Thursday, April 7, 2016

Finally... the Rogue One Trailer drops!


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It was 16 years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace. And ten years between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. Now, barely 12 months later, we've got another live action Star Wars movie. So what you want about Disney, but they're really pandering to my childhood, and isn't that all we can ask for?


Some initial thoughts:


  • It's got all the original sights and familiar elements that everyone loves from the original trilogy, which would be even more impressive if we hadn't already kind of had that in The Force Awakens. 
  • The cinematography looks beautiful, and WELL-LIT. So many movies these days are de-saturated and shadowy, as the director tries to replace the emotion of good story and acting with eye strain. This movie looks surprisingly bright and colourful, and I am unexpectedly pleased by this. Now please don't convert it to 3-D...
  • I'm getting a definite Hunger Games vibe here, at least from the trailer. For one thing the young woman looks a lot like Katniss Everdeen, and her being recruited for a secret rebellion certainly brings familiar elements to mind. Are they going for a YA slant on this, catering to the Hunger Games/Divergent market? Personally I liked the Hunger Games (the books, I haven't seen the movies, though Battle Royale was better), but if that's really the angle I'm sure that's going to piss somebody off. Not that you can do anything these days without pissing somebody off. (see next point)
  • We're going to have eight months of a certain segment of the population bitching about a female lead, aren't we? Nevermind that we don't even know if Jyn Erso is actually the main character or not, I've been around the Internet enough the last few years to know that this is probably going to be Ghostbusters all over again. I look forward to the day everyone can all just grow up and get over themselves.


Rogue One hits theatres December 16!

(Still not an A-to-Z Challenge post)
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Exposed (#IWSG)


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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group here.

I shouldn't have publicly said I would be done by the end of March. I know I didn't commit to any particular release dates, but the fact that I said I would do something and then didn't follow through grates me to no end. It's bad enough when I blow the deadlines I set for myself. It's much worse when I keep telling people it's coming soon and then it never comes out.


I've pushed the new book back several times. I originally wanted to have it out by the end of October (it's a horror book, I thought a Halloween release date would be fitting). In retrospect this was staggeringly overzealous on my part. The book needed a lot of work and has gone through several rounds of revision which I think has made huge improvements. But I just keep underestimating how long these revisions will take (for some reason I repeatedly forget that I have a life).

After I missed Halloween, then I thought I could have it out for Christmas... then Valentine's Day... then April Fool's (I like to keep my deadlines around holidays, makes it easier to remember them). Still nada. It's very close, but it's not quite there. Even though I know the work I'm doing is necessary, I'm still disappointed and I'm mad at myself.

I'm going to shut up talking about it because I feel like I'm just digging myself a bigger hole. I hate it when people keep talking about something they're working on but it never comes out. In my case I don't think I'm disappointing anyone by pushing back my release (my book is hardly The Winds of Winter) but it still feels like making excuses to me. Either put it out or shut up. That's my new motto.

Seriously, I don't even watch football. What's my excuse?

So yeah, no more talk about Hell Comes to Hogtown until it's actually available on Amazon for purchase. I may still talk about Star Wars, roleplaying games and wrestling (I know that's why all of you are here, anyway), but no more news about the book until I actually have something to say.

Okay?

Okay.



(This is not an A-to-Z Challenge post)
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Friday, April 1, 2016

Another Galaxy, Another Time (Episode 8 Spoilers!)


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"Another galaxy, another time" is the original opening line to Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, the novelization of Star Wars that was actually published 6 months before the film's release. It's not quite as catchy as "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" but I've always been fond of it.

Also, in this day and age it's unfathomable to imagine a novel coming out and spoiling a Star Wars movie a full six months before the film's release.

