Hello!

Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art. Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography. Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost, I Ate Tiong Bahru, Obama Search Words and a few others.

This post is gives you some idea of my current projects.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Black
I Ate Tiong Bahru 2 crowdfunding page…

physical laborers

black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat…

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life “interesting”… I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close… and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that’s yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don’t remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I’ve been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg
IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.

Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
Consider:
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
– the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
– writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.
http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3

visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

Silent State logo tests

Silent State is the name of a new musical project by Amith Narayan, Wilson Goh, Justin Bannister and Siva Saravanan. The following are simple tests made with MS Paint. At some point I hope I can invest the time to learn Pshop or the equivalent, but for now the following do the job as starting points for discussion.

The last one is, perhaps, the most exciting. It also requires a delicate sensibility and the experience to combine a handwritten word with an authoritarian block font.

Amith had suggested that green or grey could be used. Those choices could work, but with the following I was, obviously, just working with the idea of negative space… as well as a limited selection of fonts and the bare bones positioning capabilities of MS Paint.

Re: the music. It is a treat.  For those of you who don’t know, Justin is a keyboard genius from the great state of Michigan, Siva has done outstanding work as a percussionist and composer of award-winning movie soundtracks, Wilson is an award-winning choral singer and Amith’s band The Unseen Guest continues to get more fans and praise for their two albums. And then there is 3how
almost silent state sil state silent state 2 lines silent state almost nice silent

silent state close silent state red and blackuntitledstate01 (1)

Jakarta Menghubungkan !?

Halo. Nama saya adalah Stephen Black.
Saya mengirim pesan ini
berharap untuk terhubung dengan
seniman , penulis , wartawan , musisi , 
dan siapa saja yang tertarik bertukar ide
Saya melakukan banyak hal .
Berikut adalah galeri maya saya buat dengan artis Eugene Soh
 www.gallery.sg
Saya telah menulis sebuah novel tentang Bali disebut Bali Wave Ghost .
Beach Road adalah nama dari 360 film saya telah membuat .

megaJakarta
Saya memiliki lebih banyak seni dan menulis proyek , 
tapi saya berharap untuk mempelajari lebih lanjut tentang apa yang Anda lakukan . 

Aku akan berada di TIM sampai sekitar 20:00 hari ini .

Email aku! bookmerah  AT Gmail 
or on Facebook 
https://www.facebook.com/baliwaveghost/
Terima kasih!

StephenBlack

 

Halo! My  name is Stephen Black.

I send this message hoping to connect with artists, writers, journalists, musicians and anyone interested in exchanging ideas.

I do many things.

Here is a virtual gallery I created with the artist Eugene Soh. www.gallery.sg

I have written a novel about Bali called Bali Wave Ghost.

Beach Road is the name of a 360 movie I have made.

I have many more art and writing projects, but I hope to learn more about what you do. Email me! bookmerah  AT Gmail or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/baliwaveghost/

Terima kasih!

 

Stephen Black

MegaJakarta 2

MegaJakarta 1 is here.

megaJakarta 2

megaJakarta 2

I have lived in and written about Bali. To live in Bali is to live amongst the tourist industry, the Balinese form of Hinduism and the battle between man and nature. The image above was created at the Jakarta Airport.

Noise is the brushstroke of digital photography.

Eight links…

Tourism in Indonesia

It seems to me an interesting idea: that is to say the idea that we live in the description of a place and not in the place itself, and in every vital sense we do.
-Wallace Stevens

This quote is used in the introduction to “Landscape, Writing and Photography” by Sarah Hill

Enlightening Enounters: Photography in Italian Literature

Traveller’s Visions: French Literary Encounters With Japan 1881-2004

An Archaeology of Architecture: Photowriting the Built Environment

Stephen Black video interview on the writing  of Bali Wave Ghost

Henry Rollins on Noise and Wolf Eyes

“People ask if, as a photographer, I try to relate pictures to particular pieces of music. In the case of Glenn’s albums, we were both concerned with creating a compelling image, without reference to a specific repertoire.”

Legendary photographer, Don Hunstein recalls collaborations with Glenn Gould

 

MegaJakarta 1

The introduction to the megaJakarta project is here.
Jakarta blur plants edited

 

Embracing the impossibility to fully understand the moment before me. Utilizing technology, choreography and chance to create a two dimensional model and monument.

I came to Jakarta with “only” a smart phone. I had a few questions about my relationship with photography. Reflecting upon the time and place captured by the camera as well as the subsequent processing of the image resulted in the statement above.

One of my intentions with the megaJakarta project was to find eight links that would offer insights into each image. And so…

  1. Ohio smartphone surrealism
  2. From nothing to this…
  3. Cikini
  4. From nothing to this 2
  5. Delete by haiku
  6. http://www.culturemobile.net/bio/personnalites/paul-virilio
  7. From nothing to this 3
  8. H.G. Wells

On my Facebook page I have posted almost a hundred images taken for the megaJakarta project. Only one or two have been modified, the rest are “unattractive”. Here is a sample.

