. In the end, I had to let it go and admit I could not do any more. In my heart, I know the story is good, in my mind I assume it is not perfect, but it does not matter because it is out there.

This is the part where I say give me book a look, but honestly not so much because I think it is a great story, even though it is. This is for anyone and everyone who wants to write. I want them to see that a guy who misspells a lot, messes up with grammar and fears criticism can put something out there. I hope if nothing else it makes you say “If he can do it so can I.” I want to see more people self-publish and get their stories out because we know most movies and television have exhausted their supply of decent stories, we need new blood.

No matter what happens I will continue writing. Even writing for these websites and as part of my day job, I get a little bit better. If you need the key to this here it is, keep writing and don’t let your work sit forever. We are all waiting for you.

My book One can be found in the Amazon Kindle bookstore.

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