Friday, 22 June 2012

Sample chapter of Dead Roots.

   The following is a sample from Dead Roots, book one of the Analyst series. The full novel is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



Thomas' hand fiddled with the high woolen collar of his jacket. On its way down it brushed the protruding handle of his concealed handgun. It was a vague relief. The pistol couldn't have gone anywhere in the last ten minutes but Tom had made a habit of checking anyway. 
He didn’t really drink coffee for pleasure anymore. It made him too jittery, made thinking rationally more effort than it would be to just go straight, but some days he needed it to get the job done. This coffee place allowed smoking, a fact of which he took liberal advantage to keep his nerves on point. He could quit some other day.
    It was one of those shitty upscale places, pristine tables and jazz wafting down from the PA system. He didn't mind the tunes, but he couldn't help feeling like a jerk when he spotted some douchebag checking his twitter, or whatever the fuck, on a tablet computer in one of the corners. There was a similarity in their appearances that threatened him with a headache. Noting his own short, dark hair and simple, fashionable jeans-and-zippered-jacket combo, Tom felt disdain upon realizing how nicely he fit in here, without even trying.
    There was one patron who didn't fit in. The slick-haired, Asian youth stood up and put on his bulky headphones. Tom reached quietly into his pocket and felt around for the silver medication packet. He broke a tablet out with his thumb, popped it into his mouth and sipped his coffee.
    The kid hadn't noticed him, too absorbed in putting on his purple sunglasses and zipping up his ridiculous jacket. More zippers than were necessary and a line of trendy studs running around the cuffs of the sleeves. Tom's hand brushed his side again. The element of surprise was his, sure as the pistol was still in its holster-- but you could never be too sure.
    Tom recalled his briefing. Class-II, predominantly Invisible. Host was a sixteen-year-old, chosen at random-- no desire to cause trouble, or even the required knowledge to do so. The target would try and get into Tom's head, but as long as he kept on top of things, no members of the public would be wise to what was happening.
    He let the kid leave the cafe and counted to ten. He stood up and left, looked down the street to his right. It was hard to miss the little Asian goth and his calculated brooding step, shoulders hunched and hearing closed off by the headphones. Sloppy. He wouldn't hear Tom's footsteps bearing up behind him, or his pistol being cocked; or maybe the kid wasn't even worried about it?
    Tom shook the thought out. No matter how many times you took these things down, the feeling that they were holding out on you, that they knew something you didn't never really subsided. Tom, however, consoled himself in his briefing. This was just a dumb kid, who didn't know, or even want, what he had. Easy.
    Two blocks and he felt the xanax tablet taking hold. He had to act quickly. There were too many people around, now. His shoulders were budging against other pedestrians, and the pill made keeping track of the kid that much harder. Tom looked up past the roofs of skyscrapers and regarded the sky silently. The air was crisp, but his face felt warmth from the sun. A broader form of daylight, there couldn't be. Maybe not so easy.
    He realized he was losing time and focus. Quietly formulating a plan, he quickened his step. He was closing in on the Asian youth and timed himself to catch up just as they reached a crosswalk. Tackling him to the ground in public was not an option; he'd risk bystanders getting involved. He'd accost the kid at the stoplight at the end of the block, hope he'd come quietly. In the more likely event that he didn't, he'd be ready for the shift. From there he'd have to play it by ear.
    The foot traffic stopped. Tom popped his neck, reached his hand out. He clapped his hand on the kid's shoulder.
    The target tensed, his hands stopping abruptly in the middle of turning up the volume on his mp3 player. Tom tapped him again. The kid brought the headphone down to his shoulders, scowling.
    “Time to go home, Aki.”
    Aki's host-- indeed, Aki himself-- stuffed his mp3 player into his pocket.
    “I will level this entire block, if it means, that I don't have to go back. To that shithole.” Aki could only speak English as well as the host. His enunciation was very deliberate, a little broken.
    “You should learn to appreciate home. It's not so--”
    “In front of everyone,” Aki added, turning around gently. Tom flicked his eyes to the right, then the left. Noone had taken any notice of their conversation, at least. Things remained salvageable.
    “ Aki, cut the shit.”
    “You cut the shit, granddad.”
    It stung a little. He was only in his twenties.
    “So what? You going to kill me on a nice day like this?” Tom replied curtly.   
    “Your mistake, granddad, not my mistake.”
