“I’m Learning to Live”

A few weeks ago I came to a bit of a strange decision considering the path that I had chosen for my career and my books. That decision wasn’t the easiest and really, I’m not sure that posting about it is the smartest thing because, well, things don’t always work out in the end, right?

Anyway, that decision was to take a long, hard look at Andlios Book Two and decide where I wanted to go with it. As most of you reading will know (or should know), I finished the rough draft of Andlios Book Two in late August and since then have been working on fine-tuning it over the past few months. I took about a month and a half away from it as well to start a new project, but I’ve been back at it for a few weeks now. I’m reaching the point with Book Two to where I’m understanding that there are a lot of things that I’d need to get moving on soon to get it ready for release, mostly being commissioning new artwork and then finding and paying an editor to run over it with a fine tooth comb to catch my [mostly] embarrassing mistakes that I still make after writing professionally for ten years now.

So I jumped back for a second and looked at Terminus Cycle, which included looking at what I did right and what I did wrong. I learned a lot from the release of Terminus Cycle, especially compared to what I learned between the release of Godslayer and Terminus Cycle. What’s funny is that there were years in between the release of Godslayer and Terminus Cycle, but Terminus Cycle was only released in late March and I only have seven months of sales data to sift through. Yet the muscle, money and time that I put into marketing Terminus Cycle and being able to figure out what works and what didn’t work has been invaluable. I also learned just how valuable being meticulous with revisions can be.

I’ve talked about this at length before, but I’m not sure that I put enough time into revising TC and after release I’ve found a myriad of things about it that I wish that I had done differently. There have even been moments where I’ve considered going through and doing those things that I didn’t do to it to jazz it up a bit, but for right now I’m letting sleeping dogs lie.

One thing that I did do for Godslayer and didn’t do for Terminus Cycle was working to get it published through traditional publishers and working through the whole system that is publishing. That means querying agents and trying to get my foot in the door that way. I made a conscious decision with Terminus Cycle to go the “indie author” route with it, and when looking back through the numbers, I’m not so sure that everything worked out the way that I wanted it to. I moved thousands of copies, which is really, really cool and I’ve amassed a decent number of reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, working out to a 4.0 average on each site. Really, that’s pretty cool, considering Godslayer has zero reviews on GoodReads and 11 on Amazon after a number of years. Hell, I’ve seen books released by major publishers who have less reviews.

I’m tremendously proud that I’ve been able to reach people and stir up enough in them to leave a review of my book, good, mediocre or bad. I’ve been approaching “Book Two” a bit differently and upon reflection, I think that it’s a pretty damned good book at this point. The idea of sinking a whole lot of time and money into breaking even (or losing money) against is a hard pill to swallow at the moment. While I make enough money off of LiverKick right now, the idea of working as a novelist has always been to make it sustainable.

The vast improvement in quality (or quality control, I guess you could say) and how I wrote the book drove me to decide to pump the brakes a bit on publishing this book right away and instead feel through the waters of literary agents and give myself a chance to get this published traditionally. Now, I know what you are saying; isn’t this book two? It is and it isn’t. While this is the continuation of the lore and even some of the characters from Terminus Cycle, I wrote it in an accessible way to where if someone went into it without reading Terminus Cycle they not only wouldn’t feel lost, but would feel entirely comfortable using it as a jumping off point.

I went as far as to rename Terminus Cycle on Amazon from Terminus Cycle (Andlios Book One) to Terminus Cycle (Andlios Origins). Is that a cop out? I’m not sure, but it treats the journeys of Jonah Freeman and Peter O’Neil with respect and helps to establish the Andlios universe for those that are interested. For those that don’t feel like they need to go there? That’s cool as well,  you’ll still hear about their stories and the history of Andlios and the Earthers in this new book as well.

