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"The Sword Speaks," my‬ promotional campaign for ‪Heritage, continues! Today, we bring you an interview with Lili Ibrahim (@obsessedkitten on Twitter), the artist who drew the book's beautiful cover art. Check out the interview here.

Please pass around the interview on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media havens using hashtags #Heritage and #TheSwordSpeaks to help spread the word.

Heritage Campaign: "The Sword Speaks"

Hey! It's July! July 2014! And you know what that means. Hot dogs! Cheeseburgers! Fireworks! Freedom! And, of course, this is the month that Heritage releases in paperback and on Kindle. I'm excited, my publisher, Tyche Books, is excited, and we want to get you excited, too.

Tyche Books and I are proud to kick off #TheSwordSpeaks, our promotional campaign for Heritage. Every week day until release day, Tyche and I will publish a new piece of content designed to introduce you to the world, characters, and making of the book. Check out the first post right here, and please help spread the word! Take to social media and pepper your Heritage-related posts with #Heritage and #TheSwordSpeaks.
I finished Tomb Raider (2013) last night. My wife got it for me for my birthday last March. I started playing and got hooked on turning over every stone to find all the collectibles, and upgrading Lara's skills and gears. Within two months, I got burnt out. This happens to me when I play open-world games: I love to go off the beaten path and see what I can find and do. Fast forward about 10-20 hours and I get tired of doing the same types of side content over and over, and I put the game down for a year.

That said, I didn't get burnt out on Tomb Raider so much as the stock open-world formula. TR was one of my favorite games of 2013 even though I didn't finish during that calendar year. Great story, great world design, fun moves and weapons, and the history and culture surrounding all the collectibles was fascinating.

I did and do have a few complaints. There was a disconnect between Lara's actions and the story at times. I understand that she would harden her heart and do what she needed to do in order to save her friends and survive, but she became a stone-cold killer much too quickly and easily, I think. Last year, I remember thinking, "If Crystal Dynamics makes a sequel, it should focus on Lara confronting and working through the traumas she went through, and the person they forced her to become." Any other approach would be tantamount to dooming Lara Croft--a 21-year-old kid, by her own admission--as just another video-game protagonist whose body count is an order of magnitude greater than her age. Lara's got more depth that not, especially now that she's an actual character and not merely a polygona model with 48ZZ breasts. It looks like CD is taking Rise of the Tomb Raider in that direction, based on the E3 trailer, and I'm excited about it.

A bigger issue gameplay-wise was the bombastic nature of the game. When I play a game that gives me stealth skills and tools, I'm going to play stealthily. I love stealth games; I find that approach more satisfying than running and gunning everything. I can shoot an SMG in any other game. Using Lara's bow was so satisfying. Yet by the game's midpoint, I came upon mob after mob of enemies whose sheer numbers and firepower seemed to discourage me from using the bow and melee attacks I'd chosen to upgrade first. I hope the next game either embraces its action roots right out of the gate, or gives me more opportunities to be a ninja if that option is going to be on the table.

Otherwise: great game. I might buy it again on PS4 when I pick up the console.
Hazardous Press has published the TALES OF THE BLACK ARTS anthology of dark-fantasy short stories, which includes my contribution, "The Aggrieved." You can buy it in paperback or on Kindle. Here's a (very) short teaser:

After witnessing his father kill his mother in a drunken frenzy, Viktor becomes consumed with hate and turns to black magic to enact his revenge.

Want more? Read chapters one and two in their entirety.

Orange is the New Black: Season 2 review

The best thing about Netflix releasing an entire season of Orange is the New Black all at once is you can marathon the episodes over a few days.

The bad thing about Netflix releasing an entire season of Orange is the New Black all at once is you can marathon the episodes over a few days.

I happened across the first season of Orange almost by accident. I'd read that the show, which follows inmate Piper Chapman during a brief yet painfully long prison stay for a crime she committed in her past, was part of Netflix's initiative to load the service with more additional content. The fact that it was based on a memoir about Piper Kerman's real-life stint in the big house piqued my interest.

