A few weeks ago, I got to sit down with the friendly folks at the Grit City Podcast to chat about my work as a writer, podcast creator, and filmmaker. We talk about my podcast “The Adventures of Captain Radio,” my involvement as a member of the Creative Colloquy board and as a contributor to Grit City Magazine, and Tacoma’s amazing arts community. See the post below from Obscure Studios to listen to the episode. Thanks to Scott, Justin, and Jeff for having me on the show!
This week, you can catch Obscure Studios president Jonny Eberle on The Grit City Podcast! The Grit City Podcast has a simple premise—in every episode, the hosts sit down with Tacoma-based creatives and entrepreneurs over a couple of drinks to learn more about them and their projects. In this episode, Jonny joins the crew for […]
Way back in November, while insanely sleep-deprived while caring for a one-month-old, I made a fateful—and you might say crazy—decision: I decided to take a crack at writing a novel.
This was far from my first attempt at writing a novel. My computer’s hard drive is littered with abandoned first drafts I had every intention of finishing. I can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat, but following through on those ideas has always been a struggle for me. This time, something was different.
Every day in the month of November, I wrote. And I don’t mean I sat down at my computer with a steaming mug of tea and no distractions while I worked on my masterpiece. I was working full-time, caring for my newborn daughter, and supporting my exhausted spouse as we survived the early days of parenthood. There was no extra time for this creative endeavor. So, I wrote in the middle of the night while rocking a baby to sleep, tapping a story out on my phone in the dark at 3 a.m., and praying to the autocorrect gods that my words would be intelligible.
November came and went. I kept writing. The Google Doc I was working in groaned under the stress as the novel grew. Soon, the app was crashing every third or fourth time I opened it. But I pressed on, determined to see the project through.
In February of 2022, my wife went back to work and I took leave to spend time with our daughter. So, nap time became writing time. In between juggling parenting and housework, while making sure the dog was getting her walks and putting out a fiction podcast, I soldiered on.
Last week, I typed the final line of the first draft of my novel, bringing my story to a close. I’m taking a break before diving into the next phase: editing. For now, I can at last say that I did what I set out to do. I wrote a novel. At just shy of 100,000 words long and chronicling the ups and downs of a family entangled with the Las Vegas Mob over the course of six decades, it’s no small feat.
Several years ago, I set myself a task of completing a manuscript by the time I turned 30 years old. I missed that deadline by a couple of years, but I proved to myself that it was possible. And having done it once, I’m pretty sure I could do it again. That’s a good feeling. I’m well aware that there’s so much more work to be done. This is only the beginning. But I’m choosing to bask in this pause between the first round of labor and all the tinkering still to come to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
If there’s a message to other artists in my experience of these past few months, it’s that it is never too late. If you’re contemplating a daunting creative project, go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come. Take the leap. Write it down. Pick up the paintbrush. See how far you can go.
Let me start out by saying that I didn’t intend to create a podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed podcasts, having been a fervent Radiolab listener for more than 10 years, and I regularly recommend shows like 99 Percent Invisible, Levar Burton Reads, The Moth, and Imaginary Worlds to anyone who will listen. But I never thought I would make one. These shows were highly produced works of art. Coming from a film background, I knew how much time and energy that takes to pull off.
But then, the whole world changed.
A deadly pandemic upended my daily routine. I was out of work, alone at home, for days…and then weeks…and then months. I read a lot, but I also dove headlong into every podcast I could find, sampling from genres and formats I never knew existed. I listened all the time—in the shower, while weeding the garden, out walking the dog—trying to shut out terrifying reality with comforting voices in my ears.
All that listening dredged up an old idea. Back in college, I used to joke with my friend and frequent collaborator Will McDonald that someday we were going to make a black-and-white sci-fi B-movie called Captain Radio and the Mutant Mole People from the Eleventh Dimension. For years and years, it was only an inside joke. Then, in the fall of 2020, something clicked and I realized that Captain Radio wasn’t a movie at all, but a 1930s radio show.
