Monday, October 9, 2017

Monsters

There are monsters all around us, stalking and creeping. They look to possess what we have, or they may see us as food. Look at all the tasty people walking around. They wait for an opportunity, any opening they can use to strike.

The list of monsters below are all the ones that The Ghost encounters within the upcoming novella The Cursed Armor.

List of Monsters

  • Vampires: Pale bloodsuckers who don't like the light, wooden stakes or garlic. They have the ability to manipulate a human's perceptions. They also have superhuman strength and speed, but rely on a human's blood to survive.
  • Werewolves: People who turn into furry wolves sometimes. Their bite can infect others with the same affliction. They also have superhuman strength and speed when transformed.
  • Poltergeist: An evil spiritual entity that can manipulate temperature, wind, and sometimes solid objects. Insubstantial by nature it is impossible to fight them by conventional means. They are typically anchored to a specific place or thing, but sometimes they can anchor themselves to a person.
  • Giants: Large humanoids that are as diverse as any group of humans. They are slow and somewhat clumsy compared to humans. With their size comes a wealth of power and toughness that is hard to match.
  • Demons: Red skinned devils that are part human and part animal in physical appearance. They have cloven hooves that they walk on and hands with opposable thumbs similar to a human. Their faces can vary from those of various animals, and can have multiple sets of arms. Some have supernatural powers that allow them to possess humans.
  • Centaurs: Centaurs have the upper body of a human with the lower body of a horse. They may also have horns. With the speed of a thoroughbred horse and near-human intelligence, Centaurs can be dangerous opponents.
  • Fire Drakes: Drakes are small flying lizards that breathe different elements. Fire Drakes can spray fire upon their enemies. Drakes look like dragons, but on a much smaller scale.
  • Geryon: Geryon in Greek mythology and other texts has many differing descriptions. In The Cursed Armor I have adopted more of the description used in Dante's Inferno. The beast has the body of a wyvern, the tail of a scorpion, and paws of a lion.
  • Wind Elementals: A sentient swirling water spout is the best description of these creatures. Imagine a tornado with a mind of its own.
  • Minos: A creature with the torso and upper body of a human, but lower body of a snake. He is a judge in limbo who sends souls to their designated place in hell.

The Cursed Armor is now available for pre-order on Amazon with the release date of 10/24!

The Cursed Armor on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075YP73L3

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Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 47,487 words

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Cursed Armor


Details

Synopsis: A young thief, nicknamed The Ghost, has stolen an ancient piece of armor. Each piece in the set grants her a new superhuman ability, but it also gives her an unending lust for blood. Will she be able to resist her thirst for power? Or will she be consumed by The Cursed Armor and propelled into her own personal hell?

Title: The Cursed Armor
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Audience: Adult
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Length: Novella length - 135 pages in print / A little over 23,000 words


The Cursed Armor is now available for pre-order on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075YP73L3

Would you like a FREE copy of The Cursed Armor? The next 20 people to sign up for my newsletter will receive a free ebook copy in .MOBI format! Just enter your email address below to sign up!




Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 47,199 words

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Possession

How do you think being possessed would feel? This is a topic of many horror or thriller films/books/TV shows. I recently watched Paranormal Survivor on Netflix and some of the stories there are harrowing. This is also a theme of the novella The Cursed Armor that I will be publishing soon. These kind of slow burn psychological thrillers are some of my favorite kind to write. They don't always involve possession, but let's pretend the dog ate the other stories.

Imagine a world where you are slowly being affected by another presence or being. They may or may not be communicating with you. They might not even speak the same language as you. It starts with a tickle or an object moving on its own. Something showing up later several feet from where you left it. A cabinet left open that you don't remember opening. Do you ignore the strange things going on?

This is something I didn't understand with the people who were in the show Paranormal Survivor. Many of them were warned or given signs of what was going on before it escalated. Some of them were harassed for months and months before it got to the point where they could no longer take it anymore. Why would these people choose to live with this torment? Spirits that taunt and attack you. Spirits that whisper things into your ears. How can you choose to ignore it?

Imagine blacking out then finding yourself in a different setting, moving from one room to another without thinking about it. Maybe you have done things you can't remember within that period of time you were blacked out. Imagine watching yourself take actions that you don't will your body to do. It is like you are a passenger within your own body while someone or thing is at the controls.

These are just a few of the things I think about when trying to write a character that is going through these types of experiences. What could cause them to allow such a thing to happen? Do they have a choice in the matter? How can they fight back?

If you have had any strange or paranormal experiences then I would love to hear about them. Please share them with me! Don't make me send Casper to haunt you!

