My Halloween Tradition
Ah, yes, my little children of the night. It is Halloween. The spoopiest time of year has finally returned. Mmm... how I love this time of year, despite my inability to celebrate it properly.
Since I know most of you have better plans than I for the night, I'll keep tonight short and share something I enjoy. Something that has meant Halloween to me for years. Think you know what it is?
Did you guess right? Homestar Runner has been a part of my life for years. It's ancient as far as the internet goes and their yearly Halloween specials (and Decemberween!) just became something I expected. Something I looked forward to.
I'd be working on costumes, planning with friends what events we'd attend to show off said costumes, maybe even grab something together for dinner, but nothing quite made it feel like it was Halloween like yelling to my friends "The new Strong Bad Halloween is up!"
Yes, let's face it, despite the name, we're all here for Strong Bad. I don't know what it is, but the fact that the Brothers Chaps decided to revive the site (at least to a certain extent) is something that breathed life into my dead Halloweens. I may not be able to dress up or attend a fun party this year (and I did try!) but at the very least I can sit down, turn off the lights, and listen to why Mr. Poofers Must Die. And also watch some Castlevania.
Don't Forget to be Spoooooky!
Halloween Costumes and Conundrums
I have a strange relationship with Halloween these days. I'm 90% I wrote about this last year, but I might as well give it another go. People love reboots, right?
So, as I began, I have a strange relationship with Halloween. As a child it was like any kid. Ninja turtle here, Dracula there. In high school I started branching out and I started playing with things outside the typical wheelhouse. One might even call it cosplay. Except I didn't know what that was. I just liked dressed up at Hercule / Mr. Satan from Dragonball Z. He's still awesome. And you know what, I completed that little outfit years later with the spiritual successor of Dan Hibiki. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
You see, during college I really went all out. We'd start planning pair and group outfits in June. It was all because one Halloween I had a crappy costume. Waited too long. It was some skull makeup and a Jack Skellington foam top hat. That's when things took off.
Jay and Silent Bob was probably one of the best I did. My friend had long blond hair and I wore a wig. Our hairstyles are now opposite. Either way, I completed the look with a genuine Mooby hat (I was Silent Bob, of course!). It just kept going. We did the Mario Bros. with myself as Wario. I worse the prosthetic nose and ears and even paid for everything with gold coins. I made a bob-omb and a chain chomp (Trevor and Chompy, respectively) for the princesses that joined up.
I really got into making costumes. They were like little puzzles to solve. What piece of media had been important in our lives that year? How can I incorporate 2-5 people? What needs to be made by hand? This led to me doing Dan Hibiki to my wife's Chun Li, Sun Wu Kong the Monkey King, and my favorite of all, Guru Guru the Organ Grinder from Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Yes, I made a functioning, spinning organ.
But now? I haven't done a costume in years. I think my last one was a composite Ganondorf. Since then, we haven't had the time, money, or resources. People have moved on. Trying to craft something felt like a waste of money when we've had other financial stresses. Not to mention moving around, not knowing if we'd still be living in the same place in a few months or not. All in all, it's been a lot of things that stopped me from indulging in a beloved past time. Crafting outfits, figuring out how to make them work, it's been such an integral part of who I am for year. Now it's kinda gone.
Will I ever get back to it? Here's hoping. But for all you out there who are dressing up, enjoy it! Have a blast.
Paladin Playlist 55
Every time I do one of these I'm briefly reminded that for 55 weeks I haven't missed a single post. Has it been worth it posting every single day for over year now? I think so. It's drilled some amount of responsibility into me and forced me to dwell on my writing for at least a short time ever day.
But let's focus on the playlist, shall we? You know, Steven Universe is a beautiful, cute little cartoon. The music in it is SO good. So I couldn't let my playlist go without a little Rebecca Sugar and the main ending theme, Love Like You is just perfect.
Sure, it may not have much to do with vampires and werewolves, but it has everything to do with the humanity of the characters in the novel. It's two-fold, actually. You see, a lot of my characters were born from just snippets, thoughts about a character trait. People like Samantha were incredibly one-dimensional when I first created them, but while pondering them and listening to songs like Love Like You, I came to explore them more. I came to understand the humanity of these characters. This song was very special, not at helping me plot out a vampire kill or a demonic possession, but at helping me take a deeper look at each of the characters in my novel. It helped me understand that even in dark times and dark places, humans are humans. They laugh and cry. They joke and sing. And hopefully, they love, too.
