To all my US-based readers, Happy Fourth of July. To all my non-US-based readers, also happy fourth of July.
Capitalization word play aside, I have once again been out enjoying the sun on walks through the neighborhood and doing yard work. I absolutely love this time of the year. It stays light outside late and everything is green and alive. And while I don’t necessarily care for excessive heat, I like it far more than the cold of winter. I’m am very much a summer baby, though my baby days are far in the rear view.
One thing that’s been constant regardless of my age is my sweet tooth. I’m a big fan of ice cream cones and malts this time of year. Marshmallow and Raspberry are among my favorite malt flavors. Blue almond and rainbow sherbet are my go-to ice cream cone varieties. What kind of summer treats do you enjoy either now, or in six months if you’re in the southern hemisphere?
Players of the Game Works in Progress
This month’s update for the Game War’s first draft clocks in at page 305 with about 86,000 words. Last month’s stats were page 253 with 71,700 words. Not too bad. Plus it’s a milestone to reach page 300 in about six months since I started in late December-ish. I’m likely around halfway there. Did I mention that I like to write epics?
Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month: Vermillion: “I don’t tell people what they want to hear, Arms Master.”
Top Gun: Maverick
This movie was a really pleasant surprise. I wasn’t really expecting much from it. It’s a really fun popcorn movie. It’s also a very compelling portrayal of characters dealing with grief. I’d argue that Goose’s absence is the second main character in the movie, especially with the call back to the Great Balls of Fire scene from the first one. The mostly practical jet action was awesome with the double Death Star-style trench run. Plus they played Danger Zone at the beginning again. As you might have surmised from my email address, I have an affinity for that word.
Symphony of War
This Steam game is something I’ve been wanting for years and years. An homage to one of my all-time faves: Ogre Battle, the old strategy role playing game from the Super Nintendo days. The movement of groups of small teams, capturing towns, and outmaneuvering your enemy is just the bee’s knees. I wish some of the sprites weren’t so “meeple” looking, but that’s a minor quibble. Totally fun stuff if you’re into that kind of thing.
Ed Burnhelt is one of the main characters of the entire series. This is another rendering of him as he appears in the third book. As you can tell from his bearded image in the post below, he doesn’t come out of it without a few literal and figurative scars. Despite that, Ed maintains a lightness in comparison to others like Ashe Stelfire or Harry Mang, and would much rather disarm a conflict with a joke, rather than through his powers. Circumstances often conspire to prevent him from taking the less fraught route.
Things are on the upward spooling of the perpetual yo-yo that is life during the pandemic. I’m even going back into the office for one day a week, starting this week. More importantly, I’ve been out to see friends and family with far more frequency than I have in the past few years.
Sharing the same space with other people is vastly superior in certain circumstances, especially if you’re wanting to have an extended conversation with a meal thrown in for good measure. However, I will admit that I like exercising at home far more than I would have imagined back in 2019. My weekly Zoom writers workshop is also better than meeting in person because people can actually hear my low-pitched voice and we can screen share.
I’ve decided that hybrid peopling ain’t so bad. We’ll see if that opinion holds as time goes on.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’ve reached page 253 with 71,700 words on the Game War’s first draft. Last month’s stats clocked in at 212 with 60,000 words. A little less productive than I’d prefer. With increased peopling, there comes some productivity trade offs. I shall keep at it and see if I can do a little better next month. Plus, here’s a new sub-section:
Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:
Matt Burnhelt: “A joker? Always. Cocky? No. Cocky people brag. Ed never does that. He just does what is hard.”
Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness
This movie is somewhat polarizing due to a subversion of expectations. I won’t spoil anything, but I absolutely loved it. Just watched it again tonight in fact. I’ll admit that I’m predisposed to liking it because it feels like a new Army of Darkness with the “Raimi-cam” shots and the slasher vibe from the main antagonist. I loved all the cameos. Especially one by a certain Bruce Campbell. Seriously, if the MCU wants to use him in place of the late great Stan Lee for the recurring guest cameo, I do believe I’m not the only fan that would greatly enjoy that.
This game. This maddening effing game. I’ll admit that I sometimes find myself more hate playing it than actually enjoying it. Everything in this game wants to slay you. And they will succeed. Repeatedly. Why am I recommending it? Well, it’s freaking beautiful and it is incredibly gratifying to finally get the game changing weapon and/or incantation that gives you the smallest toehold on its unrelenting difficulty. It’s also a blast to team up with friends, which makes it much more surmountable. I’ll note that the developer made a really stupid system to “summon” other players from their own worlds. Way too much friction with that process. Still, it’s immersive and fun to just tear around the world on your horse-goat, outrunning most everything that wants to kill you, though those so-and-so’s still find a way. They’re very plucky that way.
In addition to the New Players: Origins bonus content that is coming this summer, I’m kicking off fun in the sun with an update to the ebook version of Repenter for subscribers to my reader group emails.
