Monday, January 30, 2012

The Email Newsletter is Back!

After the off again, on again, relationship with my email newsletter, I'm finally ready to committ to this thing and keep it going on a monthly basis. For those of you who signed up for it originally, you should receive the first 'new' issue in your email inbox by the 5th of February. Each subsequent newsletter will be released by the 5th of each month thereafter.

For those of you who haven't signed up yet, I reinstalled a subscription form on my website. Just head on over, input the email address you'd like to have the newsletter sent to each month, and voila!

Each issue will focus on three main things - writing, self-publishing, and 'geeky' things like video games and comics. I'll also use a portion of the newsletter to highlight other artists/writers and link back to their creations/websites.

February's newsletter will contain information about the end of my Black Earth series, the release of Lost Birth, an article on the challenge of video games, my reading challenge for 2012, and a highlight of writer/illustrator Thomas Barczak and reviewer Tiffany Cole.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My 2012 Gaming List

Aside from writing, self-publishing and reading - and everything that goes along with all of that - I also love to game. I've been an avid gamer since childhood when I used to play Choplifter on my Commodore 64. I've grown to love RPGs (Role Playing Games) and FPSs (First Person Shooters) the most, but I also don't mind the occasional platform or side-scroller, assuming it's done well.

Seeing how I have so many projects I want to get done this year, I'm forced to limit my game playing each week, meaning I'm going to be pickier with my game choices than I have been in years past. That being said, I still attempt to sneak in a few matches of Half Life 2: Deathmatch on Steam every week - a game I don't think I'll ever get enough of.

Anyway, here's my lineup of games that I'll be playing this year. There are some old school titles thrown in because I've been wanting to beat them, and more games may be added as the year moves along. I do like to peruse Ebay or my local Gamestop for the occasional low-priced gem.

Skyrim (Xbox360)
I received Skyrim for Christmas and have been playing the game ever since. I don't think I'll ever actually 'finish' the game, seeing how massive the world/quest log/character leveling is. Everything I hated about Oblivion was removed or improved upon, and everything I loved about Oblivion and the Elder Scrolls series was polished and upgraded 2500%. I know, crazy! This is probably, easily, at the top of my all-time favorite games list with the original Perfect Dark on the N64 and Half Life 2.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360)
I played the first two Deus Ex games in the series and was impressed with the first, not so much with the second. The second didn't feel as open-world as the first did nor did it feel like I had as many choices for my character to make. I've heard only good things about Human Revolution, so we'll see.

Alan Wake (Xbox360)
I spotted Alan Wake at my local Gamestop a couple times and had to research the plot before I was completely sold on trying it out. Alan Wake, bestselling author, goes on vacation with is wife. Only his wife disappears and his search for her turns up pages from a novel he doesn't remember writing. On top of that, a dark presence begins stalking the town. Um - YEAH! This is definitely a writer's game. I have high hopes for this one. I heard it's really good on story, which will please me immensely.

Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox360)
Despite some of the poor reviews it got - mainly because it supposedly takes 3/4 of the game to get out of the linear, chosen path gameplay into the massive world exploration that Final Fantasy's are good for. I've also seen a lot of complaints about a certain annoying character in the game. First off, what video game - we're mainly talking RPGs here - doesn't have at least one annoying character? And it's Final Fantasy, so I'll automatically give it a chance. Just like I did Final Fantasy XII-2. Which was crap. Heavy on the crap. Anyway, I'll let you all know what I think once I get a decent way into this one.

Sacred 2 (Xbox360)
This one got mediocre reviews for a slew of different reasons - glitches, confined character development, forgettable story. But the redeeming comment I heard out of most of the bad reviews was that the game was just plain fun. Fun to kill and fun to loot. Two things I love to do in my video games. I've already been playing this one a bit and I have to say it reminds me of a hybrid between Guild Wars and the old Gauntlet. The old Gauntlet, not the newer crapola. This one's a keeper.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! (SNES) Yes, I put an old SNES title on my list. The first Donkey Kong Country broke the barriers of gaming for me. Never before was I so entranced with a game - not to mention it helped to debut the SNES. The second game in the series was just as fun but I never got around to getting my hands on number three....until now. I found a copy at my local used book/game store and had to burn through my store credit to get it. We'll see how this fares with the two icons before it.

