Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Featured a Strong Finish

To say that 2012 was a big year for me as a writer would be a gross understatement. No matter what else may have happened in the past twelve months, this year I accomplished the biggest goal of my writing life so far--I published my first book.

I’m still in somewhat of a state of disbelief. Courting the King in Yellow was a story I had written over five years ago, and one that I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day. But it’s out there now, in the wild. The past couple of months have been a blur, filled with excitement, disappointment and a ton of lessons that will not only make me a better writer in 2013, but will also inform how I approach publishing my next book.

Self-publishing is an amazing experience. You have a level of control over your creation that is unparalleled. You also have to do everything yourself, from choosing distribution channels, to marketing, to monitoring the market and adjusting your price point. Writing the book is really just the beginning, and this year I found out that writing a novel is a lot easier than getting anyone to care about it.

But here’s the thing--I love every part of it. I love that I get to share my story with other people now. I love that some folks have picked up the book and really enjoyed it. I love building my author platform and engaging with communities like Goodreads. Most of all though, I love spending so much time focusing on something I love. Writing has always been a hobby of mine, but making a go of being an author is something I have dreamed about for a long time. This is truly a case of enjoying the journey as opposed to worrying about the destination.

I began 2012 as a writer. I will begin 2013 as an author. Bring on the New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Alana Abbott's Choice of Kung Fu and the Long Road to Regaining Home

A good friend of mine has some really cool stuff going on right now, and I wanted to take some space here to tell you about it, and about her.

Alana Abbott is an author of two published novels, a writer of short fiction and comics, a game designer, a wife, a mom and a friend. I think it was back in the spring of 2006 that I first crossed paths with Alana. She had been working with a company called White Silver Publishing on a new pen and paper roleplaying game called Chronicles of Ramlar. In addition to writing the material about the world the game was set in, Alana also wrote three novels (called the Redemption trilogy) set in the world she helped create. I interviewed her for the podcast, and we found that we didn’t live that far from one another.

In November of 2006, Secret Identity had a presence at a local sci-fi convention called United Fan Con, and Alana came to Springfield for the show to promote the first book in her Redemption trilogy, Into the Reach. A couple of months later, Alana and her husband came to AnonyCon, the great gaming convention run by Max Saltonstall. A few months later, Max, Alana and I were covering the launch of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Secret Identity at Dungeons & Dragons Expo in 2007. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ours is a friendship that has developed around our mutual love of gaming, and even though we don’t get to game together as much anymore, the friendship has remained strong. And don’t tell her this, but Alana was one of the primary inspirations for me to get serious about writing. Both Mo Stache and Courting the King in Yellow would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Alana. She’s always there to answer questions, bounce ideas off of and offer support.

So, now that I’ve blathered on about how great Alana is for 500-plus words, let me tell you about the cool things she has going on right now.

Choice of Kung Fu
Alana just released a text-based, “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style text-based game called Choice of Kung Fu for iOS, Android and the Chrome web browser. The game was created on the Choice of Games platform, which offers a great set of free tools for authors to create their own interactive stories. Here’s the synopsis for the game:

It's multiple-choice martial-arts action!

Become the greatest fighter the world has ever known, harnessing the power of chi to manipulate the energies of the universe. Defeat rivals, find romance, and rise to become the Imperial Champion. Win the right to question the immortal Dragon Sage, who speaks just once every hundred years! Choice of Kung Fu is a fast-paced interactive fantasy novel where your choices determine how the story proceeds. The game is entirely text-based--without graphics or sound effects--but powered by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You can head over to the game’s main page on Choice of Games for more info.

The Redemption Trilogy
Over the past six-plus years, Alana’s Redemption novels have had a very interesting journey. White Silver Publishing was originally supposed to release the trilogy, but the company ran into some problems, and the final book in the Redemption series, Regaining Home, was never published.

Recently, the rights to the trilogy reverted back to Alana, and the first two books, Into the Reach and Departure, are now available on Drive Thru RPG in PDF format. Best of all, they are currently on sale for $0.99!! And after you read Into the Reach, you can download the hour-long interview I did with her about the book over at Drive Thru Comics for free.

I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Sure, I’m biased, but if you’re looking for an adventure featuring deep characters in a rich fantasy world, you will fall in love with Into the Reach and Departure. As a fantasy fan, I grew up reading almost every Dragonlance novel I could get my hands on, and they are the standard I compare most books of that genre to. The way Alana hooked me into the story of her characters with Into the Reach reminded me of how Weis and Hickman drew me into Dragons of Autumn Twilight the first time I read it.

In even more exciting news, Alana recently announced an upcoming Kickstarter project to publish Regaining Home--that project will be kicking off sometime in 2013.

So, go support my pal Alana by checking out her game and her novels. You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Read My Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Over on Secret Identity

Hi All,

Just a quick note that I say The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this past weekend, and I wrote up a review over on Secret Identity. I loved the movie, and you can read why by clicking here to head over and read the mostly spoiler-free review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

Man, is it tough to find time to write around the holidays!

I’m glad I have this blog, because it keeps me writing even when I really think I don’t have any time to. But I’ve been making time this week, at the crack of dawn before the kids get up, late at night on the weekends, and even during lunch at work (just at lunch, though--model employee here).

Right now I’m working on finishing a short story for an anthology project. I’m excited about it for a couple of reasons. One, because the anthology is being put together by members of the Secret Identity podcast listening community--it’s like a group writing project and it’s great. But I’m also excited because the short story I’m working on is sort of an origin tale for a character from my book Courting the King in Yellow. It’s a cool way for me to dive back into the world of that book, especially since I finally put the book out this past October.

While the story will first appear in the anthology, I am considering putting it out digitally as a free download in the future. I have a few short works that I will either post as free downloads, or collect as a short story anthology sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, after my second book is out.

I did manage to get a couple of blog posts up at co-op critics this week--two more entries in my series about the Dark Souls expansion Artorias of the Abyss. You can read me gushing about how much I love that game here and here.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Song of All Time--"Old City Bar"

A friend of mine asked a question on Twitter the other day about what people thought was the best Christmas song of all time. I knew immediately what my answer was, but then I wondered how many people even know that the song I would name even exists? Because my favorite Christmas song of all time isn’t played on the radio a lot this time of year, and it’s not featured in every “Holiday Classics” collection CD you find on the racks of checkout lines in department stores.

In my humble opinion, the greatest Christmas song of all time is called “Old City Bar,” and it comes from the rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

You may remember a 90's music video from TSO called “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”--it’s easily their most well-known song. The rousing instrumental is used to this day in commercials around the holidays. You can watch an updated version of the video in the player below.

Ironically, my favorite Christmas song of all time is on the same album as “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” but is much less known outside of the band’s followers. It’s a shame, because the song is truly one of the most heartwarming and also heartbreaking that you will ever hear.

“Old City Bar” tells the story of a Christmas Eve in a New York bar, where a young boy (an angel in disguise) wanders in and informs the bartender that there’s a girl outside who’s in need of help. As the bartender looks out into the snowy evening, he sees a girl standing by a broken payphone. Something comes over him and he takes the evening’s earnings out of the register and goes outside. The customers in the bar watch through the window as the bartender calls a cab for the girl, and sends her to the airport with enough money to get home. When the bartender turns to talk to the young boy, he’s gone. The bartender then goes back inside and the patrons drink for free for the rest of the night. The entire story is told from the perspective of one of the patrons.