One episode in and I was hooked. The interplay between Piper and her fellow prisoners was compelling because it felt real. I assumed hard-knocks lessons such as taking care not to insult the food in the presence of the head cook or risk being starved out, and finding a prison "wife" to watch your back in the showers and corridors, were based on Kerman's firsthand experience of the system.
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"Zelda U": Link's look and feel

E3 is less than two weeks away, and if you're a Legend of Zelda fan, you know what that means. Last fall Nintendo promised to officially unveil the next Zelda game, slated to arrive on the Wii U sometime in 2015. GameTrailers released a "hopes and dreams" type video detailing what they want to see in a new Zelda game. You can watch the video here.

One of their sticking points is greater character customization. They want the option to play a male or female hero, as well as be granted full control over the look of that hero. Similar to an MMORPG like World of WarCraft, GT's editors want to change the hero's race, skin color, eye shade, and every detail down to finger-nail length and color. As a Zelda fan for nearly 25 of my 32 years, I have a slightly different opinion on the notion of changing Link's time-honored look.
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"Godzilla (2014)" Review

Imagine turning on a news broadcast to see a BREAKING NEWS story about a volcano that's waking up. You tune in, all day every day, for two or three days straight. Then, when the volcano erupts, the network cuts to commercial. The broadcast returns, you get 30 seconds of liquid fire spewing out of the top of the volcano, and then the newscasters discuss the weather, mention the death toll caused by the volcano, run through sports scores, recycle the weather segment just in case you missed it 2 minutes beforehand, and take another commercial break.

That's Godzilla 2014.

I'm a simple man with simple tastes. Godzilla 2014, which should have been a fun monster movie with an allegory about the folly of man and nuclear war balancing out all the HULK SMASH! destruction, ended up too ponderous. It's not that I disliked the story, or that I expected monster-on-monster carnage to dominate the majority of the film. I enjoyed the story arc of the central characters, a family torn apart by an accident early in the film. The main character had a conflict, he grew, he overcame adversity, and his arc was well-done. But the movie focused too much on that conflict.

Every time the monster mash-up warmed up, we cut back to the humans. There needs to be a balance: pathos on one scale, wanton destruction and calamity on the other. How many times do we need to cut away from Godzilla wrecking or getting wrecked by monsters to see Elizabeth Olsen run forward a few steps and glance back over her shoulder? If these characters haven't done much of anything since the last time we checked in on them, why are we checking in again? To remind us they're still alive? No news is good news. Show me their deaths. Otherwise, devote one scene to them scurrying off to hide and then let the monsters do their thing.

Most egregious of all, Godzilla plays the part of the volcano in my little metaphor. The characters hype his inevitable appearance, and when he finally surfaces to go alpha-male on the offending monsters, we get what felt like 20 minutes of him swimming around in the ocean flanked by submarines while the humans yammer away. Even the antagonist monsters got more screen time than the beastie whose name is in the title. His name is the title.

And that ending. So cheesy you could put it on a sammich.

As a reader, a moviegoer, a game player, and a writer, I love the slow burn. I don't mind if you (or I) spend lots of time to introducing characters and developing them. There's just got to be a balance. Godzilla has none.


"The Aggrieved" - Chapter 2

After a longer-than-intended delay, I present chapter 2 from my upcoming short story, "The Aggrieved." You can read chapter 1 HERE to get up to speed. Enjoy!

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First endorsement for HERITAGE

When I was a kid, my mom had one rule for Christmas morning: wait until AT LEAST 6:00 am before waking up the house. Anticipation woke me around 515, 530 every year. Minutes oozed into seconds, dragging out like chewing game stretched between teeth and fingers. As the minute-hand crawled along, I remember happiness swelling up in my chest, building and building until I practically shook with excitement.

I still feel that excitement today, and not only on Christmas. I feel it when a day's writing is going REALLY well; when I receive an acceptance letter from a publisher; and when someone gets something that I wrote. I mean really gets it, CONNECTS with it.