Please enjoy Rebecca Sugar's Love Like You. I know I did.
Querying. I'm so close to sending off my letters. I just have to convince myself that I'm ready. These query letters are the first, and perhaps only impression I'll be making on these agents. And I know they want to accept books, but they have a lot to go through. It's not going to take much to make them toss my letter aside and move on to the next.
So when am I ready? I'd like to think it's a confidence issue, that I'll be ready when I think I'm ready, but if that's the case I may never be. There's always something I can do to improve the letter, to tighten up the synopsis, to make myself look just a little better. I'm confident in my work. The manuscript is good, the novel is certainly ready (and don't think that didn't take a lot of self-affirmation) but convincing someone else of that?
It doesn't help that this is my first real work. I've written short stories, I've been a journalist with my work sent around the globe (literally, I have a story about poop that got picked up in the UK), and I've gotten my game reviews published. But none of that really translates into something impressive for agents. I have no literary awards, no contests I can brag about. I'm not part of any writers' association or guild, mainly because I lack any of the aforementioned credentials that would afford me membership, so how do I make myself look good on this silly query letter?
I've been reading article after article, revising and re-revising my letter. I'm just not certain where to go from here. I think maybe my best bet is to enter some short story contests, get a little recognition. Just something to pad my letter. It's like applying for a job. I need to find everything I can to make myself stand out to these agents.
I mean, it'd be great if it were all on the merit of the writing alone, but no one has time to read every manuscript put in front of them. Especially whoppers like mine. So... I guess I just gotta keep plugging away and hope for the best.
The querying continues. Or rather, the preparation for querying continues. While I'm doing game reviews and editing podcasts and filming for local news, I'm still peering through piles of agents and companies trying to find a good fit.
On top of that, after not winning Pitch Wars, I'm really working hard at trying to get my query letter and synopsis cleaned up. It's a strange, awkward thing to try to sell you book to a complete stranger. You'd think that being the person who wrote the silly thing would grant you the ability to explain it, but yet I stare at my letter, dumbfounded. It's about... demons? Well... and a kid that fights them. Well, not a kid, but a young man. And he... yeah. You get the idea.
I think selling oneself is probably the hardest thing a writer has to do. Maybe editing is up there, too, but we're just not all built to sell ourselves. I've really had to change how I act, had to force myself to be upbeat and excited about my book when people ask what it's about. In the back of my mind I scared that everyone thinks I'm just a poser, just another "writer," sitting at Starbucks and announcing to everyone about the screenplay they're working on. I'm not. I know what I've been through and I know that my story is good.
The problem is trying to get over that hurdle and convince someone else that it's good, too. I don't like bragging. It physically discomforts me. I've had self-esteem issues since I was a child, I just can't do it. But I know that the people who've read my manuscript liked it. Several have expressed sincere interest in reading more. I can see that my website gets decent traffic boosts whenever I post short stories and that, right now, The Heir of Archmond is garnering more traffic than any other part of my website. I can write. I can write well. I just can't tell people that.
So how in the world am I supposed to do that in a letter to a complete stranger? Well... when I'm done with it, maybe I'll share a post on how I got there.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
One more time!
So it's that time again. One week from today I'll be down in Tucson, AZ for the Tucson Comic Con. Once more I'll be hosting a Surprise Party panel and I'm very excited.
There's something amazing about hosting these panels. I was a little nervous when I did the first one at Con-Nichiwa, but working with my friends Miles and Sharon, everything turned out fantastic. The people had a blast, we were able to give away some awesome prizes.
Then we did it again at Phoenix Saboten Con, and you know what? It was EVEN BETTER! More people, over $200 in prizes, and people told us that we were the best part of their Con experience. The contestants we had on were good. They knew how to tell stories, they knew how to work a crowd, and everyone had such a blast.
So now I have one more chance to do this. Miles and Sharon couldn't make it, but I've got a great replacement crew anyway, including someone I'll be meeting for the first time thanks to Smash Fiction.
So I just wanted to take today's blog as a chance to not only remind everyone out there to come see us at Tucson Comic Con next Friday, but to thank Smash Fiction. Without those guys, I wouldn't be able to do this awesome panel for the third time.
To my crazy Smash Fiction friends, a very sincere thanks! You guys rock.