    “You can break character, you're not fooling anyone.”
    “Aki and I are one,” the kid snarled. “He is mine.”
    “This is getting old,” Tom jibed. “You want them to send the A-listers after you?”
    “I will take all of them.”
    Aki finally had nothing to say in response. He turned around, eyes hidden behind those purple sunglasses. The walk sign started to beep, a wave of pedestrians taking the signal to start crossing. Tom and Aki remained there, sizing each other up. Tom had to stop himself reaching for the cuffs already. There's no way it'd be this easy.
    “If you're going to do something, do it,” Tom goaded gently, almost wearily.
    Aki took the opportunity to grin broadly. The dossier mentioned he had a penchant for theatrics. Tom waited for his glib response; and waited, and waited, noticing after a few seconds that the grin was getting wider. And wider.
    The sidewalk widened, too. Aki was making the first move.
    Color seemed to wash from the world as it shifted around them, warping as if through a fisheye lens. Tom felt a wave of animal fear run through him as his surroundings expanded, giving him the sensation of shrinking. He took a deep breath and centered himself. Aki's mouth opened up and stretched impossibly. Tom released his grip and unhitched the gun in his jacket but delayed on pulling it out.
    “Tremble. Tremble. Tremble.”
    A wispy voice rose from the back of Aki's exposed throat as he less stepped than floated back a few feet. Tom noted that as Aki continued to change, the world remained recognizable. He waited for his opening.
    Aki's limbs contorted. His mouth, dislocated and opened now like a huge snake's, jittered and jerked. A huge, grotesque eye rose into view from its depths. Aki floated up several feet off the ground, and a sick cracking sound rent the chilled air. His body, from the neck down, twisted around as if on a hinge. He faced backwards and curled up as if suspended in midair by the chest. The eye stayed facing forward.
    “You resist. You resist. You resist.”
    “You're going home, Aki.”
    “Your mind will feed me. Succumb.”
    The floor seemed to drop out of the world. Tom found himself floating in place. The buildings around him twisted onto themselves until everything had formed a full circle, like a massive concrete tube. Surfaces shimmered, and the whole thing began to spin lazily around them.
    The kid had some tricks; but the xanax kept Aki out of the deepest parts of Tom's mind, and the coffee kept him lucid. Tom pulled out the pistol.
    “Noone can see us now, Aki. Don't make me do this.”
    “Tremble. Tremble.”   
    For all the horror movie-style posturing, there was desperation in Aki's voice. Tom willed himself forward, closing some distance between them. Aki quickly caught on and started to float backwards. The world passed them by, slowly at first, until they were moving like cruise missiles through the twisted, unending concrete landscape.
    Tom took note of his surroundings. Ghostly, distended faces bobbed gently past them in the aether. They pleaded in strangled voices for what Tom guessed was release, in a language he couldn't understand. He was not moved.
    “These aren't mine. They're yours, aren't they?”
    “What are they crying for, Aki? What did this kid do?”
    “You deign to...”
    The distorted parody of a human form floating in front of Tom started to convulse. Tom heard a gurgling, muffled sound coming from the boy's throat, blocked by the gigantic eyeball; a desperate scream for help.   
    “Human meddling. It is insignificant to us. We will not be moved.”
    “Too late.”
    Tom swung the pistol forward, and fired three times. It struck the quivering body in the back and exposed shoulder; the giant eye visibly receded with a wet slurping sound before the boy's distended mouth slid shut.
     Time started to slow back to normal. A dull roar shook the world, like the horn of a sinking ship. Tom shielded his face from an ethereal wind, and heard the rumble of the buildings uncurling themselves. Soon, familiarity returned.
     Tom stomped his foot on the ground as it came back into reach, grunting in satisfaction. The worst was over, he thought. Sunlight beat into his cheeks again. He looked up, taking a deep breath of inner city air through his nose to center himself. He reached into his jacket pocket for his cigarettes.
    “There's a flight in six hours,” he began curtly with a filter between his teeth, lighting the tip of his smoke. He looked up and expected to see a perfectly intact, if shaken, young man.
    Aki's body lay across the sidewalk, bleeding from two gunshot wounds. Bystanders disjointedly stopped and recoiled. Tom noted the looks of curiosity from some and the obliviousness of others, at least until passersby elbowed them or they heard some of the verbal commotion.
    “Oh my fuck!”
    Tom felt his heart rate speed up as passersby moved to detain him. As he blearily reached for the badge in his wallet he thanked God for benzodiazepines.