The secrecy surrounding The Force Awakens last year and the upcoming, as-yet-untitled "Episode 8" is staggering. And that's the way people seem to like it. Revealing spoilers in today's society is worse than insulting someone's mother or discussing religion. It's just not done in polite company. But you know who doesn't care about polite company? Mister Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill:

Hamill has been making waves today promising he'll reveal a spoiler to the new film if he reaches 1 million Twitter followers, and has even supposedly been endorsed by the film's writer/director, Rian Johnson:

Media outlets from Entertainment Weekly to the BBC have picked up on the story (it's especially newsworthy since The Force Awakens was released on digital streaming today, and will drop on DVD/Blu-Ray on Monday), proving that anyone will talk about Star Wars to get hits on their website. Including me.

Of course, it's all probably some elaborate April Fool's joke, and maybe the spoiler he's about to reveal is that "C-3P0 says 'Thank the maker!'" or something equally trite, but the fact remains that someone as classy, kindhearted and self-depreciatingly hilarious as Mark Hamill SHOULD have at least a million Twitter followers. HE'S LUKE SKYWALKER AND THE JOKER, for crying out loud.

He's also weirdly attached to this god-awful ugly sweater, for some reason:


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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge 2016


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Ha!

That's not going to happen.

;-)

(Good luck to everyone who is participating, though!)
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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

IWSG March: Hell is Coming... (COVER REVEAL!)


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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group here.


What am I insecure about this month? My new book is coming out VERY soon. I'm frantically going through edits and putting finishing touches on the cover and blurb. Will it be ready in time? Will it be any good? Will anyone read it?

Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I figure now is as good a time as any to officially release the cover for my second novel...


Still tweaking it a little to get the blood splatters just right, but you're looking at it in all it's gory glory. The photograph was taken by the awesome Jason from Salvatori Photography and captures just the right amount of cheekiness that I was going for.

So what is this bloody horror comedy about a beautiful lady about you ask? Here's the blurb:

*  *  *

Fitz is the broke, sad-sack night manager for a grubby comic book store. His only friend Dee is a narcissistic, womanizing drug-addict and professional wrestler. Together they are lowest, most pathetic losers on the face of the planet. Their lives cannot possibly get any worse.

And then they are implicated in the kidnapping of the prime minister’s wife.

On the run from the cops, Fitz and Dee discover there is something far worse than the RCMP stalking the dark streets of Toronto. They are being hunted by an ancient demon of unspeakable evil with an insatiable thirst for blood... and booze.

Life in prison might actually be much better than whatever the creepy hobo has in store for them...

*  *  *

So yeah, it's coming soon. If you visit this site or follow me on social media you'll hear lots about it in the next few weeks as I fine tune everything. Any comments or suggestions on the blurb are welcome!

Needless to say I'm excited but also stressed and anxious. Hope everyone else is having an equally eventful month! Now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to editing...


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Monday, February 29, 2016

Excuse Me While I Gush About Roleplaying Games for a Moment


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Most of you know I'm a gamer in addition to a writer. Specifically, I'm a table-top gamer, preferring old-fashioned board games and pen-and-paper roleplaying games to video games. I don't usually talk about roleplaying games much on this blog since I write for another site that's devoted entirely to RPG's, but today I just wanted to share with you an awesome new game I've been playing lately. I think I would be better served discussing it here rather than for an audience who all know what I'm already talking about and are probably just thinking "yeah, so?"

Hopefully you know what role-playing game is. Dungeons & Dragons is of course the classic example, as it's the oldest version out there. It's a game where a group of players each create a character and "roleplay" them through adventures to (usually) accomplish a group goal, like defeating an evil monster, finding a lost treasure, saving a kingdom, etc. One of the players acts as the Game Master or Dungeon Master, sort of the defacto referee who plays all the enemies and secondary characters the player characters/heroes encounter, and generally guides the story by creating the world and the setting with which the characters interact.

There are rules to adjudicate how your characters interact with the world - each characters has numerical values to represent their strength, agility, intelligence and so on, which indicates how good they are at certain tasks. In most games you roll dice to determine if your character succeeds at a task or not (like casting a spell or attacking something with a sword) and your chances of success are modified by your skills and abilities.