If I do find an agent and do start working on the process of getting this book released through a major publisher it might take a while, which is kind of a bummer for those that are actually waiting for it, but I felt like it had been four years since I made an attempt at working through the traditional publishing industry and have come so far since then. It’s worth a shot, right? If things don’t quite work out over the next few months and every agent I queried shoots me down or simply isn’t interested then I might just move forward with releasing it on my own, but I feel very strongly about this book and that my time and efforts are worth money at this point.

Changes on Amazon and the crazy deluge of self-published works hitting the market are difficult to deal with right now and, in a way, Terminus Cycle got lost in the shuffle. This upcoming book will most likely appeal more to a wider swath of readers and might even be received better, which could mean more success, but having help in promoting the book and distributing it could go a long way to do it the justice that I believe that it deserves.

I do have a novella that I’ve been working on with some of the backstory from the planet Andlios that I wrote in a manic daze back a few months ago that I plan on returning to shortly and running through a few phases of revision. I’ll most likely be releasing that on my own within the next few months once I have it in a place that I want. So hopefully I’ll have a bunch of cool news over the next few months. Until then? Back to revisions and working hard every day.

A New Star Trek on a Weird Streaming Service; or, Why Can’t Star Trek Fans Have Nice Things

To say that I’m feeling conflicted about the news that there will be a new Star Trek is to put it lightly. I’ve had my struggles with getting through Voyager, and Enterprise was just almost entirely unwatchable. Yet.


Star Trek will always hold a place in my heart, though. I’ll always be willing to give something Star Trek a shot just because of the rich history. There were times when The Next Generation dragged on a bit and yeah, Deep Space 9 was incredible but some of the time traveling stuff became a bit grating after a while, as was the late focus on Chief O’Brien being a schmuck. Give the guy a break, already.

The shiny, new JJ Abrams movies are rather divisive when it comes to Star Trek fandom, with hardcore fans claiming that they are an atrocity while others are okay with the more action-oriented take on classic Star Trek storylines. I enjoyed them for what they were and it was fun explaining the story parallels between the awesome Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness to my wife. Of course, she then couldn’t sit through Wrath of Khan, which may be a huge negative for the modern films. Anyway, they are mostly fine.

Now there is news that there will be a new Star Trek television series debuting in 2017 on CBS All Access. The first episode will air on CBS proper, but then every following episode will stream on CBS’s web streaming service which, dear god, this is an awful idea. Television is really starting to fragment and consumers need to have a variety of subscriptions to keep up with shows now. Like I love the show Community but Yahoo! Screen was a terrible platform for the last season and I still haven’t even finished it yet. Mostly because of how obnoxious of a platform Yahoo! Screen was, and it didn’t even cost money.

The question is this; is Star Trek once again positioned for failure?

I understand on a base level that this is a ploy to get people interested in CBS All Access, but at the same time, putting Star Trek behind a $5.99 a month paywall seems ridiculous. Is Star Trek a strong enough brand name to push people to sign up for a streaming network that feels, at best, unnecessary? Netflix, Hulu Plus and every On Demand give consumers access to just about everything, why start another worthless subscription site and then bury a new show behind it?

What’s worse is that Star Trek fans have been burned so many times now. Voyager wasn’t great, but it had its following, for sure. Enterprise was just not good, with only the hardest of the hardcores sticking with it for the entire run. The show just wasn’t good, though. Michael Dorn (Worf) has been attempting to get his own Star Trek show picked up for ages and this apparently won’t be that, so really, what is this going to offer Star Trek fans? The films have already taken on a drastically different tone than the rest of the franchise, the last few series weren’t great, why can’t Star Trek fans have nice things?

The Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Trailer Adds Gravity to the Universe

Years passed and my craving for science fiction never relented, I just moved on to different things. The Dune series, everything Star Trek, SyFy’s great relaunch of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, the Expanse books and the truly fantastic Babylon 5. While it may be difficult to find a lot of truly great science fiction, there is some out there if you are willing to look and sift through everything else. Fans of science fiction tend to overlook faults when looking for something to grasp onto, so there are shows, books and movies that may not be that great that have gotten a pass over the years (I really don’t understand the appeal of Farscape after watching two seasons).