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Writing Progress Updates

The Cursed Armor
Just received cover art!!! Will be making announcements next week.

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 47,508 word

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Traversing Hell

What would it be like to walk across Hell? The actual burning inferno of a place that many have had nightmares about. The Bible gives us a depiction of Hell as a lake of fire that provides a place of constant torment. There are many other literary depictions of Hell, but none more famous than the portion of The Divine Comedy known as Dante's Inferno.

Dante's Inferno give us the most comprehensive view of Hell that has shaped how people have viewed it for centuries. The story follows Dante as he is guided through Hell by the Roman poet Virgil. It describes 9 circles of Hell in detail. Each circle is made for a specific type of sin with its own special punishment.

What kind of creatures would you find in Hell? There are many creatures that you might expect like demons, witches, warlocks,  and so on. In Dante's version he includes many of the mythical creatures you might see in fantasy novels like centaurs, the minotaur, cyclops, griffins, and others. Being in Hell these encounters could be terrifying. The creatures involved cannot have good intentions toward anyone they encounter.

These are the kinds of questions I ask to help build a story. The story of The Cursed Armor (formerly known as Season 1 of The Ghost) began with the question of "How could my character escape Hell?" I decided to lean on the most detailed version of Hell as inspiration for the version that would be used in the story. I had to rewind that a bit as I realized this journey through Hell was part of the middle and the ending, but the beginning had to be how the main character got in this predicament in the first place.

In the coming weeks I will delve further into the other aspects of the story that I found interesting. The creatures, the culture and rules of the Thieves Guild, the structure of Hell, and so on.

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Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 46,107 words

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lost in the Shuffle

Art can be beautiful, amazing, terrifying, emotional, and a great many other things. What is most important is that art speaks to you, that it provokes an emotion or makes you think. So often we discount the whole because part of it is problematic. When you think about life in general we know that things are not always fair and just. By condemning it all and ignoring the rest we deny ourselves the parts that are enjoyable.

We all live within a shade of grey. No one is perfect no matter how much we may try. Expecting perfection in anything is a fool's pursuit. If you do this then you will constantly be disappointed in everything.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't point out things that are problematic and talk about why these things are harmful. I'm saying that we should also celebrate the things that are fantastic within the same scope and offer ways to improve. We can simultaneously talk about the things we love and hate about every piece of art we come into contact with.

The inspiration for this post is the film Birth of the Dragon. There is so much within this film to hate and love at the same time. The main message that I got out of this movie is fantastic and hypocritical at the same time. The fictional interpretations are laughably inaccurate and potentially offensive. The fight scenes are well choreographed and some of the best I have seen in a film so far this year.

One of the messages from the film that I enjoyed were that even a stubborn and ignorant person can be taught a lesson that may change the direction of their life. It is a long and difficult road to teach that lesson, but it can be done. There is a lot of hope that can be taken from that message especially in these times where many seem to celebrate ignorance.

The other message is that we should all think about how our lives touch and impact the life of everyone else. Every action we take should be moving toward making the world a better place for everyone. This message calls to me. I hope that I have a positive and inspirational impact on those around me. The makers of the film however did not take this lesson to heart. The fictional glue that they used to compose this story should have been more thoroughly thought out. If they had then they wouldn't have tried to whitewash the story by making the main character a white man enamored with an indentured Chinese woman. It doesn't make sense within the scope of the film to make him the main character in the first place. He ends up sharing equal time with the characters of Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man yet he is only used as a vehicle to push the story of the two real main characters.

The message is still valid and resonates deeply for me, but I also recognize the hypocrisy of the film itself that preaches one thing while doing something else. I will keep the message with me while rejecting the method that is used to project it.

This also leads me to the film Detroit which many user reviews blasted as being leftist political hype without seeing the film. To all of you who avoided the film, you missed out on a great film. For the most part the film is historically accurate based on first hand accounts of people who were there. If you think it is just fiction then I would invite you to use google to look up which parts are fictionalized.

I also encourage you all to experience art fully even if it is problematic for you. Embrace the parts you enjoy and reject the parts that are harmful. Seriously talk about what is problematic and why it is harmful while also celebrating anything positive you can pull from it as well. The more we can talk about things that are harmful and problematic the more awareness we can spread to others who don't see or understand it. Art, like the rest of us, lives in a grey area.

