Friday, January 29, 2010

Remember...Perfect Dark


For my first Remember... blog post, I thought I would bring to everyone's attention one of my favorite video games of all time: Perfect Dark.

In May 2000, a couple years before Rare sold its soul to Microsoft, the company came out with this awesome gem for the Nintendo 64. On the heels of its previous FPS hit, GoldenEye - which had released three years prior - Rare raised the bar in Perfect Dark with enhanced AI, unique weaponry, and an exciting storyline that took players across numerous levels with many different objectives that depended on what difficulty level you were playing on.

The game itself was one of the few to require the expansion pack, a hardware upgrade that was created to boost the memory of the N64 from 4MB to 8MB. There were other games that took advantage of the expansion pack but didn't require it to play the actual game. Perfect Dark can be played in multiplayer without the pack but requires it to embark on the solo gameplay.

The story begins on Earth, in the near future, and centers around Joanna Dark, a highly skilled operative for the Carrington Institute. The Institute is an R&D organization on the surface, but is really a clandestine espionage corporation which has an alliance with an alien race known as the Maians. The Carrington Institute is at odds with dataDyne, a defense contractor that has created ties with another alien race known as the Skedar - more brutal than the Maians, which they happen to be at war with. Joanna is sent on numerous missions to help stop the Skedar and dataDyne from completing their plans for world domination.

Aside from stellar solo gameplay, the game sported what I believe to be one of the best multiplayer platforms known to console. With the ability to customize the whole multiplayer experience from maps, weapons, and music that become unlocked via solo play, to the simulants whose customization includes appearance, skill level and even personality, Perfect Dark changed the face of multiplayer forever. I still sit around my 32" television on a regular basis owning my friends and family in a good game of multiplayer.

However outdated some may think the game has become, I think Perfect Dark still pushes the envelope when it comes to attention to detail and storyline being expressed in a video game.The developers even went so far to include their own faces on a lot of the characters and simulants and even hid a wedge of cheese in EVERY level of the game. It is rumored that this was originally supposed to be part of a time trial, where after you get every piece of cheese, you would unlock a super weapon, but the programmers apparently ran out of memory space to include it.

Perfect Dark has since expanded into the world of fiction with two novels, Perfect Dark: Initial Vector and Perfect Dark: Second Front, and a comic mini-series known as Janus' Tears.  There was also a Perfect Dark game on the Game Boy Color, and they have since come out with Perfect Dark: Zero on the Xbox 360. All of these take place before Perfect Dark on the N64, acting as prequels of sorts.

If you own an N64 and haven't checked out Perfect Dark, I would highly suggest you do so. You can find copies pretty easily at your local used video game shop or online. Perfect Dark will always be at the top of my favorite games list, sitting back and having drinks with Half Life 2 and Final Fantasy VII. Good times.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Havah: The Story of Eve (Book Review)

To start off, I think I'll sum things up easily by stating this: Havah took my breath away. If that sounds a bit romantic, it's because I meant it to. Not the clique kind of romantic, but the awe-inspiring, fearful romance between a creation and its creator. Havah is a beautiful novel written about God's love, His desire for a relationship with His Creation, and the agony of our relationship with Him being broken because of our own disobedience.

The story begins with Eve being created from Adam. Written in first person, the novel does a beautiful job of portraying Eve as she is birthed into existence. I'm not sure how challenging it must have been for Tosca to write from this angle, but she most definitely did an excellent job and it is this simple fact alone that marks her as a truly talented writer.

Eve runs through the garden in fellowship with the One, falls in love with the creation that came before her, Adam, and lives in wonder at the very world that God created for the two of them. Adam and Eve are able to communicate with each other, with the wildlife, and with God without speaking, the thoughts of all understood clearly, without deception or misunderstanding. The world at this time is truly one of bliss. No sin. No violence. Nothing but love and fellowship with each other and the One.

It broke my heart while I was reading these parts because I knew what was coming next in the story. I knew that they were going to rebel against God's direct orders and that the fellowship with God was going to be broken. Eve and Adam partake in the fruit that the serpent - beautifully illustrated as an intelligent and sly creature - gives them and fall into death. What was once a beautiful garden now becomes a wild place that teems with violence and brutality, chasing Adam and Eve out of the paradise that God created specifically for them.

The story is then propelled into Adam and Eve's relationship with each other, which takes a rough turn after their banishment from the garden and with the hostility of the land and the wildlife they have now been thrust into. They have children, and the story goes on to explain the heartaches of the garden they left behind, the children that are now populating the earth and the chronic pitfalls they encounter with the cursed land. The story expands into Cain and Abel, referenced in the novel as Kayin and Hevel, and the birth of murder.