No matter what, though, I can’t seem to escape Star Wars. In fact, hundreds of dollars of Star Wars Lego sets adorn my office right now with that showing no sign of stopping any time soon. The announcement of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and who was attached to it did initially get me excited, but that quickly faded because of past disappointments. Disney went on to destroy the Expanded Universe of novels, games and comics that were built up over most of my lifetime heading into this, all to launch a new universe of novels, comics, television shows and games. What I’ve seen of this new universe thus far is far from inspired (outside of the Rebels show), instead run by a committee and most likely shackling any sort of creative decisions made by the authors.


Yet the release of the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens final trailer has made me a believer. Crazy, right? Truth be told this is absolutely everything that had been bothering me about the impending release was assauged by this trailer. There were questions that were left unanswered (was that Luke with the metal hand and R2-D2? Why isn’t he on the posters? Who is this new Sith? Is the new Sith Luke?). The new characters that we’ve had glimpses of in trailers and stills were framed in a way that made them truly interesting and left me wanting to know more about them and most importantly, this new saga looks to add some important framework that never really existed in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars was an epic war story told through the eyes of the main heroes and villains of said war. The prequel trilogy was simply expanded backstory that did help to add some framework and sense of gravity to the original trilogy, but it was more jamming as much backstory in as possible than fleshing out the universe.

Even back to my youth it bothered me that there was so little seen outside of the black and white, good and evil of war. Who were the Rebellion? Why did they break off from the Empire? Who were they helping? Were there actually common people or was everyone just a Stormtrooper or a Rebel? Like I said, some of this was addressed in the prequels, but not much really was. Star Wars always lacked anything anchoring the universe to reality, to making the struggle seem valuable.

The Empire was evil, you see, run by SITH LORDS and the dark side of the Force, even though most of the Imperials thought it was an old, hokey religion. Sometimes the battle between good and evil felt like a choice of color palate more than an actual struggle of ideological differences. Imperial ships and bases were just filled to the brim with nothing but military and Rebel installments weren’t much different. The only planet really given any color was Tatooine and that was one of a forgotten border planet that was filled with smugglers.

Who manufactured the ships, the weapons and the clothing? Where were any of these things bought? Luke was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, but what the hell did that mean (there was actually a later released deleted scene showing this, I’ll grant you that). Was that some sort of retail location? How was there an “Academy” where Luke’s friend Biggs could train and end up as a Rebel? Were they really so brazen about this? Over the years authors working on the Expanded Universe had helped to breathe life into these issues, but with those being wiped away now there shouldn’t be more excuses.

The films themselves lacked this context. Instead there was a laser focus on the struggle itself and the heroes and villains. What this new trailer has shown is indeed that there will be new heroes, heroines, villains and villainesses, but most importantly, how these people were impacted by everything else that happened.

“Those stories about what happened…”

“It’s true. All of it.”

Those few lines of dialogue alone help to build up and flesh out the Star Wars universe more than we’ve seen in so long. The derelict hulks of ships on Jakku provide context to what happened after that final, fateful battle in Return of the Jedi and each character that is shown, in just a few simple words, are given context, motivation and depth beyond what any character in the prequel trilogies were given over the span of three films. Bravo. I’m very much looking forward to this.

Finally, Star Wars has some gravity to it.

High Hopes

So I started a new project.

While that might seem counter-intuitive since I haven’t released Andlios Book Two yet, it really isn’t. Andlios Book Two is out to beta readers and has been for about a month now. Some feedback has filtered through and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read it and send feedback thus far, as well as everyone else who intends to in the future. Like I said in a previous entry, I’m looking to gain some distance from Andlios Book Two so that when I go back in for another few runs I’m looking at it from a fresh perspective. After a month I’m already seeing some adjustments that I want to make, which is a good thing.