I’m really not doing the story justice, as you need to hear the amazing melody and the emotion the song is performed with. There’s a powerful message that’s delivered after the singer tells the story of the bartender and what he did:

If you want to arrange it, 
This world you can change it 
If we can somehow 
 Make this Christmas thing last,

By helping a neighbor 
Or even a stranger 
To know who needs help 
You need only just ask

It’s usually by this point in the song that I’m openly crying, and I’m getting a little choked up as I type this. It’s an emotional message to be sure, but I think this song also hits me hard because I used to run group homes for kids who were in situations not that unlike the girl in this song. I hope you get something out of this song as well, because it truly is my favorite Christmas song (and maybe Christmas story) of all time.

I would also recommend checking out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories album, as there is a larger story that connects all of the songs, and the whole album is outstanding.

You can get the mp3 of “Old City Bar” on Amazon for $.99, and it’s so worth it. Below, there are also a couple of fantastic live performances of the song by TSO, with two different singers. The first is Ronny Munroe, and the second is Bart Shatto, both of whom give an inspired live rendition of it. Before you watch these, I would highly recommend you listen to to the original album version, as you’ll enjoy the performances even more.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing Recap 12/9-12/15/12

Despite the name of this blog, it's only one of the places that I write on a regular basis. So, it occurred to me that I should start doing a recap once every week or two of where folks can check out what else I've been writing.

This week, I started a new series of posts on Co-Op Critics about my favorite game of this generation, Dark Souls. The series is called 'Postcards from the Abyss,' and in it I'll be discussing my time with the new content for the game that launched in October. New areas, new bosses and new gear mean new things for me to love about Dark Souls. You can read the first entry in the series here. I'll be posting another today or tomorrow. I also posted my thoughts on the announcement trailer for Dark Souls II, which you can read here.

I also reviewed three comics this week over on the Secret Identity website. You can read what I thought of The Flash Annual here, Thunderbolts #1 here and Deathstroke #14 here.

I also have a blog post about my favorite Christmas song that I'll be putting up here in the next couple of days.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Lessons Learned So Far


That’s how many copies I’ve sold of Courting the King in Yellow since it debuted digitally on October 29, 2012. That breaks down to an average of four copies a week for the six weeks that it has been available. Of those twenty-eight copies, twenty-two have been sold through Drive Thru Fiction, and six have sold over at the Amazon Kindle Store. So far, no copies have sold on the Kobo eBooks Store (although the book has only been on Amazon and Kobo since November 30th).

I think it’s a bit early to start drawing any real conclusions from such a small sample of data, but I have already learned a few lessons that will help inform my next book release in the summer of 2013.

First off, I will need to think about exclusivity. My goal for CtKiY was to release it on as many platforms as possible, but that comes at a cost. Mainly, some sites offer benefits to authors for publishing exclusively through them. Drive Thru, for example, offers better royalties on each sale, as well as increased promotion on their site for exclusivity. Amazon has a very popular program called KDP Select, which you can only take part in if you publish exclusively through them. With KDP Select, your book can become part of the Kindle Lending Library, and you have access to more promotional tools, meaning there are more ways for you to get your book noticed.

The second issue I need to think more about is price. I launched digitally at a $4.99 price point, and that clearly was too high. I have since dropped the price of the digital editions to $2.99, but it’s only been a few days, so it’s too early to say whether or not that will have an effect on sales. While the market over at Drive Thru seems to tolerate higher prices for digital books, both the Amazon and Kobo marketplaces seem dominated by the $.99 price point, especially for indies. I kind of knew this going in, but I took the chance on pricing higher anyway. Not to mention, I don’t want to have wildly different prices on each marketplace.

As I said, it’s too early to drastically change my approach, I think. But now that the print version of the book is available, I do have some flexibility. I could pull the digital versions off of Drive Thru and Kobo, and join the KDP Select program by only offering the digital version of CtKiY on Amazon. And, I could still offer the print version over at Drive Thru, as it would not violate the terms of the KDP Select program (which deals only with digital).

So, I’m thinking if Kobo continues to be a dead end, and sales overall don’t pick up in the next handful of weeks, I may try out KDP Select early in the New Year.

This whole process is a learning experience, and I intend to learn as much as I can before I publish book number two. As I am still building my author platform, I’m less concerned with dollars at this point and more concerned with what the numbers are telling me in terms of self-publishing options.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Horror for the Holidays Sale!

From now until the New Year, all digital versions of my book Courting the King in Yellow will be on sale for $2.99! At Amazon you can grab the Kindle version, Kobo has the ePub version, and Drive Thru Fiction has three digital versions, so you can read on whatever platform you want!

If you're interested int he print version, you can grab that over at Drive Thru Fiction for $9.99, as well as get the digital versions for a mere $1 more!

So this holiday season, give the horror fan in your family the gift that keeps on giving (nightmares, that is).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When it Comes to Writing, I'm More of a 'Pantser-Plotter'

One of the things that fascinates me about writers, artists, musicians, game developers or any creative person is the process they take to creating. In the writing realm, there are two very general categories that writers tend to identity with in terms of how they approach a story, novel, etc.--"Plotters" and "Pantsers."

A "Plotter" is someone who takes the time to outline their story, profile their characters, and create a detailed roadmap from the beginning to the end of their story. They are the prepared.

A "Pantser" is pretty much what it sounds like--someone who writes by the seat of their pants. These people may start with a general idea, but many times they have no idea where the story is going to go, and they let the setting and characters dictate what happens next.

There is no right or wrong here, and of course, many people fall somewhere in between these two categories on the spectrum. But in general, you either start with a plan, or you fly by the seat of your pants.

Now, if you have have asked me before I wrote my first book what kind of writer I was, I would have told you I was a "Plotter." I’m a pretty organized (some would say anal) person when it comes to my daily routine, producing the Secret Identity podcast, and my approach to my day job.

Turns out though, when it comes to writing--I’m a "Pantser."

There’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing goin on here, but since I wrote my first book during National Novel Writing Month, I think I trained myself to be a "Pantser." There was no planning or plotting before NaNoWriMo began, and once it started, I just went. I had a general idea to begin with, but that story organically evolved as the words hit the page. The characters told me where they wanted to go, and how they were going to develop. At one point, my setting started to assert itself, and then the antagonists made their intentions clear. Once those things started to come together, the path through the rest of the story became clear.

So it’s not like I did no plotting at all, it’s just that the plotting happened after the story got going. I needed to start writing before I really knew how the story was going to come together. It was a really freeing experience, and that formula is one that I’ve applied again and again, whether I set out to or not.

When I wrote my second book, I tried to outline and chart a path through the story. I had even written a comic script based on the idea that I planned to use as the inspiration for the first few chapters. When I actually started writing however, I deviated almost immediately, and the story went off in a whole new direction. And it was great.

My webcomic Mo Stache has taken a similar path. The ideas that i started with went out the window in the first twenty pages of the script. It wasn’t until I was a quarter of the way through that I saw how the story was going to end. Even then, I’ve only been able to plot some signposts along the path of the story, things that i want to work in as we get closer to the end. Most of the time though, I’m just writing as I go.

Of course, this style is not without its perils. With a “Pantser” approach, you always run the risk of the story being disjointed, of plot threads being unresolved, and of losing the core of the story altogether.

