Monday, April 29, 2013

Shooting begins on Claw Hammer

We got off to a rough start, but we managed to film eight pages of the script. I edited the scenes together and those eight pages became nine minutes and fifty seconds, which I'll cut down as I get more input.

a shot from the movie... 
as you can see it has really mature characters

Some aspects aren't quite as good as I imagined, but most of them exceed my expectations. The lighting kind of sucked in the first scene we shot and I'm afraid the audio isn't loud enough, but we're learning quickly. Next weekend my friend who's done some professional photography will be helping us shoot so it can only get better from here.

I think.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Favorite PC games of 2012

The end of April is the perfect time to recap last year's best PC games, right? Hey, I'm nothing if not excessively tardy.

Around Christmas time the feeling is, "There're just too many video games to try!" But then during the first quarter of any year the pickings are depressingly slim, this year being the exception because we got Bioshock Infinite, which is easily the best game of 2013 and probably still will be by the time the year's over, too. Before we begin, I have a confession to make: I didn't like Dishonored that much (I plan to give it another shot soon) and I didn't even play Mass Effect 3 or Torchlight 2. But here are the 2012 games I did play and enjoyed the most.

Legend of Grimrock
This game is fantastic. Old school RPG fun. It's probably in my top three.

Diablo 3
No, it wasn't nearly as good as Diablo 2, but launch-issues aside, it was pretty damn good.

Max Payne 3
As far as capturing the feel of an awesome crime movie, you can't top Max Payne 3. It's the closest we'll get to Breaking Bad: The Video Game. Multiplayer is unreasonably fun, too, at least for a week or two.

Sleeping Dogs
This is one of the best looking games on PC right now. I didn't enjoy it as much as Grand Theft Auto IV, but then again I like GTA even more than most people.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
I love CS, original as well as Source. I even had it for Xbox. CS:GO feels the way a modern version of Counter-Strike should feel and it gets better with every update.

FTL: Faster Than Light
This might be my favorite game of the year and I can't wait until it's on my Android tablet. It's a merciless roguelike that has you piloting your own ship, constantly pursued by an almost unbeatable enemy and susceptible to death at every turn. Oh, and the music kicks ass.

Borderlands 2
I didn't dig the original Borderlands nearly as much. Looting in this game is a lot more satisfying than it was in Diablo 3 and the jokes don't fall flat as often as they do in most games like this. 

X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Quite possibly my second favorite game of the year. Multiplayer is missing something I can't quite put my finger on and while I wouldn't go so far as to say it's game-breakingly buggy, there are some odd glitches here and there.

Mark of the Ninja
Although console-gaming isn't my favorite way to play games, I love the old school gamepad vibe of Mark of the Ninja. Probably my favorite platformer since Super Meat Boy.

Hitman Absolution
It's not nearly as good as Hitman: Blood Money, but it's a hell of a lot slicker. Much better than I expected, anyway. But you should know I expected absolute disappointment.

Planetside 2
Although I don't play consoles very often, I love Halo for its gigantic landscapes and science fiction imagery. This captures that feeling and it's free. I should really play it more.

Far Cry 3
Oh man, this is the best open world game in ages. It's absolutely beautiful, too. I can't wait until I get to play as Michael Biehn in Blood Dragon. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The homestretch beard is no more and why ebook readers are great for short fiction readers

That's right. I finished my novel quite a few days ago. Well, the first draft, anyway. If it's anything like the other novels I've written, I'll put it in a drawer with the intention of dusting it off for revisions later, only to find I don't give a shit anymore. But it's not going to be like the other novels I've written. I say that every time, sure, and I don't feel like convincing you, Total Stranger, that this time is any different.

It just is. I know it is.

Right now I have horror stories in me. I feel like that's what I should work on instead of the planned sequel to the SF novel. Besides, I've been reading a hell of a lot more horror than ever before. I find myself picking up horror short fiction rags more than the science fiction ones, which is really unusual for me. Have you read eHorror? I got it through B&N on my tablet. This month's issue (Vol. 1, No. 8) has a story called "It's Just Tearing Me All Apart" by O.D. Hegre. It's described as, "A tale of perverted sexual vengeance."

Perverted? Yeah, I'd say so. Hell of a good read, too. If you subscribe to the magazine today, through B&N, it's free for fourteen days. Amazon might offer the same deal. I don't know. I don't feel like looking it up because I rarely purchase anything in their ebook store.

Sorry if that sounded like a commercial. I have no affiliation with those people.

That's the only thing I really like about ebook readers, by the way. As a struggling writer, you always have to read a lot of short fiction. If you buy them at the newstand, you probably can't afford them because, like I said, there's the whole struggling-writer thing. I read more short fiction than ever because it's cheaper than it's ever been when you subscribe. Is that good for the publishers and the writers? I think so.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The homestretch beard and the possible indie publishing bubble

The novel I began in November took longer than expected because it quickly became apparent it works better as a series rather than a stand-alone book. This was worrisome because the story was intended to be a one-off and I didn't want to cop-out and pull a "To Be Continued" at the end of the first book. Really, a book ought to stand on its own even if it is part of a bigger story, which means you need a definite conflict and a definite resolution, all in one story. So I worked on some short stories and a screenplay while I thought about ways to make the novel a little more independent. Then a seemingly minor character I had written about earlier in the story came back unexpectedly and, well, everything fits together nicely now.