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Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,601 words

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fantasy Football Strategy

I just completed my first fantasy football draft and wanted to talk about it a bit. I haven't done nearly as much research as I usually do because there are so many good resources available now. In previous years I would obsessively watch every preseason game and scour all the information and final stats that I could find. Last year was the first year that I hadn't won a fantasy football league in decades, but it was also the first time in decades where I had only played in one league. I had the first pick in that draft, and against all of the advice available I picked David Johnson. This year picking him first overall doesn't seem as crazy. So let's talk about some basics of fantasy football draft strategy. I think these tips are helpful especially if you don't have one of the first two picks.

Want List

Fist thing I do is to make a want list of players that I feel have a lot of upside in the upcoming season. I also make a list of players I do not want. The upside players are ones that I feel could have a breakout year or could outperform projections. These are mostly late round fliers that could turn into next year's solid mid-round picks. The do not want list are players that I feel will underachieve based on the projections made. These are players I avoid unless the value becomes too good to pass up. I will also avoid players if I feel like they could miss more than 4 games. For these players I come up with a backup plan in case I end up drafting them anyway. These are the types of picks that can make or break your season. The experts aren't always right. Their projections give you a baseline to work with of what players might accomplish in the upcoming season.

Seeing the preseason roles of players helps to determine how much of an impact these players may have in the upcoming season. The first half of the 3rd preseason game is the most important one to watch for every team. This is usually the dress rehearsal for the first week of the season. I also pay attention to the depth charts for teams. Sometimes the experts will rank a backup higher than a starter for another team, or you may not know who will win the position battle by the time the draft begins. I don't like picking backups unless I want to handcuff a player that I already have as insurance.

Points System

This is perhaps the most important thing to look at before the draft begins. This can affect your whole draft strategy. If the league uses standard PPR or standard scoring then you can use the standard draft strategy. In the draft that I just completed the scoring system was skewed toward Quarterbacks and Receivers. This changes your whole draft strategy. Dual threat Running Backs are always going to be the most valuable, but with this scoring system 3rd down or passing down backs could have just as much value as rushing down backs. The system for this league gives half a point per completion and 1 point for every 20 yards passing. This makes Quarterbacks insanely high point players.

Determine Value

By value I mean the relative value one position has over the other players at that position. This will help determine how important it is to pick certain players based on their average draft position. This is why the first 2 picks this year have such a large advantage coming into this season. Bell and Johnson, the top 2 running backs, are projected to get about 100 more fantasy points than the number 3 running back in standard PPR. By contrast the top WR is projected to get around 15-20 more points in standard PPR, and then there are 8 more WRs that are projected to be within 15 points of each other. The top 3 QBs are within 10 points of each other, and 20 points ahead of the next 9 who are within about 20 points of each other. In the league I just drafted for the QB evaluations were different. The 3rd ranked QB was projected to get the most points in this system, and the top 3 QBs were projected to be 50 points ahead of the next one. That made me decide to pick a QB much earlier than I would have done otherwise. This is the most important factor in deciding your early draft strategy when everyone is picking players that they know.

Mock Drafts


Mock drafts are your friend when it comes to putting together a draft strategy. It lets you know which players are being reached for, and which players are falling down the draft boards. If there are players you absolutely have to draft then you can figure out where you can draft them to get the best value. This year in mock drafts I am seeing Christian Mccaffrey trending way up draft boards. Right now you would have to use a 2nd or 3rd round pick to get him. I think he is going to be a solid football player, but I'm not ready to say he is worth a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I ended up picking up Frank Gore because he dropped to the 10th round which is great value for a consistent 1,000 yard rusher even if father time may finally catch up to him this year. I was also in desperate need of a RB at that point because I was ultra stacked at WR and QB which are the two most valuable positions in this league.

My Draft

Please keep in mind that this league is heavily weighted toward pass catchers and even more heavily weighted toward Quarterbacks. We also had 7 bench spots in a 12 team league. The starter spots for this league are QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, Flex, TE, D/ST, and K.
  • QB - Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford
  • RB - Dalvin Cook, Frank Gore, Chris Thompson, Shane Vereen, and Jerick Mckinnon
  • WR - Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon, Kenny Britt, Torrey Smith, and Marquise Goodwin
  • TE - Greg Olsen
  • D/ST - Cardinals
  • K - Chris Boswell

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
Waiting on Cover Art

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,136 words

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

Dead Things (Eric Carter #1)Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric Carter has been exiled from his hometown by a local gangster. He has since become a badass necromancer of some renown. Unfortunately his sister has passed away and it looks like murder, and it may be of the supernatural kind. Now he has to use all of his skills to find out what happened, and get revenge.