I started writing. Soon, I had dashed off three scripts bursting with rocket ships, ray guns, robots, mad scientists, rapid-fire dialogue, melodrama, and (of course) a valiant hero. It was silly stuff, popcorn fare of the highest order, but it felt good to write something hopeful in the midst of a global catastrophe. I needed the escape, and I suspected others did, too. So, I pitched the show to Will and asked him to come along as the star and co-producer. For some crazy reason, he agreed. Together, we assembled a talented voice cast from across the country, many of whom we knew from Theatrikos Theatre Company in Flagstaff, AZ.
After a lot of work finalizing the six-episode story, organizing recordings, learning my way around Audacity, creating sound effects with random objects lying around my house (wine glasses, bags of rice, and a wet sponge among many others), the first episode dropped on December 31, 2021. Chapter 4 is out now and as we rocket toward the season finale in a couple of weeks, I’m proud of the work we’ve done and hope listeners have enjoyed coming along for the ride as much as we’ve had fun putting it together.
If you’re interested in checking out the show, you can find The Adventures of Captain Radio in all the usual places you consume podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to leave a rating and review telling others one thing you liked about it — that helps us immensely. You can also buy merchandise featuring artwork and quotes from the show, or you can skip all of that and make a monetary donation on Ko-Fi to help pay the bills. You can learn more on the Obscure Studios website if you’d like to dig deeper.
I didn’t set out to become a podcaster, but here I am. I’m so excited to be sharing this spacefaring journey with you. Thanks for listening.
I wasn’t there, but I will always be there. I was eleven years old when four commercial airplanes were hijacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. Turned into weapons of mass murder, two hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, one was steered into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the final plane, who’s target may have been the U.S. Capitol building, was brought down by passengers in a field in rural Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people were killed and many thousands more were injured.
Living three time zones away, I didn’t see the destruction live, as many did, but I saw replays over and over again that day and for many weeks afterward. I can close my eyes and see smoke pouring out of a gaping wound in the South Tower, the North Tower crumbling under its own weight as a cloud of dust obscured its collapse, a man plunging headfirst from a burning skyscraper. September 11 was a day of tragedy on a scale I still struggle to comprehend — and a stark dividing line separating the world that existed up to that morning from the dark days that followed.
For those of us who were children on the day of the attack, but still old enough to remember it, the shadow cast by 9/11 is long. It is a part of our collective cultural memory, a moment when the innocence of childhood was pulled out from under us and the horrors of the world were laid bare. I once read that world events which occur in early adolescence have a profound effect on the development of our values, beliefs, and political opinions. I can’t find that article, but I believe its central argument holds up. My worldview was strongly shaped by that day and by the events which followed: the War on Terror, the era of “See Something, Say Something” paranoia, the rise of the surveillance state, and the unraveling of our country’s civic fabric.
I was a different person after September 11, 2001. We are all different now, moulded by a shared national trauma. Consumed by grief and anger, we inflicted lasting harm on ourselves and the world. Not all of it was intentional and perhaps it could not have been avoided, but the impact of this single day of terror continues to reverberate not only across America, but also in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, caught in the crosshairs of our retribution. I don’t know where that leaves us, but I know it did not bring back those who were lost that day.
The September 11 attacks will probably always define our generation, much as the Kennedy assassination or the Moon landing are forever tied to our parents’ coming of age. I don’t know what that legacy will ultimately be. Twenty years later, the dust is still settling. But I do hope it can spur us to honor the memories of those who died, support those living with the physical and emotional scars of the attack and its aftermath, and work to create a more peaceful world where this cycle of violence is broken once and for all.
