Month: December 2013

Why mobile rules the world

I got an iPhone 5c for Christmas. I must really be into it, because already both my immediate family and girlfriend have made jokes about me being in love with Siri. Before this I’ve never really been into mobile gaming. Partly I don’t have the time and partly I believe many of the most popular mobile games are more like skinner boxes than entertainment (for more on games as operant conditioning chambers read this post by David Wong).

But yesterday while I was goofing around with my new phone I noticed something that completely blew my mind. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is now available on the iPhone. That’s right. A sweeping 3D roleplaying game that brought many early-2000 PCs to their knees now runs on MY PHONE. Just for emphasis, back then Gamespot’s Greg Kasavin wrote this in his review:

The game’s greatest accomplishment is its focused-yet-open-ended plot progression, which gives you the freedom to play as either a morally good or evil character–or shades in between. The struggle between good and evil is, of course, central to Star Wars and manifests itself extremely well throughout this outstanding game, which debuted on the Xbox earlier this year. For good measure, Knights features hours and hours of top-notch voice-over (all the dialogue is spoken), so you’ll certainly be impressed by how different characters respond differently to you, and you’ll also be impressed by the sheer size of the game.

…And now the whole thing fits/runs ON MY PHONE.

knights of the old republic xbox cover

KOTOR now runs on my phone. No wonder Michael Dell took his company private.

I don’t think I ever really grasped the power of mobile computing till yesterday. I mean, you can hardly compare Farmville to most 3D games. Yet even Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas can apparently run on an iPhone 5. This really brought home all those stories about the end of the PC. For mainstream retail users the PC is already dead. Really the only reason you even need a laptop anymore is if you’re doing heavy-duty word processing, spreadsheeting or gaming. Before long you may be able to cross gaming off that list, too.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have the day off and a very portable galaxy to save…

Remember when this stuff was funny?

Santa Claus Vampyre Slayer

Well, it’s not funny anymore. Not even remotely. I don’t read “gimmick” books. I don’t have unlimited reading time. I would rather read something with substance (note that having “substance” does not necessarily mean “dour” — see anything by Christopher Moore for examples).

Incidentally, here’s the blurb, courtesy of the book’s Amazon page:

The gentle snowfall settling over the sleepy coastal town of South Rich promises the beginning of another Christmas Eve. Holiday lights twinkle in the darkness, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and, in bedrooms across town, vampires feast on the blood of the innocent. Wait, what? It’s true. For Christmas this year, South Rich is getting an infestation of the bloodthirsty undead, lead by ancient vampire, Victor Kroll. Only one hero can drive out the darkness. Only one brave soul can save South Rich’s children from becoming a vampiric Yuletide feast. He’s fat, he’s jolly, he’s got a belly like a bowlful of jelly, and Victor Kroll’s name is at the top of his Naughty List. Join Santa, his trusty elf, Elmont, and Snowman as they join forces with Christmas-loving Howard Buttley to battle the forces of darkness and save South Rich from a menace Santa thought he’d eliminated from the world centuries ago. You’d better watch out, Kroll. You’d better not cry. You’d better not pout and I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town, and he’s got a sharpened candy cane stake gift-wrapped just for you.

I bet you could sum this up much the same way Publisher’s Weekly did for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters:

This latest effort to combine Jane Austen mania and pop culture horror takes the same format as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies minus the innovation of being the first to do so. Using the familiar plot structure of Austen’s first novel, and a few of the most famous lines, the mannered life of early nineteenth century gentry is stripped of witty dialogue and replaced with monsters, vulgarity, and violence. When Mr. Dashwood is eaten by a hammerhead shark his daughters Marianne and Elinor, along with their sister and mother, are sent to Pestilent Island where they meet Sir John Middleton, owner of the islands, and squid-faced Colonel Brandon. Marianne is rescued from a giant octopus by Mr. Willoughby, causing her to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars who is engaged to the evil Lucy Steele. Readers who found humor in the contrast between Austen’s familiar novel and the addition of zombies will probably welcome this unevenly written effort.

Bottom line is I’m sure Bob Fasone can do better. Who knows. Maybe some day I’ll read one of his works. It just won’t be this one.

A promotional tweet that doesn’t make me want to vomit

Twitter can be something of a self-promotional cesspool. Sometimes it feels like millions of people shouting “Buy my book on Amazon!” into an enormous echo chamber. Maybe this works for folks. I don’t have statistics. All I can say is I’ve never bought anyone’s book because of a “here’s my book!” tweet. You would think a bunch of self-professed creative types would be able to come up with something a little more interesting. Then again most of their books probably aren’t very good to begin with.

Here’s an example of Twitter promotion done right, courtesy of Jack Hayes:

Jack Hayes promotional tweet

Sometimes mom really does know best

A lot of people will tell you not to listen to your friends and family when it comes to editing your fiction. The concern is that they don’t offer critical enough feedback.

There is a great episode of that show Shark Tank where a woman is pitching for capital for a product that is basically a clip-on strip of plastic that will hold post-it notes to a laptop. I think she plans on selling it for $10 a pop. All the investors think it’s a terrible idea. One of them says something along the lines of: “it’s really unfortunate no one in this woman’s family had the courage to stand up and tell her this product is total shit.” (You can watch the full clip here)

Fortunately my mother was blessed with great editorial instincts.

She’s not a writer, but she is a prolific reader. As such, she’s got a finely-honed gut instinct when it comes to what works and what doesn’t work in fiction. If she says it doesn’t work, she’s generally right about it. And what’s more she’s very honest with her opinions. As far as I’m concerned these are far more important qualities for a beta reader than writing experience.

It’s supremely important to have non-writers read your work. After all, most of the people who read your work are not going to be writers. If it doesn’t work for them it won’t work with any audience. Period. Even if you can somehow rationalize your manuscript’s shortcomings to your writing group. Let’s face it, most people in your writing group are probably hacks to begin with.

Whether it’s my mom or someone else,  you need a beta reader (or beta readers) willing to give you the straight dope on your writing.  The less these people have to do with writing themselves, either as professionals or hobbyists, the better.

The last thing you want is to end up as the post-it lady.