I found this as an audio book in a gas station while on a long road trip. The tale was a fun adventure through the world of the supernatural. The characters are all rich with their own wants, needs, and histories. The story itself is a bit predictable, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This is more of a character driven novel and the characters are vibrant and interesting.

In the end Dead Things is an entertaining journey through a new paranormal world. I would recommend this to fans of the Supernatural TV show or those who enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris.

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
Waiting on Cover Art

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,136 words

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Dragon TeethDragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As part of a bet William Johnson joins an expedition to the west to chase after the bones of dinosaurs. Professor Marsh is a world renowned paleontologist who is leading the expedition. He demands military discipline from his students while on the road. He is also supremely paranoid and thinks everyone he comes across is potentially a spy for his greatest rival, Professor Cope.

William is abandoned in the middle of the journey. Professor Cope finds the young man and entices him to join his expedition in spite of the lies and deceptions Marsh had filled his head with previously. They continue into the old wild west where they encounter hostile American Indians, outlaws, Wyatt Earp, and other impediments to the journey.

Dragon Teeth is a very well written adventure into the old Wild West. This novel captures the fast pace and intriguing story elements that are hallmarks of Michael Crichton novels. This time he tackles more of a western theme which was not my cup of tea. The subject matter didn't grab me as strongly as his previous technology based thrillers. If you are interested in Paleontology or the Wild West then the novel will be more interesting. Dragon Teeth will be more satisfying for fans of Crichton than Pirate Lattitudes was. The back and forth rivalry between Cope and Marsh were my favorite parts of the novel. Crichton was my favorite author and his writing has been fantastic. I would recommend this novel to anyone who finds the description interesting.

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
Ebook Formatting: Done!
Waiting on Cover Art

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 44,208 words

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The White Room Interview

Hey everyone! I was interviewed by the great Emma Hardcastle on The White Room. It's currently on Youtube! Check it out!


Legos & Life

Recently I got a promotion at work which has also involved working a lot of overtime. A lot of the plans I had for the blog are getting pushed to the side because of this. The good news is that I am going to update this blog more often, but I won't be making the switch to being a video blog as I had been planning.

With my free time I have to balance my writing and entertainment. I tend to binge watch TV shows while working on writing and editing my work. So this week I want to talk about a few shows I have been watching and also talk about the awesome that is also known as LEGOS. Also I want to announce that final edits for The Ghost are done! I'm pushing it out to beta readers now, formatting for publication, and waiting for cover art to come back.

So recently I watched the new season of Orange Is the New Black and GLOW which are put together by the same producers. Both were well done. The story of GLOW has always been an interesting one to me and this first season goes over how it got started and the struggles that almost killed the project before it ever began. OITNB was just as fantastic as the show has always been. The characters are what make the show and they always find a way to give you insight on minor and major characters alike. The development of each one in this show is fantastic and I always tear through each season. They just released 4 episodes of Castlevania animated series which takes an anime style animation mixed with actual English speaking voice actors. The result is something that fans of anime and the video games should enjoy. I was left wanting more, but I think that was the point. Next on my plate is Shooter which is a TV show based on a movie by the same name. Also Gypsy is also catching my eye, so it might be next if only so I can see Naomi Watts.

LEGOS

Now we're into the good stuff! If you follow me on Instagram then you know that I occasionally put together large sets of LEGOS and document my progress there. I like the simple building process and many of the sets are undeniably cool. Tie ins with Star Wars, Batman, and many other franchises also ramp up the cool factor.

I usually just follow the instructions within the box to build these sets, but I have built a few practical things with these magical building blocks. The one I use the most is a cellphone stand that I use nearly every day. Nearly anything you can get at OfficeMax that is a plastic placeholder can be built using LEGOS. The only drawback is that sometimes you need more weight to hold things. There are 2 ways to do this, build a wider base, or add weights to the super light blocks.

When buying LEGOS I usually follow a simple formula for figuring out if a set is worth the price on the box. Most sets will average out to $1 for every 10 pieces. That means a 500 piece set should come out to around $50 for an average deal. I will overpay for some sets that I must have like the Millennium Falcon. The two newest sets I got were a steal with over 1000 pieces each and a price of around $50. Anytime I can get some cool Batman LEGOS for half off I am going to get them! If you are interested in seeing my progress on the most recent LEGO sets follow me on instagram. The link is at the top of the blog!