So I guess that my style is more of a “Pantser-Plotter,” or as I like to think of it, a “Signposter.” I start with a basic idea, and then I plant some signs along the road of my story once I get going, just to make sure I’m still headed to my intended destination, even though I get off the highway several times along the way.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Let's Be Friends on Goodreads!

I am in the process of adding my book to the database over at Goodreads, the social network for readers that allows users to share what their reading with others and get recommendations on what books they might find interesting.

I have a user profile over at Goodreads, and I’ve signed up for their author program, so hopefully Courting the King in Yellow will be listed within the next week or so.

If you’re a member of Goodreads, I have two humble requests. First, if we’re not already friends there, you can add me my clicking here. Second, when CtKiY goes into the database, please add it to your shelf if you’re already reading it or interested in checking it out.

The author program looks to have some cool tools, and Goodreads is a fantastic place to spread the word about my book to an audience of hungry readers. It looks like you can do giveaways there as an author, so i look forward to exploring that option as well. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

COURTING THE KING IN YELLOW Is Now Available in Print!

I’m extremely excited to announce that my first book, Courting the King in Yellow, is now available in print at Drive Thru Fiction!

To celebrate, the print edition of CtKiY is launching at a $9.99 price point. And if you pick up the print edition, you can grab the digital editions for a buck more! That means that even with shipping, you can get the print and digital versions for just under $15. Give the print book as a gift and keep the digital version for yourself--no one will be the wiser.

As I’ve stated before, my goal is to have the book be available in multiple formats and on multiple platforms. Drive Thru is great because it’s one-stop shopping, and their printed products are very high quality. I ordered a couple of proofs myself just to make sure.

So, head over to Drive Thru Fiction and grab the print and digital versions of Courting the King in Yellow for a pittance.

Thanks for your support!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kindle and Kobo and Drive Thru, Oh My!

I am very happy to announce that Courting the King in Yellow is now available on both the Amazon Kindle and Kobo eBook stores!

In terms of the digital versions of the book, I wanted to make it available on as many devices as I could, as well as explore the different marketplaces.

Drive Thru Fiction is where Courting the King in Yellow launched, and it will be the first (and possibly only) place to get a print copy of the book when it becomes available later this month. The other great thing about Drive Thru is that when you buy the digital version, you get the PDF, ePub and Mobi versions of the book in DRM-free formats that you can then put on any device you want. On the author side, Drive Thru allows authors to get paid through PayPal, which is fantastic.

Kobo launched their self-publishing platform in June of 2012 and they have some amazing tools for authors. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of those tools, but those, combined with the international presence of Kobo and their great reading apps for almost any device, make kobo an exciting platform to be publishing on right now. Kobo pays authors electronically through direct deposit, so that’s great, too.

And of course, the Amazon Kindle platform has a ginormous install base, and a thriving marketplace. Being on the Kindle Store doesn't mean people will actually buy my book, but it certainly provides the opportunity to get plenty of eyes on it. On the downside, Amazon still pays by check, but since they’re leading the pack in terms of digital book sales, it’s a trade off most authors are willing to accept.

Self-publishing can be kind of an overwhelming process, especially because of all the different marketplaces out there. But it’s also really exciting to see how different platforms work with authors, how they pay them, and how they distinguish themselves in the marketplace. For me, the goal of my first book is really to get my name out there. I don’t have delusions of being the next big thing on the self-publishing scene. This is all a learning process for me, and the lessons I’m getting now are going to inform how I approach the next project.

But back to you, the reader for a moment. You can now get Courting the King in Yellow at the following links:

Drive Thru Fiction

Amazon Kindle Store

Kobo eBook Store

You can also just click on the icons in the right sidebar of this page to head to each of the sites!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Abandoning My Book

A quote that has been attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, and adapted by various other creatives over the years, is one of the truest things I’ve ever read:

"Art is never finished, only abandoned."

Here’s the thing--when you release a book into the wild, it’s not because that book is the most perfect version of your story that it can be. It’s the version of your story that you are willing to put out there, like the baby bird being pushed from the nest.

About a month ago, I released the digital versions of my first novel, Courting the King in Yellow. Throughout the final editing process, I had used beta readers to get story feedback, catch mistakes, etc. So the book that was released in late October was the version I was willing to push out of the nest, especially since I wanted to have it out there before Halloween (the story takes place around that holiday).

Over the past month, I’ve been finalizing the print version of the book, which consists of formatting, tweaking, and reviewing actual print proofs. During that time, I’ve caught things here and there that I needed to fix (sneaky typos, some wording issues here and there), and I’ve noticed other things that I would change if I were to do it all over again.

This process has reinforced a lesson I have known throughout my time as a writer--it’s never done. Every time you get under the hood of something you’ve written--a short story, a comic script, a novel (or even this blog post), you find something to tinker with. From big things like the way a scene plays out, to smaller things like a line of dialogue, the structure of a particular sentence, or that one small typo that you find after you swear you had fixed them all--it’s never done. You just have to get to the point that you are at peace with the creation you’ve put out there, whatever flaws it may have.

The print version of Courting the King in Yellow should be finalized by mid-December, and that version is the best version of my book that I am at peace with releasing into the wild. That will be an important day, as it’s really the last piece of being able to focus more on marketing the book, and moving on to my next project.

As exciting as it is to finally share my book with anyone who wants to read it, there is a part of the process that is also excruciating. Because let’s be clear--Courting the King in Yellow will never be truly finished. Right now, as I write this post, that story continues to live in my head. If I were to sit you down and tell it to you today, what you heard would be different than what you will read in the book. And there’s something kind of cool about that.

A story is a constantly changing, evolving creature. When you read a book, you’re basically getting a snapshot of what that story was at the point in time the author decided to abandon it. Because if he or she didn’t abandon it--if the creator kept toiling away until it was perfect--that creation would never be seen by another living soul.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gaming + The Internet = Sadness (Part 3)--We're Driving Developers Away from AAA

It’s fitting that in my blathering about how sad the internet makes me about games, I’ve left the developers for last. Because they are the lifeblood of the gaming industry, and we are killing them. Developers of big-budget games for console and PC are leaving to work on smaller games, and not just because of the reduced financial risk.

So, let’s start again by assuming we all like games, which is why we play them, as well as read and talk about them so much. And yet, we treat most developers like Gordon Ramsey treats chefs on Hell’s Kitchen. With disdain, condescension and impossible expectations.

When I say developers, I mean everyone working on a game. The writers, artists, programmers, etc. These people spend years of their lives working ridiculous hours to craft an experience that we can immerse ourselves in for hours and hours.

For many of them, their games will not even be covered by mainstream gaming outlets. Worse still, they may get a dismissive mention in a “new releases” article, or a gaming website’s podcast, implying that they are not worth a gamer’s time. If they do get covered (which usually means they are a bigger budget title), they still have big hurdles to clear to be successful.

First, they must hope that their game scores an 8 out of 10 or higher, or most gamers will assume the game is not worth their money. If the game scores lower than a 7, it’s pretty much considered garbage, and word of mouth about what a failure it is will spread across the internet like wildfire. Not much room for error there. Even if the reviews are good, the developer must hope that none of the negatives in any of the reviews become a hot button issue for gamers, or once again, the internet wildfires will rage.

