Oh man. The hesitation on this one is real. I spent all day trying to figure out if I should share this one or not. Is it too silly? Is it too controversial? What do those even mean in the context of a writer writing? In the end, I decided to be honest to you guys and myself and share this because, for reals, I spent a good chunk of my day listening to this song and plotting out story to it.
Real American by Rick Derringer. I'm just going to talk about the song for now, and the song, the words, the feeling it conveys... if you're not inspired, you have a stone for a heart. Or maybe you're just not American and an uber sense of patriotism is literally a foreign concept. Either way, while I can say that I'm not out waving flags and saluting bald eagles every day, this song does for me what the Space Jam theme does for my interest in basketball.
Now, as someone who's traveled abroad, experienced a mind shift in national awareness, and as someone who most certainly intends to travel and live abroad again, let me say that I don't think there's anything wrong with being proud to be American. Every Olympics and World Cup the entire planet gets in on the act. And this song is about... well... being someone to inspire others, stand up for what's right, and to never be pushed around by those who abuse their power.
It's a very simple song, really. There's not a lot of hidden meaning to it. It brings to mind archetypes of good. Obviously Hulk Hogan, but also Captain America. Superman. Duke from GI Joe. Rocky Balboa. Wonder Woman... sort of. Stephen Colbert. Okay, it's starting to get a little silly again.
Point is, the song is empowering. It's moving. It's great for writing.
So, even though it's not July 4th anymore, I hope you'll enjoy today's Paladin Playlist as I present to you Rick Derringer's Real American.
Oh! Wait! Windham and Rotundo! It was their song before Hulk!
I have a pile of research for my next story that's been growing like summer homework left until the last minute. I really need to finish up with this short story, but I need to do it well and not just rush through it.
At the same time, that research pile is... well... piling up. My next story has quite the cast of characters, all from diverse backgrounds. I have movies to watch, books to read, topics to research, and, if things work out, interviews to conduct. I have to become an expert, or rather, I have to be able to pass as an expert. Really, I guess my goal is for people knowledge about the subjects I'm going to touch on to not notice any glaring inaccuracies.
Getting out of your comfort zone. I think writing really helps if you can't do anything else. I mean, if you can travel, freakin' travel. If you can meet new people, meet them. But if you can't do any of that stuff, well, we live in the internet age. Research and write. Understand, or at least try to understand things from new perspectives.
And back to my research. I really want to dive in right now. And to a certain extent, I can begin, but I really can't afford to distract myself from the short story and the final edit of The Paladin.
So I guess all that wall of text is there to say... I need to get back to writing.
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
Yes. That one. I played that today. Well... I played the home board game version of it. It was my birthday gift and Sundays are usually when friends come over and we hang out. So today I'm talking about Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Now, not too long ago I ran a one-shot for my Extraordinary League group that was based on Carmen Sandiego. To prepare for it, I looked up all the games and stumbled upon the latest home game, which is coincidentally made by the same people as Legends of the Hidden Temple. It's complicated enough that they have YouTube videos explaining how to play, but still simple enough to figure out. Well, when opened this game, I saw something rather similar.
The game's intended for up to 16 players like the original, but can par down to 4. It includes places for Olmec and even the freakin' host, Kirk Fogg. You do the jumping across the moat, answering trivia questions about the treasure, playing the temple games, and, of course, running the Temple.
So my group played. It was madness. Dice rolling, obscenities being screamed, and people reaching for pieces. And it actually took a while just to get across the moat. Fortunately, once players are eliminated, they get to take on the roles of Kirk Fogg and Olmec, as well as eventually piecing together the Temple.
Well, guess who made it to the temple, with TWO Pendants of Life, no less. Give up? It ... it was me. I figured context would be... anyway. Point is, I got to run the temple.
It's a bit convoluted and the rules are hard to keep in your head while scrambling to roll dice and beat the clock, but I ran the temple. I even put together the Silver Monkey without putting the head on backward. Alas... I was caught by two temple guards and didn't have time to find Amelia Earhart's Lucky Pig.
I can't really be upset. After all, the decisions were mine and mine alone. Still, it was fun. Okay, back to writing, I guess.
Tell 'em what they won, Olmec!