It's a standalone story after all.

the homestretch beard

Right now I'm growing my homestretch beard. Whenever I've been working on a project for a month or more I tend to neglect shaving towards the end (and sometimes showering, but that's a different story). I figure I might as well make this an official custom. The beard won't be shaven until I finish the novel. There just isn't enough time for being a civilized human when you're finishing something that's been in your head the last four or five months. So...

Is indie publishing a bubble right now?

If you ask me the answer is "sort of," but I'm not an industry analyst and I don't really "get" economics. I am just a plumber, after all.

Yesterday my friend asked me what I plan on doing with the novel. That's a good question. My first instinct, upon completing anything, is it should really be published traditionally. My biggest issue with that is the time involved finding a publisher who actually wants to take a chance on my silly little book. Twenty publishers rejected Frank Herbert's Dune for crying out loud; what does that say about my chances of quick publication? My second biggest issue is this is supposed to be a series... so, uh, if the first one doesn't sell, who's to say they'll ever publish the second one?

Tip #1: Don't write a series until you're an established writer.

Not too long ago self-publishing fiction was considered the stamp of an amateur (and rightly so). That's changed in recent years, sure, but I feel a lot of that is because of ebook readers; the technology is still pretty new and apparently there are a lot of people hungry for as much cheap content as they can get for their new toys (we're talking 99 cents to $2.99, sometimes even free). But am I really the only person who considers the current generation of ebook readers to be the Atari 2600? There was a lot of thoughtless, cheap content pushed out for Atari and look how that turned out.

The problem is absolutely anybody can pretend to be a writer these days. I could write a piece of shit in a week or two, upload it to Amazon and other markets through Smashwords, then buy five-star reviews off of a website like Fiverr.com. A lot of people are doing just that. When you have delusions of grandeur you can justify being such a slimy weasel: "Hey, I am the shit! I just need to rig the results I know I deserve!"

I spend a lot of time lurking in writing forums. I discovered a lot of amateur writers are churning out a huge catalog of "books" (many of them are only a few pages long) in a matter of months. A lot of these men and women are reporting four-digit monthly incomes that are either growing or holding steady. Each of these masturbatory forum threads attract a lot of attention from other writers who are obviously interested in doing the same. One of these would-be power writers said, "Instead of being a needle in the haystack, the idea is to make so many needles that you have a needle-stack." Or something to that effect.

They make it sound so easy: get around fifty "books" out there on the market, use a different pseudonym for each genre so people don't get sick of any one pen name (I imagine readers are getting sick of this shit, anyway), and flood the market with your quickly produced garbage. Then: profit.

This trend just isn't going to last. The people who are doing it are fucking themselves in the ass and could potentially damage the entire indie publishing scene. Yeah, a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but listen to what I'm really saying: Only publish stuff that's worth people's time. Should that sentiment really be so controversial? Just because people are buying this shit now doesn't mean it's worth their time.

You may remember that a while ago I released my own independently published novel for free, but the difference was I worked on the sucker for over two years and I planned to sell it once I got enough input. I was also upfront with readers by telling them it was still a work in progress, an experiment. Since then I've lost interest in that piece (let's face it, it wasn't all that great), but a few hundred people read it and I learned a lot so I'm happy. I used to give short stories away for free, too, but you know what? When I sold my first short story I discovered I enjoyed having an editor and, more than that, I enjoyed getting paid.

No, it's not all about the money, but my first short story fully paid a utility bill I would have otherwise been late on. Yes, getting money for something you enjoy doing is awesome. That raises another point: people who focus on quantity over quality can't enjoy doing it, can they? Not only did they not deserve that money, it's not as satisfying as getting paid for something they enjoyed.

This has all been to say that, like a lot of writers, I really think that indie publishing is going to play a big part in the future. I just think we need to treat it with the respect it deserves. Maybe indie publishing isn't in a bubble in the traditional sense of the word, but again, all I'm saying is don't publish shit just because it's easier to do than ever before.

My plan is to continue publishing short stories the traditional way so I know I'm worth a shit. As for my next novel, I'll probably publish it myself through Smashwords and Lulu, but only after I've hired a professional editor, gotten a decent cover artist, and a ton of beta-reader input.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A seriously awesome list of 1960s SF


Here a blogger organizes a pretty ass-kicking list of 1960s science fiction. Anyone who puts two PKD books on their short list probably knows what he's talking about, but don't merely skim the year-by-year titles, either. My own short list would probably include the anthology Dangerous Visions, the same PKD titles he chose, Dune, The High Crusade, and Flesh by PJF. Although, if you were to ask me the same question next year I'd probably provide completely different answers. I'm iffy like that.

via r/printsf


there are other, less cheesy covers for this novel, 
but this one is actually pretty accurate, right down to the horns

My own to-read list is kept on a Google document, which I can access with my phone's Google Drive app whenever I'm away. Most of the books on the list can be found in used bookstores and thrift shops for a dollar or less.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evil Dead review: She picked a hell of a day to quit heroin

When the credits rolled there was a section of the audience that applauded. The teenagers in the theater were so entertained I didn't see any of them text once during the movie. As I made my way past the bathrooms I overheard a smiling soccer mom say, "I didn't care so much for the gore, but I liked the supernatural elements." I don't know if it says more about the movie or the changing times that an older woman can enjoy an Evil Dead movie, but that happened.