From a publisher standpoint, the industry has become a nuclear arms race of annually updated franchises, which forces developers to churn out slightly different flavors of the same thing every year, with little room to stray from the formula. You can’t blame the publishers, because we are the ones buying the same games every year. There is little room for innovation or new IP, and when something new does come along (like Kingdoms of Amalur, Dragon’s Dogma or Gravity Rush), much of the gaming press and many gamers will assume it’s not worth their time until proven otherwise. There is no level playing field for new ideas--it’s an uphill battle all the way. Unless the games press really gets behind a game before it releases (like with Dishonored), there’s a good chance the game will be dead on arrival, and all the positive reviews in the world can’t help it.

Not only has the current state of console and PC gaming brought about the closure of many game studios, but it’s also created an exodus into the mobile, casual and free-to-play gaming arenas.

On the mobile side, developers are more free to take risks on smaller projects, and they are creating for an enthusiastic audience that has reasonable expectations. Not to mention, there’s money to made, as the combination of lower development costs and huge install bases create the potential for big gains. In July, well-known PC and console developer Epic Games announced that their iOS game Infinity Blade was their most profitable game ever. Ever. Not Unreal. Not Gears of War. A mobile game.

Both the PC and mobile platforms have also proven to be fertile ground for the free-to play model. Mobile devices are littered with free games that are either supported by micro-transactions  or offer a premium version for a price. On the PC side, free-to-play MMOs are proving very successful, and are one way for developers to deal with the piracy issue that has plagued PC for years.

So in my mind the question is this: If the games press and gamers themselves have made developing big games for console and PC a losing proposition, why would developers keep doing it? I don’t think many will, and I think the next three years will see an even bigger migration away from big console and PC development, while the mobile and free-to-play markets continue to grow.

The sad thing is, we as gamers have brought this upon ourselves. We’ve created two categories for games today. Either a game is awesome and everyone needs to buy and play it, or it is awful and doesn’t deserve to be played at all. Everything is between is getting squeezed out.

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting about some of the overlooked games of the past few years that I’ve had a lot of fun with. Games like Legendary: The Box, Velvet Assassin, Raven Squad, Dead Island, The Saboteur and Binary Domain, to name a handful.

Monday, November 26, 2012

CTKIY Cyber Monday Sale!

If you haven't picked up the digital version of my book Courting the King in Yellow yet, now is the time!

From 4PM EST until 9PM EST tonight, you can get the PDF, ePub (Nook) and Mobi (Kindle) versions of Courting the King in Yellow for $2.99! That's 40% off the launch price. You get all three versions for the same three bucks, so you can read the book on whatever device you want!

Click here to grab it before the price goes back up to a whopping five bucks!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


The print proof of my book, Courting the King in Yellow, arrived the other day. It was weird to actually hold in my hands a tangible copy of this thing I’d been working on and thinking about so much. But, it was a feeling I’d had once before, in early 2008.

In the picture to the right, you can see CtKiY sitting next to a book called Verisimilitude. That is actually the first draft of Courting the King in Yellow, in a much rougher format, and under a working title. At the time, CreateSpace had offered a free proof of your NaNoWrimo novel to anyone who finished the 50K-word challenge. So, I loaded up my unedited draft, and sent away for my free copy.

Which has sat on my shelf, staring at me every day since the moment I received it.

Getting the proof of CtKiY was a big moment for me, as it drove home the fact that I’ve actually brought the project to fruition after so long a time. It didn’t matter that there were still some things I needed to revise before the final print version would be ready. I had taken the ball of clay that was Verisimilitude in 2007, and molded it into Courting the King in Yellow. I’m very proud of that fact.

For those of you that enjoy insight into the process (like I do), here’s the few things that i needed to change from the first print proof:

1. I didn’t like the way the title of the book looked on the top of each page. I found it distracting, so i removed it. For some reason, I did not find this as distracting in the PDF or ebook versions. The print version looks cleaner now.

2. I had to adjust the page numbering so it appeared properly on each page. For the electronic versions, it’s fine to have page numbers appear in the bottom left corner, but I forgot to center them for the print version.

3. My picture in the “About the Author” blurb printed out poorly, so it’s gone. In the print version, there will be only text now.

That was pretty much it, which made it a little annoying to have to send things back to the printer before I can sell it. But, these things would have bothered me if I let them go. I am currently waiting for the revised proof to arrive in the next several days, and the print version could be available for purchase by December, just in time to scare the pants off someone for Christmas. It will make a great stocking stuffer!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Spoiler-Free Review--Amazing Spider-Man #698

There are no spoilers in this review, and shame on anyone who spoils this issue for someone else.

As I wrote this, Amazing Spider-Man #698 was being released, and readers were finally getting a chance to see what all the hype was about. I waited until a day after the issue came out to post this, because if you picked it up, I didn’t even want to influence your feelings about it.

But I need to talk about it, because man, it’s huge. And I loved it.

I cannot remember having butterflies before reading an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and that includes the big twist in One More Day (which, whether you loved or hated it, was pretty darn big). I wasn’t scared, mind you--it was nervous excitement. Because for me, Dan Slott has written the characters of Peter Parker and Spider-Man better than anyone who came before him, even his creators. You may think I’m crazy, and that’s your opinion. But for me, Dan Slott is the definitive Spider-Man writer.

So I wasn’t nervous about what might happen to who in the issue, I just wanted Slott to nail it from a story standpoint. And boy, did he.

When that certain moment in the story happened, I gasped. And then I reread it. And then I said “Holy crap.” And then I reread the whole issue. And then I said “Holy crap” again.

This moment in the history of Amazing Spider-Man was earned. It wasn’t some cheap twist that didn’t make sense. Sure, there are many questions to be answered in the wake of what happened, but the who and the why is a story that’s been building for over three years and 100 issues. Actually, it’s been building for Peter Parker’s entire life as Spider-Man. But Dan Slott brought it all together, and it’s a thing of beauty.

There are so many issues I want to go back and read now. There are so many questions I want to ask Dan Slott (when he comes out of hiding, that is). And I could not be more excited about what Superior Spider-Man will bring.

In the larger scheme of things, we all know that many stories don’t stick--that many changes aren’t lasting. And that’s even truer for the flagship characters like Spider-Man. But I would love to see this one stick. And if it doesn’t, I hope Marvel at least gives Slott time to explore the new landscape he’s created, because the story possibilities are endless.

With ASM #698, Slott cemented his run as the best ever in my book. And I thank him for making the last few years the most fun I’ve ever had reading about the superhero I grew up with.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gaming + The Internet = Sadness (Part 2)--It's Not the Gaming Press, It's You

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my favorite hobby, and how my enjoyment of gaming has been affected by all the negativity I see, hear and read from fellow gamers. Yesterday I wrote about the puzzling reaction of many gamers and some of the gaming press to the launch of the Wii U. This time around, I'd like to focus on the gaming press, and the love/hate relationship that gamers seem to have with it.

The most fascinating thing to me about the relationship between gamers and the gaming press is how twisted and abusive it is. It reminds me of people who listen to Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern everyday, but profess to hate them. When Polygon launched their goofy documentary back in August, Twitter melted as everyone pointed and laughed. But how many of those people now read Polygon's news and game reviews regularly? Same with IGN and their recent revamp of their review scale. According to the internet, it was the worst thing ever. But darned if their ZombiU review doesn’t have almost 3000 comments on it right now (and it’s been up less than 48 hours). And apparently Twitter is now a private investigation firm that constantly monitors the mainstream gaming press for any ethics violations or issues of perceived lapses journalistic integrity.