Aw man, when I here this song, I know I'm writing a climax. This is it. This is the hero fighting for that last inch. This is the hero questioning their ability to even draw one more breath. This is Hero by Skillet.
Assuming you don't have a cocky, kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out kind of hero, this is a fantastic song for that last clash. Remember, the climax is no less an internal battle than external. The desire to surrender, to give up, to give in, should be just as important as the physical obstacle between the hero and the goal and this song is that fuel that keeps the hero going. This is the love of another, the power of friendship, whatever McGuffin you need to get your hero, bloodied and bruised, to stand up one last time.
So, please enjoy (and hopefully be inspired to write by) Hero from Skillet.
Let me put this out there: Bullet Hell is not my genre. I think maybe I had fun back in the day with 1943: The Battle of Midway in the arcades, but man, the genre is not what it used to be. And that's not a bad thing. Yeah... I liked it.
Okay, let's start with what this is. If you're not familiar with the genre of bullet hell, it's basically a side scroller (sometimes top to bottom) where your character is dodging a SCREEN FULL of projectiles all designed to ruin your day. In Azure Reflections, that looks something like this...
Fret not, your entire sprite doesn't have to dodge those bullets, just her heart, a common thread in these games. Still, don't think that makes this easy. I... okay. Real talk. I'm coming clean. I only have so long to review these games and... well... this is a damn hard game. It's all about memorization and reflexes, man! So... maybe... possibly... I switched to easy mode. But I got a fair way in before I had to!
Now, normally, uber difficulty turns me off from a game. I love story. I love characters. I feel like making something monstrously difficult detracts from something that's supposed to help me unwind. Well... Azure Reflections has that. Now, it's no Great Gatsby or anything, but the characters feel alive, the world feels real, and the battles feel like there's a purpose behind them.
Also, it's freakin' hilarious.
The plot is simple... sort of. Okay, I'll admit it took me a while to understand what I was doing, but somehow I was driven forward. If I understood everything right, it more or less centers on your main character wanting snacks and then getting pulled into an interdimensional battle because of a mysterious red mist that ends with a tea party. Yeah, it's weird.
Gameplay is straightforward and addictive. Try not to get hit while launching your own attacks at the barrage of enemies that litter the screen. If you're hit once, you're stunned. If you're hit while stunned, you die. Attacking enemies and narrowly missing your opponent's attack will build up a special meter that lets you unleash magical attacks. Collect everything you can so you can upgrade your character after dying with magic accessories (like DJ headphones or nerdy glasses). Oh, and you will die. This game is about learning the pattern, getting stronger, and giving it a go again.
Here's the part where I defend myself from accusations of hypocrisy. You see, in my last review I looked at Cosmos Invictus, a CCG where I said something along the lines of "I hate games where it's not possible for me to win the first go 'round/ I hate games that make you die, level up, and go back in." Something along that line.
So what does Azure Reflections do that Cosmos Invictus didn't? Well, to put it bluntly, Azure Reflections is just a better game. When I lost in Cosmos Invictus, I was reminded of how little fun I was having, of how disengaged I was from the story. But Azure Reflections kept me on my toes. Death was frequent, yes, but getting right back into the fray to try again was just as frequent. I could see my enemy, feel like I was fighting for a reason. The bosses were detailed characters with real depth. In other words, I was having fun and that made the constant death something I could deal with. No. I didn't enjoy dying in Azure Reflections, not even once. But it wasn't so frustrating because within seconds I could be right back in the fray, now armed with knowledge that would save my behind on the next go. Also... did I mention the game's funny?
The game has loads of replay value, and is perfect for either long play sessions when you want to grind out that one boss who keeps destroying you, or for short bursts when you just want to earn a few points toward your next accessory.
You can unlock multiple characters to play as and each one has a unique story that all culminates in the final, super, extra, special, ultra ending. Probably. I mean there's a secret ending once you've beaten everything else. Jeez, this game has my brain fried.
It's a weird, wacky, fun, but kinda stressful romp through a gorgeous world. In fact, I only ever had one problem with it: No English dubs means when the characters exchange witty barbs during combat, I'm in the dark. I can either dodge projectiles or try to read the subtitles, and in this game, taking your eyes off the prize is tantamount to suicide.