Xenosaga Episode III (PS2)
My younger brother got me this for my birthday last year and I can't wait to play it and see how the Xenosaga series ends. Xenosaga Episode 1 was awesome and a fun game to play through - compelling characters, intriguing (if not complex) storyline, great gameplay. I never got through Xenosaga Episode 2. I sold it on Ebay because it was a giant slab of horse dung that I just couldn't play through despite how badly I wanted to see all of the cut scenes and get a gist for where they were going with the story. I'll just have to catch some videos on YouTube or read the plot summary on Wikipedia, but I never want to see that horrible game again. All the great voice acting from the first game was changed in the second, the great battle system that I had gotten accustomed to in the first game was changed to something horrible in the second, and then they piled on trivial - very trivial - stupid tasks to do to unlock certain weapons/items and I just felt like blowing my brains out at that point. Goodbye Xenosaga Episode 2, you will not be missed. Xenosaga Episode 3, I have high hopes for you so you better come through.

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox360) To be fair, I tried this game about a year ago and promptly returned it because I didn't care for the over-the-shoulder view. I know, I'm a bit picky about things like that. But after the rave reviews for the sequel, Arkham City, I had to request this game for Christmas so I could start again at the beginning and see what all the real fuss is about. We'll have to see.

Anyone else out there playing any of these? What rating would you give each game and why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My 2012 Reading List

Last year, my reading goal was somewhere in the range of seventy books. I read four of those.

This year I decided to be a bit more realistic and only have twenty books on my to-read/review list for this year. And I'm starting the reading frenzy out by re-reading three of my all time favorite books - the Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin. The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn were books I picked up in my senior year of high school, at the height of my adolescent Star Wars 'obsession' - it was around the same time the original trilogy came back into the theaters in a special edition format - and also at the height of my love for reading.

The reason I'm rereading these books is because they were my entry into my love of reading. Most of the books/stories I read during junior high and high school were involuntarily chosen for me. That's not to say I didn't fall in love with Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game. It was the Star Wars series that I began to pick up at the tail end of my high school term and of all the Star Wars books I picked up and read - which truthfully weren't all that many - I fell in love with the Han Solo trilogy more than any of them. It helped that Han Solo had always been my favorite film character, so when I picked up this series - which highlighted A.C. Crispin's wonderful writing craft and the magic of the Star Wars universe - I gobbled these stories up. They are the only books I have ever cared enough about to read through a second time.

Beyond the Han Solo trilogy, I'll also be reading more of my good author friend Thomas Barczak's Awakening Evarun series. Awakening Evarun is a short story ebook series - each story is sort of like an episode that adds to a bigger adventure - and each is only $2.99 on Amazon. I highly suggest if you love fantasy or adventure you pick up some of Thomas's stories. I've only read the first one in this series and then got distracted by the birth of my son, but now that things seem to be settling down around here as of late, I'll be hopping back into it.

The rest of my reading itinerary can be found at Goodreads, but I'll highlight a few of the books including the reasons why I've made them part of my reading adventure this year.

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming
I've been a huge fan of the James Bond movies since I saw GoldenEye back in high school. Over the last couple years I've had the chance to read a few of Fleming's novels including Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and Moonraker, but I've been wanting to read Casino Royale to see how it all started. It's Bond's first adventure, I loved the movie, and it looks to be a good read, coming in at almost novella length.

Wolves of the Calla (Book 5 of the Dark Tower series) - Stephen King
I started Stephen King's Dark Tower series a few years ago and I'm still only a little over half way through it. I'll unashamedly admit that The Gunslinger, the first book in the series, was the very first work I ever read of Stephen King's. I marveled at how well King was able to weave science fiction, horror and a bit of fantasy into a compelling story, especially one of the grand scape the Dark Tower series tries to encompass. The last book I read in the series was Wizard and Glass, which got some negative reviews from critics for slowing the action of the series down (the majority of the novel is a flashback of sorts), but it is by far my favorite book in the series so far. But I've always been a sucker for back story. This year I'll be diving into the fifth book in the series, Wolves of the Calla, and if I have time and finish this list, I may even get a chance to finish the series with the last two books, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower.

Timeline - Michael Crichton
Remember the movie that came out back in 2003 starring Paul Walker from The Fast and the Furious? I don't know about you, but I remember liking that movie quiet a bit. When I found out the film was based on a novel written by Michael Crichton, I knew I had to read it. So here I am, years later, and I'll finally have the chance. Coincidentally I picked up a hardcover copy of this book when I traveled to California a few years ago to see my grandfather and found it sitting in a library book sale for $1.