If you haven’t yet gotten an electronic copy of Repenter and the Hidden Chapters anthology, now’s the time to do it. Just enter your name and email address, and you’ll be subscribed to the reader group emails. Unsubscribe at any time.
In case you’re wondering why Repenter is still $0.99 on the Kindle store, that’s as cheap as I can make it through Kindle Direct Publishing. I have a decent number of readers who prefer to have a paperback version of Repenter, and in order to keep the paperback version, I have to keep using the Kindle store’s minimum price. Someday, I might switch to something like IngramSpark for paper publishing, but for now KDP is far easier.
Players of the Game Works In Progress
I’m up to page 212 with 60,000 words on the Game War’s first draft. Last month’s stats were page 165 with 45, 500 words. I’m happy with that, especially considering that had a minor productivity dip in late April. I’m in the middle of creating some events that are a bit tough to write with some plot and character elements. As with all things in writing, killing your darlings sometimes is needed.
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
This movie was just fantastic. Like lots of stuff in the MCU lately, it involves parallel realities. But the Daniels’ latest movie leans hardcore into surreal and silly, especially with the hot dog fingers dimension. The movie has a lot of heart and is ultimately about life is influenced by your relationships with family members and the decisions you make. Michelle Yeoh in particular does a fantastic job playing so many versions of her embittered character. I often make the case that the inclusion of a raccoon in a movie can only improve it. This movie only strengthens that argument. Give it a watch.
Day Zero by C Robert Cargill
This is a prequel book to Sea of Rust. Instead of featuring the guilt-stricken and haunted Brittle, this novel focuses on a stuff-animal tiger nanny bot named Pounce who finds himself on the losing side of the robot apocalypse when he makes the choice to keep protecting his boy, Ezra. It’s an exploration of free will and the bad choices that have to be made when the world falls apart. The audio book reader, Vikas Adam, also does a great job of giving Pounce a loving and gruff voice.
Amethyst is a Skin Bot ally of Ed Burnhelt. She is also the sister of Violet. Skin Bots’ minds are spawned in a virtual environment called the Playpen. The artificial beings have families like humans and forge meaningful friendships and romances between each other. They can choose to spend their entire lives in this synthetic paradise, but if they opt to experience more, then can enter into physical bodies and serve for a time in the Grellish Armor Corps.
Amethyst is an excellent tactician and always holds the line. She is protective of Violet and will gladly lay down her life for her sister.
Spring is sprung. Maybe the last one in the US with Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time, depending on how things shake out. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that. I love getting the extra hour of sunlight in the evening during the spring, summer, and early fall. I don’t like losing the hour, but it doesn’t bug me as much as other folks.
I will almost certainly dislike having standard time the whole year if we go that route. And parents will assuredly dislike sending kids to school in the dark if we keep daylight saving time year round. Someone is sure to be vexed. If I’m among them, I’ll suck it up. Because what else can you do? Maybe I’ll even grow to enjoy parts of it. Time will tell.
That’s right. I went there.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I have reached page 165 with 46,500 words on the Game War’s rough draft. Last month, I was at page 105 with 30,000 words. That’s pretty decent for my typical output. With persistence and a little luck, I can hopefully reach at least page 200 by next month’s update. I’m enjoying laying down the groundwork for some big events later in the novel. I’m guessing it’ll clock in around 500-650 pages once I’m done with the first draft.
The Expanse (The Books and the Amazon Prime Series)
I first discovered the Expanse a few years back on the television/streaming series first two seasons. I then listened to the audio books, and opted to wait until the series was done to watch the rest of it. It’s an interesting premise of soft sci-fi alien, physics-defying technology/biology invading a solar system of hard sci-fi where humanity is still limited to the confines of the solar system. Some have called it Game of Thrones in space, but I think it’s better than GOT. The crew of the Rocinante are the focal points of the series, but other stand out characters like Detective Miller, Gunnery Sergeant Bobbi Draper, and Under Secretary Avasarala really round out the politics of the books and show. I haven’t gotten to the end of the show yet, but the books’ finale stuck the landing. Good stuff.
This Steam game draws heavily on other turn based tactics games like Shining Force, of which I am a big fan. The story is full of typical anime goofiness. There are a ton of characters, and you’ll end up not using about half of them, which is a slight demerit. However, the game play is incredibly fun for anyone who likes tactics games with each attack getting a little zoom in cut scene. It’s like comfort food for my brain, and I’m totally up for a little of that right now.
Players of the Game Creature Spotlight: Fethelither
From time to time I’ll be showcasing members of monster armies and demonic hordes that the Players of the Game protagonists must face throughout the series. One such fiend is a Fethelither. These are demons composed of solid shadows with pale white masks covering their faces. They have dagger-like fingers and are among the assassins and light combat soldiers of the Holy Alliance’s Horrinshal, an organization that lurks in the dark places. Fethelithers strive to spread that darkness.