Right now, the Internet is awash in think pieces on the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year ago, the world changed overnight, but not in the ways I thought it would. By early March 2020, where I live in Washington State, it was obvious that we were on the precipice of some kind of disaster. The first documented coronavirus case in the United States had appeared just 60 miles north. I was wrapping up my certificate program, where my final project was a plan for communicating a COVID-related closure of my workplace. There were rumblings that we would need to quarantine for 2-3 weeks, so I went to the grocery store and stocked up on shelf-stable food, frozen meals, Theraflu and toilet paper. I woke up on Monday morning to discover that my office was closed until further notice.
I remember being worried about the future, afraid of contracting the virus and terrified that I wasn’t sanitizing my door handles enough. But in the back of my mind, I was also primed to expect a very specific kind of catastrophe — the kind I had seen and read about in movies and books for years.
In the 2007 movie I Am Legend, loosely based on the novel by Richard Matheson, the last human in New York City lives under constant attack from vampiric mutants infected by a re-engineered measles virus. In the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a troupe of Shakespearean actors travels on foot between isolated communities after a flu pandemic has wiped out much of humanity. Without a real global epidemic in recent memory, these were my templates of what to expect in a global pandemic: a fast-moving virus devastates the world overnight, society crumbles, and the survivors are left to wander the wasteland.
This has been a very different kind of pandemic. Society didn’t collapse, but it did fray around the edges as we confronted a chronically under-resourced public health system, political divisions between those who believed the virus was a threat and those who dismissed its severity as hundreds of thousands of people died, and systems of inequality that insulated those with privilege from dangerous exposure to the epidemic at the expense of marginalized groups who were already at higher risk of complications. It may not have been the apocalypse as we imagined it in works of fiction, but it exposed our vulnerability and exacted a terrible cost in human life and livelihood.
Everything is different now. Physical reminders of the reality of this pandemic are scattered around our house. There’s a pile of freshly laundered cloth face masks on top of our dresser. I keep an extra mask and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my car. I follow the one-way arrows in the grocery store aisles, though it feels like I’m the only one. A package of Clorox wipes, purchased at great expense in those confusing early days sits mostly untouched in a closet. The world didn’t end, but it did change.
I’ve written before about my fascination with dystopian fiction, but now that I’m living in an actual dystopia, I’ve realized that these stories don’t have to accurately predict the future to offer valuable insights. At their core, these stories aren’t about killer viruses, they’re about humanity and how we cope with the unimaginable. Our real-life pandemic isn’t over yet, but fiction can still help us imagine how we can rebuild, preserve our humanity and find hope in hopeless situations.
After a year of living under the specter of COVID-19, I could use a little hope. I think we all could.
It’s publication day for my newest short story! All Worlds Wayfarer is publishing my story “Firemaker” in their December 2020 issue, now available to read online for free or available as an ebook from Amazon. I’m beyond excited that this story has finally found a home. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the story yet, I hope you will before reading much further, because this is the point of no return if you wish to avoid spoilers. I love a good time travel tale. It’s a familiar trope for good reason — it allows us to imagine our reality in surprising ways. If we had a machine like the one my protagonist has at his disposal, I think we’d all be tempted to see what tomorrow had in store for us, or long to correct what once went wrong. But what happens once you’ve seen and done it all? Where would a weary time travel go to escape the sweeping currents of history? That’s the question at the heart of “Firemaker.”
I started tinkering with this idea about three years ago, when I fell down a rabbit hole of information about linguistics. I remember reading about linguists searching for an ancient “mother tongue,” a lost language theorized to be the ancestor of today’s Indo-European language family. This missing language, dubbed “Proto Indo-European” can be extrapolated by looking for common words that may indicate a common root in the distant past. According to some theories, scraps of this language embedded in our modern lexicon may be the only surviving evidence of a hunter-gatherer society that existed more than 15,000 years ago. From that starting place, I began to imagine this society as a small band that did not survive the Ice Age, leaving behind nothing but their language. A dead-end civilization, cut off from us by a climactic disaster.