House of Leaves - Mark Danielewski
I still don't remember how I came to even hear about this book - oh wait, I was researching Poe, the singer, and found links leading to The House of Leaves, written by Poe's brother. Anyway, the breakdown of this book's story - a young family moves into a house which they come to discover is actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside - isn't the real treat of this novel. The real treat is the unconventional style the book is created with - some pages coming to only a sentence or a word, different styles of typesetting, pages containing highlighted text, footnotes within footnotes, some referencing books that don't even exist. Even poetry can be found in this book of horror, and I can't wait to read it with the covers over my head and a flashlight in one hand.

Dust - Elizabeth Bear
I picked up this book at a local Barnes and Noble a couple years ago simply because I wanted a change of pace in my reading habits. I've never read anything from Elizabeth Bear, and the premise of the book (taken from the back cover):

On a broken ship orbiting a doomed sun, dwellers have grown complacent with their aging metal world. But when a serving girl frees a captive noblewoman, the old order is about to change....

Ariane, Princess of the House of Rule, was known to be fiercely cold-blooded. But severing an angel’s wings on the battlefield—even after she had surrendered—proved her completely without honor. Captive, the angel Perceval waits for Ariane not only to finish her off—but to devour her very memories and mind. Surely her gruesome death will cause war between the houses—exactly as Ariane desires. But Ariane’s plan may yet be opposed, for Perceval at once recognizes the young servant charged with her care.

Rien is the lost child: her sister. Soon they will escape, hoping to stop the impending war and save both their houses. But it is a perilous journey through the crumbling hulk of a dying ship, and they do not pass unnoticed. Because at the hub of their turning world waits Jacob Dust, all that remains of God, following the vapor wisp of the angel. And he knows they will meet very soon.

Sounds pretty interesting. I didn't realize this until recently, but apparently this book is the first in the Jacob's Ladder series. Two other books, Chill and Grail, complete the series, both of which I'll have to get my hands on at some point...assuming I end up enjoying Dust.

This Present Darkness - Frank Peretti
This one is a known classic in the world of Christian fiction. And since I write Christian speculative fiction and my stories include much spiritual warfare, I knew I had to at some point get around to reading this. I've had both This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness in a box in my closet for years now and I figured now was a good a time as any to pull them out and get to reading them.

What books are you all reading this year?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lost Birth: an Expired Reality novel is Now Available For Your Ereader!

I am more than happy to announce that Lost Birth, the second volume in my Expired Reality series (young adult sci-fi/fantasy) is available in ebook format for only $2.99. In the next month or so I'll be working on having it converted to paperback as well, but for now you can enjoy reading it on almost any Ereader device. And if you haven't read the first book in the series, Endangered Memories, you can grab a copy here. Have a great weekend everyone!

Lost Birth: an Expired Reality novel
The Swallower of Worlds—better known as Legion, a mysterious alien race that was responsible for destroying Earth long ago—has arrived on the planet of Anaisha. At least this is what Carrie Green is led to believe after awakening in an underground structure known as the Complex. Unsure if the information being fed to her is true or not, or why she is being worshiped as a deity by fanatical cult followers of the flame element, Carrie makes it her priority to escape the Complex and the clutches of a madman from her past.

David Corbin, the only man who may be able to save Anaisha from the cold grip of Legion, is on his way to Galtaia Penitentiary as a prisoner, escorted by the maniacal Agent Parks. Housing many of Anaisha’s most dangerous criminals, most of whom David helped put away, the prison, it seems, will become David’s crypt. But as allies and enemies continue to scramble to find the timepiece—an ancient artifact with unknown origins and powers—one person believes David to be the hero he was in the past and seeks to rescue him from his living nightmare to help save Anaisha from its own.

Available through:
Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook
Smashwords (for other ereading devices)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Year of Possibilities

Well, the holidays are over, the new year has come, and I have a desk full of projects to get done and very little time to do them - conditions that usually help me work better. There's something about a deadline - especially a seemingly impossible one - that moves me like nothing else can out of procrastination and into a massively productive mindset.