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
5th Edit Run: Finished!
POD Formatting: Finished!
Ebook Formatting: 10% done

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review: Ubik by Philip K Dick

UbikUbik by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you ever feel the need to read reviews before purchasing a book? Alleviate your worries with the fantastic Ubik! Just rub the pages on your skin or consume them orally. Satisfaction is almost guaranteed if used as directed. Side effects include pinching yourself, questioning reality, and confusion on whether you are dead or alive. Please use in moderation as Ubik is a strong remedy for what ails you and can be highly addictive!

This is my first venture into the land of Phillip K Dick other than the movies that have been made based off his works. The story follows Joe Chip who is everyone's favorite screw up. He can't afford the nickel cost to open the front door to his apartment. He works for Runciter and Associates as what amounts to a talent scout for anti-powers. The company he works for helps to protect corporate interests against those who have powers. Psychics, mind readers, etc. all have their powers negated by these anti-ability people who work for Runciter. Things change when Joe is brought a young woman named Pat Conley to test. Her talent is unique in that she can change the past which forcefully changes the visions that pre-cogs have. At the same time there seems to be an incoming showdown between the psychics and Runciter's company.

Ubik is one of the best written hallucinations I have read. I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but it wasn't a book I loved. The world it takes place in is an interesting futurescape that has a Libertarian influence that I had not considered before. There are many aspects of the novel that make you think about the world which I very much enjoyed. The only reasons I didn't give it 5 stars are because of the characters and the twists in the story. The characters for the most part are flat and without any humor. Everything seems to be strictly confusion and business. I did enjoy the twists, but also saw each one coming from a hundred pages away. Perhaps I am nitpicking and this novel deserves 5 stars, but I'm reviewing from my experience of the book. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mind-bending reads or SciFi in general.

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  Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
5th Edit Run: Page 45 of 47
Also commissioned cover art! Will have release date soon!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

SWITCH!

It's been too long since I last updated here! I have some things in the works of course, but they just aren't ready yet. I do want to get back in the habit of updating this blog more regularly. The current plan is to switch over to more of a video blog format that I can update often. If I can share my desktop I can give more tutorials for building graphics as well.

Today I want to geek out on one of my favorite things, video games! Specifically, the Nintendo Switch, this game system has been nothing short of amazing since I have had it. I know there aren't a lot of games out for it in stores yet, but that is a bit deceptive. There are more games available for it online than what is currently in stores. Many of those games are Neo Geo ports of ancient games. There are some indie games available that are well worth the price of admission as well. So, let's talk about the games!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Let's face it, if you get a Nintendo:Switch this is a game you must have. I'm not the biggest fan of RPGs that put you in an open world to roam around without any kind of objective. Fortunately you do have a vague initial quest that sets you in the direction you need to go. The game has a lot of side quests. Most of which will reveal hidden shrines. Zelda like its many previous iterations is amazing.

There are a couple of things that are annoying to no end with this game. The first is cooking. You can't get around it. You have to hunt and cook. Hunting is not a big deal as you come across plenty of animals during your travels that become drumsticks or steaks without much trouble. The problem arises when you have 32849237923 things to cook and you can only cook them 5 at a time. It's annoying, repetitive, and also very necessary. Travelling by horse is also extremely annoying, at least initially. It seems like every 5 steps the horse gets spooked by something and you have to calm it. While you are calming it the horse pulls you off in a direction you don't want to go. It's a constant struggle. I gave up. To travel in certain areas you can't take the horse with you. It seems like it is more trouble than it is worth.

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe

This is also a must have game for anyone with a Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart is Mario Kart. It is the pinnacle of kart race gaming as it has been for many years. The biggest addition to Mario Kart 8 is online play. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent on this game playing online. It adds another dimension to the game. If you have the WiiU version then it might not be as big of a deal as the Deluxe version only adds a few extras, but if the last version you played was on the Wii or prior to that then this game is enough to consider buying the Switch on its own.

Other Available Games

While MarioKart and Zelda are the only must have games on the system there are a few other games to consider out of what is available. Fans of JRPGs and puzzle games will find the Switch worth picking up right now. Disgaea 5 Complete is a JRPG in the same vein of other tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics (which needs a sequel). I am Setsuna is a JRPG made by Squaresoft in the vein of their older RPGs and is supposed to be similar to Chrono Trigger in gameplay. Isaac: Afterbirth is a dungeon crawler RPG that has multiple endings for maximum replay value. The makers of World of Goo have 2 other games and World of Goo available on the Switch. Puyo puyo/Tetris is another puzzle game that is another battle/tetris style game with a twist. Outside of a few indie games, old Neo Geo game ports, and the new/old Street Fighter 2 rehash there isn't much else available right now.

Testfire!