Some time later, this idea merged with another one that was rolling around in my mind. I was thinking about time travel as a plot device, about the nature of time, and where a time traveler who’s tired of roaming might go. How might such a traveler retire after untold decades exploring every corner of history from the dawn of the dinosaurs to the destruction of the Earth? Where would I go if I wanted to avoid making disruptive changes to the timeline and simply be? In that position, I might want to find a quiet corner of time where I knew I couldn’t alter the flow of history, among people who would eventually disappear from the historical record. Perhaps an Ice Age civilization destined to die out.
These two threads came together in an early draft of a story titled “Amber.” In that first version, the Traveler goes into the distant past to escape from the responsibility of knowing how everything would turn out. In that story, the Traveler came across as cold and detached, weighing the impact of his every action before committing to anything. In the story, he saves a boy from drowning, but only after deciding that doing so will have no adverse affect on history. It was an interesting thought experiment, but it lacked emotional stakes.
So, I made some changes, put it away for a year or two, and then pulled it out again to fine-tune it. In the final story, the Traveler is much more impulsive and driven not by a sense of duty not to screw up time, but love for a woman with the potential to ensure her people’s survival as ice sheets bear down on their valley. “Firemaker” is a lot more fun than its earlier incarnation because of the protagonist’s willingness to throw away his whole life in order to get himself to Immaru ahead of schedule. But it also incorporates an undercurrent of uncertainty about whether or not we can ever understand or manipulate time. In the end, I honestly don’t know if the Traveler’s actions constitute a paradox or if that’s how it was always supposed to be and free will is an illusion. And I don’t know if the Traveler made it back to the tavern to order the drinks or if he ever existed at all. That’s the fun of time travel, and I hope you enjoyed the trip.
“Firemaker” is now available to read on the All Worlds Wayfarer website. All Worlds Wayfarer publishes quarterly on the solstice and equinox, so you have until March 20, 2021 to read my short fiction there before the next issue is published. If you’d like a copy you can keep forever, please consider supporting the lit journal by purchasing the Kindle version on Amazon. Thanks for reading!
It’s probably not news to you that 2020 has been a year of upheaval. Between a global pandemic, political strife, racial divisions, and wildfires, this year has also fundamentally reshaped the economy. Like millions of others, I found myself out of work this year. To be honest, it’s not an especially great time to be job hunting — competition for full-time roles is intense and many organizations are hesitant to hire while the future is so uncertain. However, businesses and nonprofits still need customers and donors. To reach their audiences through the noise takes exceptional copy. And writing copy is what I do. So, I’m excited to announce that I’m launching my own freelance copywriting business.
For nearly a decade, I’ve helped businesses and nonprofits strengthen their brand, generate media interest, increase sales, attract and retain talented employees, and raise money for their cause. I’ve worked with small organizations just getting started and one of the country’s most recognizable brands. Writing clear, concise, compelling content is something I’m passionate about. I’m eager to help organizations that are making a difference in their communities tell their story.
If you’re interested in working with me, let’s talk! You can find out more about my qualifications, experience, and the types of projects I can help with on the Servicespage of my website. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page to send me a message. I’ll also be posting more on the blog about the business as I build it and I’ll share some copywriting tips and tricks along the way. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll reach out if you’re interested in hiring me for freelance projects!
Writing is a strange craft. You spend months or years with an idea rolling around in the dark recesses of your mind, weeks or months or years coaxing that idea out of the shadows, and months more chipping away at the rough edges before its time to shop a story around to find it a home. And then, out of nowhere, the pieces fall into place in the bizarre ways.
In September, I found out that two of my short stories were going to be published. One was a story that I’d been editing and submitting to various journals for almost three years. The other was an idea I had four or five years ago that crystallized in mid-summer and came pouring out onto the page over the course of a week. Despite their vastly different origins, they both revolve around a similar image: fire.
