Brief Work Notice

My last, large editing project has come in, and I have a new game design gig starting on Monday. Consequently, I will (probably) be too busy to post here until the editing project is done sometime in March. You know, for the two of you who care about such things.

When I do post, I have some writing/editing tips for you—things I always wish I had known and now I do.

Books I Loved in 2017

Late, I know, but meh. Here were some books I read and enjoyed in 2017. As with my games post, I'm mostly leaning toward books you are, perhaps, less likely to have heard of.

HAMMERS ON BONE by Cassandra Khaw
John Persons is a private investigator hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid's stepdad. But he finds that something much worse is wrong with the stepdad . . . and the town. Fortunately, John Persons is a bit more than a, uh, person, and therefore qualified to handle creepy night horrors.

I am so glad to have learned of this author this year. She twirls words around her like a gymnast's ribbon. Hammers on Bone is a delicious combination of noir, cthulhu-style horror, and beautiful prose, and I can't wait to read more of Khaw's work.

BACK OFF, I'M A NINJA by Natalie Whipple
This is the final book in Natalie's Relax, I'm a Ninja trilogy about a Japanese-American teen ninja named Tosh, who discovers he's one half of an awesome, demon-hunting duo. I won't spoil the third one if you haven't read any yet, because you should really read all of them.

Tosh manages to be cool and geeky at the same time, and in the last two books in particular, I loved his relationship with Amy. Honestly, Tosh and Amy make me want to be a better husband, which is a weird thing to say about a young adult book about ninjas and demons. I love the Japanese mythology used throughout the trilogy, too. These books are just tons of fun.

THE NIGHT CLAVE by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain
Set in the world of Numenera, a group of friends make a desperate attempt to rescue their people from a mind-controlling tyrant. (Full disclosure: I proofread this book.)

Aside from the Numenera world (which is so much weird and fun), I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters. The heist aspect was great, but the relationship and banter between the two main characters just made me so happy.

ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis
A comet is scheduled to hit the Earth. This is the story of a young girl named Denise and her struggle to survive—and find her sister—both during and after impact.

What I love most about this book is how Corinne makes an impact apocalypse in Amsterdam feel just as real as Denise's autism. I really enjoyed experiencing both.

An awesome, classic, fantasy adventure starring an unlikely group of adventurers trapped in a city about to be wiped out by feuding gangs and ancient demons. This is such a fun world, and the story feels like a D&D campaign gone very, very wrong in all the best ways.

Even though the novel screams D&D, the story rests heavily on the characters and their personal struggles, and so it doesn't fall into any of the classic RPG traps. So it's a novel screaming D&D (which I love) while telling an awesome story about conflicted characters (which I love). So yeah, awesome.

Next up, I hope to finish Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy. What are you reading these days?

On Being Late to the Party (and a Quick Update)

So far, my months of too much work are going well. I've finished editing one novel and one novella, and the other projects have been sufficiently late in coming that I've had time to do so. I guess I made a good decision saying yes to too much!

Also, the gamebook is definitely going to be a thing now (meaning I've signed a contract). It's going to be several months coming, but it will come. So that's something to look forward to.

The other day, I had a mini-rant on Twitter about being late to the party. Let's all agree to stop using this phrase and just enjoy things, yeah?

When Things Fall Through

I got some hard news this week. The editor who was looking at Sea of Souls decided to pass. I still have a lot of good things going on, but this one just . . .

So that was a hard day. But to my surprise, it was only a day. Maybe it's because I still have other things on the horizon or because I've been focusing on being thankful and redefining success, but this loss didn't kill me like it would have years ago—maybe even a year ago.

When I lost the Nexon gig last summer, I scrambled to find work, e-mailing everyone I knew and following every thread. And one thing I learned is that like 80% of those threads—even the ones that came with promising words at the start—also fall through, but it doesn't matter so long as one or two of them sticks.

Heck, even my surfeit of work is not a sure thing until I have projects in hand. But that's okay; the whole reason I take on so much is so I don't have to freak out when some of it disintegrates.

So yeah, I'm thinking maybe I don't (yet) have what the Big 5 publishers are looking for (yet), but I have what Broken Eye Books, Scribendi, [redacted game company], and a few other clients are looking for—and I have an amazing family with enough money to feed them for a while yet. So things ain't so bad. I even briefly imagined life without any writing at all, and you know what? It was still a pretty good life.

(Don't worry. I'm still going to write.)

A part of me (a very, very small part) is even glad Sea of Souls dropped, because now I have more time for other projects people do want. And, man, if there's one thing I need, it's more time.

If those fall through, too? Well, I'll figure that out later. Until then, I'll keep enjoying what's in front of me.

A Look at 2017 and the Alleged 2018

2017 was . . . an interesting year. Aside from the dumpster fire, I went from four years of reliable, steady work to juggling chainsaws.

Don't misunderstand me. Before Torment, I had no work at all, and our enormous family was slowly hemorrhaging money. Torment was literally (in the literal definition of literally) a Godsend, and although freelancing has been bumpy as hell this year, the connections I've made in the last five years are the only thing that has made any of it possible.

So! Looking back at 2017:

1) Torment was released. Not unlike the first one, sales have been unimpressive (so I hear; it's not like I see any financial reports), but the critics love it as do most of the people who have played it.

If history is any indicator, we can expect its successor to be the next crowd-funded success in another fifteen years.

2) I worked for Nexon . . . and now I don't. I realize now I didn't talk about this much on the blog, but yeah, I was doing game writing (and a little design) for a prototype for Nexon which the high-ups ultimately passed on. They not only passed on the prototype, but also the whole team, which unfortunately included me. But hey, I got paid for several months and had time to write on the side, so I ain't complaining.