“You're not going to get fired, Tom.”
    “I'd deserve it.”
    “Oh, spare me. You used chems; it happens.”
    “It shouldn't happen.”
    Tom nursed at a bottle of brew, letting the gentle numbness wash across him. The patrons of the Kickoff Bar hooted and whooped around an eighty-inch flat screen on the other side of the bar's interior. Tom sunk quietly into the leather seat of the booth, casting an idle look to his right through the plate glass window at a simpler world of pickup trucks, jackets with football teams’ logos emblazoned across the backs, and 7-11 signs set across the sky as bright as the moon.
    “This is nothing the DPSD can't deal with. You didn't do anything Visible. It's yourself you should be worried about.”
    “You'll just have to slick a few high-end cocks to get them to pull the video!”
    Tom rolled his eyes, trying to avoid looking at his scrawny friend, as Artie's gap-toothed grin launched into one of those deep yuck-hyucks of his. Tom couldn't help himself; he watched Artie's long bangs, as usual, lolling about as they hung from the band of his stupid West Virginia Mountaineers cap. Artie continued to guffaw as he wrapped his lips around his own bottle of beer, upending half the bottle down his stubbly gullet in a single swig.
    “I thought you were switching to contacts,” Tom jibed.
     “Aw, I like to look sophisticated.”
    “You look like an engineering student.”
    “Fuck you!”   
    More laughter. Tom had long since given up trying to avoid the metaphorical minefield of comments that would lead to hearing Artie's exuberant crowing, instead just quietly sipping his beer and bearing it.
    “Look, look, you'll love this one,” Artie continued, picking his fancy smart phone up off the table. He punched the screen a few times with his index finger.
    Tom groaned loudly, “God, no, please.”
    “No, no, look, you'll love this! I promise!”
    “Quarter in the promise jar, son...” Tom sighed exhaustedly as he leaned over to witness whatever it was Artie had found on the Internet. The same candid clip of Tom conversing with the target started, but when Tom fired his handgun and sent the teenager's form to the ground, the clip shifted into slow motion and the colors flashed in and out of negative over some godawful death metal.
    “Fuck yes! NILE!” Artie exclaimed with his other hand thrust up in the horns.
    “Speaking of terrible shit that I never want to hear again in my life, who is this?” Tom pointed up at the ceiling; the P.A. system wasn't directly over them but Artie got the point.
    “Are you kidding? Rebel Meets Rebel, shit-for-brains! Dimebag fucking Darrell!”
    “I don't know what any of that means. You're lucky you're a decent Operator or you wouldn't be able to hold down a job at fucking Best Buy. With that hat. And that music.”
    Artie chugged the remaining half of his beer, waving his hand for another. “And yer lucky that I'm the best damn Operator in these United States, or you'd be cooing in the gutter like a lost puppy, Tom.”
    “Phone call for Thomas Bell.”
 A smooth-faced waitress with short brown hair interrupted Tom as he opened his mouth, preparing to lay a diatribe on Artie, the likes of which he had never endured. She was flicking her bangs with a finger. Cute, Tom thought. The kind he could get into-- if he were six years younger. She smiled at him, which didn't assuage his wandering fantasies any, but he managed a response nonetheless.
    “Excuse me?”
    “Phone call. Thomas Bell?”
    “Did they say who it was?”
    “Margaret Redding.”
    “Margaret!” Tom exclaimed in irritation. “Who calls the bar anymore? I have a fucking cell phone.”
    “Are you sure? Says she tried it,” came her reply through a smirk, her fingernail running along her cheek coyly.
    “She says she...” Tom reached into his pocket and drew his phone; the screen was dead black.
    “Aw, shit,” he spat, standing up and stepping past the waitress. He heard Artie asking for another beer as he approached the counter, hailing the bartender and taking the offered phone with a quick sigh hidden behind his hand.
    “Hi, Margaret,” Tom offered gently, testing the waters.
    “Your phone is dead, Bell.” Margaret's voice was granite on a warm summer evening. She could be his best friend, or a boss worse than any creature Tom had ever faced.
    “Yeah, I'm sorry, I must've forgot to plug it in after—”