Here’s the crazy thing--many of the people spending time writing about what’s wrong with the games media, be it on Twitter, their blog, or whatever--WANT TO BE A PART OF THE GAMES MEDIA. On one level that makes sense, as who wouldn’t want to write about a hobby they love and make a living at it? But it’s almost as if these people think that either (a) it’s really easy, or (b) they would be so much better at it than the people doing it now. And so, they spend their time telling anyone who will listen about how all of the gaming press sucks.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as "games journalism." It’s crazy to me why people expect a gaming website or magazine to behave like CNN. At best, gaming media is enthusiast press, a group of people who enjoy games and get to write about them for money. Yet people treat things like one website's slanted take on Hitman: Absolution as if it's the Petraeus affair scandal. It’s not a secret--gaming press outlets have to maintain a delicate relationship with publishers and developers in order to get continued access to information. Gaming websites and magazines feature advertisements for games--that means part of their revenue comes from the same entities they are “reporting” on. If that seems like a conflict, it’s because it actually is a conflict.

If a gaming press outlet wanted to remove any possible appearance of a conflict of interest, then they would feature no gaming ads, and only discuss the retail versions of games after they had purchased them. No early access, no previews, no free copies of games. That will never happen, as gamers have proven to be very hungry for the aforementioned content. They want their reviews before the games comes out. They want interviews and early access. And their pageviews fuel the ad revenue that gaming websites need. Gaming press is part of the PR process for publishers, and that is not going to change anytime in the near future. But that doesn't mean that reviewers can't write honest reviews, or sites can't maintain a sense of integrity about how they cover games.

If there was one thing I would change about how the gaming press covers games, it would be this--get rid of reviews altogether. Most gamers only read them to validate the opinions they already hold, and non-gaming consumers (i.e. grandma buying a game for her grandkid for Christmas) don't read gaming sites anyway. Instead, focus on developer interviews, previews and a larger discussion of people's experiences with different games.

I guess what I’m saying is that sure, there are a lot of things that could be done differently in the way enthusiast press outlets cover games. But gamers themselves are as much a part of the problem as the press is. Gaming press outlets spend way too much time responding to angry gamers about everything from review scores to which console a certain site is biased toward, to conspiracy theories about bribes and a laundry list of other nonsense. Imagine if they could put that energy into talking about games instead of defending themselves from their own audience all the time.

Want to know how you as a consumer of gaming media can help change things? Here are a few suggestions:

-Stop berating reviewers because they game your new favorite game less than a 9.

-Actually read people’s reviews and not just the scores at the end of them.

-Stop looking for controversy in every tweet, post, review or article. You’re sucking the life out of the people who write them.

-Stop acting like any game that gets less than a 7 isn’t worth anyone’s time or money.

-Talk about things you like on the internet, instead of what sucks.

-Read features on gaming websites. They are what the writers would like to focus on more, but because you don’t read them, they have to write top 10 lists instead (because they get more clicks).

-Find outlets that you like, and promote them instead of crapping on the ones you don’t. And stop reading the ones you don’t like. You’re actually keeping them in business by going there every day.

-Start your own blog and write about the aspects of gaming you love (see Co-Op Critics). It may never result in a paying gig, but at least you’re putting your energy into celebrating your hobby, as opposed to bringing about the demise of it.

So to recap  all of my meandering babble is just a very long-winded way of saying that we should focus on the positive. We're talking about games, man. Games. Things we like.

And to leave you on a positive note, here's three awesome things about games today:

1.  PlayStation Plus comes to Vita tonight (11/20), and subscribers get access to six awesome games, including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048 and Gravity Rush. Awesome, right?

2. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is out for the 3DS this week, and it's a throwback to the great SEGA Genesis Disney platformers.

3. My favorite gaming site, 1UP, is running a great cover story this week about why they love games. It's a joy to read. Check it out here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gaming + The Internet = Sadness (Part 1)--It's Okay to Like the WiiU

Remember when the gaming hobby was fun?

I know, I almost can’t either. Maybe it’s because everywhere I turn on the internet, it seems like all anyone wants to talk about is how awful every aspect of gaming is. From the vitriolic ranting of entitled “hardcore” gamers, to the PR-driven gaming media, to the embattled developers who are constantly under siege by both, it feels like the hobby is being sucked into a black hole of negativity that threatens to destroy it.

I know, I’m probably overreacting. But seriously, man. It’s depressing.

Nintendo launched a new console this week, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think they rolled up on most gamers’ houses in the middle of the night and the threw a brick through their front window. The gaming press has also delighted in pointing out the “faults” of the WiiU, seemingly hellbent on getting revenge for being “duped” by the original Wii. And by duped, I mean that the console that gave us some amazing first-party games, provided a gaming experience that whole families could enjoy together, and has sold 100 million units somehow wasn’t “hardcore” enough for cool kids that were expecting something different than what they got. People are actually rooting for the WiiU to fail, and it’s kind of gross.

I’m not getting a WiiU at launch, but only because I can’t afford it right now. I can’t wait to play ZombiU and New Super Mario Bros. U. My kids will love NintendoLand (and so will I). I’m secretly hoping my wife gets me one for Christmas. She won’t, but I’ll find a way to get one sometime in the New Year.

And if you’re a gamer who’s not interested in the WiiU, that’s cool. But it’s okay for other people to be excited about it, and you shouting from the internet mountaintop about how much you don’t care about the WiiU is kind of weird. I don’t care about the Twilight movies, but this is the first time I’ve ever typed “Twilight movies,” because the people that do like them are doing just fine without knowing how I feel.

I started writing about the games press for this post as well, but I went on forever, so that will be in the next post. In the meantime, everybody go like something, for crying out loud.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I actually have a bunch of things going on right now in terms of writing projects, so I figured I’d do some quick updates this week:

Courting the King in Yellow
As I write this, I am waiting for the proof print copy to arrive on my doorstep. Once I make sure everything printed the way it was supposed to, I will be turning on the print option of my Drive Thru Fiction page, and folks will be able to get the ebook, the print version, or both (at a discounted price). At this time, I think the print version of courting the King in Yellow will debut for a limited time at a $9.99 price point (down from the $14.99 regular price). You’ll be able to grab the print and digital versions for $11.99 ($2 off the regular digital price).

I’m also considering doing a series of short podcasts that would serve as a writer’s commentary on the book. I would record a 5 or 10-minute segment on each chapter, discussing what was going on, my approach to that chapter, what changed from draft to final copy, and so on. The episodes would be free. 

I’ve also thought about creating a few more music tracks to form a soundtrack for the book. I had a lot of fun making the music for the trailer in GarageBand, and I have a few more ideas.

Secret Identity Anthology Project
A handful of members of the Secret Identity community are putting together an anthology magazine in the style of the old pulp magazines. I’ll be writing a short story for the project, which will involve one of the bit players from Courting the King in Yellow. The theme for the magazine will be “tales of vengeance,” and it will feature comics and short fiction. The plan right now is to put the magazine out in the Spring.

Mo Stache
The webcomic I’ve been writing for the past two-plus years in now in its final chapter (all of which you can read at The artist John Cordis and I are wrapping up the rest of the script, and we will continue to post pages on a weekly to bi-weekly basis until the story is done. Our plan is to collect the finished comic in print sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.