One of the things that has been interesting for early adopters of the Switch has been the global testfires they have had for Splatoon 2 and ARMS. These early demos of the online version of these games has been a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed Splatoon 2 and cannot wait for that game to come out. Fans of fighting games should love ARMS which I thought was fun, but I am not a big fan of fighting games. I was surprised at the amount of strategy needed to play the arm bending fighter. The team up boss battles were my favorite. Hopefully Nintendo will continue to make these free online limited time demos available going forward for upcoming games. It's one of the ways they can mitigate the issue of having a massive lack of available games.

Conclusion

If you enjoy JRPGs and puzzle games or simply cannot live without the latest Zelda/Mario Kart then you should snag the Nintendo Switch right now. Otherwise you might want to wait until there are more games available. I'm hoping that by the end of the year there will be more games available especially from 3rd party developers. As it is now the cabinet is bare. I know there will be Splatoon 2, ARMS, and a new Mario game by the end of the year. For now I'm spending a lot of time playing MarioKart online.

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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 35 of 47

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review of Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Armada follows Zachary Lightman who is your average teenaged nerd who has an unusual love for older video games. If you read Ready Player One then this sounds familiar right? This time Cline's main character is a prodigy at a game called Armada which is a star fighter simulator and his father is gone in a freak accident. He works at a dead end job at a video game store that is hemorrhaging money due to his boss not caring about his clientele. It turns out he's being recruited for something bigger and the fate of the world rests on his shoulders.

This second novel by Ernest Cline suffers from some of the same problems as Ready Player One, but they are magnified in this novel. All of the characters are, for the most part, too agreeable. The dialogue is filled with statements that show perfect empathy and consideration for how everyone else feels. In situations where there should be conflict, all of the characters do their best to avoid it. All of the characters essentially acting the same can be annoying. Armada fails to detract from this weakness where Ready Player One was able to minimize it.

Armada is also quite a bit more predictable than it's predecessor. While it provides a unique story and ups the ante quite a bit, the novel falls a few notches short of Ready Player One. The main difference in the stories is that one focuses on what is happening and the quest for something that seems impossible and the other focuses on the relationships of its characters. Cline does better when he pushes the characters through the story rather than crafting the story around the edges of the characters.

Armada is still an enjoyable read in the same vein of Ready Player One. Both are thick with video game and pop culture references that will give you a heavy dose of nostalgia for the 80's if you remember that era. I was solidly stuck between rating this 3 or 4. I rounded it up since I couldn't give it a 3.5 star rating.

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  Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 18 of 47
The Witch (Working title)
Outline: 100% Complete!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feeling Lucky?

Vacation is always a wonderful time to recharge the batteries. This past week I went to beautiful Cherokee, NC to play in a few ring events in the World Series of Poker Circuit. Texas Hold 'Em poker is a fantastic and varied game that has a large array of possible outcomes. If you enjoy poker I would highly recommend any of the WSOP Circuit events as the way it is run, the dealers that travel with the circuit, the blind structure, etc. are all excellent for higher level poker players.

Poker, like life, is about taking chances. Sometimes they work out, and others they end in a loss. More often than not fortune favors the bold. Taking those chances and aggressively pursuing opportunities is a strong trait that will often times win a pot without having to show your cards. In poker pushing your chips in gives you added value as the aggressor because it puts pressure on the other player to fold even if they have the better hand. Of course, the opponent doesn't always fold.

Patience is one of the most important skills to have when playing poker. In contrast with poker on TV, the vast majority of hands received will result in the hands being folded around to the aggressor before or just after the flop. For TV they routinely edit out those hands. Twitch and other live streaming options will give you a much more accurate feel for how the game is actually played on that level. It is like going through the submission process as an author. Rejections happen. Stay patient and keep grinding.

Also while on vacation I got an email for a new review that was posted for Initialization which I thought captured the essence of the novel. I now feel somewhat confident that I hit on exactly what I was going for in this first novel of the series. I recommend checking out her other reviews as well. This is currently my favorite book review website.

http://havingfaithbookblog.blogspot.com/2017/04/initialization-by-brian-basham-4-stars.html


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 10 of 47

Monday, March 13, 2017

First Impressions: Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is now available for purchase if you can find one (more on this later). I just got my hands on the new offering from Nintendo this past Thursday. With a few days of experience I have a few first impressions that I want to share. To be honest I haven't been this excited over a console in a long time. The Wii came close to capturing my imagination, but I wasn't an early adopter. I usually wait until the console drops in price a few times before picking it up. I'm currently waiting for the PS4 to do this while I try to catch up on PS3 games.