Tosca really put her heart and soul into this novel. The Bible only explains so much about Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden and how the world is populated, but Tosca put so much fine effort into filling in the gaps in her own speculative way. I have to say this was truly a story that broke my heart at times and took my breath away at others. I was able to relate to Adam and Eve in a manner of existence, knowing that they were the ones that all life was created from, knowing that God had so much more in mind for them and for us. Their struggles are really no different than the struggles we encounter nowadays: murder, anger, greed, idolatry and lust.

During the novel, the expanse that looms between Adam and Eve as they succumb to their new destiny parallels the expanse that clearly grew between God and us when these events occurred. The silence, the embarrassment and shame of sin, stains the pages of the novel as it does the very core of our own hearts and I couldn't help but feel a sense of fear at some points...fear of what would have happened if God hadn't eventually sent His son to save us from an eternity of misery and broken fellowship with Him.

I am proud to give this book my own set of five stars. Granted, I usually enjoy reading a good science fiction/fantasy or action novel, but Tosca really pulled on my heart strings and, in her own style, drew me closer to realizing God's true character and what He always wanted for us. This is the perfect book for a Bible study group or book club.

I look forward to reading and reviewing another one of Tosca's novels, Demon: A Memoir, in the coming months.

To find out more about Havah: The Story of Eve check out
For more on Tosca Lee, check out her official website at

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Perks of Self-Publishing

Every week from here on out,  I will blog on my experiences whilst self-publishing. Many people have asked me why I choose to self-publish and I thought I'd answer that question first and foremost before I start talking about the process as a whole.

I love to self-publish because my work is my baby. I know a lot of people out there would tell me that even though it's my baby, that the publishing companies out there have the resources, tools and funds to promote 'my baby'. But let's be honest, whether I publish traditionally or on my own, I have to do the bulk of my marketing anyway. Authors have to promote themselves, nobody can do it for them, especially not a publishing company. Each author has to have their own platform that they built themselves, for the most part. And I would say that is probably the most challenging task of self-publishing. Incorporating yourself with social networking sites, other readers, bookstores and the web as a whole can feel a little like being tied up and forced to sit down and watch Twilight for twenty four hours straight after drinking three gallons of coffee that was spiked with harsh laxatives. In other words, it's not always a smooth ride.

As far as creating your book, it's one thing to write a manuscript. It's a pain formatting and editing it. I am not all that great at grammar, and the parts I am good at I don't care to do. I would rather sit through aforementioned Twilight fest than edit anything. That's why I have a professional editor who does that for me. They are good at what they do and they actually enjoy doing it. Formatting the manuscript is a different story though, because that's really only something that I entrust to myself to do. It is my book, and I should be the one responsible for how it looks, so I've taken the time to learn Microsoft Word so I can make my manuscript look the best it can. Cover design is a whole notha' animal that I usually get some help with. I'm not all that proficient in Photoshop in regards to editing, but I can arrange finished images into something that looks close enough to attractive.

I think overall in regards to self-publishing and doing things on my own, things are a bit different when speaking in regards to a single book that's clean cut, has a solid ending, and wraps everything up in about five hundred pages of text. It's a single creation. It's a completely different story when it comes to a long-running series. Or multiple series. That tie in with one another. Toss in some short stories, audio books, and other added bonuses, and we're talking - for all intents and purposes - about a mini empire. Or a major empire, like Harry Potter.

I'm not here to bash traditional publishing, but merely to point out the incentives I find that come along with self-publishing: I keep all of my rights, I earn more than 10% royalty, and I have full control over my projects. Granted, it can be a very steep hill one climbs to self-publish and actually become a well-known, household name, but it's not impossible. Years from now when I am a household name, I would rather that I be the one that has the final say in what goes into my writing, what my covers look like, and the ultimate direction that my books are going to take. I can be a bit of a control freak, but I figure this has been my dream since I was twelve, so why not do things my way?

I think some people focus so much on getting the dream they want - a publishing contract - that they don't take the time to look at what they may be giving up in regards to creative control. I am sure there are some great publishing companies out there that treat their authors with an enormous amount of respect and  have a good deal of leeway when it comes to what the author wants over what the publisher wants. But for me, I like to take the reigns on things. I know right now it's hard work - pushing a snowball down a hill - but soon that tiny ball of snow turns into a giant snowboulder that's moving entirely on its own momentum. All great things take time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


When I first entered Pima Medical Institute roughly 3 years ago, I knew God was telling me that Pima would be the last 9-5 job that I would be working in until my writing took off enough to support my wife, Michal, and I financially. We've held onto that promise, even through the dark and thickening clouds that passed through the company during my stay there. When I was wrongfully fired on July 30th of last year, we both knew it was time to walk out the promise. To step out in faith. To claim the promise as our own.