Co-Op Critics
I am very happy that the gaming blog I started over a year ago has really blossomed over the past several months. Co-Op Critics ( originally began as a small blog for my friend Dan Evans and I to elaborate on the gaming-centric episodes of Secret Identity that we were doing. But, we couldn’t record often enough and the two of us weren’t updating the blog on a regular basis. So, early this past summer, I enlisted the help of a few of our regular gaming crew to contribute to the blog, and it’s become something pretty awesome. In addition to regular posts by me, my buds Kim Wong, Dave Fetterman, Dan Evans and Erik Halston are contributing as well. Right now, kim has a great series of posts going about some of his best gaming memories, and I just started a series about jumping into the free-to-play version of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Check it out if you enjoy discussions on our experiences with games.

Book #2 (??)
I already have the first draft of my second novel written. The book will be the start of a new series, and it won’t be directly related to Courting the King in Yellow (although there may be a shared universe between the two). I will be talking much more about the project next year, and I may even get beta reading going at the start of the New Year. I am very excited about the project, particularly the main character, who I’ve been developing for years in my head and in a ton of notes. I even wrote the first script for a comic series back in 2008 that evolved into a good portion of the novel when I wrote it last year.

Last but not least, I continue to write over at Secret Identity, as Matt and I update the site daily in addition to putting out two episodes of the Secret Identity podcast each week.

So, I’ve got lots of fun stuff going on, and I won’t be slowing down anytime soon. More to come!

Friday, November 9, 2012

CTKIY Update--I Put Out My First Patch Today

So today I put out the first update for the digital versions of Courting the King in Yellow. The update is really nothing major--fixed a few typos here and there, tweaked the formatting just a bit on the ePub and MOBI versions--but what’s cool about publishing digitally is it’s really easy to update files and then make them available instantaneously.

Being a lifelong gamer, I’m very used to the idea of developers patching their games. In fact, I would say one out of every five times I put a disc in my XBox 360, there’s a title update on whatever game I happen to be playing. On rare occasions though, the patch may fix some things about a game and actually break others, causing more harm than good. Each time you dive back into those digital files, you could screw something up.

Which was the anxiety I was feeling as I finalized the updates for today’s book files. The last thing I want to do is fix a couple typos and then format the book wrong and have it be unreadable on some devices. And the whole ePub thing is very dicey to begin with. While ePub is a widely used eBook format, different eReaders deal the the same file in different ways. I run every ePub file through MagicScroll (a Chrome eReader pugin), Stanza (iOS) and Bluefire Reader (iOS and Android), and they all display the book differently. MagicScroll plays the best with the file, while Bluefire comes in second (some formatting issues with the front matter and some blank pages between chapters) and Stanza is a distant third (reformats much of the book). Now, the book is still very readable on Stanza, but those examples underscore the idea that no matter how good the ePub file is, a lot of how it looks to the reader will depend on the app they're using.

For the record, the MOBI format that Kindle uses seems a lot more stable to me, and the only formatting issue I’ve had with it is that it removes bold font (thankfully, I only used it for a few newspaper headlines in the book).

I have to say, for digital versions, the PDF file is the one that retains the look and formatting of print the best. It’s the format I would recommend reading the book in. But, it’s important to have options. My point is, I don’t take the updates lightly, and I won’t be doing them on a regular basis. If there is a glaring error or something that affects the book on a large scale, I’ll update it. But right now, the latest version I put up today is also the one that’s going to the printer, and I should be getting a proof to review in the next couple of week. The print version will be available before Christmas, for anyone that wants to stuff a loved one’s stocking with the gift of horror.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Creating the Trailer for COURTING THE KING IN YELLOW

A few posts ago, I talked about the fantastic cover the Jeff Rodgers designed for my book, Courting the King in Yellow. I recently used that cover and a couple of other tools to put together a short trailer for the book, which you can view in the player below:


It was actually pretty simple to put the trailer together. First, I used the GarageBand app on the iPad to create some theme music. I was going for a John Carpenter-esque synthesized feel, and I think it came out pretty great. I exported the music to iTunes, and then converted the file to mp3.

Once I had my theme music, and I had sliced up the cover image into a few different pieces, I went to and used their free presentation-making tool to put it all together. The free version of Animoto allows you to make up to 30-second presentations. You upload your photos and music, pick a theme, and Animoto does the rest for you. It’s really kind of amazing. If you’re looking for longer presentations and a larger choice of themes, you can subscribe to different levels of features.

For this trailer though, the free version of Animoto worked perfectly. With that tool, a little music created in GarageBand, and a sweet cover, I made a creepy trailer for my book that could get some more folks to check it out.

If you dug the little clip of music in the trailer, you can download to a longer version here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

'Courting the King in Yellow' is Now Available at Drive Thru Fiction!


Courting the King in Yellow is now available on Drive Thru Fiction! A Halloween horror story involving elder beings, cultists and shady corporations, Courting the King in Yellow is my homage to the horror stories and movies I grew up with. Robert W. Chambers, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker and John Carpenter are all influences that horror fans will see in this tale of terror.

Courting the King in Yellow is available in multiple formats--PDF, Epub (for Nook and most other eReaders) and Mobi (Kindle). When you buy the book, you get all three formats, so you can read it on whatever device you'd like. You can also check out a free preview on the product page as well.

Best of all, Courting the King in Yellow is only $4.99 for a limited time right now!

You can get it right here!

To whet your appetite, here's the back cover copy:

When Melotte Pharmaceutical moved into the struggling city of Springfield, residents saw it as a godsend. But while the city’s fortunes appear to be turning around, something sinister is brewing within its homeless population. 

Four newfound friends stumble onto a horrific plan for the city, and their lives will never be the same again. Because on Halloween night, a new horror will be coming to Springfield, and they are the only ones who can stop it.

And here's a quick teaser trailer I made for the book:

Hope you enjoy the book, and thanks for the support!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


The importance of a book's cover can not be overstated, especially when it comes to the horror genre. I've picked up books based on cover alone--in fact, the earliest Clive Barker, Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels I started reading as a kid were because of their covers. Here's just a few examples:

 Clive Barker's Weaveworld:

Stephen King's Night Shift:

Dean Koontz's The Face of Fear:

Awesome, right? So anyway, I knew I needed to have a cool cover for Courting the King in Yellow. I enlisted the help of my pal and lbobi Radio co-host, Jeff Rodgers. not only is Jeff a wonderful photographer, he's also a great designer. I threw some ideas at Jeff, as well as the design I had for the Yellow Sign:

The first few ideas I had were too busy, and as we went back and forth, we decided on something simple, but iconic. Without further ado, here is the cover for Courting the King in Yellow:

I hope you dig it, because I love it!

Friday, October 26, 2012


This week, my first novel will finally see the light of day, via Drive Thru fiction. The book is called called Courting the King in Yellow, and it's a labor of love that's been in the works for quite some time.

The first draft of the story came about through NaNoWriMo 2007. I had wanted to write a Lovecraftian horror story for some time, and had been kicking around a few ideas. Ironically, it was Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow that ended up serving as the inspiration for what I would go on to write.

With only a vague outline, I dove into NaNoWriMo. Almost immediately, the story took on a life of its own, and went in directions I hadn't anticipated. What began as Gothic horror evolved into a hybrid of that genre, sci-fi and occult horror. The story was a blast to write, and reminded me of the stories and movies I loved growing up. Once it was done, I had a rough proof copy printed, with the intention of publishing the book soon afterward.