Many writers enjoy being Game Masters because the two roles involve similar functions: creating worlds, characters and stories. I also enjoy game mastering, but in the last few years I've found myself enjoying it for very different reasons than why I enjoy writing.

In most games, the GM or DM sets out the scenario: Where the players are, what they're doing, what is their goal. The players then follow the clues, plotlines and story as set out by the GM to try and accomplish the ultimate goal of "finishing the adventure." A good Game Master can adapt and improvise if something changes or the characters do something unexpected, but ultimately they're still moving in a pre-defined direction. In the worst version of this, the characters and players end up like pawns moving through the GM's pre-written story.

Even at the best of times, when the players have some choices in the outcome of the story, this still feels false to me. Many times players go through the motions because that's just the way it works. We fight these monsters because the Game Master wrote it this way. But why? Unless the player characters have a very good reason for wanting to accomplish this goal, why are they doing it? Why are they trudging through a dungeon, hunting for this treasure, slaying this dragon? If these were characters in a novel, what is their motivation? That's the part that interests me: why do these heroes do what they do?

For some heroes, it's to get back at their exes.
This is where Dungeon World comes in. Dungeon World is a "stripped down" version of Dungeons & Dragons where game mechanics and rules crunch take a backseat to storytelling and character development. It uses brilliantly simple mechanics that leave a lot to interpretation and imagination, and encourages the players to fill in as much (or as little) as they want.

My favourite difference between Dungeon World and D&D is that it takes a lot of the agency away from the Dungeon Master and gives it to the players, which is a very good thing. In classic D&D, the DM builds the game world and the players wander through it uncovering its secrets. In DW, the players build it themselves as they go.  The Dungeon Master is there to nudge them along and get the story flowing, not to create the world himself, and the players get to decide exactly what kind of game they want to play. By having more of say in their game, the players ultimately feel more involved and invested, and their characters develop true motivations to do what they do.

A great example is the classic booby trap: the pit in the floor, the poison dart, the falling block from the ceiling. In D&D it's very common for the DM to place traps in a dungeon for the players to overcome. They have to make a roll to seek out these traps at the proper time and then find a way to disarm or avoid them. Much fun is had as the players try (and often fail, sometimes fatally) to figure out how the trap works and disarm it. That's the fun of the game. In DW, the Dungeon Master doesn't set a trap in advance. Instead, when a player decides to "look for traps," he makes his roll. On a success, he finds a trap and disarms it - what exactly that looks like is up the player to make as cool, devious or silly as he chooses. On a fail, he misses the trap or fails to disarm it and it blows up in his face. Again, he may choose to describe exactly what that looks like.

Traps should be fun. No, seriously.
At first it may seem counter-intuitive to "intentionally" hurt yourself in a game (remember, if the player didn't choose to look for it, the trap probably wouldn't have been there), but you have to remember the fun of the game is finding the trap and either setting it off or not. Having no traps is boring to everyone involved. Not to mention you actually gain experience points every time you fail a roll, so it's in your best interest to try everything you can.

The best mechanic is when your roll falls between a "success" or a "failure." A "partial success" means you have succeeded at your task but... some complication has arisen. You hit your opponent but he hits you back. You sneak silently into the queen's bedchamber but you find yourself in an awkward position, perhaps under the bed and the king just walked in. Or maybe your spell puts most of your enemies to sleep, but one of your companions is caught in the area of effect and accidentally gets knocked out as well. These are fun and interesting occurrences that keep the action moving, and that you can use to build on the story and move the plot along. The player and GM working together can turn these complications into compelling set pieces that make the characters and the world around them come to life.