The Switch is different. This is what I think Nintendo envisioned for the WiiU, but for some reason had to take a baby step to get here. This is a marriage of console, mobile, and tablet gaming. I see this console as being everything gaming in one package. It's capable of appealing to all gamers like the Wii did for a short time, but the Switch is more. Let me get into it. Just as a disclaimer, I have only played Breath of the Wild so far. Any references to gameplay elements will be referring to that game.

The Joy-Cons

The Joy-Cons are what they call the controllers for the Switch. The first thing I noticed was how light these things are. Compared to the Wii controllers these are tiny and they have a lot more buttons. Each controller has 9 buttons and a control stick giving you a total of 18 buttons to play with. You have 2 trigger buttons on the top, 4 standard buttons above or below the control stick, 1 home button or screenshot button, pushing down the control stick is another button, and a + or - button which are functionally like start/select. There are 3 ways you can use them, attached to the console while using it as a tablet, attached to the grip that comes included, or connected to included attachments with lanyard-like toggles similar to the Wii controllers. The grip I will likely never use, but if you are planning to I just read an article saying there is a bug with it that makes it almost unplayable in that mode. My preferred method is to use the free hand approach similar to the Wii. If you have kids, I can see these small attachments being the first pieces destroyed or lost even though when using them properly they are attached to the controllers and your wrist.

Now let's talk about actually using the Joy-Cons. There is no curved backing to make these things fit in your hand. It is like holding a light smartphone in each hand that is half the width while trying to manipulate them both at the same time. I've fumbled them more than once. I am used to my Galaxy Note Edge phablet which feels huge in comparison. If they weren't attached to my wrist I would have dropped them at least a dozen times while playing. I have not had any issues with lag or responsiveness thus far. The motion controls on these are super responsive. While playing I have had to make sure I'm not tilting them because it causes my aim to drift. I don't plan to use the grip because of multiple instances where I needed to flip the controller upside-down for tilt controls which would be awkward using the grip. The controller's battery life thus far has been impressive. I charged them once, and the battery has not gone below half way. I have yet to switch them out for my 2nd set of controllers that I have attached to the console to charge.

The Console Itself

I haven't tried out the mobile capabilities of it yet, but so far no complaints about the console itself as a device. Connecting the Joy-Cons to it gives a solid and satisfying click sound. The Joy-Cons charge while docked into the console without any further connection. The console is just as thick as the Joy-Cons, probably by design. The screen is smaller than I was expecting with it being slightly larger than my smartphone. It has all of the standard connections you would expect for a device like this. The kickstand on the back looks a bit flimsy, but I haven't tried it out yet. The slot for expandable memory is right behind the kickstand which is a bit of a weird spot for it, but as long as it works I don't see it as being a problem.

Some of the slots have a rubber-like cover to them that has to be peeled back to reveal the slot. The slot for inserting games is one of them. These could easily end up being ripped off or loosen over time with repeated use. I usually take good care of my electronics, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue. The screen on the Switch looks clear with bright colors, but it isn't scratch resistant. This is the main reason why I haven't tried many of the mobile functions yet (more on that below).

The Other Stuff

The most frustrating part of this console so far is how everything feels like it was rushed to market. The quality of the actual console and the Joy-Cons is undeniable, but everything else feels like it was thrown together last minute. The docking station for example has no heft to it at all. It feels like cheap light plastic that could fall over at the slightest nudging. When setting it up the HDMI cable was nudging the docking station. This caused the docking station to float in the air at an angle when attached. The console would have weighed it down, but removing the console from the docking station can be problematic. I also didn't notice a wired network slot, only USB slots.

The general lack of launch games and accessories is concerning as well. Every store has 50 copies of Just Dance and Breath of the Wild, but none have any consoles (Seriously, who would buy a Switch right now and NOT get Breath of the Wild??) or accessories other than extra Joy-Cons. I can't say anything about the touchscreen or any of the console's mobile capabilities because I have to wait for an online retailer to ship a screen protector. Many accessories are things you figure out you need later. If it isn't at the local retailer then that means a longer wait.

The most concerning part of it all is the lack of games. Breath of the Wild will keep most of us busy for the time being, but other than that it is pretty slim pickings. I plan to get I am Setsuna once I finish Breath of the Wild and I also have Bomberman which should keep me busy until Mario Kart comes out, but then there is a long gap until the holiday rush comes. I might actually have to get back to writing!


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 35 of 47

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adjusting Sails

There is always a time that comes where changes must be made. A change of course to get back on the right path toward the stated goal. This is one of those times for me. I also have a bunch of announcements and a contest, because it has been way too long since I last wrote my last blog post.