Channels to Help you Write Better
Today I thought I'd share a few of my favorite YouTube channels that I like to go to for research and just general inspiration. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm someone who really likes to research, and that means figuring out what makes the most sense for situations. I wish I had something a little more Halloween-y (maybe tomorrow), but still, these are great resources for fantasy and general fiction writers alike.
So, first off, let's go with the channel that soothes my need for realism in fantasy, Shadiversity. Have you ever wondered why castles look the way they do? Or what weapon is best for a Minotaur to use? Or what the best medieval battle strategy would be to take down a dragon? You need Shadiversity.
The host is informative, relatable, and entertaining. He lays out why weapons and structures are made they way they are, how they would fall apart if they were constructed like they are in video games, and how you can find compromises for fiction. It's fascinating. If you've ever wondered why there are so many different kinds of swords, what the specific functions of each kind are, this is the guy. If you want your fantasy setting to be immersive, but also realistic, to feel like it could actually happen, you need to add Shadiversity to your list of subscriptions.
Next up, one I've mentioned many times before, Overly Sarcastic Productions. They do a few things, all of which I suggest watching. First off, they do literary reviews. If you've ever wanted an in-depth, entertaining, review of classic books (I suggest Mary Shelley's Frankenstein this time of year), this is perfect. The animation is amazing and funny, and most of all, Red breaks apart the themes and tropes utilized throughout the work, something important for would-be writers. She also does an amazing series I love called Trope Talk where she breaks down her favorite literary tropes, like The Five Man Band or We're Not So Different, You and I. Understanding how these tropes work lets you utilize them properly and can really, really improve your writing.
And of course, I can't mention OSP and Red's work without mentioning her partner, Blue. Blue takes the same care and attention, but applies it to actual history. Why is this important? The best stories come from history! If you understand how actual armies work, how kingdoms function, if makes your writing that much more rich and immersive.
So check these people out! Shadiversity! Overly Sarcastic Productions. Even the one cross-over episode they did. Go watch them! Learn! Write better!
And Don't Forget to be Awesome!
A Civic Duty
I don't normally get all preachy on here (do I?) but I figured it's that time and it's my blog, so here's my little rant: Vote.
I don't like to get political. I absolutely hate politics. But you know what? Voting is important. We are terribly underrepresented country. So many people who are eligible to vote don't even bother. And I'm not going to delve into the myriad of abuses from political gerrymandering or eligibility rights rigging. I'm just here to share that simple message for those who have no excuse. Those who haven't had a polling place stripped from them or their eligibility compromised have even more of a duty to vote this year. If you can vote, you must.
I used to be a video journalist in Las Vegas and I covered a lot of campaign rallies. Now, I'm not hating on anyone. Please understand that. But I need to point out that one of the silliest... no lets be genuine here... stupidest things I saw was "Bernie or Bust." There's nothing wrong with liking Bernie Sanders. Or Hillary. Or Trump. Like who you want, vote for who you want. But understand that if you CAN vote and you DON'T, you're handing your vote to the opposition.
Let me repeat that. If you can vote and you don't, you're handing your vote to the opposition. Republican, Democrat, Green, Independent, I don't care! Not making a choice IS a choice. There is no good excuse for not voting. You have a little under two weeks and you can look at sample ballots online right now. Go online. Look at the measures. Look at the candidates. Take ten minutes to research a candidate. Don't just vote party line, look at what they believe in. What they support. Who supports them. Do they have your best interest in heart? Good, vote for them. If not? Vote for someone else.
What if you don't like any of the candidates. Pick the least worst one. I get it. That sucks. It really, really does. Sometimes we don't have good options, only less bad ones. So tell me, would you rather get shot in the foot or the mouth? They both suck, but one sucks considerably less. And you know what? If you don't vote, someone else gets to choose where you're shot.
You think your vote doesn't count? You're a tiny voice, screaming into the void. Yeah, that's what they want you to think. You and thousands... hundreds of thousands of others. If you all think your vote doesn't matter, then guess what? It won't. Because you won't vote. Prove them wrong. Vote. Make your voice be heard.
You know people are going nuts over that billion dollar lottery. The chances of winning are winning a lottery of that size are minuscule. You're practically throwing your money away. But people still do it. Why? Because maybe, just maybe, their ticket might win. So if they can pluck up the strange courage to buy a ticket knowing millions of others are competing against them for it, why can't you vote? You have much better chance there.