This new project I’m going to remain mildly secretive about for now. I tend to remain quiet about my books until it is time to release them for a pretty good reason, that reason being that things can change quickly when it comes to novels, especially when they are still being written. What I can say is that I’m revisiting an idea that I had in the past and that this one is a lot of fun for me to work on at the moment. The first week I actually took some time off from writing to do some stuff around the house with Lori, then the second week was me looking through all of my potential projects to decide which one to work on now.

At least I’ll never be left wanting when it comes to ideas, right? I picked this one because anyone that I’ve shown it to has gotten excited about it and wanted to read more of it right away, which tends to be a good sign when it comes to fiction. The book itself is still science fiction, but of a different breed. Less focused on space and technology and more on people and the dumb things that we do to our planet, selves and society. The tone is also a bit different, a bit more tongue-in-cheek and fun than my previous books, which helps to give it a different texture.

This one probably won’t be super long, which will be nice considering that Andlios Book Two is currently my longest work sitting at around 140,000 words (Terminus Cycle was 93,000 and Godslayer was 63,000 for reference). The pace that I’ve been going at has been writing about 10,000 words a week, which puts me at over 30,000 coming off of this week, meaning that within a month or two it could be onto the next phase of editing and revisions with it, which could be great. Of course, it could go on hold when I feel like the time is right to finish up Andlios Book Two, most likely after I get some more feedback in and weigh my options on what revisions I want to do, but considering this pacing this new book shouldn’t take too long.


Right now the follow up to Terminus Cycle is out to a select group of readers and, well, I’m at a loss for what to do with myself. My plan right now is to let this book germinate for a while. It’s out to readers, most give me unrealistic time frames for which they’ll read it but I’ve been doing this for a while now and know that it takes time. I’m in no rush for it. In fact, I want to put this book aside for at least a month or two and then come back to it with fresh eyes. I figure that while I have this luxury of not being under any sort of deadline that I should take advantage of it and make it as good as I can.

That, to me, means letting it sit for a while. I tend to like something, then look back at it a few months later and find a ton of stuff wrong with it that was missed and yearn to be able to take it back and fix it. This way I can do that. Like I said, though, that isn’t the problem, the problem is that I’m sitting here and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It’s like singing in front of people. What do I do with my hands?

I went ahead and started working on another, non-related to Andlios project and while that is fun and exciting, it’s been a long time since I really focused on something outside of that universe. The original idea for the series was hatched back in 2012 and a lot of the ideas came together over the span of the following year before I actually started to work on it in late 2013. I’ve started little things here and there that I’ve put aside for later (this project being one of them), but taking on a whole new idea for a novel is at times a daunting process.

After two years of working inside of one universe where the words just flowed I’m having to stop and do a lot of planning. I’m thinking up ideas, plot points, character arcs and all of the stuff that needs to happen before I continue forward with the actual writing. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot to writing than just sitting down and writing. Without a solid foundation of ideas you don’t have a novel you just have a loose collection of ideas and characters that may or may not come together to make a story.

What I want from this story is for it to be different than anything else that I’ve released. I want it to reflect more what I enjoy reading on average and just be different.

Tough Decisions

There comes a time when you have to slow yourself down, take a look at the what you are working on and make tough decisions. For me the past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been working really hard at revisions on the Terminus Cycle follow-up and have gotten to a pretty good place in it. Pretty soon I’m going to be sending it out to beta readers and wait for feedback to start filtering in. The tough decision that I’ve made is that I need this book to sit for a while.

Initially I had set a lofty goal for myself of releasing three books from this Andlios series in the calendar year of 2015. Terminus Cycle would be March, Andlios II would be August and Andlios III would be December. A part of the reason why I wanted to do this was by studying what was selling on Amazon and how authors were getting attention. It felt like there were two schools of thought to being a success as an indie author; release a ton of stuff in short succession or release one well-polished work and get picked up by a major publisher.