That never happened though, as I ended up getting freelance work covering video games for Comic Book Resources, which sent me down a completely different path for a couple of years. Last year, I took the NaNoWriMo challenge again, and wrote another story, this one much more grounded in Lovecraftian horror.

But I still had the unpolished draft of my 2007 NaNo novel sitting on my shelf. So, I decided to go back to it, and the result is Courting the King in Yellow.

I am hoping to have to book available digitally within the next week, as it's a Halloween tale, and this is the time of year for horror. For now, I'll leave you with the official back cover copy for the book:

When Melotte Pharmaceutical moved into the struggling city of Springfield, residents saw it as a godsend. 

But while the city’s fortunes appear to be turning around, something sinister is brewing within its homeless population. Four newfound friends stumble onto a horrific plan for the city, and their lives will never be the same again. 

Because on Halloween night, a new horror will be coming to Springfield, and they are the only ones who can stop it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Google's Newest Chromebook Finally Gets Price Right

I love gadgets, and I love Google. So when Google got set to launch their Chromebook laptop back in 2011, I was super excited. I even tried to get into the beta-testing of the Cr-48 prototype model, which Google was sending to random interested parties, but unfortunately never got to get my hands on one. And prior to the announcement of the price point, it was looking like Google might launch a $199 laptop that ran on the Chrome OS and was built around cloud computing.

All my excitement dissipated when the first Chromebooks were released at a price of just over $400 for the WiFi version and a whopping $500 for the 3G version. I wasn’t the only one--the Chromebook was pretty much dead on arrival. Earlier this year, a second generation of Chromebooks were released, which had slightly better specs, but were actually more expensive than the first generation. Things were moving in the wrong direction.

Until now.

This week, Google unveiled the third generation of Chromebooks, and the latest version has a lot more potential to gain some traction that either of the previous ones. The reason? It has a price point of $250.

The new $250 Chromebook will feature an 11.6” screen, a 16GB solid state drive, 2GB of Ram and an ARM processor. It also comes with 100GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years.

While I think $199 would be the magic price point for this device, I think $250 is still really solid. My biggest question is how much work I’d be able to get done with the Chromebook when I’m not online. It appears that editing docs, watching downloaded movies and playing games will all be possible offline, but I want to see more info on that functionality before I go ahead and commit to spending $250.

Still, I could easily see myself picking one of these up as my primary writing machine that I can take wherever I go. I don’t need anything elaborate, but I’d prefer a laptop over my current iPad/bluetooth keyboard mobile setup.

Bottom line--I think this third-gen Chromebook is the one to finally get excited about. If you want to find out more about it, and grab one for yourself, you can head over to Google’s page here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

NYCC 2012 Was a Blast

Well, Matt and I are finally home after the four-day odyssey that was New York Comic Con 2012. To say that this was a successful show would be an understatement, as we conducted over 40 interviews with creators, publishers, developers and business owners over the course of the show.

This year's interviews were a mix of familiar and new and while you'll hear the full list in the near future, here are a few of the folks we spoke with:

Scott Snyder
Jeff Lemire
Joe Caramagna
Chris Giarrusso
Jason May
Jamal Igle
Tim Seeley

...and many more.

We have a lot of people to thank, starting with ReedPop for allowing us to cover the show for another year. NYCC gets bigger every year, and really appreciate the folks at ReedPop supporting us again this year. We also want to thank Vin Ferrante and his lovely wife Lisa, for putting us up as well as giving us space at the Monarch Comics booth all weekend--they are the best.

Finally, thanks to all of you who listen to the show every week, as we would never be able to do shows like NYCC without your support. We had a blast hanging out with a lot of good friends and talking to a lot of great creators. We look forward to sharing our expereince at the show with you over the next several months. And we can't wait to do it all again next year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's New York Comic Con Time!

Tomorrow morning, Matt and I are heading down to Norwalk, CT to pick up our good friend Vin Ferrante (creator of Witch Hunter) and then it's on to NYC and the Javits! We'll be helping Vin set up and get ready for the start of NYCC 2012 on Thursday. Then it will be four days of doing interviews, checking out everything and catching up with friends.

My plan is to update my Google Plus page with pics from the show, provided I can get cell reception there. That's probably the best place to check for updates about who we're talking to, what we've seen, etc.

Of course, you could just wait until we get back, as we'll be talking about the show on Secret Identity for weeks to come.

If you're at the show, stop by the Monarch Comics booth (#913), as we'll be checking in there often. We'd love to see you!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chargers Undone by Refs in Saints Win

Last night the San Diego Chargers stepped into the Superdome with the deck stacked against them. The underachieving New Orleans Saints were desperate for a win. The game was on national television in prime time. And QB Drew Brees was one touchdown away from breaking Johnny Unitas' streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The occasion was so special for Brees, that he petitioned the NFL and was granted the opportunity for his suspended coach Sean Payton to attend the game to watch the streak be broken.

Every football analyst in America, as well as commentators Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, had written the storyline before the game was even played. Brees would lead his team to victory, and break the streak in the process.

And when the San Diego Chargers refused to cooperate with that storyline in the final minutes of the game, the NFL referees stepped in and made sure the storyline would be kept intact, with a series of highly questionable calls that cost the Chargers the opportunity to tie the game on their final drive.

The most egregious of the calls was an offensive pass interference call against San Diego TE Antonio Gates, that negated a 28-yard gain and would have had the Chargers on the saints 24 yard line with just under two minutes left. That was followed by a phantom holding call that negated a 23-yard completion to WR Malcolm Floyd. In the span of a few plays, the Chargers had gone from being near the Saint 20 yard line to being inside their own 30. Precious time had bled off the clock, and while Rivers eventually got the Chargers back into Saint territory, the momentum had been lost. The game ended on a sack of Rivers and a fumble.

Granted, the Chargers never should have been in that situation in the first place. Their offense was great all night, but the defense fell apart in the second half, allowing the Saints to catch up and eventually take the lead. But the way the refs took away San Diego's chance to even things up at the end was shameful. It just felt like there was an ending to the game that was predetermined, and no one was going to allow the Chargers to change that.

I'm a Saints fan, and a huge Drew Brees fan (he's a former Charger, after all), but the way last night's game ended was just plain sad.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons Are Awesome Again

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Saturday mornings might be back!

When I was a kid in the late 70s and early 80s, I would get up at about 6:30AM and watch an amazing lineup of cartoons until about noon. Every single Saturday. Everything from the Super Friends, to Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, to Honk Kong Phooey--the list of awesome cartoons was endless. Saturday mornings were actually considered an important time block for TV, and there were even prime time specials at on the major networks each year previewing their upcoming fall cartoon lineups. It was amazing.

When I had kids and they were old enough to enjoy Saturday morning cartoons, the Saturday morning I knew didn't even exist anymore. No dedicated time blocks, and most of the shows were garbage.

But slowly, over the past few years, Saturday morning cartoons have started to make a comeback. And right now, there is a block of cartoons on Saturdays that are fantastic. Check out this lineup:

9AM: Ben 10: Omniverse (Cartoon Network)
9:30AM: Star Wars: Clone Wars (Cartoon Network)
10:00AM: Green Lantern: the Animated Series (Cartoon Network)
10:30AM: Young Justice (Cartoon Network)
11:00AM: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon)

That's a solid 2.5 hour block of cartoons between Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Granted, it's not the six-hour marathon of my childhood, but at least me kids can now get an idea of what Saturday morning should be about--a big bowl of cereal and a lot of cartoons.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

MO STACHE--The Final Chapter Begins!