I received my first endorsement for HERITAGE (young adult fantasy novel due out this summer from Tyche Books), and I feel like my chest might explode. And that's a good thing, in this instance and ONLY this instance! For your reading pleasure:

"HERITAGE is a fast-moving fantasy about coming of age, and battling evil, and, yes, family heritage. Told with strength and humor, it shows the reader engaging characters in a rich setting, in a story that grips and then races along--and it all rings true. This is the beginning of the saga of Aidan Gairden, and it’s a winner." -Ed Greenwood, creator of The Forgotten Realms® and New York Times bestselling author of Spellfire, The Herald, and many others.

Thank you to one of my favorite authors, Ed Greenwood, for such praise. I'm humbled and SUPER STOKED.

Crowd-funding, ahoy? Read and weigh in!

Over the past couple of days, I've received requests from the Shacknews community to help some indie game developers within our ranks document the process of developing their games. I did not initiate these, and was very flattered to be mentioned specifically as a go-to guy for writing about games.

If you've read STAY AWHILE AND LISTEN or the retrospectives I've written over the years, you know I love to write about games. Specifically, I like to explore the making of games and put down on paper the tales of the people, culture, and designs that led to many of our favorite games. If my writings in this or other subjects are a thing you enjoy and want to see more of, please help me brainstorm ways to make this happen.

The requests to document the making of indie games got me thinking. I've wanted to write about games (as well as work on other writing projects) on a full-time basis for quite a while. STAY AWHILE is doing well, but not well enough that I can cut ties with my freelance employers and write books all day, every day. I have other game-related books coming, as well as novels. I just have little time to devote to them. Hence splitting up books so I can release SOMETHING, ANYTHING, in a timely manner.

I recently discovered Patreon. For those who don't know, Patreon is a tipping service where you tip creators a few bucks, usually between $1 and $10, every time they release a new piece of content: a song, a web comic, a YouTube video, or whatever they happen to do that other people really enjoy. It's different than Kickstarter where creators need one huge lump sum to get something off the ground.

Patreon isn't equipped to support authors like me, though. I can't exactly put out a book once a month. So I got to thinking. My wife and I started DM Press as a publishing company, but maybe I could do more with it. Off the top of my head, I could:

* post interviews with developers of classic games, both as teasers to full-featured books I have coming out, as well as interviews of the "this is a developer who made a game people like so I'll just post this interview" variety;
* post YouTube videos of me playing the games I write about, such as Diablo 1-2, and divulging information from published and upcoming books. I might even rope in some of the developers who made the games to play with me, and do a Q-and-A while we play on Twitch or something;
* record podcasts where my friends/editors and I talk games, and occasionally invite developers on to talk games (this is already in the works);
* host a monthly AMA on Skype or some other service where you and other "patrons" (backers on Patreon) can ask me about writing, games, my cats, whatever;
* post excerpts from books, editing notes, etc. to bring you behind the scenes of the process of writing behind-the-scenes stories. That's, like, two curtains to go behind!
* offer PDF, EPUB, and MOBI file downloads of eBooks EXCLUSIVELY for patrons. These would be offered in addition to versions available on all popular e-reading platforms;
* possibly expand into the printed market, which has been an expensive pipe dream up until now.

These ideas would serve as rewards that I would offer to those who offered tips at various levels: rewards for throwing a $5 my way, or a $10, or a buck--what-have-you. Using these and other ideas, I would take to Patreon and use any tips generously donated to me to write faster, faster, faster. My goal is to put out two books a year. Lofty, but doable at my work rate.

All that said, I have some questions:

* Would you support a Patreon campaign if I were to launch one?
* Were I to launch a Patreon campaign, how often do you think I should charge? Weekly? Monthly?
* What do you think of the content ideas I listed? Anything else you'd like to see?

Please fill up the comments with your answers to those questions, and pose questions I didn't think of so I write some answers of my own.

Thank you for reading!