There is a tremendous upside to both, but I tend to work best when I feel like I’m working upstream. The idea of releasing books on my own and being able to do it under my own terms was incredibly appealing, as was the fact that Amazon offers a 70% commission rate. It’s a feast or famine situation to where an author can make a flat rate through a publisher and possibly get royalties in the future if it sells well, or an author can make a lot more if the book sells the same amount through Amazon. Of course, if your book doesn’t sell a ton you are kind of out of luck. I’m not out of luck, but I’ve found that money on marketing is very important to keeping copies moving and that most of the time I just make my money back.

Anyway, this was my plan and as time moves on I’m not sure that I like this plan as much as I did initially. The way I looked at it was that maximizing revenue was the most important thing for me. If it meant rushing through and releasing books that are pretty good but not great I was willing to take that risk. Now that Terminus Cycle has been out for five months and has received both positive and negative feedback I’ve realize that this probably isn’t the best approach for me as an artist.

These two methods remind me a lot of something from the 90’s that plagued the world of clothing in the way of the one size fits all t-shirt. The one size fits all t-shirt was a thing that existed in the 90’s just about everywhere and was a male extra large. Sure, it did technically fit most people, but it would either be too big or too small. If you were bigger than a male XL it would be way too small for you, if you were smaller than a male XL the shirt would be like a dress. That’s how I view these two methods of publishing and attaining a fan base.

Simply put the method that I chose just doesn’t work for me and how I work. Last August I quit blogging (for the most part) after years and years of making money writing as a blogger. Blogging was a strange process where quality control was inexistent on most sites and the sheer volume of posts that had to be made as well as the expediency of them dictated that they were usually quickly tossed together without much craftsmanship involved. On average I was making about $5 an article and working 6 – 7 days a week outputting many, many articles a day. Under such circumstances the idea of sitting back and combing through an article was insanity. Most were fine the way they were and the readers wouldn’t notice if anything was off anyway.

Once again, sort of one size fits all. Writing on the internet doesn’t work the way that it used to before the bubble burst where I’d be able to write an article for a larger site and invoice them for $35. Pumping out a dozen 300 – 500 word articles a day led to a lot of malaise when it came to writing and a distinct lack of worrying about overall quality. Once again, it’s sort of a one size fits all affair when it comes to blogging. Nothing really matters in the end, just page views and Facebook shares. Crafting a perfect article just does not matter outside of the occasional longform piece.

When reflecting on Terminus Cycle I see the convergence of these two one size fits all mentalities into a perfect storm. I was used to writing fast and loose and was under the impression that the only way that I could possibly work towards success would be to be incredibly prolific. This is where the idea of releasing three books in a year was born and where I decided to overlook some of the problems with Terminus Cycle before releasing it. I wanted it out and wanted to adhere to the plan and in retrospect there are some things that I’d absolutely change.

This has all led me to believing that when it comes to the second book I need to let it ferment for a while so that I can look back on it with fresher eyes and do what I need to do to bring it up to my own standards. I want to be able to create art that I feel 100% about and that when it gets out to readers I can feel completely confident that I’ve given them my best work.

Sometimes I write different things

Writing is tough.

Writing novels can be even tougher. Most people look at writing a novel as this nearly impossible task and when I tell people that I’ve published two already they look at me like I’m insane. Those looks are mostly because I finished writing them, not that I got them out into the wild or anything.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog you know that I’m in revision hell on the Terminus Cycle follow-up. I am. At times it is cool, at times I have to go back and rewrite entire chapters, which can be fun, and other times it is infuriating and boring. Basically, it’s a mixed bag, but it’s needed to make sure that it’s as great as it can be.

Over the past few weeks I’ve dabbled with putting other kinds of stuff up here to bring in some traffic and push some books out the door. It has worked, which is cool. So right now I’m going to share another article that I recently wrote.