The final chapter of Mo Stache has begun! When artist John Cordis and I started this comic in September of 2010, we had no idea where we would end up. We weren't even sure we'd really get it off the ground, as he was drawing week to week, and I had only scripted the first thirty pages of the story that will eventually span well over a hundred.

But here we are, and as we charge into the final chapter of Mo Stache, we can't wait to share the rest of the story with everyone. What began as a small story of a man and his alien mustache has led to an epic adventure involving a full-scale invasion of the planet. Chapter Four opens with Dave having to explain what's going on to his boss AJ, as the streets of Springfield are under siege.

From now until the end of our tale, it's pretty much non-stop action. If you haven't checked out Mo Stache as of yet, you can catch up on the whole story so far for free at The latest page goes up tomorrow, and I think it’s one of John’s best to date (the pic at the right is a little teaser from it). 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The New Nook Color HD+ Could Be Great

Being the gadget addict that I am, I bought a Nook Color when it launched in October of 2010. I really like the form factor of the device, as well as the ability to add more storage via microSD card. The microSD card slot also opened the Nook Color up for hacking, and it wasn't long before I had upgraded the default Android 2.2 operating system to 2.3 (Gingerbread). While the device didn't end up being as versatile as I had hoped, and the app selection was pretty sparse, I got plenty of use out of it for a while. I eventually picked up a Dell Streak 7 at a big discount, and gave the Nook color to my wife. She still uses the Nook Color to this day, and really enjoys it.

After my Dell Streak 7 (which was another decent tablet), I ended up getting an Amazon Kindle Fire when it launched, and that's been my go-to 7" tablet since. I use Amazon quite a bit, and I'm a Prime member, so the instant videos and eBook lending library have provided me with plenty of content over the last year.

The Google Nexus has recently disrupted the 7" tablet market in a big way, as the Jelly Bean operating system is really slick, and consumers don't have to worry about third-party interfaces mucking up their Google experience. If I was buying a 7" tablet right now, it would definitely be the Google Nexus 7.

Recently however, both Amazon and Barnes & noble announced new 9" tablets that are substantial upgrades from their 7" counterparts. Both are at a size that draws more direct comparisons to the iPad, and both are substantially cheaper ($299 for Kindle Fire HD and $269 for Nook HD+). Unlike the Kindle Fire HD, the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad however, the Nook HD+ will have a microSD card slot, and that's what makes it interesting to me.

As I mentioned before the microSD card opens the device up for hacking, which offers a world of possibilities. Rather than being at the mercy of Barnes & Noble for software updates, once that device is hacked, users can keep Nook Color HD+ running the latest version of Android, as well as apps outside of the B&N ecosystem.

So potentially, for $269 you can grab a very customizable Android tablet with an HD display and an HDMI out this holiday season. Not too shabby.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NHL Poised to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

I cannot believe I am sitting here today talking about an NHL lockout.

There have been four work stoppages in the NHL since 1992. Three lockouts. The entire 2004-2005 season was lost because of the last lockout. Yet here we are again, a mere eight years later, with another lockout. Because of greedy, selfish millionaires who are so short-sighted that they don't realize this could mean the death of the game in America.

Do they not remember last time? Hockey was on life support in terms of public awareness and interest coming out of the last lockout. The sport has really just gotten back into the spotlight after the last couple of years, as the last two Stanley Cup Playoff series have been amazing. From a fan standpoint, the game was finally healthy again.

And they're getting ready to throw that progress away again. But the worst part isn't that I, as a fan, won't get to watch hockey if we lose this season. The worst part is that once you look past the spoiled millionaires who are the face of this labor dispute, you realize there are thousands of people whose livelihoods are affected by a lockout. From the team personnel to the concession vendors at the arenas, people are going to lose jobs because of this lockout. In a USA Today article I read this morning, it seems the Canucks and Flames have already informed their team employees that pay cuts are coming.

If anyone is wondering why hockey still lags behind Basketball, football and baseball in terms of American mind share, look no further. The NHL has missed more games due to work stoppage in the last twenty years than any other professional sport. It's hard to grow and maintain your fan base when you can't even get a product out on the ice.

I sincerely hope the posturing between both sides ends before regular season games start getting cancelled, but I'm not overly optimistic. Maybe the players and owners should have to sit at center ice in front of all the people who will be losing their jobs and explain why they can't get a deal done.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adventures in Computing--It's Getting Hot in Here

I have a Dell Inspiron 1420 laptop that I paid way too much for back in 2008. It was my second ever laptop purchase at the time, so I took the base model (which was reasonably priced), and added extra ram, a better processor, and a Nvidia GeForce graphics card so that I could play games and do audio and video editing with it.

Over the past four years, the laptop has served me pretty well. I use it to record and edit Secret Identity every week, and I’ve dragged it all over the place, taking it everywhere from on vacation to New york Comic Con. In hindsight, the configuration I bought wasn’t even that good for games however, and I should have just stuck with the base model. But overall, it’s been pretty reliable.

Except for one thing.

About a year ago, I booted up my laptop to find the display had gone completely screwy. The screen seemed to be split into, there were lines and boxes running through the display, and I couldn’t even see enough to get into the BIOS menu or the diagnostics. After doing some research online, I eventually figured out that I had recently updated the drivers in the Nvidia card, and I figured that was the problem. I kept rebooting until I had a display I could read through at all, then navigated to the device manager and rolled back the driver update. The problem seemed to be fixed.

This past week, the same thing happened again, except the display was worse than before. I tried rebooting a bunch of times over a couple of days, and finally got a decipherable display. I went into the device manager and turned off the Nvidia card completely, and my display seemed to go back to normal. Knowing I had just dodged a bullet, and sensing I didn’t have a lot of time left with this laptop, I ordered a new one (more on that in a moment). But it was driving me crazy, being paranoid that at any time I wouldn’t be able to use my laptop at all.

I dug around a lot more on the internet and found something very interesting--I was not alone. in fact, it seems that between 2007 and 2008, a lot of people had the same problem I was describing, not just with their Dells, but with HPs and Apple laptops as well. As it turns out, Nvidia put out a lot of faulty GeForce chips, and so many had problems that a class action lawsuit was brought against Nvidia. The main issue seems to be that the chips overheat and the solder joints melt (not unlike the XBox 360 RRoD issue). Nvidia had to settle in 2010, and offer to replace affected cards.

Sadly for me, I didn’t know any of this. Never got an email, or an alert from Dell, Nvidia or anyone. So, I missed my chance to potentially get it fixed,and now my laptop is just on a death clock. Looking back though, it seems I got a lot more mileage out of my faulty chip than most people did. 

Now to the good news--I’ve got a new laptop on the way, and this one will actually be able to play a lot games, as well as handle the audio/video work I need it to. Dell had a very good sale on its XPS line of laptops, and I picked up an XPS 15 for about six-hundred dollars less than the usual asking price. If you’re interested in the specs or how it rates, CNET recently gave the XPS 15 a very good review, which you can read here.

I am hoping to be able to keep my current laptop alive and just use it for recording and editing the podcast. Time will tell if that works out or not. But, I’m excited for the new computer, and can’t wait to check out games like Diablo III, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, not to mention take advantage of the crazy deals on games from Steam. I’m sure I’ll be talking about those in the near future.