Perhaps the character had only meant to sneak into the queen's bedchamber to steal a signet ring to forge a letter. They assumed they would either succeed or fail and get caught by the guards, and have to fight their way out. But now we have another option, with the character under the bed, eavesdropping on the king. Perhaps the GM had an idea that the king was plotting to attack a neighbouring kingdom, and now the player character hears part of that plan. Or perhaps the player throws out the suggestion that the king is having an illicit encounter with someone unexpected - the queen of that rival kingdom, or the royal sorceress, or the queen's sister, who knows. No one had planned that detail in advance, but adding that wrinkle now adds a lot of interesting possibilities to the story.
All of our Harry Potter games end in unexpected player actions.
Though honestly, this would have solved a lot of problems in Harry Potter.
And that's what I enjoy about roleplaying games. Telling a story, together, and letting it develop and turn in unexpected directions when the need arises. I shared with you awhile ago about the time we were playing a zombie apocalypse game and one of the players turned on another and killed him at the climax of the adventure because he had been bitten by a zombie. It was completely out of the blue and against the generally accepted "no player vs player violence" of most games, but it made perfect sense to the story and the character in the moment.

I've played other roleplaying games via email and through messaging, where the whole game interaction takes place in writing. We were basically writing a communal novel, going back and forth between the players and the game master. When it works, when everyone is throwing ideas out there and adding to the story with each message or post, it's an exciting and amazing experience. It's also usually hilarious. Dungeon World really plays into that same communal storytelling sweet-spot, and it's a game I hope to play a lot more in the future.

What kind of experience do you have with role-playing games? Have they mostly been just complicated board games? Or have you delved into them as shared storytelling experiences?
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

IWSG February: Almost there... Stay on Target!


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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group here.

* * *

Is it okay to be a little excited yet?

As you're reading this, my manuscript is on its way to my latest - and last - line of beta readers. Technically I guess they're gamma readers, but whatever. Since my last pass through readers it has undergone several more rounds of edits, revisions and tightening and I wanted to get feedback from a few more voices as I had to change a few things(most noticeably the ending). While I'm waiting for their feedback, I will get the finishing touches put on the cover and work on some other related elements.

If all goes according to plan, I might get this book out by the end of March, or sometime in April at the latest.

I started this book back in February of last year. I finished the first draft on July 17, and I've been editing and re-writing ever since. It's coming up on 12 months since I began, and it's been a busy year. I published my first book in May. In the Fall I launched a failed crowd-funding campaign to have my new book released through Inkshares.com. Not to mention I have a full-time job, and my wife and I had our second child.

I suppose as far book-writing goes, a year is really not that long, but for me the last 12 months have seemed like forever. Numerous deadlines and publication dates I've secretly set for myself have come and gone. It feels like I'm been talking about this for years so everyone must be tired of hearing about it. Part of me really wants to get this finished and out to celebrate a job well done.  Another part of me wants to get it off my plate because I have so many more projects lined up that I want to work on!

And though I should have learned my lesson, I'm considering entering another Nerdist/Inkshares contest...
With my first book, I took a manuscript I had written a few years before, gave it a real quick polish and then put it online. I actually did way more revising and editing after its original publication, which I admit is monumentally stupid. This time, I'm being far more cautious and putting much more effort into it before I hit the publish button. They say your second first impression is the important one, right?

Of course, the insecurity remains - will it all be worth it? Will this book be noticeably better? I hardly made a ton of sales with Ten Thousand Days - will the added effort at least help me match the numbers on the first book? Or will people who gave me a chance with Days and ended up burned not give it another go around?

I mean, people read Fifty Shades of Grey and came back for three sequels, so quality of an author's writing is by no means a measure to judge future sales success.

I'm kidding. I have no problem admitting I wish I had written this f*cking book.
I'm being harsh, Ten Thousand Days wasn't that bad. There are people who genuinely seem to like it, but there are definitely things about it I would like to change. That I may still go back and change. The new book though, in my opinion, is much, much better. It's funnier. It's darker. And I hope more people will get to read it. I hope that my added effort and the improvements that I've made will show a comparable increase in my readership.

So I'm optimistic, but also apprehensive. Excited but extremely cautious.

In short, I'm a bucket full of conflicting emotions. I think that was a Pixar movie.



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