The “before” image of the one above.

megaJakarta 1, from camera

megaJakarta 1, from camera

MegaJakarta 2 is here.

 

Using Facebook Live

Because I will soon be doing another ebook giveaway AND a Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to test and learn about Facebook Live and see if it could be used to help with promotion.

I should mention that, for the past three years, I have been writing and living in Bali, one result being that it was unnecessary to have a smartphone.

Suddenly I find myself in Jakarta with an “old” Samsung. It has been the ideal opportunity to work with photography and Facebook Live. What I have learned in the past few days will somehow help the free ebook and Kickstarter campaigns.

1. My first Facebook Live experience…wow! Actually, this took place in Singapore, a couple of weeks ago, when I helped my friends at JDMIS do a test. At present, one segment has reached over 52,000 people and 11,000 people viewed at least part of it. These figures astounded me, though I was fully aware that JDMIS has a large fan base and the live broadcast was promoted by a boosted ad. I think less than 40 dollars were spent in total (there were a few segments). We live in amazing times.

My Facebook Live audience has rarely been in the double digits. Understandable as I have done no preparation, my followers are not many and I am not paying to boost anything.

  1. Facebook Live from a technical aspect. For a serious shoot, the Wifi must be checked beforehand, especially if the camera moves even a few feet. A weak signal will stop the video or result in distortion. Sound and picture quality are acceptable but, like any video shoot, preparation is needed for the best audio and video.
  2. Facebook Live from a cinematographer’s viewpoint. Without some sort of stabilizer, the picture will be bumpy. I need a Smoovie! Facebook Live uses a square format! There are filters, including one for black and white. 
  3. Facebook Live from a social media aspect. The Facebook Live Map is useful, but I don’t think I gained any viewers because of it. As mentioned, I do not yet have a large audience base and as a result cannot expect a significant number of viewers, though a Facebook Ad campaign may change that. Unlike the Live video, those ads can be tagged.

Conclusion: Along with photography and writing, Facebook Live has been an interesting way to document my time in Jakarta. As for using Facebook Live to promote my upcoming campaigns, I did come up with the following idea during my experiments: During the campaigns, I will read sections from Bali Wave Ghost in interesting and quiet places in Bali that have good WiFi.

Although the live recording may not attract large numbers unless I boost the post, I can later put the recorded video in my blog where I can label it with the appropriate keywords. The ability to get video online quickly and easily is, presently, the Facebook Live feature that I want to work with the most.

megaJakarta

  1. Tourism, travelling, dislocation, diaspora, nothing is stationary from the universal point of view, invisible connections
  2. Portrait of time spent in Jakarta, portrait of Jakarta, documentation of travelling through Jakarta, documentation of interaction with the people of Jakarta.
  3. “All art is self-portraiture.” Yasumasa Morimura
  4.  This is unBeat. I intensely dislike On the Road yet admire the marketing campaign that converted that lengthy piece of terrible typing into a touchstone for a generation.
  5. Working seriously with, for the first time, a mobile phone, an  “old” Samsung. Also utilizing every Facebook feature I possibly can.
  6. Though it is an impossibility, megaJakarta is created with a total disregard for the audience and the industries of Art, Photography Video and Literature. Those who suffer through this four day ordeal may see a reversal of this approach.
  7. Portrait of Jakarta, Documentation of time spent in Jakarta, Capturing moments in Jakarta, Documentations of Jakarta created in less than one second, Ignoring photography while using a camera in Jakarta, self-portraiture using Jakarta as a substitute for the self.
  8. Ignoring marketing principles, especially those connected to social media, to create an art and text based commodity.

MegaJakarta 1 is here.

Facebook Live: What Would Andy Warhol Do?

Sleep

Lonesome Cowboys

Outer and Inner Space

Flesh

He would use his signature and technology to make money.Gallery Kia red and other colors_edited


black cat wood

 

cat FB Live

 

Notes on my First Two Facebook Live Shoots

Background

I have  exhibited video art worldwide and have worked in network television (CNN, Fuji TV, France 2) as a producer, cameraman, lighting man, director and sound person. The first FB Live test was undertaken to document a presentation inside the JDMIS Jewellery School. The second test was meant to complement a  text and photographic project I am working on about the Tiong Bahru Market in Singapore.

If there is interest by anyone, including websites, magazines or other bloggers, I would be happy to develop the following into a proper article.  For now, just these notes…

Overall experience

  1. Shooting with a phone requires practice and experience. This is live! If your hand shakes due to fatigue, your audience will know it. The lightweight camera may even “throb” a bit because of your pulse. Moving the camera and/or your body will disguise this issue, but camera and body movements need to be choreographed…especially because of…
  2. The signal! I discovered in the midst of both shoots that the wifi signal was inconsistent. FB Live flashed a warning and in some cases, the recording was paused.  Though the viewfinder showed a clean image, on the viewer side the video was pixellated. In the case of documenting the jewellery making demo, this was undesired. In the case of the Tiong Bahru market, the FBLive footage reminded me of a video I’d done with Cat Hope. Great!
  3. Optics… The lens on the Samsung I used is wide, comparable to a 35mm lens on a fullframe digital SLR. Most, if not all of what I shot was 5 feet away or more. I physically moved the camera when I needed to change the composition.