Verdict? Play the game. I loved it. Am I a convert to bullet hell? Probably not, but this game had enough to it that my issues with the genre didn't bother me.
If you love bullet hells, if you love moe anime games, and if you just love irreverent, fourth-wall breaking humor, give this game a shot. Just make sure you can dodge all theirs.
I think I've decided on my next novel. I've been weighing the options for some time now and, last night, I did a little character development. I went through the whole huge cast and laid out just about everything but names. Bit by bit I pieced together the skeletons of these characters and now, I'm happy to say, I think I have a my next cast of characters.
Obviously I'm not ready to announce anything. The Paladin is still in editing and I don't think I'd be ready to announce anything about this next book until it was already out in the world, in whatever shape that takes. Still, it's refreshing and reassuring to have a game plan. It's good to know what my next step will be and to know that I've taken the time to research, evaluate, and consider all my options. Kind of like life in general, I suppose.
So now what? Do I start writing? Probably not. With so much work left to do on The Paladin, fleshing elements out, clarifying relationships, and even completely rewriting scenes, I'm probably a year or more away from chapter one of the next novel. But that doesn't mean I can't start a rough outline. Now that I know which way I want to go, this mean that my creative juices have a proper outlet.
Prior to this tacit decision, my creativity went everywhere. An idea for a character would surface and I'd throw it at everything. Now, I'm going to try focusing squarely on this new story. Of course, if something good comes up that isn't suitable for this story I'll still consider it for the others I have in the wings, but at least having a priority list help immensely.
Oh, yeah, and I still have that short story to finish. Jeez... so much writing. So little time. So many cliches.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
You know, sometimes I have trouble keeping up with this blog. A new post everyday isn't something to sneeze at. And you know, today, I think I deserve to slack just a little bit. Why? It's my birfday!
Yes, indeed. Some indeterminate amount of time ago, before the internet but after toasters, Fate decreed that I should be placed on this planet. I sometimes wonder if it missed by one. Either way, here I am, your humble Matias Tautimez.
I wonder sometimes if I've done anything worth talking about in my life, but I came from a tiny little town. The population was less than 10,000. So far I've managed to graduate college (a first for my family), travel to Europe and make friends, anchor a local news broadcast, film and edit for a Las Vegas news broadcast, start and run a small wrestling promotion, and now, of course, I wrote a novel. I often feel like I haven't done much, but I suppose I've done more than a lot of people I grew up with.
I guess I really am blessed. I have friends on two continents, have been a guest on a really fun podcast, and even tried my hand at making my own. I've never been so poor I couldn't pay rent, but never rich enough to buy the brand name cereal without wincing.
Now I'm doing this blog, filming and editing a (different) podcast for a friend, and doing game reviews for a couple of review websites. I'd say I'm doing okay. And you know what? I'm not even close to done yet. Keep your eyes on me. I've got a lot left to do.
Be Excellent To Each Other
There's nothing new under the sun. There are only two stories in the world: someone leaves town and someone comes to town. It's all be done before. Simpsons did it.
Just about every story we can put out, if it's not directly inspired by a previous story, it will most certainly share elements of one. Honestly, it's just statistics are this point. We're 7.6 billion people on the same rock, all with a ton of ancestors who told us stories. It's not a cosmic miracle that cultures who never encountered each other have similar stories. These stories are part of who we are and reflect what it means to be human. So of course they're going to tread on each other's toes. But with all that said, where does one draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism?
I suppose intent is as good a test as any, but how do you know a writer's intent? Did she mean to draw so many one-to-one comparisons with Twelfth Night? Was it just homage when he wrote characters who practically quoted Romeo and Juliet? Some other example that doesn't involve Shakespeare, question mark.
I'm not asking because I'm wanting to call out some author for writing Star Wars but in feudal Japan, but because when I look out at the world, when I see stories, I wonder How would I write that? More than once I've felt something heart-wrenching in a movie and thought, Could I replicate that feeling in my books? Hell, often times I'm guilt of just taking a little something from my favorite works, something unimportant and unobtrusive, and sneaking it in as my own way of saying Thank you. Without your work and your stories, I wouldn't be doing this.