    “After you left the hospital.”
    Tom winced. He could practically smell her lilac perfume hanging in the air, clouding his judgment, as she turned him into a kid with bad grades in front of the school principal.
    “Yeah. How is the kid doing?”
    “Kenichi will be just fine, and we have Aki in custody. The California Department of Justice will be making sure that he receives the best medical treatment available and that Arthur Connors will be handing in his badge tomorrow morning, no doubt to fade into total career obscurity.”
    Tom managed a small grin. Things were looking up. It could be cigarette time.
    “You're a dream, Maggie.”
    “Mm, I'm the best thing that's ever happened to you. But you're not off the hook yet, Tom. You were using chems”
    Definitely cigarette time.
    “It was just a two and a half,” Tom pleaded calmly, reaching into his pocket and motioning for permission from the bartender. He got the okay and lit up. “If I had Artie on the line—”
    “It wouldn't have happened? You know what a solo run means, Tom. You're trained for this kind of thing. You didn't need the chems”
    “I got the job done.”
    “Don't push me, Tom. You got lucky. If that thing had to come out in public...”
    “That wouldn't have happened. It didn't happen.” A cloud of acrid smoke flew out of his mouth.
    “You're not making a very good case for your continued employment, Bell.”
    Tom sighed again, disguising it with an exhalation of smoke. “I'm sorry, Margaret.”
    “Well. You can start making it up to me right now.”
    “What do you have in mind?”
    “You're taking the entity back home.”
    Tom's chest seized. He put a hand on the bar, his voice raising. “Bullshit, I'm supposed to get—”    
    “A week of personal time after each successful solo run.”
    “I got the job done!” Tom insisted, fuming cigarette smoke.
    “Tom, I have a Class-II aberration in DPSD custody that needs an escort back to Tokyo by tomorrow afternoon. White has been applying for vacation leave for six months. Your colossal fuck-up this afternoon gives him a good opportunity to get in some family time while you go to time out.”
    Tom finished his cigarette in what he figured was record time, stubbing it out in a nearby ashtray, and punctuating the silence with a long smoky exhalation. He grunted his reply:    “Where? When?”
    “I'm sending Artie an address. You can go over—alone, mind you, as soon as you two are done boozing it up—and get ready for your redeye flight.”
    “You have your orders.”
    Tom stopped himself from reaching for another smoke. He looked over at Artie, who cast him a curious look. He swiftly stopped giving a fuck and drew a new cigarette, lighting it as he prepared to hang up.
    “All right.”
    “You better believe it, all right.”
    It took all of his reserves of tact not to quip back in anger. He handed the phone over to the bartender and sighed, taking the ashtray with him back to the table. Behind him another roar rose from the crowd around the flat screen     Tom sunk heavily back into his chair, resolving to finish his smoke and then leave. Artie chided him gently.
    “You get the shark, or the mermaid?”
    “Fuck you. What's the address?”
    Artie drew his phone, clicking his tongue to scold his friend. He was halfway through his new beer. “Oh, easy. Fifteen Fern Crescent, your GPS'll take you right there. Twenty, thirty minutes.”
    “Fern Crescent... right. You know, Artie, I was about to say, you're not as great as—”
    “Waitress back there?” Artie cut him off, motioning at the young server now making her rounds of the far end of the bar. She sauntered from table to table with a tray in one arm, delivering wings and fries to balding blue-collar schlubs and clearly enjoying every second of their drunken leering.
    “What about her?”
    Artie sipped his beer as he nonchalantly plugged at something on his phone. “Possessed. Aberration. Class-IV, probably, just here on a routine possession. Personal trip, I bet.”
    “What the fuck.”
    “Watch her.”
    Tom watched her hand sweep down her side and it drew his attention up to her breasts. He tried to think like Artie, and noted her thighs rubbing slowly together as she walked.
    “New body,” Artie began, drawing little circles in the air with his index finger while pointing at her. “Watch how she touches herself.”
    “Huh-huh,” Tom indulged a juvenile chortle.