3) I became a professional editor. I have begun editing for both private clients as well as the online editing firm Scribendi. The combination of these has made for steady work (private clients aren't always there, but they pay great and are super fun; Scribendi is always there).

When I started, I was somewhat hesitant about my editing abilities. I knew I had great attention to detail and a lot of experience with plotting and world-building, but I felt like there was a lot I didn't know about the editing world. Now, thanks in part to Scribendi's training courses, I super know what I'm doing. I edit. I'm an editor. And I love it.

4) I started streaming. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I've been able to play games I've been meaning to play, hang out with my family, and meet other gamers all at the same time. Streaming is a lot of fun, and I expect to keep doing it for a while. (I wish I could do it more, but making money on streaming is a lot more work than advertised.) If you'd like to join us, I stream most Sundays here or you can catch up on previous streams here.

As wacky as this year has been, I'm pretty happy with the state of my life. Torment was fun and amazing and I regret almost none of it, but I also essentially ignored my family for four years with a single credit to show for it. As a result, I learned important things about freelancing that have resulted in me making more money (or "enough" money, which really is better) with less time.

With that, here's a quick look at what 2018 might look like:

It starts with a lot of work. Like too much. But it's all awesome work, and some of it might lead to more work, and most importantly it means I don't have to worry about money for a while, which is always nice.

Cunning Folk. I've been talking with publishing folks about a book that long-time readers will recognize. I recently read my first draft and . . . yeah, I definitely wrote it a long time ago. There's a lot of dust to blow off it, and a lot of pieces that need a writer more experienced than past-Adam was, but there's also a definite possibility to publish some version of this book. I'm looking forward to that.

Blogging. Perceptive readers will notice that I've posted regularly for six weeks in a row now. Will this return to the glory days continue? Stay tuned to find out!

Streaming with my parents. My parents come to visit us a few weeks every year. This year, I'm going to see about introducing them (and myself) to a little game called Portal, and you can watch the fun.

Sea of Souls? The outline's on the editor's desk. We'll see.

Post-Apoc Ninjas? Also on editors' desks, but keep in mind it's been there for a while.

Gamebook? There are some unknowns here, so I can't say much about it. More news when there is news. (But, man, is it fun to write!)

So how are you all? Highlights from 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Freelancing (and Mini Work Update)

Based on a true story. (And my apologies to Alex Norris whose schtick I have borrowed.)

If all goes according to plan, I will have a novel, two novellas, and a large RPG rulebook to edit, plus I may have a new part-time game design gig. I realize this is a good problem to have, but I'm looking at where I'm going to fit everything in the next 2–3 months.

I can fit everything. It's just a question of how much my unpaid projects suffer—I suspect quite a lot.

Also, this is exactly the time of year my parents are coming to visit.

Oh no.

I'm grateful though, for real. Among other things, I feel less guilty about taking a week off for the holidays. It's been a long time since I've taken a guilt-free vacation. I'd almost forgotten that was a thing people did.

So! How are your holidays going?

Games I Loved in 2017

Here are a few games I absolutely loved this year. You should check them out.

As with previous posts in this vein, these are just games I played in 2017. I don't have enough time or money to decide the best games published this year. Also note that this list is intentionally skewed toward games you might not have heard of. Mostly.

Image result for mages of mystraliaA Zelda-like action adventure where you play a young mage living in a kingdom where magic has been outlawed. The art style is sweet, and the world and story are lovely (created by Ed Greenwood of Forgotten Realms fame), but what really makes this game awesome is the core mechanic of programming your own spells with the rune system.

I mean, it's not full programming, and there are definitely some runes that are more gimmicky than useful, but there's a lot of depth and exploration to the system, and I never got tired of playing around with it.

Image result for overcookedA fast-paced couch co-op in which you and up to three friends try to serve up as many orders as possible. This game is no good single-player, but it's one of the most fun and chaotic party games I've ever played.

My only complaint is that managing a kitchen full of my own children is indistinguishable from managing them in real life.

Image result for abzuThis is what the kids call a walking simulator (swimming simulator, actually). You start the game floating off the shore of a coral reef, uncertain who you are or why you're there. As you swim through the game's levels, you begin to learn about the civilization that fell and your part in it.

There's not a lot of game here other than exploration, but everything about it is gorgeous: the graphics, the world, the visual storytelling, the music. If you play games as a break, and Overcooked sounds stressful, then try Abzu for a super-relaxing, wonderful time.

Image result for mr shiftyA fast beat-em-up game in which you play a teleporting thief—basically Nightcrawler without the blue skin. You are infiltrating a high security corporate tower that very quickly becomes alerted to your presence. You have no tools except for super strength and the ability to teleport a few feet at a time.

This is one of the most fun, visceral games I've played in a long time. Everything about the game feels awesome, from taking out ten armed men in two seconds to Mr. Shifty's cool, slow walk as he leaves a scene. Even the elevator music between levels somehow serves to make you feel more like a badass.

Image result for the witnessThis is the most engrossing, challenging, and satisfying puzzle game I've played since Myst—better than Myst, really. You start the game in a dark tunnel beneath a mysterious island, and for a long time that's literally all the information you get about what's going on. The game teaches you nothing directly, asking you to figure everything out on your own a piece at a time. I spent over 50 hours on this island ferreting out every secret I could, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Warning: This is not a story game. The Witness is very much about the journey, not the destination. As a direct consequence, you don't want to use a walkthrough on it; you will only disappoint yourself.

So what did you play this year? Anything I just have to try?