Pluses

-Getting to experiment with live broadcasting live.

-No gear, just a phone!

-Ability to shoot wild, and react to the presenters and the scene before me…no tripod! Let’s dance!

Still of Tanja JDMIS FB Live on desktop The display on FB is a treat…

-Doing something memorable…I will always remember my first FB Live experiences.

-Square format!

-Sound and video were both pretty good quality.

-Nice to see how many viewers, though I’d rather have a clean viewfinder.

-shooting black and white video in a square format is refreshing

Here is one piece of the JDMIS  footage.

FB Live Samsung phone camera holder

The improvised rig, courtesy of the fine folks at JDMIS.

Challenges

-Unusual titling mechanism…Seems like a screenshot for the title display is grabbed immediately once the recording starts. There is an ability to change this after the shoot however.

-Areas with a weak signal result in stoppages, pauses or what looks like pixelation. I should have done more tests, though the three equipment tests in the same area did not show a weak signal and no pixelation occurred.

-Faces… At one point I was sitting next to a man reading the newspaper. He seemed OK with me shooting and I couldn’t resist recording him. I didn’t get his name and assumed he was OK with me recording him. Things don’t always go this way, though…what if a big, short-tempered person did not want to be recorded? What if that big, short tempered person thought I was shooting him or her–and I wasn’t?
-Camera battery unpredictable; felt that it would last for an hour and 15-20 minutes, based on tests. Battery was empty after about 30 minutes.

-Everything is awesome! Oops…. I mean everything is auto….sound…exposure…
– At one point little hearts floated cross the screen…no thanks. Also, a friend’s avatar was on my screen while shooting… not needed and, because I was shooting live, there was no way to stop and see how to get it off.

FB LIve TB Market with phone

I’m excited!

Interactive Fiction: It’s All Data

It’s all data is a phrase that I’ve thought about for quite a while. With every fresh sunrise in the digital era, the walls between categories have been melting, becoming pools that are constantly expanding. What were once rigid divisions between categories have become places of possibilities, where different types of data can interact. There are hundreds, if not thousands of examples, but Smab is a great one. I enjoy SMAB’s tagline: Are you ready to listen with your eyes?

Interactive Fiction!

From a reddit post:

Because of its status as outsider art, most of the authors are independent freelancers who are in it more for art than any glory. If you’re interested in working with people from the IF community, there is a forum at intfiction.org where you can discuss theory or find collaborators. Also, most of the very top programmers frequent euphoria.io/room/if, including people like Emily Short, who has been the top author and the face of IF for 2 decades.

I am now excited about starting my first piece of interactive fiction. It seems that I can use my experiences as a writer, an artist, a gamemaker and a music producer.At the moment, the themes are self-discovery and the facts surrounding an undiscovered 1921 painting by Picasso.

This is the first of a series of posts about the possibilities and challenges of music in the An Authentic Picasso project.

Orange Song Blues (inspired by a painting by Picasso)

the first blog post of this series is here.

I have been involved with bands, musicians and music production all my life. My last “proper” project was  co-producing The Riverwalk Session by 3how.

So…Picasso.  Music… I am working on a piece of interactive fiction that combines my original story ideas with factual information about a painting Picasso painted in 1921.Here is a great description of interactive fiction, as well as the Interactive Fiction Competition which I am determined to enter.

At the moment, I am focusing on music/a song which would be heard beneath the end credits.

I would prefer to create something new, working with musicians, vocalists and other people. I am now in Singapore/Bali. The music should be finished in the next three weeks. I have started work on lyrics and can suggest types of music, instrumentation, etc. that would reflect well on the story and the painting itself.

But, although I am fortunate to have talented friends here, there is probably not enough time to create something new. Which means using existing music.
The pluses to using are existing music are:

  1. It is completed and I know exactly what I am getting.
  2. No schedules to co-ordinate, no studios to book.
  3. No possible personality clashes.
  4. The legal side of things is simpler.
  5. The synergy of someone who has a “new” following/fan base.

The minuses of using existing music are;

  1. Difficult or impossible to use lyrics created to specifically reference the story.
  2. There is no creative process.
  3. Solitary, brief-lived enjoyment

I should also mention that that there is no budget for this project. Later, when it is finished, it will become  a game for sale as well as an ebook. There are other possibilities as well.

I don’t like asking people to do things “for the publicity”. I would pay people if I could. But the best is working with people who are excited and focused, whether paid or not.