Since being fired, I have treated writing as a business, because that's exactly what it is. I am constantly thinking of new projects, I do my best to be diligent with my day and responsible with the time I have been given. Michal, and I have surrounded ourselves with wise counsel, those who we know will hold us accountable and keep us on the right track. We tithe and we trust that God will come through, because frankly, if he doesn't, then we are sunk. But sometimes that's where we need to be. All of us. In a place where we have no choice but to rely on God to come through.

This coming Saturday, the 30th, marks 6 months since the beginning of this segment of our journey. I've done the math. We have over $1600 in bills every month, and that includes gas, groceries, utilities, rent, etc, etc, etc. Michal only brings in $1080 a month from her job. For six months God has sustained us when, looking at the numbers, we should have been knee deep in trouble by the second month. But God has been faithful. Friends, family, and the church have all been used by God to bring us provision and I am forever grateful for that. We don't rely on any one person or the church to pay our bills, but we trust that God can use what He wants to in order to bring about His plan.

There  have been those that have told us we are crazy. There are those who have shaken their heads at us and asked us what we are expecting God to do. I simply state that we are expecting God to bring about his promise. He cannot lie. What He has said will happen, WILL happen. Yes, I wake up some mornings and wonder if I've lost my own sanity. If I'm crazy for thinking that a currently unknown writer such as myself can become a success with readers around the world. I do have my doubts, I am human. But I acknowledge those doubts to God and He helps me through them. Michal helps me see how frivolous doubting and worrying is when my time is better spent trusting with faith that God will come through, even if He is slow in doing so. His timing is rarely our own.

Just recently I came to a crossroads in my writing career and in my life. For the last six months, I have felt very strongly that both my novel series are to stay in my hands, the rights of both which I will always hold. But a contest came up that would give me the opportunity to win a publishing contract and a $15,000 advance. I am confident that I could win the contest with Black Earth: End of the Innocence, but in doing so, in signing over with a publishing company, I would be giving my rights over to another set of people, people who don't know me very well, people who may not believe in the structure of my story or where I am taking my characters.

See, if we were talking about one book, it may be possible for me to hand my rights and my 'baby' over to a publishing company and trust they would know what to do with it. But that's not the case here. See, I have two novel series, one of which I plan on running out to at least 12 books, the other which will go to 4 or 5. These series tie in with one another and so do all of the short stories and audio projects I am planning to release between them. So essentially, giving away one of my novels would essentially give away the whole span of things that I have been toiling over since I was twelve years old. I am thirty now. This is my empire, my world that I created, and it is a world in which God has weaved His own hand to give blessing and provision and creativity.

God is the impossible. And I don't know about you, but I can't bring myself to succumb to the old 'tried and true'. I stood for what was right in my old company and they found a way to fire me, wrongly at that. After which I decided to follow the calling on my life. And now that I am in the middle of this journey, I can't stop. I can't veer onto another path, one that might look significantly easier or quicker. I must stick to that which I committed to, regardless of the circumstances.

Someone close to me said what I am trying to do is the equivalent of pushing a snowball down a mountainside. It will take some time, but sooner or later, it will build momentum and become a success. It requires patience, endurance, perseverance and most of all, faith. For 6 months I have seen the impossible, and I trust that I will see it for another 6 months. Let's see where this road leads...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blogging Schedule for 2010

I finally sat down the other day and actually wrote out a blogging schedule that I want to follow for 2010. Mind you that it may be subject to change, but overall, these are the topics I want to blog about each week:

Monday - Writing Process
Tuesday - My Faith
Wednesday - Self Publishing
Thursday - Book/ Graphic Novel Review
Friday - Remembering the Retro

I've lined up a ton of books that I want to try and read and review in 2010. These include (in order of reading):

Green by Ted Dekker / Fathom Vol 1 / Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee / On Writing by Stephen King /  Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn / Wizard and Glass by Stephen King / Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell / Timeline by Michael Crichton / Star Wars: Dark Lord by James Lucero / The Stand by Stephen King / Stars Wars: Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia and Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger Macbride Allen  / Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

This Thursday I will be reviewing Havah by Tosca Lee. There will also be more graphic novels thrown in to the schedule as well. I'd really like to do a review on Runaways - the whole series - if I can get to reading them all before the end of the year, and I have Sky Doll, Madame Mirage and Aphrodite IX that I think are good classics to do a review on.

So that's the plan. I will be attempting to follow this schedule all year in hopes of bettering my writing and keeping in touch with my readers. Hope everyone's Monday turned out great!