Let me open by saying I’m praying for peace in Ukraine and very much praying that things don’t escalate. This situation is good for no one. War is acid on stability and relationships among and between people within the conflicting countries. Donate to relief charities if you are blessed enough to be in such a position.
A century ago, the nickname for its third decade was the “Roaring 20’s”. After the first two years of this century’s third decade, I was wanting to it to ultimately become the “Boring 20’s”. Sadly, between the pandemic, ludicrous political divisions in the US, and now a land war in eastern Europe, I’ve landed on a non-rhyming, but at least alliterative, moniker: The “Trying 20’s”.
I was initially going to go with something more negative and flippant, but I think “trying” in two senses of the word aptly apply. This decade has both called us to endeavor to be better and to endure through its adversity. The Trying 20’s are here, and we all must move through them as best we can.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’m starting a new section mostly to ensure that I keep up the momentum and productivity with my latest novel, the Game War. I’m up to page 105, right around 30,000 words. Last time I was at page 56 with 15,500 words. So I’ve added a reasonable chunk to this WIP. Not awesome output, but not bad either. As I’ve said in the past, I write carefully, not quickly.
Chronophage by Tim Seeley and Ilias Kyriazis
I ordered this Humanoids graphic novel from my local comic shop without knowing a whole lot about it, save that I like lots of Tim Seeley’s other comic series, especially The Revival. This was such an outstanding surprise. It centers on a single mom named Chloe who meets an intriguing stranger named Heath, and they quickly click. It’s then revealed that Heath is consuming parts of the past from Chole and the people around her, editing her personal history, seemingly for the better. It’s a horror book, so there’s plenty of graphic scenes, well illustrated by Ilias Kyriazis. A fantastic story that has a lot to say about how threads of our pasts overlap and some bigger questions about how all moments might exist at once. Pick it up on Comixology or in print!
Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Steam or Switch
In light of the events in Ukraine, I’m calling out an older game that I played a few years back. I bought Valiant Hearts on a Steam sale, but then never got around to it until my cousin (Hey, Nick!) recommended that I fire it up. It focuses on a cast of characters on both sides of the Great War (WWI) from the beginning while it was mobile and its eventual descent into trench warfare. It has puzzles to solve and you team up with a likable dog to help with them. It also tricks you into learning about the Great War through the game’s events and factoids that pop up. It does a great job of showing the tragedy of that conflict and all others like it.
We even managed to get the Christmas decorations down. Granted, it was a just two days ago. But we got ’em put away, by thunder. Now, it is on to the, uh, cat days of winter? That stretch of time where my part of the world usual gets a least one or two polar vortices of insanely cold air. The year also usually starts to take shape with the various irons in my various fires.
My way of keeping all that proverbial metal hot involves a whole lot of to-do notes to myself. In the case of the latest work in progress, The Game War, I just write a sticky note with the page number goal that I intend to reach by the beginning of the next week. I’m sure I’ll falter during some weeks. But so far, I’m doing pretty decent for my usual output. I’m up to page 56 with about 15,500 words. I’m sure others have more copious output, but these incremental weekly goals help me to keep my head in the game.
What kind of techniques do you use to keep on task? Or if procrastinating is your thing, what’s your favorite way of wasting time? Mine is watching educational Youtube videos or playing indie video games. All things in moderation, right? Right?
Players of the Game Character Spotlight: Quar Iniv
Quar Iniv is one of the primary antagonists of the first couple of Players of the Game novels. He is a Human-looking Demon with perpetually bleeding eye sockets, though he possesses enhanced vision that allows him to see 360 degrees all around him. He is cruel, greedy, and quite willing to antagonize his wife, Nirva Iniv. That is dire mistake. He makes even worse ones when it comes to Avril Enzali and Ashe Stelfire.
Immune: A Journey Into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive By Philipp Dettmer
This book is thoroughly interesting. It goes in detail, but not too much detail, on the inner workings of the immune system from the innate system (first responders), the complement systems (a bunch of bio chemicals that get activated like a security system), and the adaptive system (the parts that either studies the infection and puts together a tailored immune response with antibodies, or gets a massive assist from a vaccine doing all of the hard work first). Most everyone has heard of the spleen, but how about the thymus? It’s the organ in your chest that makes T cells, among many other things, and slowly withers as you age, which is why elderly folks are more prone to disease. This book really illustrates the unbelievable complexity of how a bunch of mindless immune system cells act quite smart in concert. I didn’t even touch on how stuff can go wrong with parasites, cancers, bacteria, and viruses. Highly recommended.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
My wife and I braved the theater a few weeks back to catch the new Spidey flick after the crowds had thinned a bit. I won’t spoil anything on this, but this had everything I hoped to see, and few surprises too. It’s the best Spidey movie so far, even better than Into the Spider Verse. Totally catch it in the theater if that’s right for you. And for the record: Dr. Strange was right.