So here's my list of projects for 2012 and the deadlines to go with. And these are deadlines I will reach, regardless how many nights I have to burn the midnight oil. The past couple years I've made a lot of deadlines that I didn't even come close to reaching and that behavior is being put away in the trunk, wrapped in iron chains, and dropped to the bottom of the Hudson river. Or the Salt River, since I live in Arizona.

Lost Birth - an Expired Reality novel -
This book, the second in my Expired Reality series, has been an elusive project that just hasn't cooperated with me in regards to getting edited and published. I'm happy to say it's finished, ready to be published in ebook format (paperback to come soon), I'm just waiting for opinions to come back on the back cover copy.

Black Earth: Dark Masquerade -
The third book in my Black Earth series, Dark Masquerade (tentative title), is my current WIP (Work In Progress). I wrote out a skeleton draft of DM during NaNoWriMo 2011 and plan to turn the final product (final according to what I can do with it) into my editor's hands in March.

Black Earth: Bridge to Eternity -
The fourth - and final - book in my Black Earth series, Bridge to Eternity (tentative title), was also built into a skeleton draft during NaNoWriMo 2011, and will be worked on starting in late February, once I have the majority of Dark Masquerade written out. I plan to hand Bridge to Eternity to my editor in May.

Email Newsletter -
I've been fickle and wavering in my attempts to keep an email newsletter going over the past couple years, but 2012 will be different. Starting in February, my email newsletter will be back with a vengeance. I plan to release a new issue each month and each issue will be packed with updates to my writing projects, writing tips and advice, links to writing/self-publishing resources, and various reviews on books and video games.A sign up box will be placed back on my website in the next couple weeks and I'll announce it here when it's up. *I want to extend a special thank you to those who have waited out my spontaneous behavior with the newsletter*.

Blogging -
I'm going to be more consistent and serious with my blogging. Before the holidays, I noticed most of my posts were about updates to my projects. I'm going to try and put more substance into my posts from now on. Some things I am interested in blogging about on this blog in particular are writing, self-publishing, Christianity and it's impact in fiction, book reviews, and my thoughts and comments on certain video games. (I'm a huge gamer, I just can't find enough hours in the day to entertain the hobby.)

Reading -
I set myself up with a goal to read 71 books last year. I read four. That's right. It took me an average of three months to read one book. Can't do that again this year, especially since I'm actually a fast reader. I'll set my book reading goals to a more realistic level though, the list of which I will be posting soon, both here and to Goodreads. Needless to say, I will be first reading the books that have been stealing all of the space on my office desk before I go venturing out in search of new horizons.

And, last but not least, the most important project I am going to be working on this year is...

Business Restructure - 
My ultimate goal this year - especially at the beginning of this year - is to restructure my business model. As a writer, when I first started self-publishing, I was (and still somewhat am) overly eager for people to read my stories/purchase my products, with little to no regard to how much money I'm bringing in. The simple fact is, my writing is a career, a business, and this is what I do for a living. I don't have a '9-5' job. My wife works full time so I can stay home with my son and write. I need to treat it as little more than a hobby, despite that some people I know think of it only as such. Sorry haters, but writing is more than a hobby, regardless if one is making money off it or not. However, I need to restructure my business model to start a) reaching more people, and b) bringing in more residual income. Those two things are what I will be focusing on over the next couple months, during which I'll be taking a closer look at what works/doesn't work in my website and blog, how I'm influencing people through my social networks including Facebook and Twitter, and how I can reach more people through product design via Zazzle and my own literary creations.

Along with the business restructure will be a new pricing model for most - if not all - of my books. I'm not going to go with the 99 cent business model for my ebooks anymore, unless it's a novella - in which case I might make an exception. Making 30 cents off every ebook I sell isn't working out too well when I'm still paying off the book's editing and cover design out of that 30 cents, and I'm selling less than 100 ebooks a  month. I'll be raising the prices of my 99 cent ebooks to at least $2.99, and I will also be raising the prices of my paperback novels as well, although I'm not sure by how much yet. As far as the ebooks which are already $2.99, I'm not sure if I'll raise the price of those or not. I kind of like the $2.99 staple. Don't worry though, I won't be charging an outrageous $9.99 for my ebooks like some big name sellers. If one is paying that much for a digital copy of a book, they better be getting a dinner at Jack-in-the-Box to go along with it.

There you have it. My yearly goals - at least for the first half of 2012 - out there for the world to see. As soon as June hits, I'll be reevaluating my business structure and literary progress once again and come up with another set of goals for the second half of 2012.