    “Brushing the hair, rubbing her hips... Probably never been on this side before, at least not in a female. She told me her shift finishes in an hour—probably gonna try and take home one of these married morons and take in all the new sensations, but first she's gonna come over here...”
    Tom watched in silent indignation as the waitress, true to Artie's call, started making her way to their table. She caught eyes with Tom and grinned, brushing her hair out of her face again.
    “And she's gonna try and take you first, because sadly enough you're the best looking guy in here, or if nothing else, the least out of shape.”
    “Artie. Fuck you. She's just seeing if I need a refill.”
    “Hi again,” the waitress greeted warmly. “Can I get you a fresh one, Mr. Bell?”
    “No, thank you, I'm on my way out,” Tom replied, flashing Artie a smug look. Artie glugged down a mouthful of his beer. “But my friend here will take another one.”
    “You're leaving?”
    “Yeah, I have... I have a plane to catch, evidently.”
    Artie's mouth turned up in a small grin. He didn't make eye contact with either of them. Tom pursed his lips and turned back to the waitress to reply.
    “In, um, about four hours.”   
    The waitress looked back and forth. She bit her lip and ran a fingernail across her chin. Her hand swept down across her hip. Tom started to find these little tics rather infuriating.
    “Listen... I'm kind of new in town and I finish in an hour. If you maybe want to hang out a bit before your flight...”
    Tom resisted the urge to frown, as well as the urge to text Margaret that he was quitting right then and there. He shot Artie an annoyed, defeated look; Artie just smiled before masking it in another sip of beer.
    “I'm sorry—um, what was your name?”
    Fake. Absurd. Definitely a Class-IV. Tom choked down another irritated frown.
    “I'm sorry, Serendipity. I'm married.”
    “That's a shame.”
    “You're not married. He's not married! He's not wearing a ring,” Artie exclaimed, pointing enthusiastically at Tom's hand as it hid quickly under the table.
    “You're not married?” Serendipity asked curtly, pouting.
    “Well—I am still, legally, but—”
    Artie came to the rescue.
    “Hey, miss. You said you're new around here?”
    “That's right,” Serendipity responded coolly, giving another playful flick of her bangs.
    “So you're... what, on a pleasure trip? A little weekend getaway to the surface world?”
    “No, I have a job. I live here now,” the waitress replied, frowning.
    “What class are you?”
    There was a pregnant pause. Serendipity ran her tongue over her lip, fidgeting. She eyed Artie with a subtle, but obvious coldness—obvious to anyone who was looking.
    “I really have no idea what you're talking about.”
    “We're DPSD, miss,” Tom responded. Her look darkened.
    “You're... what?”
    Tom responded by drawing his wallet and opening it to display a badge. It read Federal Agency for Domestic Investigation-- a “fabricated front organization, to be invoked by an agent in the field to ensure seamless movement and activity in Visible scenarios; and any situation involving civilians,” as stated in the Department of Paranormal Study and Defense training manual.
    “It's a front. We're with the US government's paranormal agency. If you're here legally, you've heard of us.”
    The waitress bared her teeth. She leaned down to Artie, placed a new beer on the table heavily, and looked him coldly in the eyes.
    “Don't fuck this for me,” she spat quietly. She stood back up and folded her arms. Her fingers scratched at the skin of her forearms. “I'm not haunting,” she snarled. “I'm registered.”
    “Ah, so you have heard of us,” Tom said shrewdly.
    “I'm just busting your balls, sweetheart,” Artie replied. He ripped into another toothy laugh.
    “This body doesn't have balls,” the reply came swiftly. Serendipity stomped off back to the bar, almost knocking over a table in her wake. She returned to the other customers with considerably diminished pep.
    Tom turned to Artie, who grinned as he recovered from a particularly good laugh. The gap in his teeth showed.
    “You're a shithead, Artemis.”
    “You have a flight to catch. Enjoy the double shift, movie star.”
    Tom didn't even bother to swear at him.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Death of Spider-Man.