Gasp, it’s about professional wrestling. Crazy, right? I’ve been watching wrestling since I was a kid and it carried over into adulthood. In fact, it was a bit of an obsession in my college years, mostly with Japanese Pro Wrestling (which I refuse to call “puroresu,” by the way).

Anyway, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax concluded over the weekend and I’ve been left ruminating on the outcome. The conclusion that I came to is that being a Shinsuke Nakamura fan is akin to being a Toshiaki Kawada fan in the 90’s. Check it out here on Cageside Seats. 

Everyone Went to the Rapture. They’re Gone.

For about as long as videogames have been around there have been arguments about the artistic validity of them. Art is, by definition, the expression of human imagination and skill into a medium, which means that you could always make an argument for games being art. Of course, the issue is that most videogames don’t reach beyond the realm of the summer blockbuster and that most gamers consider games that don’t feature the player staring down the sights of a gun to be a “game.” It makes the whole argument of games and art tenuous at best, leaving it instead to the realm of simple entertainment that at times shows glimmers of exploring the human condition beyond explosions and shooting galleries.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is one of the most compelling experiences that I think I’ve ever had in the interactive realm. I’m going to get that out of the way as quickly as I can. I’d go as far as to say that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture has affected me in a deeply, profound way unlike any other videogame has ever been able to do. Everything about the game is finely crafted, well thought out and honed in to evoke an emotional response from the player. The game triggered anxiety in me while playing and the atmosphere and sense of dread were present almost entirely throughout the whole four to six hours that it lasted.

That’s amazing. This is a game where you can’t die, nothing attacks you, you aren’t tasked with saving the world or to grab a gun and shoot anything, yet it can still be “scary.” You control a character in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a nameless, faceless, voiceless observer of a small, sleepy British town in the 80’s where something happened. That something unravels before your eyes and ears through stray telephones, radios, tape recorders and through witnessing memories. A ball of pulsating light is your guide to the Rapture, it is both menacing and playful as it zips around the town, guiding you towards “memories” that you can trigger by tilting your Dualshock controller in a direction to “unlock” said sequence.

The series of events unfold through individual chapters or stories, where you learn about the people of the town. Each chapter focuses on one person’s journey and experience. Their experiences are human, touching and at times heartwrenching. What’s evident is that while these people are living through what one would call the apocalypse (sort of), they are still living their own lives, dealing with their own issues and their relationships become even more important while everyone around them is affected by the mysterious “flu.”

These people are interesting, they are frustrating and they are incredibly flawed. Even in the face of the end they can be stubborn, and in retrospect foolish. I found myself muttering under my breath to these people in disbelief of how ridiculous they were people. Without a twinge of irony I was sitting on my couch at 3am saying “Stephen, what have you done?” That’s how immersive Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is. If you are willing to sit back and immerse yourself in the game you will be endlessly rewarded.

Not everyone is going to have that same reaction, though. The tremendous voice acting, the heartfelt stories and deliberate funeral dirge of a pace accentuated by Jessica Curry’s stunning soundtrack set an unmistakable tone, but there will be players who are simply averse to such charms. Without a gun, sword or magic rod and a feeling of “control” some players are going to look at Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and see it as a mockery of what they love. I’m not going to tell you that if you feel that way that you are wrong, just a fair warning that this is not for you.

Developer The Chinese Room paved the way for these sorts of games with 2012’s Dear Esther, which remains to this day one of my favorite games of all time. Dear Esther was a transformative experience. I’ll be honest that I was very concerned that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture would have difficulty living up to the high watermark set by Dear Esther, especially with it being a much longer game this time around. Death Esther can take anywhere from 80 to 100 minutes to get through while Rapture is a solid four to six hours. The way that they broke down the chapters and wove an intricate, but heartfelt tale was just masterful, though. It never dragged or felt like it needed to be cut down.