I've taken inspiration from games, movies, books, and, gasp, real life, too! I don't think it's wrong to look at children's television show in passing, think about the characters and plot points in play and wonder, Could that be done for grown-ups? It's natural. And whether you think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or not, it's really human nature. But... try to add something of you to it. That's the key. Like a good recipe passed one from generation, understand what made it good and understand how you can make it your own.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Slowly getting some more feedback from my Betas. Not as much as I'd like, but at least it's something. So far it's a lot of positive stuff. I'm pleasantly surprised which characters people like. And at least one beta told me the story was scary. Which I suppose is a plus?
So what's left? It's coming on a year since I started this blog and, honestly, I'd hoped I'd be done by now. Sadly, revisions, editing, and rewrites just never seem to end. Heck, I'm still wavering about the word length. I'm desperately hoping that agents won't worry about the word count being so high because my betas don't seem to be bothered by it. In fact, most want me to flesh things out even more. Le sigh.
On another front, I've started helping out a friend with their podcast. It's not Smash Fiction (though I do love those guys and you need to check out their work), but it's still a fun experience. Until things are more solid with what I'm doing, I don't want to talk too much about it, but... I guess I can share that these fools are fun to work with.
I guess that's about everything I'm working on. Well.. most of it. I do have one more big thing, but the time isn't nearly right enough to mention it. I'll just say that I'm gearing up for an adventure. Vague enough?
Are you a big fan of collectible card games? Man, have I got a game for you. It's called Hearthstone and... oh? Are you confused? Were you thinking I was going to say a different game? Well... I suppose there's Gwent. No? Oh, you want to know about the game I played, Cosmos Invictus. Uh... Sure you don't want to play Hearthstone?
Okay, let me be serious. There's nothing wrong with Cosmos Invictus. It does everything it says on the tin. CCG. Energy rises every turn and used to play cards. Destroy cards or attack the player directly. Drop your opponent to 0 and win. And yes, it even has a few unique features, like customizable play areas that affect your cards depending on where you place them. But, otherwise, it doesn't really stand out.
There's a story in Cosmos Invictus. Just to make a point about how memorable it is, I'm not going to look up the two faction names. I think they're... Unity Alliance... and Frontier... something. One is the more empirical group, one a rebellious faction. Earth and the solar system has almost run out of resources, but they have stumbled on some kind of ancient tech. It's unclear what it does, but apparently it can save Earth. Or be used to slingshot mankind out of our solar system to a new one. But only one or the other, I guess, so the two factions are at odds. And that the last you need to know.
The story is an excuse to split the deck into red cards and blue cards. Pick your side and you're initially limited to those cards, but after winning you can use your opposing deck's cards, too, though at a high energy price. Strategy comes from not only picking your deck, but deciding where on the battlefield to place them. Some places may lower defense, but raise attack. Others may repair a mech by a certain amount every round. Still another will force your opponent to destroy them before they can attack your capital ship.
The story quickly becomes secondary as every battle is just a card battle. There's no voice acting, no cut scenes, and nothing to make the battle your fighting seem special. Still, you are assured that this card game represents saving a mining colony or rescuing a stranded ship. I suppose I could live without all that, but nothing else seems to really catch my attention. Sure, you can attach pilots to ships to augment their abilities or change your formations to gain and advantage, but nothing about it is really game changing.
And you know, if this was a mobile game, that'd be perfect. Waiting for a burger? Play a battle. Class in ten minutes? Play a battle. But to commit to sitting down at my PC, I feel like I need something beefier to sink my teeth into.
There are decent online elements, but you'll learn quickly that there are certain card/formation combinations that you have to use if you want to win. Why? Well, the balance still needs a little work and if you use a certain type of mech (a lot) and in a certain formation (which I won't share) you'll basically destroy anyone who isn't either ten levels above you or isn't using the same tactic themselves.
Again, there's nothing particularly wrong with Cosmos Invictus, it just doesn't stand out. It feels like a mobile game trying to be on PC, and yes, that means it does in game purchases with the highest one I found being $70. But if you decide to grab it, you can still have a lot of fun with it. I can just think of a lot of other ways to have MORE fun.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.