Catherine Thoms

Catherine Thoms

What Is This All About?

Hey there!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Catherine, and I am the Publishing Assistant here at Ackerly Green. For those of you who do know me and are thinking, this is weird, why is she introducing herself when she’s been working here for almost a year? Well, I’m introducing myself because we’ve brought in an amazing bunch of new readers and community members in the past couple of months, and CJ and I thought it would be a good time to restate who we are and what exactly it is that we’re doing here, so that old, new, and future readers alike can all be on the same page.

If you’re reading this, chances are you clicked on a weird-looking Facebook or Instagram post that took you to an even weirder “magical” test. It might have felt like a cheesy joke, or it might have felt like fate, depending on the kind of person you are. We here on the staff side of things tend to lean towards the latter.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you. That Facebook/Instagram post was an ad. If you saw it, it’s because you fit the description of our “ideal reader”: someone who loves books and reading (preferably on an e-reader since we give away a free e-book to everyone who signs up), and who might also be a Harry Potter fan, a DnD fan, a writer, an artist, a lover of magic and fantasy, and more. You may fit all of those boxes or you may fit none of them, and that’s awesome! Is it weird and kind of Big Brotherish that Facebook lets us gets so specific in our advertising? Absolutely. But we do it because we know that what we have to offer is something that appeals to a specific kind of audience, one that tends to produce some pretty stellar people who share our interests and passions and who will be meaningful participants in this crazy weird, fun thing we’re doing here.

So what exactly is it that we’re doing here, you may be wondering? It’s not totally clear from that ad, which is kind of the point. We want you to feel like you’ve stumbled across something odd and mysterious and special. We want you to feel like you’ve found something incredible to be a part of, to feel like you’ve found somewhere magical you can belong. If all we wanted was for you to buy books, we’d slap a picture of the book cover up and call it a day.

And yes, we do have books and other merchandise that we would love for you to buy because we are a business and we have bills to pay and families/houseplants to support! But that’s not all we do. We also have the Ackerly Green Forum, which is the free community hub where we create magically immersive literary experiences.

Did I lose you at that last bit? If so, totally fair. We’re still working on the wording. It’s a little hard to explain because as far as we know, nobody has ever done what we’re doing before. (For good reason, honestly, it’s hard.) In a nutshell, what it is is this: on the Ackerly Green Forum, we have created an online, interactive book that you as a reader can actually live in real-time.

Whether it’s exploring your guild homes and traditions with your other guild members, searching for clues near local landmarks, or sending messages to characters via strange fantastical letter-bearers in order to solve a magical mystery, we are providing a unique platform for you as the reader to live the book and shape the story in a way that traditional books could never even dream of.

If you have even more questions at this point than you did when you started reading, that is completely normal! This is a super weird roller coaster ride we’re on together. I’d like to take a second now to point you to our extensive FAQ, which might be a good place to refer back to if, by the end of this, you still have questions I haven’t answered.

So this is where I’d like to introduce you to someone extra special, the man behind the curtain: CJ Bernstein. CJ is a storyteller, a dad, a dog lover, an aspiring beekeeper, a musical theater enthusiast, a part-time bearded god, and a full-time Buffy the Vampire Slayer stan. He’s also my boss, the owner of Ackerly Green Publishing, and the author of the free book you should have gotten when you signed up on our website, which is the first in a duology called The Monarch Papers. This duology is an adapted account of the interactive narrative which played out on the Ackerly Green Forum over the course of a year beginning in 2016. It is also the prequel to an entire universe of books, also written by CJ, the first of which is called The Book of Briars and will be released this upcoming fall of 2019.

An analogy that we often use to understand the relationship between the books we publish and the online interactive narratives is to think of them as being similar to a TV series. The adventure that you engage with on the Forum is the part of the story that builds up steadily throughout the season, and the books that we publish are like the season finale. The regular season isn’t just a lead-in to the finale either, but its own rewarding, exciting experience in itself. If you’re following the story on the Forum, you’ll get the full benefit of real-time drama, comprehensive backstories, and a wealth of exclusive knowledge and easter eggs about the universe that enriches the published book and (hopefully) makes it that much more of a satisfying reading experience. The published books also aim to provide answers to questions that have arisen along the way and create more questions that will lay the foundations for the following adventures.

So yes, there is a plan, and a method to the madness. The Forum isn’t just a creative free-for-all (well, it is in some places, but bear with me). This is all explained in plenty of other places *cough, the FAQ, cough*, but as a general rule, anything that’s designated “in-world” (The Age of Magiq, The Guilds) is operating within a narrative that has been specifically designed, implemented, and moderated by AG staff, but still has plenty of wiggle room for exploration depending on which part of the story you, the readers, choose to explore.

The out-of-world component on the Forum comprises of threads for pretty much any topic you could choose from, which includes discussions about the Magiqverse but also threads about your pets, your creative projects, music, cooking, gaming, and so much more. The forum is the heart of our community, because it’s the place where everyone can hang out and just be themselves with other like-minded people. We work really hard to make it a welcoming, inclusive space for everybody, and to make everybody who visits feel like there’s a place for them to belong.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part! We’re all real humans here. Real humans moderate and participate on the Forum, send emails, post on social media, fulfill your merch orders, and deal with any and all customer support issues. Here in the Ackerly Green office, it’s just me and CJ most days. We rely pretty heavily on our community leaders to help out around the Forum, but all of the day to day company-related stuff is just us. So please keep that in mind and be kind!! We’re real humans with real feelings who will inevitably make mistakes, but we promise we’re doing our best. We’re not some kind of faceless corporation that only wants your money, we’re people who love stories and magic and sharing the magic of stories with other people. So if that sounds like you, then welcome! You’ve come to the right place. If not, well, thanks for taking the time to read this far, and we wish you all the best wherever your journey takes you.

I think that covers pretty much everything, but again, if there are any specific questions you might have, there’s always the FAQ and the Q&A Super Topic on the Forum that you can check out. We really do hope you love what we’ve built here, and choose to participate in any way that you can. Some people love to post and chat, others like to just read, and then there are those who are just here for the cute animal pics (we won’t judge). Whoever you are, remember that there’s no wrong way to be part of the Magiqverse. At the end of the day, we’re just happy to have you here, and we can’t wait to share some magiq with you.