"You have no idea how close to God I've journeyed to do this."
And with that, an eight-year journey ends.

I first started reading Ultimate Spider-Man in, I think it was late 2003 or 2004. It was relatively early in the series' life, but long enough had passed that a multitude of trade paperbacks were available. I got the big hardback volume containing the first six books in the series, on special at Barnes & Noble, while I was visiting with my father in Nevada. Without getting into the details of our somewhat distant relationship, many of the things I have left of my father are memories of what I was reading, listening to, watching at that time; when he passed away in 2005, I remember picking up more paperbacks of Ultimate Spider-Man to make the drive to his funeral in Alabama a little more bearable.

We also bonded over my newfound love for comic books that began with the 2001 Spider-Man film and this series in particular. I discovered that he had once had a huge comic collection in his youth that his mother threw out, which he was infuriated about until the day he passed. I remember my brothers discussing the then-recent Fantastic Four film at my father's wake. I guess what I'm trying to say is, comics mean a lot in my family, not so much in substance as a sort of shared interest, a backdrop to all of our far-flung lives. Ultimate Spidey was kind of my real initiation into that world for the first time.

I couldn't get the trade paperbacks past a certain number in New Zealand, and they were far too unreasonably priced over there anyway. I caught up every now and then, through various means, some more legal than others; so when I moved back here, I took the first opportunity to binge myself on the entire remainder of the series, from the Ultimatum crossover to the Death of Spider-Man, the final pages of which I'm just shutting now.

Holy shit, really.

Peter's first blooming relationship of MJ-- one of several, with and without her-- echoed my own first loves. Seeing him with Gwen Stacy in the more recent issues was heart-rending in a beautiful way, because she felt like such a better fit for him, no matter what the continuity says. Knowing that his death was swift approaching made it all that more difficult. Gwen particularly resonates with me in a way few literary characters in recent memory have, and I can easily relate her to someone I know very closely now. Norman Osborn, in the Ultimate universe, remains one of the most incredible villains I've ever seen, and I knew from the get-go that it would have to be him who ended Peter's life.

There are so many vibrant characters, deep story arcs, and heart-wrenching moments across the nearly ten years I've been reading this series. It has completely cemented my viewpoint of comic books as an amazing storytelling medium, in line with the likes of Watchmen, Preacher, and Akira. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

As a writer, it is my fucking life's ambition produce something with the same impact on somebody that USM and Brian Michael Bendis have had on me. And in a strange way, back here in California, I feel as though my late father is finishing it with me. Thank you, Mr. Bendis; you have continually shown me what it is to inspire.

It's late, and I have to get up very early tomorrow. So this ends just like it began.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I want to write comics.

I've been catching up on Ultimate Spider-Man today, and discussing the ridiculous reboots of both the Marvel and DC universes with some other comics-enthusiast friends. It's reminded me that I absolutely love Brian Michael Bendis, and I want to do what he does at least once. I'd love to do a guest arc for a long-running comic, if not get a regular gig writing one.

Looking at this, it seems like my best bet would be to get two books out before next year's Comic-Con, then turn up with some print copies and business cards and start networking. Money, money, money.

On top of that, I should draft out the script for that graphic novel idea I had. Hmm... lot of work ahead.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Quick update

Just checking in to say that Andrea Somberg finally got back to me; she has chosen to pass on Dead Roots, so I'll be going ahead with publishing on the Kindle store at full steam. I've asked her to get back to me with any particular strengths or weaknesses she saw in the first five.

Still waiting on final edits and cover art to come back from my collaborators. Once everything's all finished, I'll be setting up a webpage where you can download the book and pay a price of your choosing through PayPal in addition to the Kindle store option. Please remember to retweet/repost and link your friends here if you think they'd dig my work. :)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Levels of perception and the lowest common denominator

Look at me making a big boy post with a half-formed opinion I managed to form in my ass!

I watched the latest episode of Extra Credits with my housemate/collaborator (please watch first!) and it makes a point of decrying the stylistic conventions of Max Payne 3; namely, its saturation of bullet-time effects, gore, nudity, drugs and alcohol, and particularly the crushingly nihilistic worldview of the titular character. He posits that the ramping up of these qualities in contrast to the earlier entries in the series shows an attempt to pander to a certain adolescent market, or at least mindset, by presenting them with a more 'mature' narrative which he ultimately denounces as shallow.

I particularly loved Max Payne 3, not in spite of these qualities, but because of them. I took them as pure satire, eating up every line of Max's absurdly depressing dialogue with deep belly laughter. Certain nuances of the game, like Max's inflection and the fact that he literally dresses up like Die Hard in the second half, made me think that the writers were fairly aware of what they were doing.

Gino disagrees, to an extent; while he agrees that the writers probably had a pretty good handle on the fact that they were basically writing a comedy, he puts to me that the game's marketing campaign presented what the people responsible thought was a hard-edged, gritty, 'badass' power fantasy. The game was pretty gritty and I definitely felt pretty AMERICAN! as I gunned down faceless droves of Brazilian people in slo-mo (fuck soccer!). But that didn't detract from the layer of satire for me.