That's my rant, ladies and gentle. And, yes, I'm currently going over my early voter ballot at this very moment. Elections are important. Voting is important. If you don't vote, you don't have a leg to stand on when things don't go your way. Go vote. Period.
Don't Forget to be Awesome (by voting!)
How I Review Games
Man, what a difference a doctor's visit and some prescription meds make. I'm not out of the woods yet, but I'm feeling a hundred times better than yesterday. So, in celebration of improving health and seeing that I've exhausted most literary conversations for the time being, I figured I'd talk about my other writing gig: game reviews.
Now if you're a regular to my blog you'll know that I review games for two websites: DLH.net and GeekNifty. If game reviews are something you'd like to do, well, I wish I had good advice for how to get into it. I honestly stumbled into BOTH of these gigs. I'm truly blessed to be able to do something like this, something I love, as a side hustle. If you wonder what the process is, well, I assume most people know, but I'll elaborate and mention a few other things along the way.
First off, I've talk with both editors to let them know what systems I have and what genres I play. It's no good trying to get me to play a Madden title because I don't like football. I don't like Madden games. I'm never going to be able to fairly judge a Madden game or an NBA 2K game because I just don't like them. Once that's out of the way I generally either get a list of games that need reviewing and pick one, or I get an offer on a single game that really needs attention. My editor gives me the time frame, a download code, and I go to work.
This is where I feel weird. I play a game all day and that's productivity. I need to explore as much of the game as a I can. How hard is it, how easy is it to break it, what are the controls like, how's the music, is the story any good? With the exception of in depth RPG titles or completely open-ended games without a real ending, I need to finish the game. I need to explore as much of the content as possible. What extra modes does it have? How's the online play? Then it's time to write everything up.
Each editor has different standards on what they want out of my reviews. One wants something more structured that focuses on sections of the game while the other prefers a more free-form thought exploration. Either way, I make sure to reference past articles I've written so I can keep the flow similar. I tend to start with generalized impressions, then work into the finer nuances. If graphics and audio are a big part of the game, they're mentioned. If not, they're usually glossed over. I tend to review a lot of independent titles, stuff from smaller studios, and there's been a trend of simpler graphics lately. Sometimes that's a great aesthetic and I make sure to mention it. Other times... it's just horrible. And trust me, that's happened in a recent title.
Graphics man. To go off on a tangent, I'm not looking for astounding, realistic textures where I can see every pore on the protagonist's face. I just want to enjoy what I'm looking at. I've play some simple games where the graphics were great, but others where they were so uncomfortably retro that I couldn't stand looking at it. Retro is fine, if you do it right. But making something look 8-bit doesn't automatically make it cool. And it shouldn't be a crutch for game developers looking to save on their graphics, either. If you can't get it to look pleasing to the eye, you need to ditch it and start over.
Anyway, once all that is done, I make sure to check over my review three or four times for spelling and grammar (as you should on anything you write that you expect another person to read), and make sure the voice is consistent. I cut out extraneous rantings, which there are usually plenty of, then go back to make sure everything I felt about the game made it in.
Then I'm pretty much done. Check another notch in my Steam catalog or my PS Store list and it's off to the next one. It's fun, I get free games, most of which are good, and I get to write about it. How cool is that?
Well, as I said, I'm feeling better, but I'm not quite back to 100% yet, so I'm headed back to bed for long nap, dreaming of the day when my lungs choose to work properly once more.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Paladin Playlist 54
I am feeling miserable this week. Very sick, so I'm not sure how detailed my blogs will be this week. So in lieu of something more mentally stimulating, I'm presenting another Paladin Playlist because it's way easier on me.
Now I mentioned wanting to watch The Nightmare before Christmas in my last couple of posts. A good part of that is the music. Now, don't get me wrong, Danny Elfman did amazing with that soundtrack. It's iconic. But something completely new came when other artists were allowed to play around with it. About this time last year I featured Sally's Song performed by Amy Lee. Well, this time around I have to take the title theme, This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson.
I don't know what it is, but there's something about the way Manson represents this song. It's creepier. Darker. Edgier. And it was pretty good to start with. This time of year it's a great song to get you in the Halloween mood, but it's also great for writing. Well, at least if you're writing stuff like me. There's a certain mindset that is perfect for writing dark, demonic creatures, and this song, particularly this version, really seems to encapsulate that.
So, prepare yourselves for the spookiest time of year and enjoy Marilyn Manson's rendition of This is Halloween.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.