Me, on the other hand... I shuffled to the car absolutely baffled. One thing repeated in my mind: That was it?

You should probably steer clear of the trailer; it gives away far too much.

Evil Dead isn't a bad movie. It's almost exemplary for a modern American horror movie, but is that saying much? The trailers before the film can attest to one sad fact: the American horror film is in a dull, joyless rut at the moment. And up until now I always loved Evil Dead films; when I was a kid I once went as Ash for Halloween, chainsaw and all. So I do have to say it's incredibly disappointing to admit that not once during the film was I moved in any shape or form. I'm not exaggerating. I really felt nothing even as everyone around me was reacting to the cheap jump-scares.

So the five characters who end up in the infamous cabin in the woods this time are cardboard cutouts whom we simply don't give a shit about. The main character, I suppose, is Mia, a heroin addict who's trying to kick the habit by secluding herself in her mother's cabin. As expected, a particular book is found, a certain incantation is spoken, and an evil is unleashed via flying P.O.V. shots. Unfortunately, despite the award-worthy effects (they promised no CGI, but there's definitely some in there) you don't care when a character cuts her tongue in two or when someone begins dismembering their friend. Horror films are supposed to be cathartic; they're supposed to wind you up and even make you laugh when the tension is finally released, whether the resolution is what we wanted to see or not.

Horror movies. Are supposed to be. Fun.

Where did all this inventiveness go? Where's all the fun?

I didn't find Evil Dead all that fun. I didn't find Evil Dead to be fun at all. I found Evil Dead to be pretty lifeless, extremely joyless, and 100% unnecessary unless it makes so much money the studios decide to greenlight a proper Evil Dead sequel. If you haven't seen many horror films, you'll probably like it. Or if blood and guts and violence alone is enough for you, you'll probably like it, too. But for the rest of us there's nothing new, nothing unexpected. I hate to say it, but this new Evil Dead is predictable. And that kind of defeats the purpose of an Evil Dead movie, doesn't it?

As we all know, if there's a gun shown in the first act, it'll be fired by the end of the third. Here it's a nailgun, an electric carving knife, and a cellar step that's going to break exactly when we expect it to. I'm not giving anything away. You'll see it coming from a mile away, too. The rest is packed with the filler material from the previous Evil Dead films and sweetened with dialogue you'd expect to hear from the little girl in The Exorcist. There's a few nods to the original films here and there, but they're unnecessary, too. Consider the following exchange:

"It's a few hours until dawn."
"We're not going to be alive to see it."

Pardon me while I yawn.

I'm pretty much done talking about this film because the disappointment pains me so much. I feel like I just left a funeral. The only saving grace is that Bruce Campbell has announced they're making Army of Darkness 2. But I've heard that so many times before I can't hold my breath any longer. Their plans to make a new Evil Dead 2 and then combine the subsequent sequel with Army of Darkness 3 (yes, part 3) isn't ingenious, it's just confusing. And let's face it: it's not happening, either. What's even more confusing, though, is I plan to see the new Evil Dead 2 on opening weekend, too.

I just don't know when to give up, I guess. This series means too much to me I'm going to be right by its side, holding its hand as it suffers on its deathbed. For better or for worse, until death do us part. Amen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vsauce on what happens if the sun suddenly disappears and Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air"


Here's the short story A Pail of Air by Fritz Leiber, which is used to illustrate a point in the video above. The Puppeteers in Larry Niven's Ringworld novels intentionally propelled their home planet out of its solar system, thereby turning their world into a spaceship. If you haven't read the first two Ringworld novels, you're seriously missing out.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A personal statement from Iain M. Banks. Fuck.

From the statement:
"I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year.  So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last."

http://www.orbitbooks.net/2013/04/03/a-personal-statement-from-iain-banks/

Monday, April 1, 2013

Avoid the Internet and Read a Book Day! (April 1st sucks)

Attention: this blog post is completely RickRoll-free. Seriously. I'm sick of that fucking video.

Every time April 1st rolls around I pretty much just have to avoid the Internet with the exceptions of Wikipedia and this blog. It's not that I'm gullible, I just always forget what the date is. I'm sure if I had a job in accounting or something I would be more date-aware, but as a plumber I haven't needed to know since I was in high school. So when I read about the new Deus Ex game last night, I was pretty stoked. Then the "official announcement" was made in this video.

Some of this news seems pretty legit at first. I guess that's the idea. Thankfully, I didn't fall for this very official looking Half-Life 3 prank.

Anyway, Dorkly has a pretty funny April Fool's/Half-Life 3 comic here

As for today I'm going to spend my free time in bed with a book. And maybe I'll finally catch up on The Walking Dead.