The first sentence of this post embodies what is basically my argument. I realize that for all my big words and intellectual discourse, I am basically shitting out an opinion many people have discussed at length long before I got to it, and just posing my thoughts for the fuck of it. I tend to view things in two layers-- the basic elements presented, and the intent of the creator. You can argue for days about what a particular piece of media 'means', but for a lot of things (particularly video games) these two layers can be lumped pretty easily. I, in fact, tend to default to what I think was the creator's intent with any media I consume, leading me to often being at odds with my friend for not realizing why Deadly Premonition is fucking amazing, and more than a buggy, badly voice-acted disaster.

My housemate Gino's assertion is that the majority of the people don't even attempt to do this. Apparently most people exist only on the base level with their perception of content, making Max Payne's target audience look roughly like this:

This is a concept which I have trouble with, but is already proven; the lowest common denominator. Call of Duty's fanbase proves that most of the people-- or at least a very vocal minority-- who enjoy and fund my hobbies are a bunch of retards. Is this real life? Do most people really pick up a copy of Bulletstorm and see a totally fucking badass, violent shooter for for-real grown-ups like them?

That's a depressing thought. At this rate my life will resemble the opening of Max Payne 3 by the time I'm 30.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Like always, the second you get something is when you don't want it anymore:

Thanks for your query. Mind sending along the first five pages of your manuscript in the body of an e-mail? I'd be happy to take a look and let you know whether the style is the best fit for me.



From Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. She seems to have a focus on young adult horror/fantasy fiction and women's interest, so whether she'll want to take me on is really yet to be seen. However, this tidbit from her blurb on Harvey Klinger's site caught my eye:

Previously an agent at the Donald Maass Agency and Vigliano Associates, she joined Harvey Klinger Inc. in the spring of 2005. Her client list is quite full, however she is always actively looking to take on new authors who write in the following categories: Fiction; literary, commercial, womens fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, middle grade. Nonfiction: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design, crafts, cookbooks, health & fitness, business, and sports.

This is the result of submitting a form query to HK with a very truncated synopsis, and the affirmation that it was a dark, adult horror novel; so evidently something has interested Ms. Somberg enough to want to break out of her comfort zone and full schedule, to read five pages from a total unknown. I feel like that means either it's a really good chance of getting picked up on its own merits, or that she just won't be a good fit. Hopefully in the latter case she can refer me to somebody more suitable.

Updates as I get them.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Learning history

I need to learn about the Edo period, so I'm going to get Total War: Shogun and its expansions. If that works expect a big wanky post about video games as an educational tool.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A few mock up covers.

A handful of covers I shat out with Yeoung over flockdraw. Anyone like any of these? Any better ideas?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Brainstorming book covers

As it's about time to start designing the cover, I went and trudged up some of my favorite and least favorite horror covers (a lot of video games in here) that I feel fall in the same vein as Dead Roots (we have a title?). The idea is my artist and I will examine the common elements and then figure out which ones to use for ours, while avoiding the ones that we dislike.

My favorite:

The implied motion and the bleakness given by the white wash effect really do it for me on this one, though I can do without the miniature SH2 and 3 covers and the big gaudy title on top.

Yeoung's favorite:

I have always liked the Alan Wake cover, though I think this one may be a custom-made one; I found it through Google images so it's possible I accidentally pinched somebody's work. Sorry! If this is yours, say so.

The logo is awesome as always and the nice canopy of trees on top lends itself well to the effect.

Some good ones:

Most of these are fairly minimalist, single-subject, have clean titles and often use high contrast effects to give a feeling of obscurity or bleakness, which is something I appreciate and would like to invoke with our cover.

Some bad ones:

I disliked these ones for a variety of reasons, whether it be painfully bad or campy art (Fatal Frame 1), too much in-your-face horror (Deadly Premonition), or just for trying entirely too hard (all of the Dexter covers). The Dexter ones in particular are either entirely too stark, evoking "bestseller bait" to me, or look cheap and pulpy.

Brainstorming titles.

I'll be posting a sample chapter of my book up here sometime in the next week or so. I'm going to be sticking it on the Kindle store by the end of the month, and also sort a PayPal link so people can buy it directly from me at a price of their choosing.

Trouble is, I'm running into issues with the title. Here's some I have so far following the same theme:

The Tree of Dying Flesh
Dying Leaves
A Dying Orchard
The Dead Orchard

Dead Roots
Dying Roots
Leave a comment here or on my facebook if you like any of these in particular or have an idea for a better one. :)