Throughout Rapture you explore these people’s lives and along the way you learn about their connections to one another. Some of these people are related, some are friends, some are lovers or even strangers, but everyone is connected. Some of these people feel alienated, some feel connected, others want to leave while some struggle with the desire to stay. Each character brings something different and compelling to the table and essentially watching the end of these lives play out can be a touching, even draining experience. The player gets a brief glimpse into their lives, but these moments that are captured are nearly perfect, leading to these overwhelming feelings when they meet their fate.

At first it wouldn’t be crazy to see the memories that play out and think that they are kind of ridiculous. Of course, the early memories in the game don’t tell much, nor does anyone truly understand that is happening. Over time it becomes a much more fascinating method of storytelling and the power of the voice acting really comes through. The simple gestures that are made by the figures composed entirely of orbs of light convey so much emotion, hugely in part to the performances themselves, that when you see a character’s orbs of lights dissipate for that last time it’s nothing short of crushing.

This game is deep, insightful and makes no qualms about what it’s doing; it’s tugging on your heartstrings and making you piece together the puzzle. Of course, does the puzzle matter? I’ve seen people complain about a definitive ending, but the nature of this game itself is not about definitive endings and solid answers. Instead it is about you, the player and how you react. What was this event? What was the true end result? What is human existence and do our relationships truly matter? These are all questions that will hang in your head after finishing this game. What you take away from this game depends on your own experiences and emotions.

I can’t recommend this game enough.

Finally, Bannerlord

Gaming is something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid, it comes natural to me. My dad played games and we always had consoles at home, it was kind of his way of winding down after work. I used to get excited about the “TV games” that he’d bring home and eventually when I was old enough we’d play them together. I have these great memories of playing games like Legend of Zelda with him as a kid, each one of us taking turns at difficult bosses or figuring out puzzles.

So needless to say I never stopped playing them. It takes a lot to get me into a game nowadays, with my most anticipated games being a mixed bag of weird genres and styles of games. Right now I’m most looking forward to Shenmue III, Mass Effect Andromeda, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. Most of these games are easy to understand, but Mount & Blade is kind of my go-to when it comes to multiplayer time killing.

When I’m writing I tend to open up Mount & Blade: Warband and play a bit, die a bit, minimize and continue working for a while before tabbing back into playing some more. It’s a great way to work through some frustrations and to keep my mind sharp. Needless to say there is a lot of anxiety behind Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. Why? Because there hasn’t been a blog entry in about a year now from Taleworlds and while Warband is still great, the community is starting to wind down and only attracts new players during Steam sales and most of those players are trolls looking to be a dick in their new $2 game.

But finally the faithful were rewarded today at gamescom with a slew of new videos. Sure, they aren’t the best, but they sure as hell give me a lot of hope.

First up we have the trailer that they played at gamescom today. It doesn’t give away a ton but noticeable is that the graphics are improved by a lot. I’ve seen some slagging the graphics and while this is no AAA title by any stretch of the imagination, the Mount & Blade series has always been about epic gameplay. My first time in a 100+ person multiplayer siege was what hooked me. I couldn’t believe that I was involved in something as big as that and how the game was playing so smoothly.

There is just so much in this video, from the siege weaponry (which you have limited access to in Warband with mods, such as the NeoGK mod) to the scope of these battles. Then, of course, they focus on the minigames with a look at what looks like a version of checkers. I dunno, it’s no Gwent but single player isn’t my big focus right now, although I’m hoping for it to be as addictive as Mount & Blade’s has always been.

Perhaps the most exciting part of today’s news was in the B-roll footage that they sent to journalists.

It shows more of the character creation, which was fun in Warband but a bit limited. They cycle through some familiar faces from the world of entertainment today to show just how powerful their creation suite can be.

What’s most exciting for fans of the single player is watching what comes next of the player running through a populated city street into a tavern. Then more of a populated city, some dialogue options with a merchant and things leading to blows. Don’t they always? At 2:11 starts the actual combat and if you were concerned about Bannerlord varying much from the previous games never fear, it is still Mount & Blade at its core.