I love fire. My mom taught me how to build a fire when I was eight or nine years old on one of our camping trips to Zion National Park. To this day, I’m mesmerized by flickering of firelight and in awe of its power to create and destroy. Fire can forge, it can cleanse, it can make way for new life to take hold. Fire can also consume and kill. For me, fire is a metaphor for humanity. We, too, are capable of great beauty and equally terrible destruction.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that this idea should work its way into my short fiction. In “Firemaker,” fire is a symbol of humanity’s potential, as a time traveler discovers when he travels to a village on the verge of being wiped out at the dawn of the last Ice Age. “Pyrocene” embodies the other side of the coin as a character tries to save a house from burning down in a setting that could be the present day or the very near future.
I never thought of these stories as having anything to do with each other, but rereading them, the parallels are obvious. They are intertwined, each commenting on the other. I love being surprised by fiction — sometimes I even surprise myself with hidden themes I didn’t consciously incorporate. In a year when the world feels like it’s on fire (racial injustice, the presidential election, and the actual fires raging across much of the American West for a start), it’s fitting that these two stories will be published together in 2020.
“Pyrocene” will be published in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual anthology, due out later this year. You can hear me read it at the Creative Colloquy Crawl on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific time (RSVP here to receive the Zoom link). “Firemaker” will be published in All World’s Wayfarer Issue VII, which will be available on Monday, December 21. You can preorder it for your Kindle at allworldswayfarer.com. The issue will also be free to read on their website until March 20, 2021.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, All Worlds Wayfarer and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitterand subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.
Every year, Creative Colloquy hosts a literary pub crawl in downtown Tacoma. In 2020, due to the pandemic, CC is bringing the stories to you. This year’s Creative Colloquy Crawlwill be 100% online, all-ages and spread over a whole weekend of literary awesomeness, kicking off with a virtual happy hour on Friday, October 2. You can join in from anywhere to listen to stories by women of color, hear some new urban legends or tune in for our first-ever story time for kids.
If you’re interested in hearing me perform, you’re in luck. My short story “Pyrocene” was selected for inclusion in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual print anthology. Volume 7 will be available to purchase later this year, but I’ll be reading it during the Volume Seven Sneaky Peeks event on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific alongside other authors whose work will be featured in the anthology.
Each event is free to attend, but you do need to register in advance to get access to the Zoom link. Learn more about the weekend’s shenanigans and RSVP below:
The Crawl is one of my favorite events of the year and while I will miss the excitement of the in-person events (and frantically running between venues to catch my favorite writers and musicians), but I also think this will be the best Crawl yet. If you couldn’t attend before because you don’t live nearby or because you can’t make it out to a bar on a weeknight or because members of your entourage are under the legal drinking age, I hope you’ll be able to make it to one or more of the virtual readings. Mark your calendar for October 2-4 — and I hope to see you there!
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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.
Sometime in late April, I fell down a rabbit hole of links learning about the history of the plague in Europe. It was a dark impulse in the middle of a modern-day pandemic, but I became fascinated by the plague doctor costume, a head-to-toe covering designed to protect the physician from infected patients. Through my research, I learned that the costume itself may not have been widely used, but those who adopted it reflected a new wave of understanding infectious disease in the West — the personal protective equipment of the day.
The mask, while turning the wearer into an ominous looking bird, was meant to filter out contaminated air (“miasma”) with strong-smelling herbs and spices. The gloves and robes prevented the doctor from physically touching their patients and the staff may have allowed them to give direction from a safe distance.
Over the years, as our understanding of disease prevention and treatment evolved, so did the protective garb employed by doctors and nurses to mitigate infection. Gradually, the plague doctor uniform disappeared…
…but what if it didn’t? That was the starting point for the short story that been published this month by Creative Colloquy. In this story, I update the plague doctor for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I know we’re all awash in coronavirus anxiety, so I promise this will be my only pandemic-themed fiction for a while. But, I hope you enjoy my twist.
Please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks for reading, and please wear a mask and wash your hands. Thanks!
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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.