Recognize

The first step in having a problem is admitting you have a problem! Recognizing the problem can be harder than it seems. So many of them are unanticipated until they pop up and beg for attention like a dog wanting to be petted. Do you ignore the puppy? or do you pet the puppy? YOU PET THE PUPPY WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?

Many of the issues I have been dealing with are self-inflicted. Like my poor dietary choices that have led to my weight problems. It is something I struggle with every day. I know how to reverse the trend. I have done this before. Others are writerly things that I am not sure how to handle. What do I do with Night Reads? I don't wish to abandon the project. It is a way to help fellow indie authors, but I want to liven the experience up a bit. I plan to start filming for that very soon, and it will most certainly be a whole new experience.

I also haven't been writing as much lately because I am helping to clean up 40 years worth of accumulated stuff that my mother hoarded. It has been hard to watch what feels like the erasure of my mother from the house that I grew up in. I have found a few things that I can keep to remember her by including a nice writing desk. I will use the crap out of that desk.

Course Correction

So now I am getting back into writing after a short break. The first draft of my second novel is nearing completion, but I still have the last bits of conclusion that lead into the third installment. So far this second novel feels like an adrenaline rush that I can't wait to finish and push it out to you all. Writing again after taking a short break can be difficult. My daily word count isn't that impressive to begin with, but I do try. Sometimes I get that 1,000 words daily that I set as my goal when I sit to write, but there are many more days where I get half that. I need to do better with ramping up my productivity by eliminating distractions so I can focus on the task at hand.

I mentioned Night Reads which is getting an overhaul. It will be much less about performing readings and more about putting the focus on the book featured. I will also have episodes where there is no featured book and I talk about writing news, the book I'm reading, plot devices, or how sentient dust bunnies could organize to take over the world. Hey, it could happen!

Announcements

I do have some happytime announcements for today. So let the sponge ball pit dance party begin!
  • Initialization is now available for Nook and Kobo - So yea, this is a thing. You can get it at the links below!
    Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940157386917
    Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/initialization-1
  • Contest! - To celebrate the release of Initialization in ePub (Nook/Kobo) format, to random winner(s) of the contest I am going to give away a copy in their choice of Mobi (Kindle) or ePub (Nook/Kobo) ebook formats! Entering is super easy. Log into twitter, use #VWars, and write a tweet about Virtual Wars, virtual reality, dystopian societies, apocalypses, wearable tech, or the future of cellphones. All of those subjects relate to this world I created, and I would love to talk about them! You can also enter via Facebook at my author page here: https://www.facebook.com/authorbrianbasham/
    Contest ends 3/31/17.


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 27 of 47

Saturday, February 11, 2017

All The Feels

Depression is never fun and whenever it hits even the most mundane of tasks can be difficult. I always try to put a happy face on things and live in a bubble where all the shiny rainbow unicorns dance all day. In reality I feel alone all the time. Even when surrounded by people I feel intensely on my own. I want to slink away to some space where I can fall to pieces out of the view of others.

I try to break out of this by making friends and hanging out with people who share similar interests, but everything remains at arm's length. I do OK in this zone. The zone of friendship/acquaintance where I don't have to share how I feel. When I share more and get truly emotional, people don't know how to handle that. It's like I'm not allowed. The feelings come anyway and they are intense.

This is why I stay busy. I don't drink and I don't have anyone to talk it out with. What happens when it hits so hard that I can't move? Sometimes it feels like if I move then the world will end. Sometimes I take on too much to drown out all of the thoughts and feelings of being alone. That can be too much and swallows me. The darkness of it all weighing on my back. The push and pull of deadlines, work, and lack of sleep.

I put more tasks in my todo box to stay busy which prevents me from reaching out to people which isolates me more which makes me more depressed which causes me to take on more tasks. It is an evil circle of shit that I don't know how to break out of. So I sit here writing this, thinking about how to break down this wall. The anxiety I feel when trying to make a phone call is enough to make me scream.

I don't have any answers. I have written before that happiness is a choice, and it is... up to a point. I try to celebrate my accomplishments as much as I can, but when depression hits those all feel fake. Like I made them up to get people to like me. So I move on. I do the one thing I can do. It's like the scene in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman comes out of the coma and can't move. "Wiggle your big toe." I start there and build myself up until I can do all the things I want to. Maybe that is the answer. Imagine "wiggle your big toe" becoming the mantra for depressed people everywhere. I should be a motivational speaker *falls over*


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:40,228
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 23 of 47