The swordplay looks very similar to what Warband looks like, but just a little tweaked. The animations seem smooth in comparison  and it looks like it won’t be a vastly different game. This is a good thing since the Warband engine is beloved by so many with the right balance between technical gameplay and crazed melee fun.

The video ends with a look at the overworld map from single player which isn’t vastly different and then some music.

Still no release date and still no in depth look at the gameplay just yet, but I must say that any fears that I had were washed away with these videos. I’d love to get my hands on this in the near future.

“This Can’t Be Good Enough For Me”

The neuroses behind working on a novel can be a bit overwhelming at times. When is a novel “good enough” and when is it “great?” When I released The Godslayer I felt that it was good enough and my stance on it has changed quite a bit. The same could be said for Terminus Cycle. I still find strengths and weaknesses in both books, but when I released them I felt that they were “good enough.” Since then that phrase has haunted me for quite a while.

Maybe “good enough” is just an excuse to get something out and then if it falls short of expectations or people aren’t wholesale satisfied with it I can look at it and say, “well, you know, I just wrote it off as ‘good enough’ and I guess it wasn’t.” I’d read through passages and say, “well, this might not have the level of detail that I wanted, but it gets the job done, so it must be ‘good enough.’” In a way, my whole process was based upon past performance. I’d remember back to college and writing workshops where there were a few people who took them seriously but the rest were just hobbyists in the early ones. In the later ones everyone was in their own world and so worried about just finishing school that everything felt jumbled.

There wasn’t much motivation to really push beyond what I was doing because, well, my peers did not leave much to be desired. I could bang out something the night before, run through it a few times to tighten it up and bring it into a workshop and it’d be one of the better pieces that we’d talk about that week. Things weren’t much different when I was younger and my work was heralded as great for my age. After a while of being good at something and not needing to exert much effort it starts to spill over into the rest of your life. Sadly that “good enough” can no longer cut it for me because my work is no longer just being shared among friends and classmates.

Releasing a novel to the public means that my peers went from that guy obsessed with Lovecraft that aspires to write chapbooks and the girl who was told by somebody at some point that she should be a writer to the heavyweights of the industry. Now releasing a science fiction story for me no longer means competing on a small level, it means that I’m competing for the time and money of readers while the goliaths loom on the same marketplace. I’m not competing with the lost souls of the world, I’m competing with the Scalzis, Leckies, Coreys, Clines and Howeys of today and even classic authors like Asimov, Herbert, Dick and more that I grew up adoring. Hell, I’m even competing with the retiree who always dreamed of writing a novel, sat down, banged something out, didn’t bother with much of a cover or editing but occupies the same market space that I do. That’s a lot of competition and “good enough” might be able to separate me from the dregs of the pack, but won’t push me much further beyond that.

This means that I have to put more into my work to take it to that next level. I finished my first draft of my upcoming book a few weeks ago and recently finished my first revision of it. Now I’m going back and running through another round of revisions before I’ll probably do another and another and not stop until everything feels as tight as it could possibly be. Why? Because “good enough” meant a few quick passes before shipping it off to be edited, polished up and published. That “good enough” might satisfy someone who was looking to simply release a book and hope that someone liked it, but it doesn’t satisfy someone who wants to make a career out of writing. Some would be ecstatic with 25 Amazon reviews rounding to 4.1 stars and the 15 reviews on Goodreads tallying up to 4.23 stars. There are some good reviews, some honest reviews, some brutal and rude reviews, but all-in-all there are reviews. People have been buying, reading and reviewing my book and if someone were to glance through an Amazon listing for it they’d look at it and think that it is a moderate success. It is a moderate success, actually, but I have no intentions of stopping here.

I now feel like I know what will take me to that next level and know the basic steps to get myself there. All that I have to do now is continue putting in the work.

Once again thank you for following my journey and supporting me in whatever way that you have.

I write things, you read them. Pretty simple.

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